Disney World Special Events, Festivals and Parties

LAST UPDATE: 8/15/14 This page covers Walt Disney World special events and annual festivals in the theme parks, Disney resorts and Downtown Disney.

This is an UNOFFICIAL listing, and while we make our best efforts to keep it updated, complete and accurate, Disney changes things constantly. Be sure to call ahead before making any major plans based on the information below!

For recurring Disney World special events (e.g., Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party) we update new information as it becomes available, but we do not remove the previous year’s information until the new year’s information becomes available. We do this so that you can get a general idea of what has been offered in the past, and the range of dates when it was offered.

Walt Disney World Special Events, Festivals & Parties

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January-March Events

April-June Events

July-September Events

October-December Events

New Year’s Day

Christmas decorations remain up throughout Walt Disney World through New Year, and generally several days past the first of the year.

There are special meals available at certain restaurants on New Year’s Day. You can reserve holiday meals up to 180 days in advance by calling (407) WDW-DINE (939-3463).

Note that “holiday pricing” (i.e. higher prices) will be in effect for some restaurants (particularly the buffets and character meals) from mid-December through the first few days of January (holiday season). Other restaurants may charge a premium on New Year’s Day, so be sure to ask when booking reservations.

Walt Disney World Marathon and Half Marathon

The Walt Disney World Marathon and Half Marathon highlight an entire running weekend at Walt Disney World Resort. Other highlights include Goofy’s Race-and-a-Half Challenge, Family Fun Run 5K and Kids’ Races.

In 2015, the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is January 7-11.

Registration for the 2015 Marathon and other races opened online at runDisney.com on 4/20/14. Don’t wait too long to register; the races reach full capacity very quickly!

Chinese New Year

Each year the China Pavilion in Epcot has a Chinese New Year celebration. Usually there are Chinese acrobats and special activities for kids.

Mardi Gras

A little-known event on Mardi Gras (which in 2014 will be March 4) is the mini-parade through Disney’s Port Orleans Resort. Several departments of the resort build floats on golf carts. The floats are judged and then parade through the grounds. During the parade they throw New Orleans-style trinkets (beads, candy, doubloons) to the guests who line up to watch. If you will be at Port Orleans on Mardi Gras, be sure to ask at the front desk when this event will take place.

Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend

This annual event includes Disney’s Princess Half Marathon, a Family Fun Run 5K, and Kids’ Races. In 2014, the weekend is February 20-23.

Registration for the 2014 Disney’s Princess Half Marathon opened 6/11/13. Don’t wait too late to register, as the races usually fill up months in advance. Click here for more details.

Atlanta Braves Spring Training at Disney’s Wide World of Sports

The Atlanta Braves hold their Spring Training season at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex starting in February. After a period of workouts, the Braves play a series of games against major rivals at The Ballpark at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex.

Game dates can be found here and ticket information is here. More information on the Braves spring training season is available online at espnwwos.com.

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is an annual event. Thirty million blooms, half a million plants, nearly 100 topiaries, 240 floating mini-gardens and 1,000 butterflies add up to a wonderful world of theme park color at the Festival. Every Friday through Sunday, HGTV design celebrities will host Festival Center seminars. Flower Power concerts featuring popular bands rock the open-air America Gardens Theatre every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 5:30, 6:45 and 8:00 pm.

In  2014, there were 11 Outdoor Kitchens with indulgent bites and new beverage options.

The 2014 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival was March 5 – May 18.

More information about the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is available at disneyworld.com/flower. The festival, including all gardening programs and exhibits, is included in regular Epcot admission.

2014 Flower Power Concert Series

St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day is March 17 each year. Raglan Road Irish Restaurant & Pub usually offers a program of Irish music, song and dance during St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

For 2014, the St. Patrick’s Day celebration was in Downtown Disney March 7-17. Irish bands and pro dancers performed on three stages, starting nightly March 7-14 from 5:00 pm to 1:00 am and daily 12:00 pm until 1:00 am on March 15-17. A selection of beers, food by Irish celebrity chef Kevin Dundon of Raglan Road, complimentary face painting inside Raglan Road, stilt walkers, living statues, children’s activities and plenty of St. Patrick’s Day memorabilia were part of the festivities.

New for 2014: the four Disney Food Trucks will serve food each evening of the festival at Downtown Disney West Side.

