I have a secret to share with you.
I didn’t buy tickets to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party this year.
Would I have enjoyed going? Sure! The party is great – the fireworks and parade and treats and – more than any of that – just overall feeling in the park during the holiday party has always been nothing short of magic. And when tickets went on sale, I headed over to Disney’s site and put 4 tickets into my cart and headed to check out. And I saw the total and I just couldn’t justify pulling the trigger.
Christmas Parties of Years Past
We’re AP holders. We live less than 10 minutes from Magic Kingdom. We can walk into the parks at any time – barring the (thankfully very, very rare these days) unavailable park reservation. Depending on which date we chose, the tickets, after all of the fees and taxes, would have been between $600 and $800 (and up) for the four of us to go for an evening.
The prices are clearly on point – because the party is sold out every single night through its last run on December 22nd. And if you’re visiting on vacation and buying individual park tickets instead of an annual pass, the math does make a bit more sense. You can enter the park at 4pm with your ticket and the party itself runs from 7pm until midnight, so you can get a pretty full park and party day out of your ticket. But as an AP holder that lives around the corner from the Castle, the math looks a heck of a lot different. And truth told I think, bang for your buck, there are better ways to spend your holidays at Walt Disney World whether you’re local or visiting.
So we’re skipping it!! But we’re still full of holiday spirit over here… so how can you celebrate in Walt Disney World without a MVMCP ticket?? So many ways!! Let’s look at them ALL:
The Holidays at Magic Kingdom
There are lots of photo ops like this around Magic Kingdom. Some with PhotoPass photographers, some to use with your own cameras.
Even if you’re skipping the party, there’s no denying the magic of the season at Walt Disney World’s original park. Just roaming Main Street and the various lands, you can’t help but get into the spirit. Take in the decorations, have one of the many holiday snacks that’s available outside of the party, and ride Jingle Cruise – the holiday layover that takes over Jungle Cruise every year.
Lock Shock & Barrel Sundae at Auntie Gravity’s in Tomorrowland
A magic shot from Disney PhotoPass in Magic Kingdom – ask about them throughout the parks!!
You’ll find fun photo opportunities set up around the Park – and if you stop for Disney PhotoPass, make sure to ask if they have a little holiday magic to add.
Also…skipping the party doesn’t mean you need to skip Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade or Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks if you’re here during the heart of the holidays!! The last party is on December 22nd – and then Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade will run twice daily for all park guests from December 23rd to 31st at 12 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. and Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks will run nightly instead of Enchantment from December 23rd through December 29th at 8:15 p.m. (Dates and times are based on currently available information and are subject to change.)
The Holidays at EPCOT
©Disney – The Holidays at EPCOT
Père Noël at the France Pavilion tells us about France’s holiday traditions.
EPCOT is arguably at least as magical as Magic Kingdom during the holiday season. The EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays started on November 25th and runs through December 30th. The event, like all of EPCOT’s festivals, does not require an additional ticket – just a normal park pass. Roaming World Showcase, you’ll find festival booths filled with holiday foods of the represented countries. You’ll also find the wonderful storytellers at many of World Showcase’s pavilions – characters like Father Christmas in the UK, La Befana in Italy, the Daruma doll vendor in Japan, and Père Noël in France, who tell you all about their respective country’s holiday traditions. And, especially if you have children with you, don’t miss Santa in the Odyssey building near the Mexico pavilion! The kids might also enjoy doing Olaf’s Holiday Tradition Scavenger Hunt (generally available in EPCOT’s main gift shops) as you wander World Showcase.
©Disney – EPCOT’s Candlelight Processional
And perhaps most wonderful of all, you can also enjoy EPCOT’s Candlelight Processional three times a night, at 5:15 p.m., 7 p.m., and 8:30 p.m., at the America Gardens Theater during Festival of the Holidays. You can get guaranteed seating by purchasing a Candlelight Processional dining package or try your luck at waiting in the standby queue. (That usually works so long as you get there early except perhaps for some of the most popular narrators.) The list of narrators for this year is right HERE and includes returning favorites like Angela Bassett and Neil Patrick Harris and exciting new names like Gloria Estefan and Josh Gad.
The Holidays at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
©Disney – Holiday Projections on the Tower of Terror
If you love vintage decor, make sure you find your way over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios over the holidays. The entire park is done up in a way that must make 50’s Prime Time proud. You can also wander down Sunset Boulevard in the evenings and enjoy snope falling and holiday projections on the Tower of Terror. And if you have kids in tow (or even if you don’t!), you might want to consider a meal at Minnie’s Holiday Dine at Hollywood and Vine. This is always a solid buffet meal and the holiday theming is adorable.
The Holidays at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
©Disney – The Merry Menagerie at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you’ll find absolutely beautiful animal themed decor. During the day, just inside the main entrance, also look for the Merry Menagerie – a set of life sized interactive animals puppeted by very talented Cast Members. Then stay after dark to see how beautiful the holiday decor looks when it glows – as well as a holiday edition of the Tree of Life Awakenings projection onto the Tree of Life.
The Holidays at Blizzard Beach Waterpark
©Disney – Tropical Santa at Disney’s Blizzard Beach Waterpark
It might be a little cool out for water activities for some of us, but if you happen over to Disney’s recently reopened Blizzard Beach Waterpark this time of year you might get to meet tropical Santa!!
The Holidays at Disney Springs
And speaking of Santa…he is also making time for children of all ages at Once Upon a Toy in Disney Springs!! (That’s right – you can meet Santa without a park ticket!!) He’ll be there through Christmas Eve – and the queue is virtual. So you can park your car and walk into Disney Springs, hop into the virtual queue on your phone, and then explore while you wait your turn!! And while you’re exploring, make sure to check out the Christmas Tree Stroll, which has really become a special part of Christmas at Disney.
The Holidays at the Walt Disney World Resorts
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge – Main Lobby at Christmastime
I think it goes without saying that the Disney Resorts are a destination in and of themselves this time of year. You could absolutely spend an entire day and more exploring them all – whether doing a monorail loop or going further to favorites like Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
The Gingerbread House at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort
One resort’s tree is more stunning than the next. If I had to give you a top three not to miss, I’d probably say Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. You can also spend the day exploring the various gingerbread houses and other creations around the resorts. You’ll find a massive traditional gingerbread house at Disney’s Grand Floridian, a Mary Blair-style castle at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, a working carousel made of gingerbread at Disney’s Beach Club Resort, and so many others.
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And that’s a wrap!! What’s your favorite holiday activity around Walt Disney World’s Parks & Resorts??
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You can find my complete guide to making the most of your runDisney race weekend RIGHT HERE and my guide to running trails on Disney World property RIGHT HERE.
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If you’re missing home (or love someone who is) and are looking for a way to bring the magic home, I’d love for you to check out my Core Memory collection right HERE. And as always, stay safe and be kind, my friends.