Visiting the Disney World Resorts at Christmas is one of those things you’ll want to prioritize for a vacation during the holiday months. If you have never visited Disney during Christmas, you are in for a real treat.
All of the resorts are literally dressed to the nines for the occasion. However, there are definitely a few that stand out a little more than others. These will be the ones you don’t want to miss!
And what better time to talk about Christmas at the Disney Resorts than right now in July? Realistically, we have reached prime planning time for a trip over the winter holidays. Being that we’re halfway through the year, Christmas will literally be here before we know it.
So, I have to ask, have you decided on where you are staying? If not, make sure to get that squared away pretty quickly. Our Disney World Resort Reviews are a good place to start. In the meantime, let’s take a closer look at what you can expect to find at the resorts during Christmas.
Disney World Resorts at Christmas
It’s important to know that every resort at Disney World will be decorated for Christmas. However, some might have subtle decor and a bit of cheer. At the same time, others will have elaborate decorations, requiring an investment of time to see everything in detail.
Usually resort decorations at Disney World begin to go up right after Halloween and are fully in place before Thanksgiving. After the holidays, you can expect decorations to remain in place until at least New Years.
Update: Disney has announced that gingerbread displays will be returning to the resorts this year!
Below are Resorts Gal’s top 10 picks for Disney World Resorts at Christmas. We’ll cover each one in more detail. But if you’re looking for specific information, feel free to use the links provided.
Starting our lineup, I decided to go with Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. I actually spent a week there last year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The decor at the resort was absolutely charming.
All of the colors were vibrant and truly reflected the Caribbean theming of the resort. There were even pineapples and conch shells mixed in with the decor. I immediately fell in love with the pleasant holiday vibe.
Disney’s Riviera is probably not as decorated for Christmas as you or I would like. However, I found that last year’s decorations were stunning nonetheless.
The main tree in the lobby had these beautiful ornaments.
Most everything was silver and gold with a hint of blue mixed in here and there.
While the decorations themselves probably don’t warrant a trip over to the Riviera, the dining options do. So plan a little time to ride the Skyliner over, have a meal, and see the hotel while you are out resort-hopping.
Related: The Riviera Resort Restaurant List
For our number eight choice, I went with Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Part of me wanted to rank this one higher, but overall, there will be more to see at some of the other resorts during Christmas.
I do recommend seeing the outstanding tree that sits out in front of the Contemporary. It is prettiest after dark when it is all aglow.
Personally, I enjoy taking the time to walk out and see it up close. You can also see it fairly well from the Express monorail to Magic Kingdom when traveling from the Transportation and Ticket Center.
As far as decorations go inside the Contemporary, there are several wreaths, trees, and fresh flowers.
There is usually a gingerbread display featuring Cinderella Castle and a few classic characters on the Grand Canyon Course floor. These pictures are from a few years back because this particular display wasn’t available last year.
Most of the resorts will have a recipe posted sharing how many ingredients went into their creation.
On this visit, Cinderella’s glass slipper was available for viewing.
While at the Contemporary, you might enjoy planning a meal at one of their many restaurants. One of our favorites is the California Grill (review), and you’ll need to have advanced reservations. If not, you might find a spot at the bar or lounge area.
You could easily have an early dinner at California Grill, tour all of the Magic Kingdom Resorts to see their Christmas decorations, and then head back up to the restaurant for the nightly fireworks viewing.
Moving back over to the Epcot Resorts Area, we find ourselves at Disney’s Swan and Dolphin. The Swan and Dolphin typically have elaborate Christmas decorations and festivities available.
They even have a website called Santa’s Favorite Resort, dedicated to all of their Christmas activities.
Additionally, Santa and Mrs. Claus are usually available at the Swan and Dolphin on select dates during the holiday season to greet guests and take photos.
The story goes something along the lines that they’ve worked really hard all year and taking a little pre-Christmas vacation. So expect to find both of them in festive resort wear! As the holidays approach, we’ll try to add a little extra coverage of the different items available at the Swan and Dolphin.
