By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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Category — 6. The Christmas Season at Walt Disney World

Christmas Breaks in 2019 and Disney World Crowds

DISNEY WORLD CROWDS FROM LATER DECEMBER 2019 TO EARLY JANUARY 2020

Disney World sees its highest crowds and prices of the year in the later third of December and the beginning of January, in the weeks around Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

This is for a pretty basic reason: kids are out of school then. However, not every school district has the same break schedule.

In 2019, as always, there’s more kids out the week between Christmas and New Year’s than before or after.

However, because of the Wednesday Christmas, there’s not a lot of kids out the week before Christmas week–fewer than we’ve seen some recent years.

Crowds will be massive by December 21, 2019, and will be at their worst between 12/24/2019 and 1/1/2020.

More schools are taking two week breaks over the holidays in the 2019-2020 school year, so the week after New Years in 2020 has many kids still on break. Thus I expect Disney World to be heavily crowded through January 5, 2020. [Read more →]

April 9, 2019   No Comments

The Epcot International Festival of the Holidays

EPCOT’S INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THE HOLIDAYS

The Epcot International Festival of the Holidays is a holiday and Christmas celebration at Epcot, including decorations, dining, shows, and activities.

Renamed a few years ago from “Holidays Around the World,” the Festival of the Holidays keeps all of the former crowd-pleasing elements of Holidays Around the World and adds more dining options, making it parallel to other Epcot seasonal festivals.

In the past, the offering has run from the Friday after Thanksgiving until December 30. In 2018, for the first time, it had Thanksgiving as its first day. For 2019, it returns to the Friday after Thanksgiving opening and will be offered November 29 to December 30, 2019,

DECORATIONS AND CHRISTMAS TREES AT EPCOT’S FESTIVAL OF THE HOLIDAYS

As in all the Disney World parks, you’ll see holiday decorations in Epcot.

Future World does not lend itself to much in the way of traditional garlands and lighting, but you will find the Epcot Christmas Tree here.

World Showcase—especially the parts from the Western tradition—has much more, including this Christmas tree in the American pavilion…

…and more garlands and lights elsewhere in World Showcase; Italy is above;

Germany;

The UK.

THE HOLIDAY STORYTELLERS AT EPCOT’S FESTIVAL OF THE HOLIDAYS

At many World Showcase pavilions, you will find performers who depict the holiday traditions of the respective countries.

Check your Times Guide or park signage for when these shows occur.

There’s more on the Holiday Storytellers in Epcot’s Festival of the Holidays here.

THE HOLIDAY KITCHENS AT EPCOT’S FESTIVAL OF THE HOLIDAYS

New the last few years has been a greater emphasis on dining during this Christmas celebration.

A dozen minor venues typically offer a few tasting-menu sized savory and dessert offerings, along with pairings of wine, beer or other drinks.

My co-author Josh of easyWDW.com has posted reviews of each of these—see this, for example.

THE CANDLELIGHT PROCESSIONAL AT EPCOT’S FESTIVAL OF THE HOLIDAYS

The Candlelight Processional is a much-loved Disney World traditional that combines a massed choir with a re-telling of the nativity story by a celebrity narrator–for example–during the week of my 2018 visit, narrators included Whoopi Goldberg, Bart Millard, Blair Underwood, and Gary Sinise.

(c) easyWDW.com

The Candlelight Processional shows in the America Gardens Theater three times every night during the Festival of the Holidays, but can be hard to get a seat for unless you book a Candlelight Processional Dining package.

More on the Candlelight Processional at the Festival of the Holidays—and the package—is here.

ENTERTAINMENT AT EPCOT’S FESTIVAL OF THE HOLIDAYS

There’s more entertainment as well.

Some of the usual offerings take on a holiday flavor, as for example you’ll find in Canada.

There’s also a stage in World Showcase where you can hear “uplifting gospel, R&B, and holiday songs” a few times during the day—not worth a special trip, but give it a test if it’s about to happen when you are in the neighborhood.

THE HOLIDAY TAG TO EPCOT’S FIREWORKS AT EPCOT’S FESTIVAL OF THE HOLIDAYS

A temporary new show will replace Illuminations in 2019, while Disney does the infrastructure work to support a permanent new show that will come after that. I’d imagine it will have some holiday add as well.

TOPIARIES AND PLANTINGS AT EPCOT’S FESTIVAL OF THE HOLIDAYS

All over the park, you will also find lovely plantings and fun topiaries. Here’s some of my favorites:

For Disney World’s page on the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays, see this.

 

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December 17, 2018   No Comments

The Holiday Season at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

For 2018, most of last year’s holiday additions to Disney’s Hollywood Studios are back, the holiday projections at Tower of Terror have been tightened and plussed, and the new-in-June-2018 Toy Story Land makes a strong Christmas statement (although the minor additions to it for the holidays do not).

