osborne custom
osborne custom

osbourne lights xmas 2015

If you have ever heard of the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party or attended this fabulous event in the past, you probably know that it requires a separate ticket to attend as it is a special event that is not included with regular park admission. The Magic Kingdom closes early to the regular park guests at 7:00pm on select dates in Nov. & Dec. and is only open to the Xmas party-goers that hold the special event tickets from 7:00pm to midnight on those evenings. The price of these tickets has gone up considerably over the years, and it’s getting to be quite expensive! Advance tickets for November start at $74 plus tax (for adults and children aged 10 & up) and go up to $82 plus tax for the December dates closest to Christmas. While I do highly recommend this event and feel it is truly worth the price, especially if you’ve never experienced it before, there are a great many other things to see and do during the Christmas season at Walt Disney World that don’t require the extra cost! They are also very special, festive, and magical events and shouldn’t be over-looked. So if you’re not planning on spending the extra money to visit MVMCP, you may be left wondering: “What are the best things to see and do at WDW during the 2015 Christmas season that don’t require a separate ticket like MVMCP?

Well, to answer that, I give to you my Top 5 Other Things to See & Do during WDW’s 2015 Christmas Season: (some are even FREE!)

gingerbread house at GF

 # 5 – Take a self-guided tour of the deluxe Disney resorts (totally FREE!)  One of the very best things to enjoy about WDW at Christmastime is their spectacular display of over-the-top decorations! Disney goes ALL OUT when it comes to decorating the theme parks and resorts for the holiday season, and these can be enjoyed for 2 solid months from the 1st week in November 2015 to the first week in January 2016. While the parks do feature some great decor and atmosphere, the best of all can be seen at the deluxe Disney resorts for FREE without having to purchase park admission or even without having to stay at one of these resorts. You are welcome to visit any of the Disney resorts without a reservation anytime, but do please keep in mind that during the busiest weeks of the year, the week of Xmas and the week of New Year’s, and usually on most MVMCP nights, the parking at the monorail resorts is highly restricted and you may be turned away if you are driving and trying to park there. It’s best to plan your visit for November or early December, and to try to take Disney’s transportation as much as possible when visiting between the various resorts, whether that be a bus, the monorail, or a boat. Another great way to avoid any parking problems is to book a dining reservation at one of these resorts, as they all have great restaurants to choose from and this will guarantee you entrance to the resort’s parking lot.

Most of the deluxe resorts, including the Grand Floridian, the Wilderness Lodge, the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and the Contemporary, feature ginormous Christmas trees in the lobby (I’m talking 40 feet tall) that delight with special ornaments that uniquely fit each resort’s different theme. You surely cannot miss the largest wreath on property, in the 4th floor window of the Contemporary resort, facing the Magic Kingdom and above the monorail tracks – it boasts a 25 foot diameter and Mickey ears, of course. There are also a ton of amazing edible displays constructed by the very talented Disney chefs at several of the deluxe resorts. Over at the Epcot-area resorts, traditionally every year you can find a beautiful life-sized carousel in the lobby of the Beach Club Resort with ponies made of chocolate and fondant (complete with several hidden Mickeys to find!), and a very charming Christmas village edible display with a train and rock candy mountains in the the Yacht Club resort lobby. Last year, an incredible all-new display debuted at the Contemporary – a gingerbread castle inspired by the movie Frozen and the artist Mary Blair, with over 1500 gingerbread shingles, 423 lbs. of chocolate, and 14 hidden Olafs to find! But in my opinion, the highlight of the resorts tour is definitely the Grand Floridian – with it’s Victorian elegance, lobby pianist, and the must-see 16 foot gingerbread house made from 1,050 lbs. of honey, 140 pints of egg whites, 600 lbs. of powdered sugar, 700 lbs. of chocolate, 800 lbs. of flour, 35 lbs. of spices, and “tons of creativity, Disney magic, and pixie dust.” It’s not only a very pretty and impressive sight, but actually doubles as an shop, operating daily from 10am to 10pm, selling a variety of yummy holiday sweet treats. Spending time there – soaking in the opulent Grand Floridian lobby ambiance, enjoying your chocolate-gingerbread shingle and listening to the melodic grand piano music –  you are sure to be feeling the magic of the Christmas spirit!