Related: Restaurants at Swan and Dolphin
A Hawaiian Christmas sounds kind of dreamy, doesn’t it? That’s exactly the kind of Christmas decorations you’ll find at Disney’s Polynesian. Dreamy…and Hawaiian.
The resort is in the process of undergoing a major refurbishment. All of the work will hopefully be completed before the 2021 Christmas holiday.
While you are visiting the Poly, make sure to plan a meal or make time to pick up a Dole Whip. Often as Christmas Day grows near, you’ll find fun festive characters in the lobby or carolers singing the merriest of tunes. Typically, there is signage available in the lobby that indicates what you might run into during your visit.
Related: Disney’s Polynesian Restaurant Guide
At our halfway point, we stop in at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge for a brief preview of Christmas. The lobby of Jambo house will be completely decked out with the most beautiful tree on display.
It is well worth the trip over to see the tree and all of the decorations. If you would like to see all of the available photos, they are in this Animal Kingdom Lodge at Christmas article.
Additionally, this resort is another much-recommended place to enjoy a meal. The resort’s counter service, The Mara, is listed as one of our top resort quick-service restaurants at Disney.
Related: Restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge
Disney’s Boardwalk always wins me over with their decorations at Christmas. The resort embodies the American spirit and really pulls off the look at Christmas.
From florals to candy canes, there’s an eclectic mixture that somehow all works really well together.
Outside on the main lawn sits the traditional tree that lights up at night.
And typically, there’s a gingerbread display inside the main lobby. This picture is from a few years back but gives you an idea of the display.
Mickey Mouse and Friends are sitting in the window of the Boardwalk Bakery.
Speaking of characters, most resorts will have select Christmas characters greeting guests in the lobbies in the evenings. Christmas character meets at the resorts usually begin about 3-4 days before Christmas Day. And from my experiences, a PhotoPass photographer is usually present to take photos.
Here is Mickey Mouse in his Christmas pajamas.
You do not have to be a guest of the resort to have your picture made. Just get in line and wait for your turn.
Related: Christmas at Boardwalk Inn
The majority of you will definitely want to visit Disney’s Wilderness Lodge for their Christmas decorations. Sure, the resort is stunning on a regular day. But at Christmas, it’s like, “there’s something there that wasn’t there before.”
And the tree is absolutely gorgeous. Make sure to walk up close and take a good look at it while you are visiting. Additionally, you might like to take the stairs or elevator (the one in the lobby) up a few floors to find a nice sitting spot. Each of the floors has balconies with fireplaces, rocking chairs, leather sofas, and more.
These little spots at the Lodge are one of my favorite secret hiding spots when I need to get away for a bit. In addition, there are plenty of wonderful dining options to enjoy a meal here while you are out touring. Hint: Geyer Point (on the water).
#2 Disney’s Beach Club Resort (and Yacht Club)
I’ll be the first to admit; I really went back and forth between our number one and two options for best resorts at Disney during Christmas. However, for the sake of this review and the fact that they are connected, Disney’s Beach and Yacht Club are both coming in at second place.
Over at the Yacht Club, you’ll find an attractive tree adorned with sailboats and yachts.
Everything is so well done here.
Normally, in the lobby, a train station with a Christmas village is set up. Unfortunately, this wasn’t present last year. However, we are hoping to see it return this next season.
The village is intricate with a multitude of scenes. You could literally spend a good hour observing it and still not notice every little detail.
As you can see it’s quite large and takes up an entire corner of the lobby.
Over at the Beach Club, there are plenty of shell-inspired ornaments with colors of seafoam and corals in the mix.
But the real stunner is the gingerbread carousel horse that typically sits in the center of the lobby. This elaborate piece of art is made by Disney chefs and features character-inspired horses each year. For instance, the white one below has a mane and tail feathers that represent Donald Duck.
Holiday treats are usually available at the Beach Club Marketplace.
