Free Walt Disney World Resort Christmas Decorations Tour
It’s the Christmas season, and you know what that means: It’s the most wonderful time of the year to visit Walt Disney World. Each winter, starting shortly after Halloween, the hard-working elves at Walt Disney World take to the streets (Main Street, U.S.A., that is) and get busy transforming the Central Florida resort into a veritable winter wonderland, not only at the theme parks but at Disney Springs and the Disney hotels, too.
Festive garlands trimmed with baubles are hung from rooflines and railings with care. Uniquely-themed Christmas trees welcome guests to resort lobbies and different corners of Disney Springs. You might even see a life-sized gingerbread display or a quaint Christmas village filled with Disney Easter eggs. (Updated October 25, 2023)
In short, it’s pure holiday magic with a generous sprinkle of pixie dust. The best part? You don’t need to spend a single cent to experience it. That’s right—unless you’re already planning on going to the Disney World theme parks, no pricey park ticket is required. Talk about a Christmas miracle!
How to Experience the Magic of Christmas at Disney World Without a Park Ticket
Although you certainly can (and should) see Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom in all their festive glory, you don’t need to go to the theme parks to soak up some merry Christmas vibes at Disney World.
Disney Springs and the Disney resort hotels also get all dressed up for the holidays with elaborate Christmas decorations that are well worth a visit. Best of all, unless you decide to spend the night, stop for a drink or get something to eat, taking in the festive scene won’t cost you a thing.
While visiting Disney World resorts is fun all year round, our absolute favorite time to visit is during the holidays when the hotels are decorated for Christmas. Although ‘yule’ find themed trimmings and trappings at each of the Disney resorts, including the value and moderate hotels, some of the best holiday decorations are at the deluxe resorts, from massive Christmas trees in the lobby to grand gingerbread displays to a sprawling Christmas village and model railway.
Customize Your Tour to Fit Your Schedule and Interests
Don’t have time for a full day of resort hopping? Or, maybe you are a Christmas tree fanatic or prefer a rustic holiday atmosphere over the fancy, festive fanfare of the Grand Floridian Resort. No worries! Think of your resort-hopping tour as a choose-your-own-adventure with a jolly twist.
To work in a bit of resort-hopping fun without too much hassle, take a break from the holiday hubbub in the parks for a quick yuletide tour of a few Disney World resorts nearby. Alternatively, those with a soft spot for sweets may want to stick to hotels with gingerbread displays. It all depends on what you’re into, where you are going to be and how much time you have to spend.
Stay for a Meal or a Seasonal Snack or Sip
Whether cozy classics worthy of Christmas dinner or seasonal sweet treats, one of the best parts of the holiday season is all the delicious food. Fortunately, you’ll find no shortage of special holiday fare at the Disney World resorts and Disney Springs.
Along with limited-time menu items at restaurants and lounges, resorts with gingerbread displays also sell holiday goodies from a booth right there in the lobby, making for an especially sweet souvenir. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Christmas party without a boozy beverage or two.
Bookend Your Disney World Holiday Tour with a Stop at Disney Springs
The resorts are the only places you can get in the festive spirit for free at Disney World. Disney Springs is also decked out for the holidays with everything from holly jolly garlands to a forestful of Disney-inspired Christmas trees. You can even get caught in a faux snowfall if you visit during the evening. But wait, there’s more.
Parking at Disney Springs Is Complimentary
Unless you’re an annual passholder or staying at one of the Disney resorts, parking a vehicle at the theme parks doesn’t come cheap, starting at $25 per day for standard parking. Instead, if you’re hoping to keep your self-guided holiday tour as close to free as possible, you’re better off parking at Disney Springs.
Not only is there abundant free parking and plenty of festive fun to enjoy before and after your tour, but Disney Springs is also conveniently connected to every single Disney theme park, hotel and other must-see attractions by the complimentary Disney World bus system, making it an ideal jumping-off point.
Enjoy a Sleighful of Festive, Low or No-Cost Fun
While it may not host a Christmas party like Magic Kingdom or a wintry festival like Epcot, you’ll still find plenty of things to do during the holidays at Disney Springs. Whether sharing your Christmas list with Santa Claus, sinking your teeth into seasonal treats, searching for Christmas trees or taking in the merry entertainment, there’s something for everyone. You can even marvel at a magical snow flurry. (Spoiler alert: It’s soap!)
Resort Hopping During the Holidays Takes Some Planning
With so many different places to go, you will need to figure out some logistics before embarking on your festive quest, like where and when you should go and how you’re going to get there. Here’s what we recommend.
