What You Need To Know If You’re Going to Disney World for Christmas

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So you don’t care about the presents underneath the Christmas tree, because all you want for Christmas is Disney World.  I completely get it!  You’ve probably heard how magical it is – with all the trees, gingerbread houses, holiday music, the parade, the fireworks, and all the sparkling lights.  But no doubt you’ve also seen those pictures – you know, the ones where people stand seemingly shoulder to shoulder while waiting for bag check or while walking around the parks.  Don’t worry, with the right information and a little bit of planning, you can have an amazing time!  To help with that, we’ve put together some of the things we frequently get asked by Disney fans who are looking to visit the parks on Christmas:

What are the operating hours?

Here are the posted operating hours as of 11/30/15.  As there is a possibility that the hours will change as we get closer to Christmas, please always check with a Cast Member the day before you visit the parks to ensure you have the most up-to-date information.  The information should also be readily available in the My Disney Experience App.

Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24:

  • Magic Kingdom: hours are 8:00 am – 1:00 am (Extra Magic Hours from 7:00-8:00 am)
  • Epcot: hours are 9:00 am – 10:30 pm
  • Epcot – World Showcase: hours from 11:00 am – 10:30 pm
  • Hollywood Studios: hours are 9:00 am – 9:00 pm (Extra Magic Hours from 9:00-11:00 pm)
  • Animal Kingdom: hours are 8:00 am – 7:00 pm
  • Disney Springs: hours are 10:00 am – 12:00 am
  • Typhoon Lagoon: hours are 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
  • Blizzard Beach: closed until January 2nd

Christmas Day, Friday, December 25:

  • Magic Kingdom: hours are 8:00 am – 1:00 am (Extra Magic Hours from 7:00-8:00 am)
  • Epcot: hours are 8:00 am – 10:30 pm (Extra Magic Hours from 10:30 pm-12:30 am)
  • Epcot – World Showcase: hours from 10:00 am – 10:30 pm (Extra Magic Hours from 10:30 pm-12:30 am)
  • Hollywood Studios: hours are 8:00 am – 11:00 pm
  • Animal Kingdom: hours are 8:00 am – 8:30 pm
  • Disney Springs: hours are 10:00 am – 12:00 am
  • Typhoon Lagoon: hours are 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

How crowded will the parks be?

Very crowded, for the most part.  There is just no two ways about it.  There is a good chance that the park will go through some type of phased closure during the day, too – click here for our handy guide around phased closures at Disney and what they mean.  There may be times in the day, especially during Extra Magic Hours in the morning or late at night, when crowds are lesser than in the middle of the day.  If you are an early riser or a night owl, these are good options for you to consider to get more touring done at the parks.

What special events and activities will there be?

There are some events and activities that have already been announced, and we will list those here, but there are always special events happening at the resorts as well.  For the best information, check your resort guide of events and activities so you can experience Christmas magic outside the parks too.

Within the parks, here are some special holiday events:

  • Once Upon a Christmastime Parade (Magic Kingdom) – this is the same parade that is exclusively shown at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, until the party dates end.  After that, it gets shown during regular park hours as well.  There should be a showing or two of this parade on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  It puts you in a wonderful holiday spirit and is not to be missed!  The parade is currently scheduled at 12:00pm and 3:30 pm for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
  • Holiday Wishes (Magic Kingdom) – it’s the nighttime fireworks show at Magic Kingdom, holiday-style; currently scheduled at 8pm for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
  • Frozen Holiday Wish (Magic Kingdom) – watch Queen Elsa and Princess Anna perform a small holiday show and finish in grand fashion by lighting up Cinderella’s castle.  It is white, twinkling, bright and spellbinding!
  • Celebrate the Magic Holiday Show (Magic Kingdom) – prior to Holiday Wishes, Cinderella’s castle is transformed through different projections.  Just like Holiday Wishes, this show is the same castle projection show usually shown at regular park days, except done with a holiday twist.
  • Holidays Around the World (Epcot) – this is a chance to experience how holidays are celebrated across the world through the holiday storytellers.  It’s wonderful to see how different, yet similar, the holiday spirit is around the globe.
  • Candlelight Processional (Epcot) – select  narrators tell of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem while a gospel choir provides an unforgettable score.  For Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Edward James Olmos of Stand and Deliver fame will have the honor of narrating the Christmas story.
  • Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (Hollywood Studios) – in its final year, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is one that is sure to give you goosebumps.  It is sad to believe that this fan-favorite will be going away after this year, but we are always crossing our fingers it will come back someday.  In the meantime, don’t miss your chance to see it one last time!
  • Meet Santa Claus – just before Santa gets on his sleigh to deliver gifts in time for Christmas Day, he is available to meet and greet Disney guests.  At Magic Kingdom, you can visit Candy Cane Garden (by City Hall) from 10am to 5pm on Christmas Eve.  There is also a chance to meet Santa at Disney Springs on 12/24, across the Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop from noon to 10pm.

What other tips do you have for me?

Your wish is my command!  Here are a few more tips to make the most of your Christmas trip:

  • Plan as much as you can ahead of time.  This especially includes fast passes and dining reservations.
  • Consider eating at off-peak times to avoid the long lines at quick service locations.
  • The parking lots can get full pretty quickly.  Disney transportation, if available to you, is a good alternative.
  • If there is a phased closure at the park and you can’t get in at a certain time of day, keep checking.  Restrictions may be lifted later in the day.
  • Get in the holiday spirit – dress up in your favorite ugly Christmas sweater, or wear your favorite Disney Christmas outfit.
  • There will be long lines – at bag check, at the rides, at quick service locations, at stores.  As the Fairy Godmother would say, even miracles take a little time!  Despite the waits, would you rather be anywhere else than at Disney at Christmas?
  • Find a PhotoPass photographer, and ask for holiday-themed Magic Shots!
  • There are many holiday-themed treats to choose from, so indulge before the New Year’s resolution kicks in!

With that, I will turn it over to you.  What else do our visitors need to know if they are going to Disney World on Christmas?  What tips have worked well for you when you visited during the holidays?  Sound off in the comments below!

Hi there, I’m Myra and I’m a huge Disney nerd and addict!  I’m also an Independent Travel Agent at World of Magic Travel, the preferred agency of Chip and Co. and Disney Addicts.  I’m happy to help you plan a holiday trip you’ve always wanted, at no cost to you!  Please visit my page or send me an email at myra@worldofmagictravel.com to get started!



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