11 Reasons to Visit Disney in the Winter
11 Reasons to Visit Disney in the Winter
When we think of Disney World, we usually picture sunny skies, bright colors, and warm weather. However, there’s a whole other side to the most magical place on earth during the winter months.
From November through February, Disney World transforms into a winter wonderland, creating a unique and enchanting experience for visitors. Whether you’re a seasoned Disney enthusiast or a first-time visitor, exploring Disney World in the winter offers a whole new level of magic.
In this article, I’ll delve into the benefits, attractions, and planning tips for a winter visit to Disney World, allowing you to uncover the hidden treasures of this beloved destination during the colder months. So bundle up, grab a hot cocoa, and let’s discover the enchantment that awaits you at Disney World in the winter.
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11 Benefits of Visiting Disney World in Winter
Although you might miss the warm summer days and hot pool weather of central Florida, there are some definite benefits to visiting Disney World in the winter.
1. Smaller Crowds (most of the time)
One of the most enticing reasons to visit Disney World in the winter is the smaller crowds. Unlike the peak seasons of summer and school holidays, the winter months tend to attract fewer visitors.
This means shorter lines for attractions, easier navigation through the parks, and a more relaxed and enjoyable experience overall. With schools in session and many families choosing to travel during warmer months, you can take advantage of the quieter atmosphere and spend more time immersing yourself in the magic of Disney without feeling overwhelmed by crowds.
The only exceptions to the typically smaller crowds in the winter are around the winter holidays. Thanksgiving, a few weeks around Christmas and New Year’s, and the week in which Presidents Day falls will all have much higher attendance.
I visited Disney in early December, late January, and late February, and the crowd levels were fantastic. The one time I was there over the Christmas holiday, the Magic Kingdom hit park capacity at 11:00 AM – so it was quite busy.
2. Cooler Temperatures
If you don’t enjoy the Florida heat (and humidity) in the summer, then the cooler temperatures will be a welcome relief. Although there are a few cold days (and nights – I’ve had to buy a hat before!), most of the winter months are mild, with temperatures ranging from the 50s to the low 70s.
Cooler temperatures are actually ideal for spending the day at the parks as you don’t get as worn out as you will in the heavy humidity summer days.
The one downside to the cooler temperatures is that it may be too cold for you to swim in or lay by the pool, BUT a bonus is it can be terrific hot tub weather which feels fabulous on your tired body after walking around all day.
3. Less chance of rain
Although it can rain in the winter months, it’s much less likely, and if it does it probably won’t be every day of your trip.
By visiting Disney in the winter months, you are missing the hurricane season, so any rain that comes through will be temporary.
On my last winter trip (mid-December), it was a bit rainy one day, but I just wore my lightweight raincoat which kept me dry – and warm!
4. Special Events & Activities
This is one of my favorite parts of visiting Disney World in the winter. Just like they do everything else, Disney goes over the top special events and activities in the winter months.
From November through January, you can immerse yourself in the festive spirit by attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, a special ticketed event featuring exclusive entertainment, a magical parade, and a breathtaking fireworks display.
Epcot hosts the International Festival of the Holidays, where you can explore the cultures of different countries through holiday traditions, delightful food and beverage offerings, and captivating live performances. A personal favorite of mine is the candlelight processional. We were lucky enough to get to see Neil Patrick Harris as the narrator!
Additionally, Disney’s Hollywood Studios presents the enchanting Sunset Seasons Greetings, where the Hollywood Tower Hotel comes to life with projections, music, and snowfall. These special events and activities provide unique experiences that celebrate the joy and wonder of the holiday season, allowing you to create cherished memories that will last a lifetime.
5. Festive Decorations
When it comes to festive decorations, Disney World in the winter is nothing short of breathtaking. As the holiday season approaches, the parks and resorts transform into dazzling wonderlands, adorned with intricate and magical decorations.
From towering Christmas trees bedecked with twinkling lights to whimsical garlands and wreaths adorning every corner, the attention to detail is truly remarkable. Main Street U.S.A. becomes a winter spectacle with sparkling lights and festive displays, while each park showcases its unique theme with holiday touches.
The resorts also embrace the spirit of the season, featuring magnificent gingerbread houses, larger-than-life ornaments, and beautifully themed displays. Walking through Disney World in the winter feels like stepping into a storybook filled with holiday magic, making it an unforgettable experience for visitors of all ages.
Winter Attractions at Disney World
Disney World also steps up its game with special winter attractions such as seasonal rides, unique shows and parades, and more.
6. Seasonal Rides
Living with the Land has always been a favorite ride in my family, but to see it lit up over the holidays was amazing. The greenhouses were spectacularly decorated with thousands of lights. We rode it during the day and then again at night, and it’s definitely more exciting at night!
