Wander Always & Stay Wilde


Holiday Season at Walt Disney World Parks

It’s the most magical time of the year- especially at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida! As a tradition, every year my family and I spend the week of Thanksgiving in Disney World to kick off the Christmas season and enjoy the holidays together. The parks are completely decked out with all of their Christmas and holiday glory!


The Magic Kingdom is probably my favorite park in Walt Disney World (and it frequently changes between here and EPCOT depending on the day). There is just something special about the original park from Walt Disney World that makes Magic Kingdom truly special. And it is even more magical during the holidays! Specifically, Main Street U.S.A. is decorated with festive garlands, wreaths, and other holiday decorations that bring the season to life. I suggest grabbing a hot chocolate or hot beverage to sip on while walking through all of the quaint shops of Main Street U.S.A. and viewing all of the decorations.

You will probably see the most holiday decorations in this area of the park. As you begin to explore the different lands beyond Main Street U.S.A. of Magic Kingdom (Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland), you will notice that the holiday festivities are celebrated in different ways- namely the food menus. Different quick-service food options around the park offer special holiday treats to celebrate the holiday season!

Have you ever seen a Custodial Artist “draw” with water around the park? It is truly something special to see! The artwork only lasts so long before the water begins to evaporate, but look out for them as you walk through the different lands of Magic Kingdom!

You will come to learn that our family LOVES funnel cakes, and we have a spot in pretty much every park to get one! In Magic Kingdom, we frequently dine at Liberty Square’s Sleepy Hollow (a quick-service dining option). The funnel cake above is an elaborate “holiday special” offered this year with strawberries and powdered sugar. They offer a powdered sugar and strawberry version at other times of the year as well. I also ordered the corndog meal with homemade chips- a discovery I made in the park a few trips ago- and it is so delicious! There is also a sweet-and-spicy chicken waffle sandwich that is very good as well! Most days when visiting Sleepy Hollow, there is a long line to order. To me, this just affirms that this quick-service option is as good as people say!

This season, Magic Kingdom offered some pop-up parades down Frontierland, Liberty Square, and Main Street USA for guests to the park to enjoy. Many of our Disney favorites were in the parade – including the Disney princesses!

In place of nightly fireworks this season due to the high volume of crowds, Disney transformed its iconic Cinderella’s castle with different holiday projections. Christmas music plays on Main Street U.S.A. leading up to the castle, where you can get an up-close look at the beautiful and intricate designs. The projections change every 15 minutes, so it takes a full hour to experience the 4 different projections (we stayed for two of them before leaving the park for the night). They truly are beautiful in person!


Our family does not traditionally spend the Thanksgiving holiday as many Americans do. For as many years as I can remember, we have spent the day at EPCOT and enjoyed the cuisines around the world, each year picking a new country (or two) to celebrate as we walk through and explore all of the countries of the World Showcase. This has become one of our favorite traditions over the years, and one that we truly cherish as a family.

During Thanksgiving week, EPCOT introduces the International Festival of the Holidays which lasts until December 31 each year. The festival includes different holiday kitchens and cookie strolls throughout Future World and the World Showcase as well as holiday entertainment through traveling cavalcades (mini parade floats) with your favorite characters singing your favorite holiday tunes!


Comprising a 1.3-mile circular path, the World Showcase consists of 11 countries with native cuisine and shops. Some countries have rides, like Mexico and Norway, while others have 360-degree or sit-down films to enjoy, like Canada, China, and France. There is plenty to see, lots to eat, and much to explore in each country!

The famous Christmas tree (shown above) of EPCOT is located at the crossroads of the World Showcase. Choosing to start on the left will take you one way “around the world,” and going right will take you around the other way. The following sequence below starts to the right of the crossroads with Canada and ends with Mexico. There is no rhyme or reason as to which way to start to explore the countries of the World Showcase. I usually know when I am at the park which cuisine I am craving, and I base my decision on which country’s cuisine I want to eat first. Keep in mind, that America is in the very center of the World Showcase if you are planning on dining there!

You will notice that not all of the countries in the World Showcase have Christmas decorations, but the majority of them do. Regardless, it is still great to immerse yourself in the different cultures of the countries you visit. I highly suggest if you are with a group to pick a few countries that you would like to try for lunch/snacks and split the items amongst your group. I do this all the time with my family. We will go to a few different countries for a meal and others for a sweet treat, splitting all of the items so that we can try more cuisines throughout the park!


This might be my favorite country in the World Showcase, and I might have two or three favorites. Canada is beautifully decorated for the season, all the way through to its beautiful waterfall! Steps down from the waterfall, you can watch the beautifully made film “O Canada!” after you explore the shops and gardens of the country. There is a restaurant by the exit to the film (you can access its entrance through the gardens as well), Le Cellier Steakhouse which is known as a cozy cellar for steaks and seafood specialties.


