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 couldn’t resist diving into the holiday season by taking my girls for a quick Christmas Disney World visit that included tickets to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and a stay at a Disney resort hotel. If you need a little (Disney) Christmas, right this very minute, here are tips for visiting Disney World during the holiday fun.
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. This year, the party runs from Nov. 8–Dec. 22.
Just having regular park admission tickets to the Magic Kingdom won’t get you into the special evening party. 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 some rides without missing anything.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party offers included treats passed out 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, so don’t drag your feet. In fact, the first party of the year, on Nov. 8, is already sold out. 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.
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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, chilled apple cider, snow cones (it’s still warm most days in Florida) and more. There were also allergen-friendly options available upon request.
There are also dessert parties during the Very Merry Party offered at extra cost, but I can’t imagine doing one of those with all of the included Christmas treats 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 3:15–4:15 p.m. As soon as enter the park, you head straight to your first ride. That way, you can book three FastPasses in advance before the party starts — one at 3:15, 4:15 and 5:15.
Then you’ve already done several rides before the party even starts and you can shift your attention to the unique elements of the evening.
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 is 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 (order a shingle to eat), the massive 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.
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 Event & Decorating Support 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 some extra fun in the snow, check out the Frozen Sing-a-Long at Hollywood Studios, where it even snows indoors — my girls loved that snow the best.
Epcot Candlelight Processional
The Magic Kingdom isn’t the only park that has special holiday offerings. From Nov. 29–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. Guaranteed seating is available 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 select.
You will find some of our favorite restaurants at Disney World on the list, such as Via Napoli and Rose & Crown Dining Room. Restaurant Marrakesh is fun 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 meal.
The 2019 Epcot processional narrators are:
- Ming-Na Wen – 11/29-12/1
- Neil Patrick Harris – 12/2-12/5
- Whoopi Goldberg – 12/6-12/7
- Isabella Rossellini – 12/8-12/10
- Chita Rivera – 12/11-12/12
- Gary Sinise – 12/13-12/15
- Pat Sajak – 12/16-12/18
- Warwick Davis – 12/19-12/21
- Steven Curtis Chapman – 12/22-12/24
- Edward James Olmos – 12/25-12/26
- Marlee Matlin – 12/27-12/28
- Lisa Ling – 12/29-12/30
Keep in mind that the processional itself is free to Epcot guests; it is just the dining packages that guarantee a seat that cost extra. So you will also need a park ticket for this one. It is also something that may not thrill younger children.
When to visit Disney at Christmas
The bad news is that it gets painfully busy at Disney during portions of the holidays — the pain of five-hour waits for rides and parks hitting max capacity.
Common sense will tell you when the parks are busiest during the holidays — over school breaks and on weekends. Some less-busy times will be the week before Thanksgiving and mid-week during the first two weeks of December.
December will be the most festive time, with the Epcot candlelight processional up and running beginning Nov. 29. However, you don’t have to wait that long — by mid-November most of the Christmas decorations around the parks and resorts are up and Mickey’s Christmas Party is running. 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, winter holidays and all things Mickey Mouse, you are almost certain to love Christmas at Disney World. We are two-for-two on spending a few days late in the year at Disney World to jump-start 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.
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