With summer winding down and kids back in school, my mind is already on the next big thing: Holidays! If you have a trip planned to Walt Disney World this Christmas season, you are either at or quickly approaching the double digit dance of your countdown. The holidays are a wonderful time of year to visit- just when you thought it couldn't get any more magical, it starts snowing on Main Street. With all respect to Julie Andrews, here are a few of my favorite things (to see!)
The Magic Kingdom is breathtaking at Christmas. Each year beginning in November, the iconic Cinderella castle becomes even more breathtaking as it is draped in an elegant blanket of sparkling lights. Each night, guests can watch the magical transformation with a short show at the castle stage, and then enjoy the majestic view for the rest of the evening. Periodically, the lights will shimmer, mimicking the glistening of actual snow and ice. NEW IN 2014: The nightly show to transform the castle now features your favorite characters from Frozen, as Elsa creates a beautiful ice scene in "A Frozen Holiday Wish".
On select nights, the Magic Kingdom is host to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This is an after-hours event requiring a separate ticket. Many of the attractions stay open, and with a limited number of tickets sold, the wait times are often shorter than during the day. This is a great way to get into the Christmas spirit, without the freezing temperatures. Complimentary cookies and hot cocoa are served throughout the park, and it even snows on Main Street USA. There is also special holiday entertainment, including a special Holiday version of Wishes, and Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade- both of which can only be seen on party nights.
Once upon a time, a man in Arkansas created a Christmas lights display for his daughter. The family continually added to the display, making each year grander and greater than the last. It became quite a popular attraction with local residents, but eventually grew to be too large and needed to find a new home. The Osborne Family of Spectacle Lights made its way to Walt Disney World in the 90’s, and has continued to transform and become more awe-inspiring each season. The lights have all been converted to LED, and periodically will come alive dancing to the music. You will even see it snow, making the experience even more magical. This is included with your park admission, and definitely should not be missed (although with over 5 million lights, it would be hard to miss!)
A great way to celebrate this holiday season is to catch a performance of the Candlelight Processional at the American Gardens Theater in Epcot. Each night starting in late November, a guest celebrity narrator tells the story of Christmas. The narrator is joined by a live orchestra and mass choir, consisting of cast members and students. The end result is a beautiful, moving performance that best captures the spirit of Christmas. The best way to guarantee a seat to one of the 3 nightly performances is with a Candlelight Processional Dining package, which can be booked at most of the table service restaurants inside Epcot. Guests utilizing a dining plan may use two of their table service credits per person to enjoy this experience. Standby seats for the performances are available, but those with dining packages will be admitted before any standby guests are allowed in.
Another fun activity at Epcot is watching the Holiday Storytellers around the World Showcase. Each country has a performer telling stories of holiday customs and legends in their culture. These are short performances, but very interesting. Schedules for each performer can be found in current Times Guides in the park.
In Future World, you can find the groups “D’Vine Voices” at the fountain stage, performing their inspirational show “Joyful! A Gospel Celebration of the Season.” This talented, soulful group of musicians puts on a great show including both classic and contemporary arrangements. It lasts about half an hour, and I guarantee you will not be standing still once they start singing!
No holiday trip is complete without visiting the resorts at Walt Disney World. Nobody can top Disney when it comes to decorating; you will see this throughout the parks and at the resorts as well. Each resort has a unique Christmas tree perfectly decorated to match the theme and atmosphere, and many of the Deluxe resorts will have a Photopass photographer stationed by the tree to take family pictures. (If you have purchased Memory Maker, this is a great way to get more value out of it!).
If you like gingerbread, you are in luck. You can find a massive gingerbread house display at the Grand Floridian, a gingerbread gazebo at Boardwalk Inn, a giant gingerbread tree at the Contemporary resort, and a gingerbread carousel at Beach Club. Luckily, you can buy delicious gingerbread treats at each of these mouth-watering displays. I definitely suggest dedicating a few hours on your holiday trip to wandering around the resorts and soaking in the fantastic details in the decorations.
From lights to sounds to delicious treats, there are a lot of ways Disney will make your holiday trip extra magical.