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Sue Holland

Christmas at the Walt Disney World Resorts

Friday, December 14, 2001
by Sue Holland, MousePlanet staff writer

The spectacular Christmas tree at the Grand Floridian last year
The spectacular Christmas tree at the Grand Floridian last year

Everyone expects the theme parks to be decorated to the nines for Christmas, but many of the resorts at Walt Disney World also undergo a festive transformation in the days and weeks before Thanksgiving each year. Whether you are looking for ideas to incorporate in your own home or simply enjoying the beauty of holiday decorations, making a few side trips to some of the resorts can be a very enjoyable way to spend some time.

Traveling between resorts on Disney transportation can be tedious and frustratingly time-consuming, but there are ways to minimize the inconvenience. The easiest and most efficient way to tour the resorts however, is by driving your own car. With tighter security measures in effect, you should be prepared to show a photo identification card such as a driver's license, even if you are a registered guest at a WDW resort with a parking pass on your dashboard.

Not every resort will have decorations worth making a trip. For example, the All-Star Resorts are value-level resorts and frankly, their decorations pale in comparison to those at a deluxe resorts. Also, some resort lobbies are more conducive to housing large trees and other decorations. The Polynesian, for example, has had surprisingly few decorations in the past few years, which I attribute to the layout of its main building. The garden and waterfall that make up the entire center section certainly limit what Disney can do in terms of a Christmas tree.

Minimize travel time by touring groups of resorts based on their proximity to each other, and the park from which you will be coming. From the Magic Kingdom for example, it is easy and logical to tour the monorail resorts. From Epcot or Disney-MGM Studios, it is an easy walk or boat ride to tour the deluxe properties such as Boardwalk Inn, Yacht Club Resort, Beach Club Resort, and the Swan and Dolphin resorts. Getting to the moderate-level resorts takes more time, since they are each isolated from anything else, but can be worth a trip for people in the mood for more after visiting the deluxe resorts.

This year's tree at the Grand Floridian
This year's tree at the Grand Floridian

The Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is home to what is probably the most admired Christmas tree. Victorian in theme, decorated with bird cages, large mirrors and lots of golden colors, the tree looks a lot more beautiful than words can describe! Many people stop to take their family picture in front of the tree, but it is very difficult to capture the entire tree because it is so large.

The tree at Wilderness Lodge
The tree at Wilderness Lodge

Another favorite during the holidays is the Wilderness Lodge, with its Northwest theming providing a perfect venue for cold-weather holiday decor. The new Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge resort has a very pretty tree of its own, although the original resort houses a larger tree because it has a taller lobby.

...and at the Villas at Wilderness Lodge
...and at the Villas at Wilderness Lodge

The Contemporary Resort has a large green tree outdoors that is decorated with red poinsettia. Inside the lobby on the first floor are a number of smaller, pretty trees, large wreaths and some garlands. Surprisingly the fourth floor concourse has no Christmas decorations other than some garlands near Chef Mickey restaurant as of Thanksgiving weekend this year.

MousePlanet's own babe in toyland... Sue poses with the holiday decorations at the Beach Club Resort
MousePlanet's own babe in toyland... Sue poses with the holiday decorations at the Beach Club Resort

Over at the Epcot resorts, the Beach Club tree is themed with Babes in Toyland, with many popular childhood toys nearby--albeit out of reach of visitors.

The tannenbaum at the Boardwalk
The tannenbaum at the Boardwalk

Across Crescent Lake, at the Boardwalk Resort, is a pair of large trees set up across from the front desk, with beautiful lighted garland strung throughout the lobby.

Animal Kingdom Lodge displays spectacular holiday decorations
Animal Kingdom Lodge displays spectacular holiday decorations

Animal Kingdom Lodge is celebrating its first Christmas this year with a very pretty tree in the beautiful lobby. During very busy times such Christmas through New Year's, car access to this resort may be restricted to the lodge's resort guests or for those holding a priority seating time for a meal in one of its full-service restaurants.

The Boardwalk also sports a gingerbread house
The Boardwalk also sports a gingerbread house (December 2000)

In addition to the Christmas trees, garland and wreaths, the chefs at many of the resorts have historically created a display made of gingerbread. 

...while Coronado Springs has a Southwestern twist to gingerbread construction
...while Coronado Springs has a Southwestern twist to gingerbread construction (December 2000)

Besides being fun to look at, the scent of gingerbread helps add to the holiday atmosphere, bringing back memories of gingerbread men baked for the holiday.

... but the gingerbread to beat is still at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
... but the gingerbread to beat is still at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (December 2000)

Nowhere is this stronger than at the Grand Floridian, where you can enjoy not only a small village, but an entire shop made from gingerbread! In 2001 as of Thanksgiving weekend the gingerbread villages had not appeared, with the exception of the gingerbread shop at the Grand Floridian, the rumor is that Disney will be skipping them this year.

The Gingerbread House Shop at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
The Gingerbread House Shop at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (December 2000)

On the lower level of the lobby, not far from the Christmas tree is a small gift shop that sells snacks and beverages. This shop only exists from around Thanksgiving until shortly after New Year's, and is made of gingerbread. A cast member works inside, and electrical power is set up for the cash register and other equipment.


Contact Sue at sue.holland@mouseplanet.com.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sue has been hooked on Walt Disney World since her first visit in 1972 with her parents and younger brother. She kept returning more frequently until she moved to Florida in 1986.

After joining the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) in 1997, she now visits almost monthly. She also spends time at the DVC's non-WDW locations, and is experienced with the Disney cruise ships.

She takes many of these trips on her own, but she's also toured WDW with large groups of people, including families, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

She works as the Administrative Services Division Head for a large residential facility administered by the Florida Department of Children and Families. She currently resides in Southwest Florida with her teenage son.

Sue is one of our most prolific trip report writers. Read her trip report archive here.

You can contact Sue here.

Get the latest info about the resort at “Park Update: Walt Disney World.”

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MousePlanet® is not associated in any official way with the Walt Disney Company, its subsidiaries, or its affiliates. The official Disney site is available at www.disney.com. This MousePlanet Web site provides independent news articles, commentary, editorials, reviews, and guides primarily about the theme park resorts of the Walt Disney Co. All information on this site is subject to change. Please call destinations in advance to confirm the most up-to-date information.