It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but at Walt Disney World, it’s also one of the busiest. In addition to cooler temperatures and time off school, guests flock to Walt Disney World during the holidays for some Disney magic enhanced with Christmastime extras in all all four theme parks.
But not all parks are equal in their holiday offerings. Let’s take a look at which parks are most worth the cost in dollars, crowds, and effort in making park reservations.
The 2nd Best Park for Christmas – Magic Kingdom
During the holiday season, walking into the Magic Kingdom is akin to stepping inside an old-fashioned Christmas Card. Main Street, U.S.A. is decked in holiday finery, there’s a giant Christmas Tree in Town Square, and not even Scrooge could “ba humbug” the window displays and Christmas-y music loop.
The highlight for many, of course, is Cinderella Castle, which lights up with holiday projections (RIP Dream Lights) after dark.
So, why isn’t the Magic Kingdom the best park for Christmas Day or even Christmastime? Well, even though Walt Disney World is almost back to normal, it still has some room for improvement. While the Jingle Cruise has returned, other attractions that once featured holiday overlays haven’t, such as Space Mountain and the Tomorrowland Speedway.
Also, most of the Christmas-y extras and decor are found near the front of the park; and while the other lands do have a bit of their holiday touches here and there, it’s largely the same as it would be in mid-July. And, many of the holiday activities are reserved for the extra cost Disney Very Merriest After Hours events. .
Now, when it comes to holiday treats, the Magic Kingdom has guests covered from candy apples to specialty Dole Whips to flavored shakes and coffees; and even though they’re fun and made for Instagram, that’s also part of their problem.
However, it’s worth noting that the Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Tree Tavern offers fantastic holiday meals year-round, making it the perfect spot for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day dinner. And both Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table allow guests to dine like royalty inside a castle which is sure to be memorable.
In regard to holiday entertainment, in place of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom this year is the Very Merriest After Hours event. Basically, it’s the slimmed-down version of Very Merry but still offers Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks, dance parties, the Mickey and Minnie’s Very Merry Memories castle stage show, and free cocoa and cookies. The issue here is that it can cost up to $249 per person which is more than what it costs to experience the Magic Kingdom for a full day as opposed to a few hours.
Still, after its final night on December 21, it’s expected that the parade will be offered in the park for free and up through New Year.
So is the Magic Kingdom a great park for Christmas fun and atmosphere? Yes. Although, in 2021, the Magic Kingdom is offering a little less than what it used to with steep prices for extra holiday entertainment; and we haven’t even addressed the crowds!
Since the Magic Kingdom is the most popular park at Walt Disney World, it’s often the most crowded and is almost guaranteed to be at max capacity on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. In addition, the most atmospheric part of the park – being Main Street, U.S.A. – will also be one of the most crowded spaces in the park.
Guests with a Magic Kingdom park reservation on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, or any of the days leading up to the holidays, should approach their visit like they would Christmas morning at home. Get up way too early (take advantage of Early Theme Park Entry if possible!) and attack your to-do list like you’re unwrapping a pile of presents under the tree before the crowds descend.
The Best Park for the Christmas – EPCOT
While most would expect Magic Kingdom to be the top choice, and understandably so, the Disney Park offering the most Christmas bang for your buck in 2021 is EPCOT.
While Cinderella Castle has holiday projections, EPCOT’s Spaceship Earth hasn’t just received a new lighting package as a 50th Anniversary Beacon of Magic, but also a Christmas-themed show after sunset! It’s a stunner.
The park also has its own massive Christmas tree at the entrance to World Showcase, as well as gingerbread displays of the American Adventure and icons from Washington, D.C. inside the rotunda of the American Adventure building.
The decor doesn’t stop there! Most of the World Showcase pavilions have decked their halls with decorations reflecting their history and culture. For instance, the United Kingdom pavilion has traditional Christmas crackers amongst its garlands while Mexico is bright and lively with red poinsettias and pink and purple baubles.
While much of the front half of EPCOT – which was formerly known as Future World – remains behind construction walls, both of the park’s holiday attraction overlays have returned! Guests aboard Living with the Land will experience Christmas light displays as they sail through the various greenhouses while Figment at Journey Into Imagination has appeared wearing his Christmas sweater. Much like Magic Kingdom, guests may also encounter characters dressed in their holiday best nearby as well!
When it comes to holiday dining, EPCOT really shines. Like the Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Tree Tavern, EPCOT’s Garden Grill at The Land pavilion serves up holiday-style family meals year-round, and the park is home to a literal foodie’s paradise of fare from around the globe in World Showcase.
But the real star of the show for many is the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays, which runs from November 26 through December 30. Pop-up holiday kitchens serve sweet and savory items from all around the world representing holidays celebrated both near and far. Even if a guest can’t get a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day advance dining reservation, this festival has more familiar and exotic dishes than even the biggest family gathering.
The Festival of the Holidays also includes a Holiday Cookie Stroll, which rewards guests with a free specialty cookie after having successfully completed the festival’s cookie offerings. There’s also Olaf’s Hidden Tradition Expedition, a scavenger hunt that also offers a reward.
EPCOT and the festival also offers live entertainment for no additional fee. Almost every one of the World Showcase pavilions features Holiday Storytellers who educate and entertain guests about their nation’s holiday legends, from Italy’s La Befana to the United Kingdom’s Father Christmas to the Hanukkah Storyteller.
At the entrance to World Showcase, guests can also hear JOYFUL! A Celebration of the Season, and each night a celebrity narrator is accompanied by an orchestra and choir at the American Adventure’s traditional Candlelight Processional.
The best part is that all of this live entertainment, which is 12 acts in all, are included with your park ticket.
In addition to EPCOT’s vast variety of eats, entertainment, and decor is, of course, the crowd factor. Not only is EPCOT bigger than the Magic Kingdom, but its walkways are wider and most public areas more spacious… with plenty of areas to escape and explore.
Also, even though EPCOT doesn’t have nearly as many attractions as Magic Kingdom, no line or queue is required to explore World Showcase, and much of its holiday entertainment is offered multiple times per day.
No one wants to spend their Christmas vacation trapped in lines or unable to move in a crowded walkway. EPCOT not only offers guests additional space, but a variety of both new and familiar holiday experiences that can be enjoyed on a whim and without the detailed plan of attack required to enjoy other parks. For me, EPCOT is the real winner this holiday season.
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Let’s Hear From You
Do you agree with my pick for best Walt Disney World park for Christmas? Have you visited WDW during the holidays — and if you have, would you do it again? Is there anything you’re particularly looking forward to this holiday season at WDW? Let us know in the comments below…
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