Timing Is Everything for Your Yuletide Disney World Resort Tour
Although decorations begin popping up in the parks right after Halloween passes—Disney World’s holiday season runs from November 8th through December 22 for 2022—Disney resorts typically aren’t fully decorated for Christmas until mid-to-late November.
Since the holiday decorations are put up by Disney’s Holiday Services and Culinary teams, it takes several days for everything to be completed. Not to mention, assembling Disney World’s popular gingerbread displays are a similarly time-intensive task. Your best bet is to plan your visit for the week of Thanksgiving or after.
Take Advantage of Free Disney Transportation
As tempting as it might be to try to drive everywhere on your tour, we highly suggest that you use Disney World transportation like buses, boats, monorails or the Disney Skyliner instead. (We get it—taking Disney is an often lengthy endeavor and time is precious when you’re on vacation, but hear us out.)
Not only are they completely free to use (except for Minnie Vans), but since resorts almost always require you to have either a hotel or dining reservation if you want to park there, they’re an easy, albeit occasionally time-consuming, way to get around. That said, we think it’s worth it.
Free Disney World Holiday Tour Ideas – Disney Springs & Disney Resort Christmas Decorations
So, where should you go on your festive quest for Disney Christmas decorations? From short-but-sweet tours perfect for a midday escape from the parks to an all-out, all-day-long adventure, there’s something for everyone visiting Disney World.
Fun-Sized & Festive Resort-Hopping Tours
Don’t have enough time for a lengthy tour? These miniature journeys are area-specific, making them convenient to slot in during a day at the park and give you a quick jolt of holly jolly spirit. Build it into a meal at a nearby resort restaurant to make the most of your trip outside the theme park.
Magic Kingdom Resort Area Monorail Tour with Optional Detour
To start, take the Magic Kingdom Resort Monorail from the theme park’s entrance or walk across the street to the Contemporary Resort.
Stop 1.Contemporary Resort — Mary Blair-inspired gingerbread castle themed after Disney World’s 50th anniversary and a massive, modern Christmas tree outside
Stop 2.Polynesian Village Resort (Optional) — Tropical-themed Christmas tree
Stop 3.Grand Floridian Resort — Life-sized, Victorian-style gingerbread house styled after the 50th anniversary and a huge Christmas tree in the lobby inspired by the 12 Days of Christmas
If you have the time, we highly recommend you also take a jolly jaunt over to the Disney World wilderness — the Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness, that is. This cozy corner of the Magic Kingdom Resort Area is easily accessible by boat. Buses are offered on occasion between Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness. Otherwise, you can also take the water taxi back to Magic Kingdom, then climb aboard another boat bound for the other resort.
Rustic Christmas decorations, as well as homemade creations from campers at Fort Wilderness, provide a refreshing change of pace. Simply tack on a trip before or after your yuletide tour around the Resort Monorail or when heading for dinner at Wilderness Lodge’s Whispering Canyon Cafe or Trail’s End Restaurant at Fort Wilderness.
To make your visit to Fort Wilderness even more memorable, splurge on a horse-drawn sleigh ride ($75 for 25 minutes and up to four adults or two adults and three small children) or stay for an extra-special (and free!) encounter with two rascally Disney characters, Chip ‘n Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long.
Stop 4.Wilderness Lodge (Optional) — Giant, rustic-style Christmas tree
Stop 5.Fort Wilderness Campground (Optional) — Over-the-top Christmas decorations made by campers and a holiday golf cart parade
Epcot Resort Area Walking Tour
If you’re hoping to celebrate Christmas with a little drinking and eating around the world at the International Festival of the Holidays, then this Disney resort Christmas decorations tour of the Epcot-area hotels is for you. With all the locals flocking to Epcot and World Showcase in the evenings for the festival, things can get particularly crazy in the evenings. So, consider taking your tour in the afternoon so you’re refreshed and ready for the ever-popular Candlelight Processional.
With the resorts conveniently located just a short walk from International Gateway at World Showcase in Epcot, this is the only walkable tour on our list, making it both easy to squeeze into a busy day and a festive way to keep fit while on vacation. If you’d prefer you can also take a Friendship Boat.
