A Merry and Bright Dessert Partyby Donald and Bonnie Fink, contributing writer
The absolute best time of year for us at Disney's Hollywood Studios is the holiday season, and that's mainly because of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. Almost every year since we started visiting Walt Disney World, we've been enjoying the lights. This year, we tried the Merry and Bright Dessert Party to go along with an evening of enjoying the lights, and it made the experience just that much more enjoyable.
For those who may not know, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is a light show that takes place in Hollywood Studios in the area known as the Streets of America. The building facades are decorated with millions of lights and then set to music to provide a dancing light show that defies verbal description. Really, you've got to see it to understand the scope of what it is.
The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights has a long history, starting back in 1986 in Little Rock, Arkansas. William Osborne, a successful business owner, asked his six year old daughter what she wanted for Christmas. She replied that she wanted to spend time with her Dad hanging Christmas lights. Mr. Osborne was apparently a bit of an overachiever because he took her request to heart, and what started out as a mere 1,000 lights in 1986 quickly blossomed to several million within a couple of years.
Over time, the light display became so popular in Little Rock that it was viewed as a nuisance by neighbors, who claimed that they were prisoners in their own homes, unable to leave due to the large volume of traffic trying to view the lights. Lawyers were retained, and everyone went to court where Mr. Osborne was eventually ordered to shut down his light display by the Arkansas Supreme Court.
Disney acquired the lights and the first display was in 1995, in an area known as Residential Street; an area that has since been demolished to make room for the Lights, Motors, Action: Extreme Stunt Show, on the back lot. The lights moved to the Streets of America, where they’ve been since 2004. Jim Korkis recently published a great story about the history of the Osborne lights on MousePlanet. It's a fascinating story.
The Merry and Bright Dessert Party is located at the west end of Streets of America. There is a seating area blocked off for guests where they can view the dancing lights from the comfort of a table, enjoying the various dessert dishes. Coffee, assorted teas, hot apple cider, and various holiday-inspired mixed drinks are available. Some of the specialty alcoholic drink names keep to the winter theme: Jack Frost, Snowflake Flurry, and Warm Mistletoe.
The desserts are Christmas-inspired creations. Here are some of the available options:
Guests are initially issued a sticker to place on their clothing to identify them as part of the dessert party. They are then free to come and go throughout the evening. This option was particularly fun for this event since the best place to view the lights was from the center of everything, where you could get a 360 degree view.
The dessert party was fun, but in the end it's really about the lights. This is sadly the final year of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, so if you are local, or happen to be at Walt Disney World during the holidays, you won’t want to miss them.
Many of the larger pieces like this carousel were part of the original lights in Arkansas. Mr. Osborne sent four of his own technicians in the first year to help out with their assembly. Photo by Donald Fink.
The original globe from Little Rock included a nativity scene and the words, "For God So Loved the World." This globe reads "Peace on Earth," but the angels nearby still resemble a nativity scene. Photo by Donald Fink.
Watch the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights perform to the song "What's This" from The Nightmare Before Christmas.
We enjoyed our experience at the Merry and Bright Dessert Party. The seating arrangement in the proximity of the Osborne Lights, the desserts and drinks all added up to a good evening. The fact that we paid extra money to enjoy this event almost forced us to spend more time watching the lights which had the unexpected benefit of allowing us to notice more intricacies than we had seen before. It's unfortunate that the Dancing Lights are in their final year. Having just discovered the right way to view them—by attending the dessert party—we would certainly be willing to come back in future years.
The Merry & Bright Dessert Party runs November 6 through December 30, except for November 17, December 9, and December 18. The event runs from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. November 6 through December 24, and 8:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. December 25 to 30.
Tickets are $69 for ages 10 and up ($39 for ages 3–9). Tax and tip are included in the price. Theme park admission is required, and not included.
Your ticket includes 90 minutes of access to the all-you-care-to-eat dessert buffet, "a special reserved viewing location set apart from the crowds," and a stadium blanket. In the event of rain, the dessert party is relocated to a nearby covered location.
Advance reservations are recommended, but same-day tickets may be available if the event has not sold out. Book online at the Walt Disney World website, or call (407) 939-3463.