Twelve Days of Christmas at WDW A Virtual Tour
by Mike Scopa
AllEars® Feature Writer
This article appeared in the December 9, 2008 Issue #481 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
For as long as I can remember, I've often wondered what it would be like to do a "Twelve Days of Christmas Vacation" at Walt Disney World. The longest vacation I've ever spent at the WDW resort was for 16 days, but that was in mid-summer.
So if I were to spend 12 days at Walt Disney World during the holiday season what would I do for each of those 12 days?
Well, the first thing any of us should do when thinking of an extended stay at the Walt Disney World resort is to sit down and plot out something of a rough idea as to what our vacation would look like. The purpose in doing so is to make sure you hit all your priorities and experience what is most important to you and make each day an adventure. You never know when your dream vacation may become a reality, so why not dream today?
Allow me to bring you with me on my fantasy 12-day Holiday Walt Disney World Vacation and experience the wonders of Walt Disney World during the holiday season.
Here we go.
My first decision is to decide what resort I am going to stay in. I've decided to split up the vacation into two six-day stays at two deluxe WDW resorts. The first six days will be spent at Disney's Beach Club. This is simply because I feel it is the absolute best Epcot resort and it would get me closer to Epcot than any other resort. You'll have to read on to find out what other resort I plan to visit.
Breakfast on this first day is at Chef Mickey's at 7 a.m. Hey, it's a fantasy trip — we get to eat anywhere we want whenever we want.
It is then off to The Magic Kingdom. However, on this first day my priority is to take in all the holiday decorations and celebrations. It's also a good time to do some window shopping for Christmas presents. If I wait until the end of the trip the stores may run out of those things I want to purchase and I may run out of funds to spend on those gifts. Most of the morning is spent on Main Street. I'll be checking out the decorations; taking as many photos as possible; and of course taking my time going through the shops. The morning is the absolute best time to shop on Main Street, USA. I'm sure we all know how crowded the Emporium is after Wishes. Not so in the morning. Also, since it is early in my stay at the Beach Club I may want to have my purchases sent to my resort.
If possible I will do a few attractions. One place in particular I want to shop is Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe in Liberty Square. My Christmas tree at home is decorated exclusively with Disney ornaments and this shop is the best place to find more to add to my tree and house.
Lunch is at noon at the Plaza Restaurant, then it's off to Epcot.
I park at the Beach Club, head for International Gateway and World Showcase and, as I did at The Magic Kingdom, I take in the decorations and browse in the shops. The best aspect of all this is that I am taking my time and really enjoying the atmosphere. I take in a few Holiday Storytellers, but only if they happen to be out when I pass by their respective pavilion.
By late afternoon I head over to MouseGear to see if there are any potential Christmas gifts there, noting which items might also be found at the World of Disney in Downtown Disney. At around 7 p.m. I see "O Canada" at the Canada pavilion, and then at 7:45 I have dinner at Le Cellier. After dinner I enjoy "Holiday IllumiNations" and call it a night.
Breakfast is at Cape May Cafe. I then head off to Disney's Animal Kingdom. Attractions are the order of this morning with special emphasis on Expedition Everest, Festival of the Lion King, and Finding Nemo: The Musical. The amount of time spent in this theme park on this day is dependent upon the FASTPASS distribution times for Kilimanjaro Safaris. I really want to break up my days and not spend an entire day in one theme park.
After enjoying DAK I drive over to Disney's Hollywood Studios and immediately, if available, grab a FASTPASS for Toy Story Mania. The plan is to do at least that attraction and take in Fantasmic. Anything else is gravy.
Speaking of food — I am having lunch at the Brown Derby. Hopefully sometime after my meal I can get to Toy Story Mania. If I get a chance I'll take in either a presentation of the Voyage of the Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast. Notice which side of the park I'm staying on?
At this point I should be using my FP for Toy Story Mania. I hope it doesn't conflict with Fantasmic. If it does, Fantasmic loses. Let's say for the sake of argument Fantasmic does lose. If so, then after Toy Story Mania I head over for a light dinner at the Backlot Express and then visit the Osborne Lights. I'll take some video because photos do not do them justice. Before leaving the park I will check out a few stores. Day 2 is over.
Today is the day for going to Epcot early. I enter through International Gateway and head over to the Land pavilion. I grab a FASTPASS for Soarin' and then have a light breakfast at Sunshine Seasons.
