Happy Holidays! You won’t find many places in the United States actually making reference to the ‘Christmas period’. They tend to refer to this time of year as ‘The Holidays,’ refering to both Christmas and New Year. Here's your guide to Happy Holidays in Orlando.
Walt Disney World
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom
Held at the Magic Kingdom, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party is a breathtaking celebration that features festive stage shows, carol singers, two performances of the Christmas parade, accompanied with Santa Clause himself and a fireworks display that is literally out of this world. And as if all the fantasy and fiction of being at the Magic Kingdom during the Christmas holidays wasn't magical enough Imagineers work their charm and make it snow on Main Street. Snow in the Floridian tropics is a rarity and wows many of the locals that celebrate their Christmas celebration at with ‘snow’. Disney Imagineers create falling on Main Street USA (quite a feat in Florida!), Plus, most of the major attractions are open and all attendees get free hot chocolate and cookies.
Dates Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party commences early November and continues till mid-December. If you are visiting during the first weekend in December you may want to avoid Magic Kingdom, especially on Saturday. Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade is taped that weekend, and crowds will be horrendous.
Tickets Guests are required to purchase a separate ticket for entry. Tickets sell out quickly so it is advisable to book as early as possible. Tickets can be booked on Disney’s main reservations line: 407 934 7639.
Times This Christmas party commences after regular park hours.
Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
Epcot has a grand Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony located in the linking plaza, between Future World and World Showcase. The parks lights are dimmed leaving the large archway that leads up to the unlit Christmas tree the only feature lit with bright shining lights. Finally, with the accompaniment of Christmas music, the forty foot tall tree comes to life sparkling with Christmas magic. The ceremony begins around 6 o' clock.
The World Showcase Area
The World Showcase area features 'Holidays Around The World', with special cultural displays of the season and how it is celebrated in various countries around the world. The showcase uses performances and storytellers to demonstrate each country's cultural traditions over the holidays. There are eleven World Showcase pavilions offering an insight into eleven cultures and countries. demonstrates.
The Candlelight Processional
The Candlelight Processional is a wonderful way to get into the Christmas spirit and share the experience amongst yours and Disney World's family and friends. Performed in the America Gardens Theatre, a celebrity guest narrates the full Biblical Christmas story accompanied with the backing of a huge choir and an orchestra performing well-known christmas carols. It is a wonderfully colourful, memorable and emotive show and extremely popular, so much so that this special holiday event has become an annual tradition for many families. Due to limited seating guests start queuing an hour prior to each performance to secure a seat.
Dates Check ATD's Latest News page for current dates.
Tickets Candlelight Processional is free with park admission.
Special Bookings It is possible to book a Processional Candlelight Processional Lunch or Dinner package in advance, which guarantees you a seat at the performance without having to queue and a special viewing area for IllumiNations. This booking offers guests a set menu for guests to select their meal from one of Epcots main restaurants. Bookings are usually available three months in advance. Call 407 939 3463 for bookings and reservations.
Lunch Package: Adult $32.99 - $51.99 Children $12.99 - $17.99
Dinner Package: Adults $46.99 - $61.99 Children $15.99 - $23.99
NB. Prices are approximate.
The Osborne Family Spectacle Of Dancing Lights
The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is a simply unmissable extra element to the Christmas period at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, situated in the Streets of America area of the park. This ultra-elaborate lighting show takes months to assemble, featuring millions of twinkling lights which originally came from the Osborne family. The family used to decorate their house in Little Rock, Arkansas in extravagant style, but were forced to stop after complaints from their neighbours (who were presumably nearly blinded by the amazing displays!). Disney agreed to take it over and have subsequently added new elements. The overall effect is absolutely jaw-dropping. Words do the Osborne Family Spectacle light ceremony no justice, this is definitely a must see. This event is perfectly complimented with a packet of roasted chestnuts.
Tickets: The Osborne Family Spectacle is free with park admission.
Many of the Disney restaurants feature special Christmas menus, with traditional American Christmas food on Christmas Day. Historically, the Liberty Tree Tavern and Tony’s Town Square restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, Le Cellier and Rose and Crown Pub and Dining in Epcot and Brown Derby and Hollywood and Vine at Disney’s Hollywood Studios offer traditional Christmas specialities. These restaurants need to be booked well in advance to avoid disappointment.
