If you ask many people
when a good time is to visit Walt Disney World, they'll say, "Anytime!"
There are those WDW veterans, however, who claim that nothing compares
to a Yuletime visit to Orlando.
In this session, let's look at
what WDW has to offer during the Christmas holiday, and perhaps entice
you into visiting Mickey and friends during the month of December.
crowds, lower mercury
Before you even get to the special
holiday activities WDW holds for December guests, consider these three
important factors, which serve as a draw for that time of year:
The first three weeks of December
can offer guests some of the lowest on-site room rates of the year.
When you combine these attractive rates with relatively low airline
fares, a WDW vacation may not seem so pricey. An economical vacation
is a big draw to everyone, and December certainly offers such an opportunity.
However, beware that once you get to Christmas Week itself, those rates
do an about-face.
Not everyone cares for hot and
sticky weather. Some people avoid Orlando during the summer to avoid
sizzling temperatures and the torrential afternoon downpours. The weather
in December, on the other hand, can be warm without being overbearing.
In fact, Orlando weather in December is pretty inviting for many people
who travel from cold weather areas. During early December, Orlando enjoys
average temperatures in the mid-70s during the day and mid-50s at night.
Of course, there will always be that occasional cold day. For the most
part, however, December temperatures and dry weather is very appealing
to those who look for comfortable vacation weather.
Historically, WDW experiences
low attendance during the first three weeks in December. This means
shorter queues for attractions and greater availability for restaurants.
Guests can thus squeeze more into their day than they would with bigger
crowds. This is quite a draw for those who value their time.
These three factors are part
of the formula that draws some WDW veterans to Orlando in December.
However, the formula also includes the WDW approach to the Christmas
Magic (Christmas) Kingdom
The Magic Kingdom undergoes a
magical transformation during the Christmas season. Upon entering the
Magic Kingdom, guests find a huge Christmas tree in the Town Square
and garland and other decorations strewn about Main Street, U.S.A.
Country Bear Jamboree in Frontierland
also goes through a transformation, entertaining guests with its annual
Christmas show. Those singing bears get all decked out in their holiday
trimmings, while a certain someone on the right side wall does his own
impersonation of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Of course, the best that the
Magic Kingdom has to offer during the Christmas season is Mickey's Very
Merry Christmas Party.
This extremely popular special
event is held on specific evenings, traditionally from just after Thanksgiving
through just before Christmas. This is a separately ticketed event held
usually from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., and includes the following special activities:
- Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Parade – This special
Christmas parade marches down Main Street USA twice nightly.
- Mickey's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas – This
show can be seen at five different times at the Galaxy Palace Theater
- Celebrate the Season – This festive holiday show
takes place three times in the Castle Forecourt Stage.
- Goofy's Country Dancin' Jamboree – This show replaces
Minnie's Country Christmas and offers three performances at the Diamond
Horseshoe Saloon in Liberty Square.
- Snowflake Special Storytelling – This event is
new for 2003 and takes place at the Fairytale Garden in Fantasyland.
There are five performances nightly.
- Belle's Enchanted Christmas Story Telling – Belle
entertains with some Christmas tales five times nightly at the Fantasyland
- Lake Howell Holiday Brass – This outfit performs
three shows at the Tomorrowland Stage.
- Wishes – This latest Magic Kingdom nighttime spectacular
is also shown on Mickey Very Merry Christmas Party evenings. It is
usually shown after the first performance of Mickey's Very Merry Christmas
But there's more. Besides these
shows and events, guests can get their complimentary photos of the evening,
taken at the old queue area for Alien Encounter, the queue area at "it's
a small world," the Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square, and just to
the side of Aloha Isle in Adventureland.
Guests are also treated to hot
cocoa and cookies, offered at or near the Plaza Pavilion, Aloha Isle,
and Columbia Harbor House.
