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Orlando Parkhopper

Magic Kingdom Fantasyland Construction, Holiday Hotel Tour, Grinchmas Shines

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by , 12-12-2011 at 10:10 PM

Here we are in beautiful Orlando Florida, home to the most visited theme parks in the world and there's a lot of information for us to help keep you up to date on. We'll continue our look at Christmas time at Disney World and central Florida parks this week. Construction on the big Fantasyland expansion at WDW's Magic Kingdom is coming along and we'll check up on an old fan favorite at that park which has seen better days. Christmas Cheer at Disney need not cost you a fortune, we'll show you the joys of touring the resort hotels. Lastly, we hop over to Universal Orlando Resort to take in the new Grinchmas celebration at Islands of Adventure. There's lot's to see and enjoy today, let's hop to it!

Christmas at the Magic Kingdom is certainly beautiful. Even though some feel that WDW doesn't compare to the high level of detail offered at Disneyland, there are things that WDW just does better mostly because of the massive scale of it. The Cinderella Castle at night is the perfect example of this. Because of its sheer size, only the most sharp eyed visitors will notice the lights strung on the castle during the day, whereas in California, Sleepingh Beauty's Castle is an eyesore until sundown. Then, when night time comes the castle sparkles and shines, as if magically enchanted.

Town Square, on the other hand, deals with decorations in big, broad strokes that feel mass produced rather than carefully planned. It's not that the decorations are bad, per se. It's that they do not match with the supposed, small-town feel that Main Street is supposed to have. Yes, this is a minor issue, but one that affects the overall feel.

The problem is only exacerbated by the Christmas tree ornaments and presents underneath. The scale of the tree itself is fine. It's the mass produced, plastic looking stars, balls and gingerbread men that scream department store. Maybe that is what they are trying to say after all. But, it would come off more intimate if they just spent a little more time on the detail and made the ornaments period-specific, like they are at Disneyland.

Does anything about this tree look real to you?

Only a giant could eat those gingerbread men

Work continues on the center street of Main Street U.S.A. We certainly applaud this upkeep and the clever use of tromp'loi murals to maintain the overall aesthetic.

Then we come to the Carousel refurb. Rather than trompe l'oeil, the construction scrim matches the tournament style used throughout the land, but it's only temporary.

Speaking of construction, we have a ton of photos from the new Fantasyland expansion project. Over the wall we go to get a good look at all of the progress. We'll get to see Belle's cottage, Beast's Castle, the Rockwork at The Little Mermaid ride, and even a full-on look at one of the Dumbo Spinners!

Starting off, if you ride the Walt Disney World Railroad around the park, you will make a brief stop at the under-construction, Fantasyland Station.

An overall view of the land with Mermaid to the left and Dumbo to the right.

Notice the work going on in the foreground for the Seven Dwarves Mine Coaster.

Here's an overview of the circus construction area.

Goofy's coaster has been stripped down and is ready to be redressed.

Golden storks delivering baby animals . . .

To your left, is the first of the two Dumbo spinners which will open next year.

You'll find Dumbo to your right here with the Goofy coaster behind it.

The circus tents at night

The facade for The Little Mermaid.

Prince Eric's Castle is park of the facade for the Little Mermaid ride.

Further to the left we see planters and walkways taking shape.

Trees are being planted

The home of Belle and Maurice is in front of the future Be Our Guest Restaurant

A view of Beast's Castle facade on top of the Be Our Guest Restaurant.

The new castle walls that will lead to the storybook world of Fantasyland are taking shape.

Are you at the Parks every week? Care to have your voice heard? We are looking to grow our team of park hoppers to cover even more of the fun and excitement in Central Florida.

If you think you might like to help out with photography, writing, or editing please write to [email protected] or [email protected]

The beloved Peoplemover is looking like a forgotten stepchild. rust, water damage, build up of dust, sound problems and torn seats are all making the attraction feel tattered and worn. Time for this Cinderella to get a little fairy godmother magic and become the belle of the ball again.

Work continues on the facades in both Frontierland and Adventureland.

While it may cost a pretty penny to visit the parks for a little Christmas cheer (and even more of top of that to attend Mickey's Christmas party), it costs next to nothing to simply stroll through some of the most magical settings in Walt Disney World. We are talking, of course, about the beautiful resort Hotels during the holidays.

At the Polynesian Resort, poinsettias decorate the beautiful waterfall in the lobby of the Great Ceremonial House.

Garlands are strung from the ceilings.

The main Christmas tree.

Wreaths adorn the walls.

A smaller tree upstairs in the lobby area of the Great Ceremonial House.

A closer look at the detail.

Grand Floridian:
The Grand Floridian Resort & Spa sports a HUGE tree that stands in the center of the lobby. But that's not all. There is also a life-size gingerbread house where you can buy all manner of tasty goodies.

