2004 Holiday Happenings at Walt Disney World
A quick spin around the World's upcoming festivities
Friday, May 7, 2004
by Mike Scopa, staff writer
Now that we've seen the last of Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party
at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom park for 2004 along with the closure
of another successful Epcot Food & Wine Festival, it's time for the Walt
Disney World Resort to offer guests some holiday cheer.
In this article, let's look at the holiday happenings around the Walt
Disney World Resort and offer some ideas and tips on how to best enjoy
this special time of year with Mickey and friends.
Guests entering Magic Kingdom first see the huge Christmas tree in the Town square. Beyond the tree awaits a gleaming Main Street, U.S.A., decorated to the hilt with wreaths and garland. During this time of year, Main Street and its festive surroundings make a particularly strong impression for first-time visitors.
Every year, those lovable bears at the Country Bear Jamboree put on a special Christmas show with their best holiday outfits, and offer guests their own rendition of some classic holiday songs. This is an exceptional attraction for children at Christmas time.
No one should ever visit Magic Kingdom during the Christmas season without taking in at least one serving of Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP). This event is held about a dozen times each year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and offers guests the most festive six hours of holiday cheer anyone could ever imagine. Because Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party is a hard-ticket event, only those who purchase a special event ticket separate from their regular park admission can attend. On the day of the party, Magic Kingdom closes promptly at 6 p.m. and then reopens at 7 p.m. for party guests. The party hours are usually 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.
The following are my tips for getting the most out of MVMCP so that you enjoy all the activities without feeling rushed. This plan also is designed to avoid the heaviest crowd conditions during the party.
Lighted watch: The first tip is to suggest that you or someone in your party wear a watch with a lighted dial so it can be easily read in lowlight conditions. You will need to keep constant watch of the time during the party.
Promptness: The party begins at 7 p.m. so be prompt and be sure to be inside the park as close to 7 p.m. as possible. You can be in the park before 7 but you must have your MVMCP ticket or receive your wrist band by 7 p.m.
Souvenir photos: During the party guests are given complimentary
cookies, hot cocoa, and photos. My suggestion is to at least take care
of the photos early on to avoid the long lines that will begin to form
around 8 p.m. My guess for 2004 is that photos will be taken at The Hall
of Presidents in Liberty Square, on the side of Aloha Isle in Adventureland,
possibly in the Timekeeper foyer in Tomorrowland, and perhaps somewhere
near it's a small world in Fantasyland. Be sure and check
the special MVMCP map for the exact locations. The complimentary hot cocoa
and cookies are usually found at or near the Plaza Pavilion, Aloha Isle,
and Columbia Harbor House.
'Twas the Night Before Christmas show: After you've had your picture taken head over to the Galaxy Palace Theater in Tomorrowland. This theater usually is the location for Mickey's 'Twas the Night before Christmas show. You want to be sure and see one of the early shows. This may be the most popular show during the party and it's not unusual to see standing room only by the second performance of the evening. This show is performed several times.
Tomorrowland: While in Tomorrowland, consider taking in some of
your favorite attractions, but also keep track of the time. If you are
mindful of the time and the party schedules, you should be able to enjoy
both the party and attractions. There is usually a very talented band
that entertains guests in Tomorrowland at the temporary stage constructed
just beyond the Astro-orbiter.
Fantasyland during the early parade: Note when the first of the
two Very Merry Christmas Parades takes place. During the first run of
the parade, plan on taking in some Fantasyland attractions. The idea here
is that most families with young children watch the early parade. This
shortens the Fantasyland attraction queues and offer you a chance to get
in some valuable attraction time. Queues tend to shorten up 15 minutes
before the start of the parade. It's unlikely that any attractions will
be offering Fastpass during the party.
Timing: As you make your way counter-clockwise around Magic Kingdom
from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland and towards Liberty Square you want to
continue to keep your eye on the time. You want to be sure you do not
miss the special showing of Wishes, the nighttime fireworks spectacular.
Be sure and position yourself in front of the castle but well in front
of the Main Street greeter board to see this nighttime spectacular.
Frontierland: After you have enjoy Wishes (promise to stay
for the finale), head for Adventureland and try to get in some of your
favorite attractions, then eventually make your way to Frontierland. Again,
watch the time because you want to be ready for the second running of
the Christmas parade. At this time, you will move clockwise around the
theme park. You can also do Frontierland first, then make your way over
to Adventureland and cut through the area just beyond Aloha Isle. This
brings you to the heart of Frontierland, with the Shootin' Arcade on your
Second parade: The Christmas parade begins from behind Splash
Mountain, so you position yourself somewhere in Frontierland. If you plan
on videotaping or taking pictures of this parade, consider standing along
the side of Frontierland opposite the water and the Frontierland Boardwalk.
Sometimes the buildings offer lighting during the nighttime parades. You
want to have the lighting behind you instead of facing you.
Celebrate the Season show: The Celebrate the Season show in front
of the Castle is very good and the performers are outstanding. You might
save this as your last MVMCP event of the night. It will be a very late
performance but that may also mean less of a crowd. The show's finale
also is an appropriate cap to the night's party.
Other activities: There are other activities that usually take
place during MVMCP, including Storytelling at the Fairytale Garden in
Fantasyland as well as Belle's Enchanted Story Telling at the Fantasyland
Pavilion. These events are best for young children.
Finally, keep your eyes open for special characters such as dancing Christmas trees, life-sized Gingerbread men, and those amazing marching toy soldiers.
