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Osborne Lights at Disney Hollywood Studios
Many of the Walt Disney World Resorts Parks have special holiday celebrations.
December has three out of the four parks busy with extra festivities for the season.
Magic Kingdom has Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party with its special ticketed event that includes parades, fireworks and no-waiting for many of the popular rides.
EPCOT has the Holidays Around the World which includes storytellers sharing different countries' holiday traditions and the beautiful Candlelight Processional with celebrity guest speakers and choirs.
But Hollywood Studios has its own holiday tradition. The Streets of America come alive with millions of dancing lights, synchronized to favorite holiday tunes.
How The Tradition Started
Originally owned by the Osborne family of Arkansas, the lights started as a yearly tradition with more and more being added.
Eventually the family's lights became so famous (or so infamous) that the Osborne's neighborhood faced major traffic jams. The residents petitioned the family to stop the tradition. In 1995 the lights were sold to Walt Disney World which then began the tradition of decorating Residential Street in Hollywood Studios (then MGM Studios).
The street had replicas of houses such as the one used on the Golden Girls and the one used in Empty Nest, both popular sitcoms from the 80's and early 90's.
But this street was eventually razed to make room for the stunt show stadium.
So the lights were moved to The Streets of America which is a replica of New York City and a side street that is a replica of San Francisco's famous streets.
2013 Spectacle of Dancing Lights
The switch is scheduled to flip on November 8, 2013, at dusk.
The lights open every night with a ceremony that includes characters and a ceremonial flipping of the switch.
If you want to see the opening ceremony, you will need to arrive at least forty five minutes to an hour ahead of time in order to secure a place where you and your family can see.
The streets are very crowded during the first hours after the lights are turned on.
Along with the lights, holiday music is playing and Florida "snow" (harmless, no-tear soap bubbles) is falling. There is hot chocolate and cider and special Christmas drinks for the grown-ups as well.
Every few minutes the lights put on a show. They are programmed and synchronized to special holiday music with special surprises lighting up and sometimes even complete darkness before the lights dazzle back on.
As you walk around the streets, look for hidden special touches such as extra props put in windows and references to famous movies like A Christmas Story.
There are also several places for photo ops and photo pass pictures.
There are ways to avoid the crowds and still enjoy the lights.
- Plan to go later, an hour to forty-five minutes before the park is scheduled to close. As the crowds thin out you can enjoy the lights at your leisure. My family just enjoys standing there and watching the sequences and listening to the music.
- See the lights during Extra Magic Hours if you qualify for them. During November and December the lights will run to the end of EMH, giving you a street with very little traffic and plenty of time to pop in and out to watch the show.
- If you want to see the ceremony, stand near an exit point. Watch the ceremony and then slip out. Go ride a ride or grab some dinner. When you come back, the crowds will be less extreme.
Are the Lights Worth It?
While the lights may not have the variety of activities that the other parks do, they are definitely worth seeing.
I wouldn't recommend buying a ticket just to see the lights. You can either make it a part of your day experience at Hollywood Studios or use your park hopper option and head over after dusk to see them.
Where Are The Lights
The lights, as previously mentioned, are on the Streets of America. Once you get to the park, go towards the giant, Mickey Sorcerer Hat (towards the Chinese Theatre).
Then bear to your left and walk down behind the American Idol Experience to reach the lights.
Alternatively, you can bear to your left before the giant hat, go towards and past the Indiana Jones Stunt show and past the Star Wars ride to also reach the lights.
During peak times and when the lights first open, cast members will be directing traffic and some of the entrances will be closed off.
Once the crowds have lightened up, you can enter and exit at different places along the street. This is another great reason to wait a bit to see the lights.
Make It a Tradition
Each year the lights, shows and decorations are unique.
The designers and engineers set up different designs, synchronize the lights differently, and add new lights and decorations.
So each experience is different.
For many, it is a traditional stop during the holidays and some say it puts them in the holiday mood.