Easter

Easter Sunday in 2014 is April 20.

Magic Kingdom

Epcot

Hotel Events

Some of the Disney hotels offer egg hunts, egg decorating, characters in Easter costumes, etc. to their guests on Easter morning. If you are staying at a Disney hotel, inquire at the front desk when you arrive.

Grand Floridian Resort pastry chefs usually display elaborate edible Easter Eggs in the lobby. In 2014, the Easter Eggs will be on display April 4-22.

Special Meals & Meal Pricing

There are special meals available at certain restaurants on Easter Sunday. An Easter Brunch is usually held each year at the Epcot World ShowPlace located between Canada and the United Kingdom pavilions. Regular Epcot admission is required. You can reserve holiday meals up to 180 days in advance by calling (407) WDW-DINE (939-3463).

Note that “holiday pricing” (i.e. higher prices) will be in effect for some restaurants (particularly the buffets and character meals) for the two weeks on either side of Easter. Other restaurants may charge a premium on Easter Sunday, so be sure to ask when booking reservations.

Religious Services

Services are held on Easter Sunday only in the Fantasia Ballroom at the Contemporary Resort. Catholic Mass is held at 8:00 am and 10:15 am. A Protestant service is held at 9:00 am.

You may not park at the Contemporary for these services, so to get there, you must do one of the following:

Expedition Everest Challenge

This 5K race is offered at Animal Kingdom and is followed by an exclusive Post-Race Party in the theme park. Attractions open for this party include Kali River Rapids, Dinosaur, Dinoland U.S.A. and Expedition Everest.

The 2014 Expedition Everest Challenge was held on May 3-4. Registration opened on December 17, 2013.

Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo (5th of May) is a celebration of Mexican heritage and commemorates a Mexican victory in the 1862 Battle of Puebla. There is a relatively low-key Cinco de Mayo celebration centered on the Mexico Pavilion at Epcot, tied in with the International Flower & Garden Festival. It usually features some sort of special activity for families.

Star Wars Weekends

Each year for several weekends in early summer, Star Wars actors and characters in costume appear in special motorcades and autograph sessions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Other fun events such as Star Wars trivia contests and special Star Wars parades are also held.

The 2014 Star Wars Weekends will be held on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from May 16 – June 15.

New for 2014, dine with your favorite Disney characters dressed as their favorite Star Wars character at Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine at Hollywood & Vine. Or, dine with Star Wars characters, such as Darth Vader and Boba Fett, at the Star Wars Dine-In Galactic Breakfast at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant.

Gay Days

Gay Days is usually held the first week of June. In 2015 the dates will be June 2-8. While this is not a Disney-sponsored event, it is a very well-attended one.

Gay Days originally began in 1991. At the time it was “Gay Day in the Magic Kingdom,” a single day when the gay and gay supportive community was encouraged to “Wear Red and Be Seen” while visiting the world’s most popular theme park. Over the years it has grown to a week-long event. Visit GayDays.com for more info.

Harambe Nights

In 2014, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of The Lion King, Disney’s Animal Kingdom hosted Harambe Nights every Saturday evening June 7-August 9, 2014.

The journey began with a Welcome Reception in the park’s Harambe Village where you can enjoy appetizers and African-inspired wine and beer. Then, it’s time for the “mane” event – a performance of The Lion King – Concert in the Wild. Bringing to life the story of Simba, this brand-new theatrical experience features a live orchestra and choir, dancers, digitally projected movie moments, as well as dramatic lighting and scenic elements – all hosted by a celebrity guest narrator.

The lineup of celebrity narrators features stars from stage and screen. Scheduled to appear were:

After the show, the celebration continued with Harambe Nights Street Party. Move to the beat as you enjoy an all-inclusive buffet of African cuisine and gourmet desserts. Disney Characters were on hand to show off their wild side. The evening concluded with a special finale.

Harambe Nights took place every Saturday from June 7-August 9, 2014. The Welcome Reception began at 7 pm and the The Lion King – Concert in the Wild started at 7:30 pm and went until 10:30pm.

Tickets were $119 for adults, $79 for ages 3-9, plus tax. Tickets with premium floor seating were $134 for adults, $94 for ages 3-9, plus tax. Theme park admission was included for the special event only. Parking was complimentary. All attractions, entertainment and other offerings outside of the designated event area were not available.