So what we now have in this park is

  • General holiday decorations
  • Holiday projections on the Hollywood Tower Hotel (site of the Tower of Terror)
  • A Christmas Tree and substantial decorations in the Echo Lake area.
  • Toy Story Land, augmented by some minor plussing
  • The Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! show

The total effect is to make Disney’s Hollywood Studios the most “Christmassy” of the parks other than Magic Kingdom, and if you subtract the extra charge items of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom, the Studios is actually the most rewarding park to fans of Christmas.

GENERAL HOLIDAY DECORATIONS IN THE PARK

You’ll find holiday decorations throughout Disney’s Hollywood Studios, including just outside the park, where bows decorate the Fantasia brooms…

…and along Hollywood Boulevard

HOLIDAY PROJECTIONS ON THE HOLLYWOOD TOWER HOTEL

The Hollywood Tower Hotel, best known until most of the year for screaming elevator riders, last year had four sets of holiday projections added to its facade.

This year the projections return, add lasers, and see the interval between projections shortened. The tightened pacing makes the sequence of four now work better as a show, rather than as background entertainment. And the lasers add visual appeal, kinetics, and panache.

While there is not much to the projections, when combined with other holiday decorations on Sunset Boulevard, they really amp up the holiday feel of this section of the park.

The entire effort is called Sunset Seasons Greetings, and highlights…

…Frozen…

…Mickey’s Christmas Carol…

…the Muppets…

…and Toy Story.

There’s not much to these–nothing like the action and subtlety of Tree of Life Awakenings at the Animal Kingdom, for example–but together with the other holiday decorations on Sunset Boulevard (and snow!), the overall impact is to turn this into a much more festive area of the park.

My co-author Josh has even more–and much better!–images on his site easyWDW.com here.

THE CHRISTMAS TREE AND DECORATIONS IN THE ECHO LAKE AREA

Hollywood Boulevard has always been delightfully decorated, but now so is the Echo Lake area.

The most notable addition is the Christmas Tree, which used to be outside the park…

…but Gertie now has a bit of holiday decor as well–snow and a Santa hat.

A closer view of the tree…

…and the tree after dark.

Echo Lake after dark.

On the Gertie side of Echo Lake you’ll find these decorations…

…and further counter-clockwise around Echo Lake, near Hollywood and Vine, these.

The same later in the evening.

Until now, Echo Lake has been a bit of a pass-through-without noticing area for me, kinda like (but not so dull as) Commissary Lane.  Gertie has historical importance, and the lake itself is cute and some find it to part of an enormous hidden Mickey.  But really, yawn.

The holiday decorations add a focal point and a coherent atmosphere that’s been missing here until now. You will still largely pass by the lake on your way to something else, but now it’s a delightful walk.

TOY STORY LAND AND ITS HOLIDAY ADDITIONS

The new this summer Toy Story Land (details here) has had a few minor Christmas additions.  While there’s not too much to the new stuff, the key point about Toy Story Land is that it is always entirely Christmas themed–and especially after dark.

After all, the main lighting concept of Toy Story Land is Christmas tree lights, and the land itself is filled with toys. What more could you do to suffuse the area with Christmas?

The answer is not much, which is exactly what Disney did.

You’ll find Woody with a holiday scarf…

…Buzz Lightyear with a Santa hat…

…antlers on Rex above Slinky Dog Dash

…some Christmas ornaments near Alien Swirling Saucers

…and a Christmas cookie outside the Andy’s Lunch Box.

There’s a few more items but in general as noted it’s not much. That said, Toy Story Land with its Christmas lights and toys is already very Christmassy, especially at night.

JINGLE BELL, JINGLE BAM!

Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM debuted at the Studios in 2016. Largely a projection show on the Grauman’s Chinese Theater facade, it’s not a tour de force, but is fun and clever.  It’s framed around the crew from Prep & Landing, but adds a million Disney animations and require no real knowledge of the framing show.

I cover Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! in detail here, and my co-author Josh covers the somewhat disappointing dessert party associated with it on easyWDW.com here.

The Echo Lake and Sunset Boulevard decorations profoundly strengthen how well Disney’s Hollywood Studios celebrate the holidays, and Toy Story Land is always fun–especially after dark.  Don’t miss them!

 

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November 18, 2018   2 Comments

December 2018 at Walt Disney World

December   January   February   March  April   May    June

WHAT IS DECEMBER LIKE AT DISNEY WORLD?

Early December, with lower crowds, lower prices, and wonderful Christmas decorations and events, has the best weeks of the year to visit.

Later December has the highest crowds and prices of the year.

Park closings to additional guests are possible in this later December period, as are 8a openings and more morning Extra Magic Hours than other weeks.

December also has a special party, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, a special evening event–with its own ticket–that has become a family tradition for many, and major New Years Eve celebrations.