After Soarin' I head over to The Seas with Nemo and Friends. I first check out when the next Turtle Talk show is scheduled and that helps me decide whether to do that attraction first or do The Seas with Nemo and Friends. Either way I estimate that I will be at The Seas pavilion for at least an hour. From there I will saunter over to Innoventions to see if there's anything interesting. By now it's close to midday. I take a Friendship Boat to Germany because I am having lunch at the Biergarten. The restaurant is beautifully decorated for the holidays. World Showcase always gets me into the holiday spirit and of course is better than the American Adventure pavilion. I listen to the Voices of Liberty, dressed in Victorian garb and enjoy the American Adventure. I'll also be sure to catch another storyteller or two before leaving in the late afternoon for the Magic Kingdom.
At the Magic Kingdom I am planning to do Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP). I have an ADR at the Liberty Tree Tavern for dinner. Dinner is at 5:30, some 90 minutes before the start of MVMCP. After dinner I head over to the Tomorrowland Galaxy Theater to enjoy "Mickey's Twas the Night Before Christmas." Afterward, if time allows, I may do several attractions before going to Main Street to watch the fireworks.
After the fireworks many of the young families return to their resorts. I make my way over to my favorite parade viewing spot to watch the Christmas parade. After the parade, more guests leave the park. I head over to the castle to watch the final performance of "Celebrate the Season." It's a long trek back to the resort but it was a very enjoyable day.
By now I know what Christmas gifts are out there, and so this morning I am heading out late — around 9 a.m. — to Downtown Disney. I'm still full from yesterday so I won't have breakfast — maybe a snack sometime during the morning. I do as much shopping as I can at the World of Disney with my Annual Passholder's discount.
It's late morning and I'm a bit hungry, however, I know I'll be having a substantial dinner, so I will go over to Wolfgang Puck Express for lunch. It's one of those best-kept secrets at Walt Disney World. The food is very good, much to choose from, and the price is reasonable.
After lunch it's off to visit a few resorts to check out the decorations. I drive to Epcot, because I feel like taking the monorail to the TTC and stopping by the monorail resorts. My first visit is to the Polynesian, then the Grand Floridian, and then I take a boat to the Wilderness Lodge to see their decorations and to check out the gift shop, and then take either a boat or bus back to the Magic Kingdom, hop on the monorail and go back to Epcot. I then drive over to another resort that has extensive decorations — Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. This is where I will have dinner, at Boma. After Boma I go out back to see if there are any animals roaming around the Lodge's savanna, and then I head back to the Beach Club. Today was a nice change from just going to the parks.
This morning is spent in Disney's Hollywood Studios. My focus here is to primarily enjoy Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror, and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. I'm also hoping to do Star Tours and The Great Movie Ride. It's Extra Magic Hour morning for this park and that gives me an early start. No breakfast because I plan to have an early and light lunch at the 50's Prime Time Cafe — very light.
After lunch I drive back to the Beach Club. I go over to Epcot to enjoy some of the live entertainment, like in Canada and of course another storyteller or two. I also take in a few of the movies at the pavilions before heading for my Candlelight Processional dinner at Tutto Italia. I had booked a Candlelight Processional Dinner Package for the 6:45 performance and my ADR is for 5 p.m. I attend the Candlelight Processional and after the show watch Holiday Illuminations. Before the park closes I make my way over to the bridge between Future World and World Showcase to gaze at the Lights of Winter. What a nice way to end the day.
It's my last day at the Beach Club so in the morning I do some packing. I call Bell Services to make sure they know I'll need to have my luggage transferred the next morning. I tell them it's going to my next resort, Disney's Polynesian Resort. And — remember it's a fantasy trip — it's Concierge Level.
It's time for some Magic Kingdom fun.
I take my time getting to the park and enjoy a late breakfast at the Crystal Palace. I then enjoy a leisurely day in the park, watching parades and taking in an occasional attraction that has something less than a 30-minute wait. Late afternoon I go over to the Studios to browse through a few shops and see Fantasmic. I could not do that earlier in the vacation. After Fantasmic it's back to the resort to pack. Tomorrow is moving day.
Gee, it's late and I haven't had dinner. What to do? Simple, I head over to the Dolphin Hotel and have a late supper at the Picabu Buffeteria. This will mean no breakfast for me in the morning.
Today I leave the Beach Club and move to the Polynesian. My bags will be transferred over so that's one less thing I have to worry about. I drive over to the Polynesian and do an early check in and then walk around the Polynesian and just relax for a while before heading over to Fort Wilderness midafternoon. I'm not hungry — yet — but to play it safe I visit the Concierge lounge and grab a snack.
I go to Fort Wilderness via a boat from in front of the Magic Kingdom. When I get to Fort Wilderness I pass through the Trading Post before having a very early dinner at Trail's End. After dinner I do something different — I look at the Christmas decorations that have been put up all around the Fort Wilderness Campground before going over to the Wilderness Lodge to enjoy a sleigh ride. Afterward I take a boat to the Magic Kingdom and view the nighttime parade and fireworks, and perhaps a few attractions — and best of all the "Kiss Goodnight" at the castle before heading back to the Polynesian.
