Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Season’s Greetings! It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, and if you’re bound for Walt Disney World, it’s even better.
That’s because there is no more festive spot on earth to celebrate all of the heartwarming fun of the the season.
And we don’t want you to miss out on any of the top attractions. So let’s take a look our list of the 25 Must-do Disney Holiday Events — and Eats! — to celebrate this season at Walt Disney World!
Take Advantage of a Candlelight Processional Package
There are lots of ways to observe the holidays throughout Walt Disney World, but one of the most beloved is the Candlelight Processional at Epcot.
Celebrity Narrators recount the traditional holiday story, while a choir and orchestra perform beloved Christmas carols.
The event draws big — I mean, HUGE — crowds during the three nightly performances. You can catch most of the action from the Promenade behind the American Gardens Theatre.
But if a seat is important to you, definitely take advantage of the Candlelight Processional Packages. For the price of a meal at participating Epcot restaurants, you get reserved seating for the Candlelight Processional as well.
You can book the package for Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner, and have the comfort of knowing that your Candlelight Processional seat is guaranteed.
Attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
If your Disney trip coincides with the holidays, then Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is an absolute MUST on your list!
This special after hours event, held at Magic Kingdom select nights from 7:00PM until midnight, offers lots of special ways to get into the spirit of the season. Special Character Meet and Greets throughout the Park give you facetime with rare characters decked out in their holiday finest. You’ll also enjoy special performances on stages set up throughout the park and SNOW on Main Street USA!
Kick off your evening with your Frozen favorites, Anna, Elsa, Sven, and Olaf, as they appear in A Frozen Holiday Wish. Elsa wraps up the performance by transforming Cinderella Castle into an enchanted ice palace! (But keep in mind — you can enjoy this special event with or without admission to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.)
And don’t forget the special Holiday Wishes Fireworks Spectacular! This special fireworks display is only available during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party until the event comes to a close. After that time everyone can enjoy it!
Book Minnie’s Holiday and Dine Dinner
Looking for a special meal to kick off the seasonal celebration? Check out Minnie’s Holiday and Dine Dinner, which was brand new in 2015!
We’ve already had the chance to try the special character meal, which is held at Hollywood Studios’ Hollywood and Vine Restaurant. Seeing some of our favorite characters decked out for the holidays in brand new gear is a real treat.
But the food! We found several dishes worthy of the special occasion as well. And with Minnie’s Seasonal Dining changing with the seasons, we can’t wait to see what comes next!
Engage in a Little Gingerbread Hopping
The first appearance of Gingerbread is a sure sign that Christmas and other winter holidays are just around the corner. And displays featuring this traditional confection at Disney Resorts are not to be missed.
Because we are not talking about your grandmother’s gingerbread house here. These are life-sized displays, and more than once, I’ve been tempted to sidle up and break off a piece of shingle, Hansel and Gretel-like, and start snacking. (Good thing I can just buy one!)
Whether you fancy the Mary Blair-meets Frozen display at the Contemporary, the Carousel at the Beach Club Resort, or my favorite, the huge gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian, be sure to make some time for these masterpieces during your visit.
And don’t forget to look for special holiday Hidden Mickeys and holiday character meet and greet opportunities at the resorts!
Add to Your Popcorn Bucket Collection
Disney fans are world-class collectors of awesome, and Holiday Popcorn Buckets are right at the top of the list!
Always whimsical, it’s fun to see what they come up with from year to year — and totally worth making space in your suitcase for the empty vessel!
Drink Around the World During Holidays…Around the World
Just when you didn’t think that Disney could become anymore delicious, the holidays arrive. And with them, there are plenty of special drinks to enjoy.
Some of my favorites can be found around World Showcase during Holidays Around the World (taking place November 24-December 30, 2017!). After all, it just wouldn’t be Christmas time without Hot Applejack Cider in the UK, or Glühwein, Hot Salted Caramel, or William’s Punch in the Germany Pavilion.
But one of our favorites in previous years was the Dutch Chocolate Grasshopper at Promenade Refreshments!
Enjoy the World Showcase Storytellers
But there are more than just great drinks (and eats) happening at Holidays Around the World. Be sure to time your stroll on the Promenade just right so that you can take in all of the World Showcase Storytellers!
You’ll hear plenty of Christmas stories, but you’ll also learn about other customs celebrated throughout the world at this time of year.
Be sure to catch them all!
Celebrate Thanksgiving at Liberty Tree Tavern
Thanksgiving is such a special time to celebrate with family and friends. They love this traditional feast so much at Liberty Tree Tavern that it’s available all year ’round during both lunch and dinner!
Want to make the holiday extra special? Book your Thanksgiving feast here, as you soak in the early-American Colonial vibe!
See the New Year’s Eve Fireworks
If it’s not on your Disney Bucket List, I think it should be. I’m talking about spending New Year’s Eve in Walt Disney World!
The parks pull out all the stops on this night that’s just made for partying. Be sure to take your power nap in the afternoon so that you can stay up late for the extra special New Year’s Eve Fireworks displays!
Read a review from the DFB Team about dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table for New Year’s Eve!
Check out the Train Display in the Germany Pavilion for Festive Decorations
Who can resist checking out the toy train display in Epcot’s Germany Pavilion? It doesn’t matter how many times I visit the park, I always have to stop here, especially during the Food and Wine Festival and the holidays, when the town square is decked out for the occasion!
I always look forward to the time when Christmas comes to miniature Germany!
Personalize Your Ornament at Disney Days of Christmas
True, it’s Christmas 365 days a year if you happen to visit Disney Days of Christmas at Disney Springs. But during the holidays, you have to make a pilgrimage here for the best souvenir of all — a personalized ornament!
