What To Expect at Walt Disney World Christmas Week

December 20, 2021

Happy holidays! 

Guests at Walt Disney World are ready to experience the most magical time on the annual calendar. 

Here are a few things you need to know about your trip.

Holiday Events of Note

Walt Disney World hosts an insane number of holiday-related attractions, events, and amenities.

I’ve previously discussed the gingerbread houses that you’ll find at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Beach Club Resort, and The American Adventure at EPCOT. 

Along with those offerings, Disney Springs hosts a Christmas Tree Stroll that will light up your Instagram feed with gorgeous pictures. 

At EPCOT, I didn’t do a Festival of the Holidays write-up this year (sorry!), but the exhibition lasts through December 30th

This event includes storytellers at various World Showcase pavilions. These entertainers will describe how their countries celebrate the holidays. 

You should take the time to watch these shows. Oh, and the holiday food and beverages are pretty great, too.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios lights up the Hollywood Tower Hotel with Sunset Season Greetings, which looks like this:

Disney’s Animal Kingdom hosts the Merry Menagerie of sculpted puppets. This one’s a real crowd-pleaser.

Finally, Magic Kingdom offers seasonal treats and Cinderella Castle projections, plus some of the finest holiday decorations on the planet. And that’s not all!

Free Is Better

Magic Kingdom has hosted Disney Very Merriest After Hours for several weeks now. 

The de facto replacement for Disney’s Very Merry Christmas Party has sold out virtually every night. 

Alas, some guests chose not to attend due to the rising cost of these special after-hours events. 

Well, I’ve got great news for those of you who skipped it. Several of the events become free this week.

For example, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade will soon march down Main Street, U.S.A. in the afternoons. 

Starting on December 22nd, guests may watch this parade for free. It’ll run through New Year’s Eve. Here’s a video of this delightful presentation:

That’s Santa Claus riding on the final float. Speaking of which…

Look for St. Nick

This year, Santa Claus has taken up several new spots at Walt Disney World. And a holiday visit wouldn’t feel complete until you’ve handed St. Nick your Christmas list.

You can find him at the following places:

  • The American Adventure at EPCOT
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom flotilla cavalcades
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios motorcades
  • Magic Kingdom cavalcades
  • Once Upon a Time at Disney Springs

The American Adventure and Once Upon a Time are the only places where Santa will perform something resembling a character greeting.

Please be aware that Disney Springs often utilizes virtual queuing for the Santa Claus interaction. I strongly suspect it’ll do so every day through New Year’s. 

Also, since EPCOT’s the only theme park with a Santa Claus interaction, it should have massive crowds this week. Speaking of which…

Expect Large Crowds 

I wrote a companion piece about pro tips for avoiding Disney crowds this week. Honestly, there’s just no way to avoid them entirely, though. 

Many sites track park attendance. The most famous of them, Touring Plans, grades on a 10-point scale. 

The time from now through January 3rd is basically all 10 out of 10s. So that’s my way of saying that you should prepare for the worst.

Now, you won’t mind the crowds because you’re at Walt Disney World during the holidays. It’s a dream vacation that you’ll never forget. 

Still, if you’ve never done this before, you should understand what’s in store. First, all attractions will require more waiting in line than usual.

Even Spring Break cannot compare to Christmas Week in terms of park crowds. The only other timeframe on the Disney calendar that’s even close is July 4th.

That’s perfectly okay, though. You’re there for the decorations, the feeling of family, and the holiday spirit that is unmistakable at Walt Disney World. 

Two years ago, I had a friend who had never been to Disney tell me that he was going on Christmas week. I desperately tried to talk him out of it.

Alas, he had a family of 15+ people all committed to that idea. When he returned, he acknowledged that the crowds had been terrible.

However, his young daughter had fallen in love with Disney for the first time. So he’s one of us now, a frequent Disney guest. 

The holidays at Walt Disney World create memories that will last a lifetime. That’s what you’ll remember, not the crowds. 

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