(Photo Credit: Disney)
The last 3 months of the year at Walt Disney World are, in my opinion, the most exciting ones. The holiday seasons are upon us, when the most magical place on earth becomes even more magical, if such a thing is even possible. It’s also a time of year for one of the longest running and best attended festivals Walt Disney World has to offer. And as always, expansions abound, some just in their infancy and others finally coming to fruition.
5. Halloween at Walt Disney World
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party lets your children trick-or-treat on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. How cool is that? Oh, and you can do it too! You don’t have to be mini to enjoy this experience. Plus this year, the characters from Disney’s Hocus Pocus host a special event spectacular on stage in front of Cinderella’s castle. A special event parade and of course an event-specific fireworks display make this event a bucket list item for sure.
4. Christmas at Walt Disney World
Every corner of every park brings their best for the holidays. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is the most incredible experience you will have on Main Street. As a ticketed event, it means fewer crowds. Which in turn means better views of the special event parade, and more cookies and hot chocolate – which are free by the way – for you to enjoy as you walk down Main Street in the snow (yes, you read that right). Like star-gazing? Check out the calendar of guest stars and pick your date to visit Epcot for the Celebrity Candlelight Processional. Neil Patrick Harris tends to make a yearly appearance, and a personal favorite is the former Disney princess voice actors invited to read. Come for the telling of the classic Christmas story, backed by an incredible choir and orchestra. Resorts bring you huge Christmas trees and holiday-themed, life-sized candy creations like gingerbread houses out of which you can actually buy gingerbread snacks, and candy carousels that really work. Finally, it may be its last year, but this last point will be sorely missed. It has become a tradition for us over the past 5 years to spend at least a few nights at the Osborne Spectacle of Lights in Hollywood Studios. It features dancing lights, music and a snowy scene you won’t find anywhere else. If you haven’t already experienced it, you should definitely take a day or two to get down there this year for its swan song.
3. New restaurants opening in Disney Springs
Disney Springs has always been a go-to hot spot for adults and families alike to enjoy a top-notch meal at a themed restaurant. The landscape certainly has been changing lately. With the addition of the recent Boathouse Restaurant, Disney Springs is now maximizing its waterfront. Reservations at Disney Springs have always been difficult to get at top themed restaurants like T-Rex Cafe; even walk-up restaurants have become so busy that wait times are less than ideal. The restaurants opening up before year’s end are so tempting, I can’t decide which to make a reservation at first. Morimoto Asia brings pan-Asian cuisine from a top Iron Chef America chef, while STK Orlando will bring one of the world’s greatest steakhouses to the already high-end options Disney Springs has to offer. If themes are more your cup of tea, then The Edison with its 1920’s nightclub style, or Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar with its Indiana Jones motif, are going to be must-do’s on your next trip.
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2. Epcot Food and Wine Festival
Drinking around the world has become a thing to do in Epcot of late. Eating your way around the worlds seems far more appealing to me though, and this is the time of year to do it. Eat to the Beat brings amazing regional music to the festival to keep you moving to work off all those extra calories, and food and wine pairings/dining packages give you immense opportunities to experience foods from all over this great planet. Seminars in mixology, beverages and culinary masterpieces add to your special event opportunity, and teach you how to create amazing dishes at home. This festival needs to be experienced to be believed, so if you haven’t set it up for this year, put it in your calendar soon.
1. Star Wars beginnings (Launch Bay)
Hollywood Studios is beginning to make way for its largest expansion to date. More closures are announced almost weekly at this point. Some tears are being shed along the way, as some beloved attractions close their doors. But it’s all to make way for new additions, including the much anticipated Star Wars Land. The first stage of this has been the transformation of the Animation Courtyard into the upcoming Star Wars Launch Bay. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but offers a tantalizing glimpse into just what Hollywood Studios could become in the future.