Your Complete Guide to 2021 Christmas at Disney World

by | Oct 18, 2021 | Animal Kingdom, Disney Springs, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, WDW Blog, WDW Food, WDW Merch, WDW Resorts

What is it like to celebrate Christmas at Disney World? Use our 2021 Christmas at Disney World guide for a comprehensive look at how to celebrate the holidays at Disney World this winter season.

There is no place more magical to spend the Christmas season than at Walt Disney World. Despite the gross Orlando humidity, Disney World transforms into a welcoming winter wonderland across all the parks and resorts.

Are you planning to observe Christmas at Disney World trip between November and January this year? Here’s everything you need to know.

Quick Link: Check out our companion post with the FULL 2021 Disney World Christmas food and drink menu.

2021 Christmas at Disney World

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Celebrating Christmas at Disney World is a magical experience. Photo by Sara Bryce

Last year, Walt Disney World’s Christmas celebrations looked a lot different because of COVID-19 protocols. Christmas parties were cancelled, Santa meet-and-greets were altered, and the world-famous Candlelight Processional at EPCOT didn’t happen for the first time in Walt Disney World history.

While we’re certainly not out of the COVID woods yet, Christmas at Disney World in 2021 is beginning to look a lot like, well, the Christmas at Disney World we’re used to, with some continued alterations (like After Hours parties and socially distanced meet-and-greets).

Wait … before you head to the parks for Christmas, make sure you’re outfitted with some new 2021 Disney Christmas merch. Or, ya know, just put it on your Christmas list; Santa’s got some elves at shopDisney, right?

Your Guide to Christmas at Disney World

🏰 2021 Christmas at Magic Kingdom

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Magic Kingdom become a winter wonderland. Photo by Julie de la Fe

Magic Kingdom is easily the most popular Disney World Park any time of the year, but it really comes alive at Christmas. The decorations alone are reason enough to visit.

Subscribe to our print magazine by Nov. 30 to learn how the Holiday Services team transforms Magic Kingdom from Halloween to Christmas overnight. Tap here to start your subscription in time for the holidays.

In addition to the beautiful décor, Christmas at Magic Kingdom always entails limited-time treats, including food and beverages, throughout the park. While the Cinderella Castle used to light up with 200,000 individual white lights for what Disney called Dream Lights, it now comes alive through special projections that transform the castle to a true Christmas palace.

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Dream Lights is no longer offered on Cinderella Castle. Photo by Brett Svenson.

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This year, expect special projections on Cinderella Castle. Photo by Ernie Carr

Want to treasure the experience forever? You can usually snag a PhotoPass photographer for a photo in front of the massive Christmas tree on Main Street.

For a long time, Disney World was known for the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom, but there have been some significant changes since the start of COVID-19.


Love spreading Christmas cheer? Then you’ll want to order our 2021 Disney World Christmas cards featuring the beautiful Cinderella Castle. You’ll get 20 glossy cards and envelopes featuring four different sets.

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🎄 Spread Some Cheer


Disney World Christmas Party 2021: Very Merriest at Magic Kingdom

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Disney’s Very Merriest After Hours includes seasonal favorites featuring Mickey and Minnie. Photo courtesy of Disney

This year, to experience the full Christmas magic of Magic Kingdom, you’ll have to pay an additional fee to attend the limited-capacity Very Merriest After Hours event. Very Merriest is offered on 24 select nights running from Nov. 8 through Dec. 21. This is Disney’s current replacement for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

Very Merriest starts at 9 PM each night and lasts for a whopping 4 hours.

New this year for Very Merriest is “Mickey & Minnie’s Very Merry Memories,” a new form of holiday entertainment at Magic Kingdom.

Very Merriest Dates and Prices, 2021

Below is a full list of dates and prices for the 2021 Very Merriest After Hours party at Magic Kingdom. Tickets are on sale now and, if it’s anything like Boo Bash, these tickets will sell out early.