Over at the Magic Kingdom, we enjoyed the “Jingle Cruise” instead of the Jungle Cruise. The jokes were just as corny, but with a holiday slant, as were the decorations.
A few other seasonal rides include Christmas songs being played during Guardians of the Galaxy (the best ride ever), and holiday overlays on such classic rides as Space Mountain and the Mad Tea Cups.
Note that the holiday overlays end after the Christmas holiday, so you won’t find these during the months of January and February.
7. Shows and Parades
Disney World seems to always have some type of special show or parade happening and the winter months are no exception.
A few examples include special fireworks most years at the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, the Candlelight Processional at Epcot, and more.
There are also several festivals that happen in the winter at Disney World in Epcot. First, the International Festival of the Holidays takes center stage, inviting guests to embark on a culinary and cultural journey around the world.
From November through December, the World Showcase comes alive with themed holiday marketplaces, where you can indulge in delectable international cuisine and sip on festive beverages. Strolling through the park, you’ll be serenaded by the melodies of storytellers sharing holiday traditions from different countries.
Next, in January and February, you can enjoy the Festival of the Arts. You can enjoy stunning visual art, from classic masterpieces to contemporary works, displayed throughout the park.
The culinary arts take center stage with delectable food and beverage booths inspired by famous artists and their works. Interactive workshops and demonstrations provide opportunities for you to unleash your own artistic talents – for example, one year we got to paint a square that would end up as a fun mural
From vibrant paintings (I especially love the chalk art!) to captivating performances, the Festival of the Arts offers an immersive experience that celebrates the magic of creativity and allows you to become part of the art yourself!
8. Character Meet-and-Greets
During the holidays, the characters don their festive holiday attire, so it’s a fantastic time to get some unique pictures!
You might also get lucky and see a few characters that you don’t normally see at Disney World parks, so keep your eyes peeled!
9. Holiday Treats
What would Disney World be like without the special treats? Every park has a few special holiday-themed desserts and drinks to indulge in. I especially loved all the hot chocolate variations on our last visit.
On our last winter at Disney visit, we spent one afternoon checking out all the deluxe resorts gingerbread creations, decorated trees, special treats, and hot chocolates! It was a tasty and fun way to spend an afternoon outside the parks!
10. Happy Cast Members
Just like the guests aren’t as hot and tired after spending all day in the parks, neither are the cast members! Although we’ve always found Disney cast members to be helpful and cheerful, they seem to have just a little bit more energy in the winter – and who can blame them?
With the festive atmosphere and comfortable temperatures, Disney World in the winter is a wonderful place to be!
11. Easier to get Disney dining reservations
Due to the (generally) lower crowd levels, it’s also easier to get the Disney dining reservations you want. You’ll still want to make your reservations on the My Disney Experience App as soon as possible, but if you don’t get what you want, you can keep checking right up until the day you want to dine and odds are you’ll be able to get in.
Planning Your Winter Disney World Vacation
I hope I’ve sold you on the fun you can have if you visit Disney in the winter. If so, there are a few tips and tricks to help you make the most of your visit.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Disney World in the winter is typically during the earlier months, specifically November and December, excluding major holiday periods. During this time, you can enjoy the festive holiday decorations, special events, and mild temperatures without the peak crowds.
Weekdays tend to be less crowded than weekends, providing an opportunity to explore the parks with ease. January and February also offer lower attendance levels, making it a great time to visit if you prefer a quieter and more relaxed experience. However, it’s important to note that some attractions or shows may undergo refurbishment during this period.
Checking the park’s schedule and planning your visit accordingly will ensure you make the most of your winter Disney experience.
Choosing a Resort
Choosing the right place to stay when visiting Disney World in the winter can greatly enhance your overall experience. Consider staying at one of the Disney Resort hotels for the convenience of being within close proximity to the parks and enjoying exclusive perks such as Extra Magic Hours and complimentary transportation.
During the winter months it’s especially nice to be able to walk to the parks or just hop on the monorail versus driving your car to the park, walking from the lot, etc. Plus, the cost of parking at Disney is pretty high.
If you prefer a more budget-friendly option, nearby off-site hotels (called Good Neighbor hotels) also offer comfortable accommodations with shuttle services to the parks.
👉 The new Drury Hotel near Disney Springs has been getting a LOT of attention – with free breakfast AND free evening snacks and drinks it could be a real money-saver!
Additionally, you might want to consider the amenities and features that align with your preferences, such as themed resorts, on-site dining options, and recreational activities.
Whether you opt for the immersive Disney magic or a nearby hotel, selecting the right place to stay ensures that you have a comfortable and convenient base for your winter Disney adventures.
