We recently attended the media preview of the seasonal offerings that will be running during Unwrap The Magic, starting at MAGIC KINGDOM with Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, a separately ticketed evening event. Even if you’re not attending the party, but you’re in Orlando during the weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year (December 23-31), you’ll be in prime position to experience it all.
It all begins with A Frozen Holiday Wish (Castle Dream Lights), with Queen Elsa using her special powers to transform Cinderella Castle into a wintertime fantasy of sparkling lights. Mickey and Minnie join Anna, Elsa, Kristoff and Olaf on the Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage as Elsa lights up the Castle with cascades of shimmering ‘ice’ as a Christmas gift to everyone in the kingdom.
The stunningly beautiful transformation gives way to the brand new Once Upon a Time Castle Projection Show, with Disney fairy tales projected onto Cinderella Castle in dynamic and dramatic fashion. Iconic moments from Aladdin, The Lion King, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast and more classic films add to the feel-good factor, culminating in a brief fireworks finale that paves the way for the grander show later in the evening.
Also new for 2016, Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration song and dance show then takes the stage. Mickey has invited several of his friends to a Christmas party—including you—which sets the scene for a character bonanza featuring Minnie, Donald and Daisy, Pluto, Peter Pan and Wendy, Alice and the White Rabbit, Toy Story friends, and many more. It also marks the first time José Carioca and Panchito Pistoles have performed in a stage show. Their rendition of Feliz Navidad joins other updated classics and a few newly-created songs to set the holiday mood.
Holiday Wishes—Celebrate the Spirit of the Season has long been a favourite of locals and seasonal visitors alike, offering a stirring change to the nightly Wishes fireworks that run throughout the year.
And finally, the joyful Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade runs twice nightly, at 9pm and 11pm (stay on for the 11pm show, when it’s likely you’ll find a great spot along Main Street or in Town Square without staking out your spot an hour in advance). Another long-standing fan favourite, the parade pre-show includes interactive fun for the kiddies as Santa’s ‘elves’ engage them in a game of catch with giant ‘snowballs’. Then, guests get up-close time with many classic Disney characters, including Peter Pan and Wendy, Tigger, Pooh, Pinocchio, and Donald and Daisy, while Mickey and Minnie lead a procession of floats with beloved characters. Anna and Elsa arrive in a suitably Frozen sleigh, and Cinderella and Prince Charming even make an appearance, in a gold and glass carriage pulled by miniature white horses. But the marching band of Toy Soldiers are the real show-stealers, and, of course, Santa Claus himself brings the parade to a festive finale.
A hop over to EPCOT brings more seasonal delights, specifically in World Showcase. Storytellers from each country represented by a pavilion tell holiday tales from their homeland, from the story of the Christmas tree and the Nutcracker in Germany to the tale of the Daruma doll in China. Santa and Mrs Claus are also on hand in the American Adventure pavilion to hear visitors’ holiday wish lists.
JOYFUL! A Gospel Celebration of the Season gets things started in Future World, with inspirational gospel songs four times daily.
Holidays Around the World Marketplaces, a spin-off of the wildly popular Food & Wine Festival, includes six “marketplaces” that sell the seasonally-inspired foods of Germany, USA, the Caribbean, Mexico, the American south, plus a general “holiday eats and treats” kiosk, for a taste-of-the-season. Portions are larger than those on offer during Food & Wine, making them an interesting option for lunch or dinner.
And, of course, the moving Candlelight Processional is a must-see for any visitor, with a celebrity narrator and Disney’s own incredible choir singing spiritually uplifting songs that reflect the ‘reason for the season’.
Another brand-new Christmas show is on offer at DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS in the form of Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Santa has gone missing, and elves Wayne and Lanny (from the television special Prep & Landing) enlist the help of Disney friends to find him. It’s a frantic search, ending with a showdown between the elves and the characters from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, with, of course, a very merry outcome.
There are only a small handful of Christmassy offerings at ANIMAL KINGDOM, namely the large Christmas tree that makes a great photo op when you arrive at the park, and Disney characters dressed in holiday finery at several meet-and-greet locations.
DISNEY SPRINGS is (almost) fully open this year, and it’s the place to be prior to 25 December for those who haven’t given Santa Claus their Wish List yet. He greets visitors from noon until 10pm daily, and as Disney’s gift to tired parents, there is no long queue to stand in, as each group is given a pager for a return time, so you can shop or dine at your leisure until it’s your turn to meet the Big Guy. Santa Goofy takes over on 25 December while Saint Nick gets ready for his Big Day.
Kids will gravitate toward the Stitch’s Holiday Gift Hunt scavenger hunt, which starts on 25 November, and the whole family will want to see The Festival of Toys, with stilt walkers, treats, a dance party and a tree lighting ceremony each night at 6pm in front of the Once Upon A Toy store.
But the real draw here, besides the opportunity to find just the right gift for the Disney fans on your list, is the new Christmas Tree Trail walking trail of 15 decorated trees, and the astonishing new Starbright Holidays airborne show that gives a festive preview of Disney’s newest technology using 300 drones to create pictures in the sky. It is a marvel of innovation, and while the sneak preview was impressive, we can’t wait to see what else they do with it!
Whether Christmas at Disney is an annual event for your family, or a once-in-a-lifetime gift, December truly is a special time to be in Orlando, and we wish you a magical holiday if you’re here to enjoy it all!
To book tickets for a magical Christmas this year or next at Walt Disney World, you'll find our best prices right here.
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