Advance reservations were highly recommended. Entertainment subject to change.

  • 2014 Harambe Nights ticket went on sale May 2, 2014. Go online or call 407-939-1319 to order.

Sounds Like Summer

All summer long you can dance to classic rock n’ roll hits under the skies of the open-air America Gardens Theater at Epcot. This summer concert series features a lineup of cover bands performing timeless tunes. Get the family together and groove to the songs you all know and love!

There are three shows nightly at 5:30 pm, 6:45 pm and 8:00 pm (except July 4: shows at 5:15, 6:30, 7:45 and 9:00 pm), which are included in park admission.

The 2014 “Sounds Like Summer” concerts is offered June 8 through July 26.

2014 Sounds Like Summer Concert Series

Car Masters Weekend

Downtown Disney Car Masters Weekend, held each June, celebrates everything car-related. In 2014, this event was offered June 14-15.

Featuring all things Cars, the event showcases more than 150 classic, muscle and exotic cars; a chance for guests to meet Cars 2 stars Lightning McQueen, Mater and Finn McMissile; and special appearances by automotive designer Chip Foose and Disney-Pixar Cars filmmaker Jay Ward.

Completing the car-nucopia of events, fans may purchase tickets for a Cars & Cars 2 movie marathon at AMC Downtown Disney 24, “test drive” Ridemakerz “Cars” models, and enjoy caricatures, themed food and beverage, live entertainment and more. Entertainment subject to change.

Disney Soccer Academy

Kids ages 5-18 can play and learn side by side with superstars of the game during this 4-day instructional camp at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Past camp sessions have featured appearances from professional English Premier League players including Craig Bellamy of Liverpool, Paul Robinson of Blackburn Rovers, and Aaron Hughes of Fulham.

The 2014 academy sessions are June 16-19, June 23-26 and July 7-10. For more details, click here.

Independence Day (July 4)

Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios all offer special fireworks shows for Independence Day (July 4). These festivities are included in regular park admission.

In 2014, there will be a special fireworks show on July 3 & 4 in the Magic Kingdom.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom does not offer fireworks since they would disturb the animals.

If you plan to visit one of the theme parks on July 4 (particularly if it falls on a weekend), be aware that it is one of the most popular days of the year. The parks may reach full capacity at some point during the day, and you may not be admitted (or re-admitted) to the parks after that point. (This is true even if you have a ticket, even if you’re staying at a Disney resort and even if you have dining reservations in the park. If the park is full, it’s full — Disney has to follow fire codes!) For that reason it’s best to arrive first thing in the morning and stay in the same park all day. Bring any items you may need later and stow them in a locker when you arrive (the lockers will also sell out). Get FASTPASSes right away if you think you will want to ride anything, because the lines will be very long by noon.

Frozen Summer Fun Live!

New for 2014, from July 5 – September 28, Frozen Summer Fun Live! in Disney’s Hollywood Studios will bring to life the world of royal sisters Anna and Elsa and their fairy tale kingdom of Arendelle. Most activities are included in theme park admission. Here are some highlights (*schedule subject to change without notice):

Frozen Summer Fun Premium Package

Reserve viewing for Anna and Elsa’s Royal Welcome, For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration and Frozen Fireworks Spectacular (except for August 23) with the Frozen Summer Fun Premium Package. This package includes an exclusive dessert party during the fireworks.

The Frozen Summer Fun Premium Package costs $59 for adults and $34 for children (including tax and gratuity). Park admission is required. The number of packages available each day is limited. The Anna and Elsa’s Royal Welcome procession and the dessert party offer a reserved viewing area, no seating is available. Wheelchairs and ECVs will be accommodated.

  • Call (407) 939-1939 to book the Frozen Summer Fun Premium Package.

Bastille Day

On July 14 the France Pavilion in Epcot celebrates Bastille Day, which commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution. This is a low-key event, but there are special activities for kids and adults.

Villains Unleashed

Villains Unleashed, a one-night party that will let guests hobnob with their favorite Disney and Star Wars villains, will happen on August 23, 2014 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, from 7:00 pm to 1:00 am and requires separate admission. (You don’t have to have paid admission on the same day to Hollywood Studios in order to attend the special after-hours event.) Tickets cost $71.36 for adults (10+) and $66.03 for children (3-9), tax included.