A smaller tree on the 2nd level of the lobby area.

Closer look at the detail.

This year's house was made from:
1050 lbs. of honey
800 lbs. of flour
600 lbs. of chocolate
140 pints of egg whites
35 lbs. of spices
Tons of creativity, Disney Magic and of course, Pixie Dust.

It takes the Grand Floridian cast more than two months and 840 hours of labor to produce, cut and bake 5089 "shingles" used to decorate the gingerbread house. The gingerbread house also serves as a shop where you can purchase a variety of gingerbread cookie items, chocolates, stollen bread, peppermint bark and more... all handmade each day by the Grand Floridian Bake Shop.

Fort Wilderness Lodge:
A stunning, rustic take on Christmas is featured at the Fort Wilderness Lodge.

Yeah, that's one BIG tree!

The Contemporary:
In a more subdued version of holiday cheer, the Contemporary displays more normal-sized trees.

There are menorah on display

Over at the Grand Canyon Concourse, a gingerbread tree is on display across from the Fantasia Toy shop.

Downtown Disney:
Over at Downtown Disney, a greeting spot has been set up between World of Disney and Ghirardelli for families to meet Santa.

At the DVC Member Meeting this past week, the cat was officially let out of the bag: The Grand Floridian will be getting 147 DVC villas by the end of 2013. It's no surprise since the plans had been leaked and the construction had already started. While the expansion of rooms for DVC may seem exciting now, will the diminish the magic of this exclusive hotel? Will the new tower ruin the sightlines around the bay and the Magic Kingdom as Bay Lake Tower has? Will it overtax an already crippled monorail system? These are just some of the questions that have come up already, and will continue to develop as construction continues. We'll keep you up to date as the construction progresses.

Here at Epcot, we have the past, present and future of Christmas all rolled into one. While Candlelight continues, you can learn about the holidays around the globe and take in the occasional gospel celebration.

Christmas in Mexico

The EPCOT tree.

Candlelight Processional is an annual event here at EPCOT, as part of the World Showcase's "Holidays Around the World." The event is massively well attended and is a production about the story of Christmas - with a celebrity presenter, a fifty piece orchestra and a mass choir.

Schedule & Narrators
American Gardens Theatre (5:00 p.m., 6:45 p.m., 8:15 p.m.)--across from the American Adventure.

Neil Patrick Harris at Candlelight this past weekend.

The celebrity narrators still performing are scheduled as follows:
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, packages assure you a good seat.

Lunch Packages range from $32.99$53.99 for Guests 10+, and $12.99$17.99 for Guests 39
And are with 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.

Dinner Packages range from $49.99$64.99 for Guests 10+, and $15.99$26.99 for Guests 39
And are with 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!

Please go directly to the Disney World website to make reservations or call 407-WDW-DINE

During the holiday season, EPCOT's ever popular fireworks show receives a special holiday tag, "Let There Be Peace on Earth." It's a fitting end to the message EPCOT conveys, and the holiday tag truly is a sight to behold. Here are some shots of the wonderful celebration.

Before we leave EPCOT we do have to ask; Are they ever going to fix the last fly-away panel at the end of Journey into Imagination?

While Christmas isn't exactly the best fit for Animal Kingdom, they still give it a half-hearted try. The tree out front is very nice actually. But that is where the compliments end.

The only other spot in the park with Christmas this year is Dino-Land. Of course it is all uber tacky.


Now onto The Comback Kid of theme park resorts, Universal Orlando. This resort is firing on all cylinders with Christmas at the studios park and Grinchmas in Islands of Adventure. Today we will take a look at the later, but not without first stopping by to check on the progress of the miniature golf course on CityWalk.

Here is the most recent look at the hyper-themed miniature golf course along Universal City Walk. With its 50's Drive-in meets aliens theme we'll soon get into all sorts of fun. Robots, monsters and ghosts OH MY!

Quick look at the Despicable me construction.

Last week, we shared the sad news that an original Universal Orlando attraction, Jaws, will be closing on January 2nd. Universal has tried to close the attraction several times before, but this time is for good.

This was a solid and fun attraction which we'll miss.

They are cropping up everywhere!

Coke freestyle machines are in the Studios. Use the touch screens to pick your own flavor combinations.

In case you missed the big news last week, it was announced that the Wizarding world of Harry Potter will be greatly expanded. This news came with the announcement that Hogwart's would also be coming to Hollywood California.

There's no doubt that WWoHP needs an expansion, more ride and shop capacity. But details are not yet available, just the empty promise of a large expansion. What sort of attractions would you like to see added?

We had the chance to catch this years Grinchmas show and, suffice it to say, it was very very charming.

