‘Tis the season for snowmen, sledding, and snuggling up by a fireplace…unless you live in Orlando, where temperatures are currently in the 80s. So for that real holiday feeling, I flew up north to visit family…and found New York City unseasonably spring-like with near-record highs in the mid-60s. Despite the wacky weather, I was able to able to soak up some of that world-famous Manhattan holiday spirit during a Best Week Ever visit to the heart of Broadway, where some familiar Floridian faces can also be found — along with some frightening ones. Join me now for A Times Square Disney Christmas, with special guest stars Charlie Brown, Geoffrey the Giraffe, and an all-star cast straight from the Island of Misfit toys.
I was one of approximately 1,000,000 people in line for the Hamilton ticket lottery. No, I did not win. I blame Aaron Burr…
Times Square Disney Store
From The Lion King to Aladdin, Disney is all over Times Square, but the Mouse’s flagship store is ground zero for fans of Mickey’s film franchises. Though there is precious little in the Times Square Disney Store that directly relates to the Orlando theme parks, you will find a wide range of almost every other brand of Mouse merchandise, along with a few surprising bargains.
Believe it or not…sometimes not every table is filled months in advance!
It is no secret that making dining plans for an entire Walt Disney World vacation can be a difficult and time consuming task. This task becomes even harder during the busy holiday seasons when Advance Dining Reservations can completely fill up months ahead of time. While we can not stress enough how important the planning process is for dining, touring, etc. (otherwise what would we be doing running a website like this?) we also must admit that there are times when it is enjoyable, and even a relief, to visit Walt Disney World with no plans and to simply “play it by ear.” So even though we can’t really recommend visiting Walt Disney World at the holidays with no planning, we can tell you that if you decide to go this route, you will not be completely out of luck for eating a quality holiday meal. Here are three suggestions for how you might approach the situation (yes, this is a planning guide for a trip with no planning…sometimes we can’t help ourselves.)
Book A Last Minute ADR
As of the morning before Thanksgiving 2015, a quick MyDisneyExperience search of all restaurants at Walt Disney World for an afternoon reservation on Thanksgiving for a family of four yielded plenty of results including restaurants in all four theme parks, Disney Springs and plenty of resorts throughout property, many of which offer special holiday menus. So even with only one day of planning, it is possible to get an ADR for a holiday meal. It should also be noted that Disney is well aware that the vast majority of its guests on Thanksgiving day will be looking for a meal that at least in some way contains turkey, dressing, etc. and some restaurants that normally wouldn’t serve this kind of cuisine add it to the menu for the holiday including Magic Kingdom’s Tony’s Town Square Restaurant and Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Sanaa. Similarly, ham is among the most common standard menu items on buffets and can easily be found on menus throughout property for Christmas and Easter meals. The point being that you may not even need to sacrifice your traditional holiday menu items by booking a last minute ADR at wherever is available.
Ring in the holidays with this video of the 2015 Osborne Family Spectacle lighting ceremony. (Photos/video by Seth Kubersky)
Walt Disney World‘s holiday season celebrations are in full swing, and the final season of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is drawing huge crowds each night to the Streets of America at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Recently, I brought you video of the Spectacle, featuring three full performances from the Dancing Lights. After that posting, some readers wondered whether the small ceremony that kicks off each evening’s illumination is still occurring. Well, wonder no more, because I’ve brought you this complete video of the 2015 Osborne Family Spectacle lighting ceremony:
If there is one disappointing thing about holidays at Universal Orlando it’s the fact that the festivities start so late in the season, especially by comparison. Some of the holiday celebrations at Walt Disney World started as early as November 6th this year, that means that Universal Orlando is basically a month behind. Even comparing to SeaWorld Orlando (whose Christmas Celebration is my absolute favorite holiday celebration in any Orlando theme park) Universal Orlando is two weeks behind (December 5th). So since we still are a few weeks away from the kickoff of holidays at Universal Orlando, let’s take a look at how you can get into the holiday spirit while we’re waiting.
New York and Hollywood Backlots
Here’s the good news. One of the most important parts of getting into the holiday spirit when visiting theme parks, the decorations, are practically fully up right now. Over the next few weeks the finishing touches will be put on, but enough sparkling ornaments and garland decorate the two most festive spots in Universal Studios Florida to put you in the spirit. Every year I love seeing the Christmas trees on the R.H. Macy’s facade and the delicate snowflakes on the Paradise theater facade, both in the New York backlot area. This section of the park is where you will find the big Christmas tree (though during my visit this weekend it was not yet up). While you’re visiting the New York backlot, stop in at Finnegan’s, my favorite theme park restaurant, and very festive to boot!
Disney World has truly spectacular offerings during the holiday season.
