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Orlando Parkhopper

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas, Busch Gardens and SeaWorld Holiday, and Much More

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by , 11-28-2011 at 11:19 PM

We hope all of our readers had a wonderful Thanksgiving. The Orlando parks were busy doing their best to serve up a healthy helping of holiday cheer. This week, we take a look at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party in the Magic Kingdom, to see how they can get away with charging extra for something which has always been included at no additional charge at Disneyland. We then continue our look at Busch Gardens holiday decorations as well as the Sea World festivities. All this plus the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios and news and photos from Orlando's top attractions. Let's park hop!

Thanksgiving brought in its usual big crowds at Walt Disney World this past weekend, and the Orlando Parkhopper staff wasn't there to take a look. This week, we have a look at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party in the Magic Kingdom this week, as well as the usual look at the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights. Also, believe it or not, while we haven't even hit winter yet, word is trickling out about the next major festival at EPCOT, the International Flower and Garden Festival which begins on March 7th.

While most of the Christmas decorations are up for all guests to see, on select nights guest can purchase a ticket to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party for a few extra perks (and to the tune of $56.95 at the minimum!) Basically, included in admission are hot cocoa and gingerbread cookies, Holiday Wishes fireworks show, special holiday shows and entertainment, special character greetings, and select Magic Kingdom attractions remain open. Is it pricey? Absolutely, but call us suckers for the holiday season (everyone should enjoy Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at least once.) ABOMIBOT brings us some gorgeous photos of Holiday Wishes.

The garland is strung up along Main Street creates a festive environment.

Proof you can saunter up somewhere near Cinderella Castle just a few minutes before showtime and still bring home a few great photos to keep the memories alive!

Holiday Wishes: Celebrate the Spirit of the Season

While Christmas is still a good month away, the Disney planners are already looking at the next big thing: the International Flower and Garden Festival. This year's festival, which runs from March 7-May 20, will bring back popular favorites like the HGTV designer series and the Bambi Butterfly House, with a brand new topiary entrance centered around the Walt Disney masterpiece, Fantasia. Towering over the entrance to EPCOT will be a Sorcerer Mickey topiary 8 feet tall atop a 12 foot tall "cliff" of flower. Surrounding him will be other topiary characters from the film, such as broomsticks, hippos, etc.

We'll keep you up to date as more information is revealed. While the holiday season is wonderful at Walt Disney World, spring also brings some wonderful events, and the Flower and Garden Festival is something not to be missed!

weekend also began the popular Holidays Around the World at EPCOT. This includes the popular holiday tag added to the already popular Illuminations Reflections of Earth spectacular; the Holiday Storytellers, where the countries in World Showcase share a tradition or story from their native land (a wonderful experience!); and the ever popular Candlelight Processional. The Candlelight Processional is an annual event here at EPCOT, as part of the World Showcase's "Holidays Around the World." The event sells out and is a production about the story of Christmas with a celebrity presenter, a fifty piece orchestra and a choir. Even the locals turn out in droves to view this classic Disney presentation. It truly is a fantastic and impressive display and well worth attending if you're in EPCOT when it is offered. Unlike Disneyland, where it is very difficult to get in to see, EPCOT offers multiple performances throughout the season, which almost always guarantees you'll be able to see this magnificent and touching performance if you plan ahead for it. This year's celebrity presenters and dates include:

Schedule & Narrators
American Gardens Theatre (5:00 p.m., 6:45 p.m., 8:15 p.m.)--across from the American Adventure
11/2511/27 Mira Sorvino
11/2812/01 Michael W. Smith
12/0212/03 Geena Davis
12/0412/06 Edward James Olmos (12/04 6:45 p.m. & 8:15 p.m. shows only)
12/0712/09 Isabella Rossellini
12/1012/12 Neil Patrick Harris
12/1312/15 Lorraine Bracco
12/1612/18 Chita Rivera
12/1912/21 Trace Adkins
12/2212/24 Susan Lucci
12/2512/27 Blair Underwood
12/2812/30 Marlee Matlin

All performances are interpreted for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing.

