OL 017: Christmas Season at the Magic Kingdom
You Should Experience Christmas Season at the Magic Kingdom
Thank you for listening to The Orlando Local Show, episode 17. We really appreciate you.
It's Christmas Season at the Magic Kingdom, we we went over the weekend to check out the things you can expect to find on your visit between now and the end of the year.
Walt Disney World goes all out for Christmas, decorating each park and resort in a unique way. We started with the Magic Kingdom because of the traditional Christmas feel of Main Street. You see decorations before you get there, but you really feel the holiday when you come out of the train station onto Main Street.
The Magic Kingdom features an enormous Christmas Tree in place of the flag pole near City Hall. Pluto and Stitch are there for photos. Garlands wrap the lamp posts and Christmas music fills the air around you.
We also discuss Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party appearing on these dates in 2016:
November 7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 18, 27 and 29
Even if you can't make it to one of the scheduled parties, you can still catch Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade running twice daily from December 20 – 31, 2015 at 12:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Don't miss the evening when Cinderella Castle lights up with a spectacular display.
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Hi, welcome to the Orlando Local Show, episode seventeen.
William: Hi, my name is William Beem.
Lee: Hi, my name is Lee Beem.
William: And we switched up the music a little bit because today we’re talking about Christmas season at the Magic Kingdom.
We were just there Saturday, November 5th and things were getting started. The official Magic Kingdom Christmas season starts off on the seventh, on Monday – just the day before this podcast comes out. But we wanted to get there to get a little peek of what was starting up and it was a really nice day. I mean weather is beautiful in Florida these days.
We walked in and there was perfect blue sky. Not a cloud in the sky. I brought my camera and obviously that really disappoints me because I need clouds!
Lee: Yes, I know. You do for photography, but it was a lovely day. It was comfortable. You could go with sleeves or without and still be OK.
William: Yes, we saw a lot of people, some with long sleeves, some not. This was also the weekend of the Wine and Dine Half Marathon.
Lee: That’s right.
William: We saw plenty of runners there. It was the inaugural 10k run, so they had these medals on that they were wearing.
Lee: I’ve never seen such a big 10k medal!
William: They were huge medals and they were really nice. They were silver colored and it says “Inaugural … “ something or other on there.
Lee: If I knew that they were that size I might have broken my No Disney Races rule and done that one!
William: Yeah, you love your running! Disney races are huge events and you don’t really want to run in a crowd that large.
Lee: I really don’t. No.
William: Plus they are not the most economical races to run.
Lee: No, definitely not.
William: But I think people really enjoy them because you’re running through parks and you are running through areas that you’ve kind of got to yourself during the run. Some people are not necessarily running for time. They will go in there and they will stop and take pictures with characters and just really enjoy the experience.
Lee: I’d say most people don’t run for time with that. That is not that kind of race. You have your sector of people trying to achieve a certain goal, but I think the majority are there for the experience, because this really is an experience race and for those who have a goal … nice flat course!
William: Yeah, and it was beautiful weather. Like we said, it was cool, but not cold and it was just a perfect day to go out in the park. And of course everybody seemed to be out there too.
Lee: Yes! When we got onto the ferry there were a couple of tour groups there and it was absolutely jam packed. We were expecting it to be insane, which it kind of was but wasn’t. We’ll go into that later.
William: Actually I’m going to go into it now because this is the strange thing. We went to Magic Kingdom and walking through the park didn’t feel really that crowded. But when you wanted to go do something then the lines were very long. I’ve never really remembered at this time of the year seeing a line out the door for Cosmic Rays.
Lee: Actually all the counter service restaurants, the Bakery, Starbucks … kind of between noon and 2:30 pm and even later for some of them, if you wanted to get in they had you standing in line. They were letting in a certain number of people at a time.
William: We went to Columbia Harbour House about the time of the parade and I thought the place would be empty, but we had a line we had to wait in just to get in there.
William: The parade was definitely going on and there were cameras there by the base of the Christmas tree right there on Main Street, including this big boom arm. We thought OK, maybe they are taping the Christmas parade, which isn’t the week to do it. We will go into that a little bit later on, so we are not sure.
The other thing we read was that they are not taping the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World parade this year. It’s just going to be stage shows. They are going to do Disneyland for the recording. But they were definitely recording. You don’t bring in a large boom for a camera without some kind of professional setup.
Lee: Oh, that was definitely by some Disney arrangement.
William: Yeah, so we had a good time. Like I said, the weather was lovely. It’s just that whenever we went to something the lines just seemed longer than what the feel of the crowd was in the park.
Lee: Yes! I mean Magic Kingdom is never dead quiet, but there were people around, but it didn’t feel unbearable. You had room to move and breathe, but the lines were – even for a Saturday – for non peak season, they were incredible. We were looking at 90 minute waits for some of the headliners, and upwards to two hours.
