We have now entered the best four-month stretch of the year at Walt Disney World. Halloween and Christmas are the two best ‘seasons’ of the year, particularly at Magic Kingdom. From entertainment to decorations to food, and more, it’s a great time of year to be in the parks. We’ll compare and contrast the strengths of each in this post when two holidays collide!
While this post might strike you as something ‘fun’, we are actually writing it with practical intent. Two of our three favorite weeks of the year for visiting Walt Disney World fall within these two holidays, and they are our absolute favorite times of the year to visit Walt Disney World. If you’re going to make multiple visits to Walt Disney World in your lifetime, we highly recommend doing both seasons at some point.
To that end, hopefully this post helps ‘sell’ you on both seasons. Although if you’ve already read our Ultimate Guide to Walt Disney World at Christmas and Guide to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and aren’t already convinced, you might just be a lost cause…
If you’re a first-timer who will only make one visit to Walt Disney World (at least as of right now), hopefully this post helps you choose the season that’s right for you. In our posts about Halloween and Christmas at Walt Disney World, this is actually a pretty common question, so let’s get started in answering it!
Oh, and finally, this should (hopefully?) be a fun comparison. Remember, although there is undoubtedly a friendly fan rivalry between #TeamChristmas and #TeamHalloween, the emphasis should be on friendly and not on rivalry. Just remember, Sandy Claws loves you all…and both holidays!
PARTY TIME! – Without question, the stars of the Halloween and Christmas season are Magic Kingdom’s hard ticket parties: Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. I could do an entire post comparing the two parties and trying to come up with some definitive conclusion as to which is better.
My gut reaction, though? It’s a push. Subjectively, I prefer one of the parties…but I recognize this might be because I prefer that season more. Objectively, I think the other event might have a slight edge due to its entertainment and overall energy. Long-time readers of the blog probably have an idea as to which is which above, but I’m not going to spoil it here.
Instead, I’ll just take the diplomatic approach and say we think both parties are exceptional for different reasons, and whether you prefer one party over the other probably has more to do with your preference in holiday than anything else. Winner: Everyone.
Seasonal Food – Slowly but surely, Walt Disney World has started to realize the advantages of strong seasonal food offerings. This year, they have the best slate of Halloween snacks in recent memory, if not ever. Between Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party exclusives and desserts and candy available outside of the party, there are some good options.
We’re optimistic that, should these Halloween snacks perform well (and why shouldn’t they?), Walt Disney World will roll out more throughout the other parks. That’s probably a slow process that will take years.
In the here and now, Christmas already has numerous treats throughout the parks and in counter service restaurants & bakeries in the resorts, plus the Holidays Around the World offerings at Epcot. From gingerbread cupcakes to seasonal cocktails at the bars of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, there’s a lot that flies under the radar at Walt Disney World in terms of Christmas food.
On the plus side if you’re a fan of character dine, there’s a ‘seasonal dine’ at Hollywood & Vine for both Halloween and Christmas. We did the Christmas version last year, and loved it. Winner: Christmas.
Weather – Okay, so this is not an inherent characteristic of either Halloween or Christmas, but it’s definitely something to take into account. Without question, Christmas is the better time in this regard. It can get a bit chilly by mid-December, but you can always put on more clothing. When the heat and humidity are oppressive in September, there’s not much to be done, aside from hiding in the AC.
Crowds are another thing to take into consideration along these lines, but since both seasons have their dead times (early September and mid-November) and chaotic times (October and mid to late December), that ends up being a push, and not tied as closely to the holiday. Weather, on the other hand, is a clear victory for Christmas. Winner: Christmas.
Special Entertainment – This is a category Christmas should dominate with ease. When you look beyond Magic Kingdom at Christmas, Animal Kingdom has nothing, Disney’s Hollywood Studios has Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!, and Epcot has its Holidays Around the World festivities, consisting of the Storytellers and the IllumiNations: Peace on Earth.
By contrast, if you look outside of Magic Kingdom during September and October, the only special offering is the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Not really a Halloween offering, per se, but with it ending shortly after the end of Halloween season (and before the start of Christmas season), it’s something that will be there during a Halloween trip, so we’ll count it.
Actually, from that perspective, it’s a fairly close call. Food & Wine has become an elaborate event with myriad entertainment (and upcharge!) opportunities, and most importantly, it really changes the atmosphere at Epcot. On weekends, this is not always a good thing as the place can feel like a frat party later in the evenings, but on a cool weekday in mid-October? Food & Wine is an absolute delight.
As good as Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival can be (and that potential still depends upon when you do it, and your personal preferences), it still does not stack up to the collective holiday entertainment at Walt Disney World. Holidays Around the World is an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon, and we always have fun snacking and watching the Storytellers. At the end of the night, IllumiNations: Peace on Earth is the perfect way to end a day in Epcot.
Then there’s Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!, along with whatever other two ‘big new things’ Disney’s Hollywood Studios adds this year for Christmas. Oh, and don’t forget Disney Springs. Last year, its Christmas entertainment was pretty forgettable, but still counts (barely) as better than nothing. Just the fact that Christmas spreads out its entertainment across multiple parks gives it the advantage, even if Food & Wine is the better overall offering. Winner: Christmas.
Decorations – This is where the wheels fall off for Halloween. Whereas that holiday is celebrated exclusively in Magic Kingdom, Christmas is celebrated everywhere at Walt Disney World. All of the other parks get into the act, as do the resort hotels and Disney Springs. Unfortunately, you don’t see Halloween trees with Sharpie Pumpkins going up all over property.
Honestly, even if this category were confined to Magic Kingdom, Christmas would win. Aside from the Pumpkin Mickeys on Main Street (which are cool, but not much) and a scattering of pumpkin scarecrows in Town Square, there’s not a lot of Halloween decor in the parks. Walt Disney World should really take a page from Paris, Anaheim, or Tokyo in this regard.
That leaves Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom as gravy. None of these parks do anything for Halloween, and both DHS and Animal Kingdom have actually stepped up their Christmas decorations game in recent years. Animal Kingdom, in particular, is now a bit of an unheralded gem in terms of its unique and ingenious ‘recycled’ decorations.
When you throw the resort hotels and Disney Springs into the mix, this is a complete landslide for Christmas. Winner: Christmas.
Overall – The ‘Decorations’ category really sums it up. The decorations and background music are what give the parks their festive atmosphere during November and December, and without counterparts during September and October, the parks are devoid of such a ‘ghoulish’ vibe at Halloween. For us, this is the outcome-determinative category that gives Christmas an insurmountable lead and ultimately, a decisive victory.
Fall is still a nice time to visit Walt Disney World, but it’s ultimately best viewed as the ‘fall season’ rather than ‘Halloween season’ in light of how Halloween is (not) celebrated outside of Magic Kingdom. By contrast, November and December most definitely are not the ‘winter season’ at Walt Disney World–this time of year is Christmas through and through.
At the end of the day, we love both. If you’re only going to visit during one of the two seasons, it should absolutely be Christmas. Unless you’re a huge Halloween enthusiast, Walt Disney World has a lot more to offer during the Christmas season.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Do you agree or disagree with our winner in this epic Halloween v. Christmas battle? Which holiday do you prefer? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!