Why Holidays in Orlando?
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For some, the real question is Why NOT Holidays in Orlando? But if you’ve never experienced the Magic of Disney, PLUS the Magic of the Holidays put together, keep reading for all the reasons a Christmastime Vacation in Orlando is not something you should be missing out on!
And if you have traveled to Orlando in November or December, you already know how Magical and Merry it is, so as you read through the Inspiring Itinerary, let us know in the comments what your favorite Yuletide activities are, and if we left out anything you love to experience in Orlando during the Holidays!
As usual, Disney is celebrating Christmas in July with the announcement, and ticket sales, of its Special Events for the Holidays, including Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, which features multiple Merry Events, such as Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade and Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks Show, to name just two. Disney’s Christmas in July Celebration also includes the release of new specialty ornaments and collections, which can be found here to get you even more excited about planning your Holiday Vacation!
In addition to the spectacular events from Disney during the Holidays, Universal has its own line up of Holiday Themed Events as well. With the ever-present rooftop snow in Hogsmeade, Harry Potter World seems to have a Merriment Spell cast upon it at Christmastime, and Seuss Landing lends itself to the popular Grinchmas Celebrations, of course!
With so much to do and look forward to this Holiday Season, the best way to celebrate Christmas in July is by planning your Yuletide Vacation to the Merriest and Most Magical Place on Earth, which, as always, your favorite Love of the Magic Travel Agent can’t wait to help you with!
And to give you a bit of Joy and Cheer this Christmas in July, here is your Bonus Inspiring Itinerary – The Merriest and Most Magical Place on Earth: Holidays in Orlando (the 9 days are designed to fall from Saturday to the following Sunday to align with event nights in Disney, but your LOTMV Travel Agent can shift to work with whatever days you want to travel):
Arrive at your Disney Resort, and settle in to your room, taking in the festive decorations along the way. Depending on the time of your arrival, maybe take a dip in the pool to refresh yourself after your travels (if you can stand the possibly chilly air despite the year-round heated pools at all Disney Resorts), and then head out to Disney Springs to get your Holiday shopping and snacking on!
Almost all the bake shops, including Disney’s Candy Cauldron & Goofy’s Candy Co., Gideon’s Bakehouse, Sprinkles, The Ganachery, and many more, feature special Holiday treats, including The Ganachery’s ever-popular Chocolate Christmas Cottage (if you can get your hands on one!). In addition, many of the bars and restaurants offer themed drinks and dishes (but more on our favorite place for a festive first-night dinner below).
Of course, most stores with apparel, accessories, and/or home decor, including the World of Disney Store, carry special seasonal merchandise, most of which is newly designed each year, so be sure to check out all the latest offerings!
Even if you tasted your way through many of the sweet treats, you’ll need some sustenance after your travels and before your first day at the parks, and our recommendation for the most festive dining in Disney Springs is hands down Jock Lindsay’s Holiday Bar, which is completely transformed into a Christmas haven, from the decorations dripping from every square inch, to the menu with specials such as Yule Mule and Lump of Coal Dessert (reservations are strongly encouraged; your LOTMV Travel Agent can help you navigate the Disney dining experience).
As always, I have a tradition of starting my Park Days at Magic Kingdom, because there’s just no feeling like walking down Main Street, U.S.A. while gazing at Cinderella’s Castle along the way. That first glimpse brings tears to my eyes every time, so I always recommend Magic Kingdom as Park Day One. And especially during the Holiday Season, when there will be so many new decorations, window displays, and character costumes to take in, everything will feel special all over again, whether it’s your first or fiftieth Holiday visit.
Depending on your interests, you can take in the Festive decorations as you make your way from ride to ride, or you can prioritize seeing characters dressed in their Holiday attire at parades, cavalcades (times are listed on the My Disney Experience App daily), and character meet and greets (all characters available to meet are also listed on the My Disney Experience App, and for some, you can even utilize Genie+ or Lightning Lane).
