Disney Over the Holidays 2017

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The next two months on the calendar represent my favorite time of the year. And if you’re already eyeing Hallmark Channel for new holiday movies, you’re a lot like me. For those of us who put up the Christmas tree the weekend (or day) after Halloween, the holidays can’t get here soon enough.

Where’s the best place to be in November and December? Well, that answer is the same as any other month of the year. It’s a Disney theme park.

Still, the holidays at Disney are the best time on the calendar, and you should go. The holiday lights and decorations will heighten your yuletide, and the shows will remind you exactly why you fell in love with Disney trips in the first place. Read on to learn what Disney has in store for the Most Magical Place on Earth during the 2017 holiday season.

The Lights Go Up at Disney

Okay, this isn’t technically something that you can watch live. It’s still a huge deal. The instant that Halloween’s witching hour ends, Disney moves on to the start of the end-of-year holiday season. All of the witchy decorations go down immediately. They are replaced by Christmas decorations.

Christmas decorations adorn Cinderella's Castle at Walt Disney World's Resort

By the time the park opens on November 1st, all remnants of Halloween are gone. As far as the eye can see, Christmas lights and other holiday-related paraphernalia celebrate the season.

The time lapse of the process is amazing.

 

Halloween night is one of the most eventful on the Disney calendar. What does this mean for you? In less than a week, the holiday season begins in earnest at Walt Disney World.

Holiday Tapings

One of the annual traditions in our family is watching the Disney parade on Christmas Day. The show combines live performances from Disney-related celebrities and a parade. For marketing purposes, the ABC program also includes several commercials about various Disney vacation opportunities and yes, the Disney Vacation Club is one of them!

The dirty secret about the Disney parade is that it doesn’t air live. To the contrary, it films over several days. Then, producers splice together the footage to create the best show possible. This year, the filming dates are November 9th through November 13th. The setup is slightly different from previous years, though.

Rather than have live stages and parades at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, ABC’s evenly divided the duties this year. The parade will take place at Disneyland while all of the concert performances are at Walt Disney World. Also, taping will occur at all four gates at Walt Disney World.

You don’t need tickets for the shows, either! As long as you have an admission ticket or pass, you can watch your favorite Disney acts put on a show.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Starting on November 9th, guests can also attend the most festive holiday event at Walt Disney World. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a ticketed event wherein Cinderella Castle lights up with the most beautiful illumination you’ll ever see.

Then, “snow” falls on Main Street and a parade begins. It’s akin to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, only ghouls are out and gifts are in. As is the case with the Halloween event, a special holiday-themed fireworks show punctuates the evening festivities.

Fireworks at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

You should understand that this ticketed event isn’t free, at least not most of the time. Disney sells admission to this party at a cost of $100 per night, give or take a bit depending on the date. What we’ll discuss what you get for your money in just a moment, but I should point out the caveat first. During Christmas week, Disney hosts the event for all guests.

With regular admission, you get to enjoy the show for free. Prior to that, you pay. Also, the event isn’t held every night. The 2017 dates are November 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 26, 28 and December 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, and 22.

The big draws of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are the character photo ops and the special shows. The photo ops involve literally dozens of Disney figures, all of whom wear special holiday outfits. You can check Instagram to see some examples; suffice to say that these are adorable character meetings that aren’t possible at any other time on the calendar.

Disney also runs most popular Magic Kingdom rides during the party, meaning you can ride your favorite attractions with little to no time spent waiting in line.

Parade at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

As for the shows, Disney hosts Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration, a performance of holiday songs by cast members. It also includes magical projections on the castle walls. It’s pretty darned magical. There’s also the Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade, which is exactly what it sounds like. Finally, you can watch A Frozen Holiday Wish at Cinderella Castle if you’re not tired of Let It Go yet. This show is part of regular admission to Magic Kingdom, though. Disney hosts it even on non-party nights.

At a price of $100, this party isn’t cheap. I’m of the opinion that it’s something that everyone should do at least once. Those of us who visit Walt Disney World more frequently often make party attendance an annual event (or at least a fairly regular one). Personally, I’d rather pay for the event than spend Christmas week at Walt Disney World. I find the thought of sellout crowds a bit claustrophobic, but I also understand (and adore) that some folks have made Christmas in Orlando a family tradition.

Holiday Rides

During the holidays, Disney adds special overlays to a couple of its popular attractions. At Disneyland, the holiday version of It’s a Small World is so special that the company’s adding FastPass and MaxPass options for the first time ever.