For all Disney dining, call 407 WDW-DINE (407 939 3463).
Disney Resort Hotels at Christmas
Without fail Disney resort hotels will feature wonderfully decorated Christmas trees and breathtaking decorations, enjoyable holiday music and other festive treats, such as the Chocolate Carousel at Disney’s Beach Club, the massive Gingerbread House at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and cozy Sleigh Rides each evening at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. The Christmas display the Disney resort hotels put on are all well worth stopping in to see at some stage.
The Downtown Disney area features Festival of the Seasons, more wonderful decorations and daily appearances by Santa at a specially built pavilion in front of the huge World of Disney shop.
Universal Studios continues a long-standing tradition with the daily Macy’s Holiday Parade, featuring a series of spectacular larger-than-life balloons and floats, based on the big New York Thanksgiving Day parade. New to the Christmas celebration was the Holiday Village, a lively area hustling and bustling with live music, performances from the infamous Mannheim Steamroller and Sounds of the Holidays and crowds of adults and children singing, dancing and enjoying the festive atmosphere.
At Islands of Adventure Grinchmas returns with the grouchy green Grinch. Celebrate Grinchmas and the Who-lidays at Seuss Landing from December through to early January.
The SeaWorld Adventure Park is transformed into a winter wonderland the day after Thanksgiving (4th November) to 2nd January each year, with some elaborate decorations, festive scenery, live music and a daily cascade of ‘snow.’ The Holiday Reflections fireworks and fountains show is the evenings headliner throughout the christmas season. A holiday themed Believe show takes on a seasonal glimmer, Clyde And Seamore Take Pirate Island becomes Clyde and Seamore’s Countdown to Christmas and the Sesame Street characters perform A Sesame Street Christmas. In a Jazz festival big name performers see the New Year in with high style at SeaWorld and count down to the new year under a blazing midnight fireworks presentation.
Free with park admission.
Other Christmas themes can be found at the Arabian Nights and Pirates Dinner Adventure, both of which incorporate Christmas overtones in season. Sleuth’s Dinner Adventure offers Holidaze!, where the annual Holiday Pageant takes a hilarious turn toward foul play. Elsewhere in Orlando you will find some other celebratory attractions for the holiday season.
If you miss the ‘snowfalls’ at the Magic Kingdom or SeaWorld, you can still watch this unusual Floridian phenomenon in the Disney owned town Celebration. Nightly snowfalls occur the day after Thanksgiving and continues till New Years Eve. The snow falls on Market Street in the heart of downtown Celebration, accompanied by an appearance from Santa Claus, carol singers and lots of other festivities.
ICE! at the Gaylord Palms Resort
ICE! at the Gaylord Palms Resort is a truly amazing attraction, set up in the hotel’s huge convention centre. ICE! features two million pounds of ice, sculpted by forty artisans from China over twenty five days. Artists sculpt the ice into an array of superb vistas, including polar bears, ice bridges, sparkling winterscapes and the Nativity Scene, with dual thirty foot ice slides for everyone to try. The ICE! show is kept at a chilly 9°F. Appropriate warm clothing is required, open-toed shoes or shorts aren't permitted, however, they do provide hooded parkas to help keep you warm.
Late November to early January
Ticket prices vary according to the day of week and guests will be required to pay for parking.
Busch Gardens Tampa transforms itself into Christmas Town and decorates elaborately, lending a festive air filled with music, twinkling lights and a visit from Santa himself. Bring those Wish Lists! New Year’s Eve rocks with live music here, too.
New Year is almost a mini holiday season in its own right here and many people make a beeline for Orlando for New Years and the days leading up to it. Most of the parks extend their hours (except Disney’s Animal Kingdom) and each stage some kind of magical evening spectacular, with live performances, extra parades and fireworks. If you're after a party for New Years, live music, champagne and some spectacular food, the best parties in town are held at Universal Studios' CityWalk - this is a seperately ticketed event, but is well worth it. Another party worth seeking out is the Atlantic Dance Hall New Year’s Eve at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort.
The Disney owned town of Celebration hosts a family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration, with live bands, fun and games for the children, and a jaw-dropping fireworks display to ring in the New Year. There is no admission charge, and non-residents are welcome to attend. It makes a great alternative to the manic crowds in the theme parks, and a wonderful, magical way to bring in the new year.
Remember to check ATD's Latest News for current dates and celebrations!