The holiday season at Disney’s Parks and Resorts is filled with delights like food, festivities, and FUN! And if you ask us, it’s never too early to start planning for all the holiday happenings!!
We’ve compiled years of Disney Parks holiday experience so that you don’t miss a single treat, holiday meal, event, or activity. The DFB Guide to the Walt Disney World Holidays includes all the NEW events and holiday happenings, over 350 photos, an events calendar, touring suggestions, an informative FAQ section, and more!
This year, the Disney World Holiday Season officially kicked off on November 11, 2023 (though select special events and shows began earlier). Below, you’ll find some of our favorite holiday events, tips, and suggestions for making this year’s Disney World holiday trip your merriest one yet!
Dining at Walt Disney World During the Holidays
There are plenty of special Disney holiday events for the food lover at Walt Disney World. For Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, guests can expect specialty menus and holiday meals at many Disney restaurants in the Parks, at the Resorts, and in Disney Springs.
Here’s what you can expect for Christmas Dining Options in Disney World:
- Here is the FULL LIST of restaurants serving Christmas Day meals;
- Restaurants that are often closed will be open during this busy season. For example, look for Tomorrowland Terrace in the Magic Kingdom to be serving quick service eats.
- Many restaurants — both Table Service and Counter Service — will add holiday meals to the menu. You can also check out some terrific options for Thanksgiving here.
Treat yourself with an order of the DFB Guide to the Walt Disney World Holidays 2023!
Holiday Treats at Walt Disney World
The holidays are another welcome excuse for Walt Disney World to introduce lots of special treats just for the season. From sundaes and yule logs to cupcakes and hot spiked beverages, there’s a holiday-inspired treat for everyone!
You can find ALL of our holiday treat reviews from the Season HERE to get an idea of what you can look forward to!
EPCOT Holiday Treats
The EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays is a global celebration of the Season! In 2023, it began on November 24th (the day after Thanksgiving) and is running through December 30th.
During the Festival, guests enjoy enhanced offerings around World Showcase and experience holiday traditions from various cultures as expressed through decorations, stories, music, cuisine, and additional special events.
EPCOT features internationally themed food booths called Holiday Kitchens! Look for the ramped-up food offerings at booths like American Holiday Table, Las Posadas, and Chestnuts & Good Cheer Holiday Kitchen.
Many counter service restaurants (and even some table service locations) feature additional holiday treats, too.
Magic Kingdom Holiday Treats
Magic Kingdom adds plenty of holiday treats to jingle our taste bells, and while several are exclusive to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, some are available all day, every day during the holiday season. We’re always fans of a seasonal cupcake or classic sugar cookie, but we also love fun twists on yuletide treats like the Holiday Peppermint Popcorn!
We love that holly-jolly time of year in the Magic Kingdom!
Hollywood Studios Holiday Treats
Whimsical, eye-catching, and all-together tasty, Hollywood Studios always comes up with truly creative holiday goodies.
Animal Kingdom Holiday Treats
Keep an eye out for smashing seasonal treats like the beautiful — and tasty! — Magical Menagerie Cupcake!
Disney Springs Holiday Treats
Watch for TONS of seasonal treats found at various locations throughout the entertainment, shopping, and dining district.
Disney Resort Hotels Holiday Treats
The Resorts at Walt Disney World like to show off their seasonal creations too, and many of them are well worth the trek outside the parks!
Many treats include design elements and flavors typically associated with the holiday season, like gingerbread, cinnamon, and more. Oh, and speaking of gingerbread…
… you can find PLENTY OF IT at the larger-than-life Gingerbread Displays at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Beach Club Resort, and BEYOND! In fact, the gingerbread fun extends to the Yacht Club for the first time with a brand new Gingerbread Lighthouse display this year, too!
It’s difficult to resist a gingerbread snack of your own when you can smell the divine fragrance wafting from the Resort’s amazing edible creations.
And keep an eye out for seasonal beverages and holiday-themed cupcakes, tarts, and treats at each and every one of the Resorts. CHEERS!!
Holiday Events and Experiences at Walt Disney World
Disney World Gingerbread Displays and Activities
Wonderfully aromatic and gorgeous Gingerbread Displays can be found at locations including the Beach Club Resort, the Grand Floridian, the Contemporary Resort, Animal Kingdom Lodge (featuring a Gingerbread Giraffe), BoardWalk Inn, and — new this year — the Yacht Club!