Following Canada through the World Showcase is the next country, the United Kingdom. Here you will find two different options for cuisine, the Rose & Crown Pub and the Rose & Crown Dining Room. Both food options offer their delicious fish and chips, while the dining room has more selections offered on their menu. My family and I chose to eat our fish and chips from the quick service Rose & Crow Pub option. We usually are lucky to find a table away from the crowds and enjoy our meal with waterfront views of the World Showcase Lagoon.

After your meal, you can walk through the different shops with souvenirs from the United Kingdom. My favorite is their selection of Twinings Tea! Toward the back of the United Kingdom pavilion is a courtyard where you can sit, relax, and explore through the gardens. This is where you can find the ornately decorated tree and holiday decor under the pavilion! You might even find Alice in Wonderland or Mary Poppins make an appearance!


Next stop- France! Here you will find some crepes, ice cream, pastries, and well as the Chefs de France restaurant. France also has alternating films playing in their grandiose theater, Impressions of France, and their newest show, the Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along. In between both the United Kingdom and France is an alternative entrance and exit to EPCOT, also known as the International Gateway. This area of the park will take you directly to the Yacht and Beach Club, and Boardwalk resorts, and there is also a walkway and a boat service to Hollywood Studios from the Yacht and Beach Club. There are also some lovely restaurant options in this area, like Beaches and Cream and Cape May at the Beach Club Resort- both are favorites of my family. If in the area, I love to watch the sunset from the beach of the resort!

From the bridge of the International Gateway, you can catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower as well as the Skyliner transportation system! The Skyliner can be accessed from the International Gateway and will transport you to the Riviera Resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort, Pop Century, Art of Animation, and Hollywood Studios. I have gone to Hollywood Studios in the morning and taken the Skyliner to the International Gateway area of EPCOT for lunch- it is so convenient!


The fourth country on the list is Morocco! This was the first expansion pavilion added to EPCOT in 1984, and Disney worked with the Moroccan government to aid in the design. The pavilion is designed to look like a realistic Moroccan city with a replica of a Minaret, also known as a prayer tower at the forefront of the beautifully designed buildings. The Fes House was designed for guests to walk through the courtyard and see the layout of a typical Moroccan home. Toward the back of the pavilion, you can walk through the marketplace and explore authentic Moroccan trinkets and treasures.


Japan is one of the more picturesque pavilions in the World Showcase, with its towering pagoda replica and intertwining, tranquil gardens. The Mitsukoshi Department Store within the pavilion, named after the oldest department store in the world, is like a mall of the World Showcase that houses souvenirs and Japanese gifts. This is one of the best spots to shop in the park! Over the years, I have found beautiful pottery pieces toward the back of the store, some of which were even on sale. If you are staying in a Walt Disney World Resort hotel, items can be purchased and shipped to your hotel’s lobby during your stay so that you do not have to carry the items with you around the park. There is a 24-hour turnaround time, so as long as you are not sending items on the last night of your stay, you are good to go!


Located in the center of the World Showcase is The American Adventure celebrating the United States of America! This pavilion is the only one in the World Showcase to have a large-scale Christmas Tree as a part of its exterior holiday decorations. One of my favorite things to do while passing through is to stop for a showing of “The American Adventure” show within the main building. Showings are available every 45 minutes, including time for seating. If you find yourself waiting for the next show for a good amount of time, I suggest indulging in a famous funnel cake! My family loves the cookies and cream version with powdered sugar, ice cream, chocolate sauce, and Oreos. And yes, it is that good! If you opt to eat a meal here, there are turkey legs and BBQ-themed meals located within the pavilion.


Much of the front portion of the Italy pavilion is beautifully modeled after Piazza San Marco in Venice. In the central plaza, the Plaza del Teatro, there is even a fountain that is inspired by Bernini’s Neptune fountain! In the pavilion, you can find classic Italian favorites and sweet treats like cannolis offered via quick service for a snack while walking around the pavilion. There are also 3 different table-service restaurants in this pavilion for a classic Italian meal: Tutto Italia Ristorante, Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar, and Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria.


Germany is one of my favorite spots in the World Showcases for holiday decorations. There is even a holiday-themed shop that is open and fully decorated for the holiday year-round! You will find a few Christmas trees inside the shop with an array of ornaments, and even a tree adorned entirely of pickles! Some treats are caramel flavored with Werther’s Original as well as delicious pretzels! Located next to the Germany pavilion is a miniature garden railway filled with “miniature” landscaping, Lehmann Gross Bahn trains, and Bavarian villages. I always make a stop here to admire the different decorations that are added for the holidays, and even later in the year for EPCOT’s Flower and Garden festival.