These performances are free and included in your paid park admission. However, lunch and dinner packages are still available at select restaurants. Since the seating is first come/first serve, the packages assure you a seat, well worth it if you ask us.

Candlelight lunch package:
Lunch Packages range from $32.99$53.99 for Guests 10+, and $12.99$17.99 for Guests 39
And are available at these restaurants: Biergarten Restaurant, Coral Reef Restaurant, Le Cellier Steakhouse, Les Chefs de France, Nine Dragons Restaurant, Restaurant Marrakesh, Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room, San Angel Inn, Teppan Edo, Tokyo Dining, Tutto Italia Ristorante and Via Napoli.

Candlelight dinner package:
Dinner Packages range from $49.99$64.99 for Guests 10+, and $15.99$26.99 for Guests 39
And are available at these restaurants: Biergarten Restaurant, Coral Reef Restaurant, The Garden Grill Restaurant, La Hacienda de San Angel, Les Chefs de France, Nine Dragons Restaurant, Restaurant Marrakesh, Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room, San Angel Inn, Teppan Edo, Tokyo Dining, Tutto Italia Ristorante and Via Napoli.

If you book the dinner, you also get special seating for the fireworks display that evening!

Call 407-WDW-DINE to book or get answers to your questions about the dining packages.

Yup, it's time for another set of Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights photos. We get endless requests for photos and videos of these lights throughout the holiday season. Truly stunning!

Pre-illuminated. Looks like a fairly uncrowded evening....

Let the illumination begin!

Hidden Mickeys abound!

Everything is covered in lights

Color, color everywhere!

Note the one all white angel in the lower left's a tribute to the passing of Jennings Osborne this past year.

The canopy is synced to the music

There are lot of humorous gags throughout the displays. Looks like Santa may be going to jail.

By the time it gets dark enough, you cant avoid huge crowds. But don't let it get to you, there's a lot to explore and the more time that it takes you to do so, the better!

Here is the most recent video update from Kevin Yee.

While we gave a glimpse at the decorations at Busch Gardens last week, we have a more extensive look this week, including a look at the Christmas Celebration show and some of the seasonal merchandise available which, as you might expect, is animal based.

Main tree at the park.

This one looks like it would be at home in New Orleans Square at Disneyland

Elaborate, color coordinated wreaths.

Animals are the popular theme for the seasonal merchandise.

White tigers are a popular choice.

Aww....who can say no to those eyes?

Cheetah Hunt/Cheetah Run gets its own tree as well.

The Christmas Celebration show is a festive, more traditional, show to celebrate the season with familiar songs, some cute moments, and a visit from Santa himself. Let's take a look...

Christmas Celebration:

Go Tell It On the Mountain.

Santa of course!

Frosty joins in as a special treat!

Children are invited on stage to join Santa in a song.

Toy soldiers a la the Rockettes.

Santa Baby

Dreaming of a white Christmas

SeaWorld has its own holiday offerings, and clearly is a contender for the most elaborate holiday celebrations, with no less than 6 shows for the season for all ages! Quite a charming park, it carries even more charm at Christmastime!

Standard tree at the entrance.

Even during the busy holiday season, construction on the new Turtle Trek 3D attraction continues.

New offerings are always exciting!

BIG construction wall!

The Wild Arctic simulator gets its own holiday makeover to the Polar Express, complete with a visit from Santa himself at the end of the ride. (You do wind up in the North Pole after all!). Watch the sights, sounds, smells, and full experience of the Polar Express right here at SeaWorld this holiday season!

Ready for boarding!

A special nighttime show for Christmas, Shamu Christmas Miracles, performs in Shamu stadium for the season.

O Wondrous Night is a new show this year at SeaWorld. It combines animals, actors, music, and puppets in a unique version of the Christmas story.

Children can get excited about Christmas (because we all know they need motivation to get excited this time of year) with A Sesame Street Christmas at SeaWorld. A catchy title...

Special holiday menu offerings are also available throughout the eateries at SeaWorld, including a very reasonably priced buffet.

