Christmas in July: A Jolly Holiday in the Parks

Last week we discovered some of the magic behind how Disney celebrates Christmas at their resorts, but today we are going to get a taste of what you can expect in the Walt Disney World theme parks.

Expect big things like larger than life trees and decorations, brand new seasonal merchandise, and special events, shows, and parades that will knock your cheesy Christmas-printed socks off! Not unlike the resorts, a lot of it just can’t be accurately described in an amateur blog such as mine. You just have to be there to experience the full extent of it. However, today I am going to tell you, based on our humble one-time Christmas visit, the Elrod’s top picks of what to see and/or do in each park during the holiday season.

Animal Kingdom

Although I hear that the Jingle Jungle Parade is tons of fun, the day that we visited Animal Kingdom during Christmastime was a day that we were park hopping, so we didn’t have it in the schedule to stay for the parade. Maybe next time. My favorite thing about Animal Kingdom during the holidays was the uniquely African influenced decorations. They were so unlike all of the other decorations throughout Disney property. They weren’t in-your-face red and green, peppermint stripped, or Santa-clad. Instead they were earthy and natural, yet still so beautiful. I would love to decorate our house like that one Christmas.

But don’t forget to pick up jalapeno cheese stuffed pretzel while you are enjoying the decor. The Elrods never miss a chance at that delicious snack option!

EPCOT

We loved EPCOT at Christmas! It was decorated up beautifully as well, but our favorite thing was getting to see how all of the other countries around the world celebrate the holiday season! Like, who new the story behind the German pickle ornament? I didn’t! Or that in Canada, they call the man that we know as Santa, Papa Noel.

Also, each evening EPCOT hosts the Candlelight Processional. This amazing special event takes place in the America Showcase where each night a celebrity narrates the true story of Christmas accompanied by a 50 piece orchestra and choir. Admission is free but limited, so if you wish, you can purchase the dinner package that will include seating, a meal, and a special viewing area for the Illuminations Firework Display that night.

Hollywood Studios

In the eyes of the Elrods, Hollywood Studios seemed to be the least dolled-up park at Christmastime…until you got to the Streets of America, that is. On the Streets of America, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights takes place nightly during the yuletide season. I have home videos of this jaw-dropping show, but I don’t want to show them to you because they come nowhere near doing it justice. The building facades of the Streets of America are covered inch by inch in different colored lights. At dusk each night the lights flash and “dance” to merry Christmas music as snow flurries around your head. It is an amazing thing to experience, indeed, and I implore you to make an effort to see it if you haven’t already. It is definitely the number one thing to do at Hollywood Studios at Christmastime!

Magic Kingdom

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party all the way. The park is dressed beautifully for the season, but you just can’t go to Walt Disney World at the holidays and not go to the Christmas Party. Enough said.

Well I hope you are having a great week so far. Christmas in July is flying by!

Come back next week for Elrod WDW tips on the best times to visit and 2011 dates of special events!

The Park March: You Choose!

So I have kind of a crazy/fun idea.

This just so happens to be the last Tuesday in February. That is just insane to me. We are already almost three months into year 2011 and that means in three more months I will be planning a one-year Birthday Bash for my bubs. Wow.

Anyhoo, with March quickly approaching, I was thinking of having a running blog theme throughout the entire month. I’ll call it, The Park March! All month long, take a stroll with me through one of the four main Walt Disney World theme parks (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or Disney’s Animal Kingdom) and I will stuff you full of all of the history, information, facts, and tips I can muster.

Here’s the crazy/fun part.

YOU get to choose which park you would like that to be!

You can choose your favorite park! You can choose the park you have never set foot in! You can choose the park that you know nothing about! The point is YOU get to choose! So take a minute and vote for the park you would like me to blog about every Tuesday in the month of March!

Thank you so much for your vote!

Tell all of your friends to vote, as well! The poll will end one week from today. I look forward to bringing you tons of up-to-date information on the park that gets the most votes. Come back next Tuesday to see which park won and for my first post of The Park March!

 

Java Talk

Whew.

Another missed Tuesday. [womp womp.]

Blogging yesterday was just not in the cards. It was a crazy busy day that ended in a Rainbow Vac demonstration (no we did not buy, although I reeeeally wanted to) and a late night of hanging out with one of my best friends, Julie.

Needless to say, this morning the first thing I wanted to grab for was my morning cup of coffee.

Just so you know, my husband and I

L.O.V.E.

coffee! We never go a day without atleast one cup. When we are in Disney, it is especially true. However, a good cup of coffee in Walt Disney World is not as easy to find as you may think.

Most of the coffee you will find in Disney, like at the resorts, parks, and in a lot of restaurants and hot spots, is going to be Nestle Nescafe that is made from a coffee concentrate. I can stand it if it’s all I got and my demand for caffeine is high enough, but if the hubby and I are looking for a great tasting cup of coffee, our first stop is usually Kona Cafe at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Kona serves 100% Kona coffee along with a variety of espresso drinks. If you’re on the go and don’t have time to sit down, they also have a Kona Island Cafe Coffee Bar right outside the restaurant for your convenience!

