The Disney Festivals Guide to a Walt Disney World Christmas 2014

by Ken Bingham | Release Date: October 25, 2014 | Availability: Kindle

Been Good This Year?

Whether you've been naughty or nice, Mickey invites you to his decked-out home for the holidays. What to do? Who to see? What to expect? Mickey's little helper Ken Bingham has written a book and checked it twice with all you need to know.

Christmas at Disney World is both a festive and frustrating time. The crowds can become intense, and there are so many special holiday spectacles and activites that you'll cry "humbug" if you don't have a plan before you arrive. The Disney Festivals Guide to a Walt Disney World Christmas keeps out the humbug and keeps you merrily, merrily enjoying everything Disney has to offer.

Here's a peek at what you'll find inside:

  • The most extensive guide to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party available anywhere, with tips and practical advice to get your merry's worth
  • here to find Santa himself at Disney World, and when Santa's not around, where to find his trusty helper, Santa Goofy
  • The many free Christmas spectaculars you won't want to miss Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and even the Animal Kingdom
  • The overlooked holiday events and activities at your Disney resort, including magical room keys, enchanted exhibits, and even a decorated golf cart parade
  • Lots of little-known Disney holiday to-dos, such as where to buy candy and gingerbread cookies…inside a real (and really big) gingerbread house

So hang your stockings, trim your tree, and listen for the sleigh bells as you beat the crowds and get first crack at all the holiday festivities at Walt Disney World.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Let It Snow

1Disney World Christmas Highlights

2When to Go

3To Snap or Not to Snap

4Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

5Anna and Elsa Meet & Greet

6Epcot Yuletide

7The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

8Animal Kingdom Christmas

9Downtown Disney: Festival of the Seasons

10Christmas at the Resort Hotels

11Specialty Christmas Meals

12Holiday Tours

13God Bless Us, Everyone

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
The dazzling lights on the tree.
The presents by the fireplace.
Falling snow drifting slowly down through a moonlit sky.
The Grinch carving the roast beast.
Eight reindeer alighting the skies.
Sledding windswept slopes of fine powder.
Marley’s ghost rattling his chains.
A Star, A Star, Shining in the Night.
Charlie Brown’s not-so-bad little tree.
Santa coming down the chimney.
And absolutely no school.

There’s really nothing like the magic of Christmas for a young boy or girl. All that thrill and excitement culminating in the run down the steps to a living room filled with colorfully wrapped presents. The Duffy Bears and video games. The Barbies and action figures. The basketballs and doll houses. The coloring books and rocking horses. The Lego sets and toy trains.

When you pair that with the splendors found in Walt Disney World, you’ve got…well, the most magical time of the year blended with the most magical place in the world.

Disney puts on their finest outfit for the holiday season. There’s the burst of fairy tale dreams that is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, the powerful showmanship of the Candlelight Processional, the incredible explosion of color that is the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, the Christmas visits of Italy’s La Befana and Mexico’s Three Wise Men, and the eye-popping splendor of Animal Kingdom’s Jingle Jungle parade.

The festivities don’t stop once you leave the parks, either. You’ll find ceaseless merriment at Santa’s home resort for the holidays, the Swan & Dolphin, the world’s largest gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian, carriage rides through the dazzling array of lighting at the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds, breathtaking tours behind the magic of Disney’s Holiday Services department, and…

I haven’t even gotten to the vast array of sumptuous Christmas dinners to be had throughout the World, or the sack-bursting shopping opportunities over at Downtown Disney, or the Yuled-Out Jungle Cruise at the Magic Kingdom, or what could be the biggest draw of the season, Anna & Elsa’s visit to the Contemporary’s Grand Canyon Concourse.

To tell the truth, the above examples barely scratch the surface. The activities that await you at Walt Disney World over Christmas are a holiday wish come true. Disney even fulfills wishes that you hadn’t known you had. I mean, really, who ever thought that a Christmas elf could come visit your child at bedtime for a song and a tuck in? Well, Disney has, and now I can’t get it off my mind.

With so much to see and do, it’s easy to get lost in the sheer majesty of it all.

That’s where this guide comes in.

The Disney Festivals Guide to a Walt Disney World Christmas will give you every detail behind the full menu of holiday merriment to be had at Disney World, advise you on expected crowd levels so you can better gauge your time, and provide a bountiful array of alternative options to be found in the nooks and crannies that most overlook.