 

castle dream lights

# 4 – See the lighting of the Cinderella Castle’s Christmas lights at the Magic Kingdom at night (requires park admission) Hands down, the most breathtakingly gorgeous sight at WDW during Xmas season is the Cinderella Castle all lit up with over 200,000 sparkling lights draped over it in icicle fashion, transforming this already majestic structure into a shining, shimmering ice palace galore known as “Castle Dream Lights.” Last year, a new show debuted in conjunction with the castle lighting called “A Frozen Holiday Wish” and it will be returning this year for the 2nd time! It features all our favorite characters from Frozen – Anna, Kristoff, Olaf, and Elsa – entertaining on the castle stage, and culminating with Elsa doing the honor of illuminating the castle with her magical frosty powers. Showtimes are twice daily at 6:15pm and 7:30pm.

 

santa visit

# 3 – Visit with Santa Claus, of course! (FREE at Disney Springs, but requires park admission at Magic Kingdom & Epcot) No Christmas holiday is complete without a visit with Kris Kringle himself. The Santa meet & greet at Disney Springs (usually near the World of Disney store in the Marketplace area) is a fantastic one and it’s completely free to visit! You are able to take your own photos with your personal camera & a Disney Photopass photographer is also on hand. What makes this so nice is that you are not required to purchase any photos like it is typical to do in shopping malls – where it’s normally prohibited to take photos with your own devices. That, and this particular Santa is just more special than your average mall Santa – he is the real deal with a legit beard and everything. He looks to be so truly genuine that you can’t help but believe! I also think you should be able to see much shorter lines and wait times here than at the theme parks, but you can also visit with Santa at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. He can be seen in the “Candy Cane Garden” in Magic Kingdom’s Town Square (next to City Hall) daily between 10am and 5pm, and also during the Mickey’s Very Christmas Party event, in the same location. At Epcot, you can find both Santa & his wife, Mrs. Claus, in the American Adventure pavilion of the World Showcase beginning after Thanksgiving, and during set times throughout the afternoon and evening. They will greet their guests, pose for pics, & hear Xmas wishes for 70-minute-long sessions at 1:30pm, 3:30pm, 5:30pm. & 7:30pm each day in a very fancy setup.

 

candlelight-processional-00-full

# 2 – See the Candlelight Processional show at Epcot (requires park admission) Every night this year from November 27 to December 30, in the America Gardens Theatre of the World Showcase, there will be 3 showings of this truly remarkable holiday tradition – at 5:00pm, 6:45pm, & 8:15pm. A 50-piece orchestra and mass choir will tell the Christmas story in joyful song, along with a celebrity guest who will narrate the biblical tale in between songs. It is such an inspirational production that has moved me to tears on more than 1 occasion! I was even lucky enough to participate in the show’s choir, singing 1st soprano, back in 2000 when I was a senior in high school –  so this show really does hold a very special place in my heart and my Christmas memories. It was a night I will never forget as long as I shall live! This year’s celebrity narrator lineup includes returning fan favorites Neil Patrick Harris (Nov 30 – Dec 3) and Whoopi Goldberg (Dec 4 & 5), plus 4 all NEW narrators -Meredith Viera (Dec 12-14), America Ferrera (Dec 15-17), Chandra Wilson (Dec 18-20), & Daniel Dae Kim (Dec 21-23) – and more. Please note, this is a very popular event and people line up hours before the show to get seats. It fills up quickly, so the best way to get guaranteed seating is to book a dining package so you can also enjoy a delicious lunch or dinner at one of Epcot’s fabulous table-service restaurants. Don’t wait – remember to book in advance! And another tip: this theater is an outdoor one and the seating area is not under cover, so be prepared for the weather. One year, we watched it while wearing ponchos in the pouring rain!

 