This last season the gingerbread carousel wasn’t available. However, they did have mini-ones you could purchase.
One of the most memorable was the year they had this Lilo and Stitch-themed gingerbread carousel.
Every little detail represents something from the movie. Even the saddle here is designed to look like a surf board.
And our best pal Stitch, scissors in hand, appeared to be ready for a little pre-holiday mischief.
Hopefully, you can see why I had a hard time ranking this as our number two choice between the train station and the gingerbread carousel. But there’s something about our number one choice that screams Christmas.
Try here for more pictures of Disney’s Beach and Yacht Club at Christmas.
Related: Disney’s Yacht Club Review
It probably comes as no surprise to you that the Grand Floridian is our best Disney World Resort at Christmas. The Grand Floridian tends to be a lot of things, including the most expensive resort at Disney. Maybe it’s the Victorian decor woven into the boughs that adorn the entrance?
Or the bright pops of Poinsettias you’ll find all over the Grand Floridian at Christmas?
Perhaps, it’s that breathtaking feeling you get when you enter the hotel and see the lobby in all her Christmas glory.
It’s really hard to pinpoint, but there’ something extra special about this resort at Christmas.
While I don’t have any decent photos, the Grand Floridian will usually have a tremendous gingerbread house that sits in the lobby at Christmas. Not only that, but guests can buy gingerbread shingles and other treats from a shop that is set up on the backside of the house!
If you had to choose only one resort at Christmas to get a full dose of the holiday spirit, the Grand Floridian would definitely be it.
Related: Restaurants at the Grand Floridian
Final Thoughts on Christmas at the Disney World Resorts
During the Christmas season, the Disney resorts truly come to life in a new way. From themed Christmas trees to noteworthy displays, there is so much extra to see and do. And we haven’t even gotten into all the different special events that will be available in the parks and at Disney Springs.
For those of you wanting to tour the resorts at Christmas, I have two suggestions:
The first is to make plans to see the hotels around dining reservations. For example, you might plan a late morning brunch at Grand Floridian Cafe and then tour the resort before or after your meal. Afterward, hop on the monorail and take the time to see the other resorts in the area.
You can do the same with the Epcot Resorts Area and Animal Kingdom Lodge. Usually, a good time to plan a meal at Animal Kingdom Lodge is later in the evening after your Animal Kingdom park day.
My other suggestion is to plan a full day of Christmas resort-hopping. You might start with a lovely breakfast at Ale and Compass. From there, tour all of the nearby Epcot Resorts and then take a bus to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
After that, you’ll want to make your way over to the Wilderness Lodge. This will probably make a great stopping point for lunch. Moving on, you’ll head back to the Contemporary (there’s a boat between the two) and make your way through the monorail resorts. I’d try to end this with dinner at one of the nicer restaurants and include a fireworks viewing.
A good day of your trip to plan this would be one evening when Magic Kingdom closes early for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (assuming it will be a thing in 2021). Update: Unfortunately, Disney’s Very Merry After Hours will be replacing the party this year. Guests of the After Hours event will get to see the special party fireworks. (The resorts in the area stream the music.) Make sure to read our full guide to Christmas at Disney World in 2021.
Anyway, these are just a few suggestions. You can write down your must-do’s and map them out whichever way works best for your group.
If you haven’t finalized those Christmas vacation plans yet, make sure to check with our friends at Firefly Travels. Don’t wait for a discount to come out before reserving. Instead, make your plans now, and they’ll help you secure a discount when and if they are released.
Additionally, you might enjoy these other articles for planning your next vacation. For example, the Disney Restaurant Reviews includes a list of every dining experience we have available to date.
For those wanting to meet characters, you might like to browse the Disney World Character Meets section of the site. And our guide to Character Meals at Disney World provides useful insight and an overview of every character dining experience available.
Now that we’ve ranked our top Disney World Resorts at Christmas, what do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Is this your first time visiting at Christmas? If so, what are you looking most forward to?