Christmas is coming and the turkey legs are fat. (Obscure John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together reference, anyone?) Disney World is magical enough as it is, but add in some themed Christmas trees, decked-out gingerbread, and other jolly baubles and it’s downright enchanting.
There’s no denying that Disney World Christmas decorations bring the Central Florida resort to life during the holiday season. But, just when does Disney decorate for Christmas? What does the festive display look like? How long is it up? Grab your tinsel and some hot cocoa as we unwrap all the details about Christmas decorations in Disney World.
Does Disney Decorate for Christmas?
Is Santa’s favorite color red? For those who haven’t had the chance to experience the magic of the holidays at Disney World, we are happy to report that yes, there’s a sleighful of Christmas decorations at Disney! In fact, as far as we’re concerned, the holiday season is one of the absolute best times to visit Walt Disney World, and that’s largely thanks to the festive decorations.
Disney’s Christmas decorating schedule typically runs like clockwork from year to year, meaning you’ll have no problem scheduling a trip while the Disney park ornaments and hotel decorations are up. If you’d like to experience Christmastime at Disney World, you’re probably looking for the answers to the following questions:
When Does Disney Decorate for Christmas?
Much like your local Target or Walmart, Christmas comes early to Walt Disney World. Really early. How early exactly? If past years are any indication, you’ll be thinking, “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” right around November 1st. Sorry, Thanksgiving!
Although Christmas at Disney World officially kicks off on Friday, November 12 in 2021, Disney World Christmas decorations usually begin to appear in Magic Kingdom and the other theme parks the day after Halloween (and the last day of Disney’s Boo Bash or the Not-So-Scary Halloween Party).
That’s right – after the last guests have left the park on October 31, the Holiday Services team takes to the streets (Main Street U.S.A., that is) like a gang of ornament-wielding elves to make the pumpkins disappear and deck the halls with the year’s Christmas trappings. While they may not finish everything overnight, you can expect the Magic Kingdom Christmas decorations to be mostly finished by November 2 and fully complete by November 8, 2021, just in time for the start of Disney Very Merriest After Hours.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom Theme Park should be next on the Christmas list. In fact, you might even spot a seasonally ambiguous star or two in these other parks beginning late October, possibly even as early as the 21st. You can expect all the decorations to be up and lights to be on in their entirety closer to the official start date of the holidays at Walt Disney World on November 12, 2021.
Christmas decorations at Disney Springs also begin to take their place in early November. Keep in mind that like the theme parks, decorating for the holidays can take a while. So, don’t be surprised if components are added over the course of a week.
Epcot is the last park of the bunch to be Christmas-fied as a result of the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. Once Disney’s foodie festival wraps up on November 20, 2021, the Holiday Services team can start to transition the park over to the Epcot Festival of the Holidays which kicks off on November 26, the day after Thanksgiving.
Christmas decorations at Disney World hotels are the final piece of the holiday puzzle. We anticipate that participating deluxe and moderate resorts will follow 2020’s trend and receive their merry makeovers sometime around the middle of November, with hotels being transformed overnight in a whirlwind of garland and twinkle lights. Gingerbread displays are generally the first to appear, probably because these larger-than-life confections also feature snack stands touting the spicy treat (and generating some sweet, sweet profits in the process).
- November 1, 2021 – Some decorations should appear
- November 8, 2021 – Magic Kingdom fully decorated, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom at least partially decorated
- November 15, 2021 – Christmas decorations at some of the hotels
- November 22, 2021 – Hotels completely decorated and Epcot partially decorated
- November 26 – Disney World decorations finished
How Long Do Christmas Decorations Stay Up at Walt Disney World?
Can’t make it to Disney World before New Year’s Day? If you’re thinking, “Is Disney still decorated for Christmas in January?”, you’ll be happy to hear that you can be walking in a winter wonderland up until around the first week of January.
For reference, Christmas decorations at Walt Disney World started to disappear by January 5, 2020, and were fully gone by the time the Disney Marathon Weekend concluded on January 12. In 2022, Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is scheduled for January 5 to January 9, 2022.
Disney World Christmas Decorations 2021 Guide
For those daydreaming about sugarplums and wondering, “What is Disney like at Christmas?”, it really depends on where you choose to go. Since Disney Christmas decorations are themed after the area they’re displayed in, the atmosphere can vary greatly from park to park and hotel to hotel.
Magic Kingdom Christmas Decorations
Please note that the Christmas lights on Cinderella’s Castle are canceled for 2021 due to decorations that are already in place for Disney World’s 50th-anniversary celebration.
During the holiday season, much of Magic Kingdom dresses up for the occasion. Main Street U.S.A. is bedecked with ornament-filled wreaths and ribbons galore and crowned by the Magic Kingdom Christmas tree on one end and the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights on the other. With a little help from Elsa, these frozen Christmas decorations on Cinderella’s Castle envelope its towers in sheets of icicle-like lights for a thoroughly snow-kissed effect that’s made for social media.
