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Disney World Christmas: The Magic of the Holidays Comes to Mickey Mouse Town

Theme parks are great fun all year round, but you can't beat the magic of Christmas in Mickey Mouse town.

In the Magic Kingdom, Disney fanatics trade in their Mickey Mouse ears for fluffy Santa hats; at Gaylord Palms, temperatures drop to nine degrees for the life-sized ice sculptures of ICE!; and yes, in the Walt Disney-inspired community of Celebration, it’s snowing. It may be hard to believe, but the Theme Park Capital of the World is even more enchanting during the Christmas season.

This Christmas, take a break from the stress of holiday planning and looming snow storms and run, run Rudolph south to experience the holidays in Mickey Mouse Town, where Santa’s cheeks are rosy from too much sun and not frostbite. To help you navigate all things Christmas in Orlando, we’ve created a list of some of Jolly Old St. Nick’s favorite things to do. All you need to worry about is layering up on the sunscreen.

Flurry of Fun at Hollywood Studios

Have a holly, jolly Christmas at Hollywood Studios. The festivities begin with Echo Lake getting a memorable makeover with extra-large ornaments, colorful garlands, and a giant Christmas tree illuminated on the water. Even Dinosaur Gertie dresses in his holiday best for the party. There are also a few fun holiday surprises in the all-new Toy Story Land that you won’t want to miss.

As day transitions into night, watch as billboards and rooftops come alive with animations like Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Pluto’s Christmas Tree, and Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. The Sunset Seasons Greetings on The Hollywood Tower Hotel showcases carols and stories hosted by Disney characters Mickey, Buzz Lightyear, and Olaf, to name a few. The Swedish Chef from the Muppets delivers a chaotic gingerbread cooking demonstration. Cap off the night with ‘Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!’ and watch as Wayne and Lanny from ABC’s Prep & Landing search near and far for missing Kris Kringle.

Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!

Elf Tip

Elevate your viewing experience with the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Holiday Dessert Party. Not only will your family enjoy reserved seating for the show, but they’ll feast on holiday snacks like a Yule log and cheese fondue with pretzel bread washed down by Gingerbread martinis for the adults.

Where to Stay

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Take the Hollywood Studios movie gawking experience to the next level at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. Play in Disney’s largest pool, taking inspiration from Finding Nemo with giant-sized statues of Nemo to climb and play on. Stay in a Cars family suite (the dressers look like toolboxes and the couch is shaped like the backseat of a car). Round out your stay with a Toy Story-themed, 30-inch live evergreen tree ordered from Disney Floral & Gifts so Santa has a tree to put gifts under.

Disney's Art of Animation Resort

Top rated
Lake Buena Vista, 2 miles to Disney Springs
8.5 Excellent (4675 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9 / 10
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Christmas at Gaylord Palms

Baby, it’s cold outside at Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center. Be sure to wear your long underwear and closed toed shoes as you explore ICE! with temperatures dropping to nine degrees. This year’s theme is A Christmas Story. Relive the triple-dog-dare, the old man’s major award, and Christmas dinner at Chop Suey Palace as told through life-size ice sculptures. Join in on the fun and slide down one of the five two-story ice slides like Ralphie did after his infamous encounter with the Higbee’s Santa.

Additional holiday fun includes a Christmas Tree Trail created by Santa’s chief Christmas tree decorator, Sparkle the Elf, a Gingerbread Decorating Corner, a Secret Santa Scavenger Hunt, and Santa’s Snow Throw, where you can try to knock presents off the shelf with real snowballs.

A family favorite event this year is the Elf on the Shelf Character Breakfast that’s almost guaranteed to sell out. Cirque Dreams dazzles with acrobatics in their free Unwrapped stage show, and Sounds of the Season promises festive concerts throughout the season on the grand St. Augustine atrium stage.

Naughty or Nice?

Elf Tip

Not sure if you’ve been naughty or nice enough to enjoy Christmas at Gaylord Palms? Find out at the Naughty or Nice Escape Room, where you and your family work together to solve Christmas clues to convince Jack Frost to write your name on Santa’s nice list.