Even just before the parade started we looked at Buzz Lightyear and that was almost an hour’s wait, which is … really?!
William: Yeah, I mean some of the things that we really didn’t expect to have waits. We thought this would be a nice, easy weekend before things really got into it. It wasn’t terrible, but it was busier than we anticipated.
Lee: Lots of people, not in the parks, but in the lines!
William: OK, before we get started with the rest of the stuff with what it’s like to have Christmas season at the Magic Kingdom, I just want to let you know show notes are going to be available at orlandolocal.com/17 and of course you can find a transcript of the show there for free. We would love it if you would subscribe to Orlando Local. You will see that there on the player.
And please, follow us on social media because we’ll put things out as we go through the parks or other parts of Orlando, and just kind of keep you up to date on what’s happening here.
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Lee: Yes, and if there is anything that you want to see, especially on Instagram, which has kind of become my baby, just leave a note, a comment or contact us here through any of the social media platforms or any way that’s easier and let us know what you’d like to see. We will do our best to get it up there for you.
William: Absolutely, because we’ve got a lot of photos out there, we’ve got a lot of park photos out there, but Orlando is a big place and we would be very happy…. We are going to actually look at some of the other Christmas things in Orlando. There are some wonderful things going on.
So this time we are looking at the Magic Kingdom, but we are going to look at more as the season progresses.
William: Why are we talking about Christmas? It’s because Halloween is over! The day after the Halloween party is done, Disney forgets all about Thanksgiving and goes straight into full Christmas mode!
Lee: Well it’s like that for all the retailers and anything commercial. We were laughing on November 1st. I went for a run early in the morning on November 1st and Halloween stuff was up. We went to the grocery store and passed one of the spots and the Christmas things were up in that same spot. So within the space of a day they said, OK that’s it. Fall is over!
William: We went to Publix and we got the little pilgrim salt and pepper shakers.
Lee: Ah yes. We are going back for the snowmen, right?
William: Yeah they’ve got the snowmen up too. So they at least have the pilgrims out there for Thanksgiving. But then you’ve got to get the snowmen for Christmas.
Lee: Yes, I’ve got a thing about snowmen.
William: And salt and pepper shakers.
Lee: I know!
William: And Halloween isn’t completely over, because a couple of the counter service places we got our soft drinks and mine came in a Christmas cup and Tové’s came in a Halloween cup, so they are getting rid of the excess stock, but they are pretty much ready to go full Christmas on Monday.
We just kind of walked in there and you feel it as soon as you walk through the train station. I mean there are some decorations outside, as you come up the train station. Obviously that little area up there where they’ve got all the foliage and stuff and they kind of decorate it, there is a garland going along the train station itself. But as soon as you walk through the train station and you come out and see Main Street for the first time, the music hits you.
Lee: Yes, but even the Transportation and Ticket Center had Christmas things up there; if you are driving in you get it from that point already.
William: You kind of start feeling it there, but when it really hit me was when you walk on Main Street and you see that enormous Christmas Tree. And Pluto was out there taking photos.
Lee: He photobombed one of Tové’s photos!
William: Yes. She was trying to take a picture and there was Pluto – “Hey!”
Lee: It was kind of cute.
William: They really do it very well and they don’t mince about it. It’s not a holiday time, it’s a Christmas time. I kind of like the fact that they at least dedicate it to something and you feel it when you walk in there. This is a Main Street old town, USA celebrating Christmas and that’s what they’ve done there.
Not all of the park seemed to have Christmas decorations on it. When we got over to Tomorrowland and I don’t remember if Fantasyland had anything up or not?
Lee: We didn’t spend a whole lot of time in Fantasyland. I guess it’s really because we don’t have little kids. We hand pick one or two things and then we leave. We don’t walk around there. But I think generally that’s how it goes for most of the seasonal events.
With Halloween you have most of your decorations in Main Street and the area around the castle and after that there is something here and there, but it’s not the entire park.
William: In Adventureland you’ve got the Jingle Cruise. That’s already up there. They have taken the little rope and thrown the I over the U, so it’s the Jingle Cruise now and you can see the Santa Claus hats even when you are queuing up. They’ve got different jokes.
We’ll get into this later on, but Halloween is over and Christmas is already there, officially starting on Monday, but by the time you get this it will have officially started and you can just kind of dive into it.
Lee: Please don’t tell Tové. She’s wanting to put up the Christmas tree!
William: Yeah I know she’s singing Christmas carols in June here and she is actually out there practising the piano with Christmas songs.
Alright, so what are you going to get? Obviously there are going to be Christmas decorations on Main Street, there’s an enormous tree up there. The music going through the park is playing a lot of traditional Christmas songs. Even some of the stage shows are starting to get into a little bit of Christmas music.
