Sing with me: “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…everywhere you go.” Especially at Walt Disney World® Resort! The holidays find the parks and resorts brimming with gorgeous decorations, festive flourishes, and the over-the-top sparkle we’ve come to expect at Disney. I’m looking at you, Cinderella Castle Dream Lights!
Hands down, December is my absolute FAVORITE time to visit Walt Disney World®, but alas, we will not be making the trek “Home” this year. So, to console myself and to harness some of the Christmas spirit, I’ve come up with my “5 Days of Christmas” list:
5. “Five Gingerbread Cookies”
What’s delicious, fragrant, and 16 feet tall? Why, the Gingerbread House at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa! Here’s the recipe:
1,050 pounds of honey, 800 pounds of flour, 700 pounds of chocolate, 600 pounds of powdered sugar, 140 pints of egg whites, 35 pounds of spices, tons of creativity, and Disney magic and pixie dust!
All these ingredients are needed to create this GRANDiose display. Inside is a bake shop full of yummy homemade items like gingerbread shingles, stollen bread, chocolate chip cookies & chocolate-peppermint bark. (Calories removed, of course!) You’ll also find gingerbread ornaments & miniature gingerbread houses. I’m hungry just writing this! Here’s a tip: Near the gingerbread house, there is an exceptional spot for photos in the lobby with a stunning backdrop and fancy chair. Who wouldn’t want to spend a little time in the Grand Floridian lobby anyway, with the live music and decorations!
4. “Four Christmas Trees” (at the Four Parks, natch)
“O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, how lovely are your branches.” The person who wrote these lyrics must have been talking about the giant Christmas trees at the 4 Walt Disney World® parks! The theming on these trees perfectly matches the parks where they are found:
Magic Kingdom: Adorned with popcorn garland, brightly colored ornaments, this magnificent tree is surrounded by festive packages, toy soldiers, and a train!
Epcot: Large globes, bells, ornaments bearing the flags of each country in World Showcase, and holiday greetings in multiple languages set the international tone for this tannenbaum.
Hollywood Studios: Glittering silver garland accentuates the movie reels at the base of the tree; meanwhile, candy canes, stars and Santa ornaments add the splashes of color we would expect at a park named for Hollywood!
Animal Kingdom: this tree is perhaps the most stunning with its handmade lions, rhinos, and elephants sharing space with golden stars, snowflakes, and even a hidden Mickey or two.
Naturally, each tree is a focal point and an excellent background for photos. Tour them all and decide which is YOUR favorite.
3. “Three Candlelight Processionals” (a Night)
For the Christmas story in its entire splendor, Epcot’s Candlelight Processional is one of the best productions you will find this Christmas season. How do they do it? With a massive choir, a 50 piece orchestra, and celebrity narrators! (I’ve even found myself scanning the crowd to see what celebrity I might encounter!) Steven Curtis Chapman was our narrator, but from what I hear, they all do a fabulous job. You have to like hearing about the Christmas story and classical Christmas carols and arrangements, but if that is your cup of tea, then do not miss one of three performances offered nightly. Even better: book a Christmas Processional package that includes a meal consisting of an appetizer, entrée, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage, reserved seating at the show, and access to an exclusive fireworks viewing area during Illuminations! The standby line can sometimes last hours, and hey, you’ve got to eat, so the package really makes sense. I dare you to leave the Candlelight Processional without a few chill bumps or tears: they are guaranteed!
2. “Two Blocks of Dancing Lights”
Disney’s Hollywood Studios boasts one of the most popular decorations associated with Christmas: holiday lights! In fact, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at last count included approximately 5 million lights, 32 miles of extension cables, 66 snow machines, 100 gallons of snow fluid a night, and 43 hidden Mickeys (at least)! Clark Griswold would be very jealous!
Named for Jennings Osborne, an Arkansas resident who wanted to surprise his daughter for Christmas by stringing 1,000 lights, the dancing lights now include: a Peace on Earth greeting over a rotating globe; Santa and his reindeer soaring overhead; flying angels; and a literal canopy of colored lights. Here’s another tip: if you don’t mind crowds, arrive about 5:30ish to be there when the lights are turned on around 6:00pm. If crowds will be an issue, then wait until about 1 hour before the park closes.
And rounding out the list at the number one spot is…..
1. “And a Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party”
Although it is a separate ticketed event, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is worth every “Disney Dollar” FYI: Tickets start at $ 62.00/adult and $ 57.00/kids 9 and under). We have been 3 times, and I can safely say it always ends up as THE highlight of the trip. Don’t miss the snow on Main Street-they do it several times during the Christmas party-naturally while enjoying cookies and hot cocoa. As a special holiday treat, the Jungle Cruise has become the Jingle Cruise (with skippers homesick and want to celebrate Christmas. The queue will be decorated, and boats even bear Christmas-y names.
Don’t forget: the party is prime time to get character photos while they are wearing more seasonal costumes. (The most coveted choice? The Seven Dwarfs!) Hello, can you say Christmas card photo? You can start your plan of attack early by clicking HERE for the Party Guide.
At dusk, Cinderella’s Holiday Wish is a short show where the characters turn on the gorgeous Castle Dream Lights. These icicle lights that transform the already magnificent Cinderella Castle into a 189-foot sparkling ornament. Catching the moment the lights illuminate is a gasp out loud moment. My favorite spot to snag a fabulous photo is the little cul-de-sac between Casey’s Corner and Crystal Palace.
Castle Dream Lights, Holiday Wishes, and Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime parade, oh my! With these, nothing can move this party from my number one spot!
Finally, wherever you will celebrate this year, either at the “Most Magical Place on Earth” or Home Sweet Home, Happy Holidays!