As a record number of Disney Villains come out of the shadows and take over the theme park, guests will encounter some of their favorite villains such as Captain Hook, Cruella De Vil, Darth Vader and the Evil Queen. They will experience a special fireworks show, dance parties and villainous food, drink and merchandise.

The celebration of wonderful wickedness will include:

Guests can dress as their favorite villain (be sure to read all the fine print to make sure your costume will meet the guidelines). The most popular rides and attractions like Toy Story Mania! and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror will be open during the party.

There are no DVC, Annual Passholder, or other discounts for this event. If it’s like the other major parties, people with party tickets will be let in as early as 4:00 pm. You’ll need to get a special wristband that allows you to stay in the park past 7:00 pm.

  • 2014 Villains Unleashed tickets went on sale June 9. Go online or call (407) W-DISNEY (934-7639) to order.

Night of Joy

Contemporary Christian music acts perform at Disney World on two nights each September. This is an after-hours event that requires a separate ticket.

In 2014, Night of Joy is at Magic Kingdom on September 5 and 6, from 7:30 pm – 1:00 am.

Click here for full details.

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler

This endurance event will be offered October 3-4, 2014. You can run through Disney property and then have the opportunity to ride thrilling Disney’s Hollywood Studios attractions until 4:00 am!

In addition to the 10-mile run, there is also a Family Fun Run 5k and Kids’ Races. You can learn more at runDisney.com.

Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Each fall, Epcot hosts the International Food and Wine Festival, a several-weeks-long celebration that includes both “free” (i.e. included in Epcot admission) and separately ticketed events such as food and wine pairings, specialty dinners, Party for the Senses, culinary demonstrations and wine/beverage seminars.

The 2014 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival will run from September 19 – November 10.

During the six-week, entertainment-packed event, park guests can taste fine cuisine and wines from the top “foodie” cities of the world. Festival guests can enjoy the flavors of more than 25 international marketplaces dotting the World Showcase promenade. Tapas-sized portions of regional specialties run $3 to $8 each, and recommended wines and beers make perfect pairings at each kiosk.

New in 2014, a Patagonia Marketplace whose dishes merge the flavors of Argentina and Chile. The Farm Fresh Market will replace last year’s Florida Local Marketplace. The Brazil Marketplace is back with their popular crispy pork belly with black beans, onions, avocado and cilantro, but chefs also are adding some new dishes. And, the Poland Marketplace switches up the popular pierogi with a new sauerkraut pierogi and pork goulash.

Annual highlights include:

Authentic Taste seminars, Authors Without Borders programs with special book signings at the Festival Center, Eat to the Beat! concerts, and all attractions and park entertainment are included with regular Epcot admission. For additional information about the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, click here.

Wondering what it’s really like?

Click here to read a review of the 2010 Food & Wine Festival “international marketplaces” (aka food booths).

A Few Tips

Separate admission events for the Food and Wine Festival fall into two categories: Premium Events and Seminars.

Premium Events & Experiences such as the Party for the Senses, Food and Wine Pairings at select Epcot restaurants, Signature Dining, Epcot Wine Schools and other special wine and culinary programs require reservations and payment of an additional fee over and above park admission. On July 24, 2014, a complete list of these events became available on the official site at DisneyWorld.com/foodandwine. These events are very popular and it is advisable to book as early as possible. Tickets are non-refundable and non-transferrable.

  • 2014 Food and Wine Festival Premium Events tickets went on sale July 31 at 7:00 am EST. To reserve, call (407) WDW-FEST (939-3378) and have your credit card ready.

Wine & Beverage Seminars, Culinary Seminars and Mixology Seminars are offered in the Festival Welcome Center and require reservations and payment of an additional fee over and above park admission.

  • 2014 Food and Wine Festival seminars tickets went on sale August 14. To reserve, call (407) WDW-FEST (939-3378) and have your credit card ready.
  • In 2014, Annual Passholders, Disney Vacation Club members, Tables in Wonderland members and Golden Oak residents were able to book seminars ONLY (not Premium Events) early, on July 25 at 9:00 am EST, and get a small discount on Mon-Thurs seminars. Call (407) WDW-FEST (939-3378) and have your credit card and member ID number ready.
  • In 2014, Chase Disney Visa Cardholders were able to book seminars, demonstrations, and select special events early, on July 29 at 7 :00 am EST. Call (407) WDW-FEST (939-3378) and have your credit card ready.