The horses spinning on the Beach Club Gingerbread Carousel are themed differently every year.
The 2023 theme is Disney’s DuckTales World Showcase Adventure (based on the free game you can play in nearby EPCOT)!
The signature Gingerbread House at the Grand Floridian Resort is SO large that cast members can stand inside to serve holiday treats!
The house is made from a classic Austrian recipe, and among all the details you can see hand-painted candy canes, white chocolate, edible snowflakes, sugar poinsettias, 25 hidden Mickeys, an 85-pound chocolate Santa, nutcrackers, toy soldiers, and snowmen!
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge features a Gingerbread Giraffe who is joined by a baby Zebra! It made its debut on November 22nd this year.
The display is made with honey from approximately 32,256 bees, totaling about 42 pounds of honey. It was created by the incredible pastry team at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
EPCOT also boasts a gingerbread display of Capital icons.
You’ll find it in The American Adventure pavilion during the EPCOT Festival of the Holidays.
Magic Kingdom celebrates the holiday season in a BIG way with a larger-than-life Christmas tree, beautiful decorations, and a special extra-ticket event!
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party requires a separate ticket for entry. In 2023, the Party is being held on 25 select nights from November 9th through December 22nd.
Once inside, guests enjoy plenty of festive fun and entertainment unique to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party!
This includes a showing of Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, snowfall on Main Street, U.S.A., and MUCH more!
“JUNGLE ALL THE WAY!”
Frozen Holiday Surprise at Cinderella Castle
NEW in 2023, a Frozen show is now taking place in front of Cinderella Castle throughout the holiday season called “Frozen Holiday Surprise!” This new show brings Olaf and more than a hundred of his Snowgie siblings along with Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff in new holiday looks to decorate the castle for the festivities. The show culminates with Elsa adding shimmering and sparking touches which “transform Cinderella Castle into a shimmering crystallized palace.”
This show kicked off on November 7th and is occurring nightly throughout the holiday season. There will be two performances on nights when Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is taking place in Magic Kingdom: one at 6:15PM and another at 8:15PM. On nights when there’s no holiday party, only one show, starting at 6:15PM, will take place. (You do NOT need to have a ticket for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in order to see the show, since that 6:15 show takes place BEFORE the exclusive holiday party begins!)
Special Entertainment During Christmas Week
During the final week of the year, regular daytime guests visiting Magic Kingdom can enjoy Christmas entertainment that is typically exclusive to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party!
For instance, guests can enjoy daytime showings of Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade! In 2022, it ran from December 23rd – 31st.
Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration is a stage show that is also traditionally exclusive to the holiday party. During this Cinderella Castle Stage show, live dancers and performers join Mickey & friends to get you in the holiday spirit.
The show was available several times each evening for ALL to see from December 23rd-31st.
Another party exclusive, Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks were available for all guests to enjoy at 8:15PM each night from December 23rd through December 29th.
During this show, you’ll watch fireworks while listening to festive music, and there are fun lights and projections on the Castle that’ll have you feeling merry and bright.
EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays
EPCOT celebrates with the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays. Expect delicious treats from the Holiday Kitchen food booths, festive decorations, and music and entertainment celebrating holiday traditions around the globe! Please note that the Festival of the Holidays begins later than the holiday celebrations in the other three theme parks. In 2023, it began on November 24th (the day after Thanksgiving) and runs through December 30th.
With the popular Holiday Cookie Stroll, guests stroll around to select Holiday Kitchens trying five different designated cookies featured in the Festival Passport.
Once you’ve received stamps in your Festival Passport for five included cookies, you can redeem your stroll with a FREE completer cookie!
Costumed Holiday Storytellers also share traditions from the different nations that make up World Showcase.
Another favorite and family-friendly activity at Festival of the Holidays is Olaf’s Holiday Tradition Expedition.
EPCOT Candlelight Processional
The beloved EPCOT Candlelight Processional is one of the most anticipated events of the year. The Christmas story is told by a celebrity narrator while a 50-piece orchestra and choir (composed of Disney cast members) accompany the re-telling.