Of course, we mentioned there is a Christmas party. Since the Halloween Boo To You Parade and the Not So Scary party is over with. Now you’ve got Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
Then the parade taping. This one has kind of thrown me off a little bit this year. But let’s go through it.
If you are interested in Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, it’s one of the special events that requires a separate ticket and it’s only on certain dates. This is starting with November 7th, Monday and again on the 8th and we’ll post the dates on our show notes. It will go through November all the way through the 22nd.
William: December, yes. I probably shouldn’t have glossed over that, should I?
Now when you get in there, obviously they are going to have the Christmas time parade – Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade that kicks off. If you don’t want to go to the party for some reason – it starts at $79 for pass holders at the very beginning and as you get closer to the season the prices go up. But the general public gets to see Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade. It will run twice a day from December 20th through December 31st, so it will show at 12 noon and 3:30 pm. You are going to have all the things in there. You’ve got your toy soldiers, your gingerbread guys, your dancing reindeer and I am afraid of the dancing reindeer!
Lee: Are you?
William: I don’t see how they can tell where they’re going!
Lee: Oh, they know.
William: The characters are going to be in holiday attire and Disney does this thing where they pump in scents. They don’t just show you things and let you listen to things. You smell things.
Lee: Yes! It makes you want to spend money on eating things.
William: They are going to be pumping in aromas from holiday baking and you just think, where is the bakery? Where is the confection shop? I need to eat something right now!
And of course Santa Claus is at the end of the parade. The Christmas special event itself, what do you get in there besides the parade? They’ve got these little snow blowers in Main Street. They blow snow from the top of the roof tops. So you see it trickling down. It does not build up on the crowd.
Snow in Florida is fake!
Lee: Yes. I’m OK with that. I’ve dug myself out of my house for too many years. There is no novelty for me anymore.
William: Yeah, you will not be walking in slush on the streets. You’ll feel a little something tickling your nose when it falls from the sky and they will have hot cocoa out there for you and they will have Christmas cookies and that sort of thing.
But that is kind of really what the party is and I’ll be honest with you, it’s not one that has really appealed to me as a hard ticket event.
Lee: Well I haven’t tried it, but that’s not really because it hasn’t appealed to me as much as we never chose to visit at Christmas, because the trade-off was the sun. And I was just never going to do that!
And last year we had a bit of a crazy start to December. And then it got busy so we kind of skipped the park for the month of December. It wasn’t planned, but with our schedule and the way things turned out for our family last year it just didn’t happen.
William: One of the things we went to was over at Hollywood Studios. It was the last time you were going to see the Osborne Lights. It’s gone! I’m kind of curious to see what’s going to happen and I think that area is going to be under construction anyway, so that’s probably why it was the last year. They are ripping all that up for both Star Wars Land and for the Toy Story Land. I don’t remember which one they are building where, but you’ll probably see some decorated walls.
Lee: Yes. Not again, but still!
William: Main Street USA really does have that wonderful Christmas time feel. If you like the old fashioned style of Christmas, Main Street is going to do it for you.
Right over by Town Hall you are going to find a little candy cane garden.
Lee: It’s really cute.
William: It is and that is, starting on Monday November 7th, where you get a meet and greet with Santa Claus. They’ve got the candy cane garden next to City Hall and between 10 am and 5 pm if you’ve got a little one and you want to go meet Santa Claus or if you’re just old enough but you think, “I haven’t seen Santa in a while and I want to go see if he remembers me.” Go ahead. Hop on Santa Claus’ lap and see if he remembers you.
William: I probably shouldn’t be encouraging people to do things like that.
Lee: I don’t know if that’s a good thing. I think if he remembers me … he was very good to me considering ….!
William: And of course as we mentioned, Santa shows up at the very end during the Christmas parties, during the parade.
Alright, so we talked about taping. When we were there the parade route was really packed. We knew something special was going on. We went down to the confectionary shop and right there at the base of the tree were a bunch of tripods and cameras and this very large boom. They were recording a parade as it was coming down.
Lee: This was broadcast equipment. This was not …
William: This was not some trivial little thing. But what we are hearing from Walt Disney World is that the ABC televised parade that takes place at Magic Kingdom, the taping is in mid November and the taping is going to be from November 9th through 13th this year. And that is kind of in line with what I’ve seen. I’ve been out there before when they were doing taping and it’s usually kind of like mid week or so.
What you see in front of the stage, and that’s what they are going to be recording this time. In front of Cinderella’s castle they will film this on Friday and the parade they usually do on Saturday and sometimes they will flip it around.
But the performance you see on the stage will do several takes. It is because they want to have options. They may cut and paste … who knows what they do.
Lee: The best.
William: I think last time I was there some years ago I think Colbie Caillat had her album out and they had beach balls kind of bouncing around over there so it was a nice time. But I heard that song a number of times that day, just watching.
Some people really like being there because they want to see themselves on TV.
