Holiday Happenings Around the Parks

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It’s the most wonderful time of year, especially at Walt Disney World!  Disney is famous for pulling out to all the stops in December and I’m going to experience it all on my upcoming trip!  Today I want to focus on the special events in each of the four major parks.  Each of the parks has its own set of celebratory events for the holiday season.

Let’s start with my favorite park: Epcot. This park has several festive offerings.  Holidays Around the World provides guests with a glimpse into the holiday traditions of the countries represented in World Showcase.  The highlight of this production is the storytellers (appearing in most pavilions).  At designated times these performers will emerge to present the Christmas customs of their home country.  For example, Pere Noel (the French version of Santa Claus) comes out to discuss French traditions.  I’ve only seen a few of these shows, but I’m going to try to see as many as I can on this trip.  Also as part Holidays Around the World, guests can meet Santa Claus and learn about Kwanzaa and Hanukkah at the American Adventure pavilion.

Epcot is also home to one of my favorite holiday events in all of Walt Disney World: the Candlelight Processional.  The show is presented three times nightly from November 27- December 30 and should not be missed.  A cast member choir is joined by a community choir, a full orchestra and a celebrity narrator to tell the story of Christmas through beautiful music in the American Gardens Theater.  Not only does the show get me in the holiday spirit, but it is moving.  Another can’t miss at Epcot is the holiday tag to Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.  Illuminations is always my favorite night time show at WDW, but with the Christmas addition it is jaw dropping.  When the regular show is complete, “Peace on Earth” is played with a special pyrotechnic display.  I’ll try to catch this as many nights as I can on my upcoming trip.

I have to take a moment to discuss something that will be missing from the Epcot holiday landscape this year.  I’m disappointed and saddened the Lights of Winter will not be appearing this year.  For those folks who have not been fortunate enough to visit during the holiday season before, this display was lit along the walkway between Future World and World Showcase and consisted of lighted archways whose lights were choreographed to music.  This has been a tradition at WDW for the last several years, but the plug was pulled this year.  There was something beautiful about the simplicity of it.  Since Epcot is my favorite park, I hate to see such a big part of its Christmas magic disappear.

Moving on, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios the main festive attraction is the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.  Millions of lights have been rigged up along the Streets of America creating a display.  And to top it off Disney has found a way to make it snow in Florida!   Hours could be spent wandering up and down the street taking in all of the different elements of the attraction.  I wouldn’t recommend to rush through the area, but instead slow down and take it all in.  Be aware that this area can be very crowded!  The lights will be lit nightly from November 10-January 4 from dusk until park closing.

Over at the Animal Kingdom the daily parade transforms into Mickey’s Jammin’ Jingle Parade.  The revamped version of the parade will run daily from November 27-January 3.  The decorations at this park are also a lot of fun!  Head to Camp Minnie-Mickey to see several Christmas trees all themed to different Disney characters.  Try to see if you can identify which belong to different characters!  If you have a trouble, cast members can usually help you out.

Magic Kingdom has several holiday treats. Main Street, USA is all decked out and the holiday cheer is overflowing.  On select nights in November and December Magic Kingdom hosts Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.  This hard ticket event charges an extra fee for guests to enjoy Christmas shows, parade, and Holiday Wishes fireworks.  Most of the attractions are also open during the party to ride with fewer crowds.   I’ve attended the party a few times and I have to say my favorite segment is the parade.  If you are attending this year my best advice is to skip the first run of the parade and go to the less crowded second one.  The parades and Holiday Wishes will run daily from December 19th-31st without having to attend the party.  And don’t forget Cinderella’s Castle has been draped in sparkling lights through the holiday season.  I was skeptical when I first heard about this addition, but I have to say I really love it.

So now that I’ve discussed all of the holiday options around Disney World, let’s discuss some of the things I won’t be doing on this trip.   This year we decided to cut out a few of the more pricey events.  We are not going to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party because we’ve gone the last two years and can’t justify the cost.  However, this doesn’t mean we’ll be missing any holiday cheer at the Magic Kingdom.  We’re planning to spend the 19th at this park since that is the first day Holiday Wishes and the Christmas Parade run for the general public.  Also we decided against the Candlelight Processional dinner package this time around.  Disney jacked up the price this year to what we felt was a ridiculous amount (the cheapest dinner is $45 and they do not accept the Tables in Wonderland discount card!).  We decided to try our luck at waiting in the general line.  If we don’t get a seat we won’t be that upset since we’ve seen the show the last few years.  Just as long as I can hear the music in the general area of the American Gardens theater I’ll be happy.

Despite cutting a few things out of our usual Christmas activities, I’m really excited for our trip!  I’ve already discussed some of the details and you can find that entry here.  I hope anyone who gets to make the trip to WDW during the holidays has a great time!  Happy Holidays everybody!

Next week I’ll talk about preparing from my upcoming trip…

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Posted on December 3, 2009

4 Responses to “Holiday Happenings Around the Parks”

  • We were at Disney World for Thanksgiving a week ago, and I found a new holiday favorite of mine:

    Magic Kingdom’s Confectionary (at the corner near the gate on Main Street): pumpkin fudge!
    The bottom has the best soft cookie crumble and the fudge explodes with the taste of pumpkin.
    (It keeps really well, too, so it’s a nice way to bring some Disney magic home).

    • by Kristen Helmstetter on December 7, 2009, at 1:37 pm EST

      Thanks for the tip! I just read a blog post over at the disneyfoodblog about fudge. I’ve never had any at WDW, but might have to give it a shot this time around.

  • Great article. You hit on a very important thing. DISNEY MAGIC IS DEAD!!! With the jacking up of prices (dinner $45/person min. at cleapest rest.) and the cut backs (train, lights, etc)…..OUR family will be skipping WDW this year, and if the improvements dont come, we will not be returning. To those visiting paying huge prices, for a tremendously cut and reduced product all around, you have more money than sense, or haven’t looked at all the other travel options out there.

    • by Kristen Helmstetter on December 7, 2009, at 1:40 pm EST

      Thanks Rhonda! I wouldn’t go as far as you and say the magic is dead, but I know others who feel the same way. I think I’ve gone along with a lot of the recent changes chalking it up to business sense, but the Lights of Winter and the extreme cost of the CP package have really turned me off.