Disney World Holiday Resort Tour
Disney World decorates for the holidays with such grandeur that it’s impossible to not want to see it all! And the craziest part about it is just how quickly they get it done! In the blink of an eye (or nearly overnight) Magic Kingdom will be transformed from Halloween into a Christmas wonderland!
And while the parks are definitely worth seeing during the holiday season make sure you see the Deluxe Resorts as well!
In this post, you’ll find a plethora of holiday information and what to see while you’re visiting including a complete touring plan of the resorts you should visit to take in the massive Christmas and holiday decor! Did I mention you could see them all for free?
Disney Worlds 9 Iconic Christmas Trees
Disney World is home to 9 Iconic Christmas Trees. Trees whose size will leave you wondering just how big they really are. Only 3 of those trees are inside the parks meaning you can visit the other 6 without ever purchasing a park ticket!
Below I’ll share where to find them and how to spot Magic Kingdoms and Epcot’s without ever entering the park.
- Grand Floridian Resort, main lobby
- Magic Kingdom – Main Street Plaza
- Contemporary Resort, out front of the resort
- Wilderness Lodge grand lobby
- Animal Kingdom, out front of the main gates (no park ticket needed to see it)
- Animal Kingdom Lodge grand lobby
- Hollywood Studios in the middle of Echo Lake
- Disney Springs near Once Upon A Toy
- Epcot entering World Showcase
Disney Deluxe Resorts Holiday Tour
You should start your Disney holiday tour at one of Disney’s three monorail resorts. Disney’s Contemporary, Grand Floridian or Polynesian. As you may know by now my most favorite resort on property is the Polynesian so I typically start everything there! Um, Captain Cooks for lunch or dinner anyone?
Stop One: Disney’s Polynesian Resort
This resort is not grand in Christmas decor but is worth a quick look in route. There are several trees throughout the resort but the two that stand out the most to me are the entry trees made with your less traditional pine tree and more along of the lines of tropical plants you might actually find in a warmer climate.
Once inside you’ll find the main tree which is not overly large but has Polynesian details throughout it. Don’t forget to wander over and take your picture with the Tiki Statue in the middle of the lobby who will also have some holiday flare added to him.
From the second floor of the Polynesian grab the monorail to your next stop Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and hold your breath because this one is spectacular!
Stop Two: Disney’s Grand Floridian
As you enter the Grand Floridian from the second floor where you’ve disembarked the monorail you’ll walk into a gorgeous classic Christmas tree that stands more than three stories tall! This is one of the nine iconic trees Disney World has to showcase. This tree is stunning!
Take a look around from the second floor at the splendor that the Grand Floridian has to offer for the holidays. It is, in essence, the quintessential Christmas. Practically perfect in every way!
Take notice the life-size Gingerbread House to the left and then wander down the grand staircase on the right so that you can get up close and take in all of the many details!
After looking at ALL of the little details get in line to purchase a decadent treat! Yes, it’s true, this Gingerbread House is home to a small treat shop for the holidays. It’s filled with cookies, gingerbread shingles and if you’re really excited about the gingerbread house you can take home your very own miniature version! But you better be prepared for the price tag that these handmade miniatures demand! Yikes!
After grabbing your treat wander slowly around the house and spy all of its little details. The amazing artisans have left no detail behind. Then take a gander at the sign nearby telling you the sheer masses of ingredients and time it took to concoct this beautiful Disney holiday icon! And yes, it’s baked and built new each year! In fact this year, 2018 the gingerbread house is celebrating its 20th year! I wonder if Disney has anything up its sleeve for this big year! I’ll keep you posted!
Once you’ve taken in all the details your eyes can hold, (don’t forget to look around at the garland, wreaths and other holiday decor throughout the lobby) poke your head out back to see what seems like millions of poinsettias planted just for the holiday season! Then head back upstairs to board the monorail to your third stop, Disney’s Contemporary Resort!
NOTE: As you ride the monorail from the Grand Floridian to Disney’s Contemporary and past Magic Kingdom keep your eyes peaked towards the park! You’ll be able to see one of the 4 iconic trees that stands inside Magic Kingdom! It’s the only shot you’ll have to see it without purchasing a park ticket or ticket to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party!
Then as soon as you’ve spotted it turn your head to the right to see another of Disney’s Iconic Trees that stands out front of Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
Stop Three: Disney’s Contemporary Resort
After hopping off the monorail you will be guided towards the down escalator. Once you’re off head to the center of the Contemporary’s grand concourse. If you’re not familiar there is a large mosaic mural by Mary Blair that goes from floor to ceiling. If you wander behind Fantasias you’ll find some of Disney’s most beloved princesses their large gingerbread castle.
