How to have Happy Holidays at Walt Disney World. Part 1: Decorations

This is the first in a series of posts about spending your holiday season at Walt Disney World. I have been during November/December Holiday season 5 times in the last 7 years and it is obviously my favorite time of the year to visit. Last year was the first time I had ever been there during Christmas and I was pleasantly surprised by the experience.

Today’s focus is on holiday decor both in the parks and at the hotels.You can spend days just wandering around Walt Disney World looking at all the wonderful decorations. It is amazing to see the scale of the decorations and how much effort is put into each detail. I previously posted a video of the Magic Kingdom decor change from Halloween to Christmas. It is amazing what they do overnight while the guests are snug in their beds. If you decide to travel any time from November 1-January 1, you will be in full Disney Christmas World. It is a wonderful time to visit and it makes a completely different experience compared to traveling in the summer months.

The Resorts:

Disney does an amazing job decorating the resorts. My favorite decorating feat I have ever witnessed was at The Boardwalk a few years ago. We were taking family pictures out and around The Boardwalk and they started to put in the poinsettia plants. One guy used this power drill auger to dig the perfect hole while another was right behind him plopping in the plants. A third man followed behind and backfilled the dirt. They did this with hundreds of poinsettia in just an hour or two. It was amazing, my dad was particularly enthralled with the process.

Every resort is decorated for the season with the theme of the hotel. Boardwalk is old school Atlantic City and the entire structure is trimmed with lights. Yacht and Beach Clubs are nautical with ornament of little sail boats and anchors. Polynesian is a pacific theme with hibiscus flowers adorning the garlands, while Grand Floridian is over the to with gold and rich textures. All the Deluxe resorts have a gingerbread structure in the lobby. Usually, they sell cookies, hot chocolate or small gingerbread houses for your hotel room. These gingerbread structures are worth a trip to see even if you are not staying in them. They are usually built sometime right before Thanksgiving.

The Parks:

  • Magic Kingdom is by far my favorite when it comes to Holiday decorations. I love the garlands and wreaths hanging over Main St. USA. It makes the perfect backdrop for pictures with the castle glimmering in the background. The Cinderella Castle itself is a wonder with millions of lights to make it look like it is covered in icicles. Every night around 6 they have a castle lighting with Fairy Godmother and Cinderella. There are details everywhere you look, including The Emporium windows with scenes from Mickey’s Christmas Carol.
  • Epcot has Holidays around the world with decor to match the spirit of every nation in The World Showcase. Along with storytelling about the country’s holiday traditions, you also can learn how people in each of the represented countries.There are large, lit decorated trees and other muted decor throughout Future World.
  • Hollywood Studios has a massive Christmas tree at the entrance of Hollywood and my favorite is when it is decorated with giant popcorn and retro plastic Santa faces. The best part about Hollywood is the Osbourne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (not Ozzy but a family from Arkansas) on The Streets of New York.
  • Animal Kingdom: Animal Kingdom is also themed with the area (Africa, Asia, etc.). Compared to Epcot, the holiday theme isn’t as in your face. The Jingle Jungle parade has the characters in holiday gear, but it is not as Christmasy as the Magic Kingdom parade.

So, are you ready to go to WDW during the Holidays? It is not for the faint of heart and it is not for First Timers. But…it was more wonderful and magical than I could have ever dreamed it to be!



How does Disney Decorate for the Holidays?

This is a time lapse video of how Walt Disney World decorates the Magic Kingdom from Halloween to Christmas overnight. It really is amazing! When we were there over Labor Day this past year, we went to Magic Kingdom one evening and nothing was decorated. The next morning at opening, there were Mickey pumpkins and Halloween garlands everywhere. It really threw me off for a while, I felt like I was crazy. I was asking myself, was this here last night?

November a few years ago at Boardwalk, we watched as the team used a giant drill to dig a hole and drop poinsettia all over the property. It took just a few hours to turn the entire resort into Holiday mode. They also were working on the gingerbread carousel as well while we were there. Every time we came into the lobby over 48 hours, there were more and more details to the structure and the smell was to die for!

If you haven’t been to Disney during the Holiday season, you should make a point of going. It is the most magical time at Disney and there are so many things to see and do. Any time in late November through December, the hotels are all decked out and the more expensive the hotel, the more elaborate the decorations. There are so many different things to see and do both inside the parks and out. You can spend an entire evening just riding the monorail to Polynesian, Contemporary, & Grand Floridian and stopping at each to see the decorations and special characters and events they have at each.