Pine garlands studded with twinkle lights or baubles are draped throughout Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Liberty Square, while futuristically festive Tomorrowland is a veritable ode to tinsel and aluminum Christmas trees. And of course, don’t forget the holly, jolly takeover over at Adventureland starring the Jungle Jingle Cruise in all its DIY, use-what-you’ve-got glory. Those skippers are just so crafty!
Epcot Christmas Decorations
Please note that due to ongoing Epcot expansion construction, Future World will likely receive little to no Christmas decorations in 2021.
Although Epcot is next on our list, it’s actually the last of the Disney World theme parks to get a holiday makeover. You’ll notice a variety of Epcot Christmas decorations throughout the park, like some festive takes on Epcot’s topiaries as you walk around Future World and a massive Christmas tree overlooking World Showcase Lagoon.
However, with the Epcot Festival of the Holidays dishing out seasonal bites and Christmas cheer in equal measure, the real heart of the holidays at Epcot is World Showcase. Many of the World Showcase pavilions come alive with cultural renditions of Christmas decorations, starring everything from poinsettia and piñata-bedecked garlands in the Mexico Pavilion to a frost-covered, pinecone-heavy version over at the Canada Pavilion.
Hollywood Studios Christmas Decorations
Those with thriving Shiny Brite collections and a penchant for mid-century modern design won’t want to miss the Disney Hollywood Studios Christmas decorations. A vision in silver and gold garlands and technicolor ornaments, the Christmas decorations at Hollywood Studios feature plenty of retro touches like supersized versions of vintage holiday figurines and color palettes straight from the 50s and 60s. Even Gertie the Dinosaur gets in on the fun with her very own Santa hat.
With its larger-than-life Christmas lights, Toy Story Land feels pretty festive on a normal day. In past years, Andy has also added the other playful touches he’s made for the season – or maybe it was the Disney Imagineers – like oversized popcorn-and-cranberry garlands and macaroni Christmas ornaments or giving Rex “paper” reindeer antlers. And for the perfect ending to your holiday at Hollywood Studios, add a little character to your meal (Disney character dining, that is) with Minnie’s Seasonal Dining starring Minnie and her friends in their finest Christmas clothes.
Animal Kingdom Christmas Decorations
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park is all about Mother Nature, so it’s no surprise that many of the Animal Kingdom Christmas decorations feature natural materials or elements that look like they’ve been upcycled. Handcrafted, animal-inspired ornaments on the Animal Kingdom Christmas tree greet guests at the entrance to the park and set the tone for the entire experience.
Glistening whites, warming neutrals, and homespun details like strings of paper luminarias featuring animal designs along the rooftops in Discovery Island keep the focus on the Tree of Life while still feeling festive. Over in Africa, the townspeople have gotten artsy, crafting wreaths, garlands, and more out of leftover items like gourds and bottlecaps. Asia lights up with the glow of colorful Diwali lanterns and DinoLand U.S.A. basks in Christmas kitschiness with tacky tinsel decorations. You’ll even find a little Christmas cheer in Pandora – a makeshift Santa Claus made out of leftover RDA tech.
Disney Springs Christmas Decorations
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more festive place to do some holiday shopping than Disney Springs. Christmas decorations are sprinkled throughout the sprawling entertainment complex with some storefronts, restaurants, and more all receiving the holiday treatment.
If you’re on the hunt for Disney World Christmas trees, Disney Springs is the destination. Each year, this popular shopping and dining district gets taken over by a dozen or more unique trees themed after beloved Disney characters films, and attractions for the annual Disney Springs Christmas Tree Stroll. You may even get caught in a faux flurry or two. While you’re out, be sure to stop by Jock Lindsey’s Holiday Hangar Bar for Christmas decorations that are just as spirited as the bar’s selection of seasonal snacks and cocktails.
Christmas Decorations at Disney World Hotels
Just like you don’t need to go to the theme parks to experience the Disney magic, you also don’t need a park ticket to enjoy the wonderful world of Disney at Christmas. Much like the rest of the resort, hotels at Disney World also get a midnight visit from a pack of elves brandishing garlands and glue guns (AKA the festive folks on the Holiday Services team).
While all of the Disney hotels get dressed up for the holidays in specially themed trappings, even the value resorts, the best Disney World hotel Christmas decorations can be found at the deluxe and a few of the moderate resorts. Along with massive Christmas trees, you’ll also find such jolly seasonal offerings as gingerbread displays and Christmas villages.
Disney World hotels with notable Christmas decorations include:
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Featuring ornaments inspired by the animals, textures, handicrafts, and textiles of Africa, Christmas decorations at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge offer one of the more unique holiday aesthetics at Disney World. Be sure to check out the lobby’s icon tree.
Disney’s Beach Club Resort – While you will find some Christmas trees and wreaths here festooned with ocean-inspired ornaments, the centerpiece of Disney’s Beach Club Resort is a charming gingerbread carousel. This culinary creation is cooked up by the Bakery and Engineering Team and features life-sized carousel horses.
