A look at Walt Disney World’s 2010 holiday season events

It’s time for the Christmas decorations to start popping up all around Walt Disney World. You may be saying to yourself, “Wait a minute … Wasn’t it just Halloween?” Yes, but forget about all that scary stuff, Mickey’s first Christmas Party starts in less than a week.

The current Fall 2010 issue of Orlando Attractions Magazine has an appropriate cartoon among the many on the Bemusement Park page. It seems you enter a haunted house and by the time you exit, the parks have redecorated for Christmas. It truly is A Nightmare Before Christmas.

In future posts we’ll list all that’s happening at Universal and SeaWorld, but since Disney is the first to start their holiday season, here’s what’s happening. If you’ve experienced the holidays at Disney, you know what to expect as not much is different this year. But there are a couple of new VIP tours we’ll highlight at the end of this article. Unless prices are listed, the events are free with admission to the park.

Magic Kingdom

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
Guests will be able to see dancing gingerbread men, marching soldiers and Santa’s sleigh parade to seasonal melodies during the twice-nightly “Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade”.

Cinderella Castle is draped with 200,000 glistening white lights and “Holiday Wishes, Celebrate the Spirit of the Season” fireworks lights the night sky during a pyrotechnics show orchestrated to holiday melodies.

The night wouldn’t be complete without the forecasted flurry of snowflakes along Main Street, U.S.A. and a warming cup of cocoa in hand. Party-goers also enjoy complimentary cookies and apple slices and unlimited rides on most attractions.

Party nights are:
Nov. 8, 11, 12, 16, 18, 19, 28, 30
Dec. 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17 and 19.
The evening kicks off at 7 p.m. and continues until midnight. Day-of-party ticket pricing is $59.95 ($53.95 for ages 3-9). Advance tickets are available with $6 savings for most dates.

Castle Dream Lights
When daylight has passed during the holiday season, Magic Kingdom guests can behold a breathtaking transformation during the Castle Dream Lights ceremony. Each evening Nov. 8 through Jan. 3, 2011, Cinderella and favorite characters decked out in holiday garb take to the stage and magically transform Cinderella Castle into an ice palace aglow with 200,000 white lights – a centerpiece to a park all decked out with wreaths, bows, garland and towering Christmas trees.

Hollywood Studios

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights
Millions of bulbs blanket the backlot with dancing lights and animated displays synchronized to holiday tunes Nov. 8 through Jan. 3, 2011.

Colorful wreaths, twirling carousels, flying angels and Santa and his reindeer bedazzle park-goers amid swirling snow flurries during Spectacle of Dancing Lights, a megawatt, multi-colored spectacle that Show Director John Phelan calls “the ultimate Americana Holiday lights display.”

“Imagine it,” Phelan said. “One private citizen, overwhelmed by the spirit of the season, created his own ‘Holiday Wonderland,’ complete with a giant rotating globe with ‘Peace on Earth’ above it and a massive canopy of red lights that people could walk under. He said he wanted the people to feel like they were inside the lights, looking out. Only in America!”

In fact, originally it was only in Little Rock, at the home of Arkansas businessman Jennings Osborne. The rich tradition began some 20 years ago when he strung 1,000 lights as a Christmas gift to his daughter. After the exhibit grew larger and brighter – into millions of lights – it was transported to Walt Disney World in 1995, where the light display now delights guests from all over the world each year.


Holidays Around the World
Throughout World Showcase, storytellers share customs and lore from their heritage from Nov. 26 to Dec. 30. Strolling around the promenade during the Holidays Around the World celebration may put you face-to-face with the good-hearted witch La Befana, known in Italy for filling children’s shoes with treats, or the jolly gift-bearer Father Christmas in the United Kingdom. There are meet and greets with Santa and Mrs. Claus in The American Adventure, plus other legendary icons who share messages of goodwill. The celebrations of Kwanzaa and Hanukkah are showcased as well.

Holiday fireworks finale
The evening is capped by “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth” featuring fireworks, laser and water – all spruced up for the season with a spirited holiday finale.

Candlelight Processional
The story of Christmas unfolds during this event featuring celebrity narrators, a mass choir and 50-piece live orchestra at America Gardens Theatre at 5 p.m., 6:45 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. from Nov. 26 to Dec. 30. Here’s the lineup, subject to change.