More to come on specifics of Christmas at Walt Disney World…

Fun Fact Friday: November 9, 2012

The Walt Disney World College Program recruits students from all over the world to come work in the parks and earn up to nine college credits. Housing (for a fee), bus transportation to and from work, and social events are provided for the college students. Students can also received credit at their home colleges for taking college level courses offered by WDW. After completing the college program, students can apply for a professional internship with Disney. What a great opportunity!

Disney Buys Star Wars Franchise

LOS ANGELES –  A decade since George Lucas  said “Star Wars” was finished on the big screen, a new trilogy under new  ownership is destined for theaters after The Walt Disney Co. announced Tuesday  that it was buying Lucasfilm Ltd. from him for $4.05 billion.

The seventh movie, with a working title of “Episode 7,” is set for release in  2015. Episodes 8 and 9 will follow. The trilogy will continue the story of Luke  Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia beyond “Return of the Jedi,” the third  film released and the sixth in the saga. After that, Disney plans a new “Star  Wars” movie every two or three years. Lucas will serve as creative consultant in  the new movies.

“I’m doing this so that the films will have a longer life,” Lucas, the  68-year-old creator of the series and sole owner of Lucasfilm, said in an  interview posted on YouTube. “I get to be a fan now … I sort of look forward  to it. It’s a lot more fun actually, than actually having to go out into the mud  and snow.”

Disney CEO Bob Iger said Lucasfilm had already developed an extensive story  line on the next trilogy, and Episode 7 was now in early-stage development. He  said he talked with Lucas about buying the company from him a year and a half  ago, but they didn’t decide on a deal until very recently as Lucas set in motion  his retirement.

“The last `Star Wars’ movie release was 2005’s `Revenge of the Sith’ — and  we believe there’s substantial pent-up demand,” Iger said.

The blockbuster deal announced Tuesday will see Disney pay half the  acquisition price in cash and half in newly issued stock. The company expects it  to add to earnings in 2015. Along with the cash, Lucas will end up owning about  40 million Disney shares, which is about a 2.2 percent stake of the 1.83 billion  shares that will be in circulation when the transaction closes.

The deal includes Lucasfilm’s prized high-tech production companies,  Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound, as well as rights to the  “Indiana Jones” franchise.

Lucas was hailed as a cinematic visionary when the original “Star Wars” came  out in 1977. But he had become an object of often-vicious ridicule by the time  he released 3-D versions of all six films in the Star Wars franchise earlier  this year.

Die-hard Star War fans had been vilifying Lucas for years, convinced that he  had become a commercial sell-out and had compounded his sins by desecrating the  heroic tale that he originally sought to tell.

They railed against him for adding grating characters such as Jar Jar Binks  in the second trilogy and attacked him for tinkering with the original trilogy,  too. Any revision in special edition or home video releases — such as making  the Ewoks blink or having a green-skinned alien named Greedo take the first shot  at Han Solo in a famous bar scene — were treated as blasphemy.

The criticism grated on Lucas, who vowed never to make another Star Wars  movie.

“Why would I make any more when everybody yells at you all the time and says  what a terrible person you are?” Lucas told The New York Times earlier this  year.

“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” the fourth film in  another lucrative franchise, subjected Lucas to even more barbs when it came to  the big screen in 2008. Fans of those films were especially outraged about an  opening scene that featured Indiana Jones crawling into a lead-lined  refrigerator to survive a nuclear bomb blasting.

Lucas was fed up by the time he released “Red Tails,” a movie depicting the  valor of African-American pilots during World War II, earlier this year. He told  the Times he was ready to retire from the business of making blockbusters and  return to his roots as a student at USC’s film school, where he once made a  movie about clouds moving in a desert.

Kathleen Kennedy, the current co-chairman of Lucasfilm, will become the  division’s president and report to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn. She  will serve as executive producer for the new movies. Directors for the new  movies have not yet been announced.

In the YouTube video, Lucas said the decision to continue with the saga  wasn’t inconsistent with past statements.

“I always said I wasn’t going to do any more and that’s true, because I’m not  going to do any more, but that doesn’t mean I’m unwilling to turn it over to  Kathy to do more,” Lucas said.

He said he has given Kennedy his story lines and other ideas, “and I have  complete confidence that she’s going to take them and make great movies.”