Even some favorite rides and shows get into the Holiday Spirit with Festive makeovers. Be sure to check out the following attractions for some extra fun and Cheer:
- The “Jingle Cruise” in Adventureland (usually known as the Jungle Cruise) featuring Holiday-themed puns presented by the Skippers, of course, and speaking of Jingles…
- The Dapper Dans on Main Street U.S.A wear Christmas colors and sing Holiday Jingles in place of their usual set list
- “Tomorrowland Speedway Race Through the Holidays” in Tomorrowland featuring festive decor, lights and music
- Space Mountain Holiday Run! in Tomorrowland with Holiday Tunes to propel you through space
- Mad Tea Party in Fantasyland where a crazy Christmas Party replaces the usual wacky Tea Party with Cheerful lights and music
Of course, Holiday-themed treats and merch are available at the shops throughout Magic Kingdom as well, so if you didn’t fulfill your shopping fix at Disney Springs, there are plenty of opportunities to get that Holiday shopping done!
After a full park day, spend your evening at one of the many restaurants in Magic Kingdom, and stay to take in the dazzling fireworks show, Enchantment. You can even decide to dine at one of the nearby resorts, and still have a spectacular view of the fireworks!
Tinseltown takes on a whole new meaning when you’re spending the day at Hollywood Studios during Christmastime! This park is full of added decorations and special Holiday touches to make your visit as Merry and Bright as possible!
You’ll notice huge ornaments adorning many areas throughout the park, and be sure to swing by Gertie the Dinosaur to see her wearing her Santa hat! And speaking of Santa, you’ll want to catch Santa’s Motorcade down Hollywood Boulevard to get a wave from the Big Man himself. Also, be sure to check out For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, which features a Holiday number added in to the already well-loved performance.
Toy Story Land is the place to be to soak up some serious Holiday Cheer, as the whole Land is decorated with Christmas touches, and a few rides get a makeover as well. Be sure to plan a ride on the Alien Swirling Saucers and on Slinky Dog Dash to hear some Holiday music as you swirl and dash!
The best place for dinner in Tinseltown is the character meal experience at Hollywood and Vine, Minnie’s Seasonal Dining. Besides tucking in to some of the best food in the park, you are also visited by the most classic of pals, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Pluto, and if you’re lucky, Donald and Daisy sometimes make an appearance, too, all dressed up in their Holiday Best! Be sure to grab a reservation as early as possible for this one, especially during the Holiday season.
Get ready to switch it up today by visiting another wildly popular park in Orlando, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure! Universal has some incredible rides, though many are pretty huge, and come with extreme thrill factors, so generally these parks attract families with older kids, especially teenagers. However, the two Harry Potter Worlds (one in each park) are well worth a visit for fans of any age, and Seuss Landing is definitely one area geared toward little kids.
Since this particular Itinerary is planned to stay on Disney property for the length of the trip, transportation from your Disney Resort to Universal will need to be arranged, unless you’ve rented a car for your stay (your LOTMV Travel Agent can reserve a rental car or a private transfer for you, or you can book an Uber or Lyft the night before if you plan to get an early start and are comfortable using those transportation Apps). Of course, if you’d prefer a split stay between Disney and Universal properties, your LOTMV Travel Agent will be more than happy to create an itinerary to fit your exact specifications!
This first day at Universal will be all about Harry Potter! Fans of these famous books and movies will find visiting at Christmastime to be extra special. The always-snow-covered rooftops of Hogsmeade create the perfect Yuletide atmosphere, with added touches of decorations throughout the village and adorning Hogwarts Castle, too. You can even catch Holiday performances by the Frog Choir and Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees as you explore all that the Harry Potter Worlds have to offer.
The two Worlds of Harry Potter, Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, are each found in a different Universal Park: Universal Studios, and Universal’s Islands of Adventure, respectively. In order to get from one Harry Potter World to the other, you get to ride on the Hogwarts Express, which is a super fun ride in itself. Since you are visiting two different parks in one day, you do need a specific type of ticket; it is possible to visit the worlds on different days, and spend a full day in each park, but then you miss out on the Hogwarts Express ride, and personally I prefer to make a day just for all things Harry Potter (your LOTMV Travel Agent can help you decide which option is best for you, and set you up with the type of tickets that best suit your needs).