Eat to the Beat Concerts

Enjoy musical evenings during the Food & Wine Festival with the “Eat to the Beat!” concerts scheduled daily at 5:30, 6:45 and 8:00 pm on the America Gardens Theatre stage. Please note: lineup is subject to change.

2014 Eat to the Beat! Concert Lineup

Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon

This endurance event will be offered November 7-8, 2014. Catch the magic of a spectacular 3-park nighttime Half Marathon with a delicious Food & Wine Festival After Party plus the Mickey’s Jingle Jungle 5K, Kids’ Races and more!

You can learn more at runDisney.com.

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is held on selected nights in September and October each year. It is offered from 7:00 pm to midnight, after the regular closing of Magic Kingdom, and requires separate admission. (You don’t have to have paid admission on the same day to the Magic Kingdom in order to attend the special after-hours event.) Guests with Not So Scary Halloween Party tickets are admitted to the park as early as 4:00 pm. You will need to get a wristband that allows you to stay in the park after the party begins.

Admission to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party includes trick-or-treating for adults and kids, costume parades for little ones, character meet-and-greets, fortune tellers, Halloween riverboat ride, two performances of a unique holiday parade, and a special fireworks display. Attendees can wear costumes (subject to a few rules based on safety and appropriateness). Plus, most of the major attractions are open.

Is Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party worth the money? Depends on how much you are “into” Halloween. Some of the experiences available during the party are not offered at any other time, so it allows you to enjoy Magic Kingdom in a unique way.

Although the number of people admitted each night is limited, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party can feel quite crowded, particularly on weekend nights and the last couple of nights it’s offered. The rides will be less busy than they would be at that time on a regular park night, but the headliners can still build up some decent wait times, and the special character meetings will often have quite long lines. To give you some idea, on October 25th, 2013, one of the busiest Friday nights, before the party started the wait time for Peter Pan’s Flight was hovering between 30-40 minutes. After the party started, the wait went down to 20-30 minutes. On the other hand, the Haunted Mansion didn’t change; it was 10-15 minutes before the party started and 10-15 minutes after the party started. Don’t necessarily expect to walk onto every ride. The party is more about the parades and Halloween “atmosphere.”

It’s fun to have dinner at Tony’s Town Square or Liberty Tree Tavern just before the party. This allows you to be in the park right when the festivities begin. The two restaurants book up quickly, so make reservations as early as possible (180 days in advance).

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party 2014 will be offered from 7:00 pm to midnight on September 1, 9, 12, 14, 16, 19, 21, 23, 26, 28 and October 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, 13, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26, 28, 30, 31.

Friday nights in October and the final week leading up to Halloween usually sell out in advance, and are not discounted.

2014 Prices and Discounts

  • 2014 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party tickets went on sale May 5. Go online or call (407) W-DISNEY (934-7639) to order.

Halloween

Halloween decorations start going up in the Magic Kingdom in late August (generally before Labor Day weekend) and are complete in time for the first Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.

If you are staying at one of Disney’s resorts over Halloween, ask the front desk concierge whether any special events are planned. Frequently the resorts do offer some kind of festivities.

Downtown Disney offers live entertainment such as music, storytelling, a dance party, stilt walkers and/or magicians on Halloween. Trick-or-treating was eliminated as of 2011.

Festival of the Masters

Award-winning visual artists transform Downtown Disney into a vast outdoor gallery during the Festival of the Masters each November. The 2014 Festival of the Masters will be held November 7-9.

To qualify for Festival of the Masters, artists must have earned a primary award in a juried art festival within the last three years. Prospective exhibitors submit award verification and slides of their works to a jury of art experts, who then have the formidable task of reviewing the slides and selecting the participants. This process ensures that visitors to the Festival will be treated to one of the finest displays of art in the nation. Hence, Festival of the Masters has become one of the most sought-after shows among artists.

Over 200 honorees from art festivals around the country showcase painting, photography, glass works, sculpture, printmaking, drawing, jewelry and digital art. Live entertainment and children’s activities are also part of the weekend-long event. Festival guests can experience culinary offerings and dance to live music.

