A Completely Festive Guide to Walt Disney World Christmas Decorations
Christmas is coming and the turkey legs are fat. (Obscure John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together reference, anyone?) The Walt Disney World Resort is magical enough as it is, but add in some themed Christmas trees, decked-out gingerbread displays 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?
If you’re planning to visit Walt Disney World this Christmas season, grab your tinsel and some hot cocoa as we unwrap all the details about holiday decorations in Disney World. (Updated November 20, 2022)
Does Disney World Decorate for Christmas?
Is Santa’s favorite color red? (We’re assuming that’s a ‘yes.’ For all we know, he’s forced to wear red due to tradition and actually loves royal blue instead. But, we digress.)
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! After all, what kind of seasonal soiree would Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom be without a flurry of yuletide trappings?
In fact, as far as we’re concerned, the holiday season is the absolute best time to visit Disney World, and that’s largely thanks to the festive decorations. The Disney World Christmas decorating schedule typically runs like clockwork from year to year. So, you should have no problem visiting Disney World when everything is looking festive.
If you’d like to experience the Christmas season at the Walt Disney World Resort, including all those glorious holiday decorations at the theme parks, hotels and Disney Springs, here are some things to keep in mind:
When Does Disney Decorate for Christmas?
Much like your local Target or Walmart, Christmas comes early to the Walt Disney World Resort. 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.
Although Christmas at The Most Magical Place on Earth officially kicks off for 2022 on Friday, November 11, 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 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 or 3, just in time for the start of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Then, next on Santa’s Christmas list are Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom Theme Park.
In fact, you might even spot a seasonally ambiguous star or two in these other Disney Parks beginning in 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 11, 2022.
Over at Disney Springs, meanwhile, you’ll start to see Christmas decorations go up in early November. Keep in mind that, like the Disney World 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.
Finally, due to the popular Food & Wine Festival, Epcot is the last Disney Park of the bunch to be decorated for Christmas. Once Disney’s foodie festival wraps up on November 19, 2022, the Holiday Services team can start to transition the park over to the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays, which kicks off on November 25, the day after Thanksgiving.
Holiday decorations at Disney World hotels are the final piece of the holiday puzzle. You can usually expect participating deluxe and moderate resorts to receive their merry makeovers around the middle of November, with hotels being transformed overnight in a glittery whirlwind of garland and twinkle lights.
But, that’s not all. Several hotels at Walt Disney World decorate for Christmas with elaborate gingerbread displays. These yuletide treasures are generally the first to appear, probably because these larger-than-life confections take hundreds of hours to bake and assemble. Some even feature snack stands touting the spicy treat (and generating some sweet, sweet profits in the process).
Disney World Christmas Decorations Timeline
November 1st – Some decorations should appear
November 8th – Magic Kingdom fully decorated, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom at least partially decorated
November 15th – Christmas decorations at some of the hotels
November 22nd – Hotels fully decorated and Epcot partially decorated
November 26th – 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, if you time things carefully, you can be walking in a winter wonderland up until around the first week of January.
For reference, from 2019 into 2020, Christmas decorations at Walt Disney World started to disappear by January 5 and were fully gone by the time the Disney Marathon Weekend concluded on January 12. In 2023, Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is scheduled for January 4 to January 8, 2023.
Disney World Christmas Decorations 2022 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 hotel to hotel, park to park and even land to land.
During the Christmas season, much of Magic Kingdom dresses up for the occasion, spreading holiday cheer throughout the theme park starting the first week of November. By the end of the week, the yuletide transformation is complete and the park is ready for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
Typically, Magic Kingdom Christmas decorations go up, to some extent, in all areas of the park, with the majority located in Main Street, U.S.A. However, you can also expect at least a dusting of festive décor in Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland as well.
Main Street, U.S.A. is bedecked with ornament-filled wreaths and ribbons galore, 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.
Over in Frontierland and Liberty Square, pine garlands studded with twinkle lights and tied with rustic ribbons take guests back to a simpler time, while futuristically festive Tomorrowland is a vision in tinsel, with colorful aluminum Christmas trees.
Although there aren’t as many decorations as in other parts of the park, Fantasyland and Adventureland also get in on the festive fun. In New Fantasyland, boughs of holly bring balance to all those antlers outside of Gaston’s Tavern, while Storybook Circus sees a sprinkling of lights and garlands near the character meet-and-greet location for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
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! But, that’s not all. Along with whimsical decorations, guests on the Jingle Cruise also enjoy a smattering of seasonal jokes that are sure to leave you feeling merry and bright.