Stop 1.BoardWalk Inn — Gingerbread house of the BoardWalk Deli and carnival-inspired trees
Stop 2.Yacht Club Resort — An all-new gingerbread display for 2023, a holiday village with model railway and a nautical Christmas tree
Stop 3.Beach Club Resort — Life-sized gingerbread carousel inspired by the Disney Princesses and beachy Christmas trees
Hollywood Studios Resort Area Disney Skyliner Tour
For those looking for Disney Christmas vibes without the big crowds that often come with them, head slightly off the beaten path for hotels in the Hollywood Studios Resort Area. Easily accessible by the Disney Skyliner, these value and moderate resorts offer a more understated take on the holiday season without skimping on Christmas cheer.
To get started, make your way to the Disney Skyliner station just outside the entrance to Hollywood Studios. When walking between the Art of Animation and Pop Century Resorts, use the Generation Gap Bridge.
Stop 1.Caribbean Beach Resort — Vibrant, island-inspired Christmas decorations and trees with tropical flowers
Stop 2.Art of Animation Resort — White Christmas tree, garlands and wreaths with both colorful baubles and black-and-white ornaments with sketches of Disney characters
Stop 3.Pop Century Resort — Classic Christmas tree with retro decorations like peace signs, Rubik’s cubes, Shiny Brite ornaments and more
Stop 4.Riviera Resort — Elegant Christmas garlands, wreaths and trees with silver and gold decorations
Animal Kingdom Resort Area Bus Tour
Previously, the Animal Kingdom Resort Area wasn’t what we’d call a can’t-miss Disney Christmas destination. However, that’s all changed thanks to the addition of a life-sized gingerbread baby giraffe and baby zebra at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
For this tiny yuletide tour, Animal Kingdom Theme Park is your base of operations, as you’ll need to return after your first stop to catch another bus to your next destination. To start, jump on a Disney bus bound for Animal Kingdom Lodge and get off at Jambo House.
Stop 1.Animal Kingdom Lodge — African-inspired Christmas tree and a gingerbread display of a baby giraffe and baby zebra
Stop 2.Coronado Springs Resort — Garlands and a Christmas tree with white poinsettias and jewel-toned ornament, as well as festive, red and green lighting
Disney Springs Resort Area Boat Tour
Whether you’re staying in the Disney Springs Resort Area or looking for a way to stretch out your visit to the entertainment district, consider taking a tour to see the Christmas decorations at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort. While Port Orleans’ French Quarter and Riverside might not make our list of must-see Disney resorts during the holidays, they’re still worth a visit if you’re in the area.
For an especially relaxing and romantic way to get to Port Orleans from Disney Springs, dash on over to the Marketplace boat launch and climb aboard one of the ferries. You can also opt to take a bus which, though typically quicker, is considerably less charming.
Stop 1.Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter — Colorful Christmas tree and garlands with Mardi Gras beads and masks
Stop 2.Port Orleans Resort – Riverside — Southern-inspired Christmas decorations with refined ornaments and magnolias
Holly Jolly, Themed Resort-Hopping Tours
If you have more flexibility in your schedule and/or are particularly passionate about Christmassy conifers or gingerbread displays, try one of these themed resort-hopping tours around the Walt Disney World Resort. These festive adventures crisscross much of Disney World and feature the best Disney resorts at Christmas.
O Christmas Trees Tour
Do you put up your Christmas tree before Thanksgiving even rolls around? Then this Disney resort Christmas tour has your name on it. Although you’ll find a Christmas tree (or two or three) at each of the Disney World hotels, these yuletide pines are worth a special holiday visit. Each is considered an ‘icon’ tree, with each reaching an impressive height of between 30 and 70 feet.
If you have the time, don’t miss the Disney Springs Christmas Tree Stroll, which features 20, uniquely-themed trees inspired by beloved Disney movies and more. To get started, park your car at Disney Springs and take the bus to Magic Kingdom. Once there, take a boat to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge to kick off your tour with our favorite Walt Disney World Christmas tree.
Stop 1.Wilderness Lodge — Northwoods-inspired Christmas tree with glowing teepees, antlers and more in the lobby
From there, take the boat back to Magic Kingdom and jump on the Resort Monorail or walk across the street to the Contemporary Resort.
Stop 2.Contemporary Resort — The oldest and largest Christmas tree at Disney World, towering 70 feet over the entrance to the resort
Stop 3.Grand Floridian Resort — Massive, Victorian-inspired masterpiece themed after the 12 Days of Christmas in the lobby
Once you’re back at Magic Kingdom, take a bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Stop 4. Animal Kingdom Lodge — African-inspired Christmas tree in the lobby with wax print bows, carved animal masks, animal print ornaments and more
Believe it or not, you don’t need to enter Animal Kingdom to take a look at the theme park’s icon tree. Unlike the other parks, Animal Kingdom’s Christmas tree is located outside the main entrance, meaning you don’t need to pay for a ticket to see it.
