Top 5 Off-the-Radar Holiday Experiences at
Walt Disney World
by Susan Kelly
When December arrives at Walt Disney World, a special holiday magic fills the air. Of course you’ll find this magic at popular events like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom, but you’ll also want to discover some of the lesser known experiences available at this most wonderful time of year…
1. Over the river and through the woods…well, we’re not going to grandma’s house, but a jingling ride at Fort Wilderness can be a wonderful way to take in the holidays at Walt Disney World. Carriage rides are available all year round, but it’s even more magical in a sleigh covered in silver bells and boughs of holly! Many guests deck their camp sites out with elaborate displays throughout December, transforming Fort Wilderness into a winter wonderland. Sleigh rides last 25 minutes and cost $84 for a party of four adults (or two adults and three children).
2. The biggest and best known draw at Epcot is the Candlelight Processional, but there are plenty of other exciting holiday entertainment offerings going on in the park. Rock out to Joyful! A Gospel Celebration of Christmas at the Fountain of Nations stage or catch the special holiday storytellers throughout World Showcase. While you’re traveling the world, you can sample seasonal treats like gingerbread ice cream from France and hot applejack cider from England – and collect stamps from each country in a Holiday World Showcase Passport, available at the country snack kiosks. At the American Adventure pavilion, the Voices of Liberty are bundled up for the season and singing holiday carols inside the rotunda, and outside in Santa’s Village you can fill both Mr. and Mrs. Claus in on the latest addition to your Christmas list. You don’t often get a photo op with both Santa and Mrs Claus.
3. Holiday decorations take over many of the Walt Disney World resort hotels come December. At the Yacht Club you’ll discover a deluxe train layout and Disney-inspired winter village , while next door, the Beach Club Resort gets a carousel with themed chocolate horses. Be on the lookout for hidden Mickeys! A gingerbread stand springs up in the Boardwalk Resort lobby, and the Contemporary Resort has a special gingerbread display as well, which is Frozen-inspired. If you’re visiting during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, you’ll find special activities and character meet and greets at the deluxe resorts. Mickey and Minnie will be dressed in their Victorian holiday finest at the Grand Floridian (where there’s also a life-size gingerbread house complete with smoking chimney and shop inside), and you might even run into the big man in red himself.
4. There are decorated evergreen trees all over the parks and hotels at this time of year, but over at the Swan and Dolphin Resort they haven’t forgotten the palm trees. There’s a tropical, twinkling light show going on each night along the walkway between the two resorts. Flickering colored lights, synchronized to Christmas music, make the trees appear to dance!
5. Every night during the holiday season, Hollywood Studios has a special nighttime show called Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM. This show stars the elves from the show “Prep & Landing” and they’re on a mission to save Christmas. The show also includes music and scenes from classic Disney films. To amp up the experience, Disney offers a Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM Dessert Party. Guests of the Dessert Party can enjoy multiple food stations, featuring holiday-inspired sweet and savory delights like warm cheese fondue with pretzel bread and flatbread, warm pumpkin pie and spiced-bread pudding with hand-dipped vanilla ice cream. Beer, wine and specialty cocktails are available for guests over 21. Specialty non-alcoholic beverages are also available, and of course, the hot cocoa is a crowd-pleaser. A special VIP character comes to meet and mingle with dessert party-goers, guests won’t believe their eyes when they check out the festive lights wearing a pair of 3D HoloSpex® glasses they receive. The glasses turn bright lights into holiday holographic illusions such as gingerbread men and candy canes. The cost is $89 adult, $49 child (tax and gratuity included.)