Disney’s BoardWalk Inn – The BoardWalk Inn has gone through a bit of an evolution when it comes to Christmas decorations, seeing everything from a gingerbread gazebo in years past to a miniaturized BoardWalk Bakery in recent years pass through its lobby. Continue on to Disney’s BoardWalk promenade for more festive decorations.
Disney’s Contemporary Resort – Although the Contemporary Resort boasts an icon Christmas tree on the hotel’s outside promenade, the real highlight here is the resort’s massive gingerbread display inspired by Disney Legend Mary Blair. Each year is themed after a different Disney movie and you can even buy seasonal treats at a booth right next to the display.
Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort – Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, and particularly its Gran Destino Tower, are relative newcomers to Disney World’s can’t-miss Christmas spots. This moderate resort glitters with colorful Christmas trees and a positively festive, red-and-green lighting scheme.
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort – With elegant, Victorian touches and a giant, 14-foot-tall gingerbread house, it surely is a jolly holiday at the Grand Floridian. Plus, not only can you buy seasonal treats from the gingerbread house, but its chimney also pumps the spicy scent into the air and makes the whole lobby smell like Christmas.
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground – The Holiday Services team puts up a variety of rough-hewn holiday ornaments, but some of the best Christmas decorations at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground are those made by the guests who stay there. Hop on the bus or take some time to walk around and appreciate the creative campsite Christmas displays.
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge – Just like Gaston, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge uses antlers in all of its decorating. Add in pinecones and buffalo plaid and you’ve got some rustic Disney World hotel Christmas decorations that can’t be missed. Best of all, the resort also debuted the first Wilderness Lodge Gingerbread Cabin back in 2019, so hopefully it makes its return this year.
Disney’s Yacht Club Resort – Disney’s Yacht Club Resort may feel a bit stuffy during the summer months, but it really lets loose at Christmastime. Resplendent with trees and wreaths dripping with twinkle lights and nautical-themed baubles, the heart of this hotel’s holiday decorations is its Christmas village and model railway.
How to Experience the Wonderful World of a Disney World Christmas
There’s no time more magical to go to Walt Disney World than the holiday season. If you want to get in the festive spirit and enjoy all of the Disney World decorations, here are a few ideas for how to soak up all that Christmas cheer at The Most Magical Place on Earth.
Go to a Special Disney World Holiday Event
Looking for the full Christmas experience? Don’t miss out on Disney World’s special holiday celebrations. At Magic Kingdom, the Disney Very Merriest After Hours (or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party) features festive fun like Disney characters, Christmas cookies, and even a “snowfall” on Main Street U.S.A. Or, for more grown-up holiday delights, the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays offers seasonal eats from around the world and live Christmas music.
Take a Festive Behind-the-Scenes Tour
The best way to experience Christmas decorations in Disney World is alongside the people who create them. Getting this massive resort ready for the season is no small task, and it takes a village of Holiday Services, Culinary, Floral, and Event cast members almost a month to finish.
Led by Adventures by Disney, the Holiday D-Lights (6 hours, $289 per person) and Yuletide Fantasy (3 hours, $149 per person) tours take guests backstage to learn how the magic happens. You’ll even leave with a special holiday gift to commemorate the occasion.
Create a Disney World Christmas Decorations Crawl
We love resort hopping any time of year, but without a doubt, our favorite time to check out the Disney hotels is during the holidays. Thanks to complimentary transportation options like the Monorail, buses, and Disney Skyliner, visiting the Disney hotels with the best Christmas decorations isn’t just easy, it’s also completely free.
All of the resorts at Disney World have their own unique seasonal décor, so narrow down which holidays you’d like to see the most and plan your attack. As the hotels continue to expand their ornament collections, the list of must-see decorations gets longer. So, while you can experience the best of it in about a day, you could easily stretch it out to two days if you wanted to.
Keep in mind that due to parking restrictions and dining or room reservations being required to visit the resorts, you should plan to take Disney transportation to each hotel rather than driving. If you do plan to drive, you will need to show a valid room or dining reservation or else be turned away.
Well, Christmas fans, that wraps up our guide to seeing the Christmas decorations at Disney World. The holiday season truly is a magical time to go to Walt Disney World and we hope that you’ll plan a vacation to experience it all in the future if you haven’t had the chance already.
Hoping to spend as much time celebrating the season as possible? Maximize the festivities with our 1-day plans for Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. Trying to save some Christmas cash? Make it happen with our discount Disney World tickets.
Are you planning to visit Walt Disney World at Christmas time? Which Disney hotel holiday decorations are your favorite? What theme park has the best Christmas décor? Let us know in the comments!
Dean has been writing and blogging for over 10 years. He specializes in Disney theme park news including updates, openings, special events and general advice for travelers. He doesn’t shy away from the good, the bad and the ugly. His previous work includes being a Cast Member at Disneyland and working as a travel agent.