Not a bad price at all for a theme park buffet!

Tickets are purchased at a kiosk prior to entering the buffet area.

Various holiday themed meals at the park's eateries.

A unique photo op: Take your picture inside a snow globe, complete with fake snow!

Quite a list of holiday offerings

Even Starbucks flavors are here!

While we've put a fair amount of coverage on the theme parks during this holiday season, there is far more in the Orlando area than just the parks for the holidays. Perhaps one of the most popular, and famous, is the Gaylord Palms's ICE exhibit which is currently running through January 2nd at the Gaylord Palms. ICE! is exactly as it sounds, a winter wonderland with over 20,000 square-feet of a frosty winter wonderland with hand-carved sculptures. This year's presentation is exceptionally synergistic, with a tie in to the DreamWorks Animation special Shrek the Halls, with hand carved sculptures from the kingdom and characters of Far, Far Away while enjoying ice slides and the frigid cold some of us are used to far too often.

In addition to the ICE! attraction, there are several other holiday options that make the Gaylord Palms resort a true holiday destination in and of itself. Guests can decorate gingerbread cookies, play with Po from Kung Fu Panda in SNOW (a literal winter wonderland for kids of all ages to frolic in), and even enjoy Dreamworks's newest movie, Puss in Boots, with a red carpet experience complete with a meet and greet with Puss in Boots himself, as well as a chance to see the movie in the Palms's 3D movie theater.

Of course, all these wonderful holiday options require separate admission, with an advance online ticket price for just ICE! costing 22.99 for off peak and 27.99 for peak sessions. Each additional option will require an additional fee, with combo prices available, as well as special options for guests of the resort. If you do plan on going, make sure you buy online for the best prices, and do not miss ICE! It really is a spectacular experience!

In a somewhat interesting turn, the Kennedy Space Center has begun offering holiday events this year for the first time ever, including skating in the Rocket Garden. Other offerings include the holiday traditions of countries that are International Space Station partners, a 42-foot, ISS-themed Christmas tree, international carolers in astronaut flight suits performing carols (seriously, who wouldn't want to see that?), and of course Santa will be making appearances as well. The best part? All these extras are included in admission price and will run until January 1st. We'll make sure to try and head out to the Space Center to check it out during this holiday season!

Also beginning this week are nightly snow falls in our favorite former Disney owned town of Celebration, in its Town Center. The snow falls 6-9 PM each night with Santa, carolers, an ice rink, and special events. Since snow is so rare in Orlando, we welcome the man made version at any chance we get!

While usually we cover just the Orlando Parks, there is one piece of news this week we felt would be of interest to our readers, and is connected to Orlando via Disney Vacation Club. In 2009, The Walt Disney Company bought a plot of land in the National Harbor development in Prince George's County Maryland (a very short drive into our nation's capital) for a hotel and possible DVC property. Clearly, this was in preparation to test the waters for Disney Vaction Club resorts outside of the Disney theme parks, much like Vero Beach, Hilton Head, and the newly opened Aulani in Hawaii. However, it looks as if Washington DC will not be the next DVC off property any time soon as Disney has abandoned the project citing bad timing. While this doesn't mean there won't be any more DVC outside the mouse at all, we'll have to wait and see if anything else develops.

Where are the Parkhoppers this week? It's up to you to decipher the picture below and see if you can find us. We'll provide a partial image of a photo and it will be your job to guess where you think we're hiding!

The 1st person to guess correctly will have their name featured in next week's game listed along side the correct answer. Good luck!!

Want to meet up with other Disney fans while at Disney World? Several of the Orlando Parkhopper team members are part of a group that meets every weekend. Join the public Facebook group and get notified of events (the locations are different every time). Drop by to visit the "attraction of the day" with us. Newcomers are welcome!

If you appreciate this column, share this page with your friends and don't forget to click that Facebook thumbs up button at the top of the page (it give us the encouragement to bring you even bigger and better updates)!