This is a daytime event. Admission and parking are FREE. For more information, call (407) 824-4321 or visit disneyworld.com.

Orlando Classic

Each year ESPN cooks up a Thanksgiving weekend basketball feast so big that even if a match-up or two turns out to be a proverbial “turkey,” the event still will provide roundball junkies with a memorable holiday treat.

The 2014 Orlando Classic will be held November 27, 28 & 30 at the HP Field House at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

Thanksgiving

Disney does not offer a Thanksgiving parade or decorations in the parks. (However, the Christmas decorations are normally in place by Thanksgiving weekend.)

There are special meals available at most Disney World restaurants on Thanksgiving. Reservations for holiday meals can be booked up to 180 days in advance by calling (407) WDW-DINE (939-3463).

Note that “holiday pricing” (i.e. higher prices) will be in effect for some restaurants (particularly the buffets and character meals) from the weekend prior to Thanksgiving through the weekend after Thanksgiving. Other restaurants may charge a premium on Thanksgiving Day, so be sure to ask when booking reservations.

Christmas Decorations

Christmas decorations at the Walt Disney World Resort usually begin going up around the first of November. The decorations are gradually added at night and are substantially complete at Magic Kingdom by the time of the first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (in 2014, that will be November 7), with the resorts and other parks completed by the day after Thanksgiving. The decorations usually start coming down about January 3.

The Disney resorts are all decorated for the holidays, as are the theme parks. Each theme park will have an enormous decorated Christmas tree and so will the Deluxe resort lobbies.

Deluxe Resort Edible Holiday Displays

Among the especially amazing decorations are the edible holiday displays whipped up by pastry chefs throughout Walt Disney World Resort. Gingerbread goodies are sold nearby. Most of the displays open on Thanksgiving weekend.

The Deluxe resorts at Walt Disney World offer fantastic edible displays. Beach Club Resort usually has a fully detailed, life-sized gingerbread carousel in the lobby. The lobby of Yacht Club Resort has had displays such as a miniature New England-style train racing through a sugary rock mountain surrounded by a candy-coated model village. The lobby of BoardWalk Resort always has an amazing gingerbread display, and the Contemporary Resort has had a 17-foot gingerbread Christmas tree!

The biggest edible production is a gingerbread house at Grand Floridian Resort that is large enough that it doubles as a real bake shop. Featuring gingerbread using a classic Austrian recipe, the bake shop offers freshly baked items such as cookies, ornaments and miniature gingerbread houses. Other homemade items for sale may include Stollen Bread, chocolate peppermint bark, lollipops and special Grand Floridian logo boxes filled with truffles. Demonstrations of how to decorate a gingerbread house take place in front of the bake shop six days a week. The gingerbread house usually opens in mid-November.

The Gingerbread Bake Shop in Epcot enchants guests of all ages. Guests peer inside the life-sized gingerbread house at goodies galore. The giant structure, made entirely of gingerbread, cookies and icing, features a bake shop that usually opens in late November as part of Epcot’s Holidays Around the World.

Cinderella Castle Dream Lights

Disney decorates Cinderella Castle for the holiday season with a “Dream Lights” effect that makes the Castle seem to be covered in ice. Over 200,000 lights are draped over the turrets and roofs of the Castle to create this beautiful effect. A short show called “Cinderella’s Holiday Wish” and a castle lighting ceremony is held each evening, usually around 6:15 pm, and the lights remain on, slowly changing colors, for the rest of the evening.

For 2013, the Dream Lights were turned on each evening November 5 – January 6.

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

This elaborate holiday decoration display incorporating millions of Christmas lights, fake snow and various holiday vignettes was originally created by Jennings Osborne at his home in Little Rock, Arkansas. After he was forced to remove the display due to complaints by his neighbors, Disney agreed to use parts of it at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where it has become an annual event.

The spectacle has been enhanced to include choreographed “dancing” lights that swirl and soar to an exhilarating medley of holiday music every 15 minutes, thanks to electronic wizardry featuring more than 400 dimmers. Every building façade, all the trees, wreaths, bells and holiday figures dance to classic tunes among “Florida snow” flurries.