  • Nov. 8 ($189)
  • Nov. 9 ($169)
  • Nov. 11 ($169)
  • Nov. 12 ($189)
  • Nov. 14 ($189)
  • Nov. 16 ($169)
  • Nov. 18 ($169)
  • Nov. 19 ($189)
  • Nov. 21 ($229)
  • Nov. 23 ($229)
  • Nov. 28 ($209)
  • Nov. 30 ($209)
  • Dec. 2 ($209)
  • Dec. 3 ($229)
  • Dec. 5 ($209)
  • Dec. 7 ($209)
  • Dec. 9 ($209)
  • Dec. 10 ($229)
  • Dec. 12 ($209)
  • Dec. 14 ($209)
  • Dec. 16 ($209)
  • Dec. 17 ($229)
  • Dec. 19 ($249)
  • Dec. 21 ($249)

Magic Kingdom Christmas Ride Overlays

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The Tomorrowland Speedway track featured colorful decorations and a holiday soundtrack in past years. Photo by Brett Svenson

In previous years, Magic Kingdom has had special overlays on multiple rides in Magic Kingdom, including Space Mountain and Tomorrowland Speedway. (Subscribe to our print edition by Nov. 30 to get an in-depth look at the Christmas overlay on Tomorrowland Speedway back in 2019.)

This year, just two rides are getting Christmas overlays:

  • Jungle Cruise
  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
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Jingle Cruise is one of the most special parts of Christmas at Disney World. Brett Svenson

The Jungle Cruise overlay, called Jingle Cruise, is particularly popular during Christmas at Disney World. And unlike the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor overlay, which is exclusively available during Very Merriest, Jingle Cruise is open all day.

If you’re spending extra to attend Very Merriest, you should knock out Jingle Cruise ahead of time so you can focus on other attractions and entertainment during the After Hours event.

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The Jungle Cruise transforms into the Jingle Cruise every year. Photo by Courtney Reynolds

Very Merriest Entertainment

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The newest Christmas show at Walt Disney World is “Mickey & Minnie’s Very Merry Memories.” Photo courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

The 2021 Very Merriest Christmas Party at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom offers plenty of fun for guests. For starters, you can enter Magic Kingdom 2 hours before the party, even if you don’t have a ticket or a Park Pass reservation for the day. This is the perfect time to head to Jingle Cruise, check out the seasonal décor, and ride some of your favorite attractions.

But you should prioritize attractions that don’t stay open during Very Merriest. You can then enjoy the ones that do stay open for Very Merriest after the crowds thin out when Magic Kingdom closes to the general public.

Rides staying open for Very Merriest in 2021 include:

  • Haunted Mansion
  • Space Mountain
  • Jungle Cruise (as Jingle Cruise)
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor

While the shorter lines are great, you might not want to spend your precious time on those, especially if you are one to pay for Genie+ on regular Magic Kingdom days.

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There’s so much to do during the 4-hour party. Photo courtesy of Disney

So what else is there to do during Magic Kingdom’s Very Merriest this year? Here are some can’t miss events:

  • Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade: You won’t want to miss this holly-jolly Christmas procession featuring Santa Claus himself.
  • Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks Show: Set to your favorite Christmas carols, this is a second, separate, exclusive fireworks show, meaning you can watch Disney Enchantment and then Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks Show, all in one night.
  • Club Tinsel Dance Party: Cancelled last year because of COVID, this fun dance party in Tomorrowland is back. Just don’t get too sweaty while dancing, or you may ruin your Purple Wall photoshoot.

New this year is Mickey & Minnie’s Very Merry Memories, a special show in front of Cinderella Castle, inspired by past favorites like “Mickey’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” “Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration,” and “Celebrate the Season.” During this show, you’ll see all of the EARidescent Eight: Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Donald, Daisy, and Chip ‘n’ Dale.

Very Merriest Character Meet-and-Greets

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It’s not just fireworks; Very Merriest is also about those distanced meet-and-greets. Photo courtesy of Disney

During this exclusive Disney World Christmas party, you might pass by your favorite Disney characters, including Mickey, Minnie, Jiminy Cricket, Winnie the Pooh, and the Country Bears.

