Take a breath because there is a lot of info coming to you!
THE HOLIDAYS AT DISNEY ARE TRULY MAGICAL
The recent shake-up with the exit of CEO Bob Chapek and the resurgence of Bob Iger has many hopeful about things to come to Walt Disney World. All business news aside, it’s the holidays at Disney, and it’s that time of year, when the world falls in love. Celebrate the Spirit of the Season now through December 31st at Walt Disney World.
It has become tradition for us to kick off the holidays at Disney. Pre-COVID we celebrated my birthday at Disney which falls around Thanksgiving weekend. We decided last minute to attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (and got lucky with same-day tickets). Since then, we’ve made it a birthday/holiday tradition to kick off the season. Now with our son, it’s an entirely amped-up experience. We took Marcelo for his first Disney Christmas when he was 9 months in 2019. Then of course COVID happened and everything stopped.
Now Disney is back with the holiday spirit in full force and times have definitely changed since then. Then and now…
BAH HUMBUG! THE EVENT IS SOLD OUT.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is everything you’ve heard and SO much more. So let me answer this elephant-in-the-room question, “Can I still get tickets if it’s sold out?”
In my experience, you can still find tickets at the door (that’s how we got in our first time).
I’d never been to the event and was about to leave just as the snow started to fall on Main Street U.S.A. I ran into City Hall and asked if there was any chance of staying for the event. Happily, they were able to sell us tickets. I can’t say it’s a promise but do know they reserve a quantity of tickets for purchase on-site the day of. (It’s worth a try.)
THE HOLIDAYS ARE EVERYWHERE
Even if you don’t make it to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, there is so much holiday fun throughout the parks and recreational areas that it consumes you in the best way. Also worth noting the 50th Anniversary Celebration is still happening simultaneously through March 2023.
For starters, you can still attend Magic Kingdom any day and still experience the holidays. Several rides have been overlayed with holiday décor, including the
Jungle Jingle Cruise and Space Mountain’s holiday tunes and lights. Other attractions that received a holiday makeover include Tomorrowland Speedway, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, Mad Tea Party, and Guardians of the Galaxy.
There is no doubt that holiday magic is sprinkled throughout the park with décor and plenty of hot cocoa. Characters are dressed in their holiday best and Cinderella Castle is transformed with holiday projections to make your heart flutter.
Head over to EPCOT to celebrate holidays around the world with their International Festival of the Holidays.
- A fun thing for all ages is the famous cookie stroll. Purchase 5 cookies from any of the official cookie stroll locations and get a stamp in your Festival Passport. Once you’ve collected your 5 stamps, bring your Passport to Holiday Sweets & Treats to receive an exclusive treat. (Kids love this sugary scavenger hunt.)
- The annual Candlelight Processional is a beautiful event within the park, always narrated by a celebrity accompanied by an orchestra and choir. This happens nightly from November 25th to December 30 at 5:15 PM, 7 PM, or 8:30 PM. Celebrities include Whoopi Goldberg, Shark Tank’s Daymond John, Gloria Estefan, Neil Patrick Harris, Cal Ripken Jr., Angela Basset, and more. (*Check the schedule prior to making park reservations.)
- Enjoy seasonal foods and drinks from around the world and gorgeous décor and Christmas trees.
NOTE: A lot is under construction but there is still much to do and see. I recommend going at night, the entire park lights up with excitement. Living with the Land attraction has some really neat holiday overlays. BONUS: lines for character meet and greet photos are usually shorter here. Catch Minnie and Goofy at the front, Donald is always in Mexico, and much more throughout the World Showcase.
There are plenty of seasonal holiday celebrations and performances around the World Showcase including Canada, Mexico, China, and more.
OTHER NON-PARK THINGS TO DO
Any time of year I love hotel hopping to all the Disney resorts but during the holidays it’s extra beautiful. With over 20 Disney resorts, there is a lot to see. Each resort has a themed Christmas tree in addition to all of the beautiful décor. With all of the available transportation, you can have breakfast, jump on the shuttle, ride the monorail and connect via Skyliner. We stayed at the Grand Floridian and it is a dream worth seeing. TIP: park at Disney’s Transportation Center, hop on the monorail to the Floridian and then Polynesian Resort for a trip to the South Pacific. Take a shuttle over to Animal Kingdom Lodge which is gorgeous year-round. We enjoyed a character breakfast at Cape May inside Disney’s Beach Club and took a stroll to the Boardwalk (highly recommend).
Every hotel is decorated for the holidays at Disney, from value to deluxe. Each hotel has at least one main Christmas tree, the higher the category, the more decorations. If visiting by car, parking is reserved for hotel guests but make a mobile order for pick up for access.
Speaking of hotels, you can book a character breakfast. It is a great way to interact with characters for an hour or two and get great photos. There are several options to choose from. Our go-to is usually Toppolino’s at the Riviera Resort but it was totally sold out. I managed to score reservations for Cape May at the Beach Club 2 days before our trip.
- Life-size gingerbread house at Grand Floridian. Open from 9:30 am to 9 pm for shopping. It took over 1,000 lbs of honey, 600 lbs of sugar, and a lot of pixie dust to make this magical marvel.
- Gingerbread Carousel at the Beach Club. Thirty-nine pastry cooks and chefs put in over 600 hours since July to create this year’s carousel. It features 4 horses inspired by Belle, Tiana, Snow White, and Elsa. BONUS: find the 22 gold hidden Mickeys on the carousel
- Though my heart is with the Floridian, the most beautiful during the holidays is the Wilderness Lodge. Inspired by the Pacific Northwest, the woodsy architecture transports you. Cozy up to one of their Grand Canyon-inspired fireplaces and take in the towering Christmas tree.
SOME OTHER “TIPS” AND HACKS
- Stay informed on parade times. At Magic Kingdom, find a spot near Frontierland (where it starts). Once it passes you can rush to rides while everyone else is waiting.
- Remember, you can see fireworks from almost anywhere, in some cases even your hotel. Watch from Fantasyland while hopping on and off rides (we did all the rides in under 30 minutes.)
- Pick up your free pin! There are 4 styles to choose from, it’s a free souvenir and kids love all of the attention.
- When making your way around Magic Kingdom, between Main Street U.S.A. and Tomorrowland, cut through the famed purple wall walkway. There are always fewer people, you’ll usually find a photographer with no line and it’s in the shade!
- Grab a hot chocolate at the Gasparilla Island Grill inside the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and watch fireworks from across the lake.
- Don’t ever pay for water, just ask for it at any quick-service restaurant.
- Consider purchasing the reusable mug; you’ll have unlimited soda, coffee, and hot chocolate throughout the trip.
- Reserve, reserve, reserve! I can’t tell you how many people tell me they make plans but didn’t make reservations. Just know the cancelation policy which has changed and gives more time to cancel up to a day prior to arrival. It costs nothing and guarantees if you want to enjoy a character breakfast.
- For Character Dining, check the My Disney Experience app nightly. Reservations usually refresh at midnight. If you can stay up late, it’s worth it!
- Don’t miss the opportunity to meet and get a photo with Santa at the Magic Kingdom.