Thursday, December 24, 2015

Holidays in Orlando

Hey all! Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday spirit and prepping for any last minute travel plans. I wanted to share my experience about one of the best destinations to go for or around the holidays, Orlando. If you are familiar with the blog you know by now Orlando is kind of like my second home. My family have been annual passholders for Disney and Universal for years and one of our favorite times to go is mid-late December (usually a few days before Christmas).
The parks are more decorated and magical than ever and while there me be some crowds with the right planning, you are guaranteed to have a great time. One event that is sure to get your family in the holiday mood is the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party which is a nightly event held on numerous days throughout the months of November and December in the Magic Kingdom. Fair warning, you must purchase tickets to the party as it is not included with your park admission. The price has risen the last few years but I will say if you had the choice between another day of park admission or the party, I would choose the party.

The party begins at 7pm and lasts till 12am however, party guests can begin entering the park with their valid party ticket at 5pm. Upon entering you will be given a hand bracelet, they will check it at rides, character stops, and various other locations throughout the night. So don't try to stay in the park once the party starts if you don't have a ticket, it will be embarrassing when they make you leave. And believe me they will make you leave.  

The park is full of decorations, there are lots of cool window displays plus lines at the Starbuck in Main Street. I'm guessing you need a peppermint mocha to really get into the spirit? Seriously that Starbucks is ALWAYS crowded!

Snowing in central Florida? You bet! It happens every night at the party on Main Street USA. It was actually pretty cool while we were there but I'm sure the "snow" is just as fun when it's humid and 80 degrees outside. I think it's a cool little effect and kids seem to love it!

There a re lots of good photo opps around all the parks during the holidays. Each one of the four theme parks has its own tree at the entrance of the parks. Animal Kingdom's might be my favorite but the Magic Kingdom's (pictured below) is a classic.

Most if not all of the rides are open during the party including some holiday editions such as the "Jingle Cruise" which is better known as the Jungle Cruise the rest of the year and a Country Bear Jamboree Christmas. There are also plenty of specially themed treats and merchandise you can only get at the park so be sure to check your party guide to see the exact locations.

Besides short wait times at the park (we waited 10 minutes for Space Mountain and 20 for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train) there are also rare characters out that you can meet. Ok, I don't really care about meeting the characters but I mean Jack Skellington was out and there was not a long wait then why not? "Sandy Claws" and I had a full conversation.

Literally. He talks and sounds very much like Danny Elfman from Nightmare Before Christmas. We are having a full blown conversation about him and Sally making Christmas cookies. I didn't know what to say because this is a character yet, here we are.

After the convo we just settled on the picture (if you are really into talking to the characters you will love it, I feel awkward but other people looked like they were crying of happiness). This character stop located in the circus area of Fantasyland along with the all Seven Dwarfs (located by the mine train ride) produce long waits. Get there early as they normally are some of the first to arrive like as in they are sometimes out before the party starts. You won't be able to get a picture with any of the designated party characters unless you have a wrist band!

There are also free yes, FREE snacks at the party in the form of hot chocolate and sugar cookes (maybe they were snicker doodles?). The items are actually quite good.

The cookie and hot chocolate spots are all around the Magic Kingdom, just look for the cast members holding signs! You can also check your party guide map for the free goodies.

The castle looks like Elsa has been decorating so be sure to check it out! The party is well worth the price of admission for the short wait times alone in my opinion. The special parades, shows, fireworks and character opportunities are just a great bonus. The event is prone to sell out (especially on weekends!) so get your tickets in advance!

We stayed at the lovely Contemporary Resort which is on-site at Disney World. This is probably my favorite resort and one of the main reasons is because of how easy it is to get to the parks. You can take the monorail to Magic Kingdom as well as Epcot (one stop at the Transportation and Ticket Center). Or you can easily walk to the Magic Kingdon which is what we prefer to do. 

All the hotels are decorated and stay so until about the second week of January. Each hotel has its own theme of declarations and most have their own life size gingerbread house. The Contempoary's theme is the ever popular   Frozen Fever

See Olaf is hanging out by a sand castle.

The house was very cute! There were so many details that you could find and look for.

I think the little reindeer, Sven, was my favorite! It's fun just to ride the monorail around the resorts to see all the Christmas decor!

On day 2 of the trip, we took a rental car to Universal Orlando. Universal is only about 20-30 min from Disney so it makes it relatively easy to get to. We arrived right before the park opened. Oh and it was freezing. Always check the weather!

Universal also has plenty of holiday decorations to go around. Universal Studios focuses on a Macy's Day parade theme while Islands of Adventure has its Grinch-Mas based on the popular How the Grinch Stole Christmas

There were floats and parade ballons all over the park including this little elf fellow right at the entrance of the park. 

The park was pretty quiet which was surprising but I will say the crowd definitely picked up around noon so get to the parks as early as possible! Then you can go back to the hotel and nap right when the crowds are arriving. 

I noticed the Twister ride is now gone and being replaced by a Jimmy Fallon attraction. There seems to be a lot of new rides and experiences coming soon which is great since some of the movie based rides have seemed dated in recent years.

Be sure to keep an eye out for all the floats! They are everywhere and can make for some cute photo ops with the family. 

Like I said earlier, the crowds were very light in the early morning hours. Perhaps it was because it was cold? Not sure but we enjoyed doing all of the rides with little  or no wait!

If you are looking for Jaws his ride might be gone but you can still find him hanging around in the San Fransico area of the park!

We mainly wanted to hang out in Diagon Alley, the expansion of the Wizzarding World of Harry Potter, there will be an entire post dedicated to this area coming next week! However, if you are a Simpsons fan you won't be disappointed in the family's area which is also on the newer scale.

The giant pink donuts sold at Lard Lad are fit for your inner Homer Simpson. We all shared one and it has just been made hot. Everything was coming up Milhouse!

We had an afternoon flight on the third and final day so we went out to the Magic Kingdom for breakfast and a few more rides. This was the perfect mini trip and I highly recommend planning a trip for early and mid-December as well as January (excluding New Years's Eve and New Year's Day). 

Another plus is there are usually some great winter rates on hotels and flights so be sure to check around for the best deal! I'll post my recap of Diagon Alley and why you have to make a visit next week!

Happy Travels!


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