By Rikki Niblett
Wow! The Holiday Season is upon us (Wasn’t it just January?) The glorious festive fun is back with colors or red and green popping up, Christmas songs playing on the radio, and holiday decorations everywhere you look. So, with the Holidays popping up around me in my daily life, it’s also plain to see that they have taken their place already at Walt Disney World too! Let’s take a look at all the activities that guests can participate in at the four Disney theme parks in Florida.
The Magic Kingdom starts things off and it’s considered by many to be a park so rich in Holiday traditions. It almost feels like it’s Christmas morning each time you step foot in the park!
There are a few major activities that take place here and the first is something that the whole family can delight in each and every night and that is the Castle Dream Lights. The only word I can use to describe them is breathtaking. I can’t tell you how much photos cannot do this justice. The colors simply glow in a way that you can’t even imagine. Guests should also not miss the special Castle Lighting ceremony which takes place called Cinderella’s Holiday Wish, where Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother works her magic to get those lights to sparkle! This show takes place anywhere between 6 pm and 6:30 pm, so check your Times Guide and be prepared to be in awe.
The Magic Kingdom also gets into the holiday spirit with Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This is a special hard ticketed event that happens on select nights. The two major draws for this Party which are the Christmas parade, as well as the fireworks extravaganza.
First off, is Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade. This lively parade gives guests an extremely festive feeling. My favorite float has to be the Chip and Dale one, because I have a soft spot for those two. I also really love the use of the soldiers and the reindeer who remind me of being a kid and watching the Christmas Day Parade each year on TV. The parade takes place at 8:15 pm & 10:30 pm Keep in mind the second parade is often less crowded than the first.
The other really big happening each night at the party is Holiday Wishes – Celebrate the Season. One of the coolest aspects of this show is it uses perimeter fireworks, which means the fireworks surround you! It is truly spectacular to see in person! The show is narrated by Jiminy Cricket and it’s quite beautiful yet, whimsical. The fireworks start at 9:30 pm.
Also at the parties, a few more festivities occur, such as the distribution of Holiday Treats (cookies and hot chocolate) and a few dance parties. Oh and of course, most of the rides are open too!
This year they’ve added a Holiday overlay to the Jungle Cruise, making it now the Jingle Cruise. The skippers have infused a little festive spirit into the attraction, decorating the queue and boathouse, creating new punny jokes, and even changing the names of the boats. Open daily, be sure to make a stop over here or go at night for an even jinglier experience!
At Epcot, the holidays include various touches of realism. The park’s celebrations are not as fanciful or whimsical as some of the other parks are … instead this park really takes the season and magnifies it for all to see. It’s not just snowflakes and Christmas trees here.
First and foremost, and one of the more hidden gems are the Holiday Storytellers who appear around World Showcase. Many of the countries have their own Holiday traditions and ways to celebrate them. Here at Epcot, you get to learn about what makes this holiday similar and different around the World when compared to how we celebrate here in America.
For those who are fans of Illuminations, you absolutely do not want to miss the Holiday ending that is played at the end of the show. It is beautifully touching and the fireworks that are included are absolutely breathtaking! Make sure you see this … you will not regret it.
One of the more popular aspects of Epcot’s Holiday celebrations is the Candlelight Processional. Now for those who don’t know, the Candlelight Processional is the telling of the Christmas Story by a celebrity narrator accentuated by an amazing choir. This is one of those things where if you have not stopped by to see a performance, you MUST do so on your next Holiday trip to the World. Showtimes are 5:00 pm, 6:45 pm and 8:15 p.m.
Many guests choose to book the Candlelight Dinner Package, which will guarantee you a seat for the show, so long as you arrive at least 15 minutes before showtime at the American Gardens Theater. You may book the dinner package by calling 1-407-WDW-DINE. However, there is also the option to stand in line, but keep in mind, these get extremely long, especially for the more popular performers (I’m talking about you Neil Patrick Harris). My suggestion is to try to see the first show, but you’ll still need to be in line at least 45 minutes prior to showtime.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios is quite literally known as Tinsel Town this time of year. The decor is geared more towards kitsch, which is the best part about it. Personally, I love all the tinsel decorations they use around this park. It’s such a great tie in that most people don’t even get. (Get it, the use of tinsel, Tinsel Town…)
To me though, the main draw for visiting Hollywood Studios during the Holidays is the incredible light display known as the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. Let me tell you, this thing is fabulous!
For those who don’t know the story, The Osborne Lights came about because of a man named Jennings Osborne who put up a huge display every year, at the insistence of his daughter. As the years went by, the display got bigger and bigger … so big in fact that he ran out of room and bought the two houses next to his to decorate. It grew so big that people complained, it then was ruled that it was public nuisance and Jennings Osborne had to desist. However, Disney caught wind of his story and they decided it would be the perfect fit for their park. I have to say, it really is a splendid match.
Currently, the lights can be seen on the Streets of America and are like your neighborhood decorations on steroids! The lights surround you and the magic of it all leaves you walking down the Streets just in awe. You really feel like you are just walking in a colorful wonderland. In addition, at certain times throughout the night the lights will dance to a choreographed musical number, which is a ton of fun.
I have a few suggestions on when to see these lights. The first is right as the lights come on. It’s so astounding to see how the area changes in just a manner of seconds. It takes your breath away immediately when the switch gets flipped. However, this is also probably the busiest time to take these lights in. So, my other suggestion would be to go as the park is about to close. A lot of people are leaving the parks at that time but the lights stay lit the whole time. So you’ll get to see the wonder of the lights, all without waiting in a HUGE crowd.
Seeing the Osborne Lights remind me of those times as a kid when my family would pile in the car and drive around town looking at all the lights on all the houses, except these lights are on a much more gargantuan scale.
Over at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the festive fun that takes place for the holidays is Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade. This is a little parade that features the whimsy and uniqueness that you can find in the Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade, the main difference being that the floats now have a Christmas overlay to them (And a fun Holiday parade tune). Make sure not to miss Minnie’s float … it smells like hot chocolate!
The Holidays at Disney really are a magical time. Each park celebrates the season with it’s own special tribute that is absolutely fitting. The wonder that Disney can create would warm the heart of even Mr. Bah Humbug himself, Ebenezer Scrooge. It really is the happiest season of all.