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Photo Credit: Disney/David Roark

Top 8 Holidays and Celebrations to Experience at Disney World

No one does a celebration or a holiday quite like Disney! Luckily, the chances are that whenever you visit, something exciting will be happening- whether it’s a festival at Epcot, a major bash throughout all the parks for New Year’s Eve, or an educational event during Earth Day, Disney always knows how to make your day a special one.

Editor’s Note: We understand that with the phased reopening of Walt Disney World, some of the advice in this article may not apply if you visit while park hours are reduced, capacity limits and physical distancing are in place, and some of our favorite experiences—fireworks, parades, and character greetings—are temporarily suspended. (You can read everything you need to know about the phased reopening by clicking here). We will continue to share articles that give guidance on a “normal” vacation to Walt Disney World, along with any special changes or instructions you may need to be aware of during the phased reopening to provide the best tips we can regardless of when you are visiting. ~ Chad & Cindy





 

8 – Easter

The fall and winter holidays are so expansive at Disney World that it’s easy to forget about Easter! But there are actually a lot of fun Easter experiences to be found- for one, the Easter Bunny and Mrs. Easter Bunny meet and greet with guests on  Main Street U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom. At Epcot, guests can partake in an Easter Egg Hunt around the park. My favorite Easter activity, however, is looking at the Easter Egg Display in the lobby of the Grand Floridian Resort. The Grand Floridian bakery team spends weeks creating chocolate eggs, each depicting a different Disney scene, attraction, or cast of characters. The eggs are completely edible, weigh 9-to-12-pounds, and stand about 16-20 inches tall. The eggs are usually on display until the end of April, and it’s fantastic to see the detail on each individual egg! Easter Eggs are also on display at the Contemporary, Beach Club, Yacht Club, and Boardwalk resorts.

7 – Villains After Hours

Disney Villains don’t seem to get much love at the parks. That’s why these Villains After Hours events are so popular- it’s a chance for guests to glimpse rare characters, and pay their respects to animation’s biggest bad guys! Villains After Hours is a separately-ticketed event taking place at the Magic Kingdom on select nights, much like the Halloween and Christmas parties. Once in the park, you can ride the attractions with shorter wait times, enjoy complimentary snacks, and purchase villain-themed treats and merchandise. The best part about this celebration, however, is the entertainment- a Disney Villains stage show in front of Cinderella Castle stars Hades and Meg from Hercules, with appearances by several other villains. Guests can also enjoy the Cursed Caravan, where villains and Maleficent the Dragon roam the parade route, as well as unique villainous enhancements to select attractions. If you’re not going to be at Disney for Halloween, then this is a great way to celebrate the spookier side of the parks! 

The Queen of Hearts. Credit: Disney/Matt Stroshane

6 – Earth Day

I may be biased after working at Animal Kingdom, but I love that Disney celebrates Earth Day! While this may be one of the lesser-known events at Disney, there is indeed a “Party for the Planet” held at Animal Kingdom on April 22, which is also the park’s anniversary! Throughout the day, guests can do activities in each land that help connect them to nature. These activities can include animal encounters from Animal Care Experts, unique character meet and greets, special PhotoPass opportunities, and limited edition Earth Day merchandise. And of course, you can’t forget to collect some Wilderness Explorer badges! 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the Disney Conservation Fund, and 25 global wildlife heroes will be showcased for their work during this year’s event. Earth Day is not only a special day for Animal Kingdom, but it’s a fun way to celebrate the environment and all of earth’s living creatures! 

5 – Fourth of July

If you thought Disney went all out for fireworks every night, then Independence Day fireworks will blow you away! Magic Kingdom celebrates America with a special Fourth of July-themed fireworks show over Cinderella Castle, usually on both July 3rd and July 4th. At Epcot, guests can get into the patriotic spirit by meeting specially-dressed characters at the American Adventure pavilion. Epcot then puts on its own star-spangled fireworks show over the World Showcase Lagoon. It can be fun to spend the Fourth of July at a Disney park, but keep in mind that the crowd level and the heat will both be high. If you’d prefer to watch the fireworks from home, the Magic Kingdom fireworks are usually live-streamed for your convenience!