Naturally, you can enjoy Magic Kingdom’s Christmas makeover any day or night during the holiday season. However, without a doubt, our favorite time to visit is during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
With festive fun like Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime fireworks, a Christmas parade, exclusive food items and a magical “snowfall” (it’s soap!) down on Main Street, there’s no better time or place to soak up some holiday cheer.
Epcot Christmas Decorations
Please note that due to ongoing Epcot expansion construction, it is likely that the World Celebration, World Nature and World Discovery areas will likely receive little to no Christmas decorations in 2022.
Although Epcot is next on our list, it’s actually the last of the Disney World theme parks to undergo its annual holiday transformation. That said, it’s certainly not last in our hearts.
Why? The Epcot International Festival of the Holidays, of course! Traditionally, the event begins the day after Thanksgiving and continues until the day before New Year’s Eve. This year, the Festival of the Holidays runs from November 25 to December 30, 2022.
Each year, this seasonal celebration immerses guests in holiday traditions from around the world. Festive food is served at the event’s Holiday Kitchens. Special entertainment – such as live musical performances, cultural storytellers and the ever-popular Candlelight Processional – spreads holiday cheer. Plus, don’t forget about the jolly décor!
You’ll notice a variety of Epcot Christmas decorations throughout the park, like some spirited takes on Epcot’s topiaries as you walk around World Celebration, World Nature and World Discovery and a massive Christmas tree overlooking World Showcase Lagoon.
However, with the 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. While not every country is decorated for Christmas, many World Showcase pavilions come alive with cultural renditions of holiday decorations, including Mexico, Norway, Germany, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Canada and The American Adventure.
Whether you’re doing some drinking around the world or sampling your way through a smorgasbord of seasonal eats, we highly recommend you take some time to walk through this winter wonderland. Nothing puts us in the holiday spirit like admiring each pavilion’s merry décor with a sweet treat or festive cocktail in hand.
After you’ve finished checking out the poinsettia and piñata-bedecked garlands over in Mexico and the frost-kissed, pinecone-laden boughs in Canada, don’t miss out on a showing of Epcot’s Candlelight Processional.
Although it can’t quite match the glitz and glam of Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks at Magic Kingdom, this long-running stage show featuring a special celebrity narrator and popular holiday songs performed by an orchestra and a massed choir is a beloved Disney World Christmas tradition.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios Christmas Decorations
Inspired by the Hollywood that never was and always will be, Disney’s Hollywood Studios puts the “tinsel” in Tinseltown during the holiday season. From the yuletide takeover of The Hollywood Tower Hotel in Sunset Seasons Greetings to the playful décor of Toy Story Land, this Disney Park loves to get all dressed up for the holidays.
Folks with thriving Shiny Brite collections and a penchant for mid-century modern design won’t want to miss Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Christmas decorations. A vision in silver and gold garlands and technicolor ornaments, perfect for Disney’s ode to the Golden Age of Hollywood, 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. And, speaking of that jolly old elf, you can even see the big guy himself, cruising along in a bright red convertible alongside dancing reindeer and elves as part of the Santa Claus Merry Motorcade, the park’s miniature Christmas parade.
With larger-than-life Christmas lights strung throughout the area, Toy Story Land feels pretty festive even on a normal day. However, the merry vibes in this corner of Hollywood Studios are taken to the max during the Christmas season.
Although there aren’t as many decorations in Toy Story Land as there are in other parts of the theme park, you can’t help but be charmed by the many whimsical touches. Andy, with the help of the Disney Imagineers, has been hard at work making all sorts of ornaments and other holiday goodies especially for the occasion, such as oversized popcorn-and-cranberry garlands, baubles crafted out of macaroni and Christmas cookies.
Even the toys get in on the action, with some donning festive accessories, like Rex’s ‘paper’ reindeer antlers or a cozy scarf wrapped around Woody’s neck. Everyone’s favorite cowboy has even armed himself – with a candy cane in his holster.
After leaving Toy Story Land, make your way back to the center of the park to wrap up your day at Hollywood Studios. To add a little character to your meal (Disney character dining, that is), reserve a table for Minnie’s Holiday Dine at Hollywood & Vine. Starring Minnie and her friends in their finest Christmas clothes, as well as a delectable menu of seasonal dishes, it’s the perfect holiday dinner for those traveling with kids.
From there, jingle all the way down to the other side of Hollywood Studios to catch Sunset Seasons Greetings. Using the magic of technology, this spirited show wraps The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in colorful projections – just like a massive Christmas gift.