It’s no secret that I dress for success when I plan my outfit choices in Walt Disney World – no detail is left out. While this usually refers to some light DisneyBounding, it means something a little different in December, when a cute dress and Mickey ears isn’t enough to get you through the cold evenings in the parks. Thanks to the fantastic holiday offerings, December is one of the most exciting times to visit Disney World. You’ve got Magic Kingdom’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP), Epcot’s Candlelight Processional, and Hollywood Studios’ Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. On top of that, the resorts and parks are decked out in their holiday finest, so even if you don’t want to spring for the extra cost of a party ticket to MVMCP, you can still enjoy the ambiance during the day. Just make sure, as you’re planning for your holiday trip, to give serious consideration to the weather. As unlikely as it sounds, Florida gets COLD at night in December!
I know what you might be thinking, “I’m from [insert cold state here — mine is Michigan]; Florida doesn’t even know what cold is! I walk eight miles uphill both ways through six feet of snow just to get to the Disney Store!” Okay, that might not be exactly what you thought, but it is pretty close to my viewpoint on the subject before my first December trip. Luckily, I followed the advice of others and (even though I scoffed) I packed for the cold weather. And thank goodness I did! Based on that experience, I’m going to give you a breakdown of my 5 must-pack items for cold weather, some tips specific to nighttime holiday entertainment options, and a few final pieces of advice so you can dress for success on your holiday adventures in Disney World!
Collecting mementos and souvenirs can be one of the best ways to encapsulate your vacation for years to come. One of my favorite souvenirs are theme park based Christmas ornaments. No matter what time of year the visit takes place, a Christmas tree ornament is a great way to commemorate a special vacation.
I’d like to share with you some ways to make purchasing, sharing, or gifting a theme park ornament even more special. Let’s also take a look at some special theme park ornaments collected throughout the years.
One of the best ways to make a theme park ornament extra special is to get it personalized. Both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando offer ornament personalization. At Walt Disney World nearly any ornament can be personalized. This can be done at the 12 Days of Christmas store as well as Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe at the Magic Kingdom. Just know that the closer you get to the holidays the longer the wait for your ornament. Pricing runs about $4 per word, name or date, plus the cost of the ornament.
Start celebrating the holidays at the Magic Kingdom with the 2015 Jingle Cruise (Photos/video by Seth Kubersky)
It seems like it was only last week that we were celebrating Halloween…oh wait, it was only last week. Well, never mind the 90 degree weather, the winter holidays have arrived at Walt Disney World! Only days after it was decked out with spirited All Hallows decor, the Magic Kingdom is already dressed for Christmas. And to start the season in safari style, the 2015 Jingle Cruise has docked in Adventureland, bringing holiday cheer to the world-famous Jungle Cruise attraction.
First, let’s take a stroll from the entrance’s poinsettia planter and up Main Street U.S.A., where a towering Christmas tree has made its annual appearance:
The holiday season is upon us here in Orlando! Walt Disney World is always the first of the major theme parks to kick off their festivities. The green light to start getting into the holiday spirit is shining bright, so let’s talk about the holiday festivities at Walt Disney World that need to be on your must-do list this year.
5. Monorail Resorts Tour
Photo by Brian McNichols
Three of Disney’s deluxe resorts await along the monorail loop, as part of the Magic Kingdom’s dominion. These resorts are highly sought after, commanding some of the highest room rates in the area. There are many desirable features here and during the holidays each resort offers their own unique way to celebrate the season.
Each year Disney’s Contemporary Resort offers a large gingerbread display in the Grand Canyon Concourse. This resort has the most kinetic energy and I find it to lack a bit of peace and instead at certain points feel as hectic as the shopping malls are this time of year. Still, the hustle and bustle is a traditional feeling of the season for many.
Hopping on the monorail (assuming it is actually operational) you’ll make a quick pit stop at the TTC before proceeding to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Get ready to say Male Kalikimaka, which is Hawaii’s holiday greeting. The holiday festivities and décor are not as extravagant as you will find in our next stop, the Grand Floridian, but the tropical charm and exotic feel is something you’ll rarely find anywhere else.
The grand finale is the Grand Floridian. This resort sparkles and shines during the holidays. The elegance and grace of the season are reflected in the Victorian Christmas decorations, evoking holiday traditions of a more refined era. Accents of gold, scarlet, and pale peach shine against the deep emerald green garlands. Nearly every Deluxe resort has a multi-story Christmas tree for all to admire. Here the tree is 40 feet high with golden lights and ornaments of doves, harps, bird cages, and other graceful elements.
The main attraction here is the life-size gingerbread house. The detail on this childhood dream come true never fails to impress each year. I’m getting giddy just typing about it. You can view the house from all angles, peer in the windows, and even shell out some dough (pun intended) at the sweet shop inside the house. The treats are pretty pricey, I would recommend picking out one treat to share.
Bonus round: secure a spot at any of the three resorts to catch a performance of Holiday Wishes, my absolute favorite fireworks ever to grace the Magic Kingdom.
4. Epcot Area Resorts Tour
Typically the monorail resorts get all kinds of love and recognition during this time of year, but I think there is a collection of resorts that offer a better experience during the holidays. The Epcot Area / Crescent Lake Area Resorts are much easier to access and tour through. You can walk to each resort or for a seafaring twist hop aboard the Friendships (though not the most effective use of your time).