Disney Weekends – A Holiday Tradition

by on November 15, 2010 20 Comments

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My very first blog on Touring Plans was all about doing a Disney World weekend trip.  The reason for that is because in years past, I had always taken a trip around the first weekend in December, as part of a holiday tradition.  There’s so much to do around Disney at the holidays that one weekend was never enough, but we gave it a try anyway. 

These trips were such a part of my holiday traditions that in my computer’s picture folders, there’s one for “Christmas at WDW” every year beginning in 2001 all the way through 2007.  We did not take that  trip in 2008 or 2009 because of other issues, but this year, we’re heading back to Walt Disney World for the holidays, as part of Reunion 2010! 

The things I missed about these trips were the little things.  We would always leave my office in Atlanta on Thursday night and stay at the same exit off I-75 that night, exit 5.  At that exit, there’s a Days Inn and a Travelodge we would stay in, cramming ourselves in a tiny, cheap room because we wanted to save as much money as we could for Disney. 

The next morning, we always ate breakfast at the Cracker Barrel.  They have a holiday sampler every year that includes cinnamon biscuits.  Those biscuits, combined with a cup of coffee, the roaring fire in the fireplace and the fresh pine wreaths hanging on the wall, were a signal to me that Christmas was on the way.

After a hearty breakfast, we drove from Lake City, Georgia to the Ocala Disney visitor’s center (sorely missed), then all the way into Orlando and straight to Downtown Disney for shopping.  I know everyone goes shopping for the holidays, but with a son who’s a diehard Lego fan, a daughter who loves princesses and two devoted Disney fans for parents, in our family Downtown Disney was the shopping mecca.  Hearing the carols around the walkways, grabbing some hot chocolate or buying some candy were all getting us in the mood.

Friday night, after checking into the hotel, we went over to Trail’s End for dinner.  Stuffing ourselves again, it was good preparation for the weekend, as right after, we’d take the boat over to the Magic Kingdom and enjoy Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.  I know it’s overpriced and the quality has gone down over the years, but there’s something magical about the party, especially the parade.  My fondest memories of Disney include sitting at Sleepy Hollow and watching my 2 yr old son gasp with amazement as the parade goes by.

Saturday morning, we’d get up bright and early to ride all the rides in Magic Kingdom that we missed the night before, then head over to Epcot for the rest of the day.  We’d start with lunch at the Garden Grill, so my son could see Mickey.  I loved the food there, and I’m sad we won’t get to experience it that way again.

As a “grown up” I found my appreciation for the holidays at Epcot grew every year. Seeing the different Santas from around the world, browsing the shops to see the holiday traditions and foods and of course, Holiday Illuminations were all highlights.  As well as the Lights of Winter, but I won’t start that discussion. (Bring them back, Disney!)

Notice all the things at Disney that I didn’t mention?  The gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian, the Osborne Lights, touring the resorts and many other things were left off our list for many years.  It wasn’t that we didn’t like these things, it was that we had so little time.  Still, these annual short trips hold so much joy for me, that I am dying to return.  Now, the trip holds extra meaning, because not only will I get to relive these old memories with my children and make more, but I’ll get to meet a bunch of the Disney fan community I have not seen yet.  And I get to do it all while living out my Disney holiday tradition.

What about you?  Do you have any special Disney holiday traditions that you are doing again this year?  Or some that have lapsed that you want to bring back?

Posted on November 15, 2010

20 Responses to “Disney Weekends – A Holiday Tradition”

  • Ryan, I totally agree about those biscuits from the cracker barrel- got a love’em! Will be experiencing Disney at Christmas (mid December)for the first time this year and we are really looking forward to it!- enjoy your trip!

  • I’m dying to get the Cracker Barrel biscuits again this year. Like I said, that’s a big signal to me that the holidays are here again.

    You are going to have so much fun seeing Disney at Christmas. It’s unlike any other time of the year. It’s hard to even describe, but so enjoyable.

  • Hah! Before I read anything, I saw the first picture and thought, “OMG! Where in WDW are they serving a Cracker Barrel-style breakfast!”

    (But, then, I’ve been known to plan road trips carefully, so as to end each day’s drive next to, or at most an exit before, a Cracker Barrel.)

    • Believe me, there’s nowhere in WDW that you can get a Cracker Barrel style breakfast, although Crystal Palace or Trail’s End are your best bets to come close.

      I, too, plan trips to come near a Cracker Barrel. It’s essential road tripping fare.

  • Ryan,

    We live in Southeast Michigan and we drive to Orlando at least once a year. I have to guess we’ve stopped at every Cracker Barrel on the way. We’re going down again the second week in December and are meeting our son, daughter-in-law and 6 year old grandson. It is his first trip to WDW and I can’t wait.

    • Wow! That’s quite a drive, John. I have to say after flying down for my last trip, though, I prefer to drive. It builds the anticipation and puts your transportation in your own hands.

      Meeting your 6 yr old grandson on his first trip sounds like a phenomenal way to celebrate the season. I imagine it will be something you never forget. Have fun!

  • by Sally Kilpatrick on November 15, 2010, at 1:27 pm EST

    I miss that cute little boy, too, but I guess the 8 yr old version is just as fun. Don’t forget that the road trips have always been the best time to break out the Christmas music, although all those dancing in Santa hats and Tigger ears need to be careful they aren’t pulled over! ; )

    • This is a very good point. Jamming out to the Christmas music in your car can be very dangerous if the cops are out. We did get pulled over because we were bopping back and forth in our Santa hat and Tigger ears. A lesson to all of you…

  • We drive down from Ontario every year and always stop at Cracker Barrel.

  • We drive from Ontario every year and always eat at Cracker Barrel. It’s become a “tradition”.

    • Oh, it’s the best of American food. OK, not really, but it’s just great comfort food, and was always a fun part of our Disney driving experience.

  • For the past few years, my husband and I have gotten our picture taken in front of the castle at night when the dream lights are on. Bonus points if we go on a day where it is cold enough for winter wear! 🙂

    We have passes for the first time this year, so I have a feeling we may start new traditions, too.

    • That’s a great one. The castle lights are one of the best additions to the holiday festivities that I’ve seen. Having a pass and being able to go so often is super tempting…be forewarned.

  • Ryan that is neat that you are going to be apart of reunion and to see WDW again at Christmas time. Look forward to seeing you at reunion.

  • by Amy (@AmyBethCombs) on November 15, 2010, at 5:00 pm EST

    Great blog entry you have here, sir! Love me some Cracker Barrel too! When we drive to WDW, we always stop at a CB for a meal. Strap that feed bag on me & bring on the chicken fried chicken! I tell you what, though. For breakfast you can’t beat the french toast, and for the holidays they have the cinnamon french toast. My favorite thing to do at Disney World during the holidays is visit the lobbies in the different deluxe resorts, and see the Osborne Lights. If I can do those things, I’m good!

    • Thank you as always for reading! You and I need to attend a Cracker Barrel breakfast together someday. I prefer pancakes to French toast, but that just means we could share, right?

      I just was able to do some of the Deluxe decorations on my last Christmas trip, and wow! I love the Grand Floridian Gingerbread house, but the Poly and the Contemporary are great, too.

  • I also am hoping to get Len to sign my UG (Ding!).

  • We don’t celebrate Christmas but we always book dinner at the parks on Christmas because disney is open!