Walt Disney World goes big for the holidays.
Even super fans may not know the Magic Kingdom transforms from Halloween to Christmas overnight.
Travel experts told Insider their best tips about Disney during the holidays.
Around the holiday season, Disney becomes a magical experience. At Walt Disney World, fans can see 1,300 decorated trees and 8.5 million lights throughout the resort, according to The Walt Disney Company.
But have you ever wondered what Disney’s best-kept holiday secrets might be?
From Magic Kingdom’s overnight Christmas transformation to when the Christmas parade is actually filmed, here are the tips that travel experts revealed to Insider about visiting Disney during the holidays.
Magic Kingdom transforms into a Christmas wonderland overnight
Christmas at Disney World is already special, Kelsey Capps, a vacation planner for The Magic Travel Company, told Insider, but it surprises people to see the overnight transformation of the Magic Kingdom.
“People are shocked to find out that Christmas decorations go up the very next day after the Halloween party stops,” Capps said.
Magic Kingdom’s famous transformation is a sight to see, but the entire resort is slower to shift fully into the holiday season, Rachael Saldana, a Disney travel-planning expert at Allonsy Travel, said.
“Magic Kingdom is first to change, then Hollywood Studios, then Animal Kingdom changes around the same time, but Epcot is still going through the Food and Wine Festival until mid-November,” Saldana explained. “So if you want the full Christmas experience across the parks, that’s not going to be until closer to Thanksgiving.”
Disney World does not film the Christmas parade on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day
One well-kept secret about Disney’s Christmas parade is that it’s filmed weeks in advance, according to Saldana, who goes by @rachaelplansdisney on TikTok.
“It is an issue that Disney guest services have to deal with every single year — people go to Magic Kingdom on Christmas Day thinking they’re going to get to be on TV for the national broadcast of this parade, and guest services have to tell them, ‘That was three weeks ago, and no, you can’t have a refund,'” Jill Knonenborg, a travel agent who specializes in Disney destinations, told Insider.
For those looking to catch the parade in person, it’s typically filmed in November, Saldana said, so if you go to the park at that time, there’s a chance you can catch it then.
Each resort hotel has its own elaborate Christmas displays
“Disney chefs spend weeks creating elaborate gingerbread house displays, candy displays, sometimes of the resort itself or a Christmas-y, North Pole scene,” she said.
For example, the famous Victorian Gingerbread House at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is 16 feet tall and baked with 1,050 pounds of honey, The Ledger reported. This is by far the biggest and most popular one — and they sell gingerbread out of it.
Saldana’s favorite, however, is at Disney’s Beach Club Resort, where the life-sized gingerbread carousel is functional and features chocolate ponies, hand-painted flowers, candy cane poles, and hand-crafted portraits of Disney characters.
Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, and Animal Kingdom also have their own gingerbread displays, and the one at Animal Kingdom is even giraffe-themed.
The Candlelight Processional at Epcot is a free event included with your park admission
Epcot — which the travel agents we spoke to said is a must-see park during the holidays — has an experience called the Candlelight Processional.
The event features more than 200 guest choirs and several celebrity guest narrators of the Bible story of Christmas.
Amber Travis, a Missouri-based Disney travel agent with Mickey Travels, said even if you’re not a person of faith, it’s still a beautiful performance.
While the performance itself isn’t a secret, some guests may not realize it’s a free event included in your park admission, unless you decide to purchase the dinner package for it.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party becomes a part of the daily programming after December 22
A common misconception is that you can see the Christmas parades and the Christmas fireworks at any time, but you actually need a special ticket for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Travis said.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a time when fans can see a special Christmas parade and fireworks after hours, but it’s also pretty pricey at upwards of $159 for anyone over 10 years old and $149 for those under.
But Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is scheduled to end on December 22 this year, and then the parade becomes a part of the daily schedule, Knonenborg said.
“If your main draw is like, ‘Oh, we want to do all the Christmas things in Magic Kingdom,’ just move your trip up a little bit, and you don’t have to then spend $160 a ticket to go to the special event,” she added.
The decorations at Magic Kingdom may stay up until the beginning of January
One last secret: The decorations at Magic Kingdom tend to stay up a week or two past the holidays and the prices drop significantly, according to Capps, who has a TikTok following of 209,000 followers.
“If you just couldn’t make a Christmas trip happen in December, if you go to Magic Kingdom within the first week or two of January, you might still get to see some of the holiday decorations around the parks before they’ve taken it all down,” she said.
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