Calling the holidays at Walt Disney World “magical” seems a bit cliché; after all, it’s magical 365 days a year; you don’t need twinkling lights and Christmas ornaments for that. Yet, there’s something undeniably special about the Christmas season at Disney World. And, since the holidays come early (festivities usually begin in early November), guests have lots of time to experience it all.
At the Magic Kingdom, the “Castle Dream Lights” make the castle appear as if it is covered in ice, with over 200,000 individual lights used to create this effect. This happens every night during the holidays in the park (and runs through early January) at around sundown. Make sure you pick up a times guide when you enter the park and check it as to when the presentation is. The lights will stay on the entire night, but in Disney style, there’s a short stage show that goes along with the turning on of the lights, featuring Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Fairy Godmother, and of course, Cinderella. Plus, hearing the “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd as each portion of the castle is lit up is very special.
If you’re looking for more holiday fun at the Magic Kingdom, then you definitely want to consider attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This separately ticketed event is held on select nights in the Magic Kingdom park and features the Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, a special version of Holiday Wishes : Celebrate the Spirit of the Season fireworks, opportunities to meet lots of Disney characters (in holiday outfits, of course), complimentary cookies and hot chocolate, and best of all, a magical snow fall on Main Street, USA.
Over at Epcot, head over to the World Showcase, where storytellers in each country share their holiday stories and traditions, such as the good-hearted witch La Befana, known in Italy for filling children’s shoes with treats, or the jolly gift-bearer Father Christmas in the United Kingdom. There are meet and greets with Santa and Mrs. Claus in The American Adventure. Kwanza and Hanukah are also celebrated. World Showcase is also a great place to do your holiday shopping and find unique gifts in each country. The must see at Epcot however is the Candlelight Processional, the telling of the story of Christmas by a celebrity narrator accompanied by a mass choir and 50 piece live orchestra. Although it is secular in nature, it can be appreciated by anyone. Indeed, while I do not consider myself religious, or even spiritual, I find this well worth seeing. Note that this is a very popular event with guests, so I would highly recommend you doing the lunch or dinner package that is available to guarantee yourself seating. If you don’t, be prepared to wait in a long line to get in. Holiday festivities kick off on November 26th at Epcot this year, and run through December 30th.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios is sure to brighten your holidays with the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. No, not THAT Osborne Family. The light display was started by the late Jennings Osborne at his family home in Arkansas back in 1986 to fulfill his daughter’s Christmas wish of seeing their entire home in lights. The display grew so large that neighbor’s started to complain and sought to block the display, and in 1995, the entire operation was moved to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where it has continued to delight visitors from around the world. Starting in early November, every evening at sundown, the Streets of America are lit up with over 4 million Christmas lights. Every 10 minutes, the lights “dance” to holiday music as “snow” falls above you. Admission to the display is free with park admission, and this annual event is a must do when visiting Disney World during the holidays.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom may not have a candlelight processional, millions of Christmas lights, or a special holiday party, but that doesn’t mean the holidays aren’t fun there! No, the animals aren’t covered in garland and candy canes, but the park is beautifully decorated throughout, starting with the large Christmas tree you’ll see outside the park entrance, decorated with animal themed ornaments.
Make sure you catch Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade, a safari style parade led by King Louie and Baloo from the Jungle Book. The parade also features many other of your favorite Disney characters, such as Mickey, Minnie and Chip and Dale, as well as stilt walkers and beautifully costumed performers. And be sure to stop by Camp Minnie Mickey, which during the holidays becomes Santa Goofy’s Holiday Village, and is a great place to stop and meet characters in their holiday outfits, and have your picture taken with them!
Once you’ve visited the parks and experienced all the holiday magic, you may feel like there’s nothing left to see or do, but not so. One of the most enjoyable things you can do while visiting Walt Disney World for the holidays is tour the resorts. Many people mistakenly believe that if they are not staying at that resort and/or not eating there, they aren’t to visit the property, but you absolutely are. The best part about seeing the resorts during the holidays is that Disney cast members do a wonderful job of incorporating each resort’s theme into the holiday decorations.
I personally have my favorites to get me in the Christmas spirit – Wilderness Lodge (there’s something about a cabin and a roaring fireplace that says Christmas, and the huge tree in the lobby is amazing); Beach Club (you have to see the giant carousel made of gingerbread and chocolate fondant that actually moves) and of course, Grand Floridian (in addition to a massive tree in the lobby, a giant gingerbread house can be found, selling gingerbread cookies and houses).
Whether you’ll be celebrating the Christmas season at Disney this year or just wishing you were, best wishes for a safe, healthy, and happy holiday!
- Top 10 Holiday Things at Disney World (chipandco.com)
- 2011 Event Details: Christmas at Walt Disney World (chipandco.com)