Christmas time is a great time to visit the Walt Disney World resort. Festivities start soon after Halloween and are in full swing by middle of November. Some of my favorite things to do happen to be around the holidays, and in this blog post I'm going to give you my top 5 free things to do at Walt Disney World Resort over the holidays!
5) IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth - #5 on my list of the best free things to do at the Walt Disney World Resort over the holidays is to watch IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth from the bridge on the boardwalk between Disney's Beach Club Resort and Disney's Boardwalk Inn. This is a great place to watch the fireworks as an end to the night normally, but around the holidays there is an extended ending, a holiday finale to the song, "Let There be Peace on Earth!" Typically Epcot closes at 9:00 pm and IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth starts right at that time. But with all of the holiday festivities going on at Epcot, Illuminations: Reflections of Earth doesn't usually start until around 9:20 or 9:30. And it starts off as the normal IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth firework show and the only difference over the holidays is the extended ending. The entire show is around 15 minutes long and there are some breaks in the action towards the beginning of the show, so make sure you don't leave until the end because the grand finale is just what you need to get into the holiday spirit!
The best way to get to the bridge to watch the firework show is by bus. You could catch a bus from any of the theme parks or from Disney Springs to Disney's Yacht Club, Disney's Beach Club, Disney's Boardwalk, Disney's Swan, or Disney's Dolphin resort. All of these hotels are on the boardwalk (and they are typically the same bus route as well) and you'll be able to get to the bridge from any of those resorts. Another way to get to the bridge is to drive and park at Disney's Boardwalk Inn resort. It's best to park at Disney's Boardwalk Inn resort because you could tell the security guard at the gate that you are going to visit the boardwalk, and they will allow you to self-park or valet park. And if you are able to make it out to see the special Holiday finale of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, please let us know what you think in the comments below!
4) Holiday Wishes - Celebrate the Spirit of the Season - Coming in at #4, Holiday Wishes is next on my list of the best free things to do at the Walt Disney World Resort during the holidays! Holiday Wishes - Celebrate the Spirit of the Season is the firework show that happens on select nights when Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (a separately ticketed event) is going on. You could watch this amazing firework show without going to the party by visiting Disney's Polynesian Resort and making your way out back of the resort to the beach. From there, you'll have an amazing view of the fireworks and they even pipe in the music from the firework show so you'll hear the soundtrack as well!
The best way to get to the beach at Disney's Polynesian Resort is to take a bus from any of the theme parks or from Disney Springs to Disney's Polynesian Resort. You could also drive to the Polynesian Resort but the security guard may not let you in. If that's the case, you could also park at the Transportation and Ticket Center and then walk over the the Polynesian Resort, as it's only a 5 minute walk. However you get there, once you are there, make your way out the back of the resort past the pool, and you'll be at the beach. And while you are waiting you could stop at Captain Cooks for a quick bite to eat or go to Trader Sam's for a drink or two. But leave plenty of time to find a good viewing spot because the Polynesian beach is a popular place to watch the fireworks! If you are able to make it out to see Holiday WIshes - Celebrate the Spirit of the Season, please let us know what you think in the comments below!
3) Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground - Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground makes it to #3 on my list of free things to do at the Walt Disney World Resort over the holidays! If you've never been to the campground around the holiday season, it truly is a remarkable sight to see! The campground goes from spooky around Halloween to a Winter Wonderland, all starting November 1st! Guests staying at the campground decorate their campsites with everything you could imagine! You'll see Christmas Trees outside of the campers wrapped with lights. Festive inflatable decorations of all shapes and sizes lined up around every loop. Some campers even have Disney movies playing on outdoor screens while a campfire and s'mores are enjoyed in the background. You'll see plenty of trains circling around displays, and palm trees with ornaments hanging from them! Golf carts are even decorated to resemble Santa's Sleigh! And one of the most famous and iconic of them all, is Dave "The Castle Guy" Lovett and his must see castle show! We've been told that Dave will be at the campground this year from December 8th through Christmas Day!
The best way to get to Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground is to take a bus or to take a boat. From any of the theme parks, water parks, or Disney Springs, you will be able to catch a bus to get there. These buses take you to the front of the campground, and from there you'll have to catch one of the internal buses from within the campground to get to the camp sites. Another way to get to the campground is to take a boat from either the Magic Kingdom, Disney's Contemporary Resort, or from Disney's Wilderness Lodge. Those boats take you to the the Marina which is all the way at the end of the campground by the Settlement. And from there it's easy to walk to the camping loops to see the decorations. The last way to get to the campground is by car. You could drive to the Fort Wilderness Campground, but you won't be able to drive on any of the internal roads unless you are staying at the campground. Instead you'll have to park in the main parking lot at the front of the campground, and catch one of the internal buses to get to the campsite loops.
Once you make it to the campsite loops, it's a very easy and leisurely walk. The grounds are predominantly flat and all of the pathways are paved. Overall there is a total of maybe 2 miles worth of paths that will cover most of the loops. And you'll be sure to be stopping a lot to take pictures, to be in awe of the decorations, and to even have a chat with one of the campers! If you're able to make it out to the campground, let us know what your favorite campsite is in the comments below!
