Must See FREE Christmas Displays at Disney

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Tree outside Hollywood Studios.

Tree outside Hollywood Studios.

Holiday vacations at Disney really put guests into the spirit of the season. Many who vacation during this time of the year also purchase separate tickets to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party; an evening celebration with a themed parade and Christmas-inspired activities. This experience can get rather costly on top of the additional expense of the trip itself, so I have created a list of holiday displays that will not cost a thing…and will result in some great Disney memories!

Many guests of The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness go all out and decorate their sites with Christmas decorations.  These displays are sometimes really elaborate with lights, lawn ornaments and giant blow up Disney characters.  Plan an evening stroll with the family and remember to bring your camera!

The Gingerbread House at Disney’s Grand Floridian is a giant baked goods masterpiece! The house was made in an old Victorian style with love using 800 pounds of flour, 1050 pounds of honey and 600 pounds of sugar. While there, stop by the Grand Floridian Bake Shop to pick up your very own gingerbread house, cookies or special holiday ornaments. Yum!

During the holidays, Disney’s Festival of the Seasons takes over Downtown Disney. Store windows are adorned with holiday-themed displays and street performers enchant guests with carols and Christmas songs. Santa can be found in front of the World of Disney store from 12:00 PM- 10PM through Christmas Eve…and the best part….visits are free!

Are you having a meal at one of the restaurants found in Disney’s Wilderness Lodge? This hotel is arguably the most beautifully decorated during the holiday season.  Sit down on one of the chairs by the lobby fireplace and enjoy a few moments of cozy rest before your meal while viewing the towering trees, garlands and wreaths.

The lobby of your Disney hotel will also have a Christmas themed display. We stayed at Disney’s Dolphin resort several years back and were in awe of the giant Christmas tree in their lobby.  It was a welcome treat during our check-in process….we had something to view while waiting in a very long line.

Do you have any advice on free Disney holiday displays? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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Holiday Shopping at Walt Disney World

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Mickey Mouse figure purchased by my parents on their honeymoon. He is still greatly cherished after all these years.

Mickey Mouse figure purchased by my parents on their honeymoon. He is still greatly cherished after all these years.

There is nothing like spending the holiday season at the Disney Parks. The decorations, the music and the SHOPPING! Speaking of shopping…if you are traveling to the Walt Disney World resort prior the holidays, it’s the perfect opportunity to get all of your shopping done for everyone on your list.

Create a Shopping Plan

Just like Santa, you will want to make a list of all the people who you are shopping for and come up with a plan. Make sure to decide in advance a general idea of what you are purchasing, so you are not spending your entire vacation in the retail stores. Also keep in mind that if you are flying, you will want to purchase items that pack and travel well without taking up a lot of space in your bags.

Disney’s website has a search tool for finding the stores that sell the items on your list. Simply type in the item that you are looking for and all of the stores that carry the item will be listed.

Here are some ideas of simple and easy gifts for everyone on your list:

Ornaments

Every one could use one more ornament on the tree, right? This is an item that receivers can use year after year. They are both inexpensive and travel very well, so they are the perfect gift for anyone on your list!

Disney has entire walls dedicated to Christmas decorations in several stores as well as specialty Christmas shops in two locations; Disney’s Days of Christmas in Downtown Disney and Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom.

T-Shirts

T-shirts can be found in many stores in the parks. When deciding to buy shirts or any type of clothing, be sure to check on sizes and ask recipients about their favorite Disney characters before your trip. This will simplify your shopping and cut down on those calls back home.

Jewelry

Disney trading pins make excellent gifts for the collectors in your life, and they are really portable. Retail locations throughout the resort also offer necklaces, rings and bracelets adorned with your Disney favorites. Add a little Disney “bling” to someone’s life!

Toys

There are thousands of toy options to choose from at Disney; from light up swords to Legos, you are sure to find the perfect gift. Stuffed animals are wonderful presents and knowing that they came from the resort, makes them even more special.

Mugs

One of the easiest and most cost-effective gifts is a Disney-themed coffee mug. They come in all shapes and sizes and are adorned with almost every Disney character. They are portable and make the packing process a breeze.

Global Treasures

For the world-traveler in your life; think about visiting the shops within the World Showcase at Epcot. Items from each highlighted country can be found in their resident shops. You will find jewelry, art, housewares and even apparel items that are specific to each country. Plan on at least an afternoon exploring each country and their corresponding retail shops.