Both Harry Potter Worlds boast incredible immersive ride experiences, and the Islands of Adventure side also includes the new ride, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. Before your day is done, you can choose to head over to the Leaky Cauldron or the Three Broomsticks for a traditional British meal, and don’t forget to stop for a Butterbeer after dinner! Or, if British fare isn’t your favorite, City Walk offers an expansive array of restaurants with a variety of cuisines! As with Disney, it’s best to make a reservation ahead of time if you have your heart set on a certain place.
Today it’s back to Universal for one more day! While Day 4 was focused on all things Harry Potter, hopefully you got your fill, because today will be everything but The Wizarding World (unless you really must ride Hagrid’s Motorbike one more time, since you’ll be in the Parks anyway…). Once again, be sure to have your preferred transportation arranged beforehand if you don’t have a rental car (whether through your LOTMV Travel Agent or by using Uber or Lyft), so you can get an early start to your day. Side note: I’ve noticed that Universal can be less crowded earlier in the day, since it does attract the teenage/twenty-something crowd, who do tend to get a later start than families with younger children, who are ready and raring to go when the sun comes up.
Seuss Landing is definitely a place you’ll want to spend a good amount of time exploring today, as it transforms into Who-ville for the celebration of Grinchmas! The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular is a great show for the whole family, with familiar stories and songs from the beloved Christmas Classic. And you can even meet The Grinch himself at the All the Books You Can Read Bookstore (and maybe try to grow his Grinchy heart a few sizes by inviting him to Christmas dinner).
Once you’ve made your way around Who-ville, there are tons of attractions throughout the Parks to check out for the day, but one thing you won’t want to miss is the nightly run of Universal’s Holiday Parade Featuring Macy’s. Just like the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, at Universal’s Holiday Parade, you can watch larger-than-life balloons float down the street right above you! You’ll also see floats with your favorite characters from Despicable Me, Shrek and Madagascar gliding down the street to holiday music as dancers bounce by in their finest festive attire.
Whether you like to dine early or late (as in, before the Parade or after), you’re sure to find whatever you’re in the mood for at Universal’s City Walk, where you can grab some Holiday themed treats and merch while you’re there (or from the Parks, too). Or, if you would like even more options, you could head back to Disney Springs for another dinner (maybe there’s a restaurant you don’t want to miss?), or even head back to your resort so you don’t have so far to travel after dinner.
If you don’t feel like you’re on vacation unless you get to sleep in (or, if you have little ones, if you don’t at least get to stay in bed a bit longer without rushing out for a rope drop or ride reservation), today is your day! After back to back Park Days, get ready for a Park Night instead!
But before that (and after enjoying a relaxing morning of course), a trip to Orlando during the Holiday Season would not be complete without a Resort Tour of as many of Disney’s Deluxe Resorts as you have time for. The Grand Floridian, Polynesian Villa Resort, and The Contemporary are easily accessible because they are all on the Monorail, while Wilderness Lodge, Boardwalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Riviera Resort, and Animal Kingdom Lodge, might require a little more transportation planning (unless you have a car rental for your stay). While all Disney Resorts get spruced up for the Holidays, these Resorts in particular really go all out with their Festive Decorations. All of these Resorts feature a massive, ornately decorated Christmas Tree (Riviera’s is a bit smaller, but fits with the elegant ambiance of the Resort), and almost all of these Resorts also have life-size Gingerbread Houses on display (with The Grand Floridian being the most famous for its Gingerbread House decor).
Besides offering a change of pace for the day, and a chance to slow down a bit; taking in the incredible displays of decorations at some of Disney’s Resorts give you an opportunity to see more of Disney that you otherwise might have on a vacation that was not during the Holidays. Since most of us don’t typically get to see more than the resort we’re staying at, plus maybe one or two others for dining, this is a great way to see some options for your next stay at Disney. And, while you’re bouncing around resorts, the family’s gotta eat, am I right? Definitely take a break throughout your tour to have a late lunch/early dinner at one of the fantastic restaurants in these Resorts. My top choices for Resort restaurants are Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge (which has been known to get some Festive updates to its menu), Topolino’s Terrace at Riviera Resort, and ‘Ohana at Polynesian Village Resort (though even at an off-time like mid-afternoon, be sure to reserve any dining ahead of time).