If you’re a fan of Christmas carols, head to Frontierland to be serenaded by the Reindeer Wranglers.

Special Christmas Snacks at Disney World

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Free snacks abound during Very Merriest. Photo courtesy of Disney

Very Merriest also includes exclusive holiday snacks and sips, meaning you won’t be able to get certain Christmas treats at Magic Kingdom unless you stick around for the After Hours party. Get the full list of 2021 Disney World Christmas food and drinks here.

We do know that you will have access to FREE snacks like ice cream, popcorn, soda, and a “seasonal treat” during Very Merriest. As much as you can stuff in your face.

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🌐2021 Christmas at EPCOT

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Christmas at EPCOT is unlike any other celebration. Photo by WDW Magazine

Magic Kingdom may be the most popular destination for a Christmas at Disney World, but EPCOT is my absolute favorite. And while you’ve got to shell out up to $249 for the special Disney World Christmas party at Magic Kingdom, access to the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays is included with the price of your admission to EPCOT.

Living With the Land Holiday Overlay

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Living With the Land: Merry and Bright Nights brings twinkle to the greenhouses. Photo by Rain Blanken

Winter never happens in the greenhouses at Living with the Land, but all the happy plants inside still enjoy Christmas lights! This futuristic garden has been decked out once again for another 14-minute boat ride.

2021 EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays

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This year, the EPCOT Festival of the Holidays runs from Nov. 26 through Dec. 30. The big headliner for this year is that the Candlelight Processional is back!

Tap here to get the complete guide to the 2021 EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays, or skim the highlights below:

Candlelight Processional

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Neil Patrick Harris is often a celebrity narrator for the Candlelight Processional. Photo by Courtney Reynolds

While guest choirs won’t be returning for 2021 given the ongoing COVID situation, the Candlelight Processional will include Voices of Liberty and a choir of Disney Cast Members, plus celebrity narrators, including Pat Sajak, Blair Underwood, and Lisa Ling.

Get the full list of 2021 Candlelight Processional celebrity narrators here.

Candlelight Processional Dining Packages have returned for 2021 as well.

World Showcase Holiday Traditions

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Holiday Storyteller: La Befana at the Italy Pavilion. Photo by Courtney Reynolds.

Stroll around World Showcase to be enchanted by holiday storytellers from Japan, Norway, the United Kingdom, France, and Italy, as well as a Hanukkah storyteller on the promenade. In addition, the 2021 EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays includes a Chinese Lion Dance, the Canadian Holiday Voyageurs, and the Las Posadas.

Plus, you can wave hello to Santa Claus outside The American Adventure.

Is World Showcase your favorite form of travel? Now you never have to be far when you order a copy of our special World Showcase edition of WDW Magazine, just $12 while supplies last.

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Order your copy of the WDW Magazine February 2021 Issue. Photo by Rain Blanken

🌐 Order Today

Christmas Food at EPCOT

The Cheese Fondue, Pork Schnitzel, and Linzer Cookie from the Bavaria Holiday Kitchen booth

A Christmas feast from the Bavaria Holiday Kitchen. Photo by Julie de la Fe

Each year, the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays includes a wide variety of food and drink booths as part of the Holiday Kitchens. This year, EPCOT is adding one new booth, called Chestnuts & Good Cheer Holiday Kitchen. Get the full list of Holiday Kitchens here.

In addition, the festival includes a Holiday Cookie Stroll. Find five Christmas cookies, get your passport stamped, and receive a special treat (spoiler: it’s another cookie) as a reward.

Get our guide to locations, strategy, and all the cookies on the menu.

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The Holiday Cookie Stroll is so much fun. Photo by Julie de la Fe

Olaf’s Holiday Tradition Expedition Scavenger Hunt

Each of EPCOT’s four festivals usually includes some kind of scavenger hunt for kids (or the kids at heart) to play. For the Festival of the Holidays, it’s Olaf who is hiding all around EPCOT. You’ll need to purchase a map with stickers to play the game. Once you’ve found every Olaf location, you can turn in your completed map to redeem a prize.