The packages provide guests with a lunch or dinner meal at select EPCOT restaurants and guaranteed seating to the popular Candlelight Processional.
Festive Ride Overlays
NEW in 2022, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind received a festive update!
Even the classic Living with the Land attraction gets all dressed up for the Festival: it’s Living with the Land — Glimmering Greenhouses!
And speaking of getting “all dressed up…” Spaceship Earth presents a sparkling Holiday Lights display in the evenings.
But there’s much more in store during the Festival of the Holidays, and you can find it all here!
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Disney Jollywood Nights
A brand new holiday event has made its debut at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Disney Jollywood Nights! Disney Jollywood Nights is a separately ticketed event that is taking place on ten select nights from November 11th through December 20th, 2023.
As part of the event, guests can view the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! nighttime spectacular, enjoy exclusive treats AND exclusive entertainment, meet rare characters, and more! Throughout the park, guests will be able to experience unique music and entertainment inspired by different genres.
And two limited-capacity entertainment experiences happening during the event: The Hollywood Brown Derby will transform into a speakeasy-inspired jazz lounge; and The Hollywood Tower Hotel Courtyard will host an “other-worldly soiree” with a ghostly band!
Sunset Seasons Greetings
This holiday experience brings guests to a twinkling Sunset Boulevard where holiday decorations set a festive mood.
Throughout the night, yuletide scenes are displayed on the billboards of Sunset Boulevard, and the Hollywood Tower Hotel becomes the Hollywood “Holiday” Tower Hotel!
Holiday-themed projections turn the Hollywood “Holiday” Tower Hotel into scenes from Frozen, a Muppets gingerbread house, a toy hotel from Toy Story, and “a Dickensian village inspired by ‘Mickey’s Christmas Carol.’”
Vintage-inspired decor transforms Echo Lake — including dressing Dinosaur Gertie up in her dino-sized Santa hat!
And the Hollywood Studios Christmas Tree in Echo Lake is truly a stunner.
Minnie’s Holiday Dine at Hollywood and Vine
This character-filled meal is centered on seasonal delicacies at lunch and at dinner.
Guests can dine with Minnie and her best festive friends, like Mickey and Santa Goofy in their holiday finest throughout the Season! The Holiday version of this Character Meal kicked off on November 8th, 2023 and will run through January 4th, 2024.
For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration
Get ready to join in the fun at For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration!
This show, which is presented several times throughout the day, receives a special finale just for the holiday season featuring Olaf himself!
Holiday Cheer in Toy Story Land
Guests can celebrate the holidays with seasonal tunes at Alien Swirling Saucers and special decorations unique to Toy Story Land.
Even Rex gets in on the holiday celebration at Slinky Dog Dash.
It looks like he made these ADORABLE reindeer antlers by hand… err, claw! Oh, and look for festive touches to the Toy Story characters outfits, too!
Santa is meeting guests in Disney’s Hollywood Studios from 10AM to park close now through December 24th, 2o23.
You’ll find him at It’s A Wonderful Shop (right next door to Mama Melrose’s Restaurant Italiano).
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
The beautiful and charming Merry Menagerie is a delight every year at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!
Winter animal puppets bring joy to guests strolling along Discovery Island, and live musicians also help set the scene.
Guests can also enjoy beautiful decorative nods to celebrations such as Diwali in the Asia section of the park.
Festive Flotillas sail along Discovery River, carrying beloved characters through Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
These include the Discovery Island Drummers Festive Flotilla, and the SANTA CLAUS Festive Flotilla!
Tree of Life Awakenings
In the evenings, the Tree of Life Awakenings — Holiday Edition delivers beautiful winter-inspired scenes to the park’s icon.
And, of course, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is always decked out in gorgeous and unique decorations for the holidays!
Mickey and Minnie in Holiday Costumes
When you stop by Adventurer’s Outpost to meet Mickey and Minnie (HOORAY!), they’ll be in festive gear for the occasion!
As always, the festivities extend beyond the parks, too…
Disney Springs showcases whimsical décor, entertainment, and holiday shopping during the season, and the festivities began here on November 10th, 2023!
