By Rikki Niblett
For many, the Holiday season is their favorite time of year at Walt Disney World and I can most definitely see why. Nothing gets me in the spirit quicker than seeing all the fun festivities the Mouse House has up their sleeves for park guests to enjoy.
Our first stop is over at the Magic Kingdom. Here, we have 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 are the Christmas parade that is shown each night and the firework extravaganza that takes place.
First off, the parade, called Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade. The parade takes place at 8:15 p.m. & 10:30 p.m. Keep in mind, the second parade is often less crowded than the first. The other really big thing that happens each night is the fireworks show Holiday Wishes–Celebrate the Spirit of the Season. This show is narrated by Jimminy Cricket and it’s really quite beautiful but it’s also got just the right amount of whimsy mixed in too. The fireworks spectacular starts at 9:30 p.m. 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!
Of course, the thing that I love the most that Disney does around the Holidays at the Magic Kingdom is the Castle Dream Lights and the only word I can use to describe them is breathtaking. Photos honestly cannot do this justice. It really has to be seen in person to understand. There is also a special Castle Lighting ceremony which takes place nightly where Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother works her magic to get those lights to sparkle! The show takes place nightly at 6:45 pm.
At Epcot, what makes special to me with the holidays is that most everything that is celebrated here, has some sort of realism to it. It’s not as fanciful or whimsical as some of the other parks are. Instead this park really takes the reason for the season and magnifies it for all to see.
First and foremost and one of the more “secret” aspects (I only say it’s secret because most of your average guests wouldn’t know it existed unless they walked up on it) is the Holiday Storytellers which appear around World Showcase. Many of the countries have their own versions of what Christmas is like and how they celebrate the Holidays and at Epcot, you get to learn about what makes this holiday similar and different around the World when compared to us here in America. It is truly amazing to see how a commonly celebrated holiday (more or less) can be so different, but also how it can bring us together as one.
Speaking of bringing us together as one…one of the other aspects of Epcot’s Holiday Celebrations is the Holiday Tag that is played at the end of Illuminations. It is absolutely beautiful,
there is no other explanation. To hear all the countries come together underscored by a hauntingly beautiful track underneath…you just don’t get any better than that. And the fireworks that are included are absolutely breathtaking! It honestly sends chills up and down my body…that’s how amazing this “little” tag is.
Finally, 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 punctuated 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. You can see this spectacle a few ways.
One is to book the Candlelight Dinner Package, which you can book for either lunch or dinner, depending on what time you want to see the show (and lunch is cheaper). Booking the package 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.
Another way you can see it is by standing in line. I suggest getting in line early and know this, you may have to wait through a show or two before you get the chance to actually get a seat in the theater.
Over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the decorations around here are geared towards kitsch which is the best part about it. 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…I was hoping I made that obvious, but hey, you never know!)
To me though, the main draw for visiting DHS 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, just so he could continue decorating. 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. And I have to say, it really is a splendid match.
Currently the lights can be seen on the Streets of America, Although the lights didn’t always take place there. Prior to their current location, the lights were once held on Residential Street, (where you could see the house from the Golden Girls) which is now where Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show currently sits.
So for those who haven’t seen them, what are the lights like? Take Clark Griswold’s house and magnify it times like a thousand and you’ll kind of get a tiny feel of what the Osborne lights are all about. It is a sight to behold! And there is nothing like walking down the Streets just in awe. The lights really do surround you. You really feel like you are just walking a colorful wonderland. Then, at certain times throughout the night the lights will dance to a choreographed musical number.
I have two suggestions on when to visit. The first is right as the lights come on. It’s so astounding to see how the area changes in just a manor of seconds. It truly takes your breath away when the switch gets flipped. The second is just 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.
Finally, over at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, make sure to check out the decorations because they are all themed around animals. The main activity that takes place here for the holiday
season is Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade. This little parade 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 theme to them. (And a fun Holiday parade tune.) Make sure not to miss Minnie’s float…it smells like hot chocolate!
Since there are no “lighted” offerings at this park, seeing as how it’s rarely open in the evening, my suggestion is to go to one of the other parks in the evening after visiting the Animal Kingdom to experience that particular portion of the Holidays.
The Holidays are such a wonderful time of year to visit the parks. I love how each one is so unique. Visiting WDW in November/December really is the Most Magical Time of The Year!