Disney Christmas: Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom holiday decorations
(Photo: Walt Disney World)

A Very Disney Christmas: Walt Disney World’s Holiday Celebrations (2020)

Walt Disney World usually goes all out for the holiday season, including decorating all four parks and each resort, having an after-hours Christmas party, and having a trail of Christmas Trees at Disney Springs. This Disney Christmas, things will look little different due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but there’s still plenty for families to enjoy during the holidays at the Orlando theme park resort.

This year, Disney holiday celebrations start November 6 and run through December 30. While Magic Kingdom is known for its over-the-top decorations and ride overlays, your family is still going to want to visit the other three theme parks to enjoy the holiday spirit. Later in November at Epcot, the Taste of Epcot International Festival of the holidays will take over World Showcase. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you might see Pandora- The World of Avatar get some holiday decorations near Satu’li Canteen. Over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you’ll be greeted by the star of the season, Santa Claus, as he rides in a festive cavalcade.

All of this is just the tip of the iceberg for what families can enjoy during the holiday season at Walt Disney World. Keep reading for a resort-by-resort rundown of all of the things going on to delight families during the holidays.

4 Tips to Improve Your Disney Christmas Vacation

  • The parks are typically busier during the holidays, and even with new social distancing guidelines, this could still prove to be true. If you can, try to enjoy the parks Monday through Thursday for a lighter crowd.
  • Disney Springs is very busy Friday through Sunday, so try to explore that part of the resort during the week. If you must go on the weekend, try to go early in the morning just after opening.
  • When you’re at Magic Kingdom, look for characters not only on Main Street U.S.A., but also in Frontierland on the balconies of buildings.
  • Holiday treats can be found at every park, Disney Springs, and at the resorts. Oftentimes, things like cookies and Krispie Treats can be found. If you see something more unique that you want to try, consider getting it to go and taking it back to your room to munch on after the parks close for the day.

Magic Kingdom

The number one thing people always want to know about Magic Kingdom park is if the Jungle Cruise will be magically transformed into the holiday version of itself, the Jingle Cruise. For 2020, the news is good! The popular ride overlay has returned. The Jungle Cruise is always very popular at Magic Kingdom, but even more so during the holidays when Christmas jokes and Santa hats are around every corner. If your family is planning on riding the Christmas version of the attraction, try to get in line as early in the day as possible, or wait until the end of the day to hop on one of the last boats pulling away from the dock.

Around Magic Kingdom you might spot a few holiday themed character cavalcades. These mini-parades of characters have become very popular with guests at Walt Disney World. At Magic Kingdom you might spot Mickey Mouse, Minnie, and their friends walking with a larger than life Christmas Tree, or baker Goofy making a giant gingerbread house.

Epcot

Even though Epcot is often thought of as Disney’s more “adult” park, there’s still plenty to do as a family this holiday season. One of the biggest draws to the park are its many festivals. During the holiday season this year, guests can stroll around World Showcase and enjoy drinks and eats during the Taste of Epcot International Festival of the Holidays. This event runs from November 27 through December 30. Kids will enjoy being able to try new dishes and learn more about Christmas traditions from each of the countries represented at Epcot.

When your family is in need of some downtime, be sure to stop by the America Gardens Theater to soak in the sounds of The Voices of Liberty. This singing group is typically inside the American Adventure rotunda, but due to social distancing rules, the group will be moved outside during the holidays. But don’t worry, they will still be singing the same classic Christmas and holiday songs as usual.

During Epcot’s holiday celebrations, your family has the opportunity to participate in Chip and Dale’s Christmas Tree Spree, which is a paid scavenger hunt that will take you on a journey through World Showcase. During the scavenger hunt, you’ll help Chip and Dale collect ornaments for their Christmas tree and mark where you found each particular ornament based on where they were located in each World Showcase pavilion.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The festive entertainment continues at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. While the big draw to this park right now is definitely Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the holiday fun mostly centers on the front of the park. This is where you can see character cavalcades start near the park entrance, go past Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, then end near Star Tours. Along the route you might catch Pixar pals like Buzz Lightyear and Edna Mode in their festive best. If you’re really lucky, you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of Santa riding in a brand new candy apple red convertible!

For families who love character meals, you’re going to want to make a reservation to eat at Hollywood and Vine for Minnie’s Holiday Dine. During your meal you can grab socially distant selfies with Minnie Mouse and her friends dressed in the holiday outfits.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the park with the least amount of actual Christmas activities, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find anything there. If you walk through the park near the Discovery River, you might spot a few festive holiday flotillas featuring Mickey and Minnie in their Christmas outfits, the Discovery Island drummers playing some festive songs, and even Santa enjoying the sights and sounds of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Disney Springs

The holiday spirit is alive and well at Disney Springs. This year there are quite a few new things for families to do. The first is to see Santa and Mrs. Claus during Santa’s Winter Watercade. Guests can spot the jolly old elf on Lake Buena Vista on decorated pontoon boats.

After seeing Santa, your family will want to take in the Disney Christmas Tree Stroll. This is a socially distant version of the very popular Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail. The Disney Christmas Tree Stroll allows you to see some of the most popular themed trees as you explore Disney Springs. Some of our favorites include the Star Wars, Haunted Mansion, and the Mary Poppins trees.

If your family is choosing to enjoy Disney Springs at night, you might also be able to enjoy a magical snowfall in the Town Center and the West Side neighborhoods of Disney Springs.

Resorts

Families choosing to stay at a Disney resort for the duration of their vacation, or just stop by a resort for a meal, will be able to marvel at the giant Christmas trees that grace the hotel lobbies. Each tree is specifically designed and decorated to fit the theme of the hotel. The hotels will also be decked out with other festive flourishes, including garlands and lights.

While there will be holiday treats at the resorts, the iconic gingerbread displays will not be returning this year as part of Disney’s commitment to health and safety.

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Megan duBois
Megan duBois is a freelance writer who covers theme parks, cruising, food and drink, and family travel. Her work has appeared on Buzzfeed, Popsugar, Insider, Orbitz, The Daily Meal, Family Vacation Critic, TravelPulse, and more. Megan has been quoted as an expert and thought leader on theme parks for Forbes and other outlets. Follow her on Instagram @MinglingwithMickey and Twitter @Megand513 for theme park travel tips and tricks, and email her at megand513 [at] gmail [dot] com for story ideas.