Disney World at Christmas: Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and beyond
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What happens when you visit the Most Magical Place on Earth during the Most Wonderful Time of the Year? Christmas magic, of course.
Oh, and crowds, too.
During the Christmas season, Disney World goes all in with 29 large custom trees (up to 70 feet tall), 596 smaller trees, around 100 candlelight processionals at Epcot, a Christmas tree trail at Disney Springs and hundreds of wreaths.
Disney World is a world-class family destination 365 days a year, but it gets extra special at Christmastime — especially for the 23 nights out of the year when the Magic Kingdom hosts Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
For the last couple of years, I haven’t been able to resist diving into the holiday season by taking my girls for a quick Christmas at Disney World visit that included tickets to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and a stay at a Disney resort. If you need a little Disney Christmas, right this very minute, here are tips for visiting Disney World during the all of the winter holiday fun.
Related: How to use points for Disney tickets
Maximizing Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
To maximize Christmas at Disney World, you should plan your dates around Mickey’s Christmas Party and get tickets to this evening event in advance, as popular dates can and do sell out. This year, the party runs from Nov. 8 to Dec. 22.
Just having regular park admission tickets to the Magic Kingdom won’t get you into the special evening party, as you have to leave the park by 6 p.m. if you don’t have a ticket to the shindig. On the plus side, tickets to the Christmas Party get you into the Magic Kingdom beginning at 4 p.m. The party officially starts at 7 p.m, giving you a few hours to enjoy rides and use FastPass without missing any of the themed party fun.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party offers included treats (cookies, hot chocolate, soft pretzels, etc.) passed out at designated spots around the Magic Kingdom, special shows, fireworks, parades, dance parties, character greetings and photo ops — Christmas on Mickey steroids.
Buy tickets in advance
Some party dates sell out every year, so don’t drag your feet. In fact, all of the parties for the year are already sold out except for Dec. 19 and Dec. 20. Along those lines, now is a good time to warn you that Christmas at Disney World is very, very popular. If you have the ability to avoid weekends and peak holiday weeks, do it. In fact, the week of Christmas and New Year’s is the one week of the year we hope to never visit Disney World.
Mickey’s Christmas Party tickets price range from $99 to $134 for adults (discounts available for Disney World Annual Passholders). You can make an educated guess as to which party nights are the most popular by checking the prices online. Pricier generally means busier, so go on a weekday night early in the season to enjoy slightly lower attendance.
Use points to score tickets to Disney World or pay with a credit card that awards a bonus on entertainment purchases such as 4% cash back on the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards credit card or 2 points per dollar on the Citi Premier℠ card.
If you purchase your Mickey’s Christmas Party tickets from Undercover Tourist, they should code as a travel expense, earning you 3 points per dollar on a Chase Sapphire Reserve. Alternatively, you can purchase discounted Disney gift cards and pay with those.
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Christmas treats included
During Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, they hand out tons of different included treats at various points in the Magic Kingdom, including Santa sugar cookies, ginger molasses cookies, hot chocolate and chilled apple cider. For the first half of the party, the lines for treats look long, but they actually move pretty quickly. There are also allergen-friendly options available upon request.
There are also dessert parties during the Very Merry Party at extra cost, but I can’t imagine doing one of those with all of the included Christmas treats already passed out at virtually every turn.
It’s about the shows, not rides, but …
The parades, castle show and treats at Mickey’s Christmas Party are the highlights. You can dance with reindeer at Club Tinsel, sample all the sugar, check out the decorations and let some of the rides wait for another day.
That said, there are a few rides you don’t want to miss. For one, don’t miss Jingle Cruise, one of the few rides to transform into a holiday-themed experience.
Additionally, you can make FastPass+ reservations until 6 p.m. My strategy is to make one FastPass+ booking valid from around 3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. As soon as you enter the park, head straight to your first ride. That way, you can book three FastPasses in advance before the party starts — one each at 3:15 p.m., 4:15 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. Then you’ve already done several rides before the party even starts and can shift your attention to the unique elements of the evening.
Go to the 11 p.m. parade
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party typically goes until midnight, and there’s both an early and a late parade. If at all possible, go to the late parade at 11 p.m., as it’s much less crowded. If you’re OK seeing the parade without the castle in the background, grab a seat where it starts in Frontierland around 10:30 p.m. and you can probably get a good view of the marching toy soldiers, dancing reindeer and Santa himself.
Where to see Christmas decorations
When the final Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party ends on Nov. 1, Disney transforms the Magic Kingdom virtually overnight into a holiday wonderland. It takes a little longer for the decorations to make their way around the entire Disney World property, but by mid-November, there’s holiday decor at every turn.
Some Disney World Christmas decor highlights include Main Street USA, which is absolutely not to be missed. The Magic Kingdom alone has 590 garlands (measuring a total of 5,188 feet), 40 Christmas trees and 147 wreaths.
Other must-visits are the life-size gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian, the massive Christmas trees in the lobby of the Wilderness Lodge (take the boat from Magic Kingdom) and Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Christmas tree and decorations in and around Echo Lake at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
When you make a stop at the Grand Floridian to see those impressive decorations, you can even buy some gingerbread of your own to munch on as you take it all in — just be ready for a wait to check out, as it’s quite the popular spot.
If you really want to learn about the holiday decor and what it takes to transform Disney World for the holidays, book a behind-the-scenes tour for $149 on select dates in November and December (ages 12 and up). Or there’s a six-hour $289 Holiday D-Lights tour that stretches from the Magic Kingdom to Epcot with backstage exclusive access to learn about the holiday events and enjoy time with the team that decorates Cinderella Castle in twinkling lights. It concludes with the candlelight processional at Epcot.
