Walt Disney World: How To Avoid Park-Closing Christmas Day Crowds But Still Enjoy A Magic Kingdom Christmas
Cinderella's Castle At The Magic Kingdom During Thanksgiving
Cinderella's Castle FROZEN
Walt Disney World: Experience The Disney Christmas Magic During Thanksgiving Week
Here we are, booked for trips five and six, and we are still applying the lessons that we learned on our first trip back in 2013.
Fortunately, my family and I had visited Walt Disney World on Thanksgiving Day rather than Christmas Day on our first trip. That's because The Magic Kingdom closed its gates for nearly five hours in the morning due to the capacity crowd at the world’s most visited theme park.
A few days later on New Year's Eve, The Magic Kingdom opened its gates at 7 a.m. and closed them to new visitors three hours later due to capacity crowds.
That's right, Disney had to turn people away. In fact, 77 million people visited the U.S. Disney Parks in 2014 - 20 million of those visited The Magic Kingdom. And even with adult, one day ticket prices surpassing $100 for the first time this year, I sincerely believe that Disney will once again, have to turn people away.
Don't fret though, if you want to experience a Disney Christmas, we enjoyed the same magic, awe and wonder (and snow) that Christmas Day visitors experience, but without the dense December 25th crowds - during Thanksgiving Week!
Really, there are great advantages in visiting Walt Disney World at this time!
Experience the Disney Christmas magic during Thanksgiving Week, and you'll enjoy it without the Christmas Day:
- Capacity Crowds
- Threat of Temporary Closures
- Clogged Roads
- Lack of Seating At Park Restaurants
My advice? Start planning during the summer for your Christmas-time visit to take place during Thanksgiving Week.
Below, you'll find the IF YOU GO column with a single tip that will simplify planning your trip to The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. It's a one-stop shop run and operated by Walt Disney World where you can explore the options, prices, transportation and schedule.
My family and I visited Walt Disney World Resort for the first time during Thanksgiving Week in 2013. What we discovered in the Magic Kingdom was a Christmas Celebration in full swing.
On our Disney Magical Express coach trip from Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort back to the Orlando International Airport at the end of our first trip, my wife and I shared a dream - to return soon; but next time have the Thanksgiving meal in The Magic Kingdom.
Well, as the Disney song goes, “A Dream Is A Wish The Heart Makes” because 12 months later, we arrived on the Saturday before Thanksgiving Day for our second visit and a Thanksgiving meal in a restaurant with a Colonial-theme in Liberty Square.
We started planning the recent trip in May. As you will see, there is an advantage to planning months in advance, using the tip offered down in IF YOU GO.
To avoid outdating this article by listing ever-changing ticket prices, event schedules, celebration dates, Magicband and FastPass processes, I will simply share what we encountered
Elsewhere in this article I will list webpage addresses at which you will find constantly updated information.
Today simply discover – as we did – what you might experience in The Magic Kingdom if you were to enjoy the Disney Christmas magic during Thanksgiving Week, or Thanksgiving Day as we did.
Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party During Thanksgiving Week
Really? Both Mug & Warmer?
A Classic Christmas Parade - in November
There are parades-aplenty during the day at The Magic Kingdom – morning, afternoon and evening; all spectacular parades including the not-to-be missed “Disney’s Electrical Parade.”
More on the advantages of parades to park guests and to you in a few moments.
However, during the Christmas season (which starts in November in The Magic Kingdom) the one parade that screams Christmas is “Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmas Parade.”
This wonderful, colorful and awe-inspiring parade is another reason to visit The Magic Kingdom BEFORE Christmas. This parade runs twice nightly beginning in mid-November yet, ironically, stops a week before December 25th.
This holiday parade is part of “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party” which not only includes this parade but other events as well. During one of our two trips to The Magic Kingdom - both in November- we enjoyed the following treats during this exclusive evening (I’ll explain why it’s exclusive in a few moments):
A Frozen Holiday Wish
Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmas Parade
Holiday Wishes Fireworks
A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show
Celebrate the Magic Castle Show
Celebrate The Season Show
Meet/Greet Opportunities with Disney Characters
Complimentary hot cocoa and holiday cookies at various locations throughout The Magic Kingdom
Enjoying the special festivities, which runs from 7 p.m. to midnight, requires the purchase of a party ticket. And there are nights when tickets sell out – so book early.
Guests with tickets to the evening’s special event are admitted as early as 4 p.m. and are given a special wrist band to identify them as party ticket holders. Guests already in the park – who hold a party ticket - can approach special stands, obtain the special wrist band to stay in the park.
And this is what makes it exclusive - only guests who have purchased the special party ticket STAY IN THE PARK – all others must leave. This means less people in the park, shorter lines at the attractions and a more intimate, special experience.
And yes, the attractions remain open during this time for unlimited rides – an ideal time to avoid lines and meet your favorite Disney character.
