At first thought, few things seem more magically perfect than spending Christmas in Walt Disney World. There’s a chill in the air, but Florida is still mercifully warm compared to those parts of the world blanketed in snow; sparkling decorations glitter on every surface; Mickey and Minnie are in their holiday garb — what more could you want? Last year, I experienced Disney twice during the holiday season — December 1-3 and December 26-30 — and let me tell you…visiting that week between Christmas and New Years was a unique experience.
I won’t lie. It’s frickin’ magical to be in Disney World while it’s decorated for the winter holidays. I don’t care if the best snow we get is snoap — the parks are extra enchanted. Also, Disney is great at keeping their swarms of guests entertained. I’ve sadly never attended Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but there was still an abundance of fun stuff going on in all four parks! I felt like I got my sufficient fill of holiday cheer even without forking over the additional cost of MVMCP (don’t get me wrong, I’m dying to go someday, cost or not).
I personally loved resort-hopping to see all of the deluxe resort lobbies. The decorations were honestly mind blowing from the enormous trees in both the Animal Kingdom and Wilderness Lodges to the moving chocolate carousel over at Beach Club. Everything always smelled heavenly and the resorts were a lot less crowded than the parks, even though they were still quite a bit busier than during other times of year.
Back in the parks, there is so much to see and to do! I was really excited about the new holiday features all over Hollywood Studios last year — thankfully back again this year! Sunset Seasons Greetings was adorable enough that I wasn’t bothered at all that it repeated for hours on end (no sarcasm here — it really didn’t bother me). I loved the new use of Tower of Terror as a backdrop. Also, it was neat, when riding Tower of Terror in the evening, to have the elevator doors open to projections!
On Producer Greg’s recommendation, I also rode Jingle Cruise for the first time and absolutely loved that overlay, too! Having never ridden Jungle Cruise (at that point), I had nothing to compare it to, but as a fan of corny jokes, I had a blast.
There was a whole feel to the parks that made them practically perfect in every way — even just hearing holiday music in the background as I walked around and took in each park’s larger-than-life Christmas tree. There were also other changes that I didn’t even think about before experiencing them. Being in Florida in December is much different than being there during the summer because, well, science. The weather is much cooler (but be on the look out for the random scorcher. December 2 had me buying a dress in the parks because I was melting in my jeans), sure, but I much more enjoyed the impact of sunrise and sunset.
In the summer, you’ll get a sliver of time in the parks after dark, but you’ll be hard pressed to get park time before sunrise. In December, it’s easy! The parks in the dark are fantastic. Everything’s a little quieter and all the lights are all a little brighter. My first time seeing Pandora in the dark was actually during extra magic hours in the morning! Watching the sun come up over the floating mountains was enough to make me convinced I was actually in another world.
I can honestly say there’s nothing else quite like the heart-warming magic of Disney at Christmas.
Getting down to Disney at Christmas can be very expensive. Supply and demand basically guarantee that you’ve got a pricy trip on your hands if you’re looking to head to Orlando during the second half of December. This is a trip that will require extra time, planning, and budgeting. I remember looking up flights over 6 months out and having my jaw literally drop at the sight of the price tag. The more you can prepare yourself for this bitter pill, the less painful it is (who am I kidding….a thousand dollar plane ticket will always hurt).
While I mentioned the weather as part of “The Good,” it wouldn’t be fair to not also touch on it in “The Bad.” December in Florida is incredibly challenging to plan for. I swear the temperature has a 30 degree swing on any given day. This means you’d better pack extra and you’d better be prepared with layers. Carrying the extra weight around the parks can be a pain, but I’ll be fair — it’s really not so bad. What’s worse is being stuck in a park completely unprepared (either too warm or too cold), so try to avoid that one.
This section is disproportionately short. If I’m being honest, I really only included it because I’m committed to my title…. onward and upward!
Ok, yes, this should just be part of “The Bad,” but the sheer amount of people crammed into Disney World in the week between Christmas and New Years was so incredibly overwhelming and all-encompassing that it deserved its own section. Oh Holy Nights, I don’t know if I can express exactly what it was like to be in the parks at that time. Don’t worry, I’ll try.
It’s like being a sardine in a tin can.
It’s like being sneezed on from 15 different directions.
It’s like being squished between standing rolling pins.
It’s like living inside of a gym sock.
It’s like walking through a sea of knee-high battering rams.
Ok — I think you get it. Disney can get BUSY. Each day, after we used up our first three FastPasses, we knew we’d have some waiting to do (a LOT of waiting). We chose to come between Christmas and New Years, so we were prepared for this. We were not prepared for all the ancillary frustration that comes from crowds. We were scared to park hop, for fear of parks reaching capacity and locking us out; bathroom lines were sometimes worse than attraction lines, and in a dire time, that was sometimes kind of alarming; and we came prepared with extra patience and a plethora of phone games to keep entertained, we were not nearly prepared enough to deal with the tantrums and screaming that came from other guests. Increase the number of guests and inherently you increase the meltdowns (oh – for clarification – I’m talking about from parents here). Stress was at an all-time MAX.
Lastly, I wasn’t joking about the sneezing. There were a lot of germs floating around Disney with that many guests packed so close together, touching all the handles, railings, attraction cars, and more. I ended up finishing my last day at Disney sick as a dog, and was bedridden for days after I got home (that plane ride was a HOOT). Pack extra hand sanitizer, folks, and don’t touch your face!
So, as you can see, Disney at Christmas is magical, but I would strongly recommend avoiding the parks during those days of peak capacity like the plague (which is probably floating around the parks on those days anyway, so actually, just avoid the plague).
All that said…Ben did propose the day after Christmas in Disney World, so I’d take all the bad to get that piece of good. I guess sometimes it’s worth it after all. Personally, I vow to never visit Disney between Christmas and New Years again. The parks are just as charming in November and early December and the crowds are drastically smaller. I’m perfectly content to spend Christmas itself curled up at home.
What do you think? Do big crowds get you jazzed for an exciting trip? There’s a whole other side to braving a busy park, so make sure to check out what Rad Dad’s got to say on the topic here!