Disney World is all about the theme parks. Especially during the holidays when the parks are filled with Christmas decorations and shows. But Walt Disney World is a huge resort complex, and there are many other things to do year-round. In particular, there are many things to do for Christmas at Disney World beyond the main theme parks.

The homemade gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian Resort - Christmas at Disney!

The homemade gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian Resort – Christmas at Disney!

Christmas Shopping at Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney)

It’s like a giant mall, but far better. This massive outdoor shopping complex really comes to life during the holidays, and it’s a great place to do your Christmas shopping. Everything is covered with decorations and lights, and Christmas music is playing. It is especially nice to visit during the evening and at night. Better yet, Disney Springs is FREE for you to visit and just have a stroll (unless you end up shopping, of course).

Downtown Disney at Night

Disney Springs at Night During Christmas

The Disney Springs complex is spread out into different areas surrounding part of a lake. There are a lot of stores here, most are Disney, but not all of them. You can find a number of great gifts that don’t have anything to do with Disney, if you choose. But besides the stores, there are also a number of restaurants, from casual dining, to fine dining, to entertainment dining. Our favorites include the Rainforest Café for a “volcano” dessert, Bongos Cuban Café for incredible food and Latin Dancing on some nights of the week, the House of Blues for live music and cuisine, and Raglan Road — by far our favorite for Irish food, music, and dance! There is also a main stage on the West Side that has a variety of holiday entertainment.

Downtown Disney Restaurants - our favorite is Raglan Road, an authentic Irish restaurant with food, drinks, live music, and Irish dancers!

Disney Springs Restaurants – our favorite is Raglan Road, an authentic Irish restaurant with food, drinks, live music, and Irish dancers!

Water Slides and Mini Golfing with Santa

We also enjoy visiting Blizzard Beach water park during the holidays. How often can you go swimming or zipping down a water slide in December? Plus, the whole water park is themed for winter / Christmas. The concept of the park is that it was an old ski resort, and a freak warming spell has melted the snow, turning it into an exciting water park! There is always Christmas music playing here because it has a bit of a holiday theme, and you will sometimes see Santa around here dressed in his summer surfing gear!  So we enjoy visiting during Christmas and riding the thrilling slides!

Blizzard Beach

Creative Commons Blizzard Beach” by Jeff Kays is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Right next to Blizzard Beach is Winter Summerland mini golf course. Just like it’s neighboring park, it has a Christmas theme.  The story is that Santa was flying back to the North Pole and discovered that Florida was covered in snow.  So he decided to make a place for his elves to play during their “summer” vacation!  Families will enjoy putting around under the dangling Christmas lights to take on the unique obstacles. Plus, there is also holiday music playing. So it’s a fun way to enjoy the spirit of the holiday, and have a friendly family competition!

Disney Resort “Hopping” During the Christmas Season

Another thing we LOVE to do during a visit to Disney World during the holiday season is to “resort hop.” All of the resorts are decked out in beautiful holiday décor and some of the resorts have special holiday attractions and activities. So we really love to hop on the monorail and Disney buses to go around exploring the different resorts.  Each resort has holiday décor that is a bit different, and tailored to their unique theme and design.

In particular, Disney’s Fort Wilderness resort is one of our favorites to explore during Christmas. This resort is also a camp ground, and campers are encouraged to decorate their spaces. There is also a golf-cart decorating contest and parade, as well as special shows around the property. This is a really great way to enjoy the holiday with your family!

A personal display of holiday decorations at Disney's Fort Wilderness campground for Christmas!

A personal display of holiday decorations at Disney’s Fort Wilderness campground for Christmas! (yes, that’s their motorhome in the background!)

Take Your Time and Enjoy Christmas at Disney Outside the Theme Parks

Our main point in this post is that there are so many things to do outside of the Disney World theme parks, especially during the holidays. The Christmas season can be a very busy time, and the last thing you need is to feel stressed and busy during your vacation to Disney. So take some time to relax and get away from the theme parks.

Enjoy your resort by taking a dip in the pool and a nap in the afternoon. Spend the evening at Downtown Disney doing some Christmas shopping and have a lovely dinner at Raglan Road and watch traditional Irish dancers. And spend a day away from the theme parks riding thrilling water slides at Blizzard Beach, then challenge your family to a game of holiday mini-golf. There really is much more to your Disney vacation than riding Space Mountain.

Spending Christmas at Disney World - and sporting my Minnie-ear Santa hat (which Josh is not so much a fan of).

Spending Christmas at Disney World – and sporting my Minnie-ear Santa hat (which Josh is not so much a fan of).

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