Tickets for “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas” went on sale in May for the Christmas season. This is the month that my wife and I started making plans for our 2014 trip. A good thing we started early, because even in May, we couldn’t get lunch or dinner reservations at many of our first-choice Disney Park restaurants for the Thanksgiving week that we were visiting.
Party ticket prices depend on the age of the guest, the night chosen and whether the tickets were purchased in advance or at the gate.
Call 407-WDISNEY (407-934-7639) for current prices and the next holiday schedule.
What we do is fly in, check in at the resort, freshen up, then head to the Magic Kingdom. We don't buy the day ticket. We simply enter the park at about 5ish with our Mickey Christmas ticket and stay until the park closes.
While the parade follows a route through The Magic Kingdom, we found the ideal place to view the parade was along Main Street USA with the “real” fabricated snow (which appeared to be ice shavings) falling against the backdrop of Cinderella’s Castle.
180 Minute Wait For A Ride? It's The Hottest Attraction At The Magic Kingdom
Though the crowds during Thanksgiving Week and Thanksgiving Day are less dense than the capacity crowds on Christmas Day, you’ll still encounter lines.
It would be wise to purchase a Walt Disney World guidebook months in advance to research the attractions, note the ideal times to ride them and essentially draft an itinerary.
I developed our itinerary through the summer for our trip in November. It listed the attractions we wanted to ride, the times, the kind of ride (wet, roller coaster-type, etc.) and where they were located in the park. I then e-mailed them to my smartphone so that I had a personalized pocket guide with me at the park.
There is one new attraction that is channeling guests from such classics as Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, Peter Pan’s Flight, the Haunted Mansion and the Pirates of the Caribbean.
The most popular attraction at The Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World since the ride opened in the summer of 2014 is “The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train."
I attempted in May for a November FastPass to the Mine Train, yet even that far in advance, I couldn’t reserve a time. After multiple attempts of obtaining FastPasses online I was able to get them for myself, wife and son for use on Thanksgiving Day (go figure!)
We visited The Magic Kingdom three times during our most recent trip during Thanksgiving Week and the longest wait time for the Mine Train attraction was 180 minutes for those without a FastPass. Those who had FastPasses cut to the head of the line.
The Mine Train is the flagship attraction of The Magic Kingdom's renovation of Fantasyland. Reportedly a $400 million renovation and expansion, the new Fantasyland is double its original size, originally built in 1971.
The new Fantasyland now includes meet and greet character areas, restaurants and attractions based on the Disney films "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Little Mermaid." Another section added to Fantasyland is called Storybook Circus inspired by the Disney film "Dumbo."
The Mine Train is reminiscent of Big Thunder Mountain, though the theme involves riding a mine train through the dwarves diamond mine. You’ll see and hear the seven dwarves singing “Hi Ho” as they dig for diamonds.
If you plan to ride The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, attempt to reserve time and date with FastPasses.
You can obtain FastPasses through the website offered under IF YOU GO - in fact, you can do more than just obtain FastPasses through this site, as you will discover for yourself.
Gift A Walt Disney Classic
Hottest Attraction In The Magic Kingdom At Walt Disney World
Name 3 People Who Would Love This?
The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Gateway To Personally Planning Your Walt Disney World Trip
To/From The Orlando Airport
Ride From Park To Park
The Subtle Difference Between The Walt Disney World Resort & The Magic Kingdom
Okay, call me an idiot with a capital "E."
It wasn't until last year that I realized the difference between Walt Disney World and The Magic Kingdom.
For most of my life (until November 2013) I didn't know that there was a difference.
And here it is:
Walt Disney World is actually The Walt Disney World Resort, a 42-square mile property for which Walt Disney paid nearly $5 million back in the mid 1960s. He used dummy corporations to disguise who was buying the property to keep prices from increasing.
In fact, only 30 percent of the property is being used.
Both Disneyland and The Magic Kingdom were built and designed by WED Enterprises, a company solely owned and funded by Walt Disney. The Disney family later sold WED to the Walt Disney Company in 1981.
Within the Walt Disney World Resort are 28 hotel resorts, two water parks, four theme parks - and among the theme parks is The Magic Kingdom.
The Magic Kingdom is where you will find the world-famous attractions such as The Haunted Mansion, The Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, etc.
It was Walt's dream to improve on his Disneyland, which he opened in 1955. Walt died on December 15, 1966 and didn't live to see The Magic Kingdom constructed. He was 65.
Walt's older brother Roy Disney - who was Walt's financial partner throughout the company's history, made it his personal mission to realize his baby brother's dream.
Roy dedicated The Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971 - several weeks later, Roy died on December 20, 1971 at the age of 78.
Roy's statue can be found by the fire station on Main Street U.S.A. at The Magic Kingdom.
IF YOU GO Start With The Disney-Owned Website MyDisneyExperience
The best way to book your trip is to visit www.mydisneyexperience.com from your home computer or smart device. Disney- trained personnel are patient and informative. You can also call 407.939.5277.
