If there’s one thing that I (Matt) might actually love more than Disney (I know I said it), it’s Christmas. So whenever we get the opportunity to combine the two by being in our favorite place during our favorite time of year, it really is a special experience. Much like everything at Disney World these days, their Christmas celebration isn’t confined to a single day, but runs from the day after Thanksgiving until about a week or so after Christmas Day. While Disney usually takes out all the stops to celebrate holidays in the parks, Christmas really is just on a different level. So we figured for the next entry in our His & Her Top 5 series (where we technically offer our top 10), we’d break down some of our favorite ways to celebrate the Christmas season while visiting the World.
Matt #5: Jingle Cruise
Whenever Disney can take a fan-favorite attraction like the Jungle Cruise and add a little holiday flavor into the mix, you can’t lose. While not to the same extent as say the famous Nightmare Before Christmas overlay at Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, Jingle Cruise offers just a fun little touch of the Christmas spirit to make the experience feel as though one of our beloved traditional rides is celebrating the season. From Christmas decorations adorning the queue to holiday themed boat names there are many little touches throughout. And of course, it wouldn’t truly be the Jungle Cruise without the Skipper puns - which have also been tuned to the holiday season!
(Lincoln SUPER excited to ride Jingle Cruise for the first time! The holiday theming in the queue made the wait seem a lot shorter than it was ha!)
Krystle #5: Cookie Stroll
I love baking and I love cookies. One of my favorite things about this time of year is the widely accepted practice of binging on Christmas cookies, so of course the Cookie Stroll at EPCOT had to be on my list. While this is technically part of the wider Festival of the Holidays, I’m pulling this out as a separate treat for you to enjoy. There are actually 8 different locations you can grab a holiday inspired treat from, but the official Cookie Stroll requires that you only purchase 5 in order to “complete” it. Upon enjoying each of your 5 treats you’ll receive a stamp on your “stroll passport” and then with all 5 stamps you’ll get the chance to turn it in for a prize!!!! The cookies and prizes usually change every year (with some overlap) so you can enjoy this every year!
Matt #4: Hollywood Sunset Seasons Greetings
Disney is known for its fireworks and night-time shows and while the big-hitters are found over at Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, Hollywood Studios has it’s own to experience. Aside from the return of Fantasmic and the fireworks shows that seem to change annually on the Chinese Theater, perhaps the most famous sight in Hollywood Studios has to be Tower of Terror. And for the Holiday Season, Disney puts on a fun Christmas projection show on the iconic attraction. Full of bright lights and Christmas music Sunset Seasons Greetings really gets you in the holiday spirit. Perhaps the best part of the show…it comes complete with SNOAP!!! That’s right, the magical Florida snow that was once only found on Main St. in Magic Kingdom can also be enjoyed right here!!
Krystle #4: Disney Springs Christmas Tree Stroll
If you’re looking for a fun way to enjoy the holiday season outside of the actual park, look no further than Disney Springs. Aside from the great restaurants and shopping that is found here year-round, the holiday season adds a little something extra to the district. While decorations and music can be found throughout, one of the most enjoyable experiences is the Christmas Tree Stroll. The stroll seems to have grown over the past couple years with 20 elaborately decorated trees now on display. Each tree has its own unique theme from Marvel's Black Panther to the Haunted Mansion, so you’re to sure find a favorite. I love being able to enjoy the leisurely stroll (preferably while sipping on some hot cocoa) and getting some fun ideas to add to my own Christmas tree at home!
Matt #3: Christmas Trees (Parks and Resorts)
I guess I’ll piggyback off of Kryslte’s pick above and add the rest of the Christmas Trees you can find around WDW. Each of the 4 parks has a pretty epic tree located inside that are themed nicely to represent the park it’s found in and they are HUGE! Aside from the trees found in the actual parks, many of the deluxe resorts have their own Christmas trees that rival those in the parks. My personal favorite has to be the one in the lobby of Wilderness Lodge (but the one at Animal Kingdom Lodge is pretty great too). If I could just sit anywhere for a little while and simply enjoy being in the season it would be in that lobby, in a rocker in front of the fireplace, with that beautiful tree right next to me! Simply looking at the trees is a great way to feel the Christmas spirit, but they also make for an excellent backdrop for your own holiday Christmas cards!!!
(The tree at Magic Kingdom has become a favorite backdrop for Christmas photos!)