Note also that picking the right park to visit each day is critical at this time of the year. See this, and use the comment form below to ask me about your specific dates!
[Read more →]

July 19, 2018   4 Comments

New Year’s Eve 2018 at Walt Disney World

2018 NEW YEAR’S EVE AT DISNEY WORLD

What’s known so far is that New Year’s Eve festivities and fireworks will happen at Disney World on December 31, 2018 at Disney World’s Epcot and Magic Kingdom theme parks, and also at the Magic Kingdom on December 30.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios currently has no special New Years eve events on its calendar, but in past years has done something at midnight as well.

The Animal Kingdom in the past has had no special New Years fireworks events–usually attributed to not troubling the animals. This makes it the best park to visit for those trying to avoid crowds. Everything will be wildly crowded, but the Animal Kingdom will be less so, and Magic Kingdom and EPcot will be overwhelmed.

Based on what’s already in the calendar and the past, the schedule will look like this:

  • Epcot will be open until 1a on New Year’s Eve; Disney’s Hollywood Studios likely until at least midnight, and the Magic Kingdom likely until 1a or later
  • The Magic Kingdom will have special New Year’s Eve fireworks at 6.30p and  11.50p
  • Epcot will have its Illuminations fireworks show at 6.30p and New Years Eve fireworks at 11.40p, plus DJs in various pavilions
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios likely will have fireworks at midnight

Magic Kingdom will have the same fireworks at the same times on 12/30/18. This date will likely be a little less crowded than 12/31.

Note that alcohol is not available at the Magic Kingdom (other than at a few restaurants), but is available at the other three parks

DISNEY WORLD PARK CLOSURES ON NEW YEAR’S EVE

Disney closes parks due to crowding often on New Year’s Eve. “Closes” means closed to additional guests–those in the parks do not have to leave.

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July 18, 2018   No Comments

Christmas 2018 at Walt Disney World

OVERVIEW: CHRISTMAS 2018 AT DISNEY WORLD

The Christmas season at Walt Disney World includes both the best and the worst times to visit, with both prices and crowds at both lower and very high levels over the period.

Decorations, special Christmas shows, programs, and events, and Christmas trees are everywhere, making Disney World as special a place to celebrate the holidays as you can find.

THE CHRISTMAS SEASON AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

December crowds at Walt Disney World begin at lower levels. In 2018, they will begin to build the week of 12/25, and by 12/23 will hit their highest levels of the year, where they will stay until about January 1, 2019. Crowds will still be high–though not at the holiday levels–through January 6, 2019.

AK-Christmas Mickey and Minnie at Disney's Animal Kingdom from yourfirstvisit.net

Walt Disney World resort hotel December prices at the beginning of the month are at one of the lower levels of the year.

Prices increase 12/9, again 12/14, and again 12/21, reaching then the highest levels of the year.

December weather is cooler and variable. While the average daily high is 73, this masks tremendous variability.

CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD


Each of the parks has wonderful Christmas decorations, and the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios have special Christmas events, which will begin in early November at Magic Kingdom and the Studios, and the Sunday before Thanksgiving at Epcot.

  • At the Magic KingdomMickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party—a special event that requires its own ticket—runs on many nights from November 8 through December 21st. Later in December, its signature events—a special Christmas parade, and special Christmas fireworks—are available to all guests. Christmas decor is in place by the night of the first party–in 2018, November 8.
  • At the Studios, in 2018 the Christmas projection and fireworks show Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! returns on November 8 and a projection show on Tower of Terror, Sunset Seasons Greetings, begins that same day.  These two shows, other business–including this year in Toy Story Land–and the Christmas Tree at Echo Lake make Hollywood Studios the second best Christmas park at Disney World, after Magic Kingdom.
  • At Epcot, the evening fireworks show Illuminations has special Christmas additions. In addition, beginning November 22 Christmas carols are sung by massed choirs in the Candlelight Processional. Many of the countries in Epcot’s World Showcase have special Christmas events as part of Epcot’s re-named Epcot International Festival of the Holidays which begins in 2018 earlier than it has in the past, on November 18.

NEW YEAR’S EVE 2018 AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

New Year’s Eve festivities have not yet been fully announced, but based on the known schedule and past practices will occur December 31, 2018 at Disney World’s Epcot, Magic Kingdom and (likely) Hollywood Studios theme parks, and also at the Magic Kingdom on December 30. The Animal Kingdom in the past has had no special New Years fireworks events.

Based on the what’s in the schedule and the past, the schedule will look like this:

  • Epcot will be open until 1a on New Year’s Eve; Disney’s Hollywood Studios likely until at least midnight, and the Magic Kingdom likely until 1a or later
  • The Magic Kingdom will have special New Year’s Eve fireworks at 6.30p and 11.50p
  • Epcot will have its Illuminations fireworks show at 6.30p and New Years fireworks at 11.40p, plus DJs in various pavilions.
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios likely will have fireworks at midnight

Magic Kingdom will have the same fireworks at the same times on 12/30/18. This date will likely be a little less crowded than 12/31.

Note that alcohol is not available at the Magic Kingdom (other than at a few restaurants), but is available at the other three parks

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July 17, 2018   16 Comments