We’ll give you tips and suggestions to make the most of Mickey’s Very Merry Party, outline the best way to score a ticket to the Candlelight Processional, show you how to work the extensive Meet & Greet lineups, tell you where you can find the best treats and sweets, how to garner premier showtime spots, give you the wondrous details of each holiday tour, and lay out when best to move on the Yuletide merchandise so you can bring a bit of Disney home with you.

Stockings hung? Let’s begin.

Ken Bingham

Ken Bingham is the author of 14 books, most recently publishing with National Geographic and Camino Press. He has been a lifelong Walt Disney World NUT, whose children have bought into the addiction and whose wife tolerates him. Well, sort of. He spends on average about a month a year on "research" trips to the Happiest Place on Earth. He teaches Creative Writing, Drama and Literature at Drexel University, and lives in Philadelphia and Cape May with his wife, two beautiful children, three dogs, two cats, and large quantities of Disney merchandise.

In this excerpt, Ken Bingham shares some tips for packing in the most character Meet & Greets at the Very Merry.

Before we begin, let’s revisit the fact that even though Disney stipulates a 7 pm kickoff for the party, your Mickey’s Very Merry ticket will allow you into the park as early at 4 pm. Use this time to take advantage of the Character Meet & Greets.

Daytime Access (Rope Drop through 4 pm)

If you’re in the park during the day, there are a number of characters who make themselves available. You can find Aladdin, the Genie, Jasmine, and Abu over at the Agrabah Bazar. Most of the prince and princesses will be available at Fairy Tale Hall in Fantasyland, while Belle will be at Belle’s Enchanted Tales and Ariel in Ariel’s Grotto, both in Fantasyland. You can find Cap’n Jack in Adventureland by the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, and Mickey over at the Town Square Theater.

Since these characters do not don any special apparel for the party itself, it makes little difference to your photograph if you capture them during the day or not.

Early Party Entry (4 pm)

As soon as you’re through the gates, you’ll find Santa greeting everyone by the flagpole on Main Street. And,if you look to your right, you’ll find Mickey hanging over at Town Square Theater. The wait for either will be less than 20 minutes if you visit before seven. Just like that, you’ll have seen the Big Two.

Also, you can find the Aladdin characters in Adventureland outside the Agrabah Bazaar. Aladdin and Abu will switch off with Jasmine and the Genie. However, after the second parade, the characters can be found teaming up together.

One important note: on Mickey’s Very Merry nights, the Aladdin characters will take a break between 5:30 and 7 pm, so you should try to get to them by 5 pm.

If you’d like to meet Merida, you’ll find her in the Fairytale Garden as you cross from Adventureland to Fantasyland. The wait for Merida can grow intense when the party starts, mostly because of the good time that she shares with all. The wait will be shorter, 10–20 minutes, before the party begins.

If Minnie and Daisy are in your wheelhouse, head on over to Storybook Circus in New Fantasyland, where you’ll find them outside of Pete’s Silly Sideshow. Please note that, at least for me, it’s important to return here once the party starts in order to meet Scrooge McDuck, who played Ebenezer in Mickey’s Christmas Carol. Since Minnie and Daisy will appear beside him at that point, I prefer to visit then so I don’t have to make two trips.

The Pooh characters await you across from the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride in Fantasyland, where the wait will be only 20–30 minutes, as opposed to the 45-minute wait times after the festival receives its official kick off.

Before the party begins, Toy Story characters will greet their guests outside the Country Bear Jamboree in Frontierland, pose for photos, and sign autographs.. At party time, they’ll retreat to the Diamond Horseshoe for their dance party, where the photos will be catch-as-catch-can and autographs will be unavailable.

At any time before the party, you can circle around to Cap'n Jack Sparrow who will bestow a holiday wish in Adventureland by the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

If you follow this simple plan, you could meet up to 17 characters between 4 and 6 pm.

At some point, however, you’re going to have to bite the bullet and meet the most popular characters at the party: the Seven Dwarfs. Please be aware that no matter what your plan, it could take you up to an hour to get through this line, so I would suggest that you wait in shifts while taking the kids off to grab a snack or hot cocoa.