Nearby are the cute little snowgies from the Frozen Short “Frozen Fever” and if you keep on looking you’ll also find our favorite snowman Olaf and a sandcastle! Because everything is better in S.U.M.M.E.R!!! I couldn’t agree more Olaf!
The fun part about this whole scene is the style in which it’s drawn up. The doll-like faces are similar to those you’d see in It’s A Small World which makes for a fun new rendition of these popular characters!
After seeing all the Frozen you can stand either head to the front of the resort (follow the signs to the lobby and check in) to go out front and see Contemporary’s large iconic Christmas tree you can head out back to the marina where you will catch a boat to our next stop, Wilderness Lodge. (follow the signs to the dock or pool)
Stop Four: Wilderness Lodge
If buffalo check is your thing then Wilderness Lodge is the resort stop for you. All of the holiday decor is woodsy in nature complete with chipmunk ornaments on the trees. I”m pretty positive these little woodsy friends helped decorate the whole place!
When you get to the main lobby you’ll see another of Disney’s iconic trees. This one stands nearly four stories tall and has oversized ornaments telling its story. The balconies are draped in festive garland and the entry is covered with white lit grapevine trees.
Snap your picture in front of this beautiful tree and then head into the Whispering Canyon Cafe to see the wagon wheel wreaths which just happen to be a favorite of mine. My other favorite detail here is the red cardinal ribbon that is on the swags inside the entry vestibule. It’s the little details that make it so festive amazing!
If you have time head up the stairs to the second floor (use the staircase by Whispering Canyon Cafe) and cozy yourself up to the fire with a mug of hot cocoa. It’s the only thing we can do here in Florida to really pretend likes it’s cold and wintery outside!
When you’re all done with your hot cocoa head back outside to the marina where you’ll catch a boat over to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campgrounds.
Stop Five: Fort Wilderness Campgrounds
NOTE: Disney doesn’t have over the top decor here but it’s yearly holiday residents do. They’re not really residents of the campgrounds but guests that have returned year after year and made a tradition of decorating for the holidays. Sounds Grizwald I know, but it’s not. It’s fun and festive and best seen at night.
When you arrive at Fort Wilderness you can take a carriage ride around the resort to see the decorations.
Note: Should you choose to skip this stop that’s ok too, just take the boat from Wilderness Lodge back to the Magic Kingdom to catch a bus to our next stop Disney’s Boardwalk Resort.
From Fort Wilderness, you will take a boat to the Magic Kingdom where you’ll catch a bus to our sixth stop Disney’s Boardwalk Resort.
Stop Six: Boardwalk Resort
This boardwalk circus themed resort continues the fun with its holiday decor. It’s not over the top or as spectacular as some of the others we’ve seen but it’s pretty and worth seeing since it’s along the path we’re taking.
Pop inside and have the perfect family picture taken in front of the fireplace which is swagged with garland and flanked by two nicely decorated and good size trees. But beware of the creepy wood carved chairs that sit nearby. They’re there year round but somehow get an extra layer of creep when paired with the holiday decor.
Don’t miss the gingerbread house display that changes yearly. Last year (2017) was a full BoardWalk recreation with individual gingerbread houses for most of the restaurants and shops along the outdoor boardwalk area.
And now on to two of my favorite stops, Disney’s Beach and Yacht Club Resorts.
From the Boardwalk Resort take the outdoor side stairs down onto the BoardWalk on the water.
As you come down the stairs you’ll see Boardwalk Resorts outdoor Christmas tree in the grassy area as you make your way towards the next stop. When you hit the wood plank pathway take a right towards the Boardwalk Bakery and the Beach Club. One of my favorite Disney resorts to stay and play at!
NOTE: If you feel so inclined, stop in the Boardwalk Bakery and enjoy a treat! They are sure to have special treats for the holidays that will be worth trying! Not only will they taste good they’ll be adorable as well!
Stop Seven: Beach Club
Inside Disney’s Beach Club (one of my favs) is an edible yet working carousel. This miniature version of a real life size carousel has three ponies each made of chocolate and fondant with handmade snowflake details and gingerbread pieces. Don’t forget to spy the hidden Mickey’s too!
The trees nearby are not large in size but are made up for it in beachy details. If you love all things beach, mermaids, seashells, and starfish you’ll love these trees! It honestly makes me want a differently themed tree in each room in my house! Can you imagine! Gorgeous yet so much work! The next stop on your holiday resort tour is the Yacht Club. You can get here one of two ways, either taking the long corridor that connects the two resorts (follow the signs to the pool or the Yachtsman restaurant) or go back outside to the boardwalk path and to the entry of the Yacht Club. Your choice!