The entrance leads you all the way back over to Universal's Soundstages

The crowd was seated and the show began.

One big production number after another as the story of the Grinch was played out.

The costumes and make up were spot on.

Then the Grinch shows up and things get creepy.

He tries to steal Christmas...

but he thinks the better of it.

There are even animal actors in the show. NICE

While it wasn't the best show we've ever seen, it was very entertaining and lots of fun. This is a theme parks show, after all. It's definitely worthy of your time if the show has a small wait. But, more often than not, it is playing to packed houses!

Nobody guessed the Hidden Parkhopper from last week! WOW. Well, let's try this again. We will occasionally pop in to give hints this time to help you all along.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)!

We want your photos! Contribute to the Orlando Parkhopper by emailing [email protected] with your submissions. We welcome volunteers for single contributions as well as permanent "Parkhopper" staff.

Please join us in thanking the fantastic and talented crew of writers, photographers and news contributors who worked so hard this 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 12-13-2011 at 01:55 PM by Orlando Parkhopper



  1. Bronco21's Avatar
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    Great update... I still find it funny that my families small town restaurant got Freestyle Coke Machines before Universal. (there are only a handful of the places in Utah that have them and my family got 3 of them!) it saddens me to see the PM in such a sad state. I have only ridden the Disneyland version once and I'm excited to be able to ride WDW's in January...
  2. DisneyResort's Avatar
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    I found out that the Christmas tree in Town Square did not go up until the first weekend in December. Now that's not really late for the holidays, but when you consider Mickey's Christmas Party was already taking place, it seems odd to "pay" to attend a Christmas party at Magic Kingdom...without a tree.
    Of course, the opposite happened at Disneyland. The tree and pretty much all the decoration were in place the first week of November.
  3. kcnole's Avatar
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    The tree doesn't go up at WDW until after the taping for the parade takes place because it would block the shots down main street as I understand it.
  4. dsnygrl13's Avatar
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    Could you go into more detail about the gingerbread house. Is it covered with laquer to keep it's appearance up? What happens to it at the end of the season?
  5. Grizzly's Avatar
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    I feel it's because of Cinderella Castle's size that the lights are so clearly visible during the day. It's just netting, it's impossible not to notice when you are at the hub.
  6. Dustysage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dsnygrl13
    Could you go into more detail about the gingerbread house. Is it covered with laquer to keep it's appearance up? What happens to it at the end of the season?
    All of the hotel gingerbread houses are baked fresh each year! I don't believe they are lacquered and I'm not quite sure how they keep the bugs away, but they are just like a gingerbread house you'd make at home (that folks leave out all season and which hold up just fine)

    You can buy a shingle to eat, they're pretty good.
  7. JDN's Avatar
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    I love the trompe-l'oiel construction walls - I think it exemplifies how special the disney parks are and give the impression that every detail matters vs just looking at a piece of flat plywood. Thanks for all the photos and updates!
  8. WildForMrToad's Avatar
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    the tree at WDW is terrible compared to DLR
  9. Wreckless Abrandon's Avatar
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    Still sad to see Jaws go. But really surprised by WDW's terrible Christmas Tree. And how DLP and WDW still can't get the upkeep right.
  10. danyoung's Avatar
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    I always enjoy these updates, and usually I agree with what I read. But I completely disagree with this statement -

    Will the new tower ruin the sightlines around the bay and the Magic Kingdom as Bay Lake Tower has?
    I can't see how anyone could have a problem with the beautiful new Bay Lake Tower. I don't see that it ruined any sightlines, and its design nicely complements the Contemporary Tower.

    Other than that, nice update!
  11. JiminyCricketFan's Avatar
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    I remember as a kid looking closely at the Disneyland Christmas tree. The ornaments at the bottom were larger than the ornaments at the top. This caused a forced perspective to make the tree look taller than it really was. (Your mind believed that the same shape ornaments you saw at the bottom had to be the same size at the top.) Over all I thought that was a great to see them add such detail. The WDW tree looks just too cone like. somehow it just does not have a feeling of a tree.
  12. NicNac0404's Avatar
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    Is the picture of the tall Toy Soldier's hat in Town Square in the Magic Kingdom?
  13. Timekeeper's Avatar
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    Nice update! I hope TDO fixes these problems.
    It seems Universal Orlando is listening to their fans, sort of.

  14. Maverick's Avatar
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    Fabulous update as always, I laughed I cried, two thumbs up

    Are you going to give us a hint on the Hidden Parkhopper?
  15. Timekeeper's Avatar
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    Also, is the hidden parkhopper image from Seuss Landing from IOA?

  16. SaddleSoreSwanson's Avatar
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    Great article, as always. The Hidden Parkhopper looks like the sail on the pirate ship in Peter Pan's Flight.