Pros and Cons of Going to Disney World during the Holidays

by on October 31, 2014 19 Comments

Filed under: Celebrations, Holidays, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World (FL)

Holiday Lights

Happy Halloween, everyone! Did you know that the first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a week from today. And that it’s sold out? Enjoy your 6 days of downtime between the 2 month holiday of the Food & Hallowine Festival and the next 2 month holiday of Christmas and New Year’s.

Christmas will be here before you know it, and you might be asking yourself, “Hey, self, should I make my holiday season even more magical by going to Disney World?” I’m glad you asked. Disney World during the holidays is one of my favorite times of year to visit. It’s a time when there are several unique elements from decorations to food present that transform the parks into something special. That’s not to say that it’s the perfect time of year to go. Like any season, there are positives and negatives. While I believe that every Disney enthusiast should aim to visit at least once during the holidays, here are some of my personal pros and cons that should help you decide if it’s worth it.


ak tree

PRO: The Decorations

Walking down a fully decorated Main Street, U.S.A., is almost worth the trip alone for me. I already enjoy spending time just wandering around the Magic Kingdom staple but when the decorations are up, the ambiance gets even better. The decorations don’t stop there. Obviously the rest of the areas in the parks have decorations, but the hotels do, as well. I enjoy hotel hopping just to see how each one is decorated. The level of detail will vary, but some of the hotels go all out: for example, there’s a huge gingerbread house at the BoardWalk!

CON: The Crowds

Like any popular time of year at Disney, you’re going to feel cramped at some points. If all you want out of a Disney trip is short wait times and you don’t care about Christmas, maybe plan a trip for some other time. I could be perfectly happy just walking around the parks and taking everything in, but I understand how some people might not enjoy this and need plenty of attractions. If this is you, whatever you do, do not go during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s the busiest time of year by far. Check out our crowd calendar for more information, but generally it’s less crowded the earlier you go in the season (besides the week of Thanksgiving, of course).

PRO: The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

I know I already mentioned decorations, but this unique experience at Hollywood Studios (pictured above) is getting its own section because it transforms a portion of the park rather than enhances it. During the rest of the year, I don’t go into the Streets of America area. I think it’s boring and frankly a waste of space, but Christmastime changes that. Imagine you have a neighbor that lives in a regular house. You never see him ever, but for some reason, the dude just loves Christmas. And by love, I mean practically every inch of his house is covered in lights. That’s what the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is like. It takes something wholly unremarkable and turns it into something you just have to see.

CON: The Cold

I hate cold weather. And before you think I mean cold for Florida, I don’t. I mean real cold, like where I lived in Syracuse. Wearing full winter gear in Disney just feels weird to me, but it also makes it so that any attraction where you get wet is out of the picture. You can try to avoid this, however, by going earlier in November and not in mid-December like I did.  The holiday happenings are still present, but the temperature may be a little more moderate. I’m not predicting that this winter will be cold (I’m not a farmer), but it’s something to consider. Visiting the water parks and swimming at your hotel pool might not be an option.

PRO: Jingle Cruise

Jingle Cruise is a holiday retheming of the Jungle Cruise. The idea is that the skippers are longing to be home for the holidays, so they decide to have their own holiday at the attraction. Jungle Cruise is already one of my favorite attractions. I could listen to those jokes that make some people groan all day. I also love holiday overlays of attractions, and I wish Disney would do it more in Florida like it does in Disneyland for attractions like Haunted Mansion Holiday. Basically, new and unique experiences are great, and the with the Jingle Cruise, you get that. The rest of the year, you have your classic attraction. Why not put a holiday spin on it for a short time?

gingerbread

Like I said earlier, this is my personal list of pros and cons for going during the Holidays. I still think the good far outweighs the bad in visiting during this time, but I’d like to hear from you all of you. What are some of your favorite holiday things at Disney World? What are some reasons why you maybe don’t like going around Christmas? Maybe you love the Candlelight Processional. Maybe you think Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party isn’t worth the extra ticket price. Also, if you have any questions about planning a trip to Disney during the holidays, feel free to ask me below, and I’ll do my best to help. Or you can just share some of your Disney holiday memories.

Dates to Know:

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party – select dates November 7 to December 19.
Holiday decorations start to go up  – November 1. Should be mostly in place by November 7.
Cinderella Castle Dream Lights – November 5 through early January.
Osborne Lights – November 7 to January 4.
Jingle Cruise – November 7 through New Year’s.
Thanksgiving – November 27
Candlelight Processional – November 28 to December 30
Disney Christmas Parade filming – December 5 – 7.

