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Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: Holidays in the Orlando Theme Parks

by Gina Pantina

Jamie with Holiday Mickey and Minnie

Welcome Back to our New Blog Series: Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s, where our favorite Travel Planning Aficionado shares her wealth of knowledge and experiences about traveling the world! After every trip to a new destination, Jamie gives us her perspective as both a traveler, and a travel advisor, through a quick but comprehensive list of what to do or not do at each vacation location!

With Holidays in Orlando (and all over, really) in full swing, Jamie wanted to share her “Do”s and “Don’t”s for Holidays in the Orlando Theme Parks, so that anyone lucky enough to be there during the Merriest and most Magical Season this year knows what to Do or Not Do, and also, anyone planning ahead for next year can have a great Go-To Guide! After visiting the Orlando Theme Parks during the Holidays for years, Jamie knows all the best tricks and tips for making the most of your time during the Holiday Season.

So Let’s Go Spend December in the Parks! But First…

Universal Holiday Parade

Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s for Holidays in the Orlando Theme Parks

Top Favorites and Jamie’s “Must-Do” Experiences

Mickey's Very Merry Parade

  1. Get Tickets for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

The special events and after hours experiences are some of the best perks of visiting the Parks during the Holiday Season, and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is arguably the BEST party in town. Your ticket grants you access to so many special extras, including of course, Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade, a fan favorite with all your Classic Pals making appearances, plus Gingerbreadmen, Toy Soldiers, and Jolly Old St. Nick himself, waving down the parade route. Also, throughout the night, a variety of characters (regulars and also those making rare appearances) are available for meet and greets, dressed up in their Holiday Best. 

Totally Tomorrowland Christmas

In addition, special shows, such as A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas (featuring Buzz Lightyear, Mike Wazowski, and Stitch), and the Club Tinsel Dance Party at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe have become popular attractions at the Party. And everyone looks forward to Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration, the stage show full of Joy, Cheer and everyone’s favorite characters, that leads up to the grand finale of the night, Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks Show, featuring Festive projections on the Castle, and Holiday-themed Fireworks that light up the sky.

Jamie at Universal Holidays

  1. Go on the Universal Studios Holiday Tour

Like Disney, Universal Studios has so many extras to offer throughout the Holiday Season, as well. And instead of battling the crowds, it’s definitely worth it to get tickets for Universal’s Holiday Tour to guarantee access to all the best Holiday additions throughout the Park. Included with the Holiday Tour are Meet and Greets with the Grinch and his dog, Max, and of course, the main man himself, Santa Clause, plus reserved seating for the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular, drinks and treats at Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous, priority access to one attraction at Universal, and a special after-hours showing of The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle. The Holiday Tour does require an add-on ticket to your regular Park admission, but it’s totally worth it to get the best Holiday experience at Universal. 

Hogwarts Holiday Castle

  1. Experience the Harry Potter World Christmas Festivities 

Harry Potter World is an experience in itself on any given day in the Universal Parks, but at Christmastime, the Magic gets even better! The always-snow-covered rooftops of Hogsmeade create the perfect Yuletide atmosphere, with added touches of decorations throughout the village and adorning Hogwarts Castle, as well. During the Christmas Festivities, you can catch Holiday performances by the Frog Choir and Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees, both singing Christmas songs to sing along with, and a few Wizarding World specials, too. However, the top “Must-Do”s in Harry Potter World are definitely seeing the lights of Hogwarts Castle at night, and having a warm, delicious Butterbeer (or two, or few!).

EPCOT Festival of Holidays

  1. Learn About the Many Holidays of the Season at EPCOT

EPCOT always offers a unique opportunity to learn about cultures and traditions from all over the world in one of the most fun and engaging environments imaginable. And during the Holiday Season, EPCOT’s International Festival of the Holidays adds a whole new layer by incorporating Holiday Traditions from around the world into the EPCOT experience.

Holiday Kitchen at Epcot

From the Storytellers who teach the traditions of their country in World Showcase, to the Holiday Kitchens and Holiday Cookie Stroll that incorporate traditional seasonal dishes into the Festival experience, to the gorgeous Candlelight Processional that has become a coveted event to attend, EPCOT truly embraces the celebration of all cultures and traditions!

Top Tips that Jamie Learned Along the Way

Cinderella Castle Holiday

  1. Make Park Reservations As Early As Possible for Disney World Parks

By now, most of us are used to the Reservations requirement that Disney began utilizing to keep Park numbers at a certain level when that was needed, and although there have been rumors about changes to the Reservation System, as of now, Reservations are still needed in addition to your Park ticket in order to enter any of the Disney Parks on any given day. Which is why it’s SUPER important to make your reservations AS SOON AS you book your Disney Trip, ESPECIALLY if you are traveling to Disney during the Holiday Season. As someone who checks Park availability regularly, I can tell you that Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve have had some Parks full for months! So if you want to make sure you can get into the Park of your choice throughout your Disney Holiday Vacation, make sure to make those Park Reservations as early as possible!

