My family would live at Disney if they would let us. There is so much to see and do year round, but during the holidays is even more magical. I have compiled a list of my top ten things to do at Disney World during the holiday season. Most of the items on my list are free, less crowded, and can be done by anyone that wants to visit Disney.
Of course some resorts go all out for the holidays and are on the top of everyone's list to visit, but did you know that ALL of the resorts decorate for the holidays? Watching my children play on the playground at Port Orleans French Quarter while listening to Cajun style Christmas music is a wonderful and relaxing experience. The Christmas tree at French Quarter and Riverside are both “New Orleans/Louisiana” themed but still have their differences, just like the resorts themselves. For the value, or value plus, resorts, All Star Music has awesome musical decorations, as to be expected, and Art of Animation has gorgeous clips of artwork on their Christmas tree. As it gets closer to Christmas, the entertainment really heightens at the resorts. Disney characters actually have meet and greets in some of the lobbies, Christmas carols at the campfires, and holiday movies under the stars.
During the holidays, the parks can get very busy and may not be the best possible experience for someone visiting for the first time. Visiting the Disney resorts instead of, or in addition to, the parks is a smart and inexpensive option. The weekend before Christmas, my family booked a couple rooms at Kidani Village and just parked ourselves there the entire time. We completely avoided the parks and enjoyed what Animal Kingdom Lodge had to offer instead. It was a very relaxing and pleasant experience.
2. Gingerbread Displays
Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Beach Club, Boardwalk, and even the American Pavilion in Epcot have grand Gingerbread displays. Now, some resorts have small gingerbread houses made by the cast members for you to judge. The grand displays take many hours and ingredients and are on display even after Christmas Day. Most even have a QR code so you can watch it being made on a YouTube video.
3. Osborne Family Lights
If you have not been to Hollywood Studios during the holidays, you are missing out on an incredible “free” event. The Osborne Family Lights are included in the park's admission and are a joy to experience. This is also one of the places that has snow in Florida. (See number 10.)
4. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party
Seeing the parade, fireworks, and Club Tinsel was a special and probably once in a lifetime opportunity but those are not my favorite reasons to go to this special event.
I go for the unlimited supply of hot chocolate and cookies! My family and I went to the Christmas Party on a week night. Now, that was a bad idea for attempting to wake up and go to school the next day, but it was a great way to avoid the crowds.
We were able to see the parade in Frontierland right across from the shooting gallery.
Sunny Eclipse magically goes into the ceiling when Cosmic Rays transforms into Club Tinsel. Disney characters come out to dance with the guests and there is even confetti tinsel like streamers. We were not able to get a clear shot of the not so scary fireworks since we attempted to sit outside of Cosmic Rays. This time, we stood on the bridge between the hub/center and Adventureland. We have been waiting for the fireworks since we can hear them in the evening from our house. They seem like they go on for ever, at least when we are sitting on our patio listening to them. Finally, we were able to see them in person, close enough to the castle to see the preshow but far enough away that we were not squished on the ground. For the hot chocolate and cookies, we visited every location on the map that was giving away the yummy treats. One location we avoided was Pinocchio's Haus. It is a crazy place during normal hours so during the Christmas party, the line was out the door. One hot chocolate location was the Crystal Palace. We have not been in there for a few years so it was exciting to go in, even though the characters weren't there to greet us.
5. Holidays Around the World
Epcot is an excellent location to teach your children, and yourself, about the many cultures of the world. The holiday time is no different.
Each country showcases their own way of celebrating winter and the holidays this time of year. Of course, the candlelight processional is also this time of year and is full of celebrities and joyful singing!
6. Downtown Disney
It is always free to park, walk, and taste at Downtown Disney. This time of year also includes tin soldiers, holiday music and decorations, and Santa.
7. Christmas Tree Comparing
Each Disney resort decorates for the holidays, like many hotels across the country.
Did you know that the decorations are specific to each resort? The ornaments for the Christmas trees are picked with great care to represent the theme of that particular resort.
The two best Christmas trees on property, in my opinion, are at Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge. Each have such detailed ornaments and are exquisite works of art.
8. Wilderness Campgrounds
Anyone up for a holiday themed golf cart parade? You can catch one at the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds.
The people staying at the campgrounds and in the RV section also decorate their own spaces so guests can walk around and enjoy the decorations.
9. Decorated Parks
If you are brave enough to visit a park during the holiday season, the decorations are worth the trip. Especially with the wait times being horrendously long, checking out the many decorations may be a good way to spend your time. The Christmas Carol windows in the Emporium on Main Street in Magic Kingdom are full of Disney Details. I especially enjoy the decorations because I know that it takes so much time and effort to put them all up and to maintain them throughout the season.
10. Snow in Florida
Normally the temperatures at Disney World are tolerable during the holiday season. Today is a different story with the temperature staying in the 40s. Snow is a welcome sight in Central Florida since it does not come with icy roads or dangerous temperatures. If you are at the parks, both Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom have snow. It snows during the Osborne Family Lights and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. If you are looking for free snow, stop by Celebration. It is just off Irlo Bronson Drive/HWY192 and has nightly snow multiple times each evening this month.