Holiday Happenings Around the Parks

by on November 17, 2010 15 Comments

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The holidays are getting to be in full swing at Walt Disney World so I thought I’d take this week to discuss some of the events and special activities guests can enjoy throughout the parks this week.  I have been lucky enough to make an annual trek to WDW at Christmas time for the last three years.  I’ll be heading down again this year from December 1-6 to take in the holiday traditions around property as well as meet with friends to enjoy the WDWtoday Reunion.  I simply love Christmas time at Disney and it always puts me in the holiday spirit!  I’m really looking forward to making my trip this year to enjoy some of the following activities.

Let’s start with the Magic Kingdom where the halls have been decked for a few weeks now.  The decorations on Main Street are hard to beat.  I just love the garlands strung across the road and the fruit stuffed decorations on the street lamps.  The main tree at the Magic Kingdom is massive and will be placed in the circle near the train station to great guests as they enter the park.  We can’t forget what waits for us at the end of Main Street with Cinderella’s Castle covered in lights to look as though it has been coated in ice.  Every night the Fairy Godmother will light the castle with a little show.  This presentation is a lot of fun, especially with families with kids who I’m sure would just love to see the characters prepare for the holidays.

I can’t talk about Christmas at the Magic Kingdom without telling you about Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.  This hard ticket event takes places on certain nights from November 8th until December 19th. Prices start at about $53 for adults and $48 for kids.  The party features a special parade called Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade and the Holiday Wishes fireworks display.  Complementary cookies and hot cocoa are available at several places around the park so check your event guide maps.  I’ve been to the party a few times, and after taking last year off I’m headed there again this year.  I’m really looking forward to walking down Main Street as it snows with my friends.

Epcot is my favorite park year round, but especially at Christmas time.  I just love seeing all of the nations of World Showcase decked out for the holidays. Holidays Around the World is back again this year and brings performers in most of the countries who present the traditions of the people there.  For example, in Japan … discusses the Japanese New Years traditions since many people there subscribe to Buddhism rather than celebrating the Christian holiday of Christmas.  In select other countries (like Canada pictured) their version of Santa Claus shares their gift giving traditions.  I try to catch as many of these little shows as possible throughout my holiday stay at WDW.  I think I’ve now seen most of them, and I have to say they are really well done and enjoyable.  Your kids will love seeing Father Christmas and Pere Noel and learning what the kids in other countries do on Christmas morning.  Be sure to check Epcot’s time’s guide to see when various festive performances will be made throughout World Showcase.

If music is your thing, be sure to stop by the Fountain Stage in Future World to see Joyful! four times daily from November 26 through December 26.  This lively group called D’Vine Voices was a lot of fun last year, and they have returned to bring us more joyful sounds.  Likewise, the Voices of Liberty can be found inside at the American Adventure Pavilion where they sing a special Christmas set of songs.  They will melt your heart as they serenade guests dressed in their caroling best.

Another, can’t miss musical presentation is the Candlelight Processional performed three times nightly from November 26 to December 30. 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.  I don’t have a musical bone in my body, but I think this show is stunning.  The beauty of the music along with the spirit of the occasion could move just about anyone.  This is one of my favorite activities around WDW at the holidays and I will see it at least once on my upcoming trip.

Guests can either wait in a standby line or purchase a Candlelight Processional dining package which entitles them to reserved seats.  While I have taken advantage of a dining package in the past, the prices these days are a bit too steep for my comfort.  My friends and I may try to grab a beer and some food and hang out together in queue this year.  With a fun group waiting it out shouldn’t be too bad.  If you decide to use this strategy be sure to arrive well in advance of show time to ensure you are allowed in.

It’s hard to decide if I prefer the Candlelight Processional or the holiday version of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.  I adore the standard presentation of Illuminations (I saw it on three out of the four nights on my last trip), but the holiday tag is simply amazing.  The normal show starts off at the regular time and just when the folks who have never seen the holiday tag before think the show is over, there’s more.  Walter Cronkite’s familiar and comforting voice comes over the speakers and he talks about the holiday season before “Let There Be Peace On Earth” is played with choreographed pyrotechnics.  There are more fireworks shells launched in this special holiday tag than there are in the whole standard Illuminations show.  The ground shakes, you can feel the vibrations in your chest, and there are very few dry eyes standing around the World Showcase Lagoon.  After being lucky enough to experience this display for the last few years, I can’t imagine my Christmas season without it.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios also has special events each December.  The brightest of those festivities being the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.  Disney’s Imagineers have rigged up millions of lights along the New York Street since the mid 90s.  It all started when a man named Jennings Osborne displayed these lights at his home in Arkansas.  When his neighbors took issue with his holiday spirit and he could no longer hang his lights, he gave them to Disney where they have put their own touch on his magical idea.  You may be wondering why this display is called the Dancing Lights.  Well, that’s because the folks at Disney have found a way choreograph these millions of lights to some of your favorite Christmas songs!

