Spending the most wonderful time of the year at The Most Magical Place On Earth is definitely a recipe for Christmas magic. TravelAwaits Disney experts tell us which Disney resorts do the holidays best.
Seana Beard from Wish Upon a Star with Us Travel; Laura Liden from Pixie and Pirate Destinations® – Travel Agency; Chris Cook-Leitz, owner of On The Road Travel, LLC; and Magical Vacation Planner Sarah Armbruster share their favorite deluxe, moderate, and value Disney resorts to visit during the holidays.
1. Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
“A visit to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort is a must if you are at Walt Disney World celebrating the holidays. This resort pulls out all the stops with not just one, but two features in the lobby — a gigantic Christmas tree and a life-size gingerbread house. While some resorts have a feature tree or gingerbread, the Grand Floridian has both, which makes it worth the trip over for a look.
“Loaded with lights and ornaments, the tree stands majestically in the center of the lobby and is Victorian-themed with a non-traditional color palette. Take the time to get a close-up look at the tree and the baubles that adorn its branches.
“Just beyond the tree, you’ll find the life-size gingerbread house. And, not only can you admire the house, but you can purchase treats as well. The theme of the house changes from year to year, and the Grand Floridian pastry team always outdoes itself.
Pro Tip: “Hop on the Monorail and head to Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Polynesian Village Resort to check out the Christmas décor. It’s a fun way to spend a couple of hours outside of the parks.” — Cook-Leitz
“It’s hard to narrow down a favorite deluxe resort during the holidays because they are all amazing in their own way. I am a huge fan of the gingerbread displays. The Grand Floridian is the most recognized for its life-size gingerbread house. You know you’ve arrived when you step thru the doors. It smells amazing!” — Liden
“Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is my favorite deluxe resort. This resort is absolutely gorgeous on a normal day, but at Christmas, it is even more magical! The tree is a beautiful addition to the Victorian-style lobby and just draws you in. Plus, who can resist getting an up-close look at a life-size gingerbread house?!
“This resort is just perfect for being close to the Magic Kingdom for that extra special Christmas Party on select nights. Staying at this resort keeps the travel time short with littles or even adults that are tired and need to get to dreaming of sugar plums dancing in their heads.” — Armbruster
“To really experience the holiday spirit, visit the Grand Floridian! Close proximity to the Magic Kingdom puts you in the heart of the festivities. The lobby of this grand resort bursts with holiday cheer with the tree at the center. A visit to the life-size gingerbread house is a must, even if you are staying somewhere else.” — Beard
2. Disney’s Beach Club Resort
“What happens when you combine 300 pounds of flour, Disney Beach Club pastry chefs, and Christmas? You get a mostly edible, life-size carousel in the lobby of Disney’s Beach Club resort. For 22 years and counting, the gingerbread carousel has been the centerpiece of Beach Club’s holiday decorations.
“Each year, the carousel has a different theme paying tribute to a Disney story or tradition. The culinary team begins work on the carousel in October so that it’s ready to greet guests in November. Let’s not forget that this isn’t just any gingerbread carousel — it actually spins. The other holiday decor, including trees, greenery, and wreathes, is mostly aquatic-colored and themed and includes an abundance of sea life.
“In many other resorts, a large tree is the centerpiece of the lobby decorations. At Beach Club, the trees and greenery are more understated, though not lacking interest and beauty, so as to not distract from the grandeur of the carousel.
Pro Tip: “On your EPCOT park day, pop out the International Gateway and take the short walk to Beach Club to check out the festive lobby decor.” — Cook-Leitz
“Another favorite is the carousel at Beach Club Resort. The best part is it actually moves. But, I can’t leave out the enormous trees — some of my favorites are Polynesian Village and Animal Kingdom Lodge. Each one is themed perfectly to the resort and is a must-see. I always tell my clients traveling from mid-November to the end of December to take a few hours and visit the resorts to see the trees. It’s so worth it.” — Liden
3. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
“Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is still a deluxe resort, but some would argue that it is somewhere between moderate and deluxe. I would just call it perfection! The lobby is positively stunning with a tree in the center that you just have to stand back and take in. This resort is a destination all by itself with its multiple savannas to gaze at and dining that is top-notch. I would just like to grab a cup of Joffrey’s (coffee) and sit in the lobby close to the fire pit and soak up all of the beauty that this resort has to offer.” — Armbruster
4. Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
“If you want to feel like you are a million miles from the hustle and bustle of the parks and immerse yourself in a rustic, quaint space, head over to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge for a more traditional Christmas feel. The centerpiece of the lobby is the floor-to-ceiling tree, decked out in an abundance of lights and ornaments featuring woodland critters and Native American items and motifs. Garlands and wreaths are plentiful throughout Wilderness Lodge, and there are perfectly placed poinsettias located throughout the public spaces.
“To get a different perspective on the decor, head up one of the stairwells or hop on an elevator and enjoy a really lovely view of the lobby and all of its decorations. There is nothing like finding a rocking chair in front of the six-story floor-to-ceiling fireplace to unwind from your day.
Pro Tip: “Before you settle into a rocking chair, grab a cup of hot chocolate or a s’mores latte from Roaring Fork.” — Cook-Leitz
5. Port Orleans Riverside
“I’m a deluxe girl at heart, but this past year, I did get to see three of the moderate resort trees: Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter, and Caribbean Beach Resort. All beautiful, but I’d have to say my favorite was Port Orleans Riverside. It just looked breathtaking in the lobby.” — Liden
6. Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
“Caribbean Beach has been a constant favorite since the installation of the Skyliner! This resort has fun and vibrant tropical-themed decorations and a great pool (should the weather permit). The Skyliner makes access to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios super easy, and that is incredibly helpful when the parks get super crowded. You can easily escape back to the resort for a break!” — Beard
7. Disney’s Art Of Animation Resort
“Sometimes the value resorts get overlooked at the holidays, but they shouldn’t. They will all be decorated and have their showcase tree in the lobby. Last year, my favorite [was] Art of Animation. The white tree with the colorful ornaments just stood out and really grabbed the animation theme.” — Liden
8. Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort
“I don’t have an actual favorite value resort at Christmas time. I am going to instead say that my family loves staying at Disney’s Dolphin Resort. This is actually not an official Disney Resort, but it is on Disney property. What a gem this one is. The tree in the lobby is absolutely gorgeous next to the chandelier that was added in the last renovation — just beautiful. Plus, this resort is within walking distance or a boat ride to EPCOT, which allows you easy access to the Christmas festivities that are plentiful at this park.” — Armbruster
9. Disney’s Pop Century Resort
“Pop Century is my favorite for the holidays! The tree in the atrium of the lobby has great retro decorations that are super fun. The music floating through the lobby is holiday pop favorites that you can’t help but hum along to. Also on the Skyliner, staying at this resort offers quick transportation to Epcot and Hollywood Studios.” — Beard
Bonus: Disney Springs
“Don’t neglect seeing the Christmas Tree Stroll in Disney Springs. Fifteen-plus trees are all uniquely themed and displayed throughout Disney Springs shopping district.” — Liden