After Sunset Seasons Greetings has you feeling jolly, finish your time at Hollywood Studios with a showing of Fantasmic, which recently returned in early November 2022 after its two-year COVID hiatus.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Christmas Decorations
As the resort’s theme park take on a zoo, Disney’s Animal Kingdom might not seem like a natural fit for holiday decorations. After all, we don’t know of too many zebras or tigers that celebrate Christmas.
Fortunately, festive fans of all stripes will be pleased to know that this wild park doesn’t skip out on the fun, instead blanketing Animal Kingdom with a whimsical mix of decorations inspired by the winter season.
Since Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park is all about Mother Nature, it’s no surprise that many of the Disney World theme park’s Christmas decorations feature natural elements or materials 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.
On Discovery Island, the central hub of the park, glistening whites, warm neutrals and homespun details like paper luminarias of arctic animals along the rooftops keep the focus on the Tree of Life while still feeling festive.
However, without a doubt, the highlight of the holiday festivities on Discovery Island is the Merry Menagerie. Unique to Animal Kingdom, this interactive entertainment offering uses artisan-made puppets of cold-weather creatures like reindeer, polar bears, penguins and more.
These adorable animals roam the area directly in front of the Tree of Life as you enter Animal Kingdom. Best of all, though they might be puppets, even these human-powered creatures enjoy some pets, scratches and cuddles, making for some undeniably charming photo opportunities. So, be sure to say “hello” and show them some love.
Although Pandora – The World of Avatar may light up like a Christmas tree once the sun goes down with the help of (pixie-dust-powered) bioluminescence, the natives that call this exoplanetary moon home, the Na’vi, don’t celebrate the holiday.
On the bright side, the hard-working folks of Alpha Centauri Expeditions (ACE, for short) sure do. After your Flight of Passage, stop by Pongu Pongu or Satu’li Canteen for some refreshments and a peek at a makeshift Santa Claus made out of leftover RDA tech before exploring the rest of the park.
Next stop, Africa. Just across the Discovery River, this cozy corner of Animal Kingdom is filled with transportive details, and the holiday season is no exception. Here, the townspeople have gotten artsy, crafting wreaths, garlands and more out of leftover items like gourds, bottlecaps and bicycle wheels.
Asia, meanwhile, offers up another global take on the winter holidays. Just outside Feathered Friends in Flight, the square glows with a kaleidoscope of vibrant lanterns in honor of Diwali, India’s annual festival of lights.
Last, but certainly not least, DinoLand U.S.A. puts a gloriously kitschy spin on traditional Christmas decorations. From the tacky tinsel of the midway area to the holiday-décor-on-a-shoestring-budget of the Dino Institute, you can’t help but be charmed.
But, that isn’t the only yuletide fun you can find at Animal Kingdom. Along with Festive Flotillas on the Discovery River, including one starring Santa Claus, you’ll also want to enjoy the nightly Tree of Life Awakenings, which light up the night with holiday projections and merry tunes.
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.
On the hunt for Disney World Christmas trees? Disney Springs is the destination. Each year, the popular shopping and dining district gets taken over by tons of unique trees themed after beloved Disney characters, films, and attractions for the annual Disney Springs Christmas Tree Stroll.
This spirited scavenger hunt is completely free to participate in – just pick up a map from one of the participating locations. Once you’ve tracked them all down, show your completed map to a cast member at one of the designated locations to claim your reward: a Disney Springs Christmas Tree Stroll button. If you’re lucky, you may even get caught in a faux flurry or two.
While you’re out and about, be sure to stop by Jock Lindsey’s Holiday Bar (AKA Hangar Bar). One of the best bars at Disney World, Christmas decorations and twinkle lights seemingly cover every inch of this Disney Springs watering hole. When you aren’t busy soaking it all in, treat yourself to seasonal eats and sips.
This year, the Disney Springs Christmas Tree Stroll and other holiday happenings are scheduled for November 11 to December 30, 2022.
Christmas Decorations at Disney World Hotels
Just like you don’t need to go to the theme parks to experience 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 (the festive folks on the Holiday Services team).
While all of the Disney World resorts get dressed up for the holidays in specially themed trappings, even the value hotels, the best places to see Disney World Christmas decorations are the deluxe resorts, as well as a select few moderates. Along with massive Christmas trees, you’ll also find such jolly seasonal offerings as gingerbread displays, as originated by Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort back in 1998, and Christmas villages.
As we mentioned earlier, it can take a couple of weeks for Disney World hotels to decorate for Christmas, particularly if they have a gingerbread house or other sweet display in addition to a Christmas tree. So, if you want to see all the festive décor, save your resort hopping until the end of November and into December.