You’ll find the Dwarfs along the castle wall near Pinocchio’s Village Haus, making the Haus itself a prime spot for grabbing your food. If you take a table near the window that faces Cinderella Castle, you can even wave and grin at the person who has to remain in line for you. (Hint: please treat them right when you return. I often find that a cup of hot chocolate works very well.)

Since this establishment gets incredibly busy because of the Dwarfs, you might find it easier to retreat to the nearby Columbia Harbour House over in Liberty Square .

I prefer to get in line by 6:15 so that I can meet the Dwarfs before the party takes off in full force.

During the Party (7–9:30 pm)

The great asset about the above plan of attack is that once the party officially begins at 7 pm, you’ll have a great deal of free time to simply enjoy the festivities, including shows, parades, attractions, and fireworks. Don’t forget the free hot chocolate and the cookies. Oh, and the merchandising. How could I ever forget the merchandising?

You can stop over at the dance parties at any time to meet up with the Toy Story crew at the Diamond Horseshoe, and Chip ‘n’ Dale, Pluto, and Santa Goofy at Cosmic Ray’s. When over in Frontierland, check the wait for the Country Bears. If it’s minimal, stop by. If not, you can always wait until after the fireworks when the meeting times are usually much shorter.

After Holiday Wishes Fireworks Show (9:30 pm through 12 am)

This is the time of the party when the wait for the princes and princesses becomes minimal. The same goes for the Country Bears and the Pooh Crew. You could meet them all within an hour and still have over an hour left of the party.

"A Walt Disney World Christmas" has lots more about Mickey's Very Merry, including a comprehensive list of which characters are available, when and where to find them, what holiday attire they'll be wiring, and tips for meeting as many of them as possible.

In this excerpt, Ken Bingham clues you in to a Disney backstage tour you've probably never heard of: the Yuletide fantasy Tour.

One of the most vaunted of all backstage tours, Disney’s Yuletide Fantasy provides its patrons with an experience that stretches across three parks, over to the Grand Floridian, and through the backstages of Disney’s Holiday Services.

The tour focuses on holiday traditions around the world. Your guide will first take you through Epcot’s World Showcase, where you’ll learn of Germany’s Christkindlmrkt, their annual market festivities for the Christ Child; Italy’s La Befana, the great gift-giving Christmas witch; the sumptuous history of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa over in the American Pavilion; and finally, the story of O-Shogatsu and the Japanese New Year’s Festival.

From there, you’ll head to the Grand Floridian with its holiday carolers, a full orchestra in its ballroom, and of course, its renowned 800-pound gingerbread house. You’re not here long enough to really appreciate the intricacies of this remarkable establishment—since this is an area you can return to at any time during your stay with no additional cost, it merely serves as a calling card for the future.

If you were in too much of a rush to grab some gingerbread, don’t be concerned. Your guide provides some Disney treats on your way to the next stop, the highlight of this tour: Disney’s Holiday Services. Here you’ll learn of the procedures for decorating the parks, hotels, and Disney properties across the globe. This is fun and eye opening, but the real enjoyment comes when they actually part the curtains and let you see what happens behind them.

In the backstage area you’ll find where they keep all the dazzle and bedazzle that keep the parks alight and aglow. There are gallons of glitter in every color of the rainbow, buckets of LED lights, and aisles and aisles of open bins displaying theme, park, and resort-specific ornaments…and not just for the Disney World, Florida, but for Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Anaheim.

The only issue is you’re absolutely not permitted to take any photos back here. But, to be honest, that only adds to the sacred trust of the event.

Your guide will then spirit you off to the Magic Kingdom, where you’ll take a tour of Main Street, U.S.A., to learn how Disney’s decorations tie into the seasonal events that happen across the World.

You’ll then return to the gates of Epcot for the conclusion of the tour.

Because of the tour’s popularity, Disney now offers it twice per day. Even at that, it’s a tough ticket to come by, so you’ll need to make your reservations early.

Although there is a fifty-person capacity to each tour, it never feels crowded, as you’ll typically be separated into two groups when you go through the touring areas.

I would personally advise you to take the 9 am tour, which allows you entrance to the World Showcase before it officially opens.

"A Walt Disney Christmas" has more details about this tour, as well as the low-down on Disney's other big backstage Christmas tour, Holiday D-Lights.

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