11/26–11/28 — Isabella Rossellini
11/29–12/01 — To be announced
12/02–12/04 — Corbin Bernsen
12/05–12/06 — Susan Lucci
12/07–12/09 — Jodi Benson
12/10–12/11 — Whoopi Goldberg
12/12–12/15 — Steven Curtis Chapman
12/16–12/18 — Thomas Gibson
12/19–12/21 — Trace Adkins
12/22–12/23 — Brad Garrett
12/24–12/27 — Edward James Olmos
12/28–12/30 — Marlee Matlin/Jack Jason

To ensure a seat, Candlelight Dinner packages are available with dinner or lunch at select Epcot restaurants, a special spot for fireworks viewing and guaranteed seating for the Candlelight Processional. For bookings call 407/WDW-DINE. Packages are between $32.99 and $61.99.

JOYFUL! A Gospel Celebration of the Season
D’Vine Voices returns to Epcot Fountain Stage with a uplifting choral performance that blends Gospel with the sounds of R&B, jazz and urban-inspired music. The inspirational celebration of the season takes place daily Nov. 26 to Dec. 26 at 1:15, 2:15, 3:15 and 4:15 p.m.

Animal Kingdom

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade
Mickey and pals present seasonal melodies with a world beat twist during a whimsical cavalcade throughout the park. The high-energy afternoon parade runs daily from Nov. 26 through Jan. 3, 2011.

Santa Goofy’s Holiday Village
Look for the festive décor, perfectly trimmed Christmas trees and crooning carolers. Santa Goofy and spirited friends greet guests for photo opportunities.

Downtown Disney

Festival of the Seasons
Santa Claus is coming to town – to Downtown Disney, that is – and he’ll be meeting kids, listening to wishes and posing for pictures daily from Nov. 19 through Dec. 24 at Santa’s Chalet.

Santa is at the center of Festival of the Seasons, during which school choirs and bands often perform at the dock stage to help ring in the season … and shoppers can enjoy holiday gift buying every day.

Disney Institute Holiday Tours

The Yuletide Fantasy and Holiday D-Lights tours, both led by seasoned Disney Institute facilitators, offer guests a peak behind the curtain, where production of Disney’s holiday season takes place.

Yuletide Fantasy
This tour uncovers the origins of holiday traditions as guests travel through the culturally diverse celebrations of World Showcase at Epcot before getting an up-close look at the bows and bells lining Main Street USA at Magic Kingdom. While in World Showcase, Disney Institute facilitators visit Germany, Italy and Japan to demonstrate how each country communicates the story of the holidays. The tour continues to the Magic Kingdom where guests learn about the birth of holiday traditions celebrated in the United States.

The last stop is a backstage visit to holiday services. This department produces and stores holiday decor for all Walt Disney properties on the East Coast, including two Disney Cruise Line ships. Guests are able to see the scope of Disney’s holiday operations and how thousands of decorations are used. Yuletide Fantasy is a three-and-a-half hour tour that takes place in the morning and afternoon and costs $84 per person.

Holiday D-Lights
This journey guests through the history of Disney traditions, with visits to Epcot, the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Each location’s interpretation of holiday lighting is showcased, kicking off with priority viewing for Epcot’s Candlelight Processional. The next stop is the Magic Kingdom, where guests experience Cinderella’s Holiday Wish before watching her castle illuminate with more than 200,000 LED lights.

Before traveling to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, guests will be treated to a light meal while marveling at the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. Lastly, guests get a behind-the-scenes look at how Disney creates holiday lighting displays while visiting decorating support. This unique department coordinates all of the lighting logistics for the entire Walt Disney World Resort. Holiday D-Lights is a five-hour tour that takes place in the evening and costs $199 per person.

The tours are open to anyone ages 16 years or older. For more information call (407) WDW-TOUR or click here.


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  1. The Christmas season is the absolute best time of year to visit Disney World. The lights, the decorations the and of course the “snow” cant be beat. No one does Christmas better than Disney. Our family’s favorite tradition is to have a festive meal at the Biergarten then attend the Candlelight Processional (this year with Steven Curtis Chapman). I always seem to sneak in some fresh gingerbread man cookies from the German pavilion to enjoy with hot chocolate while we watch the show. Our vacation cant get here fast enough.