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Walt Disney World is never short on pixie dust, but there is perhaps no more magical time to visit than around the winter holidays. If you are a Disney fan who also happens to be a fan of Christmas or other holiday festivities, you’ll really love all of the ways you can celebrate the holidays at Disney World! Wayfinding TravelingMom Jennifer Kaufman is taking a look at how Disney celebrates the holidays at their Florida parks.
Christmas and Other Holiday Celebrations at Walt Disney World
If you’ve watched the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade on Christmas morning, you have likely noticed that holiday celebrations at the Walt Disney World Resort are not limited to any one park or location. Instead, every park, every resort hotel, and even additional locations like Disney Springs are full of holiday magic. We’ve always loved Christmastime at Walt Disney World, and this year they’re giving us even more reason to visit.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
The very first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party was in December of 1983. While we haven’t been going quite that long, I’ve experienced the party many times since attending our first in 2005.
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The party is, in my opinion, the very best way to celebrate the holidays at Walt Disney World. The event is what Disney Parks calls a “hard ticket event” – meaning it is not included in your admission, but will require a date-specific party ticket.
With a ticket to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, guests can enter the Magic Kingdom as early as 4 p.m.; the party officially runs from 7 p.m.-12 a.m., on select dates in November and December. During party hours, guests enjoy exclusive entertainment, Disney’s Once Upon a Christmastime parade, complimentary hot cocoa and cookies, special character greetings, and more. That’s not even touching how festive and lovely the park is all lit up for Christmas!
The Jingle Cruise
For the holiday season, the World-famous Jungle Cruise becomes the Jingle Cruise. Though not as expansive an overlay as some of those seen at the Disneyland Resort in California, it really is charming. The boats, skippers, and ride scenes get a bit of a makeover – as do the (still wonderfully groan-worthy) jokes. I look forward to it every time!
Castle Dream Lights
Beginning on or just before the date of the first Christmas party, guests can watch as Elsa lights Cinderella’s castle. A short show on the castle forecourt stage, A Frozen Holiday Wish, is delightful. It takes place before non-ticketed guests have to clear out for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party too, meaning everyone can see it before the leave the Magic Kingdom for the evening.
The castle aglow with its dream lights is one of the most stunning things I’ve ever seen. It never gets old!
International Festival of Holidays
In celebration of holidays around the world, each of Epcot’s World Showcase pavilions will share their holiday customs and traditions. Live storytellers and musical groups will bring each country’s holiday celebrations to Walt Disney World; guests can even taste some of the delicious treats enjoyed during holidays around the world at the Holiday Kitchens.
Chip & Dale’s Christmas Tree Spree
Much like Remy’s Ratatouille Hide and Squeak and the Epcot Easter Egg hunt, families can participate in a scavenger hunt of sorts by purchasing a map and helping Chip and Dale gather holiday decorations around the World Showcase.
As you make your way around each of the World Showcase pavilions, keep an eye out for statues of Chip & Dale gathering ornaments. Place the corresponding ornament sticker on the map within the pavilion you found it; take your completed map back to the purchase locations to redeem it for a prize!
TravelingMom Tip: As the maps state, it is not necessary to complete the activity to receive the prize. In fact, you wouldn’t technically have to participate at all… but where is the fun in that?!
I mention it though, so that you (or your kiddos) don’t stress out too much if you’re ready to explore another pavilion and haven’t yet tracked down those sneaky chipmunks.
Second only to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party for my family, the Candlelight Processional is one of our favorite Christmas activities in Walt Disney World. The show takes place three times each scheduled night (most nights between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve).
During the Candlelight Processional, a celebrity narrator joins a 50-piece orchestra and a huge choir to tell the Christmas story; sign language interpreters are available at each show. The Candlelight presentation is truly beautiful and moving!
The Candlelight Processional is extremely popular; while no special ticket is required, guests who would like to get in on stand-by should be prepared to line up by the America Gardens Theater more than an hour in advance. Alternatively, you can purchase a Candlelight Processional dining package, which guarantees a great meal and a seat at the show of your choice.
Sunset Seasons Greetings
We can’t wait to see this new celebration on Sunset Boulevard in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Sunset Boulevard is the street off the right side of Hollywood Boulevard (Hollywood Studios’ main thoroughfare), with the Tower of Terror and Rock and Roller Coaster at the end.
In the Sunset Seasons Greetings celebration, billboards comes to life, the Hollywood Tower Hotel transforms with amazing projections, and guests see special character interactions. Mickey and Minnie share their favorite holiday memories, Toy Story characters try to keep an eye on what new toys are coming, Olaf shares his holiday wish, and The Swedish Chef talks about, well, whatever it is he talks about!
If this resembles the vignettes from the Tree of Life in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I can’t wait to see it. Keep an eye out for snow on Sunset Boulevard, too!
Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!
Each night at the end of Hollywood Boulevard, the Chinese theater is transformed into a nighttime spectacular that includes lasers, projections, and pyrotechnics. Join in as elves Wayne and Lanny, the stars of ABC’s “Prep and Landing,” have to rescue a kidnapped Santa.
The show uses scenes from Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Beauty and the Beast, Pluto’s Christmas Tree, and The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Christmas and Holiday Festivities Everywhere Else…
While you’re in the Christmas mood, don’t forget to check out the beautiful resort hotels’ holiday decor. Each one is themed, and some of the deluxe resorts have the most extensive decorations I’ve seen anywhere. They’re great options for family pictures, too, perhaps just in time for holiday cards.
You’ll also find holiday festivities at Disney Springs, and throughout the entire Walt Disney World Resort. And if you’d prefer a Land and Sea holiday, don’t miss the Very Merrytime sailings on Disney Cruise Line! They are perhaps our favorite way to celebrate the holidays, Disney-style!
If you haven’t experienced Disney at the holidays, start looking at your calendar now. You’ll be greeted everywhere you turn by themed holiday music, celebrations, and surprises. It’s hard to beat the most wonderful time of the year, at the most magical place on Earth