 

 

Posted on October 31, 2014

19 Responses to “Pros and Cons of Going to Disney World during the Holidays”

  • There a lot of gingerbread houses at Disney world for Christmas. But the big one is at the Grand Floridian.

  • The upside to the busy season is that everything is open, everything is well-staffed, and the parks are open quite late. It may not be the best time to go with young children, but for a group that is able to stay up late there is certainly some upside to going during busy seasons.

  • For those able to go whenever, you can get these pros without the cons if you go early December. When we went the weather was perfect too, but you can never tell for sure.

  • The week after Thanksgiving is a great time to visit. I’m looking forward to experiencing the Jingle Cruise for the first time, but will miss that they no longer do the holiday overlay for the Country Bears.

  • While early Dec would be less crowded, my birthday is the 13th and there is no better way to celebrate than being at WDW! This year we’ll be there from Dec 9-19. I hope the crowds aren’t too heavy, but the decorations are so awesome and the festive feel to everything is just twice as magical. we will spend a lot of time visiting the resorts to see the decorations.

    • Happy early birthday, Catherine! Mine is Dec 24, so we’ll be there Dec 15-22. It’s our first MY birthday/Christmas time trip (after many spring/summer visits for the rest of the family’s birthdays). Based on my research, you’ve got GREAT dates! We wanted to leave by Dec 20th to avoid the BIG crowds, but I wanted to see Marlee Matlin do the Candlelight Processional and she’s only there Dec 21-22. It looks like starting Dec 19/20 is when crowds get to the “Holiday” level… Have a great trip!!!

    • Happy Birthday – mine too 🙂

    • Happy Birthday! I’ll be there celebrating mine on the 14th. First time I’ve ever celebrated my birthday at Disney. We dinner resv @ BOG and tickets to the Very Merry Christmas party that night. It’ll be an even more magical birthday. Hope yours is as well!

      • Happy Birthday, Trish and Mary and Krissy. I’m glad mine is not on the 24th. You really need a WDW birthday! A birthday at Disney is so magical.

        Trish, we will be at the Christmas Party on the 14th, too. Haven’t made a dinner res. for that day yet.

    • Catherine, that’s awesome you will also be at Mickey’s Party on the 14th! What a ‘Small World’!! 🙂

  • We usually visit between Christmas and the new year. We don’t have to worry about small children, we travel fast and light with our Touring Plan in hand and always get to experience as much as we care to. For us it’s an excellent, all-pros time to visit WDW.

  • We went 5 years ago during Christmas week. Temps ranged from hi 30’s to mid 80’s. New Year’s Eve we walked down Main Street in shorts and t shirt. 9 hours later we wore heavy jackets and long pants in AK.

  • I am curious to have someone compare the crowd levels the week of Thanksgiving to the week of Christmas. I know Christmas is more crowded, but how bad is the week of Thanksgiving? I am a teacher and can’t come to Disney during regular school days. I so want to see the Christmas decorations! Plus both my son and myself have birthdays the week of Thanksgiving. I could probably swing that some day, maybe.

    • Pro: Epcot Storytellers that tell a story relating to the Holiday season from their home country. Not all countries have a Christian tradition so you get some unique stories not at all related to the Christmas story.

    • We have gone to WDW the last two years the week Thanksgiving. If you can get there the Friday or Saturday before Thanksgiving, it’s “less” crowded, as it tends to get more crowded the closer it gets to the holiday. We use the Touring Plans guide to pick the better park to go to that day, and make sure to get there before rope drop. We leave around lunch time for a break (when the park is most crowded), then come back later in the afternoon. It’s definitely worth it, and totally doable with a little planning!!

  • by Angela from Ohio on October 31, 2014, at 7:42 pm EST

    We go a week and a half before thanksgiving and leave the Monday or Tuesday of thanksgiving week. Magic kingdom is definitely busier , but the other parks are manageable . The decorations at the monorail resorts and at least 2 nights at Osbourne are magical. Thinking about doing first week in Dec next year so we can do the candlelight processional and Epcot storytellers…..but I like starting the Christmas season earlier in Nov and days we wear jeans and tshirts. Decisions decisions

  • Really good insights to share here and pleased to be able to both share and record my own reflections. It will also be interesting to read what other readers have to share!