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How to Experience the Holidays at Disney World Without a Special Event Ticket

How to Experience the Holidays at Disney World Without a Special Event Ticket Minnie

I love the holiday season at Walt Disney World. The festive decorations at each park and resort, the specialty food and beverages, the merchandise… all of it. Even living near Disney World, I feel like I can’t get enough of the holidays at Disney. That being said, it might come as a surprise I did not attend either Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party or Jollywood Nights. The reason is pretty simple, I could not justify the price for my family to purchase the extra tickets. The great news is, I have soaked in all of the holiday cheer at Disney without those specialty parties and I will tell you how to do the same!



How to Experience the Holidays at Disney World Without a Special Event Ticket DHS

Decorations, Decorations, and more Decorations



If you are visiting Disney World from November – early January, be sure to build in time to enjoy the holiday atmosphere because it is literally everywhere. Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios have especially beautiful lights and decorations – soak in the magic with a frozen hot chocolate or festive treat because there are tons of those also. The same larger than life decorations extend into the Disney Resorts. If you’re at the Magic Kingdom, hop on the monorail to visit the gingerbread displays at the Contemporary and Grand Floridian. You can also go on holiday themed scavenger hunts at Disney World – the Christmas Tree Stroll at Disney Springs and the Olaf Holiday Tradition Expedition at EPCOT.

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Santa… I know him!

Did you know Santa visits many locations around Disney World? You can visit him at Disney Springs, Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios. Be sure to check out the My Disney Experience App to find his exact location and when/ how to hop in line. Visiting Santa at Disney World is now an annual tradition for my family! Thank goodness for Disney’s PhotoPass and Memory Maker.



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Holiday Attraction Overlays



I would love to see more holiday attractions at Disney World! Jingle Cruise at the Magic Kingdom is arguably the most decorated of all and begins its festive cruises in early November. Jingle Cruise is usually in high demand, so keep this in mind when planning your wait time / Lightning Lane strategy. Also in the Magic Kingdom, the Frozen Holiday Surprise is performed each evening on the Cinderella Castle stage.

Newer to the holidays at Disney, Living with Land – Glimmering Greenhouses at EPCOT is such a treat. This attraction usually features low wait times and is best enjoyed at night when you can really appreciate all of the beautiful Christmas lights.  

I was recently surprised to see the Frozen Sing-Along Celebration in Hollywood Studios also joins in on the holiday cheer. The finale to the show features all the songs from Olaf’s Frozen Adventure – be sure to check it out on Disney+ so you can sing along!

How to Experience the Holidays at Disney World Without a Special Event Ticket Olaf

While not a seasonal overlay, I want to give credit to the Winter Summerland Miniature Golf over by Disney’s Blizzard Beach. If you purchased a Walt Disney World package, admission to this mini golf course is included. The course is over the top Christmas and all things Santa. Be sure to ask your Dreams Unlimited Travel agent if this is included in your package – don’t miss any of the included perks at Disney!

EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays

In my humble opinion, Festival of the Holidays is underrated. While not nearly as bustling as the Food and Wine Festival, this festival hosts some of my favorite dishes. The decorations throughout World Showcase are incredible and the Holiday Storytellers in many of the countries, offer a nice way to stop and enjoy this section of the park in a new way.

Candlelight Processional at EPCOT

The Candlelight Processional is a time-honored tradition dating back to 1958 at Disneyland and is the highlight of the holidays at Disney for me. Nothing fills me with more holiday cheer than enjoying the beautiful Christmas carols and hymns while also hearing the Christmas story retold by a celebrity narrator. The celebrity narrator lineup this year is fantastic, and the message of joy and peace is a nice reminder to give back this holiday season… or at least be polite while on vacation!

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Holiday Dining Experiences

In addition to the countless seasonal treats and beverages scattered throughout all of Disney World, there are ways to dine at Disney and feel immersed in the holiday magic. The perfect example of this is Minnie’s Holiday Dine at Hollywood Studios. Where else can you meet Santa Goofy and enjoy a great buffet? Jock Lindsey’s Holiday Hangar Bar at Disney Springs is also full of cheer with a special holiday menu and an excess of vintage decorations.

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Maybe you didn’t plan a trip to Disney World this holiday season, but you should absolutely make it your New Year’s resolution to visit next year! If you are a Disney fan, visiting during this festive time of year will only make you love it that much more. It did for me! There’s so much to see and do, even if you can’t attend one of the ticketed parties or visit every theme park.

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Hannah Anderson is a Dreams Unlimited Travel Agent, DIS Contributor, former Disney Cast Member, and Orlando local. Mostly importantly, she is a mom and loves spending time in the Disney Parks each week with her family.
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