Krystle #3: Gingerbread Houses
Well, if Matt’s going to piggyback off my pick, then I’ll do the same and stay right inside some of the lobbies of those deluxe resorts where you can find another amazing holiday display…Gingerbread houses! I’m not talking about those little kits that come in a box from your local grocery store, but the life-sized, intricately detailed gingerbread houses that only Disney could create! While you can also find gingerbread houses over in Disneyland, over here in WDW, they can be enjoyed at the Grand Floridian, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beach Club, Boardwalk Inn, and the Contemporary. Each themed to the resort it’s located in (check out the working Merry-go-Round at Beach Club for a really different take on the gingerbread “house”). If you’re venturing into the parks, you can also enjoy a pretty cool display in EPCOT over at the American pavilion! While you technically could eat these displays, Disney won’t let you…so please don’t lol. However, they do usually set up cute little gingerbread shops where they sell holiday treats including the actual gingerbread they use on the displays!
Matt: #2: Visiting Santa
Alright, we gotta talk about it right. There’s no way you can celebrate Christmas without mentioning the big guy himself…Santa ( I KNOW HIM). I always loved visiting Santa growing up and bringing my son (now sons) to see him is one of my favorite ways to really feel like its Christmas. When you get the chance to do that IN DIsney World, it’s even more special and there are multiple opportunities to do so! If you’re looking to just spot the Jolly Ol Elf, you can find him driving along in a convertible on Hollywood Blvd in Hollywood Studios or cruising around Discovery River in Animal Kingdom, but if you want some face-to-face time with Santa, you can head over to either Magic Kingdom(Liberty Square Gazebo), EPCOT (Odyssey Pavillion), or Disney Springs (Once Upon a Toy - virtual queue)! If you’re lucky enough to attend MVMCP (which we’ll talk about in a second) you’ll get a chance to spot him in the parade. BONUS: At MVMCP you can also meet…Santa Goofy!!!!
Krystle: #2: EPCOT Festival of the Holidays
I Love each of the parks at WDW, but EPCOT has quickly grown into a personal favorite and our family loves the chance to just stroll World Showcase. It’s been a while since we’ve been down for Christmas time, but Matt and I especially loved this at Christmas time when the park puts on its Festival of the Holidays! Instead of just celebrating Christmas “one time” the festival allows you to enjoy holiday festivities from around the world as you visit each of the showcases pavilions! From holiday kitchens serving festive food and drinks to special holiday shows/stories featuring various versions of Santa Claus it’s a great way to celebrate a traditional Christmas, with the traditions found around the world. The earlier mentioned Cookie Stroll is technically part of the festival as well as my next pick! The festival is complete with the Storytellers series and an Olaf theme scavenger hunt as well!
Matt #1: Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
Ok, this HAS to be the BIG one right? Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (or MVMCP as it’s more lovingly referred to as) is a special ticketed event that takes place on select dates in Magic Kingdom. If you’re looking for a super-sized Christmas celebration in a totally decked out WDW this is the party for you! Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade ( I could do a whole blog on this alone), Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration stage show headline the event, but there is so much more to do! Visit rarely seen Disney characters in the holiday finest, indulge in unlimited Christmas cookies and holiday drinks like Hot Cocoa and Eggnog, bust a move at not one, but 3 different dance parties, of shop for special edition merch all night long. It’s truly an amazing experience and one that’s tough to beat. However, the one thing that I personally enjoy doing the most…simply strolling down Main St. with the lights on, music playing, and snoap machines blowing!
(MY FAVORITE PART OF THE CHRISTMAS PARADE!)
Krystle #1: Candlelight Processional
So, while I definitely love MVMCP and agree that it’s spectacular, my personal favorite way to celebrate Christmas when at Disney World focuses more so on the true spirit of the season…EPCOT’s Candlelight Processional This event tells the biblical Christmas story with a showcase of Christmas songs all narrated by a variety of celebrity hosts! Unlike MVMCP, this doesn’t really require an extra ticket to enjoy (it’s located right in the America Gardens Theater), but Disney does offer a dining package experience (with preferred seating) if you want to indulge. One of the biggest draws to the show has to be the celebrity hosts who this year include people such as: Simu Liu, Josh Gad, Cal Ripken Jr, and fan-favorite Neil Patrick Harris (among many others). This list changes annually, usually with a few returning on a regular basis. We got to experience this a few years ago when Gena Davis hosted and it was amazing. There are usually 3 showings every night during the season so you have plenty of chances to watch the show (with it being an outdoor theater, even without a seat you can catch it while just walking the showcase)!
Honorable Mention: All the parks are decked out for the holidays so just strolling along and enjoying them is always fun. Disney offers a number of speciality holiday food and drink for purchase. Head over to Winter Summerland Minature Golf (themed to Santa and the elves in their “off season”) any time of year to get in that Christmas spirit. Visit the year-round Christmas stores located in Magic Kingdom, Disney Springs, or Hollywood Studios (if it ever opens up again).
So there ya have it Ohana, our favorite ways to celebrate the holiday season in our favorite place. Now we invite you to head over to our FB group to continue the conversation and let us know what YOUR favorite way to celebrate is and if we left anything off our list! We hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and as always,
See Ya Real Soon!
(Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Woolleys)