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Olaf can be found in some high-up places. Photo by Tina Chiu

Having trouble finding Olaf? Once the festival starts, we will complete the scavenger hunt ourselves and put together a helpful post for finding Olaf yourself. Stay tuned.

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🎥 2021 Christmas at Hollywood Studios

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Hollywood Studios decorations are the best part of a Disney World Christmas for many. Photo by Tina Chiu

Hollywood Studios is often overlooked for Christmas at Disney World, especially after the retirement of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. But the film-themed park is actually one of the coolest places to go for unique Christmas decorations.

For an inside look at the meaning and history of Hollywood Studios’ Christmas décor—plus plenty of Easter eggs (hidden nods, not a weird amalgamation of two different holidays)—subscribe to the WDW Magazine print edition before Nov. 30. Our Christmas at WDW issue this year features an exclusive look at the Golden Era decorations of Hollywood Studios. 

Sunset Seasons Greetings at Hollywood Studios

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Sunset Seasons Greetings is the hallmark of Christmas at Hollywood Studios. Photo by Laurie Sapp

Aside from the decorations, the highlight of Christmas at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the return of Sunset Seasons Greetings, a nighttime projection show on the Hollywood Tower Hotel that transforms Hollywood Studios’ tallest attraction into a plethora of seasonal delights, including:

  • Toy Story toy hotel
  • The humble town from Mickey’s Christmas Carol
  • A Muppet gingerbread house
  • A quaint corner of Arendelle

Changes to A Frozen Sing-Along

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The Frozen Sing-Along gets a special Christmas finale. Photo by Rich Ramos

To mark the holiday season, Disney adds a festive finale to For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration. We don’t want to spoil the show, so we’ll just say your favorite snowman leads us in a song (and it ain’t Frosty).

A Meal at Minnie’s Holiday Dine at Hollywood & Vine

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Foodies, rejoice: Hollywood & Vine’s Christmas menu is sensational. Photo by Laurie Sapp

The best way to celebrate Christmas is with a big, delicious meal. You can do that during the holiday season at Disney’s Hollywood Studios by dining at Hollywood & Vine for Minnie’s Holiday Dine. Advance Dining Reservations are strongly recommended.

The typical meet-and-greets are distanced, and last year, instead of a buffet, Disney offered a prix fixe meal. The restaurant is decked out in holiday décor, and you’ll leave with a special autograph card from your favorite Disney characters.

Santa Claus Motorcade

Mr. Claus has never been as stylish as when he rides down Hollywood Blvd. in a candy-apple red convertible. Before his car arrives, you’ll know he’s coming to town as he is led by a gaggle of dancing elves.

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🦁 2021 Christmas at Animal Kingdom

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The Tree of Life Holiday Awakenings are stunning. Photo by WDW Magazine

Much like at EPCOT, Animal Kingdom embraces multiple winter holidays. The big news for 2021 is the return of the Merry Menagerie, which had been put on hold during the 2020 Christmas season due to the COVID-19 situation.

The décor throughout the park is really special, including African-themed décor in (where else?) Africa, Diwali decorations in Asia, kitschy décor in Pongu Pongu, and hand-crafted snowflakes made by artisans from the Augusta Training Shop, which provides jobs to adults in Augusta, Georgia, who have physical and/or cognitive disabilities.

Learn more about Diwali celebrations at Animal Kingdom in our December 2021 Christmas issue of WDW Magazine. Subscribe by Nov. 30 to make this special issue a part of your subscription!

🛒 Subscribe Today

Merry Menagerie

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The Merry Menagerie at Christmas at Animal Kingdom. Photo by Brett Svenson

Speaking of Discovery Island, this is where you will find the Merry Menagerie during the holiday season, back again for 2021. These artisan-sculpted puppets include your favorite winter animals, including foxes, penguins, reindeer, and polar bears.

