For years, one of my family’s favorite holiday traditions is a visit to see “snow” just outside the gates of Walt Disney World. The town of Celebration hosts “Now Snowing Nightly” – a flurry of soap bubbles — from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve, and it’s open to the public at no charge.
The shopping district is quite festive with the “snowfall,”ï¿½ Christmas decorations, live music on Saturdays, ice skating, horse-drawn carriages, simulated train rides, visits with Santa Claus and restaurants to fit a range of budgets and tastes.
Sound tempting? Here are some tips that I have put together after years of fun visits to this event:
** Snow falls daily at 6, 7, 8 and 9 p.m. on Market Street. There’s no need to queue up to experience the snow – just step into the street, which is blocked off from traffic.
** Crowds are heavier later in the night and on weekends. You could have guessed that, though, right? This won’t affect your ability to experience the snow, but it makes finding street parking and a table at some restaurants more difficult. Some take reservations, so be sure to check if you would like to dine at places such as Cuban treasure Columbia Restaurant. Our family is fond of the Market Street CafÃ© — a diner that’s perfect for an inexpensive, yet satisfying, family meal.
** Tonight’s live performance, called A Celebration of Voices, features local elementary school choirs and the Stand Up Tour of young artists, including IM5 and Hollywood Ending. On Dec. 13, Radio Disney hosts its annual holiday concert featuring After Romeo and Taylor Buono. On Dec. 20, Jason Castro performs at A Countdown to Christmas. We have attended the Radio Disney concert several times and definitely noticed that those nights are popular with crowds, especially tweens and teens.
** The ice skating rink really is a hard plastic surface that kids use skates to glide on. The Endless Ice offers them the traditional winter experience without as many painful spills. This rink even encourages beginning skaters to use supports (that look a lot like walkers) while they learn. Skating, which includes skate rental, is $10 per 30 minutes and it’s open from 4 to 10 p.m. daily.
** Horse and carriage rides are $25 for the first two passengers and $10 for each additional person. Group wagon rides are $5 per person. Plus, Holiday Home Tours can be booked by calling 321-624-6380. They are 30-40 minutes long and cost $25 per person.
** Santa Claus greets families each night from 6 to 9 p.m. through Dec. 24. (He starts 30 minutes earlier on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.) There is no charge for the visit, and photo packages start at $24.99. Pets are welcome on Wednesdays.
** When my son and daughter were younger, they couldn’t wait to ride the Holiday Train on a short trip through town. It’s $5 per person. Tickets can be purchased for $4 before 4 p.m. at Confetti, Market Street Gallery or Sanrio Surprises.
** Speaking of Sanrio Surprises ” This little store sells everything you can imagine related to Hello Kitty and even hosts birthday parties. On most nights of “Now Snowing Nightly,” Sanrio Surprises hosts story time with Hello Kitty, and then guests have the opportunity to take their photos with her. The free 10-minute activity is at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. and is limited by space, so be sure to line up a few minutes early.
If you’re looking for a fun holiday getaway not far from Orlando or the gates of Walt Disney World, you’ll find that the town of Celebration certainly lives up to its name during the holidays. And if you’re a native Floridian, you’ll appreciate a chance to have a white Christmas after all. Good luck building that bubbly Olaf snowman, though.