The Happiest Place on Earth unfortunately won’t include a Jingle Cruise overlay this year due to other construction, but Magic Kingdom will. Jingle Cruise sees the “animals” and set pieces on Jungle Cruise add a special yuletide touch.

Finally, the oddest and yet most wonderful overlay will be back in 2017. Haunted Mansion’s holiday overlay makes absolutely no sense in that it’s a spooky ride. The holidays are by nature friendly. Somehow, the incongruity makes the Christmas version of Haunted Mansion that much better. You can enjoy it at Disneyland…and as you would expect, it’s got a lot of The Nightmare Before Christmas touches throughout the attraction.

All of these overlays will pop up over the next few days. Whether you’re at Disneyland or Walt Disney World, you’ll find at least one attraction that’s vastly different (and some would argue better) this holiday season. Do yourself a favor and ride it/them.

Epcot Events

Epcot now runs four annual festivities each year. One starts in January, another is in the spring, and the most famous one starts in August and then ends in mid-November. The instant that the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival ends, Disney starts converting the kiosks for its fourth offering.

Yes, the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays returns in a few weeks. The official start date is November 19th, less than a week after the Food & Wine exhibition ends on November 13th. Obviously, a lot of similarities exist between the two events. The big change is that the kiosks become Holiday Kitchens, but the gist is the same. Delicious bites are available at 15 kitchens across the World Showcase. They are all holiday-themed, which is to say that the desserts are divine.

Epcot also hosts the Candlelight Processional three times a night during the holiday season. Starting on November 24th, you can head over to the America Gardens Theatre and watch any one of three nightly performances. The shows are at 5:00, 6:45, and 8:00 p.m.

At the Candlelight Processional, a celebrity such as Neil Patrick Harris or Whoopi Goldberg narrates a special story about a virgin birth in Bethlehem. A 50-piece orchestra and choir sing holiday music throughout the event. It’s quite lovely and free to watch, although Disney does sell a dinner package that guarantees seats.

Each World Showcase pavilion will offer its own holiday theming. The lights and other decorations at each one make them worth a visit. The beloved Holiday Storytellers segments return in 2017, too. Also, JOYFUL! A Gospel Celebration of the Season and Canadian Holiday Voyageurs are both back again. Disney’s even added a new interactive musical group. These performers will combine “the music of Hanukkah with jazz, rock and hip-hop influences.” That sounds like something I would stop and watch.

One final note about Epcot: IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth has a holiday variation, too. If you’re in the area, you should check it out.

Hollywood Studios, Disney Springs, the Resorts, and Animal Kingdom

The lights show that we all miss at Hollywood Studios isn’t returning this year, but everyone’s keeping hope alive that it will come back one day soon. The park is debuting a new holiday experience this year, though. Sunshine Seasons Greetings runs from November 9th through New Year’s Eve. It’s apparently a projection show wherein Mickey Mouse and other beloved Disney characters share holiday stories.

Disney’s Prep & Landing fans will also be thrilled to know that Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Holiday Nighttime Spectacular will return! Wayne and Lanny, the primary characters from the animated television shows, host this event. The show was very well-received last year, and you should attend even if you haven’t watched Prep & Landing. Part of the show features key holiday sequences from Disney animated classics such as Beauty and the Beast and Mickey’s Christmas Carol.

As for Animal Kingdom, this park receives special themed decorations. There are also live musicians who perform holiday music. Hopefully, Disney will also have something special for Pandora, but I’ve seen no hint of this so far. Honestly, Animal Kingdom could use more holiday attention from Disney.

When you’re staying at DVC resort, you should also take the time to wander the property. Some of the greatest holiday decorations in the world are at Walt Disney World. I listed many of the best ones in a DVC News post a couple of years ago. At a minimum, you should check out all of the monorail resorts and Disney’s Beach Club Resort.

Gingerbread house at Disney's Grand Floridian

Finally, Disney Springs sees the return of the Christmas Tree Trail. In fact, Disney promises a “bigger, better” version of this artificial forest. Disney’s hosting 25 different story trees this year, “including ten new trees inspired by Disney classics such as Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, Snow White and Dumbo.” The best part of the Christmas Tree Trail is that it’s free. You don’t even need to pay for park admission to enjoy it, making it the cheapest holiday celebration at Walt Disney World.

 

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