the magic kingdom lit up for Christmas; see the Disney World Christmas Decorations

How to see Disney World Christmas Decorations (on a Budget)

If you’ve never been to Disney during holiday season then you are missing a real treat! My sister and I went recently and wow, what a treat!! Seeing the Disney World Christmas decorations is really something! But, something a lot of people might not realize is that the resorts are just as amazing to see as the parks. And, the beauty of this is that you can see all of this for free (or for low cost)!!

So, I wanted to share with you how we saw the Disney World Christmas decorations without ever going to any of the Disney parks! For this post, I’m going to focus on the main four Disney World resorts (The Contemporary, The Grand Floridian, The Wilderness Lodge, and The Polynesian) and how to get around to see their Christmas decorations. And, we’ll talk about using all the different transportation and what to see at each of the different resorts.

Packing List

Where to Park to see the Disney World Christmas Decorations

If you want to see the Disney World Christmas decorations and you’re not staying on property, you can park at Disney Springs (for FREE) and start your day there. Or, if your time is more limited, you can park in the Magic Kingdom ticket lot and pay the $25 but not buy a ticket to the parks. This will save you a good 30-45 minutes of travel time at each end of your day.

Parking at Disney Springs

As I mentioned above, parking at Disney Springs is FREE!! This is pretty awesome if you want to go do “Disney” for FREE!! So, park your car and head to The Landing to catch the bus that goes to The Magic Kingdom.

Now, this all sounds great, but it will add a lot of time to your day! You will have to wait for your bus to come, and then the bus ride will be about 40-ish minutes. At the beginning of your day that’s not as big of a deal, but at the end of your day when you’re ready to get out of there and get home, it might be a much bigger deal!

Parking at the Ticket & Transportation Center (at the Magic Kingdom)

So, my answer to that is to the dilemma of time wasted by parking at Disney Springs ~ park at the Ticket & Transportation Center. This convenience will cost you $25, but you will have parking for the day close to where you want to be! From the Ticket and Transportation Center,  you can hop on the monorail and you’re off and running! Head to the Magic Kingdom and we’ll start our day there!

Disney Transportation Map

Ideal Route for your Visit

We didn’t have any idea what we were doing when we visited, so we wasted a lot of time fumbling our way through. But, in hindsight, I’ve gotten together a good Itinerary for our next visit and potentially for your visit to see all the Disney World Christmas decorations.

  • Start at the Magic Kingdom – whether you’ve taken the bus over or parked there, this is a great place to start your day! While you won’t be joining the hoards going into the park, it is still fun to see the decorations outside the park. Walk along the waterway and take the sidewalk to the Contemporary Hotel. It’s a short walk, and if it’s a nice day out you’ll enjoy it!
  • Next stop Contemporary Hotel – there are a few different things to see in the Contemporary, but it won’t take too long. Wander through the lobby and see their gorgeous trees, grab a cup of coffee at the coffee shop (I got Mickey in the froth of mine <3 ). See below for what you’ll want to check out at the Contemporary!
  • From the Contemporary Docks, hop on a water taxi and head to the Wilderness Lodge. Check out below what you will want to see here! Then take the water taxi back to the Contemporary
  • Hop on the monorail on the fourth floor of the Contemporary and then head to the Polynesian Resort. You’ll go past the Ticket and Transportation Center again, but the Polynesian is the stop right after that. See below for what we found here!
  • Get back on the monorail and head to the Grand Floridian. I wanted to end at the Grand Floridian because this is the bomb-diggity of the resorts at Disney! The decorations are stunning and not just in the lobby. You’ll want to wander the grounds and check everything out. Then, if you have time, book dinner in the Narcoossee and watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks from your dinner table.
  • When you’re finally done at the Grand Floridian, head back to wherever you parked your car – either Disney Springs (in which case you’ll want to grab a bus from Grand Floridian to Disney Springs) or the Ticket and Transporation Center (hop back on the monorail and get off at the Ticket & Transporation Center).

What to See at Each Resort

The Contemporary

We stayed at the Contemporary for your 24-hour Disney World Christmas decoration tour, so this was our beginning point. At the contemporary, the decorations are lovely. In the lobby, there are a few different Christmas trees you’ll want to see.

the main Christmas tree in the Contemporary hotel
the Christmas tree in the lobby of the Contemporary hotel

Decoration on the Christmas tree at the Contemporary Hotel

Mickey in your Coffee at the Contemporary
Grab a latte while you’re in the lobby!

Also, on the Fourth Floor (this is where the monorail is caught and comes in), you’ll want to check out the Gingerbread House. This Gingerbread House is Cinderella themed and has 18 hidden Mickeys in it. I was able to find 2 – not very impressive, I know!