2) Disney Springs - The runner up of my top 5 free things to do at the Walt Disney World Resort over the holidays is to visit Disney Springs! In addition to a large amount of shops, restaurants, and decorations to see, there are three other holiday specific "must-see/do" events at Disney Springs. First, you could visit Santa! The line typically gets long around the holidays, but you could get a pager that will go off when you have about 30 more minutes to wait! That way the physical line to see Santa doesn't get super long and it gives you a chance to do other things at Disney Springs while waiting for the pager to go off, as the pager works anywhere at Disney Springs! The second event to see at Disney Springs is the Holiday Dance Party! Follow along and play games, dance, and have a great time as a DJ leads the night to follow-along dance moves, and fun games for the whole family to enjoy! And the last, but one of our favorite holiday things to do at Disney Springs is to see the Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail! Last year, 15 Christmas Trees awaited your viewing, each one themed with a different character. This year, the Christmas Tree trail has expanded and is even better. 25 specially decorated Christmas Trees await your viewing as well as other special surprises! It doesn't take that long to walk through the trail, but it's definitely a memorable one!
The best way to get to Disney Springs is by bus or by car. And if you are coming by car you could park in the Lime parking garage or the Orange parking garage. What's cool about the parking garage is that you could see how many spaces are open for parking on each floor and where those spots are located. This is done by having sensors above each parking space and they light up green if they are open and turn off if the spaces are occupied. If you're able to make it out to Disney Springs, let us know what your favorite holiday activity is in the comments below!
1) Deluxe Disney Resorts - The #1 best free thing to do at the Walt Disney World Resort over the holidays is to visit all of the Deluxe Disney Resorts and see the Christmas decorations that they have there! We'll go through every resort and describe what they have there! First, we'll take a look at the Monorail resorts. At Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, there is a life-size gingerbread house in the lobby that is actually made of real ingredients and takes months to prepare! Also, they have a giant Christmas Tree in the lobby that is themed perfectly for the Grand Floridian! After the Grand Floridian, hop on the monorail to Disney's Contemporary Resort. At the Contemporary in the Grand Canyon Concourse, there is a new Christmas decoration that depicts a scene from Frozen in the style of Mary Blair. A 17 foot tall ice castle in the background is the highlight and you could see your favorite characters from Frozen as well! Out front of the Contemporary outside, there is a giant Christmas tree that is very impressive looking, especially at night! Next, get off the monorail at Disney's Polynesian Resort and the lobby is immersed in a variety of Christmas Decorations, including a pretty cool looking Christmas Tree on the first floor. While nothing is that impressive in terms of the decorations at the Polynesian resort, there are also Christmas Carolers that come out in the evenings and sing some popular Christmas songs! Next, take a boat over to the Wilderness Lodge and see the rustic lobby all decked out in Holiday Cheer! The giant Christmas tree in the lobby has all sorts of antlers, pine cones, and other outdoorsy decorations on it.
Next we'll make our way to the Boardwalk to look at the decorations at the hotels over there. Starting at Disney's Boardwalk Inn resort, there is a pretty big Christmas Tree out back in the courtyard but make your way to the lobby for the feature. There is "Ginger's Bread and Cookie Shop" with a postcard display next to it made out of gingerbread. And by the fireplace, there is a picture perfect spot to take a family picture perfect for your annual Christmas card! From there we'll make our way over to Disney's Beach Club resort where you'll find my favorite holiday display from all of the resorts. A moving carousel made out of all edible ingredients with multiple hand crafted horses rotating slowly around. You'll find a list of ingredients that was used to make the display, as well as the number of hidden Mickey's that are on display every year and a great family activity to try and find them all! Besides the Carousel, there are many other beachy themed decorations in the lobby with a soft color palate that fits perfectly within the theme of the Beach Club Resort. Adjacent to the Beach Club resort is Disney's Yacht Club Resort. Here you'll find a large Christmas Village complete with a working train. My 3 year old son could watch this for hours and always asks me if he could play with it! In addition to the train, the other decorations in the lobby are nautical and have items like sailboats and anchors within them, perfect for the Yacht Club!
The last stop on the list of Deluxe resorts is Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. The lobby features a giant Christmas Tree in the center, decorated with really cool African-inspired ornaments. The garland throughout the lobby and the decorations at the different Animal Kingdom Lodge Restaurants are also really cool and have African-inspired ornaments as well. Kidani Village, the Disney Vacation Club resort that is adjacent to Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, also has some cool Christmas decorations that are fun to see and easy to get to as well.
That's about it on the list of the Deluxe Resort Christmas Tour, but we also recommend you checking out some of the other Disney Resorts as well such as the Caribbean Beach Resort, Saratoga Springs, and the others as well! If you are able to make it to one or more of these resorts discussed on this tour, let us know what resort has your favorite Christmas decorations by leaving a comment below!
Thank you so much for reading my blog post! We hope you are able to bring some free holiday cheer and spend some great quality time with your family based on the recommendations given! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from your DisneyIsMyLife Team!