May your days be merry and bright–and even white–when you visit Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
By Monica Reid Olson

They say Walt Disney World in Florida is the happiest place on Earth, but at Christmastime, this place is downright giddy. From the moment you arrive, you’re enveloped in a yuletide world of lights, decorations and music that would impress jolly ol’ St. Nick himself.

As if there’s not enough to do, special shows and events are scheduled throughout the season, making Christmas even more spectacular.

Christmas trees tower over Town Square at Magic Kingdom.
A Very Merry Christmas

Throwing a party is a popular way to celebrate, and Disney World is no exception. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom is one holiday blast you won’t want to miss-especially if your holiday isn’t complete without snow. The man-made white stuff falls on Main Street U.S.A., creating a scene worthy of Currier & Ives. Two parades nightly, a fireworks show and free cookies and hot chocolate are also on tap.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, which runs on selected nights in November and December, requires the purchase of a ticket separate from the regular park pass. The parades are included in regular park admission.

Although Frontierland is a good place to view the parade during its second run of the evening, it’s worth arriving early to stake out a place along Main Street U.S.A. for the first parade. Nothing beats sitting on the sidewalk as the snow falls and your senses are bombarded with the parade’s beauty and pageantry.

Mickey and Minnie are there, of course, as well as the Disney princesses and other beloved characters. The parade is choreographed to booming holiday music, prompting intermittent cheers from the crowd throughout the 30-minute spectacle. The biggest cheers erupt at the end when Santa Claus makes his grand appearance.

Sneak in a few rides after the parade (the lines tend to be shorter during the party) and before the commencement of the evening’s next big event-Holiday Wishes: Celebrate the Spirit of the Season. This riveting fireworks show is set to more seasonal music and can be seen from most anywhere in the Magic Kingdom.

If you don’t have tickets to the party, there is still a way to see Holiday Wishes. Make reservations for a late-evening dinner at California Grill, located at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. From the restaurant's windows, you will have a perfect view of the Magic Kingdom and Cinderella’s Castle, which is pretty amazing even without the fireworks.

On a More Serious Note

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Along with holiday fun and merriment, the season has its solemn side, and the folks at Walt Disney World tip their mouse ears to that part of Christmas.

The Candlelight Processional, part of Epcots Holidays Around the World, is a soul-stirring performance of several traditional Christmas songs and a narration of the Nativity story backed by a choir and 50-piece orchestra.

Elsewhere at Epcot, the Lights of Winter span the walkway between Future World and World Showcase. Taking their cue from the holiday music, the lights flash and twinkle to the beat as the dancing fountain joins in the nightly performance.

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth-the nightly show over the lagoon featuring music, lights, lasers and pyrotechnics-presents a finale created just for the season. As “Let There Be Peace on Earth” plays in the background, Walter Cronkite offers a recorded holiday message followed by an exciting, and exceptionally loud, fireworks show.

Other Holidays Around the World events include Mickey’s Nightly Tree Lighting Treat, 6 p.m. at World Showcase Plaza; Kwanzaa and Hanukkah observances; and, located inside the World Showcase, Storytellers From Around the World, which highlights stories and traditions from all over the globe.
Holidays Around the World and the Candlelight Processional, which are included with the regular Epcot admission, run daily Nov. 23 through Dec. 30. Candlelight Processional dinner packages are available for an additional charge.

Let There Be Light (And Lots of It)

Holiday lights at Epcot seen through a photographer’s zoom lens. ©Walt Disney World Resort photos
There’s always one family on the block who goes overboard decorating their house for the holidays, but they have nothing on the Osbornes. Since 1995, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights has set up its shining extravaganza at Disney-MGM Studios.

Spectacle doesn't begin to describe the Streets of America back lot, where several blocks of two-story building fronts create a cityscape adorned with millions of lights. Technicians, carpenters, welders, painters and maintenance crews work year-round on the tedious decorating process, though the main installation begins in earnest in July.

A carousel of angels twirls above one two-story structure, Santa Claus and his reindeer fly overhead, and a 65-foot tree with 5,000 lights towers over the entire scene. Inside Disney-MGM Studios, the Hollywood Holly-Day Parade marches down Hollywood Boulevard. The Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights runs nightly Nov. 12 through Jan. 6.

More Goodies in the Bag

Even Animal Kingdom goes wild during the holidays. As you make your way into the park, listen for carolers singing holiday favorites near the 65-foot Christmas tree.

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade, which is included with regular park admission, is another daily feature throughout the season. Character favorites dressed in their finest seasonal apparel march down the parade route along with floats, stilt walkers and dancers.

Eventually, you have to go back to the real world, where holiday tasks are waiting. Let Downtown Disney help you with at least one seasonal chore: shopping. You’ll be able to check everyone off your list, including the dog and cat. Shops include Once Upon a Toy for the kids, Goofy’s Candy Co. for chocolate lovers and Disney Tails for that special pet.

You'll need to bring an empty suitcase to haul your treasures home, but the Christmas memories you make will be carried in your heart.

Monica Reid Olson is an assistant editor of Home & Away.
Sept/Oct. 2007 Issue

New Year’s Disney style

Walt Disney World keeps the holiday spirit going into 2008 with all kinds of New Year's Eve parties throughout the resort.

Pleasure Island in Downtown Disney will throw a rockin’ party for the 21 and older set featuring live music and street dances. Though entry into Downtown Disney is free, a ticket is required for the party.

The Atlantic Dance Hall on Disney Boardwalk will bop to video DJ’s playing music from the 1980s and ‘90s. A champagne toast at midnight is included in the party that comes with a $20 cover charge. For the 21 and older set.

Family-style celebrations will be at Disney-MGM Studios and the Magic Kingdom.

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