Where to Stay

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Stay on site at Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center to enjoy exclusive guest perks, like television programming featuring Jack Frost telling jokes and Mrs. Claus reading stories. Avoid the ICE! crowds by scheduling a visit between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., an hour reserved for hotel guests.

After the crowds have gone home for the night, relax to the Christmas Lullaby light show in the atrium. When you need a break from the blistering cold of ice sculptures and snow tubing, head outside to the tropical resort setting of the pool and onsite Cypress Springs Water Park. Triple dog dare your family to catch a wave in the FlowRider surfing simulator.

Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center

Top rated
Kissimmee, 12.9 miles to Lake Tohopekaliga
8.6 Excellent (4917 reviews)
Excellent Building 9.1 / 10
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Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom

‘Tis the season to be jolly and nobody knows a better way to celebrate than Mickey Mouse. On select nights through December 21, Mickey and his cast of classic Disney characters—along with special guests Santa, Jack Skellington as Sandy Claws, and Scrooge McDuck—don Christmas sweaters, stocking caps, and winter scarves as they welcome families. Don’t expect your typical Disney experience as the entire park twinkles with holiday lights. Some of the rides are even re-purposed in the spirit of Christmas like the homesick for the holidays Skippers turning the Jungle Cruise into the Jingle Cruise with decorations handmade from scavenged materials.

Mickey really rolls out the red (and green) carpet for the shows. At Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy are joined by Alice and the White Rabbit from the classic Alice in Wonderland and Woody and Jessie from Toy Story as they treat party goers to a dozen yuletide favorite carols with the Cinderella Castle as the backdrop, glowing in festive red and green. The evening culminates with the Once Upon a Christmas Parade and a fireworks display.

The Perfect Setting

Elf Tip

Book a table at Tomorrowland Terrace for their Holiday Wishes Fireworks Holiday Dessert Party (a buffet of sweet treats like chocolate-dipped strawberries, chocolate mousse, and ice cream) or Tony’s Town Square Restaurant for prime parade seating and savory hors d’oeuvres, sweet treats, and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to toast with.

Where to Stay

Photo courtesy of Travis GergenUnsplash.

Pair the ultimate Disney party with the vacation rental to match. At W321-13 Bedroom Reunion Resort Pool Home, the entire family is welcome as the house sleeps 33. Be warned, your kids might not want to leave after cozying up to sleep in the Harry Potter, Mickey Mouse, and jungle themed bedrooms. Adults might not want to go home, either, with a heated pool that overlooks a Nicklaus Signature Course (with a wet bar, to boot).

W321-13 Bedroom Reunion Resort Pool Home

9.1 Excellent (50 reviews)
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Holidays at Universal Orlando

Harry Potter might not be able to make it home for Christmas, but he’s happy to welcome you to his Wizarding World at Universal Orlando Resort. With a flick of the wand—and maybe some help from a few house elves—he’s draped the alleyways and buildings of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley with garland, Christmas lights, and ribbons. He’s invited the Frog Choir to sing seasonal melodies and Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees to create a show special for his seasonal mayhem.

Speaking of mayhem, the Grinch is up to no good over in Seuss Landing in Universal’s Islands of Adventure for the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular. After the retelling of the classic Seuss tale, stick around for autographs and a photo opportunity with the thief himself.

In Universal Studios, the minions might be causing a little mayhem themselves at Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s. Thankfully, the characters from Madagascar and Shrek are there to keep things merry. Back by popular demand, the best-selling holiday artist of all time, Mannheim Steamroller, is performing on select nights.

A Side of Malarkey

Elf Tip

Grow your belly and the Grinch’s heart three sizes bigger at the The Grinch & Friends Character Breakfast. The Grinch will be making his rounds to each table while families enjoy a themed breakfast buffet with dishes like scrambled eggs with a side of malarkey.

Where to Stay

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When you’re not playing in the Universal Orlando Resort parks, chillax on island time at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort to steel drums on a sand beach that leads into the pool. Special for the holidays are live Christmas shows in the lobby, ornament decorating, and a Hanukkah menorah lighting ceremony. Toast the season with a seasonally-inspired, Old Fashioned from the pop-up Bellhop Bar.

