Although Walt Disney World in 2020 is different in some ways then years past, there is still plenty of holiday décor and celebrations to enjoy.
Let’s start with the Magic Kingdom.
There are holiday mini-parades, known as cavalcades, that can be found here. Guests can enjoy Goofy’s Scrumptious Cavalcade, which is Goofy in his chef costume riding a gingerbread house float, which is surrounded by dancing Gingerbread Men. Goofy is joined by Max, Clarabelle Cow, and elves. There is also Santa’s Christmas Cavalcade, where guests will see reindeer, elves, and jolly old Santa himself.
The most elaborate of the cavalcades is Mickey’s Holiday Cavalcade. This cavalcade showcases Mickey and Minnie and has quite a number of characters, some of whom guests rarely see. Geppetto, Pinocchio, Wendy Darling, Peter Pan, Mad Hatter, Pooh, Burt and Mary Poppins, Donald, Daisy, Alice and Wonderland, and Pluto are all part of this Cavalcade. At other times during the day, the same characters stand on the balcony at the Train Station and wave to guests.
The Royal Princess Processional Cavalcade has been around for a while, but they have added garland on the floats, and some princesses are dressed in holiday outfits. The Main Street Trolley is running, with the Dapper Dans singing songs of the season, alternating with Eeyore, Piglet and Rabbit dressed for the occasion and waving to guests.
Additionally, you can see Buzz Lightyear on the stage in Tomorrowland waving to guests as well as Country Bears in Frontierland, high above the crowds, along with Chip and Dale in the same area.
The Muppets have returned, located next to the Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square, doing their show from three windows in the building.
Everything is random; however, I can tell you that all of the cavalcades and the Main Street Trolley appear on Main Street, and all except the Trolley start out in Frontierland, go through Liberty Square, then turn right by the Hall of Presidents, circle around the Hub, and then go down Main Street before disappearing backstage. The Trolley starts by the Hub near city hall and goes to the castle and back again.
Chances are very good you will just happen upon one or more of these things. Listen for the special music that precedes each cavalcade, and you will know it’s on the way.
Also, in the Magic Kingdom, guests can experience the Jingle Cruise, a special holiday adventure that takes the place of the Jungle Cruise attraction in Adventureland. The Jingle Cruise consists of special decorations in the show scenes and a special spiel from the skippers. The queue is decorated, and the boats receive temporary holiday names. You’ll find lots of punny holiday-related jokes as you cruise along. TIP: This is even better at night when the scenes are lit up.
If you are at the Magic Kingdom in the evening, you will see the castle lit up with colorful projections. These designs vary and include festive stripes and dots, a cute Christmas sweater, a jeweled winter castle, and an overlay of red, green & gold ornaments. To make the effect even more enjoyable, there are spotlights and displays on trees nearby that match the displays on the castle.
At Epcot, the Taste of Epcot International Festival of the Holidays is happening. There is a huge tree in World Showcase Plaza (the same one that has been there for many years), as well as a smaller one outside the American pavilion.
There are Marketplace booths open around World Showcase, offering different seasonal snacks and small plates from around the world. Guest cannot eat and walk around as in past years. You must remain stationary while eating or drinking.
There are some seasonal cavalcades at Epcot. Guests can enjoy the Santa Claus Promenade, which consists of Santa Claus riding around World Showcase in his horse-drawn sleigh, waving and smiling. There is also Mickey and Friends Holiday World Tour (Mickey Mouse and his friends dressed in seasonal garb). Additionally, there’s Frozen Holiday Promenade, Anna and Elsa traveling from country to country, waving to guests as they go.
New this year is Olaf’s Holiday Tradition Expedition Scavenger Hunt, which is similar to other scavenger hunts formerly at Epcot. You are given a map, and it’s up to you to find all the things on Olaf’s list as you make your way around World Showcase. There is a small fee for this, but you do get a prize when you return your map. Guests can purchase maps from the World Traveler shop at the World Showcase plaza. It’s a fun adventure and exciting when you spot what you are looking for. If you have trouble finding something, ask a Cast Member; usually, they will give you a hint. If you don’t complete it all, no worries, you will still get your “treasure” when you bring the map back.
