5 Holiday Celebrations at Disney World: What You Can Expect

by  Christine Dayao | Mar 31, 2014
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom / Photo courtesy of Christine Dayao

During the major holidays, Walt Disney World doesn’t exactly toss up a few decorations and call it a day. Instead, look for over-the-top celebrations that only Disney can deliver.

Whether you’re planning a visit the resort for Easter, the Fourth of July or Christmas (holidays that often coincide with kids’ school vacations), we’ve got you covered. Here’s a quick guide to what you can expect during the holidays at Walt Disney World.

1. Easter
Taking your little bunnies to see Mickey over the Easter holiday? Kids will have a chance to take part in egg hunts at select resort hotels, participate in poolside games and arts and crafts, and maybe even meet Mr. and Mrs. Bunny in the Magic Kingdom.

Starting April 4, there will be 18 oversized, hand-painted Easter eggs on display at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. Other details for this year’s Easter festivities have yet to be released, but past park celebrations have included an egg hunt and relay races at Epcot.

Religious services are usually held in the Fantasia Ballroom at Disney’s Contemporary Resort on Easter Sunday.

2. Fourth of July
Look for larger-than-life fireworks displays over the Magic Kingdom and Epcot on July 3 and 4, set to lively musical scores and effects.

3. Halloween
There isn’t any gore at Disney World around Halloween. Instead, guests of all ages are invited to dress up and attend a special ticketed event at the Magic Kingdom. The event, called Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, is held on select dates in September and October, and features a costume parade, fireworks and of course, trick or treating. The stars of the show, naturally, are the Disney villains and the Headless Horseman.

Note: the event isn’t held on October 31, and the park closes early to guests who do not have a special ticket to this event. The ticket is separate from the cost of regular admission, and is priced from $72.

4. Christmas
Disney’s Christmas festivities are the piece de resistance of the entire year. The parks are swathed in a seemingly infinite number of twinkling lights, tinsel, wreaths, and garland.

Cinderella Castle gets a temporary makeover at this time of year, thanks to a draping of holiday lights. (Think of it as a gigantic fisherman’s net that hugs the turrets of the castle.) And on select dates in November and December, the Magic Kingdom welcomes guests to another special ticketed event called Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, featuring a fireworks display, characters dressed in their holiday finest, parade, hot cocoa, cookies, and a Florida rarity: “snow” flurries. Like the Halloween party, the park closes early to accommodate special ticketholders, and tickets cost extra (from $86).

Epcot is home to the Christmas Candlelight Processional that includes a concert and readings of the story of Christmas by celebrity narrators. Past narrators have included Neil Patrick Harris, Whoopi Goldberg, and Sigourney Weaver. The Processional is part of Epcot’s Holidays Around the World event, which introduces guests to Christmas traditions from around the globe.

Between November 14 and December 31, 2016, Disney's Hollywood Studios will debut its all-new Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM show filled with fireworks, projections, special effects, and a themed score. Look out for vignettes featuring scenes from classic Disney shows and movies, too.

Disney Springs isn't left out, either. In 2016, it's debuting a nightly light show comprised of 300 drones flying above the complex's West Side. Called Starbright Holidays, the show incorporates synchronized choreography that allows the drones to form into the shape of a dove, Santa, and other holiday images. Catch it before January 8, 2017 at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Another new addition is the Christmas Tree Trail on the Marketplace end of the area; there, guests can find 15 trees themed to various Disney characters and movies -- including Mickey and Minnie, The Muppets, Beauty and the Beast, Mary Poppins, and The Little Mermaid, among others. Throughout Disney Springs during the holidays, there will be special entertainment like carolers, a cappella groups, and stilt walkers.

5. New Year’s Eve
All of the parks, with the exception of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, start anew on New Year’s Eve with huge fireworks displays. These parks also usually stay open past midnight so revelers can keep the party going.

More fun can be had at many of the entertainment venues located in Downtown Disney.

Other things to consider:

  • Select restaurants offer prix fixe menus during many of the holidays discussed here, in addition to Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. However, dining at select table-service restaurants during major holidays means Disney will tack on an extra surcharge.
  • Holiday events aren’t set in stone and are subject to change.
  • Don’t forget to visit the resort hotels during the Christmas season to check out their decorations, like the giant gingerbread house at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort.
  • Lastly, the holidays at the resort certainly bring cheer but they also draw crowds -- big ones. So remember to bring along your patience but above all, enjoy yourself.
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