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11 Reasons Disney World Is Even More Magical During the Holidays

Headed to Orlando in December? You'll want to make a detour to Walt Disney World for the ultimate holiday celebrations.

disney holiday displayCourtesy Disney

Disney at the holidays

Walt Disney World may already feel like its sprinkled with fairy dust during the year, but the resort becomes even more magical during the holidays when it turns into an enchanting wonderland filled with dazzling decorations, decadent treats, spectacular parties, and even sparkling snow and a shimmering ice castle that truly deck the halls in Disney style. Find out how you can save money on a Disney trip if you shop at Target.

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Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom

For the most fun this side of the North Pole, it’s hard to beat this special party held in the Magic Kingdom on select nights throughout November and December. There’s special live entertainment, including Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade; characters in festive garb; Santa-riffic decor; Mrs. Claus-approved eats; and literally miles of garlands and decorations. Although you can enjoy the special holiday decor any time you visit the park, you’ll need a special ticket to get into Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party which includes complimentary treats and a magical “snowfall” on Main Street, U.S.A. Even if you’re not in the park for the party, be sure to look up at the skies above the Magic Kingdom to check out the nighttime extravaganza Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks. Visit Walt Disney World like a VIP with these insider tips.

Jingle Bell Jingle BAMCourtesy Disney

Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! at Hollywood Studios

The nighttime spectacular “Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!” at Hollywood Studios combines iconic holiday music, glittering fireworks, and special effects and state-of-the-art animated projections at the park’s centerpiece Chinese Theatre to create a yuletide extravaganza. To add a sweet touch to the evening, make reservations for the Holiday Dessert Party to indulge in everything from chocolate yule log to gingerbread martinis. These are the other tasty treats you need to add to your “Must-Try” list at Disney World.

candlelight processionalCourtesy Disney

Candlelight Processional at Epcot

Epcot’s beautiful Candlelight Processional features the retelling of the Christmas story by a celebrity narrator—Whoopi Goldberg, Pat Sajak, and Edward James Olmos have already been announced—backed by a regal 50-piece orchestra and a full choir. Make the evening extra festive with a special Candlelight Processional Dining Package in the World Showcase. Find out the hardest restaurant to get a reservation at in all of Disney World.

holidays at epcotCourtesy Disney

Christmas Tree Scavenger Hunt at Epcot

Bring the whole family to help out on Chip & Dale’s Christmas Tree Spree Scavenger Hunt. Simply purchase a map and stickers at Epcot (no extra admission fee required) and then scout World Showcase locations looking for the famous chipmunks and their ornaments. Completed maps are returned for a special festive surprise, courtesy of the chipmunk duo. This is the ultimate gift guide for Disney fans.

sunset seasons greetings disneyCourtesy Disney

Seasons Greetings Laser Show at Hollywood Studios

Stay late at Hollywood Studios and you’ll be treated to a fa-la-la fantastic evening show: Sunset Seasons Greetings projected onto the Hollywood Tower Hotel. Boasting amazing laser effects and “snow,” the experience also includes stories, songs, and Disney friends dressed in their holiday best. Before you go, you’ll want to know the things you need to book in advance of your Disney vacation.

animal kingdom christmasCourtesy Disney

Holiday Hoopla Dance Party in Animal Kingdom

For the first time in its 20 year history, Animal Kingdom is celebrating the holiday season and is rolling out a slew of sweet-as-sugarplums special attractions, including a dazzling Christmas tree, Diwali-inspired lights, and African music and celebrations. In Dinoland, U.S.A, kids of all ages will want to rock out with the DJ-led “Holiday Hoopla Dance Party with Chip ‘n Dale” and “Donald’s Dino-Bash!” will get in the holiday spirit with a colorfully costumed party. These are the 23 secrets Disney employees won’t tell you.

life size gingerbread house disneyCourtesy Disney

Deck the Halls at Disney Hotels

A life-size holiday gingerbread house at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is the place to pick up Christmas treats, including (of course!) tasty gingerbread. Disney’s Beach Club Resort boasts a life-size, edible carousel and a holiday village complete with a miniature train takes center stage at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort. It’s not just Disney that does it up in December. These 12 historic hotels get decked up for the holidays.

epcot festival of holidaysCourtesy Disney

International Festival of the Holidays at Epcot

Taste your way around the globe at this delicious holiday food festival at Epcot featuring more than a dozen unique stops. Highlights include Hanukkah treats like latkes and smoked salmon at the L’Chaim Holiday Kitchen; traditional tastes of the Caribbean, including tropical Coquito eggnog, at Feast of the Three Kings; and a decadent French Bûche de Noël Christmas log at Le Marché de Noël. These are among the 15 Christmas traditions from around the world you’ll want to steal.

new year's eve at magic kingdomCourtesy Disney

Ring in the New Year at the Magic Kingdom

There’s lots of festive family fun to toast to at the Magic Kingdom for New Year’s Eve. Boogie down with a pair of DJ dance parties in Frontierland and Tomorrowland and catch the sparkling Fantasy in the Sky fireworks display. Bonus: Both parties will take place on both December 30 and December 31, 2019. Just don’t bring any of these 18 items that are banned at the parks with you.

riviera disney holidayCourtesy Disney

Midnight Masquerade at Riviera Resort

Toast the New Year perched atop Topolino’s Terrace at Disney’s new Riviera Resort. It’s a Mezzanotte Masquerade theme at this elegant European-inspired buffet that includes a DJ, champagne toasts, and traditional musicians from the Italian Riviera. Bonus style note: Wearing red on New Year’s Eve is an Italian tradition, so include a bit of crimson coloring in your evening’s ensemble! Check out these other lucky New Year’s traditions from around the world.

epcot holiday fireworksCourtesy Disney

Toast to Midnight Around the World at Epcot

Who says you can only ring in the new year once? Spend the evening of December 31 at Epcot and you can celebrate as the clock strikes midnight in each country’s respective pavilion at the World Showcase. There’s even a colorful burst of fireworks to coincide with the international countdowns, and a grand finale New Year’s Eve display of fireworks, plus live music throughout the night at the America Gardens Theatre near the lagoon. Disney World isn’t the only theme park that goes all out for the holidays—here are the others!

Melissa Klurman
Melissa Klurman is a freelance travel writer and editor with more than 27 years experience who reports on travel trends around the planet for Reader's Digest. Winner of a Lowell Thomas Gold Award for excellence in travel writing, she started her career as an editor at both Frommer’s and Fodor’s travel guides, then went on to write about travel for many publications including Family Traveller, Parents, and Working Mother magazines. More recently she has been a contributing editor at Saveur, Islands, and Caribbean Travel and Life and a senior contributor at Travelocity. A New Jersey native, ice cream addict, and a lifelong Bruce Springsteen fan, Klurman lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband, son, and rescue dog.