Everyone knows that Magic Kingdom is the place to be during the holidays. At least everyone that read my article Disney World Quick Tips-Christmas in the Magic Kingdom. Now I’m going to continue my Christmas in July series and discuss what happens during the holiday season at Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Downtown Disney. Click on each heading to be directed to some great photos taken by one of our writers. Be sure to click on the photo gallery at the bottom for my vacation pictures of the Disney in its holiday finery.
Downtown Disney is like Santa’s Workshop. Everything you need to fill your stockings surrounds you at every turn. If I had an unlimited shopping experience at Downtown Disney my first stop would be the LEGO Imagination Center. Actually it’s where my husband and older son would blow the most money. They would stock up on unique LEGO pieces and then get a set to put together when they got home. Me, well I would take my half and spend it at Once Upon a Toy and Disney’s Days of Christmas. Once Upon a Toy is where I would splurge on some Mr. Potato Head pieces (for my sons of course) and get a few board games for the upcoming winter months. Disney’s Days of Christmas store not only has ornaments, but holiday goodies such as cocoa, chocolate and cookies. Great gifts to bring home for those unlucky enough to be at Disney with you. Everywhere you turn there is variety of one of a kind shops to make everyone’s holiday merrier.
After you’ve completed your holiday shopping, Downtown Disney boasts some holiday events. Here is where you will find the big man himself, Santa Claus. Starting mid-November through New Years Day (times vary) you can meet Santa and give him your wish list in his chalet. Note: Starting December 25th through January 1st Santa will be replaced by Santa Goofy. My guess is Santa has a few things to do? Santa’s Village is located next to World of Disney Store. Purchase a cocoa at Ghiradelli and stroll through to take in the lights, stilted Toy Soldiers and Holiday musical performances. Treat your children to a ride on the small holiday train or the elegant carousel.
TIP: Have someone stay with your children and make a night of it! Either use Disney’s childcare options or beg Grandma to put them to bed. Then head out and do your shopping in peace and privacy. Enjoy a couples dinner at any of the fantastic restaurants in Downtown Disney.
Like the other parks, Hollywood Studios has a specially decorated tree at its entrance. Covered in movie film and old reels, reminding you where Disney began. However, the reason to visit Hollywood Studios at Christmas is the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. Jennings Osborne from Arkansas once had an extravagant display of Christmas lights and decorations. So much so that he purchased the property next to his so he could make his display larger. In 1995 he decided to give all his lights and decorations to Disney so they would be on permanent display during the holiday season. I think their might have been some push from the local residents in his hometown to make this happen.
The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is not to be missed. The show begins at dusk and ends at midnight beginning mid-November and is included with your admission to Hollywood Studios. Every building in the Streets of America section is covered in millions of lights and lighted sculpture. There are lights between the buildings and overhead. Every 10 minutes of so these lights are set to music and the magic begins. Grab a hot cocoa and take it all in. I can’t seem to find the words to express how breathtaking this experience is. If you are lucky, your evening will be capped off by a little Disney “snow”.
TIP: This is not to be missed if you are in Disney for the holidays. Make the evening special by treating yourself to a cocoa and a holiday dessert and finding a park bench in the Streets of America. There are tons of hidden gems in the show so don’t forget to look at the windows on the buildings!
Of all the parks, there is definitely less of the “typical” Christmas characteristic here; more organic but magical none the less. When visiting you will notice less of the holiday decor for the protection of the inhabitants and considering the theme of the Animal Kingdom.That is no excuse not to make a visit during your holiday trip. Their tree is filled with African and Asian art pieces, animal themed of course. Animal Kingdom has a daily afternoon parade which during the holiday’s is called Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade. The characters are dressed in safari/holiday chic and situated on floats that seem to glide through the park in their artistry.
TIP: Camp Minnie and Mickey will feature the characters in their holiday costumes. Swing by for a unique photo opportunity that will be sure to remind you of your special holiday trip to Disney.
Epcot during Christmas is one of my favorite places. This is actually where we spent Christmas Day during our trip. It was less crowded and we had a great Christmas dinner at Le Cellier in the Canada Pavillion. Epcot has many special events during the holiday season. The most popular is the Holidays Around the World Candlelight Processional. The story of Christmas is read by celebrity narrators and accompanied by an orchestra and choir. In 2012 it will be held nightly from November 23rd to December 30th at the American Gardens Theater. Times are 5pm, 6:45pm, and 8:15pm but get there early to guarantee a seat. This performance is free with your paid ticket admission. Candlelight dinner packages are also available for an additional cost and guarantee seating and premium fireworks viewing. They include a meal at your choice of most Epcot restaurants and reservations can be made through Disney at 1-407-WDW-DINE. Tickets are on sale now. As of this time here are the announced celebrity narrators:
- November 23rd to November 25th-Isabella Rossellini
- November 26th to November 29th-Neil Patrick Harris
- November 30th to December 1st-Whoopi Goldberg
- December 2nd to 4th-TBA
- December 5th to 7th-TBA
- December 8th to 10th-TBA
- December 11th to 13th-Jodi Benson
- December 14th to 16th-Olivia Newton John
- December 17th to 19th-TBA
- December 20th to 22nd-Trace Adkins
- December 23rd to 25th-Gary Sinise
- December 26th to 29th-TBA
- December 29th to 30th-Marlee Maitlin/Jack Jason
Another reason to make time at Epcot during the holidays is to tour the World Showcase. Each pavilion boasts a Storyteller who shares the traditions of Christmas in their country. Each Storyteller takes a different approach to entertaining the visitors. In Mexico the Three Kings put on a show and in China they share how the New Years celebration is most important to them. Several pavilions boast a Santa Claus, La Befana (Italy) or Father Christmas in detailed costume. In 2012, from November 23rd through December 30th, the Storytellers are available daily. The shows and Storytellers are only at their pavilions at certain times (usually hourly ) so check when your arrive at the park for a schedule. Each pavilion also sells in their shops, ornaments and holiday treasures that you will not find anywhere else without a passport.
TIP: If your children still believe in Santa be sure to have some answers to their questions about all the different Santa’s. We told our son that these were just actors pretending to be Santa and that the real Santa changes his clothes depending on which country he visits. Just be ready for THAT question!
HOLIDAY PHOTO GALLERY
- Disney World Quick Tips – Christmas in the Magic Kingdom (chipandco.com)
- Fall or Christmas holidays…when is the best time to visit Walt Disney World? (pics.chipandco.com)
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