For the 2014 holiday season, this display will be offered November 7 – January 4. The Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights is included in regular admission to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is held after the regular closing of Magic Kingdom and requires separate admission. (You don’t have to have paid admission on the same day to the Magic Kingdom in order to attend the special after-hours event.) The event is held from 7:00 pm to midnight on selected nights, usually running from about the second week of November through approximately a week prior to Christmas. Guests with Very Merry Christmas Party tickets are admitted to the park as early as 4:00 pm. You will need to get a wristband that allows you to stay in the park after the party begins.

Admission to the event includes complimentary hot chocolate and cookies, “snow” on Main Street, holiday stage shows, carolers, two performances of the holiday parade, and a special fireworks display. Plus, most of the major attractions will be open.

Is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party worth the money? Depends on your plans. Be aware that the same parades, shows, “snow” experience and fireworks (but not the hot chocolate and cookies) are offered as part of regular admission if you visit Magic Kingdom starting the day after Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party ends, through New Year’s Eve. So if you will be visiting Magic Kingdom between the day after the party and New Year’s Eve, it might not be worth the extra money to attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party earlier in the month. The special character meet and greets, some (fairly minor) special decorations, and some commemorative merchandise are only available at the party.

Although the number of people admitted each night is limited, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party can feel quite crowded, particularly on weekend nights and the last couple of nights it’s offered. The rides will be less busy than they would be at that time on a regular park night, but the headliners can still build up some decent wait times, and the special character meetings will often have quite long lines. To give you some idea, on the final sold-out night of 2013, before the party started the wait time for Space Mountain was hovering between 40-45 minutes. After the party started, the wait went down to 15-25 minutes. On the other hand, the Haunted Mansion didn’t change; it was 10-15 minutes before the party started and 10-15 minutes after the party started. It can be a lot of fun to attend if you want to get into the Christmas spirit in late November or early December, but don’t necessarily expect to walk onto every ride. The party is more about the parades and Christmas “atmosphere.”

It’s fun to have dinner at Tony’s Town Square or Liberty Tree Tavern just before the party. This allows you to be in the park right when the festivities begin. The two restaurants book up quickly, so make reservations as early as possible (180 days in advance).

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 2014 will be offered from 7:00 pm to midnight on November 7, 10, 13, 14, 16, 20, 21, 30 and December 2, 4, 5, 7, 9 , 11, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 19.

In the past the last party before Christmas (December 19 in 2014) has sold out well in advance and was not discounted.

2014 Prices and Discounts

  • 2014 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party tickets went on sale May 5. Go online or call (407) W-DISNEY (934-7639) to order.

Festival of the Seasons & Santa Claus at Downtown Disney

Downtown Disney is decorated each year and Christmas music is played for “Festival of the Seasons.” The event includes special entertainment, including holiday carolers; Latin, jazz and pop performances of holiday songs; costumed stilt walkers and street performers; and a lively holiday dance party with deejay.

For 2013, Festival of the Seasons ran from November 15 through December 29. During that time period, Santa appears in his chalet at Downtown Disney Marketplace through December 24. Santa Goofy appears after Christmas.

2013 Santa/Santa Goofy hours:

You can take pictures with your own camera or use PhotoPass.

Epcot Holidays Around the World

For Holidays Around the World, Epcot’s World Showcase transforms into a splendid display of international holiday traditions and storytelling. Holidays Around the World is included with regular Epcot admission.

For 2014, the special holiday fun will take place daily from November 28 through December 30.

Holiday icons who delight children around the globe — such as France’s Père Noël and Italy’s La Befana — make special appearances in their respective countries, while Santa Claus himself pays visits to the American Adventure showcase. Guests see holiday traditions and legends as they are observed around the world, with Hanukah and Kwanzaa customs on display as well.

The Epcot evening spectacular of lights, lasers and fireworks, “Illuminations: Reflections of Earth,” completes the celebration with a magical holiday finale.

Candlelight Processional

The Candlelight Processional is an annual event at the America Gardens Theatre in World Showcase at Epcot. It consists of a celebrity narrator presenting the Biblical Christmas story, plus a large choir and an orchestra performing traditional religious Christmas carols. The Processional is an explicitly Christian religious presentation with a “church service” feel to it.

In 2014 it will be offered from November 28 through December 30. There are normally three performances each night, at 5:00, 6:45 and 8:15 pm. (On December 7 the performances are at 6:45 pm and 8:15 pm.) Each show runs about 40 minutes. You’ll need to line up at LEAST 45 minutes prior to the show if you want to have any hope of getting in (or buy the Dining Package for guaranteed entry).

