There’s no question that Walt Disney World takes on a special look around the holidays. The decorations, treats, and special events draw in plenty of excited guests, but a visit over the holidays isn’t always as magical as you may imagine. If you’re considering a Disney vacation around Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Years, here are a few bests and worsts to think about so you can plan accordingly.
The best things...
1. Special events
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Very Merry Christmas Party are outstanding holiday events that are an annual tradition for many visitors. These separately ticketed events get you into the Magic Kingdom after it’s closed to day guests. The park transforms with holiday festivities that include exclusive characters, special parades, and holiday fireworks. If you’re a fan of Christmas or Halloween, these parties are something you’ll want to try at least once.
Visit as early as you can for the best experience. At a Halloween party in mid-September we were able to walk on every ride in the park, while events later in the season were packed.
2. Festive food
Walt Disney World rolls out special food for the holidays both at the parties previously mentioned at the Magic Kingdom and at other parks and resorts throughout the season. If you’re visiting on the actual holiday, you may even have the chance to enjoy a very rare feast. Some restaurants offer Christmas or Thanksgiving meals with special menus just for that day. Plan to book early, however, as these reservations go fast.
If you can’t get into a holiday meal, all is not lost, as you’ll find festive cookies, cupcakes, and other treats around every corner as the holidays get closer.
3. Seasonal merchandise
Halloween and Christmas both come with a slew of seasonal merchandise. Don’t expect to find much for Thanksgiving, though. Sandwiched between the two, this holiday is easily forgotten on Disney’s marketing calendar. If you go all out decorating for these holidays, you’ll love the special finds available this time of year. While Halloween items are fairly exclusive to this season, keep in mind that there are Christmas stores open year-round at Downtown Disney, Magic Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. If you miss the Christmas season, you can still find special ornaments even in the middle of summer.
4. Holiday characters
Many characters take on a special look around the holidays. Mickey and Minnie don holiday sweaters as Christmas gets closer in many of their meet and greet locations. Though you’ll find more holiday characters at the Magic Kingdom parties than anywhere else, you can find the big five in special attire throughout the season. Many of them, like Santa Goofy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, even appear with special backdrops for the occasion.
5. Breathtaking Decorations
Walt Disney World’s holiday decorations are over the top for every occasion, but none more so than Christmas. You’ll find towering trees in every park and many resorts. Garlands, lights, and more have the entire property decked out for the holiday. Cinderella’s Castle is particularly breathtaking around Christmas, as it’s iced just for the season. Last year the Fairy Godmother iced the castle, but for 2014 Elsa has taken over the task. The castle gets iced in a special ceremony each night.