Once you’ve explored the Holiday additions at any Resorts you want to see, get ready for some serious Seasonal Celebrations; that’s right, tonight you’re headed back to Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. As usual with nighttime ticketed events, you’ll be allowed to enter Magic Kingdom starting at 4pm, and can stay in the Park until midnight.
Your ticket to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party gets you access to a host of special events throughout the Park. Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade is 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 (check the My Disney Experience App for the scheduled run times).
Also, a multitude of characters (regulars and also those making rare appearances) will be available for meet and greets throughout the park, dressed up in their Holiday Best. While you’re strolling around the park looking for them, and making your way from ride to ride, be sure to find some of the free Cocoa and Cookies at various stands to keep you energized through the night!
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 (to keep you moving and grooving to Holiday Tunes all night long), are popular additions during MIckey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
Of course, everyone looks forward to Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration, the stage show full of Joy, Cheer and everyone’s favorite characters, that takes place right in front of Cinderella’s Castle as part of the Party. And once it gets dark, get ready for Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks Show as Minnie Mouse hosts a dazzling show with Festive projections on the Castle, and Holiday-themed Fireworks that light up the sky. The perfect way to end a spectacularly Cheerful day!
When everything is as Magical as only Disney can make it, everyone gets a chance to celebrate the Magic of the Season, including Animals, like all those you’ll see today at Animal Kingdom! Although the lions, giraffes, monkeys and other animals living in Animal Kingdom may not don any Festive Attire (though maybe they all break out their Santa hats each night after the Park closes, we’ll never know!), they are surrounded by the Joyful decorations added throughout the Park.
A giant tree, fit for the King of the Jungle, greets you as you enter the park, and as you make your way through the Lands of Animal Kingdom, you’ll be treated to decorations fitting for each location. Asia is decorated for Diwali, the Festival of Lights in India, while in Africa, Eastern and Western traditions blend for a beautiful Holiday display. Even Dino-Land and Pandora get a Merry Holiday overlay with extra lights and ornaments strung up for the Season.
You won’t want to miss the Festive Flotillas that glide down the river throughout the day. Most Flotillas, and the characters they carry, whether it’s Mickey, Minnie and Pluto, Donald and Daisy, or Goofy, Chip and Dale, are decorated for the Holidays, including Festive Attire for the characters. Even Santa Claus himself gets to ride down the river on a Flotilla, so be sure to check the My Disney Experience App for the time frame when you can catch him (generally, the Flotillas don’t follow a strict schedule, but their runs do fall within certain windows of time).
One of Animal Kingdom’s best features for the Holidays is the Merry Menagerie. Polar Bears, Penguins, Reindeer and more Winter animals come to life as over-sized puppets that are accompanied by musicians who add to the Festive atmosphere. The puppets interact with guests, and are even open to some gentle pets from those so inclined.
For dinner tonight, what could be better than a character meal at Tusker House, where pals such as Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Donald and Daisy spread Holiday Cheer as they visit your table wearing their Seasonal Best? Besides the fun atmosphere, Tusker House has some of the most delicious food in Animal Kingdom (in my opinion, anyway), but like all the restaurants at Disney, be sure to reserve ahead of time.
While Day 7 gave you a taste of Holiday Celebrations in places like Asia and Africa, today at EPCOT is all about the many different Cultural Traditions and Celebrations that take place all over the World. EPCOT’s International Festival of the Holidays takes place from around Thanksgiving through December with tons of opportunities to Celebrate the Season (and all included with your regular Park Day Ticket and Reservations).
One of the best parts of EPCOT is all the cultural education kids can soak up (without even realizing they’re learning something new), and those experiences are expanded during the International Festival of the Holidays with the addition of Storytellers throughout World Showcase. Storytellers can be found at the Pavilions of many countries, giving performances that provide a fun way to learn and gain insight on the Holiday traditions of that country. Though you may not have time to visit them all, you can pick whichever you’re interested in, or maybe even have cultural ties to, from the following list.