Loews Sapphire Falls Resort

Orlando, 7.3 miles to Amway Center
9.0 Excellent (1920 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.4 / 10
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Epcot International Festival of the Holidays

Feliz navidad, prospero año y felicidad at Epcot International Festival of the Holidays. Make like Santa and take a Christmas trip around the world at the International Yuletide Extravaganza, where each of the 11 World Showcase nations celebrates the holidays with their local flavors and traditions. Skip the turkey and ham this Christmas and enjoy an exotic festive feast, like New Year Celebration Soba with buckwheat soba noodles, chicken, and spinach in a hot dashi soup from the Japanese inspired Shi Wasu Holiday Kitchen.

Pair your trip around the world with Chip & Dale’s Christmas Tree Spree, a scavenger hunt where you and your family help the furry rascals collect ornaments for their Christmas tree. A returning favorite is the Candlelight Processional hosted three times a night. The story of Christmas is told by a celebrity narrator (this year’s roster includes the likes of Helen Hunt, John Stamos, and Cal Ripken, Jr.), a 50-piece orchestra, and a massed choir.

Where to Stay

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After taking a spin around the globe, rest your head in the comfort of Old World Florida at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. This timeless Victorian-style resort is a throwback to vacations of a bygone era with nightly orchestra’s playing ragtime, jazz, and Disney tunes in the lobby and classic poolside cabanas. While the little ones are enjoying a two-hour pirate adventure on the lake, parents can indulge in the onsite spa. Opt for a Club Level room so your family has access to Disney Signature Services to help plan your Christmas in Mickey’s paradise.

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Top rated
Lake Buena Vista, 5.1 miles to Disney Springs
8.8 Excellent (1516 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.5 / 10
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Now Snowing in Celebration

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow in Celebration, the town that Disney built. Market Street decks the halls with a cascade of lights, a Christmas tree sparkles over Lake Rianhard, and Charles Dickens Carolers spread the joy throughout the streets. And, yes, there’s the nightly snowing. Every hour from 6-9 p.m. the skies fill with a flurry of snoap (the stuff used in the movies to create fake snow).

There really is something for everyone during the Holidays in Celebration. Moms can shop the boutiques like Market Street Gallery, which is stocked with all things Christmas. Meanwhile, dads can catch sports highlights while sipping seasonal craft brews at Celebration Town Tavern, and kids can tell Santa what they want for Christmas. Why split up though when there’s plenty for the entire family to do together like ice-skating and horse-drawn carriage rides?

Celebration invites guests to get to know their town better on board the Christmas Express Train, which choo-choos through several neighborhoods. Don’t miss the lights along Jeater Bend, the street-wide Christmas spectacular that was featured on ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight.

Where to Stay

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Stay in the heart of Walt Disney’s small town utopia at Bohemian Celebration, located within a block of the festivities. Outside of Now Snowing, families stroll along the many walking trails that start next to the hotel and extend along the lake and through Celebration’s storied neighborhoods.

Bohemian Hotel Celebration, Autograph Collection

Top rated
Kissimmee, 12.3 miles to Lake Tohopekaliga
8.8 Excellent (601 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.4 / 10
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Christmas Bricktacular at LEGOLAND

Last but not least, Happy Holidays at LEGOLAND’s Christmas Bricktacular. Santa’s elves have been busy preparing for Christmas by building the LEGO Christmas tree, wreath, and snowman brick-by-brick. They need your help, so join in on a hands-on building experiences, like the World LEGO Mosaic Build. When the work is done, you’re invited to celebrate with them at the Holly Jolly Jubilee musical and interactive show.

Take Some Pics

Elf Tip

Don’t forget to get your photo taken with LEGO Santa and Toy Soldier.

Where to Stay

Photo courtesy of Tj HolowaychukUnsplash.

LEGOLAND Hotel and Beach Retreat celebrates the season with festive, albeit blocky, decorations and nightly entertainment to lift your Holiday spirit. Special for the kids are a boardwalk tour led by the Gingerbread Girls and ornament builds. Stay in a beach-themed bungalow at the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat or in a themed room (pirate, adventure, or kingdom), complete with separate kids’ sleeping room at the LEGOLAND Hotel.

Legoland Beach Retreat

8.8 Excellent (111 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 8.5 / 10
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