I was talking on Instagram recently about how bonkers it’s been the last couple of weeks. We’re heading to Orlando for Christmas (woohoo!) and I just want everything to be perfect, so I’ve been planning like a crazy woman. A couple of our family have never been, and I want them to see all the lovely things. Happily, I’m now armed with a ton of tips, so I hope these help if you’re counting down the days to your own Christmas visit to Walt Disney World (or planning one for next year – I’ll make sure I update this). Christmas is a brilliant time to visit Walt Disney World – the weather should still be warm and sunny, and the thundery afternoons of the summer will have passed. Planning something this lovely isn’t a chore and really adds to the excitement, plus you’ll have all sorts of amazing experiences lined up for when you get there! So grab your pen and paper and a festive hot chocolate and have a read of all my top tips for planning a Christmas trip to Walt Disney World, Florida.
1 Download the My Disney Experience App
This app is absolutely crucial for planning a Walt Disney World trip. There’s brilliant WiFi all around the Disney parks, and this app will show you everything from park hours and showtimes to park maps showing real-time wait times for the attractions. Plus, once you’ve linked your tickets, you can select up to three FastPass+ experiences for each day of your visit (these can be made up to 60 days ahead when you have a reservation at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel), and once you’ve used those up, you can continue to use the app to make more FastPass+ picks on the day. Add to this the ability to make, amend, and cancel dining reservations – including Disney Springs restaurants – and order food to pick up from selected restaurants around the parks, and you can see why it’s so important.
2 Make sure you visit lots of the Walt Disney World Resort Hotels
I always recommend staying at one of the Walt Disney World Resort Hotels (read my Walt Disney World top tips post for more info, but let’s just say the perks are just SO good, they’re worth spending money booking a resort hotel), but even if you’re not staying on-site, do take the time to visit some of the WDW Resort Hotels. At Christmas, the decorations in all the resort hotels are absolutely spectacular. My favourite Christmas tree is the one at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, plus many of the hotels have extra special decorations like the huge (and delicious smelling!) gingerbread houses at Disney’s Contemporary Resort; Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, which is now in its 20th year – not the same house, clearly; and Disney’s Yacht Club Resort. Oh, and that reminds me – don’t forget to go and visit Disney’s BoardWalk – it’s such a lovely place to go for a wander and the decorations are wonderful (and one of my fave restaurants, The Flying Fish, is there too).
3 Head to Toy Story Land
As Toy Story Land only opened this summer, this is the first time that we’ll get to experience the land decorated for Christmas. In keeping with the immersive theme in Andy’s backyard, you’ll find oversized decorations, like a huge cranberry-and-popcorn garland, and a giant Hamm sugar cookie at Woody’s Lunch Box. Look out for green alien ornaments, oh and listen out for jingling sleigh bells on the Slinky Dog Dash attraction too. Alien Swirling Saucers doesn’t dip out, with holiday music and special lighting, and the characters will be dressing up in their holiday best too. Look out for Buzz Lightyear looking extra festive in his Santa hat! You can find my top five reasons why you need to visit Toy Story Land here.
4 Book some fantastic Disney dining
I know I’m always banging on about it, but Disney dining really is spectacular. If anyone ever dares say to me ‘oh isn’t Disney food all hot dogs and burgers?’ I’m always armed and dangerous with a reply. From fine dining at gorgeous restaurants like The California Grill, where you can sip delicious cocktails and feast on fabulous sushi, steaks and seafood while watching the fireworks sparkle over Cinderella Castle, to fun character breakfasts (one of my faves is the Best Friends Breakfast with Lilo and Stitch at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort) and dessert events, there are so many options to choose from. And yes, you can eat delicious pizzas and burgers too (check out D-Luxe Burger at Disney Springs).
5 Eat your way around the world at World Showcase
One of the best parks to visit if you’re a bit of a foodie is Epcot, where you can basically eat your way around the world at World Showcase. The special event (the one that used to be called Holidays Around the World) is a kind of Christmassy version of the Food & Wine Festival, and is now called the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays (catchy, no?). From now until December 3oth, you’ll find Holiday Kitchens: individual themed food stalls, selling small dishes (they’re actually not that small!) featuring all sorts of delicious regional food and drink to try. Stalls include the Feast of the Three Kings, based on the celebration found in Latin countries and also in the Caribbean, where you can try delicious goodies like Pastelón: sofrito-marinated beef with sweet plantains and olives, as well as queso fresco-stuffed arepas topped with shrimp. Go hungry, otherwise you’ll be defeated before you’ve tried many dishes!
6. Experience the wonderful Candlelight Processional at Epcot
There’s nothing guaranteed to get you in the Christmas spirit more than hearing a narrator tell the story of Christmas accompanied by a full choir and a 50-piece orchestra. The beautiful Candlelight Processional at Epcot features celebrity narrators like the brilliant Alfonso Ribeiro, Whoopi Goldberg and Moana actress Auli’i Cravalho. Performances, at the American Gardens Theatre, take place three times nightly until 30th December.
7 Check the crowd calendar to plan your days
Undercover Tourist has a brilliant crowd calendar, which not only shows you historically which days are busier, but even breaks it down into individual parks, so you can plan your visit to coincide with the quieter days (remember, avoid those weekends if you possibly can). Surprisingly, up until around 20th, crowd levels are between low and average, especially on weekdays.
8 Give serious thought to booking Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (or MVMCP for short) is a ‘hard ticketed’ event, meaning that unless you buy a specific ticket for the event, you can’t come in. It’s not cheap (tickets for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party start from £75 for a kids’ ticket at Attraction Tickets Direct, and prices rise to £110 as you get nearer Christmas), but ticket holders have the whole park to themselves, meaning there’s lots more room and attraction lines are minimal (many of the main attractions, like Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train remain open all evening). There are loads of special treats including free festive food and drink, and oodles of fun shows and parades that are unique to the event. This year, guests can see Queen Elsa lighting up the castle in ‘A Frozen Holiday Wish’ and Main Street will be filled with holiday magic during the Once Upon a Christmastime Parade.
9 Spend some time at Disney Springs
As well as lots of lovely shopping venues like Sephora, Anthropologie and Coach, and some seriously good choices for drinking and dining, Disney Springs is a lovely, festive spot to spend the day (and night). Shop ’til you drop in the huge – and newly reimagined – World of Disney store, or visit the Marketplace to walk the Christmas Tree Trail, where you can find 27 beautifully decorated trees, each one inspired by a different Disney character or theme. You’ll also see live performers on the Marketplace stage, from choirs to kids’ DJs, and you can even visit Santa Claus at Santa’s Chalet. Oh, and don’t forget to visit the food trucks for some delicious street food. Fun fact: Disney Springs is the largest of all of the decorated Disney locations, with more than 2,000 pieces of individual decor, including a 45-foot-tall tree.
10 Stay later in the parks
Another one of the advantages of staying in a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel is that you can pop back to the room for a little afternoon nap (just me?) then head back out for an evening of festive fun. There are some wonderful nighttime shows that are definitely worth staying up for. Also, remember if you’re a guest at one of the Walt Disney Resort Hotels, you can take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours in the evening, where wait times for the popular rides will be much quicker.
At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you’ll find an incredible new laser show called Sunset Seasons Greetings projected onto the Hollywood Tower Hotel. The show features a host of characters including Mickey, Minnie and Olaf and the incredibly clever projections transform the tower multiple times – it’s magical and not to be missed!
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