by Disney Magic Diva
My absolute favorite time to visit Walt Disney World Resort is during the holidays. The joy and happiness associated with the holiday season just seems to be amplified when you’re at the Most Magical Place on Earth. Special events like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, International Festival of the Holidays at Epcot, Flurry of Fun at Hollywood Studios, and the Christmas Tree Trail at Disney Springs just add to all the festiveness of the season! But it’s the stunning decorations that really draw me to Walt Disney World every holiday season. Completely perfect, detailed, unbelievable decorations which would be the envy of every elf at the North Pole!
Last year as the holidays were approaching I was whining about not having a trip planned to see the decorations. Our annual passes had expired, and it just wasn’t in the budget to plan a spur of the moment trip. In early October, Frontier announced it would begin service from our hometown to Orlando, and was offering $70 roundtrip airfare! So we planned a weekend trip in early November to resort hop and see the decorations – specifically those with gingerbread displays. We also wanted to visit Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge since those two resorts are still on our Resort Bucket List. I was so excited we would finally have the opportunity to spend a day seeing all these beautiful resorts decorated for the holidays!
And it almost worked. As it turned out, even though Magic Kingdom was decked out and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party had begun, we were a little too early to see the resorts decorated. Of course we didn’t learn this until we arrived at the first resort and discovered it undecorated.
Diva Tip: Holiday decorations generally are up at the parks within a week or so after Halloween. Resort decorations take a little longer to appear. To be certain to see them, you may want to wait until late November.
But we persevered, and still resort hopped since we had never had the chance to see some of the deluxe resorts. (Passholder Diva has great tips on resort hopping!) If you have a non-park day and are interested in seeing the holiday decorations (or in just checking out resorts so you can plan a future stay!), I highly recommend resort hopping. I’m happy to share the route we used to see 10 resorts in 1 day!
To begin, it’s important to know we always fly to Disney World and utilize the complimentary bus transportation. If you have a car, you can simply drive to each resort (although be aware some resorts will limit and perhaps prohibit parking to non-guests during peak times of year).
Diva Tip: You CANNOT use a Disney bus to go from your resort to another resort. Busses only travel from resorts to the parks, waterparks, and Disney Springs. To get to one resort from another, you must travel to a park or Disney Springs, then board a bus to your resort destination.
We began our morning by catching a bus for Hollywood Studios, then walking over to the Boardwalk area. It’s a quick, peaceful walk, especially early in the morning. (You can read about it here.) Along the way we were able to stop at both the Swan and Dolphin Hotel. We’d often seen these hotels from a distance, but had never had the chance to explore inside. They are beautiful!
Next we walked over to Disney’s BoardWalk Inn. Another resort still on our Resort Bucket List. This would be a perfect place to stay when you want to focus on one of the Epcot festivals – Arts, Flower and Garden, Food and Wine, or Holidays. We were hoping to see their gingerbread display, but when it wasn’t there we realized we were probably a little too early. It was still fabulous to finally explore this fun resort!
After BoardWalk, we made a quick stop by Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts. We had stayed here over the summer with the grandkids, (read about it here) so we just wanted to pop in to be sure the famed gingerbread carousel wasn’t there. To our disappointment, we learned they planned to construct the carousel in the next few days. This was probably my biggest regret, because seeing the carousel had been on my “must do” list for ages.
We reminisced about the fun we had had over the summer with the grandkids, then jumped on a bus to Animal Kingdom.
From Animal Kingdom, we transferred to a bus for Animal Kingdom Lodge. We had never seen this resort, and it was such a treat to finally have a chance to explore it! Even though the holiday decorations weren’t up, we had a wonderful time enjoying the view of the savannah.
Next, it was off to Magic Kingdom. When we arrived, we immediately jumped on a boat for Wilderness Lodge. Again, this was a resort we hadn’t had a chance to see, and we absolutely loved it! In some ways it reminded us of Disneyland’s Grand Californian with all the beautiful, rustic wood. It’s high on my list for our next deluxe stay.
By now we had visited 7 resorts, and all that was left were the monorail resorts at Magic Kingdom. So we took the boat back, and transferred to the monorail. Our first stop was Disney’s Contemporary Resort and we were so happy to find the gingerbread display open! As is customary, the display was inspired by the artwork of Mary Blair and had a “Frozen” motif. We were able to chat with a cast member who explained that each resort’s gingerbread is a slightly different recipe!
We purposely saved the best for last. We KNEW the gingerbread house was up at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, and we couldn’t wait to see it again. Although we hadn’t seen other resorts’ decorations on previous holiday trips, we ALWAYS made it a point to stop by the Grand Floridian to see this life-sized gingerbread house. (Read my article here.) The tree wasn’t up and the gingerbread shop wasn’t open, much to my husband’s dismay (he couldn’t buy the limited edition pin for the gingerbread house), but we were still able to breathe in the marvelous aroma. It made the holidays come to life!
From the Grand Floridian, we rode the monorail back to Magic Kingdom, and then boarded our bus back to our resort. Ten resorts in one day. It wasn’t the trip we planned, but magical nonetheless.
What’s your favorite resort for the holidays? Which ones are on your bucket list? Patricia at All for Dreams Travel can help you plan your perfect resort hopping trip – and her services are FREE! Happy Holidays!
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