Harry Potter World Holidays

  1. Pack Your Patience

Surely you can tell by now that a Disney and/or Universal Vacation during the Holiday Festivities is a coveted experience. Between all the Seasonal Extras and celebratory touches the Parks add to make everyone’s Holiday Vacation as Cheerful and Magical as possible, it’s no wonder so many people choose to visit during this special time. However, the drawback to anything being so great that it attracts tons of people, is exactly that, the tons of people you have to share it with. As long as you know in advance that the Parks will be crowded and at full capacity during the Holidays, that should help you have extra patience when it comes to all the waiting and extra time things may take, not just ride lines but even store check out lines, and just walking in certain areas, such as Main Street U.S.A. and Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley. 

Santa Universal Parade

  1. Budget for Premium Experiences

Because of the extra crowds and wait times just mentioned, one of the top tips for making your Holiday Vacation in the Orlando Theme Parks the best it can possibly be is to plan in and budget for Premium Experiences that you may not usually splurge on. For example, at times like late January and September, when the Parks are generally quieter, you may not need Genie+ or Lightning Lane or Universal’s Express Pass, but these services are definitely worth it during peak crowd levels like the Holidays, so you might as well budget them in from the beginning. In addition, attending parties like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and taking the Universal Holiday Tour will also help with the crowds because both have limited tickets, thereby allowing attendees to experience more of the Holiday Fun with less crowds. Though again, both require additional tickets, so plan for that when budgeting your Holiday Trip. 

Top “Must-Don’t”s, or Things Jamie Would Do Differently

Main Street USA Holiday

  1. Do Not Wait to Book a Holiday Vacation

The Holidays are the busiest Travel Season for a reason: millions of people are either visiting family, or going on vacation to celebrate the Holidays, or meeting up with family or friends on vacation somewhere. And while all those things make for Merry and Joyful Holiday Experiences, they also require extremely advanced planning, especially for a Holiday Vacation to a wildly popular destination like Orlando. I kid you not when I say that if you want to spend any part of the 2023 Holiday Season in the Orlando Theme Parks, you should be planning for it NOW (especially for the best options and prices), and at the very latest, early summer (which, as always, is something your favorite Love of the Magic Vacations Travel Advisor can help you with). So if you tend to be a spontaneous type of traveler, save your spontaneity for other times of the year, and plan to at least think ahead for Holiday Travel! 

Jamie and Wooden Toy Soldier

  1. Don’t Skip the Extras!

While it can seem like the Holiday Parties and Tours are another expense on top of an already fairly expensive trip, when you really consider it, if you’re not going to take part in all of the Holiday Extras, then what’s the point of going during the Holidays at all? If you’re taking the plunge into Holiday Travel, you’re already going to be battling the crowds and paying premium prices, so why not just go all in and splurge on the Extras that make being in the Orlando Theme Parks during the Holiday Season so special anyway? As long as you plan ahead and budget accordingly, you’ll be able to experience everything that makes the Holidays in Orlando so Merry and Magical, complete with all the Extra Holiday Parties and Tours!

Disney Springs Tree

  1. Don’t Skip Any of the Free Stuff, Either!

For all the Special Extras that also cost extra around the Parks at the Holidays, there are so many Free Extras, too! And by Free, I mean you don’t even need a Park Ticket to enjoy some of it! There are incredibly beautiful decorations to be found at Disney Springs, and at many of the Disney Resorts as well. The Christmas Tree Stroll at Disney Springs is a Festive way to structure your meandering around the stores, restaurants, and treat shops; all of the trees are uniquely themed, and offer great ideas for your own decorating!

Gingerbread House

And during the Holidays, many of the Disney Resorts are famous for their Gingerbread House displays, especially the Grand Floridian. Not only does touring the Resorts to see their Gingerbread Houses make for a festive non-Park day activity, it’s also a great way to check out Resorts you haven’t seen before and decide where you want to stay next!

Disney Resort Tree

Ready to Plan?

Now that you have all of Jamie’s suggestions for making the most of your Holiday Vacation in the Orlando Theme Parks, are you ready to plan your Merriest and most Magical Adventure yet? Contact your Love of the Magic Vacations Travel Advisor today or email hello@LOTMV.com 

Looking for more of Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s? 

So far, we have:

Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: Paris and Disneyland Paris

Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: Italy

Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: The Disney Wish

Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: Grenada

Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: Disney’s D23 Expo

Jamie and The Love of the Magic Vacations Team’s “Do”s and “Don’t”s: Virgin Voyages

Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: The Exumas

Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: Halloween in the Orlando Theme Parks

Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: Holiday Travel

Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: Navigating Genie+ and Lightning Lane

Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: Portugal

A new list comes out the Friday after Jamie returns from her latest trip! 

And don’t forget to check out our Inspiring Itineraries as well, featuring a Perfect Plan for your next vacation, and highlighting a new destination each month! 

Contact your favorite Love of the Magic Travel Advisor or email hello@LOTMV.com to start planning today!

Jamies Dos and Don'ts Holidays in Orlando

 

 

 

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