Festive Flotillas

For 2021, Christmas at Animal Kingdom includes four special flotillas, one of which carries Santa Claus himself:

  • Donald’s Dino Bash Festive Flotilla
  • Chip & Dale’s Festive Flotilla
  • Discovery Island Drummers Festive Flotilla
  • Santa Claus Festive Flotilla

Tree of Life Awakenings

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A breathtaking sight in Animal Kingdom. Photo by Laurie Sapp

The special holiday-inspired Tree of Life Awakenings transform the Animal Kingdom weenie into a wintry magical icon. There are multiple versions to these Holiday Awakenings, including “The First Snow” and “Seasons of Light.”

Get an inside look at the Holiday Awakenings in our 2020 WDW Magazine Christmas edition, available now as a back issue while supplies last.

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Order your special Christmas issue today.

🎄 Order Today

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 🛍️ 2021 Christmas at Disney Springs

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The Disney Parks Tree at Disney Springs. Photo by Julie de la Fe

In years past, Disney Springs was home to the Christmas Tree Trail. Last year, the shopping center pivoted to the (much longer) Christmas Tree Stroll, which allows for more social distancing. The Christmas Tree Stroll returns for 2021 and is a great way to celebrate Christmas at Disney World without a park ticket.

Get our complete guide to the Christmas Tree Stroll at Disney Springs.

In addition to the Christmas Tree Stroll, you can swing by Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar for the Holiday Takeover. Get festive drinks and enjoy the change in scenery.

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🏨 2021 Christmas at Disney World Resorts

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2021 Grand Floridian Gingerbread House. Photo by Tatjana Lazar

Each year, all of the Disney World Resort hotels undergo a magnificent transformation for the holidays. Perhaps the most memorable experience is the giant gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, but each resort boasts its own unique theming.

You can also get a boatload of 2021 Disney World Christmas snacks at the resorts.

To experience Christmas at the Riviera, subscribe to our monthly print magazine by Nov. 30Our Christmas 2021 issue dives deep into what waking up at this resort on Christmas Day is like.

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🎅 Meeting Santa at Disney World

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Photo courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

Santa can be found all over Walt Disney World Resort each year, though locations are subject to change. Subscribe to our print magazine by Nov. 30 to get our special Christmas 2021 at Disney World issue, with a complete Character Greeting guide to meeting Santa at Disney World.

You can find Santa:

  • Floating down the Discovery River on a holiday flotilla at Animal Kingdom
  • Taking a joy ride down Hollywood Blvd. in his red convertible during the Santa Claus Merry Motorcade at Hollywood Studios
  • Waving hello from The American Adventure at EPCOT
  • Joining the parade at Magic Kingdom
  • Visiting Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and Disney Springs for special occasions and individualized meet-and-greets (socially distanced)

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Christmas Merch at Disney World

For 2021, there is Christmas merch everywhere you look. You can take a look at our Christmas merch roundup here, or check out this video roundup from our Disney World merch correspondent Ashley!

This year, the theme of the Disney World Christmas merch seems to be FLUFFY. We spotted some great merch at Fulton’s General Store at Port Orleans – Riverside, but it’s also available at World of Disney. Here’s a sampling of what we’ve found so far.:

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Disney World Christmas merch. Photo by Tatjana Lazar

We saw this green Christmas Disney sweater for $84.99.

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Disney World Christmas merch. Photo by Tatjana Lazar

We saw this fluffy Christmas Minnie sweater for $64.99.

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Disney World Christmas merch. Photo by Tatjana Lazar

We saw this fluffy Christmas Goofy sweater for $64.99.

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Disney World Christmas merch. Photo by Tatjana Lazar

We saw this Christmas Disney sweater for $79.99.

No matter how you celebrate Christmas at Disney World—or any other seasonal celebration—you’re sure to have a magic time. Happy holidays!

Written by Timothy Moore

Written by Timothy Moore

Boom baby! Timothy Moore is excited to serve as your managing editor and resident Disney Renaissance expert. When he's not drinking around the world at EPCOT or gobbling down Mickey Waffles for breakfast, he can usually be found with his partner hiking and kayaking the great outdoors, putting off writing his novel by playing Nintendo Switch, or telling his dogs Goomba and Blooper that they're the best boys in the world ad nauseam (because they are).

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