Are you thinking about planning a trip to Walt Disney World around the holidays? Let me start by saying that, Walt Disney World is the most magical place on earth all year round. When the holidays come around, it the magic grows exponentially, if you can believe it.
Snow magically falls on Main Street U.S.A, hot chocolate tastes sweeter, the scent of cookies in the air is stronger, and the holiday spirit is around every corner. The most amazing part is that you get to celebrate the holiday season while also experiencing the thrill and magical on your vacation. It is one of the best times to visit Disney World.
So, what exactly would you expect by traveling to Walt Disney World in the last month of the year? What details about the parks would you need to know before making this decision? What should one expect when it comes to crowds during this time of year? Are there certain weeks in the month you should go? Certain days? What all is going on in Disney World this month? We’re going to answer all these questions and more, so let’s get started!
One of the very obvious reasons that December is one of the best times to head to Walt Disney World is because of all the holiday events that are taking place. From early November to January first, the holidays are in full swing at Disney.
Everywhere you look, there’s amazing decorations. They start to go up in the first week of November. Basically, once the Halloween season is over, the holiday season immediately begins. The decorations don’t just exist in the parks, but they also spread the holiday spirit throughout all the resorts and everywhere else on Disney World property.
Each park gets their own iconic tree, portraying that specific park’s theme. The resorts always incorporate their own holiday inspiration, such as the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa for example. They have a tradition each year where they create a lifesize gingerbread house, usually by Thanksgiving, and sell baked goods out of it in the Grand Floridian lobby throughout the holiday season.
Other deluxe resorts such as Boardwalk Inn and Yacht and Beach Club also create amazing and spectacular gingerbread creations! Other resorts include beautiful Christmas trees and decorations themed to each resort.
Now, what is probably the most popular aspect of the entire holiday season at Disney World is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in the Magic Kingdom! While it has gotten a bit busier over the past few years, that should not deter you from attending.
You can’t miss Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, The Holiday Wishes fireworks show, and Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration castle stage show. Except for the week before Christmas and New Years, December is the only time you can see these beautiful events.
In Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Jingle Bell Jingle Bam fireworks show features elves, Wayne and Lanny, from ABC’s animated Christmas special, “Prep and Landing” looking for a missing santa! The show takes place on the buildings and rooftops of the Chinese Theater and features scenes of your favorite Disney films!
If you go after Christmas, not to worry! There’s still plenty of holiday cheer. EPCOT has a beautiful Candlelight Processional is a part of EPCOT’s Festival of the Holidays, where a celebrity narrator, and a 50 person orchestra team up to retell the story of Christmas.
It is an absolutely spectacular event that begins approximately around Thanksgiving Day and runs through December 30. The Candlelight Processional is a part of the Festival of Holidays where guests can travel around World Showcase sampling holiday cuisine from numerous countries.
Best Weeks to Visit
December is a beautiful month to visit Walt Disney World, but you do have to pay more attention to the crowd levels due to everyone going away for the holidays. If you are looking to avoid crowds, but still want to go in December, there are certain weeks that you should consider going. According to Undercover Tourist, here are the busiest days of the holiday season:
- The week of Thanksgiving
- Thanksgiving Day
- The Friday after Thanksgiving
- The week of Christmas
- Christmas Day
- New Year’s Eve
- New Year’s Day
First, you definitely want to avoid the week of Christmas. This is the busiest week of the month, for obvious reasons. The majority of crowd calendars, such as Undercover Tourist for Disney World will show you that the week of Christmas is definitely not a good time to go. Even the week after Christmas have high crowds, because many guests will stay through New Years.
It is either this or people decide to travel to Disney World for New Years instead of Christmas. The weeks that seem to be the best are the first and second week of the month. The parks are at their average crowd levels then, meaning they aren’t the lowest crowds, but they are still very manageable and not overly crowded. All of the holiday events will, of course, still be going on, but the crowd level will not be unbelievably high.
Within those weeks, there are certain days that are better to go to than others, if you are only going for a few days. Naturally, the week days, rather than the weekends, are the best days to skip out on ridiculous crowds. In December, the weekdays will be at the average crowds.
However, every weekend in December are going to have high crowds, so if you only go for a few days, my suggestion would be to make the majority of your vacation during the weekdays of the first two weeks of December.