Christmas Tree Stroll
Disney Springs’ Christmas Tree Stroll: Stroll, indeed, among custom-decorated holiday, Disney-themed trees placed all throughout Disney Springs!
You’ll find the whimsical, colorful, and stunning Trees with help from the Christmas Tree Stroll Map!
From time to time in the evenings, magical snow falls upon the Town Center.
Meet Santa Claus
Bring that Wish List! You can find Santa inside the Once Upon a Toy gift shop in the Disney Springs Marketplace!
As you shop your way around Disney Springs this holiday season, be on the lookout for great entertainment offerings like Toy Soldier stilt walkers, snowflake skaters, and tunes spun by DJs!
The festive fun continues with Christmas-inspired treats throughout Disney Springs!
Jock Lindsey’s HOLIDAY Bar
But no one gets in the holiday spirit more than our pal, Jock Lindsey… and that’s why you HAVE to make a merry stop at Jock Lindsey’s Holiday Bar!
The Hangar AND THE FOOD get all decked out for the season!
Oh, what FUN! Check out our review HERE!
Breakfasts with Santa
And Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante is hosting Breakfast with Santa! This experience includes a family-style breakfast spread of classic Italian menu items, a visit with Santa Claus (and his elves!), family-friendly holiday activities, take-home treats (and a complimentary mimosa for adults 21+), and a keepsake family photo with Santa.
The special ticketed event began on November 24th and runs on select dates through December 24th. Pricing starts at $45 for kids and $69 for adults (plus tax and gratuity).
Over at T-Rex Cafe on December 9th & 10th, you and your family can sit down for a meal with the dinosaurs…and Santa!
The buffet-style breakfast is $34.99 for adults and $19.99 for kids, and also includes letters to Santa, goodie bags, a raffle and prizes, photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and much more! Interested guests may call (407) WDW-DINE to book.
MORE Holiday Happenings in Disney World
Blizzard Beach Water Park
Even Santa joins in dressed for some tropical fun!
Holiday Sleigh Rides
At Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, holiday sleigh rides allow guests to book a 25-minute horse-drawn sleigh ride.
Each sleigh can fit up to 4 adults, or 2 adults and 3 small children, and rides are priced at $80. Interested guests may book in advance using the My Disney Experience app.
Resort Hotel Activities
Many of the Resorts offer cookie decorating and other special activities to small guests. After all, just because you’re on vacation, you don’t have to miss one of the season’s most beloved traditions! Check your Resort’s entertainment schedule for this year’s offerings.
Likewise, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels offer cookie decorating on select nights throughout the holidays, typically starting at 6PM.
Special Holiday Music Performances
Holiday music is always a great way to set the mood for a festive celebration. And at Disney World during the winter holidays, you’re bound to find lots of talented musicians sharing joyful cheer!
Many of the Deluxe resorts will often feature carolers or other musical entertainment throughout the season. Typically, you’re likely to see them at the Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, and Yacht Club.
You may also find carolers strolling the “streets” of Disney Springs throughout the season, too.
Visits with Characters and Santa Claus
But it would hardly be Christmas for the little ones (or us big kids!) without a visit from Santa Claus!
In addition to making appearances at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Santa may also greet guests during the day in Magic Kingdom! His greeting space has been located just behind Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe in Liberty Square for the past two seasons.
He sails by on a Festive Flotilla SLEIGH in Animal Kingdom!
Santa is meeting guests in Disney’s Hollywood Studios from 10AM to park close now through December 24th, 2o23. You’ll find him at It’s A Wonderful Shop (right next door to Mama Melrose’s Restaurant Italiano).
Guests can look for Santa in The Odyssey Pavilion in EPCOT during the Festival of the Holidays.
Jolly Old Saint Nick greets guests daily starting at the following times (for 60 minutes) through December 24th: 11AM, 12:30 PM, 2PM, 3:30PM, 5PM and 6:30PM. (In case appearance times change, you can confirm times in the My Disney Experience app during your visit.)
And in Disney Springs, he greets guests at the Once Upon a Toy store in the Marketplace.
The Big Guy often makes appearances on Christmas Eve at several Resort hotels, ready to hear your Christmas wishes.
And you’ll also spy the big guy in front of his Tiki Hut by the Swan Pool at the Swan and Dolphin — perfect for a Florida Santa photo opp!