The weather should be cool enough for an evening stroll and I always love the views of the water and BoardWalk buildings especially at night! Outside would be my recommended way!
Stop Eight: Yacht Club
This resort is home to a Christmas Village with a working train. It is so meticulously detailed that Walt himself would have loved it! Be careful while you’re here you may find yourself staring away into this little miniature winter wonderland and losing all sense of time while simultaneously discovering all of the nods to Disney within the village.
When you’ve enjoyed all the winter village you can stand head to the bus stop and take a bus to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. When you arrive transfer to a new bus going to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Before getting on the bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge walk to the Main Gate of Animal Kingdom to see the 5th iconic tree on our tour.
NOTE: You could add stops at the Swan and Dolphin Hotel that are just next door to the Yacht Club. I personally have not visited these two hotels during the holidays but hear that they have decorations worth seeing. I plan to check it out this year and will update the post when I do so.
If you chose to visit the Swan and Dolphin hotel you would take a bus to Animal Kingdom and transfer to a new bus going to Animal Kingdom Lodge to catch up to my number nine stop.
Stop Nine: Animal Kingdom Lodge
When you arrive at Animal Kingdom Lodge get off the bus at the first stop and main lodge. This is where you’ll find the 6th Disney iconic trees.
The tree at Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of the most spectacular and largest in all of Disney World filling most of its six-story lobby. The tree is covered with African inspired patterns, masks and other ornaments in matching style. This tree is the hardest to get to but one worth making an effort for!
After visiting Animal Kingdom Lodge you’ve completed my free Disney Holiday Resorts tour! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I do.
Returning to Disney’s Polynesian Resort
To get back to the Polynesian Resort where we started you will take a bus from Animal Kingdom Lodge to the Magic Kingdom. When you arrive at the Magic Kingdom you can board a boat or monorail (the boat is easiest) to the Polynesian.
If you haven’t completely run out of steam stop for a Dole Whip float on the patio. Don’t forget to add the rum!
Seeing the Nine Iconic Christmas Trees at Disney World
We’ve covered six of the iconic Christmas trees in our tour of the Disney Resorts and when I say we’ve seen six I say that loosely! Really we only captured the Magic Kingdom tree from the monorail which doesn’t really do it justice!
Magic Kingdoms tree is one of the most fun in my opinion. Maybe because the Castle backdrop makes it that much more magical! To really see the Magic Kingdom tree you’ll need park admission. However, you can get a glimpse of it from the monorail as I talked about above.
When visiting the Magic Kingdom you’ll want to take your picture with the tree and also check out the large ornaments and oversized presents below. Then head down Main Street and enjoy the rest of the holiday decor! And of course, the holiday festivities don’t stop there!
Each evening Elsa will light up the Castle along with Anna and Olaf as they bring the holidays to life. This is a favorite of mine!
And Magic Kingdom during the holidays wouldn’t be complete without an evening at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party! This extra ticketed even happens select nights throughout the season and should seriously be on your Disney bucket list!
To see the tree inside Hollywood Studios you’ll need a park ticket. The tree used to be out front of the Main Gate but moved inside the park into the middle of Echo Lake along with some additional oversize decor.
While there you should also see Sunset Season’s Greetings and Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam and new for 2018 a holiday overlay at the new Toy Story Land.
Disney Springs iconic Christmas Tree is near Once Upon a Toy which just happens to also be near the entrance to Christmas Tree Trail. This trail is located in the old bus loop and is home to more than 15 Disney themed Christmas trees and the path to see Santa inside Santa’s Challette.
If you want to see Santa make sure to sign in early. You will be given you a buzzer to let you know when to return. No more waiting in long lines to meet Santa at the mall!
The final iconic Disney tree is inside Epcot as you enter the World Showcase. To really get a good look you’ll need a park ticket. But if you’d like a quick glimpse just to say you’ve seen it you can take the Monorail from the Ticket and Transportation Center to Epcot.
Before you pull into the Epcot monorail station the monorail will make a large circle through Future World which will give you a look inside the park. If you look out the left window you’ll be able to see the tree in the distance.
If you’re visiting Epcot make sure to go see the tree up close, take a picture and enjoy the Epcot Festival of the Holidays and of course don’t miss the Candlelight Processional that happens three times each evening at the American Garden Theater.
For more planning information search “planning” from the homepage and of course I’m here to help if you need me!