At Florida’s Walt Disney World, the holidays aren’t just a celebration. They’re an epic production that calls for some 8.5 million lights and 15 miles of garlands.
Record crowds show up to rock around Disney World’s 1,300 individually decorated Christmas trees. After all, it’s the holiday season, when kids are out of school and millions of families take vacation. On at least one or two days between Christmas and New Year’s, the Magic Kingdom theme park routinely gets so overstuffed with tourists that by lunchtime, guests are turned away at the gates.
How bad does it have to get for Mickey Mouse to tell you there’s no room at the inn? The company won’t reveal the capacity of each park, but the Magic Kingdom is widely reported to hold as many as 100,000, equivalent to the population of a small city.
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Numbers this big require some special navigation strategies. To make sure you don’t miss anything worthwhile in Walt Disney World during your end-of-the-year visit, we’re sharing some essential Christmas travel tips.
One Christmas time highlight is Epcot’s daily Candlelight Processional, an 800-person pageant with a changing roster of name-brand talent, guest Mass choirs, and a 50-piece orchestra presenting the Christmas story. While there’s no charge for first-come, first-served seating, the waits can drag on for more than two hours. If you purchase the Dining Package, you’ll get meal vouchers for a restaurant like Rose & Crown Pub plus access to prime reserved seating at the Processional.
Aside from mounting special events, it takes a 30-member team of full-time holiday stylists just to transform the resort—with its four theme parks, two waterslide parks, and two dozen hotels—into a (warm-weather) winter wonderland.
By mid-November, when this dedicated staff is through garnishing the theme park, nothing is left unadorned—not even a Mouse. The prices are embellished too, since rack rates for Disney’s hotels can be nearly twice what they cost at other times of year. Generally, the more a resort costs, the better its decorations are.
Read on for the complete guide to the perfect Disney World Christmas. Stick to our tips and you’ll find that, despite the crush of people and the higher prices, there’s still quite a lot of joy to the World.
Jason Cochran is the author of Frommer’s EasyGuide to Walt Disney World & Orlando, named Guidebook of the Year in the Lowell Thomas Awards by the Society of American Travel Writers.