There's nothing like spending the holidays at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. From the special holiday entertainment and fireworks, to characters dressed in their holiday finest, to holiday-only meals and treats, Disney puts on a dazzling celebration. There are also festive decorations and lights everywhere you look (including 1,300 Christmas trees throughout the theme parks). If you're headed to Orlando for the holidays, here's what you can expect this year in a Disney holiday celebration.
Top Disney Holiday Celebrations
The main holiday event is Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, which is a special ticketed event on select nights Nov. 8 through Dec. 22. Enjoy the festive atmosphere of the Magic Kingdom, along with a castle-lighting performance by Queen Elsa, a unique fireworks show, a dance party in Tomorrowland, special event-only treats, and a spectacular parade featuring favorite characters as well as Santa Claus. As a bonus, attendance is limited during the event, so you often have less of a wait for attractions.
For a moving musical celebration of the holidays, visit Epcot Nov. 29-Dec. 30 for the nightly Candlelight Processional. A 50-piece orchestra and local choirs perform traditional holiday music while celebrity narrators (including Neil Patrick Harris, Whoppi Goldberg, Pat Sajak, and Warwick Davis) read about the story of Christmas. This event is included with admission, but the best way to get seating is to reserve a table at one of the park's restaurants with a dining package.
In Hollywood Studios, you can enjoy Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!, a fireworks and laser show happening Nov. 8 through Jan. 5. The show includes clips of classic Disney movies projected onto buildings, along with a little Orlando-style snowfall. The show is included with park admission.
More Disney Holiday Fun
All of the Disney World parks are decked out for the holidays and offer festive cheer. Each corner of Disney World celebrates in its own way.
At Animal Kingdom, characters Chip and Dale come out nightly in DinoLand USA to spend time with kids during the Holiday Hoopla Dance Party. There are also culture-specific decorations in the park's Africa, Discovery Island, Pandora, and Asia areas, including a nod to the Indian festival of Diwali.
Around Epcot's World Showcase area, the countries represented there will feature holiday foods and performances for the park's International Yuletide Extravaganza. You can also challenge yourself to the Holiday Cookie Stroll, sampling cookies from Germany, America, Canada, Mexico, and the L'Chaim Holiday Kitchen between Morocco and France. Kids will have fun on the Chip and Dale's Christmas Tree Spree scavenger hunt throughout the park, where you purchase a map and sticker set, find the chipmunks' ornaments throughout the World Showcase, and show your completed map for a reward. Then, at the park's enormous Future World fountain area, enjoy listening to gospel and R&B vocalists singing songs of the season.
Disney Springs -- the shopping and entertainment area on Lake Buena Vista -- will feature a Christmas Tree Trail perfect for snapping holiday photos. Kids will enjoy Stitch's Holiday Gift Hunt, a scavenger hunt with a reward at the end, as well as meeting Santa Claus. Disney Springs also has live holiday entertainment and special treats for sale.
If you really love the holidays and want to know how Disney World transforms itself for the season, you can take the Yuletide Fantasy behind-the-scenes tour. A second tour, Disney's Holiday D-Lights, reveals the magic of decorating Magic Kingdom and Epcot, and includes a meal, Epcot's Candlelight Processional, fireworks, and keepsakes.
Foodies might want to make reservations for special holiday meal experiences that give you a great view of the fireworks shows. The Frozen Ever After Dessert Party during the Epcot Forever fireworks show, Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Holiday Dessert Party at Hollywood Studios' holiday event, and Fireworks Dessert Party at Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland Terrace during the park's nightly fireworks show.