The main entrance to the China Pavilion is through a triple-arched gate that is patterned after the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. In the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, there is a Circle-Vision 360-degree film titled Wondrous China that shows footage of the different sights of the beautiful country! Located outside are bamboo groves, footbridges, a small waterfall, and small ponds to provide an escape from the crowds in the park. There are 2 dining options here including The Nine Dragons restaurant and The Lotus Blossom Cafe. I prefer the quick-service option of the Lotus Blossom Cafe myself, and I always order the Orange Chicken meal- so good! Toward the back of the pavilion, the House of Good Fortune offers a wide variety of merchandise that you can shop for as souvenirs from your “travels” to China.


Norway is one of two pavilions in the World Showcase that have an attraction attached to them. The Frozen Forever After attraction is currently in Norway celebrating the Scandinavian princesses, Ana and Elsa, from the 2013 hit film, Frozen. One of my favorite additions to the pavilion is the Royal Sommerhus section adjacent to the attraction where you can meet both Ana and Elsa. While in Norway, I have recently tried a few different items in the Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe, and my favorites are their large chocolate chip cookie and the school bread!


The last stop (or first depending on which way you started!) of the World Showcase is Mexico. The first thing you will probably notice in the pavilion is a large-scale Mesoamerican pyramid. Located inside is an always-twilight Plaza de Los Amigos. Here you will find colorful carts and shops with Mexican jewelry, pottery, clothing, and more! Gran Fiesta Tour starring the Three Caballeros is the attraction via boat located in the back of the Plaza inspired by the 1944 animated film. As you pass by the Mayan volcano on the ride, you will notice a restaurant in the plaza- San Angel Inn Restaurant- one of the stunning options in the pavilion. Outside, across the walkway, are two other dining options: La Hacienda de San Angel is the other table service option while La Cantina de San Angel is the quick-service that offers lighter foods and snacks like tacos, tostadas, churros, and more!


There is nothing quite like walking down Hollywood Boulevard in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, especially during the holidays! The streets of old Hollywood are completely decked out in holiday decor and older holiday classics are broadcasting on loudspeakers as you make your way down the streets. I love to stop and look at all of the different windows along the shops, which also include holiday touches in their displays.

Once you reach the Chinese Theater at the end of Hollywood Boulevard, you can choose a path to explore the rest of the park. If facing the theater, the left will take you towards Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge and the large-scale Christmas tree that is in the middle of Echo Lake. The right side of the park takes you down Sunset Boulevard and leads you to the Tower of Terror and Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster. Behind the Chinese Theater to the right will lead you to Toy Story Land, one of my favorite areas of the park!


Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the largest theme park in the world with over 500 acres as home to over 1,700 animals that represent 250 different species throughout the park. You can have the chance to see many of the animals in the park on the Kilimanjaro Safari. This is a “must-do” attraction for me every time I am in the park! Located in the center of the park is the iconic, the Tree of Life. The 145 ft tree has images of more than 300 animals hand-carved into its trunk, and the base is home to the attraction, “It’s Tough to Be a Bug.” As you walk up to the show, you can have an up-close viewing of the animals adorning the tree.

Walking through the park, Disney showcases some of its best thematic holiday decor in the whole resort. There are wreaths made of colorful bottle caps, ornaments made of hand-carved animal masks, and more! I truly enjoyed walking through Asia, Africa, Discovery Island, and Dinoland U.S.A. looking at all of the beautiful holiday decorations that covered the park!

While on the Kilimanjaro Safari, there was a full rainbow overlooking the Savannah. Our guide stopped for a few moments so that we could all snap a few photos to remember this moment!


Visiting Disney Springs during the holiday season is a must if time allows! In the Town Center, there is a large Christmas Tree and the storefronts are decorated with garland and wreaths- this is a beautiful sight to see at both the daytime and nighttime hours. Sometimes after a shorter day at the park, my family and I will go to Disney Springs for a bite to eat and stroll through the different shops. One of our favorite stops is the Candy Cauldron on the West Side for the best chocolate-covered apples in Disney World!

On this trip, we decided to eat at the Raglan Road Irish Pub and since the weather was gorgeous we ate at their outdoor patio area. I ordered their “Gnocchi Sea Gnocchi Do” featuring scallops and pork belly (below). My sister ordered their Caesar salad and “Nom Nom Wings.” All of which was delicious! We finished our meal with Raglan Road’s famous Ger’s Bread & Butter Pudding- I highly suggest trying this at least once! I have also been to Raglan Road for brunch a few times, and that menu selection is also very good!

Have you been to Disney World this holiday season?! If so, what was your favorite park or place in the Resort to experience? Comment below!

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