In case you missed it on my Instagram, we spent the Christmas holidays at Walt Disney World. Probably not a shocker, considering we go about twice a year. Yes, it was definitely crowded but I had a plan help beat the crowds and still have a great time. Today I’m sharing my overview of Walt Disney World during the holidays. I highly recommend going at that time since the weather is amazing ~ imagine blue skies, sunshine and in evening its cool enough for a light cardigan ~ Orlando is easy to get to and there’s plenty to do even for adults. After checking into the hotel and unpacking, we headed over to Disney Springs for a light dinner and holiday cheer. As a kid, my family would visit what was then called ‘Lake Buena Vista,’ during the holidays for some Christmas magic and to see the live Nativity show. Since its expansion into Disney Springs, there is even more to see and do. Aside from lots of shopping, restaurants and meet-n-greet with Santa Clause they had the most adorable Christmas Tree Village with trees decorated in the theme of characters and movies. A couple of my favorites…
WHERE WE STAYED
This trip we stayed at the Swan Hotel which is super convenient. It’s walking distance to the Boardwalk and Epcot and a quick boat ride to Hollywood Studios. Although no longer ‘officially’ a Walt Disney World Hotel and now part of the Starwood Hotel Group, you can still receive several of the benefits that Walt Disney World hotel guests receive including bus transportation to and from the parks and being able to sign up for your FastPasses 60 days in advance. (SO helpful) What you’ll be missing out on is the ability to use the Disney Magical Express (free Disney bus from the Orlando airport) and paying for all of your food and gifts with your Magic Band which isn’t so bad. You also can’t beat the price. It’s a beautiful hotel, centrally located and is ‘Santa’s Favorite Resort.’ During the holidays, they have SO many special holiday features from milk & cookies being delivered to your room, Santa popping by to hang out with guests, a special TV channel showing holiday movies 24/7, Elf Tuck-In and more. You can check their site for all the details and keep in mind a few incur extra charges.
MANAGING THE CROWDS
We arrived on December 22nd and went home December 27th so we missed most of the really heavy crowds which fall between Christmas and New Years Day. I was pleasantly surprised that the crowds weren’t too bad on the days prior to Christmas. That day however, definitely lived up to its reputation but we still had a special holiday and didn’t let the crowds get us down. The Magic Kingdom was CROWDED but we had planned out our day to not be at the park during peak times. Plus, I knew it would be but I just had to walk down Main Street USA on Christmas morning and I don’t regret it.
Our plan of attack on the crowds: That morning, Magic Hours began even earlier at 7am and instead of taking the Disney Transportation bus, we opted to take an UBER from our hotel to the Contemporary Hotel It was about $12 and just a few minutes walk to the entrance of the Magic Kingdom. That helped save some time and we got right in the park. There was already a decent size crowd but we had a wonderful stroll down Main Street USA, rode about 7 or 8 of our favorite rides (in 3 hours and 3 rides were with FastPass) and then left the park at 11am just as the crowds were starting to become pretty unbearable. At that point, the line to enter the park security was about an hour long and we were happy to be leaving. From there we had a lovely brunch at the Grand Floridian Hotel, spent the afternoon relaxing at the Boardwalk and finished the night at Epcot by listening to holiday stories shared at some of the countries and dinner in Morocco. I’ll share more on our entire Christmas Day in an upcoming post but here’s a peak at Main Street USA on Christmas morning. It was so early, the sun hadn’t fully risen and the castle lights were lit! Sure there was a crowd but with a view like that, all you notice is Cinderella’s Castle!!
Be warned, the days leading up to New Year’s Day get more and more crowded. For example, on December 27th, the day we left for the airport, there was a 2 hour line just to enter the Magic Kingdom parking lot and I’ve heard New Year’s Eve at Epcot is one of the busiest of the year at that park. So if its your first time to WDW, you’re traveling with kids and may not be able to return often, I suggest choosing a different week when the crowds are lighter. Regardless of the crowds, I will definitely return for the holidays but would again go on the early side and leave just after Christmas Day.
EPCOT HOLIDAYS AROUND THE WORLD
Pick up your special event passport, available at a few locations around the park including Guest Services at the back entrance between the UK and France. In the passport, you’ll find listings for specialty holiday cocktails, snack and meal options (SO MANY ARE DELICIOUS!) and information on stories told in each country based on their holiday traditions. My favorite was Father Christmas in France and learning about the Nutcracker in Germany. As you dine and drink your way through the countries, add the appropriate sticker to fill up your passport!
I love the holiday Mickey ears listening on as Peré Noel shares the history of the holidays in France. So Cute! No Walt Disney World trip is complete without a visit to Hollywood Studio’s and Animal Kingdom. This was the first time we stayed at HS in the evening to see the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular and it was FANTASTIC!! We found a spot to stand about 20 minutes prior to the show to get a good view which I highly recommend. It was well worth the wait, especially since I’m pretty short and have trouble seeing over people.
Baby elephants on Safari! Our favorite attraction at the Animal Kingdom although I’m sure Pandora: Avatar World will make a run for first place! SAFARI TIP: Fastpass the Safari in the morning or early evening. You may get a chance to see more animals during the cooler hours. Last but not least, one of my favorite holiday treats, Mickey Santa Hat Cupcake! Found in all parks and several other Disney locations including the Boardwalk Bakery
A few more tips:
FASTPASS: Try to book your Fastpass for the first group in the morning. That way, once you use your first 3 you can start looking for new ones to sign up for. Even if its for a different park than you are currently in. If you’re staying at a Disney hotel, you can signup for your FP 60 days in advance or 30 days for non-Disney hotel guests. Do this as early as possible.
DINNER RESERVATIONS: You can book these much further in advance and I always like to have some made, especially for my favorites in Epcot: France, Morocco, Mexico + Japan. You can cancel without a penalty within 24 hours of the reservation.
MY DISNEY EXPERIENCE APP: If you have a smartphone, then definitely download this app. You will have free wifi in the parks and its your best resource for everything happening at WDW from making or changing current dinner reservations, managing + signing up for new FastPasses, Maps, shows times for ride lines, character meet ‘n greet times and more. I use it all day while I’m there
Planning an upcoming trip to Walt Disney World? Feel free to ask me trip planning questions in the comments below. Happy to make your trip as magical as can be!!
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