No time for a trip to Disney Springs? Stop by Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe in Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square instead.
Attend the Christmas Parade Taping!
Both Walt Disney World and Disneyland actually tape their Christmas Parades (as well as the Christmas Parade performances) for an ABC Television Special well before the actual holiday.
In the past, taping has taken place the first weekend in December, but for the past two years, it was taped in early- to mid-November! So if this is something that you’d love to be a part of, be sure to keep a sharp eye out for when the date is announced in 2017.
While it may compromise some of the magic, it’s pretty fun to catch a glimpse of yourself on the special!
Take a Jingle Cruise
A couple of years ago, those enterprising Jungle Cruise Skippers became a little nostalgic for Christmas celebrations — and the Jingle Cruise was born!
If you love the Jungle Cruise anyway, be sure to book your FastPass for this holiday version — complete with corny jokes and extra fun holiday decor.
Grab a Spot for Mickey’s Once Upon a Time Christmastime Parade
Who can resist life-sized Dancing Gingerbread and marching Toy Soldiers come to life?
This special holiday parade, which takes place during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, features favorite characters on specially themed floats as well. Look for Santa during the parade’s grand finale!
Like Holiday Wishes, you can only enjoy this special parade during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party through December 18. The parade is performed daily December 19-31 for the Magic Kingdom general public.
And Don’t Forget the Can’t-Miss Holiday Snacks
Some of our favorite Disney snacks of all time only make an appearance once a year. And that’s now! Be sure to keep an eye out for extra special cupcakes, like the Gingerbread Cupcake at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This year, you can get it with a Souvenir Glow Cube shaped like a Christmas lightbulb!
But you can’t forget about Epcot. Make some space on the snack list for amazing eats like Pecan Maple Bark from the Canada Pavilion. It’s one of my favorites. (Here’s the recipe if you’d like to make it at home!)
And don’t forget to pick up a gingerbread treat from one of the resorts!
Observe the Epcot Tree Lighting
Every night at 6:00PM, a Tree Lighting takes place in Epcot’s World Showcase Plaza.
The theme of the Epcot tree is once again Peace on Earth.
Don’t miss this beautiful spectacle.
Find Carolers and Sing Along
If singing Christmas Carols is a rite of passage for you during the holidays, have no fear — you’ll find Carolers in different spots throughout Walt Disney World. And you should totally join in with the singing!
In Epcot, look for the Voices of Liberty to don Victorian garb and transform into Dickens Carolers.
Find them in the American Adventure Pavilion. Animal Kingdom also features carolers singing holiday classics near the tree at the park’s entrance.
Carolers also make regular appearances throughout the resorts and at Disney Springs.
Book a Special Holiday Tour
Special Holiday Tours are also a great way to add magic to your visit. Because the tours are usually limited to a small group, they have a much more personal feel to them than many of the other events.
Tours like the Holiday D-Lights tour and Yuletide Fantasy take you behind the scenes to learn all about how Disney transforms for the holidays — plus you’ll get to take in some of Disney World’s most popular holiday events with your own personal guide.
Decorate Christmas Cookies
What is Christmas without decorating a cookie or two? Many resorts throughout Walt Disney World offer younger guests the chance to decorate their own cookies.
Look for tables set up in the lobby, or check with your concierge desk for more information.
Check Out the Christmas Eve Golf Cart Parade
One of our favorite pastimes during the holidays is a trip to Ft. Wilderness Resort and Campground to see the campsite decorations. Guests of this resort go the extra mile to celebrate the season.
If you plan your visit for Christmas Eve, be sure to stick around for the traditional Golf Cart Parade, when guests deck out their golf carts in all manner of festive decor!
Take a Sleigh, Wagon, or Carriage Ride
While you’re at Ft. Wilderness, take the opportunity to catch a Sleigh or Wagon Ride. Yep — that’s right. Through the magic of Disney, you can ride in a sleigh in Florida! Wagon rides are also available, and are a bit easier on the budget.
If you have your heart set on taking a Carriage Ride instead, you’ll want to head over to Port Orleans Riverside Resort for this charming old world experience.
Learn a Few Gingerbread House How-Tos
Are visiting Gingerbread displays and eating the yummy treats on your list of to-dos? Well, don’t stop there. Attend a Gingerbread House Demo at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa to get some great tips on building your own masterpiece.
Go even deeper with Gingerbread School at the Ritz Carlton, where families can build their house and take it with them.
Enjoy Some Roasted Chestnuts
Does your holiday dreaming often include Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire? For the epitome of holiday tradition, head to the Grand Floridian, where the resort serves up complimentary tastings of Roasted Chestnuts to guests. You’ll find roasters set up near the Porte Cochere right outside the lobby.
And Finally…See Santa!
And finally, it just isn’t Christmas without a visit with the man himself! If seeing Santa Claus during the holidays tops your list, then you have plenty of options.
As we’ve mentioned, Santa makes regular appearances at the end of Mickey’s Once Upon a Time Christmastime Parade.
You can also meet with Santa and Mrs. Claus in the American Adventure Pavilion during Epcot’s Holidays Around the World.
He also makes appearances at Magic Kingdom near City Hall from late November through Christmas. Finally, catch him at Disney Springs and the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin as well!
And you can meet Santa Goofy at Disney Springs and Disney’s Hollywood Studios on select days.
For all the details about these fun holiday events and much, MUCH more, check out our the latest version of the DFB Guide to the Walt Disney World Holidays, 2017 e-Book!
What events, treats, or meals make your Disney Holiday Must-Do List? Leave a comment and share your favorite with us!