Overall, my suggestion is to go as early in December as possible in order to avoid the holiday crowds. Believe me, if you’re afraid you’re not going to be able to celebrate the holidays by doing this, that’s wrong.
The holidays are celebrated in full swing at Disney world from early November to early January, so you will not miss a thing. If you are there right at the start of December, Walt Disney World honestly makes every day feel like Christmas Day when you are there during this time of year with everything they do.
Navigating the Crowds
Sometimes, guests have no other choice but to go during those weeks that are famously busy at Walt Disney World during the holiday season. If that is the case, there are ways in which guests can navigate the crowd in order to avoid the heavy traffic of people in the parks.
The first suggestion I have is to be at the parks as early as you possibly can in the mornings. Hit the parks at the opening gate. This is a useful hack by Theme Park Tourist, who says this should be done for multiple reasons. One obvious reason is due to the lack of non-early risers who don’t get out of bed, drag the rest of their party out of bed, and grab breakfast on their way to the parks in the wee hours of the morning.
There are simply less people in the mornings, and as the day goes by, more and more people will trickle in. The afternoons and evenings will especially be crowded because annual passholders and Florida locals will more than likely be going at this time.
You’ll have a much easier time navigating the park when there are fewer crowds and much lower queues. Due to this, you’ll be able to hit so many attractions without having to waste time waiting in long lines and losing time. If you go later, there’s no doubt you will still have a wonderful time, however, a lot of time will be wasted in waiting in lines and navigating thick crowds throughout the parks.
If you arrive at the gate during the opening of the parks, you can knock out so many rides and attractions at a slower pace and still enjoy everything around you. That way, at midday, you can head back to your room for a break if you wish, so everyone can rest up before heading back into the parks in the evening.
Midday is the busiest time of day, so this break can be used to explore non-park areas and attractions, like other resorts or Disney Springs, or it can be used to take a nap. In my personal experience, a nap will always do one justice on a Disney World vacation.
If you are in the parks at the busiest times of day, there are a few things you could do to avoid the crowds. Though they may seem like small things, they will make the biggest difference. First of all, do not always walk along the main paths in any park because that is where the majority of the people are.
Try and find the more secluded and less-obvious paths in the parks so you can go around all the crowds. One way to do this, too, is to actually cut through shops rather than always going on a path. Many shops have multiple entrances on all sides, so you can enter on one side and exit on the other instead of following the crowds on the main paths outside.
Rides and Attractions
Like always, there are going to be certain rides and attractions that are always going to attract the biggest crowd. In December, it will be even worse because the crowds are high. It’s important to know up front some rides and attractions that are the most popular and will, most likely, cause the crowds to rush towards them.
According to Trip Savvy, these are:
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- The Haunted Mansion
- Avatar Flight of Passage
- Star Tours-The Adventures Continue
- Expedition Everest
- Splash Mountain
The only other two I would add on would be Peter Pan’s Flight in the Magic Kingdom and Na’vi River Journey in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Peter Pan’s Flight is always at least an hour wait, and Na’vi River Journey may not be as popular as Avatar Flight of Passage, but it is still new and popular and is always at least an hour.
There are some ways to avoid the mad rush to these rides, and one of the ways are Genie+ reservations. You can read much more about how the Genie+ system works here.
Without Genie+, your best bet is to get to the parks early! When the gate opens, you want to be there. Do not be intimidated by all the early park goers, because it really is not that many people compared to all of those who will show up in the park later. You can immediately rush to the most popular rides and attractions in those parks, and trust me when I say, it’s worth it. Your wait time will be significantly less than going later in the day.
Pricing can be a little different around this time of year, due to the extra events going on. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a prime example. While the prices are subject to change, the tickets for this event are usually around $84 for adults and $50 for children. The Christmas Party is a hard ticketed event, so you will have to buy the tickets separately from your theme park tickets during the day.
For resorts, there is a massive chance that prices will skyrocket because everyone is traveling for the holidays. My suggestion for you would be to pick a value resort if you are staying on Disney World property. In my experience, the prices at these hotels can vary from $130-$190 a night. While this is subject to change, you’re going to want to book your resort as soon as possible for your trip!
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