Don’t think your second trip to Disney World will be anything like the first. As if there wasn’t plenty enough to do already, Disney hosts festivals and special events at its parks year-round. While some events are themed to certain holidays or seasons, others celebrate culture and life in general.
We’ll be checking out all the major events at Disney, meaning that while the smaller ones are awesome, they, unfortunately, won’t be getting a nod. Additionally, we’ll only be discussing events that have already happened at least once meaning the inaugural holiday celebrations at the Animal Kingdom won’t be included here.
Get ready to celebrate! Here are the best festivals and special events at Disney World.
10 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend
Disney has lots of race events, and we won’t be able to cover them all. However, we can’t overlook the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. This popular beginning-of-the-year running extravaganza features multiple races that take place across the Disney World Resort.
Whether you’re a serious competitor or a casual walker, there’s a spot for you. Put those running shoes on!
9 Epcot International Festival of the Arts
Visitors can catch a showing of the Disney of Broadway Concert Series, explore galleries, and take painting classes with a Disney artist. They can also step into life-sized versions of iconic masterpieces, collaborate on a group paint-by-number, and meet some of the artists behind some beloved characters.
8 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival
If you love flowers, gardens, and food, the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is a must. The already beautifully manicured gardens are filled with topiaries and flowers resembling Disney's most iconic characters.
Guests can also sample fresh delicacies made with ingredients grown on-property, rock out to the Garden Rocks Concert Series, and purchase special tour packages. They can even buy gardening gear of their own to take home.
7 Disney H2O Glow Nights
Disney’s H2O Glow Nights, which last over summer from the end of May through August, transform Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park into one heck of a party.
This year, Disney is celebrating Toy Story 4 with specially themed food and characters. Additionally, there’s a splashy DJ dance party, lots of neon lights, and a special area featuring entertainment and drinks for adults only.
6 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
If pumpkins and costume sound appealing, you won't want to miss the specially ticketed Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween party. Lasting this year from Aug. 16 to Nov. 1, the park is transformed into a spooky dream as the day begins to turn into night.
This year, a new Halloween spectacular firework show is debuting. As always, you can dance along to the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular show, listen to tunes from The Cavader Dancs Barbershop Quartet, and watch the exciting Boo-to-You Halloween Parade. Don't forget to dress up as your favorite character, go trick-or-treating through the park, or pose with special Halloween versions of your favorite Disney mascots. The food is also scary good.
5 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
If you like food and culture, this is where you'll want to be. From the end of August through November, the World Showcase and Future World become filled with delectable samplers and drinks prepared by top-level chefs.
Visitors can also participate in wine and cheese tastings, dine with TV chefs, and attend cooking demonstrations for an additional fee. While the food costs money, entrance into the festival is free with park admission.
Disney also hosts the Eat to the Beat Concert Series alongside the event. This year’s performers include Boyz II Men, Kenny G, Boyce Avenue, Lauren Daigle, Plain White T’s and more. You can eat and jam!
4 Sunset Seasons Greetings
Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be getting into the Christmas spirit this year on November 8. Then through the new year, the park will be decking the halls with special effects and “snow” on Sunset Boulevard.
The park’s holiday celebrations will have the Tower of Terror lighting up in festive projections and Christmas songs floating through the air. Each day will also come to a close with the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! firework show which features scenes from Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Beauty and the Beast, Pluto’s Christmas Tree, and The Nightmare Before Christmas.
The spirited event is non-ticketed and comes free with park admission.
3 Epcot International Festival of the Holidays
Epcot’s holiday spectacular comes free with admission and runs for a month from the end of November through December 30. Here, you’ll be able to experience holidays around the world by enjoying decorations, seasonal food and beverages, and an around-the-globe tour given by costumed performers.
You can go on Chip & Dale’s Christmas Tree Spree scavenger hunt, embark on a holiday cookie stroll, or jam out to the JOYFUL! Gospel and R&B vocal ensemble.
The main event is the Candlelight Processional, which has a celebrity narrator telling the Christmas story while backed by a 50-piece orchestra and giant choir. Neil Patrick Harris, Whoopi Goldberg, and Pat Sajak are all confirmed to return this holiday season.
2 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
This ticketed event turns the Magic Kingdom into a festive wonderland. There's a red-and-green firework spectacular, a Frozen stage show, a Mickey Christmas celebration, and an exciting parade. Let's not forget all the incredible characters you can meet or all the seasonal cookies and beverages.
While you're here, you can ride select Magic Kingdom attractions that remain open into the evening!
1 Holidays at Disney Springs
Just because you don't have theme park admission or a special event ticket doesn't mean you can't still enjoy the holidays at Disney World. The Disney Springs entertainment and shopping area offers special holiday attractions including a Christmas tree trail, a gift hunt, and the chance to meet Santa.
There is also holiday-themed entertainment scattered around the park, seasonal souvenirs, and Christmasy treats. You won't want to deck the halls anywhere else!