Tips for Navigating the Parks
Navigating the Disney parks in the winter requires some strategic planning to make the most of your visit. It’s essential to check the park’s schedule and plan your visit accordingly, taking note of any special events or shows happening during your stay, as winter hours are often shorter.
As winter is a less crowded time, take advantage of shorter lines by arriving early or if it makes sense, utilizing Genie+. Be sure to stay hydrated and take breaks to warm up, as spending long hours outside can be tiring.
Finally, embrace the festive atmosphere by exploring the holiday-themed attractions and indulging in seasonal treats. By following these tips, you’ll be able to navigate the Disney parks in the winter with ease and maximize your enjoyment of this magical season.
Must-Do Winter Activities at Disney World
Disney World offers a plethora of must-do activities during the winter that are sure to make your visit even more memorable. Some guests consider attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party a highlight, because it allows you to experience exclusive entertainment, a festive parade, and magical fireworks. However, with it’s hefty price, it’s not something I add to my must-do winter activities at Disney World.
Definitely don’t miss the chance to witness the breathtaking transformation of Cinderella Castle during the holiday nighttime show. Exploring the International Festival of the Holidays at Epcot is a must-do, immersing you in diverse cultures through food, music, and captivating storytelling. Riding the “special” rides such as Living with the Land and Jingle Cruise is a must-do!
Make sure to catch the Candlelight Processional, featuring celebrity narrators and a stunning choir and orchestra – this was truly a special event and something we are still talking about months later.
Additionally, if you visit in January or February, experiencing the Festival of the Arts at Epcot, with its captivating displays of visual and performing arts, is a unique winter experience.
Lastly, indulge in seasonal treats like holiday-themed snacks and drinks, making your taste buds part of the winter magic. I was a huge fan of all the flavored hot chocolates – especially the one with peppermint vodka, marshmallows, and peppermint candy at Epcot!
These activities capture the essence of Disney during the winter season and are not to be missed.
Packing tips for visiting Disney in the winter months
Is Disney World cold in winter? It certainly can be, so use these packing tips to keep comfortable.
When packing for a winter visit to Disney World, there are a few essential items to include in your suitcase. Firstly, pack comfortable and warm clothing, including long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, and pants, as well as a waterproof and insulated jacket.
Don’t forget to bring a hat, gloves, and scarves to keep you cozy during cooler temperatures. Sturdy and comfortable walking shoes are a must for exploring the parks, as you’ll be covering a lot of ground.
It’s also a good idea to pack sunscreen and lip balm, as even in winter, the Florida sun can still be strong. Consider bringing a backpack or tote bag for carrying extra layers, water bottles, snacks, and other essentials.
Lastly, don’t forget to pack your camera or smartphone to capture all the magical moments. By being prepared with the right clothing and accessories, you’ll be able to enjoy your winter Disney adventure to the fullest.
FAQs about Disney in the Winter
Is Disney open in the winter?
Disney World is open all winter, however hours at some of the parks might be reduced, so be sure to check park hours before planning your trip.
Is it cold at Disney World in December?
It CAN be cold at Disney World in December, but you’ll probably get to enjoy at least a few sunny and warmish afternoons.
One year when we visited we had to buy hats and wear winter coats as it was quite cold, yet another year I was comfortable with a sundress and jean jacket.
Just be sure to check the weather forecast for when you plan on visiting and pack accordingly – and then add gloves, a hat and at least one jacket just in case!
Do Disney pools close in the winter?
Nope, the Disney pools do not close it the winter, and in fact, are heated enough that kids are typically comfortable swimming.
I personally am more of a hot tub person in the winter, and heading down to the hot tub at my Disney hotel after a long day at the parks is a wonderful way to end a fun day!
What to wear to Disney World in the winter?
The biggest tip I have for what to wear to Disney in the winter is to wear layers. That way if the morning starts out cold, warms up in the afternoon and then cools off again in the evening you’ll be set!
Conclusion: Disney in the Winter
In conclusion, Disney World in the winter is a captivating and enchanting experience that shouldn’t be missed. From the smaller crowds and festive decorations to the special events, shows, and parades, there is something truly magical about visiting during the colder months.
Whether you’re exploring the International Festival of the Holidays at Epcot, attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, or immersing yourself in the Festival of the Arts, the winter season offers unique opportunities for joy and wonder.
With proper planning and packing, you can navigate the parks with ease, taking advantage of shorter lines and enjoying the delightful holiday atmosphere. So, embrace the magic of a winter wonderland at Disney World, create unforgettable memories, and let the enchantment of the season fill your heart.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a returning Disney enthusiast, a winter visit to Disney World is sure to leave you with cherished moments that will last a lifetime.
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