By Carlye Wisel
November 27, 2019
Courtesy of Disney

Believe it or not, the "Happiest Place on Earth" is even more magical during the holiday season.

You can meet Santa, eat peppermint-flavored treats, and take family photos in front of decorated trees anywhere, but with endless entertainment, holiday-themed rides, and a celebration of all cultures, nothing beats celebrating the festive season at a Disney theme park.

With pretend snow falling nightly and eye-popping trees towering over their surroundings, the holiday cheer is always on at Disney’s theme parks. 

Courtesy of Disney

Looking to celebrate the most wonderful time of year somewhere extra special? There’s really no better place than Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Resort in California. Here’s what’s new this year and what’s returning to Disney theme parks this holiday season.

Celebrating the Holidays at Disneyland Resort in California

With oversized Christmas trees and gingerbread abounding, Disneyland’s holiday celebrations are a marvel to be witnessed at both of its Californian theme parks through January 6th, 2020. Themed nighttime fireworks and entertainment spread holiday cheer, and rides like Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Haunted Mansion celebrate the season with updated holiday touches and overlays. 

There’s an all-new Mickey’s Happy Holidays character procession, which brings festively-dressed familiar faces through Disney California Adventure. Plus, It’s a Small World is fully decorated for the holidays with festive lights and scents throughout the classic attraction.

Seasonal Snacks And Treats

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When it comes to seasonal snacks, Disney doesn't disappoint.Try the new grilled cheese that comes stuffed with Kansas-style brisket at River Belle Terrace or the Thanks-Mas turkey sandwich at Jolly Holiday Bakery. Caramel-coconut, toffee, and “santa’s cookies and milk” flavored churros have arrived to Disneyland Resort, and don't miss the churro marshmallow wand — a new park treat dusted with cinnamon-sugar, now available at Disneyland Resort bakeries.

A Celebration of Cultures

Disneyland always makes an effort to honor all cultures and traditions, and this year’s Festival of Holidays brings a new array of food items and entertainment — like loaded latkes and klezmer music honoring Hanukkah and an a capella performance for Kwanzaa — as ¡Viva Navidad! celebrations offer a street party and dishes like pozole and torta al pastor at the Californian theme parks.

Celebrating the Holidays at Walt Disney World in Florida

Walt Disney World is known for its over-the-top holiday hotel decor, which brings themed trees, candy merry-go-rounds, and full-size gingerbread houses throughout the resort. For the first time this year, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge will boast its very own gingerbread cabin made entirely of the sweet stuff. Epcot’s Candlelight Processional offers a traditional live retelling of the story of Christmas, and it’s also the best way to see celebrities at a Disney park — this year Neil Patrick Harris, Whoopi Goldberg, Pat Sajak, and Ming-Na Wen will be performing. Don’t miss Toy Story Land’s decor or the festive holiday show "Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!", performed nightly at Disney’s Hollywood Studios either, as all Disney World celebrations end December 30, 2019.

Animal Kingdom’s Festive Celebration

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom is celebrating the holidays for the first time ever at Walt Disney World this year. Impressive winter animal puppets are already proving to be a crowd-pleaser, with a polar bear, penguins, and other creatures delighting guests daily on Discovery Island. At night, guests can see an enhanced "Tree of Life Awakenings" projection show on the park's centerpiece. Diwali is getting the Disney treatment with illuminating lights honoring the Indian festival within the park’s Asia section. Animal Kingdom’s Africa and Pandora — The World of Avatar areas offer special holiday decor, and DinoLand, U.S.A. brings new, festive character costumes and celebrations.

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

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Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is always a highlight of Walt Disney World winters with its celebratory parade and endless (free!) X-mas cookies, but there’s even more happening at this year’s event. A brand new fireworks show hosted by Minnie Mouse pairs the magic of Christmastime with lively projections that turn the castle into its own gingerbread house, and several rides are re-themed for the holidays. Tomorrowland Speedway adds glowing lights and set pieces, Space Mountain blasts off with a celebratory outer space soundtrack, and Mad Tea Party boasts both holiday music and lights.

Plenty of Festive Foods

Magic Kingdom is packed with new holiday must-eats, from carrot cakes honoring "Frozen 2" to soft-serve floats themed to "Moana." Some of the cheerful bites are exclusive to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party evenings, like chicken tamales and a Christmas cookie sundae, but others, including sugar-dusted mini churros and a red velvet Santa Mickey waffle, are for sale all day throughout the holiday season.

Epcot International Festival of the Holidays offers wintertime bites from around the world, including Caribbean favorites, North African specialties, and New York deli mainstays at pop-up kitchens around the World Showcase from November 29th through December 30.

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