There is no additional charge for the performance over and above your Epcot admission.

2014 Candlelight Processional Narrators

Candlelight Processional Dining Package

You can purchase a special Candlelight Processional Dining Package. With this special package you pay a flat rate for a sit-down meal at an Epcot restaurant and you receive “preferred seating” for the Candlelight Processional.

Based on our experience, getting the package may be the only way you’ll get a seat at all, particularly on weekend nights. Expect to wait in a significant line to enter the show, even if you have the package.

You must schedule your Candlelight Processional Dining Package BEFORE the performance you will attend. There is a Lunch Package for those attending the 5:00 performance and a Dinner Package for those attending the 6:45 or 8:00 performances. You must eat during the following time periods with this package:

The participating restaurants are usually priced in three tiers. Package meals generally include appetizer, entree, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage. Admission to Epcot is NOT included in the package price. 2 credits from the Dining Plan can be used to pay for your meal.

  • 2014 Candlelight Processional Dining Packages went on sale July 8. Call (407) WDW-DINE (939-3463) or go online to reserve.

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade

For 2013, this holiday version of the Jammin’ Jungle Parade at Disney’s Animal Kingdom was offered from November 7 – January 2.

Holiday Sleigh Rides

During the month of December, Disney offers 25-minute “sleigh” rides through the woods from the Ft. Wilderness Campground. (The horse-drawn vehicle is wheeled but made to look like a red sleigh, complete with sleighbells!)

You can book up to 180 days in advance by calling (407) WDW-PLAY (939-7529).

Christmas Eve & Christmas Day

First, be sure to read our survival guide to visiting Walt Disney World at Christmas!

You can enjoy the Candlelight Processional at Epcot, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the special parades, shows and fireworks at Magic Kingdom.

There are special meals available at certain restaurants on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. You can reserve holiday meals up to 180 days in advance by calling (407) WDW-DINE (939-3463).

Note that “holiday pricing” (i.e. higher prices) will be in effect for some restaurants (particularly the buffets and character meals) from mid-December through the first few days of January (holiday season). Other restaurants may charge a premium on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day, so be sure to ask when booking reservations.

Religious services are held on Christmas Day only in the Fantasia Ballroom at the Contemporary Resort. Catholic Mass is held at 8:00 am and 10:15 am. A Protestant service is held at 9:00 am. You may not park at the Contemporary for these services, so to get there, you must do one of the following:

New Year’s Eve

First, be sure to read our survival guide to visiting Walt Disney World at Christmas! (The advice also applies to New Year’s Eve.)

Theme Parks

Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios all stay open late on New Year’s Eve and offer extra entertainment, usually including live performances, extra parades and fireworks. These festivities are included in regular park admission.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom closes at the regular time and does not offer New Year’s Eve events since they would disturb the animals. Christmas decorations remain up throughout Walt Disney World through New Year, and generally several days past the first of the year.

Special theme park events for New Year’s Eve are usually offered, including special fireworks, dance parties, live bands, etc.

Cirque du Soleil

Each year, Cirque du Soleil presents special New Year’s Eve performances of La Nouba. Guests receive a limited-edition trading pin. Tickets for these New Year’s Eve performances are more expensive than usual. Click here for more information about La Nouba.

Atlantic Dance Hall

New Year’s Eve at the Atlantic Dance Hall at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort includes a video DJ. You must be 21 years of age or older (with ID) to enter Atlantic Dance Hall on New Year’s Eve, and the event requires a separate ticket.

Special Meals

There are special meals available at certain restaurants on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. You can reserve holiday meals up to 180 days in advance by calling (407) WDW-DINE (939-3463).

World ShowPlace in Epcot usually hosts a buffet inspired by Disney’s animated films Fantasia and Fantasia 2000. Reservations are available from 4:30 pm – 10:30 pm.

Other Disney resorts may offer special New Year’s Eve meals – inquire in advance by calling (407) WDW-DINE (939-3463).

Note that “holiday pricing” (i.e. higher prices) will be in effect for some restaurants (particularly the buffets and character meals) from mid-December through the first few days of January (holiday season). Other restaurants may charge a premium on New Year’s Eve and/or New Year’s Day, so be sure to ask when booking reservations.