Storytellers at the International Festival of the Holidays Around World Showcase:
- Mexico: Las Posadas Celebration featuring dancers, piñatas and Mariachi music
- Norway: Sigrid, a Christmas Storyteller is visited by the mischievous Barn Santa for this hysterical performance
- China: A Chinese Lion Dancer celebrates the Lunar New Year
- Italy: La Befana, the good Italian witch, tells her story
- America: Santa Claus himself takes time to sit and talk with children individually about what’s on their Christmas List (if your child really wants to get his/her turn talking with Santa, check out the My Disney Experience App for specific times that Santa will available, and line up before he comes out)
- Japan: The Daruma Drummer tells the story of the Daruma Doll and the importance of Japanese New Year
- Between Morocco and France: Hanukkah’s Celebration of Lights is shared by Performer Zachary with music and storytelling
- France: Performer Père Noël describes a child’s traditions in France
- United Kingdom: Father Christmas joyfully shares the Holiday Traditions of the UK
- Canada: The Canadian Holiday Voyageurs celebrate their Traditions with song and dance
Another favorite part of EPCOT at any time of year is the food and drink offerings throughout the Park, and at Christmastime, as you can guess, everything gets a Festive twist with the addition of Holiday Kitchens. More Holiday Kitchens seem to be added each year, with over a dozen locations already, each featuring Traditional Holiday Cuisines from places throughout the world. The My Disney Experience App will have a complete list of everything available as the Holiday Season gets closer.
And if the Holiday Kitchens aren’t enough, EPCOT’s International Festival of the Holidays hosts a Holiday Cookie Stroll, with locations throughout World Showcase, where you can get a stamp on your Festival Passport for every Christmas Cookie you try, and even get a free cookie once you have five stamps! Sounds like a sweet deal to me!
Kids who enjoy collecting stamps on their Festival Passport might also enjoy Olaf’s Holiday Tradition Expedition, a scavenger hunt to help Olaf find his lost traditions to bring back to Anna and Elsa. Also, anyone who loves the Holiday short film, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, will also love this activity and find it similar to the film!
Perhaps the most beloved part of EPCOT’s International Festival of the Holidays is the Candlelight Processional, a nightly performance by the Disney Cast Choir accompanied by a live orchestra and a rotation of different celebrity narrators telling the classic story of the First Christmas. Performances take place at the America Gardens Theatre multiple times per night, and still, nearly every performance is packed. A great way to secure seats is to reserve a Candlelight Dining Package at almost any of the sit-down restaurants throughout the Park, which then includes priority seating at the show. As always, be sure to make these dining reservations in advance.
Even with all this going on, EPCOT still has more to offer for the International Festival of the Holidays. Characters throughout the Park greet guests in Seasonal Attire, while some of the rides get Holiday overlays as well (Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind gets the addition of Holiday music, and one of my all-time favorite rides, Living with the Land gets sparkled up with lights, making this a great ride to experience after-dark). And another Holiday show, JOYFUL! A Celebration of the Season, featuring the joys of Christmas and Kwanzaa, is performed throughout the afternoon with multiple showtimes at Showcase Plaza Stage.
With so much to see and do at EPCOT during the Holiday Season, if you by some chance have an extra day to add to this Itinerary, I’d suggest spending another day at EPCOT to experience everything the International Festival of the Holidays has to offer.
While sadly this is the last day of your Holiday Vacation to The Merriest and Most Magical Place on Earth, your trip has happily brought you one week closer to Christmas, or whatever holiday you celebrate. If you’re not headed out on an early flight, you could spend the morning grabbing some last minute gifts back at Disney Springs, or indulging once more in a sit down breakfast (maybe even with characters at ‘Ohana), or those of you who’ve been reading the blog for a while know I’m partial to a round of mini-golf at Winter-Summerland on arrival/departure days. Whatever you choose, I hope it’s something that will end your Holidays in Orlando on a Merry and Bright note!
Ready to Plan?
If you are ready to plan the Perfect Holiday Vacation in Orlando, contact your Love of the Magic Travel Agent today. And whether you want to follow this exact Itinerary, or adjust to a split stay between Disney and Universal, or anything else, your LOTMV Travel Agent will work with you to create the unique experience you’re looking for.
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February – The Perfect Hawaiian Vacation
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