Featuring ornaments inspired by the animals, textures, handicrafts and textiles of Africa, holiday trappings at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge are some of the more unique Disney World Christmas decorations you can see.
Animal Kingdom Lodge is also the most recent resort to receive its very own gingerbread display: a life-sized dessert version of a baby giraffe and baby zebra. Don’t miss 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. Cooked up by the Beach Club Resort’s Bakery and Engineering Team, this culinary creation features life-sized carousel horses and even spins.
This year, the gingerbread display is inspired by the Disney Princesses, with each pastry pony themed after a different princess. See if you can guess which one is which! While you’re there, be sure to take a stroll around Crescent Lake to take a peek at the Disney Christmas decorations at the nearby Yacht Club and BoardWalk Inn.
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 pass through its lobby. For 2022, pastry chefs at this nostalgic Disney hotel have created a pint-sized gingerbread version of the new BoardWalk Deli.
When you’re finished drinking in the sweet scene, continue on to Disney’s BoardWalk promenade for more festive decorations, as well as a buffet of delicious restaurants and shops.
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 castle inspired by Disney Legend Mary Blair. You can even buy seasonal treats at a booth right next to the display.
Typically, the display is themed after a different Disney movie each year. For 2022, however, the royal gingerbread house has received an EARidescent upgrade starring Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse in honor of Disney World’s 50th-anniversary celebration.
Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, particularly the 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-inspired ornaments on the lobby’s towering Christmas tree and a giant, 14-foot-tall gingerbread house, it sure is a jolly holiday at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. As the ancestral home of the resort’s gingerbread tradition, the Grand Floridian is a must for any Disney World Christmas vacation.
What’s more, the gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian is also the only one at Walt Disney World that actually has a sweet shop inside. Plus, not only can you buy seasonal treats, but the cozy cottage’s chimney even pumps the spicy scent into the air, making the whole lobby smell like Christmas.
This year, the Grand Floridian gingerbread house received extra-special EARidescent touches to celebrate Disney World’s 50th. So, be sure to stop by and take a look on your way to Magic Kingdom.
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground
Believe it or not, some of the best Christmas decorations at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground are those made by the guests who stay there. Although the Holiday Services team puts up a variety of rough-hewn holiday ornaments around the resort, the real stars of the show are the RVs, golf carts and tents that have been decorated for Christmas by Fort Wilderness campers.
Hop on the bus or take some time to walk around and appreciate the creative campsite Christmas displays. Then, make your way to dinner at Trail’s End Restaurant or the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue or finish the night on a sweet note with freshly toasted s’mores at Chip ‘n Dale’s Campfire Sing-a-Long.
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Just like Gaston, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge uses antlers in all of its decorating. Add in pinecones, buffalo plaid and a crackling fireplace, and you’ve got a rustic Disney World Christmas that can’t be missed.
In 2019, the Wilderness Lodge debuted its first gingerbread cabin to much success. Although the display has yet to be confirmed for 2022, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that it will be back 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. Decorated for Christmas with trees and wreaths dripping with twinkle lights and nautical-themed baubles, this resplendent resort lends a touch of elegance to the season.
Without a doubt, the heart of the holiday decorations at the Yacht Club Resort is its Christmas village and model railway. Like the one that sits at Epcot between the Germany and Italy pavilions, but with a festive twist, this charming town is a fun distraction amid the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
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 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.
For more grown-up holiday delights, the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays offers seasonal eats from around the world and live Christmas music. Or, dash on over to Disney Springs for the Disney Springs Christmas Tree Stroll, as well as a bite to eat and some gift shopping.
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 Christmas village of Holiday Services, Culinary, Floral, and Event cast members almost a month to finish.
In past years, the Holiday D-Lights (6 hours, $289 per person) and Yuletide Fantasy (3 hours, $149 per person) tours, led by Adventures by Disney, took guests backstage to learn how the Disney cast members decorate for Christmas.
Sadly, due to the pandemic, this special holiday backstage tour hasn’t been confirmed for 2022. However, we’re hopeful that this behind-the-scenes experience makes a comeback in the coming years.
DIY a Disney World Christmas Decorations Crawl
We love resort hopping any time of year. But, without a doubt, our favorite time to visit 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 like an ever-growing strand of Christmas lights, 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, a dining or room reservation may be required to visit the resorts.
As a result, we recommend you plan to take Disney transportation to each hotel rather than driving. If you do plan to drive, be prepared to show a valid room or dining reservation or risk being 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 visit the Disney Parks, and we hope that you’ll plan a vacation to experience it all in the future if you haven’t had the chance already.