What About All Those Bags?

While staying on the Disney property, there is an option to have your purchases sent back to your hotel room, so you aren’t walking around the parks lugging bags. If you are staying at an off-site resort, purchases can be sent to a location at the front entrance of the park. You can pick up your merchandise when you leave at the end of the day.

“The Deals”

If you want to go offsite during your stay, the local Orlando outlets can be a nice place to visit for some deals. The Character Warehouse is Disney’s outlet shop and offers some discounts on clothing, accessories and toys. The stores can be found in one of two Orlando Premium Outlets; International Drive near Universal Studios and Downtown Disney. Something to consider: If you have a car, this may be a way to save some money on merchandise, but when taking a taxi or paying for a shuttle, the cost of the trip may outweigh your savings.

The Disney Store

Souvenir shopping can be effortless if you wish to purchase items before you leave for your Disney vacation. Select Disney Parks Products can be found on the Disney Store.com website. Sales on the site occur often and free shipping options are available for purchases of $75 or more. Have the items shipped to your home and save them for your return. This could save a lot of time in searching for those perfect gifts in the parks.

To “Wrap” This Up

Planning ahead for your Disney souvenir shopping could potentially save a lot of time and money…and allow more time for magical memories.

Do you plan to do your holiday shopping at Disney? Have any tips or tricks?

Magical Ornaments

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Have you seen these incredible Mickey Ear ornaments from The Disney Store? There is an entire series of ornaments that includes Space Mountain, Alice in Wonderland and even the Haunted Mansion. The pictured ornament is a series of steampunk Mickey Ears by artist Costa Alavezos, and this one even lights up!

In an effort to prevent me from draining our checking account by purchasing all of the ornaments, I have just handed over my debit card to my husband.

2013 Candlelight Processional

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Summer just started, so why am I talking about the holidays? When the weather is warm, it is sometimes difficult to think about the cooler winter months; however it is the perfect time to start planning a holiday trip to Walt Disney World Resort and getting those Advance Dining Reservations scheduled.

If you have ever been to Epcot during the holidays, you know that the Candlelight Processional is a holiday event not to be missed. You also know that the line to get into the event is generally long, which can result in very lengthy wait times. Even after waiting in the line, you still may not secure a seat for the performance.

Thankfully, Disney offers a Candlelight Processional Dinner Package that can be added to your dining experience and guarantees preferred seating at a performance and an exclusive viewing location for IllumiNations: A Reflection of Earth.

The Candlelight Processional is held nightly at 5:00, 6:45 and 8:15 PM in Epcot at the America Gardens Theatre. This year’s event will begin on November 29th and run through December 30th.

The Candlelight Processional features a 50-piece orchestra and mass choir accompanying a celebrity narrator who reads the story of the Nativity. The celebrity narrators were announced this morning when the packages became available for purchase.

This year’s Candlelight Processional narrators are:

11/29- 12/1- To be determined
12/2-12/3- To be determined
12/6-12/7- Whoopi Goldberg
12/8-12/10- To be determined
12/11-12/13- Dennis Haysbert
12/14-12/16- James Denton
12/17-12/19- Edward James Olmos
12/20-12/22- Trace Adkins
12/23-12/15- To be determined
12/16-12/28- Blair Underwood
12/29-12/3- Amy Grant

** Narrators are subject to change**

The Candlelight Processional Dinner Package for 2013 went on sale today, and will be offered at the following Epcot restaurants:

 Biergarten Restaurant
 Chefs de France
 Coral Reef Restaurant
 The Garden Grill
 La Hacienda de San Angel
 Nine Dragons Restaurant
 Restaurant Marrakesh
 Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room
 San Angel Inn Restaurante
 Teppan Edo
 Tokyo Dining
 Tutto Italia Ristorante
 Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria

The cost for the Candlelight Processional package varies and will include either a three course meal or a buffet; depending on the restaurant you have selected. The cost of admission to Epcot is not included in the package.

Please call 1-407-WDW-DINE for additional details and to make your reservations. Due to the popularity of this experience, it is recommended that you make your reservations as soon as possible.

Is the Candlelight Processional part of your holiday tradition? Please share your special memories and any tips you may have about viewing this performance.