13 Disney Christmas Travel Tips Slideshow

13 Disney Christmas travel tips

There's so much to see and do at Disney parks around the holidays. Find out insider tips on how to make the most of your time and how to find the hidden gems and must-sees around both Disney World and Disneyland.

1. Make time for special rides

Besides the twinkling lights and trees that festoon the parks, the Christmas spirit also invades a few of the rides. At Disney World, the Jungle Cruise is renamed the Jingle Cruise. The ride's boats get festive new names, and the guides pepper silly seasonal jokes into their routines. At Disneyland in California, "The Nightmare Before Christmas" takes over The Haunted Mansion and the classic ride It's A Small World becomes even cheerier with a holiday twist.

2. Catch the castle show

With her unflappable popularity and fantastical ice powers, "Frozen's" Elsa is the perfect choice to light up Cinderella's castle for the holidays each night at Disney World's Magic Kingdom. The nightly short show, called "A Frozen Holiday Wish," features appearances from other "Frozen" characters. It ends on a bright note as Elsa illuminates 200,000 white LED lights around the castle.


3. Get on the official party list

Most of Disney World's most magical seasonal offerings take place at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party in the Magic Kingdom, a ticketed evening event that isn't included in regular park admission. The party takes place on select nights throughout November and December. On those nights, the park closes early to those without tickets. The event includes the "Holiday Wishes" fireworks show and two renditions of the megawatt Christmas parade complete with "snow" falling along Main Street USA and an appearance by St. Nick, which many consider worth the extra dough.

4. Guarantee you get in

Disney's elaborate holiday displays and events attract some of the park's biggest crowds of the year. In fact, close to Christmas the Magic Kingdom has actually reached capacity in past years, meaning staff wouldn't let more people in unless they were staying on-site or had a dining reservation in the park. Dinner or dessert packages are key for obtaining reserved or priority seating at first-come, free evening events such as the popular Candlelight Processional.

5. Download the app

Another insider tip is to take advantage of the technology the park offers to maximize your time. On top of FastPasses, Disney World allows guests to order food from their phones. With the My Disney Experience app, you can skip the line at quick-service restaurants by ordering and paying ahead of time and meeting your freshly made food at the "Mobile Order Pick Up" area. The app can also be used to check attraction wait times and find characters in the parks.

6. Snag the swag and photo ops

Many Disney fans brave the holiday season's swelling crowds because of the many exclusive experiences that can only be had at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, including limited-edition yearly merchandise. Another event exclusive is the opportunity for photo ops with rare characters who only come out this time of year and other characters in special Christmas outfits, such as all seven Dwarfs and Jack Skellington as Sandy Claws.

7. Set up a Christmas surprise

Just because you're staying at a Disney World resort doesn't mean Santa Claus can't make a stop for you and your family. The elves at Disney Floral & Gifts can deck the halls for you with Mickey, Star Wars or Frozen themed-Christmas trees delivered straight to your room. They can also deliver special Disney gift bins and stockings while you are away playing in the parks.

8. Visit the luxury resorts

There's plenty of Christmas magic to behold beyond Disney World's parks. The three hotels located off Magic Kingdom's monorail, the Grand Floridian, the Polynesian and the Contemporary, are open to the public and sport jaw-dropping decor, including a life-size gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian. Disney's Beach Club Resort, which is next door to Epcot, houses a life-size chocolate and gingerbread carousel with a different design every year.

9. Scoop up the tastiest treats

Even in the warmer Florida weather, you can enjoy tasty Christmas treats at Disney World. Special holiday-themed desserts, including yule logs, Jack Skellington cake pops and Scrooge McDuck eggnog custard, are for sale throughout Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, on top of the complimentary cocoa, cider and cookies provided during the event. Other confections such as peppermint cupcakes and sundaes are available throughout the day for a festive sugar fix.

10. Book a behind-the-scenes tour

For a non-edible Christmastime treat, Disney offers behind-the-scenes tours of how it decks the halls at both Disneyland and Disney World. On the three-hour Yuletide Fantasy tour in Orlando, guests get to view the massive staging areas where decorations are assembled throughout the year. The other option at Disney World is the illuminating five-hour Holiday D-Lights tour, which gives guests the inside scoop on how Cinderella's castle is lit as well as visits to the park's three most popular lighting events.

11. Check out what’s new

Disney is often updating or adding holiday events. This year, Disneyland's Cars Land is getting a yuletide makeover with Mater's Jingle Jamboree attraction and Luigi's Joy to the Whirl, a holiday takeover of Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters. A new Disney World offering for 2017 is Chip and Dale's Christmas Tree Spree, a $6.99 Epcot scavenger hunt that is a fun, simple game to play while perusing the park.

12. Sneak a peek at the specials

Though the "Disney Parks Magical Christmas Celebration" special airs on ABC on Christmas Day, the live performances are actually filmed in bits and pieces at Disney World throughout the holiday season, so you might get to see celebrities in the parks from the guest areas. Filming days for different parks are announced in advance but don't specify who will be performing.

13. Plenty of post-Christmas fun

While Mickey's Merry Christmas Party ends Dec. 22, the holiday excitement continues well into the New Year. Both Disneyland and Disney World host multiple New Year's Eve parties. And the first weekend of 2018 will see the 25th annual Walt Disney World Marathon. The race spans four parks and attracts runners of all ages from around the world.