Thanks to our fantastic and talented crew of writers, photographers and news contributors who work so very hard every week to bring you the latest information from the parks. This week's team included:

Thank you for reading, we hope you've been inspired to explore Orlando's many wonderful attractions. We'd love to hear your comments below.

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Updated 11-29-2011 at 04:32 PM by Orlando Parkhopper



  1. JLindley2003's Avatar
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    Tough Parkhopper... I'll go with Art of Animation
  2. Disneyaholik's Avatar
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    The Hidden Park Hopper is outside the entrance of Disney Hollywood Studio. It currently sits in front of a huge christmas tree.
  3. Spongeocto4's Avatar
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    Thanks for the update!
  4. DisWedWay's Avatar
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    Maybe Vanessa Williams would do a narration for the Christmas recitals or even perform a few carols. She would be great on Disney's Dancing With the Stars! Esmeralda thinks she would be a Mirror Ball Winner. PD
  5. aashee's Avatar
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    I've gotta say the pictures were so crystal clear, loved them. Disney always does a great job but those shots of Universal were VERY impressive. Wintertime in Florida ain't sounding too shabby!
  6. DisneySarah's Avatar
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    Funny how every park (Disney or not) has Christmas offerings, and yet the Magic Kingdom can get away with charging extra for the special party. :/ That baffles me.

    Seriously though, I really want to ice skate at the KSC and see those astronaut carolers!
  7. MasterGracey's Avatar
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    aashee's right! Great photos of all the holiday stuff — I think my next trip out to Florida will have to be during the holidays! Thanks for another great update!
  8. Timekeeper's Avatar
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    Great update!

  9. Demigod's Avatar
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    Great update! Love seeing the pics of the different Christmas trees!
  10. yoyoflamingo's Avatar
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    We always knew Disney does it right for the holidays, but looks like Busch Gardens and Sea World are must see destinations as well! AND all the outside the theme parks stuff! I wish I had a month to spend in Orlando during the holidays!
  11. Dustysage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DisneySarah
    Funny how every park (Disney or not) has Christmas offerings, and yet the Magic Kingdom can get away with charging extra for the special party. :/ That baffles me.
    You bring up a very good point. The Magic Kingdom charges extra because they can get away with it. But they really aren't offering much more than SeaWorld or anyone else. Eventually, folks will catch on. I actually enjoyed Mickey's Christmas Party, but wouldn't pay extra for it every year.

    Considering how much they charge for the party, you'd think that they'd decorate the park at least as well as SeaWorld does. But instead, Magic Kingdom relies on lighting and music to create the party atmosphere.

    Epcot has the potential to be the hands down winner for Christmas, but they don't do enough to decorate World Showcase. They have great events (like Candlelight) and shows (like the holiday tag to Illuminations) but don't really decorate, so it just doesn't feel like Christmas.

    The biggest disappointment for Christmas is Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Where are the magical decorations?

    Looks for all the world like SeaWorld and Busch Gardens are offering the most honest holiday offerings this year.

    Would love to see Disney World step it up a bit. The big event things are great (Holiday Wishes, Illuminations, Candlelight, Osborne Lights), but some simple decorations throughout the parks would go a very long way toward making Christmas spectacular.

    There's a lot to see and do in Orlando, and I really appreciate the Parkhopper crew for showing us so much of it every week.
  12. ABOMIBOT's Avatar
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    Here's some video I shot of the Osborne Lights at the same time as the photos were taken if anyone's interested.

  13. MJM's Avatar
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    The pictures are beautiful. My family was very surprised to find that our favorite park overall for getting us into the Christmas Spirit was Sea World. Lights everywhere, live music everywhere and 5 lovely Christmas Shows plus the Polar Express. Even live music in the eatery. Sea World really did a great job this year and immersed us in Christmas spirit after dark.
  14. tamasurvivor's Avatar
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    There was some great pics on the blog... I always love keeping up on the weekly updates
  15. Maverick's Avatar
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    Fabulous update as always, I laughed I cried two thumbs up!

    The picture quality on these are stunning, also good to see the other Florida destinations are stepping up their game.