And after Christmas Eve? Once Santa takes off for his midnight ride, you may just catch a glimpse of Santa Goofy in the parks through New Year’s Eve!
Holiday times are so busy that Disney pulls out all the stops to entertain the large number of guests. It’s quite common throughout Christmas week to find character meet and greets at Deluxe Resorts!
Really — can you imagine anything more enchanting than Christmas Minnie and Mickey? Be sure to check with the concierge for more information on appearance times for future trips.
New Year’s Eve Events and Dining Options
Are you ready to ring in the New Year in Disney World?
Disney World Theme Park Hours for December 31st
Here is the list of Park Hours from December 31st, 2023:
- EPCOT — 9AM to midnight
- Magic Kingdom — 9AM to midnight
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom — 9AM – 7PM
- Hollywood Studios — 9AM to midnight
Magic Kingdom New Year’s Eve
The Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks will show at both 6:30PM and 11:50PM, leading into a countdown for 2024!
In fact, it can be seen on TWO nights: December 30th and December 31st at two times each day, 6:30PM and 11:50PM.
EPCOT New Year’s Eve
At EPCOT, Luminous The Symphony of Us will be shown at 6:30PM (instead of the usual 9:30PM time slot).
In 2022 (ringing in 2023), the New Year’s “Cheers to the New Year: A Sparkling Celebration” Countdown Fireworks were presented on December 31st a few minutes prior to midnight.
DJ dance parties also took place around World Showcase.
Hollywood Studios New Year’s Eve
In 2023 (ringing in 2024), Hollywood Studios will present the Fantasmic! nighttime spectacular at 9:30PM.
Guests may also enjoy a countdown moment to welcome the New Year!
New Year’s Dining Events and Treats
Disney World does NOT forget those who came just to ring in the New Year!
Click HERE to check out the VERY limited-time New Year treats with links to our reviews from 2022 (ringing in 2023).
Guests may want to book a special dining experience for New Year’s!
Raglan Road in Disney Springs
For instance, Raglan Road in Disney Springs hosts a New Year’s Eve celebration where you can ring in the new year twice (once for Florida’s Eastern Standard Time, and once for Ireland)!
Alice’s Whimsical World of Wonderland at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
In 2023 (ringing in 2024), Disney’s introducing a new one-night event at the Contemporary Resort — Alice’s Whimsical World of Wonderland! This New Year’s Eve party will take place at California Grill, and the price tag is $799 to attend.
Disney shares the following: “Get your camera ready: you’ll come face-to-face with The Doorknob in the entryway. Then, keep your eyes peeled for Alice, The Mad Hatter, and The March Hare in the Dining Room. You may also get a chance to wave hello to Dinah the Hat Lady—but beware of the Queen of Hearts! It will surely be a merry party, complete with custom-crafted cocktails.”
The party also includes the White Rabbit as the DJ for the evening. And of course, you’ll ring in the new year with a champagne toast. Disney encourages partygoers to come dressed in their festive best!
The menu, which you can see in full here, will include dishes from a Chilled Appetizer Station, a Wood-Burning Station, a Sushi Station, a Hot Seafood Station, dishes from from the Grill and Rotisserie, and sweet treats!
When it’s time for the New Year’s fireworks, you’ll be able to watch them light up the sky at Magic Kingdom from California Grill’s private viewing deck. The event runs from 7:30PM to 12:30AM, but you can check in as early as 7PM. Interested guests may call (407) 824-2013 to book.
Disney World Resort Hotels
Note that Disney World Resort hotels often offer special family-friendly activities to welcome the New Year, too!
Look for signs like the one above around the Resort or check with your hotel’s front desk for more information about what might be available.
Holiday Options at On-Property Hotels
Disney and non-Disney-owned hotels on Walt Disney World property have an assortment of holiday options.
Featuring an entire calendar filled with holiday activities, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel celebrates the season with two special guest hosts – Santa and Mrs. Claus!
Happy Holidays from the DFB!
P.S. Considering a 2023 Holiday trip to Disney World? Find out why it’s NEVER too early to start planning HERE!
We’ll see you right here on the DFB as we bring you all the MERRY MAGIC taking place for the Holiday Season at Disney World!