osborne spectacle of lights

# 1 – Experience the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights…..for the last time (requires park admission to Hollywood Studios) This awesome, amazing display of Christmas lights that “dance” in synchronization to traditional & popular holiday tunes is my all-time #1 favorite and most treasured event at Walt Disney World, so I am devastated and heartbroken that this will be it’s 20th and final year at Disney’s Hollywood Studios park. If you have never seen it before, you simply MUST make sure you see it this season before it’s gone forever, and if you know it and love it dearly like I do, then you’d also better plan a visit to bid your goodbye. Oh, you thought Cinderella’s Castle Dream Lights were cool? Well, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. You’ve never seen a bigger, better display of Christmas lights! It boasts 5 million LED lights covering the Streets of America – over 10 miles of rope lighting, connected by 30 miles of extension cords, held together by 2 million ties, and requiring 21,000 hours to install and 800,000 watts of electricity to run. It will blow your mind, ignite the spirit of Xmas within your soul, and make your heart skip a beat! From November 6, 2015 to January 3, 2016 – every 10 minutes from dusk until the park closes, the myriad of colorful lights will dazzle and delight you when they perform their choreographed dance routine in rhythm to the beat of the music, while snow falls gently down upon you. So grab a hot chocolate and soak it all in. See if you can spot all of the hidden Mickeys – there are a lot of them! – and try to find the purple cat (mistakenly sent to Disney in 1995, with the transfer of the lights, from the Osborne family’s Halloween collection). Disney’s Photopass photographers will be there to capture your family’s memories (making for a great Xmas card to send out to your friends!) and you can even purchase the “Glow with the Show” Mickey ears hat to wear so you can actually become a part of the magic! Santa Goofy is also there for a special meet & greet opportunity.

To give you some history of how this dramatic spectacle of lights came to be, it all started with Jennings Osbourne, a father & businessman in Arkansas who originally constructed a 3 million light display at his home. But when it became too much of a nuisance to his neighbors, the lights were moved to Walt Disney World in 1995 to find their new home on the Streets of America. And over the years, Disney built upon the Osborne family collection, adding 2 million more lights, the numerous hidden Mickeys, and upgrading the technology to LED lighting in 2011 for a brighter, crisper look. New for this 2015 season, Disney is offering a “Merry & Bright Dessert Party” from Nov. 6 to Dec. 30 and a “Merry & Bright Dinner Reception” from Jan. 1 to Jan. 3, both taking place at the Osborne lights, with the dinner including small bites and beer, wine, and specialty drinks. Both will surely be popular with guests as it is the final year to enjoy this experience. I know I’m going to miss it terribly!!!

And listed here are some more fantastic opportunities to partake in Disney holiday fun this year. The honorable mentions that didn’t make my Top 5, but are sure to delight both young & old are:

  • the “Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime” parade at Magic Kingdom – did you know it’s not just for MVMCP guests? It also runs in the afternoon during the weeks of Xmas & New Year’s
  • the “Holiday Wishes – Celebrate the Spirit of the Season” fireworks show*  – also isn’t exclusive to the party, although the extended perimeter fireworks are. The version without the perimeter fireworks will run nightly from Dec. 19 (the day after the last MVMCP) to the end of the year. *A tip: you can enjoy the MVMCP version of Holiday Wishes without having to purchase any tickets, from a location outside Magic Kingdom – such as the Polynesian resort beach or the 4th floor observation deck of the Contemporary.
  • the special holiday version of the “Celebrate of the Magic” projection show on Cinderella Castle – this show is crazy-good and you simply CANNOT go to Magic Kingdom without seeing it!
  • the “Jingle Cruise” at Magic Kingdom – the Jungle Cruise attraction gets a seasonal makeover for the 3rd year in a row, with the skippers homesick for the holidays and cracking Xmas-themed jokes during their tours
  • “Holidays Around the World” at Epcot – storytellers around the World Showcase share their native holiday traditions from the different countries represented – Nov. 27 – Dec. 30
  • “Illuminations: Reflections of Earth” at Epcot features a holiday version of the nighttime laser-light/fireworks show on the World Showcase lagoon
  • Special holiday-themed treats to enjoy eating & drinking can be found around the World Showcase and character topiaries can be found scattered around Future World in Epcot
  • “Joyful! A Gospel Celebration of the Season” show at Epcot’s Fountain Stage in Future World features, yep, you guessed it – holiday gospel music!
  • Santa Goofy not only appears at Hollywood Studios, but also at Dinoland in Animal Kingdom
  • Disney Springs will have tons of merry decor and fun seasonal activities & performances in addition to some of the best Xmas shopping around!
  • the Fort Wilderness resort will have sleigh rides – a great way to view all of the Xmas decorations put up by the guests staying at the campgrounds (some can be quite extravagant), as well as a golf cart parade on Christmas Eve

How will YOU choose to celebrate the holidays at WDW this year? I’d love to hear your feedback! I hope you enjoyed reading about my personal favorites. If you have any questions for me, or if you’re interested in booking a Walt Disney World vacation during this year’s Xmas season, please contact me at summerprager@worldofmagictravel.com. As an agent with World of Magic Travel Services – the preferred travel agency of Chip & Co. and Disney Addicts – I offer complimentary planning services so that all you have to do is show up and enjoy your magical vacation!

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