Stop 5. Animal Kingdom Theme Park — Winter-themed tree with animal masks, rustic stars and snowflakes, and more
If you like, the Animal Kingdom Christmas tree can be the last stop on your tour. Otherwise, if you have the time, hop on a bus heading to Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort to see the hotel’s almost-iconic tree.
Stop 6. Coronado Springs Resort — Large Christmas tree in the lobby decorated with white poinsettias and colorful ornaments
Gingerbread Cottages, Castles & Carousels, Oh My! Tour
Do you have a sweet tooth? Then you won’t want to miss one especially delicious Disney Christmas tradition: over-the-top gingerbread houses and other sugary displays. Created by Disney pastry chefs and other culinary cast members, these molasses mansions are charming, to say the least.
To get started, take a bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Stop 1.Animal Kingdom Lodge — Gingerbread display of a baby giraffe and baby zebra
Next, take the bus to Magic Kingdom. From there, hop on the Resort Monorail or walk across the street to the Contemporary Resort.
Stop 2.Contemporary Resort — Mary Blair-inspired gingerbread castle themed after Disney World’s 50th anniversary with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse
Stop 3.Grand Floridian — Gingerbread house styled after a Victorian ‘painted lady’ with an EARidescent twist in celebration of the 50th-anniversary celebration
To continue your journey, jump on a bus bound for Disney’s BoardWalk Inn at the entrance to Magic Kingdom. If you like, add in a pitstop at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort to check out the adorable holiday village and model railway.
Stop 4.BoardWalk Inn — Gingerbread house of the BoardWalk Deli
Stop 5.Beach Club Resort — Life-sized gingerbread carousel inspired by the Disney Princesses
Stop 6.Yacht Club Resort — New for 2023
Once you’ve completed your tour, finish your merry mission at The American Adventure Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase, which is home to three patriotic gingerbread displays.
Jingle All the Way – The Ultimate Disney Springs & Disney Resorts Christmas Decorations Tour
What if you have a full day or more available to check out the Disney Springs and Disney resort Christmas decorations? You’re in luck! This holly-jolly odyssey jingles all the way around Walt Disney World, from Disney Springs to the Disney World hotels and back again.
If You’re Driving, Park Your Car at Disney Springs
Before you set out on your merry way, get an extra-festive start to your day with the Disney Springs Christmas Tree. While you’re there, be sure to join the virtual queue to meet Santa Claus. Unlike other meet-and-greets with Santa around the resort, this is the only place you can see St. Nick without paying admission.
Once you’re ready to get started, hop on a bus headed to Animal Kingdom Lodge.
First Stop: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
When it comes to non-traditional Christmas decorations at Disney World, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge takes the (fruit)cake. The newest yuletide addition to this adventurous hotel is the adorable gingerbread display, which features a baby giraffe and baby zebra. Decked out with colorful bows made from African fabrics and wooden masks of African wildlife, the lobby’s towering tree is also a stunner. For the best views, take in the scene from the bridge on the fifth floor.
Next Stop: Disney’s Hollywood Studios & Epcot Resort Area
Once you’ve had your fill of Christmas on the African savanna, it’s onward to the Hollywood Studios & Epcot Resort Area. If you have some extra time in your day, consider adding a stop at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. Though slightly out of the way, its sophisticated Christmas decorations are beautiful.
Just take a bus from Animal Kingdom Lodge to Animal Kingdom Theme Park, then hop on another bus from the park to the hotel. Afterward, continue on to the next stop of your tour. If you’d rather not, simply grab a bus from Animal Kingdom Theme Park to the Art of Animation Resort and the rest of Disney’s Hollywood Studios Resort Area.
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
Just like Disney’s Art of Animation Resort takes its inspiration from beloved films like Cars, The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo and The Lion King, so do the hotel’s Christmas decorations. Here, white trees and garlands serve as a blank canvas for technicolor baubles and ornaments emblazoned with sketches of popular Disney characters.
Disney’s Pop Culture Resort
To take a peek at Christmases past, cross the Generation Gap Bridge and make your way to Disney’s Pop Culture Resort. This kitschy value resort is obsessed with all things retro, and the same goes for the hotel’s holiday decorations. The classic Christmas tree is trimmed with everything from Rubik’s cubes and peace signs to old-school Santas and Shiny Brite ornaments.
