By ATD’s Florida experts Susan & Simon Veness
The Christmas season is fast approaching, and that means even MORE enchantment and some truly magical experiences are just around the corner.
We’d go as far as to say no-one does the festive season with as much imagination, excitement and pure fun as Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and LEGOLAND Florida, and it all combines into one big Yuletide kaleidoscope that ensures a Christmas cracker for all concerned.
With that in mind, we thought we’d give readers a quick overview of what’s in store for November and December 2014, with the highlights of each park to make a note of, with more details to follow in the coming weeks as we give you the full details park by park, plus a few of our additional favourites outside the main parks.
Walt Disney World
The Magic Kingdom will be Christmas Central in many ways this year as a fantastic new spectacle is in preparation. With the success of the film Frozen still fresh in the Disney realm, “Queen Elsa of Arendelle will use her incredible powers to transform Cinderella Castle into a glistening ice palace” for the duration of the holiday period.
Stand by for Disney’s Imagineers to use their full array of special effects to make the Castle a true spectacle, bathing it in 200,000 shimmering white lights to create a stunning visual treat each evening.
In addition, during the separately-ticketed evening event of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party¸ Frozen characters will join the festive cavalcade of Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, while each Party also features a special seasonal version of the spectacular Wishes fireworks show, and special Celebrate The Season Show with Mickey and the gang.
Over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios there are more new elements in store this Christmas, as well as the typical highlights from years past. Again, going with the Frozen theme, there is the chance to sing along with all the film’s well-known songs in “For the First Time in Forever – a ‘Frozen’ Sing-Along Celebration.”
Other Frozen elements include Wandering Oaken’s Frozen Snowground – with the chance to ice-skate and build a real snowman! – while there is the also the must-see fantasy of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, a massive seasonal display featuring millions of dancing lights synchronised to festive tunes amidst an artful snowfall.
For Epcot, the main highlight is still the nightly Candlelight Processional performance, one of the most beloved holiday traditions throughout Orlando, with the heart-warming retelling of the Christmas story by a celebrity narrator, accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra and glorious mass choir.
Dates: Select nights Nov 7-Jan 4.
With Universal’s two parks, you can also indulge your Christmas spirit, starting at Universal Studios Florida, where the Macy’s Holiday Parade fills the streets every evening with the same type of larger-than-life balloons that can be seen in Macy’s famous Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. New this year is the Chloe The Clown “Balloonicle,” a towering balloon combined with a self-powered vehicle that will roam the streets of the park.
At the Islands of Adventure park, families will be able to enjoy holiday cheer of a very different kind as Grinchmas comes to life throughout the Seuss Landing area. Here, guests can take in a live retelling of Dr. Seuss’s classic holiday tale, “Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular,” featuring the Whos from Who-ville, accompanied by an original musical score from Mannheim Steamroller.
Dates: Select nights from Dec 6-Jan 3.
This is one of the parks you simply CANNOT miss at Christmas, where genuine waves of holiday spirit splash over the park during SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration.
Here, in a wintery, watery wonderland, guests can enjoy some terrific live shows inspired by the natural world, journey to the North Pole on THE POLAR EXPRESS Experience, plus 4 shows exclusively for Christmas and a charming Christmas Village.
During the new Christmas Family Fun Tour, there is the chance for children to enjoy some wonderful up-close attractions, including a penguin meet and greet, reserved seating at Elmo’s Christmas Wish show and a meal at the Santa’s Fireside Feast (you can definitely count us in for this one!).
Dates: Select nights Nov 22-Dec 31.
SeaWorld’s sister park down in Tampa Bay is equally festive and eye-catching for the Christmas season, with another new array of attractions that will appeal to the whole family.
Christmas Town started out as a separately-ticketed event last year (like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party) but is now fully part and parcel of the regular park entertainment programme on select evenings, with a magnificent array of themed opportunities, including live music, festive treats, holiday shopping and thousands upon thousands of twinkling lights that turn the park into a true Christmas wonderland.
Dates: Select nights Nov 28-Dec 31.
Here’s another can’t miss opportunity for families with children under 12. For the first time at LEGOLAND Florida, there will be a photo opportunity with a life-sized LEGO Model Santa Claus during Christmas Bricktacular.
Then there is the more than 30-foot-tall LEGO Christmas tree – made with a combination of 270,000 green LEGO and DUPLO bricks – that provides the perfect place for holiday family photos, and is also the centrepiece for one lucky family to switch on the lights on select evenings.
Dates: Weekends in December.
Outside the Parks
For all the fun of the theme parks, they certainly aren’t the only hot spots in Central Florida for holiday activities and traditions. From ice slides to building gingerbread houses, the possibilities are festive and varied at some of the area’s other attractions.
Finally, another large-scale presentation that is usually a huge hit with families and couples alike is ICE! At Gaylord Palms, an award-winning attraction carved by a team of 40 skilled Chinese artisans, featuring more than two MILLION pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures. It runs from November 14 to January 4 and this year’s fantasy ice-scapes include Frosty the Snowman, four ice slides and a live ice-carving station.
We enjoy spending time at the Gaylord Palms at the best of times, but Christmas really does bring out the very best of this resort and it is well worth adding to your plans for a Christmas visit.
Leu’s Holiday House is decked out for the season by some of Orlando’s top interior designers and, from November 17 to January 5, visitors can stroll along the garden’s meandering paths shaded by ancient oaks, forests of camellias and giant camphor trees.
The impressive Festival of Trees at the Orlando Museum of Art showcases “All That Glitters,” from November 15-23, featuring dozens of adorned trees, wreaths and gingerbread houses on display, as well as for purchase.
If that’s the full overview, stay tuned for more detail, more photos and more sheer festive fun in the next few weeks as we being you more of what makes this time of year in Florida extra special!