The thermometer may often say 85 degrees in Central Florida during the holiday months, but it still snows during the holidays thanks to Disney magic. While celebrating Christmas at Disney World, make time to play in the snow on Main Street USA and Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood Studios. If you don’t have a park ticket, you can still play in the falling snow on the Christmas tree trail at Disney Springs.
Flurries of Fun on Sunset Boulevard is pretty spectacular, as the Tower of Terror has been transformed with festive, Toy Story-themed lights.
For extra fun in the snow, check out the Frozen Sing-Aong at Hollywood Studios, where it even snows indoors — my girls loved that snow the best.
Enjoy a holiday-themed meal
A good way to enjoy Christmas at Disney World without too long of a line is to make a dining reservation at a restaurant that goes all out for the holidays. That way you get to sit down to eat while the characters come to you. One possibility is the Minnie’s Seasonal Dining at Hollywood & Vine in Hollywood Studios.
This buffet normally isn’t considered one of the best restaurants at Disney World, but with the Fab Five characters all dressed in holiday attire, it’s a fun and festive choice.
As you enjoy crab legs, peel-and-eat shrimp, shrimp mac and cheese and more from the buffet, characters in their holiday best will come right up to you and your kiddos for pictures and autographs.
Meet Santa at Disney
Given how many boys and girls visit Disney each holiday season, it makes sense that Santa stops in from time to time. However, lots of boys and girls want to meet Santa at Disney, so you’ll need strategy to avoid the three-to-four-hour waits at Disney Springs.
We met Santa at Hollywood Studios inside the Once Upon a Time location on Hollywood Boulevard with very little wait. Santa takes breaks to feed the reindeer, and if you can ask when those breaks are and then have someone in your party line up about 20 minutes before he’s scheduled to return, you shouldn’t have any problems.
Santa can also be found in the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and even some mornings at a special breakfast buffet inside the T-Rex Cafe at Disney Springs.
Epcot Candlelight Processional
From Nov. 29 to Dec. 30, a celebrity narrator leads the telling of the Christmas Nativity story, and a live orchestra and choir make the holidays come alive within the America Gardens Theatre in Epcot.
There are three performances each evening, at 5 p.m, 6:45 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. You can guarantee seating by booking a Candlelight Processional Dining Package for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Based on our experiences, you want to guarantee a seat unless you are OK with lines and gambling with availability. Prices for the dining and seat packages range from $40 to $85 per adult and $23 to $41 for children, depending on the meal and restaurant.
You’ll find some of our favorite restaurants at Disney World on the list, such as Via Napoli and Rose & Crown Dining Room. Restaurant Marrakesh is a fun choice if you like a side of belly dancing with your meal, and San Angel Inn is a unique spot to eat overlooking the boat ride in the Mexico Pavilion. (Just be warned, it is quite dark and a bit cramped in there.) Although it isn’t my all-time favorite food, the Biergarten Restaurant in Germany can also be an entertaining spot for a holiday meal.
The 2019 Epcot processional narrators are:
- Ming-Na Wen: Nov. 29 to Dec. 1
- Neil Patrick Harris: Dec. 2 to Dec. 5
- Whoopi Goldberg: Dec. 6 and Dec. 7
- Isabella Rossellini: Dec. 8 to Dec. 10
- Chita Rivera: Dec. 11 and Dec. 12
- Gary Sinise: Dec. 13 to Dec. 16
- Pat Sajak: Dec. 16 to Dec. 18
- Warwick Davis: Dec. 19 to Dec. 21
- Steven Curtis Chapman: Dec. 22 to Dec. 24
- Edward James Olmos: Dec. 25 and Dec. 26
- Marlee Matlin: Dec. 27 and Dec. 28
- Lisa Ling – Dec. 29 and Dec. 30
Keep in mind that the processional itself is free to Epcot guests. Buying a dining package simply guarantees a seat. You also need a theme park ticket for this one. While it is a lovely evening, know that this is something that may not thrill some younger children.
When to visit Disney at Christmas
The bad news mixed in with all this magic is that it gets painfully busy at Disney during portions of the holidays. Think five-hour waits for rides and parks hitting max capacity.
Common sense will tell you when the parks are busiest during the holidays, in other words, over school breaks and on weekends. If you’re planning for the future, know that less busy times include the week before Thanksgiving and midweek during the first two weeks of December.
December is the most festive time, with the Epcot candlelight processional up and running in late-November. You don’t have to wait that long, however, as most of the Christmas decorations around the parks and resorts are up and Mickey’s Christmas Party is in full swing by mid-November. If you have the luxury of choice, visit Disney World the week before Thanksgiving or the first two weeks in December, with weekdays being less busy than weekends.
If you like Christmas, the winter holidays and all things Mickey Mouse, you’ll likely love Christmas at Disney World. So far, we’re two for two on spending a few days late in the year at Disney World to jumpstart the holiday cheer. There’s too much to see and do to take in all in on one visit, which is fine, because there’s always next Christmas.
- TPG Ultimate Guide to Walt Disney World
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- The best points hotels near Disney World
- Best money you can spend at Disney World
- Best restaurants at Walt Disney World
- Reasons to stay at a Walt Disney World Resort
- Review of Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Review of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort
- Is Disney Club Level worth it?
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