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The holidays at Walt Disney World encompass all four theme parks, Disney Springs, and the resort’s on-site hotels. The jolly season kicks off at Disney World on Nov. 12, 2021, and visitors this year have the added benefit of celebrating Disney World’s 50th anniversary at the same time. Each park marks the occasion differently with festive food, decor, and entertainment. Here’s everything you need to know if you plan to celebrate the holiday season at Disney World.
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Just as Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, U.S.A. pays homage to turn-of-the-century American architecture and design, the garlands, red bows, and large shiny ornaments decorating the area during the holidays evoke the same vintage feel. Even the giant Christmas tree is wrapped in an oversized popcorn garland.
Most of the holiday decor is concentrated in the entrance area of the park, but there are also themed foods and beverages and colorful projections that transform Cinderella Castle into colorful holiday themes. These projections will be mixed in with 50th anniversary “Beacons of Magic” designs throughout the evening.
Because it’s Disney World’s 50th anniversary, the bulk of the holiday celebrations at Magic Kingdom will take place during a separately-ticketed “Disney Very Merriest After Hours” party. The party runs select nights from November 8th through December 21st, 2021 with a special Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks show, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, characters, holiday music, complimentary treats, attractions, and more.
At Epcot’s World Showcase, the focus is on holiday traditions from around the world during the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays. This event runs from November 26th through December 30th, 2021, and is included with park admission. Each of the 11 countries represented in World Showcase features food, decor, and entertainment that celebrates their unique holiday traditions.
There’s also a holiday cookie stroll with five “treat stops” throughout World Showcase. Pick up a Festival Passport before you begin the stroll, pick up a treat at all five stops, and collect a prize for completing your delicious journey.
After a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Candlelight Processional shares the biblical story of Christmas with orchestral and choral accompaniment. Other entertainment includes musical performances from Voices of Liberty and festive character sightings.
When you enter Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it’s as if you’ve been transported to the glitz and glamour of old Hollywood and the park’s holiday decor (and music) follows suit. Think silver tinsel, sparkly stars, and cutesy reindeer and figurines placed around the park.
There are themed treats at venues around the park, and you can dine with characters at Minnie’s Holiday Dine at the Hollywood & Vine restaurant. While you eat, Minnie, Mickey, Pluto, and Santa Goofy mingle through the dining room, dancing to holiday tunes.
You can meet Santa at various times throughout the day as he travels down Hollywood Boulevard in his red convertible. Each evening, the facade of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction displays a Sunset Seasons Greetings show with various holiday projections that will alternate with the 50th anniversary Beacon of Magic projections, similar to Magic Kingdom.
During the pandemic, Disney’s Animal Kingdom introduced socially distanced flotillas – small parade floats that carry characters down the park’s Discovery River throughout the day. For the holiday season, these flotillas will take on a festive theme and you might be lucky enough to catch Santa Claus floating down the river. Like Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the park’s iconic Tree of Life will intermittently display a holiday version of Tree of Life Awakenings along with its 50th anniversary Beacon of Magic show.
In addition to even more holiday treats and special menu items at Disney Springs restaurants, guests can go on a Christmas Tree Stroll. You can pick up a map to ensure you see them all or just see what you can find as you walk around the park. You may even encounter a snowfall if you try the Christmas Tree Stroll in the evening. In honor of the 50th anniversary, some of the trees will be decorated to celebrate the special occasion.
Many of the restaurants join in the fun, but if you want an extra dose of holiday spirit, stop by Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar (no reservations needed). The bar gets a full makeover for the holiday season.
Not to be outdone, Disney’s on-site resort hotels have specialty food and drinks and are fully done up with their own decor that matches the theme of the hotel, including Christmas trees in each lobby. Some of the hotels also have oversized gingerbread displays that smell just as good as they look. Even if you aren’t staying at one of the resorts with a gingerbread display, it’s well worth your time to spend an afternoon visiting the different resorts to see them all.