Needless to say, guests are treated
to a bounty of festive holiday happenings during Mickey's Very Merry
If you are fortunate enough to
attend, don't forget to look for Scrooge McDuck, toy soldiers, reindeer,
gingerbread men, and dancing Christmas trees—they make special appearances
during the event.
Epcot's World Showcase offers
an international celebration of the holiday spirit that they affectionately
call "Holidays Around the World." As you go from country to country,
you are welcomed with the holiday greeting that is traditional with
Epcot has its holiday Christmas
storytellers, such as China's The Money King, the United Kingdom's Father
Christmas, and Italy's La Befana. Each storyteller delivers an enchanted
holiday tale for guests.
At the Showcase Plaza, there
are daily Christmas shows with Mickey and friends, including a couple
of talented reindeer.
But by far the most popular holiday
attraction at Epcot is the Candlelight Processional, held three times
nightly, from just after Thanksgiving through late December. This presentation
includes the telling of the Christmas story by a celebrity guest narrator,
as well as a full chorus, bell ringers, and an orchestra. Some of this
year's narrators include Ben Vereen, David Ogden Stiers, Sandi Patti,
and Robby Benson.
Guests can sign up for a Candlelight
Processional dinner package, which guarantees a seat for the performance.
The package includes dinner at a selected World Showcase restaurant.
For many years, the Disney-MGM
Studios was home to the wonderful Osborne Spectacle of Lights, which
lit up the Backlot Tour, New York Street, and Residential Street areas
with many colorful holiday lights.
Unfortunately, this popular Little
Rock, Arkansas attraction is not being offered this year. The theme
park is building a new stunt show attraction in the Residential Street
area of the Backlot Tour, taking up the room that the Osborne Lights
used. Also, the New York Street portion of the park is being revamped
with what is being called Big City Street, representing famous portions
of San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.
Hopefully the Osborne family
lights will return in 2004.
This theme park is decorated
for the holidays, but there is nothing significantly added for guests
during December. This may be due to the nature of the theme park and
the fact that its winter operating hours are shorter than the other
three theme parks.
at the Resorts
Of course, the resorts are decorated
to the hilt for the Christmas holidays. Some of the more popular resorts
to visit for holiday décor sightseeing include the Grand Floridian Resort,
Wilderness Lodge, and the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Decorations usually include a
bigger-than-life Christmas tree in the lobby, and in the Grand Floridian,
a gingerbread house.
Speaking of gingerbread, guests
at Disney's Beach Club Resort can see a gingerbread carousel that's
probably more fit to be consumed than ridden.
The Polynesian Resort usually
displays Santa's workshop, gingerbread style… you can see there's a
gingerbread theme here.
For about $30, guests can also
enjoy a 30-minute sleigh ride between the Wilderness Lodge and Fort
windows and window dressing
Not to be overlooked is the Disney
Marketplace—Downtown Disney and Disney West Side. Here, guests can find
Santa Claus to ask for that special gift. Guests can also visit the
many animated windows that tell the story of Mickey's Christmas Carol.
Finally, if you really want to
know all about how Walt Disney World plans and goes about decorating
for the holidays, you may want to take the Yuletide Fantasy Tour. This
three- to four-hour tour shows guests what goes into the planning and
holiday-decorating operations for the resort. Guests are also shown
the Walt Disney World ribbon-making machine, which makes customized
ribbons for the resort. When I last checked, this tour charged about
$60 per guest.
different kind of WDW vacation
As you can see, a visit to the
WDW resort in early December is very different from a visit during any
other time of the year. In many cases, the attractions that are the
big drawing cards during the year take a back seat to the special holiday
festivities awaiting guests.
If you ever get an opportunity
to visit the WDW resort in December, you may find yourself saying the
same thing that most people say on their initial holiday visit: "Why
haven't I done this before?"
As you are read this article,
yours truly is "slaving away" at Mousefest. Next time I will bring you
a recap of my impressions of this event.
Friday, December 5, 2003
by Mike Scopa, staff writer
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