Cinderella Gingerbread house

Cinderella's gingerbread house at the Contemporary hotel
See the hidden Mickey

On the second floor, you will find the pirates! We went on the Pirates & Pals Fireworks Voyage! If you’ve never seen Disney’s fireworks from the water, it is worth the money!!  And, if you happen to have any young family members that love pirates, they will absolutely love going on this cruise!

Pirate Fireworks adventure

Firework display at Disney World
This is kind of a lousy picture, but you can see how amazing the fireworks are!

The Wilderness Lodge

The Wilderness Lodge was one of our favorite places to hang out in! It is extremely comfortable and was decked for the holidays! There are so many comfortable places tucked around for you to sit and relax. We found several fireplaces hidden around the Lodge with big, comfy chairs in front of them!

the wilderness lodge at Disney World

the Christmas tree at the Wilderness Lodge
the Christmas tree in the lobby of the Wilderness Lodge
fireplace in the lobby of Wilderness Lodge
the fireplace in the lobby of the Wilderness Lodge
another fireplace we found at the Wilderness Lodge
another fireplace I found
secret room at the Wilderness Lodge
see that little secret room up there…
sitting in front of one of the fireplaces at the Wilderness Lodge
hanging out in front of the fireplace in that secret room!

The Polynesian

We didn’t spend much time at the Polynesian, but they did have a very lovely tree in the lobby that you’ll want to see!

the lobby of the Polynesian Resort hotel

Christmas tree at the Polynesian

Christmas decorations at the Polynesian
I love how the decorations on each Christmas tree match the resort!

Christmas decorations at the Polynesian

Luau Minnie at the Polynesian
You’ll want to check out Luau Minnie while you’re here!

The Grand Floridian

The Grand Floridian is just stunning! And at Christmas time, they are the place to visit!! So plan to spend some time here. And, if your timing (and budget) works, you can have dinner at the Narcoossee Restaurant and watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks. It won’t come cheap though! And, if you’re thinking of doing this – make sure you make a reservation ahead of time!! Even if they have open tables, they sometimes won’t seat you without a reservation.

The Lobby

The lobby is fabulous! The tree takes center stage, of course, but the whole atmosphere is upscale and relaxed!

Christmas tree in the lobby at the Grand Floridian

There was a piano player in the lobby the whole time we were there, but I also noticed instruments set up at the other end of the lobby for a band. I’m not sure what their timing is but they would have been fun to hear as well!

bari sax for the band that plays in the lobby at the Grand Floridian

The Gingerbread House

While the Christmas tree takes center stage here, the Gingerbread House is the reason people come! It is just unbelievable!! It is huge and the detail is just incredible!!

the gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian
Gingerbread House at the Grand Floridian – the view from above!

Apparently, when the holiday season is done and they are ready to disassemble the gingerbread house, they take all the pieces to the Disney farm and let the bees help recycle it! You can watch a video about that here.

side of the gingerbread house
Side view of the house

In the back of the Gingerbread House, there is a store that sells..yep, gingerbread! They have ornaments, gift items and of course cookies to eat now!

view from above of the gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian
there is a store in the back of the gingerbread house

The Grounds

Walking around the ground of the Grand Floridian is just lovely! Everything is, of course, beautiful. I mean, this is Disney! But it’s very spacious and relaxed and it felt like we were a world away!  Here are a few of the outside decorations!

swan covered with white lights at the Grand Floridian

deer made of white lights out on the lawn at the Grand Floridian

The Disney World Christmas Decorations

As you can see, there are a lot of wonderful and different decorations scattered throughout the Disney World resorts! Each resort has it’s own style, and that is reflected in the decorations. Some of the resorts had more decorations than others, but it was a lot of fun to go around and see them all.

If you’re a Floridian, it’s an easy day trip to get you in the holiday mood! Whether you pay for parking or not, it’s a great day going through each of the different resorts and checking out the Disney World Christmas decorations!

Read Before you Go

Because I love reading books about a place before I go, here are a few of my favorite Disney books to get you in the mood.

Seeing the Disney World Christmas Decorations

So, if you’re heading to Orlando or if you’re a local, it is well worth your time to spend a day (or even a few hours) to check out the Christmas decorations around the Disney World resorts! You can do it for FREE or low-budget, depending on your time. And, as I’m sure you know, anything that Disney does – they do very well!! If you only have time for two resorts, I would choose the Grand Floridian and the Wilderness Lodge. But, the Polynesian and the Contemporary resorts were worth at least stopping by and checking out!

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  1. I spent a day checking out the same resorts in October and had an equally lovely day. There was a pumpkin decorating contest at the Floridian and other fun details to see. I found a lovely balcony to enjoy the view of the grounds and time to relax and write.

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