The gospel group Joyful is back, performing from the World Showplace stage this year, with new health and safety precautions in place. The stage is roped off to guests, and there are barriers in front of the musicians. The singers also stand at a distance from one another. This group is full of energy and is fun for the whole family.
Speaking of singers, the Voices of Liberty are back at the America Gardens Theater, singing songs of the season, alternating with Mariachi Cobre, the long-time favorite band, usually found in Mexico.
One more special event this time of year at Epcot is the addition of lights and awesome lit-up decorations to Living with the Land, the boat ride in the Land Pavilion. You can enjoy this during the day, but it is really impressive at night. As your boat floats along, you will pass many brightly lit colorful displays added to the various greenhouses.
So what’s happening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios? There is a very nice tree in the Echo Lake area, and Gertie, the Dinosaur, is wearing a Santa Hat.
The same area has huge ornaments surrounding it, as well as retro signs and statues. Most of the major décor is in this one area, but there are smaller decorations throughout the park and in the shops. The bigger streets, Sunset Blvd and Hollywood Blvd, are also decorated.
Guests can experience the Hollywood Holiday Tower Hotel. This is a projection show with scenes from Mickey & Minnie’s Hometown Christmas Tower, Toy Story Christmas Toy Tower, The Muppets Gingerbread Tower, and Frozen Winter Wonderland Tower, plus appearances by the Prep & Landing characters. The Tower of Terror displays this show, and the lights with the name of the attraction are changed to read The Toy of Terror!
So what’s going on at Animal Kingdom? A beautiful event is back this year, the Tree of Life Holiday Awakenings. These are projection-mapping animal stories that start once the sun goes down and continue until park closing. Guests can watch a number of winter stories, accompanied by a holiday-inspired musical score.
Discovery Island Luminaries can be found on Discovery Island, where the area appears to be in the midst of a winter celebration. There are many holiday decorations displayed. These are made by Disney artists and include wireframe bird-shaped lanterns and themed garlands on the buildings in the area. At night this is an especially enjoyable effect.
There are some cavalcades for the holidays at Animal Kingdom. Guests can see the Santa Claus Festive Flotilla, Santa Claus sailing down the Discovery River waving to guests, accompanied by seasonal music. Additionally, there is Donald’s Dino-Bash Festive Flotilla, which has Donald Duck and friends waving as they boat along the River. There are also flotillas with Chip & Dale, Mickey and Friends, and the Discovery Island Drummers.
The Disney Vacation Club Resorts will be beautifully decorated, including trees themed, matching the theme of the resort. You can visit resorts by using the WDW transportation options (bus, boat, monorail, or Skyliner), but keep in mind you will have to return the same way you got there.
A few more tidbits:
- The new Christmas tree popcorn bucket lights up! The tree is white and has Mickey and Minnie holding a wreath. These are found in all four major parks.
- There are quite a number of special holiday desserts available in all four parks.
- Don’t forget to check out the window displays in the merchandise shops. They are all decked out for the holidays.
- Most of the merchandise shops have great decorations inside, some with their own tree. Naturally, there is plenty of seasonal merchandise for sale.
- Disney Springs is also gussied up for the holidays. A fun experience is to stroll throughout Disney Springs and see some of the beautifully decorated trees, featuring “Star Wars,” “The Haunted Mansion,” “The Lion King,” and more. Guests can pose against virtual backdrops featuring Santa and other festive scenes. And be on the lookout—Santa is cruising along the Sassagoula River, the water that leads to Disney Springs. There will also be live entertainers at the Springs, playing seasonal music, and plenty of seasonal merchandise and food options.
So, there you have it! While a few favorites are missing, I think Walt Disney World has done a great job keeping the holiday spirit going. There is a lot to do for guests of all ages; the parks feel and look very festive.
I hope if you’re visiting this year, you have as much fun as I’ve been having!