The Osborne Lights come on at dusk each day and run until park closing and they will run from November 8th til January 3rd this year. Guest should be aware that inclement weather can put a damper on things at the famous DHS display.  Last year when I tried to see the lights, some light rain earlier in the day wreaked havoc and they had to be shut down when about a quarter of them were not working properly.  Also, please be forewarned that this area can get very crowded in the evenings.  Try to keep your group together or designate a meeting place outside of the madness should you get separated.    The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is a sight guests looking for a little Christmas cheer shouldn’t miss.

Animal Kingdom’s Christmas decorations are really beautiful.  Animal ornaments and natural materials come together to make something magical in a place where one wouldn’t assume Christmas would be a priority.  Some of my favorite Animal Kingdom decorations can be found in Camp Minnie Mickey.  Take my advice and head that way to see the trees scattered throughout the area which are themed to match the personality and interests of different Disney characters.  Kids will enjoy guessing which tree belongs to Mickey, Goofy, and other pals.  Cast members working in the area are usually happy to help guests who might be stumped.  Also at the Animal Kingdom, Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade is fun for the whole family with its lively entertainment and fun floats.  The parade is essentially the standard celebration with a Christmas twist.  Dance and sing along with your favorite characters as the floats travel around the park.

What are some of your favorite December activities in the Disney Parks?  I’d love to hear all about your traditions and what you are looking forward to seeing most this year!

Next week I’ll keep the holiday spirit going when I discuss my upcoming trip!

Posted on November 17, 2010

15 Responses to “Holiday Happenings Around the Parks”

  • I love that you can find everything from the over-the-top nature of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights to the simple and understated elegance of the Voices of Liberty all at the same resort. I think of it as the Resort Festivus for the rest of us in that sense. This is the first year in almost a decade that I am going to the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, and I could not be more excited. I am looking forward to it in a big way… And the fact that this revolves around Reunion makes it even more special to be with friends, family, and special someones. Can’t Wait!

  • by Scarlett Litton (scarlettashley) on November 17, 2010, at 2:59 pm EST

    This is my first year participating in Christmas activities at WDW. I was already really excited…but your post made me even more excited! I knew about the big events, like MVMCP and the Candlelight Processional, but I didn’t know about the decorations at AK or the various performances in World Showcase. I can’t wait til December!!

    • Oh I’m excited that I’ll get to see some of these things with you for your first time! It’s really magical, especially your first time. I can’t wait to see you! If you need anymore info don’t hesitate to ask.

  • I am so bummed that I can’t be at WDW for the holiday decorations! Your post was awesome but wow, it sure does make me miss the parks at this time of year.

  • What time are the Osborne lights lit each night at HS?

  • While the question was about favorite December activities in the parks, I wanted to share how special the Grand Floridian is at Christmas! Outside there are so many pointsettias and other decorations. Inside is amazing. The Christmas tree in the lobby is HUGE and very beautiful and the over-sized gingerbread house, which also serves as a candy store, is simply amazing. The best thing of all is that anyone can jump on the monorail over to the GF and check all this out in the lobby!

    • Not to worry I’ll discuss that in a later blog post! I’ll talk about holidays at some of the resorts and other off the beaten path locations after I return from my annual Christmas trip. Please keep reading so you wont miss it! Thanks for the comment!

  • by Dona DeNoyelles on November 19, 2010, at 7:27 am EST

    We will be visiting the Magic Kingdom Dec.19-21, and it will be my granddaughter’s (age 5) first visit to the Magic Kingdom…any tips or strategies would be greatly appreciated.

  • Hi Dona! I headed home on the 20th last year and its safe to say the closer to Christmas, the busier the parks are. It was very crowded at the Magic Kingdom on the last day of my trip which was also the first day guests could see the holiday parade and Holiday Wishes without paying for the Christmas party. My best advice is to use one of our touringplans to tackle your desired attractions in the most efficient way possible. Also, if anyone in your party has use of a smart phone our mobile app Lines is a wonderful resource. Once you have done your desired attractions take some time to enjoy the Christmas atmosphere! If the crowds get too heavy and your group would like a break try taking the monorail to the surrounding resorts to see their Christmas decorations. The Grand Floridian’s live size gingerbread house is awesome! I hope this helps and you have a wonderful trip!

  • I will also be there when Kristen is, and I am so excited!! This will be my first ever time at the parks at Christmas time. I have so many things on my list that I want to see and do. I am especially looking forward to Candlelight Processional because EVERY bone in my body is a musical bone. I’m also really excited about the Osborne lights. I wish I was going to be there longer. I guess I will just have to go again next December!

  • Thanks Kristen for the great artical, I will be at WDW the same time you are. It will be my 50th birthday and the frist time I’ve been there during the holidays. My friends call me father Christmas because of all the decorations I put up so I know WDW will be sensory overload for me. I’ll follow your blog to get more great ideas.

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