Kennedy added that she and Lucas had discussed ideas with a couple of writers  about the future movies and said Lucas would continue to have a key advisory  role. “My Yoda has to be there,” she said.

The deal brings Lucasfilm under the Disney banner with other brands including  Pixar, Marvel, ESPN and ABC, all companies that Disney has acquired over the  years.

A former weatherman who rose through the ranks of ABC, Iger has orchestrated  some of the company’s biggest acquisitions, including the $7.4 billion purchase  of animated movie studio Pixar in 2006 and the $4.2 billion acquisition of comic  book giant Marvel in 2009.

Coincidentally, Lucas owned the startup that later became Pixar, before he  sold it to Apple’s Steve Jobs in 1986 for about $5 million. When Jobs sold Pixar  to Disney, he became Disney’s largest single shareholder with a 7.7 percent  stake. Those shares are now held in a trust.

Disney shares were not trading with stock markets closed due to the impact of  Superstorm Sandy in New York. They closed on Friday at $50.08.

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Look what I got in the mail today!

Today in the mail I get a very large colorful envelope that stands out among all the white bills. What could it be? Mickey’s on the front, but I am not expecting anything from WDW. Inside is a very vivid and fun thank you note. Here is what it says:

From all of your Disney pals, we hope you created magical memories during your visit to Walt Disney World Resort in 2012.

It is also signed by Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto & Tinker Bell. My kids both think that these characters sent us a card to say hi. 

This is one of the reasons I think The Walt Disney Company is genius! Exactly a month after we have come home from our trip, I am reminded of the wonderful times we had. They have now put into my head these thoughts: “I wonder when we can go back?” “What time of year will we go next time?” “Will we go with friends or just us again?”. See, geniuses! I wasn’t thinking about a trip at all and now I am starting to plan again. What is wrong with me?!

Brave and Merida

We got in line at 8:30 in the morning on an extra magic hour day. Why would we waste precious ride time at Magic Kingdom to stand in line?! 8-9 on EMH is the best time to ride everything in Fantasyland!!! It was worth it to see our newest  favorite princess (and her mischievous brothers), Merida from Brave. We were in the first group to be allowed into the interactive meet and greet. Unlike the other characters, they only allow a finite number of people to enter the pavilion and then close the curtains. A giant table in the middle of the area for the kids to color a Brave themed picture. Continue reading

Port Orleans Riverside: Royal Guest Rooms

This past vacation was the first time I was able to have a glimpse of the renovations done at Port Orleans Riverside. Last summer, we stayed at French Quarter and were very happy about the new rooms there. Riverside is my favorite moderate resort, so I was very excited to stay here once again. Originally, I was booked for a normal, no view double room. When I called to change a few things to our reservation (I added 2 more nights) I was upgraded to a Royal Guest Room with a garden view free of charge. I was pumped! Who doesn’t love get something extra for free! Continue reading

I’m Back…

Sorry, I haven’t blogged in quite a while. We just got back from the most magical place on Earth and then school started 2 days later. Talk about cutting it close! On top of all of that is the fact that this was our longest Disney vacation yet (7 nights/8 days) and we were all exhausted. I had planned on writing while there but let’s face it, spending time with the family was more important.

It was such a magical trip! We did almost everything on our Disney bucket list and still had time for swimming and some great meals. Here are the highlights and I will post more details on everything later: Continue reading

Mousekeeping & Tipping

I have written a previous article about the cast members at Disney. Now it is time to focus on the people who make your hotel room your home.

Mousekeeping is the term WDW uses for its housekeeping staff. These people work very hard every day to make sure you come back from the park to a clean room full of surprises. They are happy to leave extra towels, coffee, or shampoo if you ask. They set up the kids toys in a fun way to make coming back to the room magical. The mousekeeping staff deserves a tip and is allowed to take it. One way to make your mornings go more smoothly is to put your tips for each day into an envelope before you leave for your trip. Make enough envelopes for each day of your trip and write your little housekeeping thank you note on them. Continue reading

Let it begin…

To quote Rhino the Hamster from Bolt: “Let it begin, Let it begin!” I have started my packing. Yes, we don’t leave for a few weeks, but it takes me that long to get ready for a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth. Plus, I love to pack for Disney. I don’t even make a list anymore. I will remember everything (eventually) as I pick at a few things each day.

Maybe I am crazy…I was chomping at the bit to start packing. Continue reading