Mmm…I’ll take a steamy mug full right now, please!

Most of the nice sit down restaurants also have great coffee. We had an amazing french press at Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian on our second wedding anniversary.

If you like a good latte or espresso, hop on the monorail and cruise over to Contemporary Grounds in the lobby of the Contemporary. Also, check out the java brewing at the Marketplace! You can get a great cup of Kona coffee at the Earl of Sandwich, or even better, the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop! Okay, maybe a hot chocolate or milk shake will be calling your name at Ghirardelli…but I’ve gotten coffee there in the past as well.

Elrod WDW Tip: It seems that if you are looking for your caffeine fix in a theme park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is going to be your best bet. If you are a Starbucks fiend, like Tim and I, you’re going to have to venture to some on-property resorts (the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, Regal Sun and Hilton Walt Disney World, and the Shades of Green to be exact) to get your fix.

Welp. I think I’ll go have my second cup of coffee for the day after all this java talk.

See ya Friday with new Fun Facts ‘n Trivia!

A Very Merry Jolly Holiday : DAY 4

On the last day of our Disney Christmas adventure we went [drum roll please] park hopping!

As a disclaimer, my whole family and I are really not advocates for park hopping.  I know that some people love it, and view it as a way to do all or just the things that they want to in a day. From our experiences however, we don’t enjoy paying the higher ticket prices just to feel like we have spent half our day in transportation from one park to another.  We like to just go to a park and spend the whole day there, enjoying everything there is to do and see.

On this trip though, we didn’t have the luxury of time on our side. We had just one day left and three parks that we had never seen at Christmas. So, we put on our happy faces, our walking shoes, and packed the diaper bag to the brim. We also mapped and timed out our whole day beforehand, so that we would be sure to squeeze it all in.

Number one on the agenda: Disney’s Animal Kingdom. All we really wanted to do was see the décor, so that is what we did! We rushed the gates at the opening of the park…

The tree at the entrance to the park.

A closer view of the ornaments.

Oh, I just LOVED how different these decorations looked. I love the earth-toned Christmas!

Tree of Life

Of course we made time to see some animals! I loved this huge Tigger, I mean tiger.

AND we had to get our favorite Disney snack only found at Animal Kingdom! Jalapeno cheese stuffed pretzel! Look, Jack wants a bite!

…and by 10:30ish a.m. we were headed to EPCOT.

EPCOT is Tim’s favorite park, and being that we were both interested in seeing and learning about Christmas in all of the different countries, we knew that we would want to spend most of our time there.

The first thing we did when we got to EPCOT was meet Mickey Mouse again! (This time I didn’t have a dopey hat on because the weather was a wonderful 70 degrees!) EPCOT is my favorite place to meet Mickey and the gang! They make it so easy! Just stand in line and get ushered through to your own personal time with each one of them; Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, and Donald! Plus, it’s air conditioned…just sayin’.

Lunch for Jack at the Baby Care Center. You KNOW I love my Baby Care Centers!

Lunch for Mom and Dad at the NEW restaurant in Mexico! Tim was so excited. We took lots of pictures.

View from our table. It would be a PERFECT place to watch Illuminations, the nighttime fireworks display.

Mexico

In Norway.

Norway

China

Germany

Pickle tree! I loved the story of the pickle ornament. I want one.

Outside of the NEW restaurant in Italy. It's on our "must eat at" list for our trip this September!

United States of America

France

Meeting Tigger and Pooh in the UK.

Papa Noel in Canada.

We missed the show, but there was a gospel choir that performed on this stage.

By about 3:00 p.m. we were ready to move on to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Hollywood Studios tree outside of the entrance.

We ran into Andy's Army man outside of Toy Story Mania. We didn't ride it b/c the line was over 2 hrs long! Yikes-o-rama!

We wanted to finish our day out at Hollywood Studios because in big bold letters on our agenda was The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights! It was just amazing!! The lights literally flash and “dance” along to music about every ten minutes starting at dusk, while snow flurries all around you. It’s Disney Magic at it’s finest.

We intended to just stay to see it snow on the Streets of America, see the lights “dance”, and then head back to the town home to get Jack in bed and rested for the long drive home the next morning. Well, that didn’t happen. We were so enthralled by the whole experience that we just stood there, mouths gaping, and watched the lights for several different songs.

Check out this video! It just doesn’t do it justice…

What a perfect way to end our Disney Christmas! Thank you to the wonderful Hudson family for letting us stay in their home, and to our Disney VISA for funding most of our trip with rewards points. 🙂

We kept saying all throughout our trip, “We HAVE to come back again next year!”. I guess time will tell…