This is another site - not owned by Disney, that offers valuable information and tips: www.wdwmagic.com
Discover the airlines that partner with Walt Disney World resorts and book with them - there are perks. For instance, we checked in our luggage at our hometown airport on Southwest Airlines and didn't see our bags until we walked into our room at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort. You are sent special luggage labels to adhere to your bags. These identify the bags as destined for a Disney resort.
At the Orlando airport we simply made our way to the Disney gate where we were welcomed and escorted to the Disney Magical Expresss for the ride to our resort. And all this because we booked the travel package through the Disney site.
There are 28 hotel resorts within the 42 square miles that make up Walt Disney World. The resorts are categorized as value, moderate, deluxe and deluxe villas. Each one of the following hotel resorts are owned and operated by Walt Disney World Resorts:
- Disney’s All Star Movies Resort
- Disney’s All Star Music Resort
- Disney’s All Star Sports Resort
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort
- The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
- Disney’s Springs Resort
- Disney’s Port Orelans Resort – French Quarter
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
- The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Disney’s Beach Club Resort
- Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Grande Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
- Disney’s Beach Club Villas
- Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
- The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
The Magical Disney Express coaches that take you to your Disney hotel resort (and back again to the airport) are provided by a company called Mears Transportation and have a contract with Disney.
However, the Disney Transportation coaches used within the Walt Disney World boundaries - and take you from park to park - are run and owned by Disney. These buses will take resort guests to:
- The Magic Kingdom
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Downtown Disney
- Blizzard Beach
- Typhoon Lagoon
Walt Disney World Resort offers a variety of pre-paid meal plans – and the selection of offerings range from food kiosks, all-you-can-eat buffets, quick-service and table service. A single meal plan includes a combination of snacks, quick services and table services.
Our table service holiday meal on Thanksgiving Day was at the Liberty Tree Tavern, with a colonial-period décor that complemented the holiday. I recommend this restaurant for its quality, atmosphere and attention.
For breakfast the next day, we succeeded in finally making it to Chef Mickey at the Contemporary Resort. We had tried and failed last year.
The Chef Mickey breakfast in the Contemporary Resort, was another all-you-can-eat breakfast that included characters Mickey, Goofy, Minnie, Donald and Pluto in cook apparel, meeting and greeting breakfast guests. Some children were spotted with Olaf the Snowman waffles!
On both our trips, we stayed at the moderately priced Coronado Springs Resort. It is an expansive property that requires a lot of walking. A 10- minute walk from the lobby/restaurants was required to get to our room – on our first visit. On our second visit we requested (10 days prior to our arrival) and received a room closer to the lobby and restaurants.
For more detailed information regarding flights, rooms, meals, park tickets and scheduled park events, visit www.mydisneyexperience.com or call 407.939-5277.
Explore the website now - you'll be surprised at how easy it is to navigate and make your personal plans.
Example Of A Meal Plan
Give The Gift Of Learning How To Tell Time
1 Major Advantage To Walt Disney World Parades And Fireworks Displays
Sure, "Disney's Main Street Electrical Parade" is a wonder to personally witness winding it's way down Main Street U.S.A.
It's a 1970s classic that returned to The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in 2010, but while hundreds if not thousands of park guests are drawn to watching the parade - you can be doing something else - taking advantage of the short lines at high-profile attractions.
During any park parade or fireworks show, you can choose to forgo the majesty and magic, and ride the major attractions with little or now wait.
At this writing, parades do not pass through Adventureland, Tomorrowland or Fantasyland so navigating from attraction to attraction within those areas is relatively easy.
On our second trip, my family and I walked by Peter Pan's Flight with our eyes to the sky watching a spectacular fireworks display above us, Then, one of us looked down and noticed a 20 minute wait time for Peter Pan's Flight - which ordinarily is closer to 60 minutes. Of course, we went in and the 20 minute wait was actually closer to 10 minutes - thanks to the fireworks display that pulled people away from this classic attraction.
Final Thoughts On A Disney Christmas At Thanksgiving
As you can see, you can enjoy the Disney Christmas magic during Thanksgiving Week without capacity crowds that threaten to close the park. Start planning now.
And perhaps you too can experience an epiphany as I did.
On the morning of Thanksgiving Day, I thanked a young Cast Member (park employee) at the entrance gate "for being here today."
Rather than saying "thank you," "my pleasure" or "you're very welcomed." He simply said as I walked away:
"I'm grateful to be here."
That response stayed with me throughout my stay at Walt Disney World and remains with me as I write this.
I can still hear that very spontaneous response from that young man.
At that moment, as I watched my wife and son walk down Main Street U.S.A. in awe of the magical place, I realized that, yes, I am blessed. That with whatever I have been challenged with in life - or with whatever is yet to come - I am grateful for what I have "and grateful to be here."