It’s that time of year when the world falls in love. Let’s face it, any time of year is the right time for Disney (at least in my opinion it is). But the holidays at Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts are just something else. Pixie dust, lights, sugar, and spice–everything is just so nice.
The holiday celebrations at Disney usually run through a day or two after the new year. You still have time to book that trip, and when it comes to Disney, I always say ‘just do it!’ Especially with kids, my mantra lately is ‘he will never be this little again.’ To see our little Marcelo’s face light up watching fireworks, or in awe of the various Christmas trees, is enough for my heart.
If Visiting Disney During the Holidays…
Stop by the Grand Floridian Gingerbread House
Make sure to stop by Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. It is where we spent our week, and it feels like home. There is a signature scent that just warms you when you enter the gorgeous Victorian-style hotel. There is something else very special about it: the gingerbread house. Open daily from 9:30 am to 9:00 pm. If you arrive there at 9:20 you may be the first or second in line, but that line quickly forms (by 9:30 am you may be spending at least 20-25 mins in line). What’s all the fuss about? Everyone is trying to purchase a gingerbread house shingle or some other unique sweets.
This year the life-sized house has a new look with some EARidescent touches of blue and gold, and a 50th Anniversary sign. Over 1,000 lbs of honey, 600 lbs of powdered sugar, and 700 lbs of chocolate were a few of the ingredients used. You can see the full recipe when you visit.
Disney Holiday Decorations
If you have the time, I would say take a tour of all Disney’s resorts. I love doing it any time of year, but seeing them all decked out for the holidays is just so special. You can hop on and off all of Disney’s transportation offerings, bus, monorail and even walk to some. One thing to note: Walt Disney World resorts are not allowing visitors to arrive by car without advance dining reservations or mobile order pick-up (so make sure to use your MyDisney Experience App ahead of time).
Many of the rides get a bit of a holiday makeover. You might spot some tinsel on the Jungle Cruise or a snowman in Living with the Land.
Holiday Eats & Sips
There are plenty of limited signature food items offered throughout all four parks. Christmas Cookie Milkshake, Ginger Funnel Apple Cake, To Be Jolly Float, Candy Cane Shake, Reindeer Mousse and so much more! Despite it all being delicious, they are so Instagram-worthy.
Some Other Disney Things To Do:
I always get asked by friends for tips and suggestions on what to do while at Disney, sort of like a bucket list. While that list would be very long, I thought I might gather a checklist of things to do or see while there.
- If you can, do a character breakfast. If I had to choose just one, I would say right now my favorite is Topolino’s Terrace at Disney’s Riviera Resort. The food is unbelievable and you get to sing and dance with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Daisy. Afterward, take photos on the gorgeous rooftop terrace, take a stroll through the hotel and play games at the pool area. Another beautiful one is the Crystal Palace inside Magic Kingdom with Pooh & Friends.
- For Mom & Dad: I suggest if you’re visiting EPCOT, plan to go around 4:30 pm. Save daytime for the pool or hotel hopping. When the lights come down, the park just shines. The new nighttime spectacular is beautiful and there is just enough fun for both kids and adults. Mexico boat ride for kids, margaritas for Mom and Dad. Scavenger hunt for kids, eating around the world for Mom and Dad. And yes, at times, my son was on his tablet while Mom, Dad, and Grandma were enjoying a nice glass of Kir Royale in France (no judgment).
- If you are there during the holidays, plan an evening out at Disney Springs. There are tons of Christmas trees, each Disney-themed of course. Make it fun with kids and see how many you can find. Themes include Star Wars, Toy Story, Moana, The Haunted Mansion, and so many more!
- Pick that one ride: I always say pick that one ride you just have to go on (e.g. the most popular ones currently). Get to the park at opening and beeline to that ride. You’ll usually get right on with minimal wait and have enough time to zip to the next one. An hour after opening you can plan for longer wait times.
- This is for 2022, but if you’re planning to go for the holidays, you can actually catch both ends of it. I had the rare opportunity to see the transformation from Halloween to Holiday overnight. I was working on a production in October a few years back. When I arrived, it was Halloween everywhere, and just like that (no pun intended), overnight it was Christmas. If you plan to go around that time you will actually get to celebrate both holiday festivities. Yes, it literally happens overnight. Like Cinderella, pumpkins come down and lights go up. Crews in hard hats come in, cranes are everywhere and it is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.
Some Disney Money Saving and Other Tips
- Disney Springs: kids love to dance at the center stage where there is always live music. My son comes alive with music and we made memories for life.
- TIP: Park at Lime garage, it’s the most centralized. Even if the sign says FULL, drive in. There are always open spots, they do this to divert cars to other parking lots (you didn’t hear it from me).
- If you can hold it, do the peepee dance and get to France. One of the cleanest bathrooms I’ve seen yet – in their new pavilion area by Ratatouille.
- Ride the Skyway and Monorail. My son is obsessed with trains so needless to say being able to walk right out onto the platform from our hotel at the Grand Floridian was his dream come true. It won’t cost you a thing and you can go around as many times as you’d like (keep in mind masks are still required onboard). You can also take a tour in the sky with aerial views of Disney property from the new Disney Skyliner.
- Right now, the larger parades aren’t happening because… COVID. On the My Disney Experience app, you can check the times of the different cavalcades happening and catch all of your favorite characters close up. We even got to see Santa himself!
- Selfie sticks are allowed again. A while back Disney had banned their usage in the parks, probably because people were getting whacked in the head (I’m a victim). But if you’re looking to save on the PhotoPass cost of $99, just grab a selfie tripod on Amazon for $15 and you can snag all the photos you want (saves you time and money and you snap as many as you want).
- Carry around a small fanny pack with your important stuff (cell phone, wallet, etc.) Leave the rest in a stroller, you’re fine to park it while on the ride. Everyone is super respectful.
- Buy your snacks before the park. You’ll be tempted by the popcorn and I would say go for it. But bring along water and snacks to munch on (it’s allowed) and saves you money.
- Another great time to get on the attractions of choice, wait until the last minute. While everyone is watching the fireworks, you can snag up to 25-minute lines.
- Every day at park opening you can catch all of the Disney friends greeting you on your way into the Magic Kingdom and on your way out!
For reference, yes, masks are still required at all indoor locations and attractions. I’ll be posting a lot more photos and videos on Instagram and as always, stay tuned to Miami Mom Collective’s Disney Guide for all of the best tips.
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