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
From there, jump on a Disney Skyliner gondola and soar over to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. At this Disney resort, Christmas decorations, including a few festive trees, feature a tropical twist with island-inspired details like colorful flowers and pineapples.
Disney’s Riviera Resort
Next, stroll next door to Disney’s Riviera Resort (or, if you’re feeling lazy, hop on the Disney Skyliner instead). Befitting its European inspirations, this deluxe villa resort keeps things classy with elegant holiday decorations like lush garlands and a sophisticated Christmas tree bedecked with silver and gold.
Disney’s Beach Club Resort
From here, it’s time to leave the Hollywood Studios-area hotels behind. Hop on the Disney Skyliner and make your way to Disney’s BoardWalk and the Epcot Resort Area. Our first stop is Disney’s Beach Club Resort, which is home to a full-sized gingerbread carousel. It even spins! For 2022, the carousel gets the royal treatment, with each horse taking inspiration from a different Disney Princess.
While not nearly as impressive as the carousel, the Disney resort also boasts a pair of Christmas trees. Trimmed with beachy trappings like starfish, seahorses and more, it’s a whimsical rendition that’s perfect for Florida.
Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
Once you’ve finished exploring, wander next door to Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, the Beach Club’s sister hotel. As the more buttoned-up of the pair, the hotel touts refined Christmas decorations like a nautical-themed tree with model sailboats and ships’ helms.
However, the centerpiece of these resort Christmas decorations is a quaint holiday village, which features a model railway and plenty of Disney-inspired Easter eggs. Trust us, you’re going to want to spend some time checking out the many details. And all-new for 2023, the Yacht Club is also getting its very own gingerbread display. We can’t wait to see what it looks like!
Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
Next, continue walking around Crescent Lake toward Disney’s BoardWalk until you reach the BoardWalk Inn. Here, resort Christmas decorations like garlands and trees evoke the colors and playfulness of the classic carnivals of Atlantic coast boardwalks, featuring nostalgic elements like carousel animals, popcorn balls and more.
The heart of the Christmas decorations, however, is the impressive gingerbread house inspired by Disney’s BoardWalk. Although the resort’s dessert recreation changes from year to year, the gingerbread house for 2022 is themed after the new BoardWalk Deli and features pint-sized appearances by Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse.
Last Stop: Magic Kingdom Resort Area
Last but not least, it’s time to dash on over to the Magic Kingdom Resort Area. Take a bus over to the main entrance of Magic Kingdom.
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Climb aboard a boat and set sail for Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. This deluxe resort is positively overflowing with cozy Christmas vibes. From the towering tree decked out with rustic details like gently glowing teepees and deer and moose antlers to the rows of rocking chairs in front of the lobby’s crackling fireplace, this is one Disney resort you’ll probably want to hang out in for a while.
Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Next, head back toward the Magic Kingdom. From there, hop on the Resort Monorail or, if you’re feeling ambitious, take the short walk across the street to Disney’s Contemporary Resort. This iconic A-line hotel boasts a Mary Blair-inspired gingerbread castle with appearances by Mickey and Minnie, as well as a retro-futuristic Christmas tree outside.
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Then, hop back on the Resort Monorail and continue on to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. As Disney World’s flagship hotel, the Grand Floridian Resort is arguably the most popular Disney resort during the Christmas season. And with good reason—along with a giant, elaborately tree themed after the 12 Days of Christmas, you can also see the Grand Floridian gingerbread house, a life-size, Victorian-style stunner with EARidescent flair in honor of Disney World’s 50th anniversary.
Choose your Own Ending – Fireworks at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort or A Wintry Finish at Disney Springs
Now, you have to make a choice. Either walk next door to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort or catch a bus back to Disney Springs to wrap up your evening. While the Polynesian resort isn’t typically worth a stop (you’ll only find a tropical-themed tree and some flower-studded garlands), we can’t imagine a more perfect end to your tour than a fireworks finale.
Alternatively, you can also make your way back to Disney Springs to finish out your night. Between 6:00 PM and 10:00 PM, the entertainment district comes alive with everything from live holiday music to faux snow flurries. If it’s a Christmassy nightcap you’re after, Jock Lindsey’s Holiday Bar fits the bill with its festive cocktails and seasonal dishes.
Well, holiday resort hoppers, that wraps up our tour of the Disney World resort Christmas decorations. Are you planning to resort hop at Walt Disney World this Christmas season? Which Disney resort has your favorite holiday decorations? Let us know in the comments! Then, learn how to stretch your Disney World travel budget further with our discount Disney tickets.