 

4 – Epcot Festivals

Epcot has a very special way of celebrating each season- there is a different festival held for every part of the year. Not only do they have Festival of the Holidays during Christmas, but guests can celebrate late winter with Festival of the Arts, spring with the Flower and Garden Festival, and fall with the Food and Wine Festival. Each festival offers unique food, classes, entertainment, and merchandise, but there are also unique offerings to be found at each one. Festival of the Arts celebrates culinary, visual, and performing arts; Flower and Garden Festival celebrates, well, gardens and fresh food flavors; and the Food and Wine Festival celebrates global cuisine. In fact, it’s rare to be at Epcot when there’s not a festival, so chances are that no matter when you visit, you’ll be able to celebrate at Epcot!

3 – Halloween

If you’re staying at Disney World over Halloween, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is a must-do! It is a hard ticket event at the Magic Kingdom after hours, with rare character meet and greets, creepy attraction enhancements, and a Halloween-themed parade, fireworks show, and castle stage show. Guests can dress in costume and trick or treat throughout the park! This is a super popular event that can sell out quickly, so don’t wait to get tickets! Other ways to celebrate Halloween at Disney includes Minnie’s Halloween Dine at the Hollywood and Vine restaurant in Hollywood Studios (a great character dining experience), and checking out the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campgrounds for a Golf Cart Parade and a campsite decorating contest!

Credit: Disney

 

2 – Christmas

It would literally take a week to write about all the ways you can celebrate the Christmas season at Disney World. Christmas is such a magical time at the parks and resorts, and rest assured you will not be able to experience everything- but that doesn’t mean you can’t try! Every park and resort on property gets into the holiday spirit; at Magic Kingdom, guests can celebrate at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and watch Cinderella Castle transform nightly into a glittering ice palace. Epcot hosts the International Festival of the Holidays, with special booths around the park offering seasonal snacks. Epcot is also home to the wildly popular Candlelight Processional, and it’s always fun to see the holiday storytellers throughout World Showcase. Hollywood Studios has tons of holiday entertainment, such as the “Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!” mixed-media fireworks show and Sunset Season’s Greetings, which includes a projection show on the façade of the Tower of Terror. At Animal Kingdom, you can now find holiday entertainment and decorations in every land of the park, as well as enjoy a “Merry Menagerie” of artisan-sculpted puppets in Discovery Island and holiday-inspired Tree of Life Awakenings shows. The Christmas cheer continues at Disney Springs and the Disney resorts, so make sure to visit every area of Disney during this time of year!

1 – New Year’s Eve

If you’re brave enough to face the crowds, then Disney World can be a pretty spectacular place to be on New Year’s Eve! Magic Kingdom will be open late, with a huge fireworks show lighting up the night sky. DJ dance parties can also be found throughout Frontierland and Tomorrowland. More dance parties can be found at Epcot, and each pavilion in the World Showcase will celebrate as the clock strikes midnight in that country. Guests can pick up complimentary hats and noisemakers as the parks transform into one big party! New Year’s Eve at Disney is the perfect way to send off the holiday season and will be sure to make for a memorable start to the new year.



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About Arielle Tuan

Arielle is a South Florida local who has had some major magical moments happen at Disney World. It started when her family would take drives there every few months, and she and her sister would pretend the Magic Kingdom was their backyard. After graduating college, she worked at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in a Professional Internship for six months; her role as a Conservation Education Presenter allowed her to recruit “wilderness explorers” by educating guests all over the park. After a successful six months of creating Disney magic, she completed Grad School at John’s Hopkin’s University with a Master’s Degree in Museum Studies. During a celebratory trip to Disney World as a new Annual Passholder, her longtime boyfriend Eric proposed to her on the attraction Soarin.’It was this final magical moment that cemented her love of Disney, and established Epcot as her second favorite park (after Animal Kingdom, of course). She got married two years later at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort and has been checking off Disney experiences ever since (visiting Disneyland in California, attending D23, and exploring Disneyland Paris). Despite her degree, Arielle’s main passion is sharing her love of Disney through writing. She has since written two books about her experiences working for Disney through the publisher Theme Park Press and has maintained a Disney/Lifestyle blog since 2016. Arielle can’t wait to continue experiencing Disney with her Prince Eric, and showing others why the magic of Disney is so special!