Today I decide to sleep in a bit and have a nice mid-morning breakfast at 'Ohana before heading over to the Animal Kingdom. It's an Extra Magic Hour evening at the Animal Kingdom so I intend to spend a leisurely day at that park.
When I get to the Animal Kingdom I leisurely walk through the park, but first I head over to the board at Discovery Island to do a quick check on waiting times. On this day I'm not particularly interested in any attractions so I'm open to anything. I will probably do Kilimanjaro Safari and the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. In the afternoon I'll check out some shops and watch the afternoon parade. I will have dinner at Tusker House and then enjoy the Animal Kingdom's Extra Magic Hour evening by doing a few attractions and enjoying the rare experience of walking through this theme park at night.
It's been a nice leisurely day.
This is going to be a rare day for me. I have designated this as Epcot day and plan to spend all day at that park.
I take the monorail from the Polynesian to Epcot and get there for the opening. I head over to grab a FASTPASS for Soarin' and then get into the standby line. The wait should be no more than 30 minutes because there are no FASTPASS inclusions into the line during the first hour. If things work out just right, then as soon as I get off Soarin' my FASTPASS will get me right back on it.
After Soarin' I'll take my time walking around the West Side of Future World and possibly visit The Seas and Imagination pavilions before walking over to World Showcase and slowly making my way around the World Showcase Lagoon in a counter-clockwise fashion.
I am having lunch at Akershus in Norway with the Storybook Princesses. From there I am just enjoying the wonders of World Showcase and Holidays Around the World. This means I am stopping to listen to every storyteller in every country and I'm also taking photos of the decorations and storytellers. Does it get any better than this?
At dusk I make sure I am present for the tree lighting ceremony. It is also at this time that I once again take in the Lights of Winter. I cannot get enough of Epcot.
I have a late dinner planned so I decide to visit the Kringla Bakeri og Cafe in Norway and have myself a little treat. I then make another swing around World Showcase, this time at night with all the festive lights. I eventually make my way to the Rose & Crown and my 9 p.m. reservation. Remember, this is a fantasy trip so my table will be right on the water. Can you read my mind? If I plan my meal just right my entree will arrive around 9:15 and IllumiNations will arrive around 9:30. After my meal and IllumiNations I will make my way back to the monorail and return to the Polynesian.
I would have had an awesome day at Epcot.
The arrival of this day will raise a flag and that flag indicates that I should think about what I have not done yet on this trip that I want to do, and to plan my last few days accordingly. I have a nice, quiet breakfast at the Kona Cafe and plan the rest of my vacation.
Today I will head over to the Studios and spend most of my time doing any attractions I have yet to do and also take in the afternoon parade. I will also watch the lighting of the Osborne Lights again before having dinner at Mama Melrose. I will then drive over to the Gaylord Palms Resort and take in their "Ice" exhibit, which is an amazing display of ice sculpture. This day will pretty much finish off Disney's Hollywood Studios for me.
I will begin this day at the Animal Kingdom and take care of Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo: The Musical, and It's Tough to Be a Bug. My meals today will consist of Donald's Safari Breakfast at the Tusker House and then a splendid dinner at the Yachtsman Steakhouse. I plan on spending the evening walking around Boardwalk.
It's only appropriate that this trip come full circle and ends where it began, at the Magic Kingdom. Thus the day begins with breakfast at the Crystal Palace.
The majority of the day is spent taking in all the wonders of the theme park, and that of course includes the attractions. There are no particular attractions I have in mind for this day so the waiting times may dictate which ones I visit.
As my day and vacation come to an end…
… I will smile as the children interact with the Disney characters…
… I will enjoy lunch at Tony's Town Square and my final meal at Liberty Tree Tavern…
… I will celebrate the nighttime parade and be a child once again…
… I will fight that persistent lump in my throat as Wishes begins and I hear Chastity Farris sing, "Starlight, star bright…"
… and once again, with no real understanding as to why, I will wipe tears from my eyes as I stand in front of the Partners statue, gaze up, and say the words I have said since my first trip some 35 years ago, "Thanks, Walt."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mike Scopa has been a huge Disney fan for as long as he can remember. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1975 and has returned many times (how many? he's lost count!) since. Mike is a contributor to the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and Cara Goldsbury's Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World, and has served as keynote speaker for the 2006 and 2007 MagicMeets. He is also co-host of the WDWTODAY Podcast and writes a regular blog, The View from Scopa Towers, for AllEars.Net: http://land.allears.net/blogs/mikescopa
Other AllEars® articles by Mike Scopa: http://allears.net/btp/mikescopa.htm
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.