horse-drawn carriage rideManheim SteamrollerWho doesn’t love the Winter Holidays? Yes, in many parts of the country the air is crisp, and in some states there is always a chance of snow, but that just adds to the ambience! If the thought of being shut-ins this holiday season holds limited appeal, there is always the option to head South and make this a holiday season to remember! And of all the holiday destinations none is more popular, dreamed about, and wished for than a trip to Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.
Whether you are spur of the moment people, or like to plan well ahead of time, here is a run-down of the top holiday attractions in and around Orlando. This way, families who want to jingle all the way can take in as many local sights and experiences as possible. Isn’t it time you and your family make some holiday memories? This year, why not leave your car in the garage and fly down to sunny skies, balmy breezes, and Santa! Read on!
No article on top holiday attractions could be complete without mention of all the Walt Disney World sights, events, and experiences to be had. Only a Grinch with a heart of pure granite would disagree. Renowned for its nightly parade that features festive floats, one bearing The Mouse Couple, ‘Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration’ is the leading holiday attraction at the park. Contributing to its magic and majesty are bright and exciting projections on Cinderella’s castle that fill onlookers with awe!
Another popular draw in the magic kingdom is “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party’. Its highlights include snow flurries and fireworks! The streets are ablaze with lights, there are huge wreaths with giant flocked bows and thousands of tiny LED lights, as well as throngs of families all having a great time. The only thing missing is several feet of real snow.
Plan to stay at one of Disney’s themed hotels. Each features stunning holiday decor, and the Grand Floridian and Wilderness Lodge are two of the best. The highlight at the Grand Floridian is their life-size Victorian gingerbread house. Recreated every year, and featured in a number of news broadcasts and TV shows, the 16-foot high house requires 800 lbs of flour, 600-lbs of 10x sugar, 140-pints of egg whites, over 1,000-lbs of honey, and 180-lbs of apricot glaze to construct. Recipe not available! Holiday decor at the Wilderness Lodge will likely include life-sized carvings of reindeer and angels, completely made from chocolate! Roaring hearths, plaid furnishings, and huge wreaths redolent of pine scent set the stage for a relaxing night off or should we say, night in, from the more excitement-inducing attractions.
For the winter season only, the ever-popular Jungle Cruise is transformed into the ‘Jingle Cruise’ with every electric-powered boat rechristened for the holidays, festive decor, and skippers sharing awful and awfully funny seasonal G-rated jokes. There is always something to see and do at Disney, and the holidays are no exception. While the major attractions receive the most airplay and have the longest lines and biggest crowds, some of the smaller offerings are just as wonderful. Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ display combines larger than life projections, special effects, holiday music, and fireworks to dazzle and delight!
Other little known but no less exceptional Disney holiday events include the Once Upon a Toy show at Disney Springs, where life-sized toys spring to life and dance with viewers on the plaza, coveted pins are also exchanged. Throngs of shoppers and families out for an adventure can wend their way amid strolling carolers who’ll share their sheet music and their tunes- even off-key solos are encouraged!
Also at the Springs is the Christmas Tree Trail where guest can follow a path past 15 giant Disney-themed trees and oogle and ogle with delight at their creativity. And for a memorable, amazing, and truly magical treat, be sure to take in Starbright Holiday- An Intel Collaboration. This night sky show features colorful and detailed programmed images created by thousands of LED-lit drones. It will bring out the child in anyone and cannot be seen anywhere else!
The Maus and his minions are not the only holiday experiences to be had in and around Orlando. Epcot offers unique and unusual holiday events. Do not miss their Candlelight Processional held nightly that includes the story of Christmas as told by a different guest celebrity. Learn from storytellers about how the holidays are celebrated in other lands at the 11 World Showcases.
Thrill to the sights and sound of the Chinese Lion Dancers as well as a Mexican mariachi band. The streets come alive with holiday music interpreted by jazz musicians, gospel, reggae, R&B and more, and your whole family will crowd around for a selfie with Mr. and Mrs. Santa! Cap off your Epcot visit with the IllumiNations for the Holidays featuring imagery from around the globe, and a truly breathtaking laser, fire and waterworks extravaganza!
Hogwarts, Grinches, and Shrek, Oh My!
Speaking of Minions, you’ll get to see them making mischief in their holiday best at Universal Studios which is also the home of the exceedingly popular holiday attraction at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This experience features musical entertainment, giant projections, and a fireworks show at Hogwarts castle. Do not miss this spectacle! If you cannot get to New York City for the parades, come to Universal instead and see balloons from Despicable Me, Madagascar, Shrek, and of course, the Minions! The Grinch is in fine form during Ginchmas and his spectacular features the music of Manheim Steamroller. For many it is just not the Holiday Season without a live performance by that eponymous group. Their wish will come true as the band holds live performances at Universal on several evenings in December.
Had enough of the crowds at the big-budget spectacles? In the Orlando area there are numerous other offerings that are both magical and memorable, yet very affordable. Seeing The Nutcracker is a childhood rite of passage. Your family can catch the Orlando Ballet’s version throughout the holiday season with special performance times just for children. Missing the snow or from a part of the country where the sun always shines? Come to Celebration, a quaint town where the best holiday traditions from America’s past are showcased. Lace up your skates and take a turn on their ice rink, enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride, take a flyer on the Celebration Express train, and be on hand for the nightly snow flurry display on the hour from 6:00 PM ‘til 9:00 PM!
Speaking of traditions, few can match the nostalgia and sentimentality of holiday music. Prepare to be truly amazed and even moved by The Singing Christmas Trees of the First Baptist Church of Orlando. For over 30-years this spectacle has attracted visitors from all over the United States and features two holiday ‘trees’ over 40 feet tall supporting a tiered choir of over a hundred vocalists. The brightly lit trees with thousands of twinkling lights, the majestic choir, and theatrical backdrops make for an evening you’ll long remember.
Make this year the year your family escapes old man Winter and embraces old man Santa in Orlando instead. Why not start a family tradition to head South to Orlando for the Holidays? (NOTE: I fold easily for storage and can travel in the overhead if need be!)
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