Christmas is one of the busiest and most exciting times of the year at Walt Disney World. Despite the unseasonably warm and humid weather all too common in Florida this time of year, the theme parks and resorts are totally decked out in holiday cheer. So, while it may not look a lot like Christmas outside, Disney on the other hand, is well known for their over-the-top extravagant Christmas decorations. You may have seen the Magic Kingdom, as well as some of the resorts spotlighted on the Travel Channel.
Additionally, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party invites you to explore various seasonal activities throughout the Magic Kingdom including a holiday themed parade, festive decor and treats, snowfall on Main Street, and a special fireworks show. After a long day at the parks, it’s nice to keep the festivities going, albeit in a more relaxing manner. Fortunately, all Disney resorts go all out with abundant decor.
Below are the best Disney resorts for anyone seeking to enjoy the holiday ambiance outside the parks.
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Highlight: Rustic mountain ambiance
The attractive wilderness theme, modeled after National Park lodges in the Pacific Northwest, draws many Florida locals to this resort each December. It’s nice to escape the palm trees and hot weather in exchange for pine trees, rustic decor, and a roaring fireplace, if only for a few days. Unfortunately, this means that this resort tends to fill up fast, and therefore, you must make reservations early on in the year.
Around Christmas, this hotel is just magical, especially for anyone longing to spend Christmas in a traditional cold climate. The decorations, the beautiful lobby tree, the pine trees – everything is perfect. As you enter the cozy lobby, you really are transported to another place. You can almost imagine being stranded in a cozy inn during a blizzard (that is until you step outside, and the heat & humidity hit you). For anyone who cannot live without the traditional Christmas ambiance (let’s face it – you can’t have Christmas without cold and snow!), the Wilderness Lodge is your best bet.
More pics of the festive decor
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Highlight: Amazing restaurants and an enchanting overall theme
Animal Kingdom Lodge is Disney’s most unique themed resort as it is built on a wildlife reserve. As soon as you enter the property, you will feel as if you have been transported into the heart of Africa. The interior designers really did a nice job on this one. You will get the opportunity to see over 30 forms of wildlife during your time here including zebras and giraffes. One of the best restaurants in Orlando, Sanaa, is located on-site. This eclectic African/Indian themed restaurant serves excellent food in a beautiful dining room which overlooks the savanna.
While the grand architecture and exotiic decor give this hotel appeal anytime of year, the holiday transformation adds a spectacular festive touch. There is a gorgeous grand tree in the lobby adorned with festive themed ornaments, plus lots of pretty garland and decorations. Overall, this is a great place for anyone who loves animals, unique food, and wouldn’t mind exploring an unusual, yet gorgeous twist on Christmas decor.
More pics of the festive decor
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort
Highlight: Luxurious & romantic vibe
Although the Grand Floridian does not offer the woodsy wintry appeal of the above mentioned resorts, it sure is gorgeous at Christmastime. For anyone not overly nostalgic and willing to forgo a traditional Christmas setting, this resort is quite stunning. The vibe is definitely upscale and romantic. A few of the top rated restaurants in Orlando (Victoria & Albert’s, 1900 Park) are located here. A grand Christmas tree and a massive gingerbread display really make this place feel extra festive.
The bright airy lobby and tropical plants give this resort a special Florida-ish vibe over the others on this list. The decor is very classy and simplistic. As expected, the 14 foot tall gingerbread display draws massive crowds each December. As it has been featured on numerous Travel Channel specials, this is the most popular holiday resort. Enjoy the festive ambiance while indulging in holiday treats and drinks. Add in a lobby pianist playing popular holiday tunes, and you really have a magical experience.
More pics of the festive decor
Disney’s Boardwalk Inn
Highlight: Coney Island style boardwalk
Although the decor is nowhere near as extravagant at this resort, there is a sort of whimsical charm at the Boardwalk Inn. The interior is very festive and colorful with little touches of holiday decor (wreaths, garland) all around the property. In addition to two lobby trees, you will find another gorgeous tree outside. The ornaments are colorful and plentiful, with everything from candy canes and carousels, to flamingos.
The fireplace seating area is especially festive. The perfect place to sit and relax with a drink after a long day at the parks. Another highlight is an annual gingerbread display which replicates the boardwalk. On a side note, this resort is a great place to stay anytime of the year. The Atlantic City style boardwalk, many recreational opportunities, and fun gondola tram service to Epcot, make this a fun & convenient place to stay.
More pictures of the festive decor
Do you need to be a resort guest?
Note: You do not need to be a guest to check out any of the resort decorations. Simply take a free shuttle to the resort of your choice from Disney Springs. Staying at any of the above mentioned resorts is a wonderful experience, however, it will definitely cost you a pretty penny. Simply touring each of the resorts will allow you to enjoy the Disney holiday spirit without shelling out big bucks.
Disney Springs Holiday Decor
If you plan to take the shuttle over from Disney Springs to any of the resorts, you will want to take a walk around and enjoy all the holiday cheer. This entertainment oasis is jam packed with restaurants, entertainment, and shops. The decor this time of the year is absolutely gorgeous. Add in a Disney Christmas shop, festive music, lights everywhere, and a Christmas tree trail, and this is just another fantastic place to add to your Disney holiday bucket list.
The best time to plan your visit
The week between Christmas and New Year’s is typically the busiest time of the year at Disney. Pricing is not cheap this time of year, at the theme parks, nor at the resorts. Book a stay outside of the New Year period to avoid the most hefty traffic. Also, if just touring the resorts, consider visiting in late November-early December to obtain easier photos.
Best mode of transportation
As parking is often unavailable at the resorts due to the massive crowd levels, it is recommended to take a complimentary shuttle from Disney Springs. Shuttles take about 10-20 minutes and will cost you nothing. This is a convenient means of transport during a very busy time of the year. Plan about 1-1.5 hours for each resort taking into account shuttle time. This means if you only have one day, you will want to get an early start!
Where to dine
A few great restaurants/cafes to check out at Disney Springs before/after hitting the resorts.
Earl of Sandwich (Disney Springs) – Awesome quick service sandwich shop with options for vegetarians and carnivores. Features tasty sandwiches, great tomato soup, and nice outdoor patio.
Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC (Disney Springs) – Amazing gluten-free & vegan treats.
Raglan Road (Disney Springs) – Amazing Irish pub which offers great food, a gorgeous dining area, and live step dancing performances.
Planet Hollywood (Disney Springs) – Comfort style American food served in a fun movie themed room.
Sanaa (Animal Kingdom Lodge) – Fun African themed restaurant which serves food with an Indian twist. The decor is exotic and the dining room features a prime view of the resort’s lush savannah. Do start with the Indian bread service (so good!).