Every year during the holiday season, Epcot's World Showcase holds a
Holidays around the World celebration. Guests are welcomed
at each of the World Showcase pavilions with traditional holiday greetings
from the represented country. This year's celebration runs from November
26 thru December 30.
World Showcase also offers its holiday Christmas storytellers, who delight
the guests with their own special holiday tale. Guests are entertained
by China's Monkey King, United Kingdom's Father Christmas, Italy's La
Befana, and others. These very talented cast members offer guests both
young an old a special taste of the fine art of storytelling.
Epcot's Showcase Plaza holds daily Christmas shows starring Mickey Mouse and
his famous friends. Check your showtime card for scheduled performances.
A special lighting ceremony takes place at dusk that you should not miss.
This ceremony is called Mickey's Tree Lighting Treat, and occurs at 6
p.m. at the World Showcase Plaza Tree Stage
Lights of winter is one of the unheralded treasures of Epcot's holiday
celebration. It involves what I call the magnificent Christmas trestle,
which connects Future World with World Showcase. This amazing structure
is home to an amazing assortment of lights that dance in synchronization
to majestic Christmas music that can be heard near the Epcot fountains.
The best way to enjoy this marvel is to position yourself so that you
are about 50 feet in front of the Epcot fountains and facing World Showcase.
You might find yourself so moved by the music and lights that you may
be entering a Disney Zone. Trust me.
The gem for Epcot however is the Candlelight Processional, which is held three times nightly, from just after Thanksgiving through late December. This amazing presentation includes guest narrators who tell the Christmas Story in between Christmas carols sung by an amazing chorus accompanied by a full orchestra. Narrators for 2004 include Rita Moreno, Jim Caviezel, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Gary Sinise.
It is best to sign up for a Candlelight Processional dinner package. This package guarantees you a good seat for the performance. The package includes dinner at a selected World Showcase restaurant of your choice, selected at booking time.
During this year's festivities, Epcot is adding a special Holiday-themed finale
to Illuminations: Reflections of Earth that, according to what
I've heard, will be narrated by Walter Cronkite. The overall theme is
let there be peace on Earth, with as many extra shells as
used during the Fourth of July finale.
Last year was a dark year for MGM during the holiday season. Construction of
the new action stunt show meant the dismantling of Residential Street,
home to the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights. It was the first time
since 1995 that this Little Rock, Arkansas attraction was not a part of
MGM's holiday happenings. Fortunately, they are back for 2004.
The lights began going up in the early fall. Practically all of the lights have been placed within the Streets of America. WDW is claiming that this year the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights will be the biggest and brightest yet.
As I recall, when Jennings Osborne first started putting lights up back
in 1986, it was in a residential setting of his 22,000 square-foot home.
How well this display of lights is received by the guests in an urban
setting is the big question.
The lights are turned on November 24 thru January 2.
Disney's Animal Kingdom
There are a few noteworthy happenings in Disney's Animal Kingdom park for 2004.
The theme park hosts Santa Goofy's Wild Wonderland, special holiday entertaining,
and some very special Disney Character trees.
2004 marks the first year that Disney's Animal kingdom offers some holiday festivities, in the form of Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade. The parade will most likely take place in mid-afternoon along the same route as the popular Mickey Jammin' Jungle Parade.
It's always fun to go resort hopping at WDW during the holidays to marvel at the amazing decorations.
Resorts that should be on your list include Grand Floridian Resort, Wilderness Lodge, and the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
These resorts house huge lobbies that serve as perfect homes for some very large Christmas trees. Also, the Grand Floridian lobby is home to a pretty big gingerbread house. The Polynesian Resort usually displays Santa's workshop, gingerbread style. You can see there's a gingerbread theme here.
I haven't heard for sure, but I expect that guests will be able to enjoy a 30-minute sleigh ride between the Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness (for about $30 per carriage).
Many of the deluxe resorts, especially Boardwalk, will be filled with the sound of carolers.
The Town of Celebration experiences snow on Market Street every night
accompanied by strolling holiday carolers.
Stores and Tours
Beginning November 26, Downtown Disney kicks off its Festival of the
Seasons celebration. During this time the Disney Marketplace gets holiday
wrappings decorations, lighted holiday displays, and strolling carolers.
I'm not sure if the shops will display animated windows for 2004, but
it's worth a look.
Finally, if you are looking for something different, there's the Yuletide
Fantasy Tour. This three-to-four-hour tour takes guests on a journey that
shows how Walt Disney World plans and goes about decorating for the holidays.
The tour includes a visit to the Walt Disney World ribbon-making machine,
which makes customized ribbons for the resort. Price for this tour is
about $60 per guest.
A Surreal Vacation
A vacation to the Walt Disney World Resort during the holiday season
makes for a surreal experience. For the veteran WDW visitor who has never
been to Orlando in December, it's like being there for the first time
all over again. Many who have experienced the holiday happenings at Walt
Disney World have remarked on their initial visit that they would have
never guessed that they would be surrounded by such a festive atmosphere.
A trip to WDW during this time of year makes such an impression upon
any guest that for a long time they will remember the magic!
Is there anything better than visiting the Walt Disney World Resort during
the holidays? Just onevisiting the Walt Disney World Resort during
the holidays on Mousefest week. What seemed as if it was months away is
now right around the corner. Mousefest 2004 is approaching fast and just
before the big event, we'll take a look at this annual get-together for
those who have a passion for all things Disney.
Have you ever been to Walt Disney World during the holidays? Is it as magical as Mike described? Send him your thoughts, questions, or comments here.