Lee: If, hopefully, maybe …
William: Or maybe they want their friends and family to see them on TV.
Lee: But also, I think if you want to get photos of that stage show, just be very mindful of where you stake out your spot. Just make sure that you don’t have equipment or anything obscuring your line of vision. You don’t want it to spoil your own shots.
William: Exactly. So what we found out is that they are planning on doing the stage show at Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World.
The parade portion is going to be filmed in Disneyland this year. So it’s a little switch around. I guess that’s one of the advantages of having a couple of parks.
Also, Disney has fans of both Magic Kingdom here and there. It makes sense that they want to do it. And I think they usually show both parks.
If you are interested in the parade, it’s going to be on ABC on Christmas morning at 10 am through noon, Eastern Time and 9 am to 11 am in Central, Mountain and Pacific times.
OK so that covers all the notes that we had of special events and things that are going on, but we had a chance to look around a little bit. I guess one of the things we want to tell you is if you are going at Christmas time, particularly Christmas week through New Year, it is going to be the busiest time of the year for Walt Disney World.
We have been down there before. Even just close to the parks; even if you don’t want to go into a park and you want to go to Disney Springs, it’s a madhouse!
Lee: Oh yes!
William: My advice is get your Christmas magic as soon as you can during the season.
Lee: Yes, try get as many must-do’s as you can before, if possible, before that peak week starts. That’s really the week running up to Christmas and through until New Year’s Day.
William: Yeah, it really is and everything … even after Christmas, they will still be doing Christmas time stuff. But you know how it is. People will be coming into town, they will be staying at the resorts and they will want to be at Walt Disney World. Most people have that vacation time between Christmas and New Year. It seems that everyone on the planet is spending it at Walt Disney World.
Lee: It really does feel like that!
William: If you are in the area, expect a lot of traffic, expect a lot of delays and expect a lot of crowds. I guess what we saw just going into the restaurants, it is packed. Getting FastPasses, you still have your FastPass and a lot of people who are going there have already planned this months in advance. A lot of them have already reserved FastPasses.
Lee: Basically we couldn’t get three within a six hour range, that we wanted.
William: So this is something where even if you are not really going there for the Christmas time special, the fact that other people are, is going to change the dynamic of how you are going to experience the parks.
FastPasses, if you are planning on going, make your reservations for them as soon as you can because other people will probably snap those up rather quickly.
Lee: I think if you are off site, as soon as it opens, if you are staying on site at Disney, your window is open now. Go and get them! Now.
William: Something else to keep in mind is that this show is about Magic Kingdom, but check out the resorts around Magic Kingdom. They have their Christmas decorations up and if you go to, let’s say the Wilderness Lodge; I stayed there for Christmas one year and I loved that atrium and they have an enormous Christmas tree in there. There is another one at Animal Kingdom Lodge; there is one at the Grand Floridian.
I think the decorations at the resorts are stunning and it’s more than worth checking some of those out.
Every once in a while the parks are too crowded and you need some down time. Go visit some of the resorts.
Lee: Yes. And the decorations are kind of themed to each specific resort.
William: If you go to Animal Kingdom Lodge you are going to see very much of an African theme of decorations on the tree there. You go to the Wilderness Lodge and it’s going to be much more North West American.
Lee: Yes. And likewise with the Grand Floridian. It’s like Main Street USA.
William: Yeah, it’s kind of turn of the century. That’s the theme going on there.
It’s not just the trees. They have other decorations they come up with and I know that over at the Grand Floridian they do the gingerbread house. It’s part of that old world kind of thing.
For a lot of people, that’s what Christmas is. It brings back a lot of old traditions; things that your grandparents had, things that we passed down from year to year.
Like Tové has no idea of what the previous century looked like, but she loves her gingerbread houses.
Lee: Oh yes she does.
William: And we will end up making our gingerbread houses this year.
Lee: Yes probably twice again! Once to eat, just in case, and then once to take to Grandma for Christmas.
William: That really covers everything that we wanted to talk about for Magic Kingdom. Christmas season is upon us. It’s already there. If you are planning a visit, make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to plan for a larger than usual crowd and of course, have a wonderful time.
We are going to be providing more Christmas coverage in the Orlando area. We will cover some of the other parks, we will cover some of the places outside of the parks and we hope you will join us for that.
See, I went all out. I got different music for this.
Lee: You did and you surprised me. I thought you hit the wrong track. It’s happened before!
William: Yeah, I like Christmas time. I like the Christmas music that goes with it. I kind of like this style too.
Lee: So do I!
Alright, thank you so much for listening to the Orlando Local Show. We really appreciate you. And as I said before, show notes are available at orlandolocal.com/17. You get a free transcript of the show there and we’d really appreciate it if you would subscribe to our news digest to keep up with future blog posts and podcasts. If we find out anything special, we’ll share that with you by email as well.
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