So maybe you’re one of our lucky families who have surprised your kiddos with a trip to Disneyland or Walt Disney World under the tree! Congratulations! So then let’s say you’ve packed and driven or plane-ridden or roller-skated all the way to Disney. Then you see crowds like this:
Oh yes, Virginia, they do exist. That IS much like the Christmas-thru-New Years crowds at the Disney parks. So now what? Yes, Disney is magical, but for those introverts in your family, families with special needs children who don’t do well in crowds for prolonged periods (don’t stress, we’re that family too!), or families with disabilities that may not be able to stand for extra long periods of time, don’t fret! There are things to do outside the parks that are just as magical that are not quite as crowded! Here are a few ideas:
GO TO DISNEY SPRINGS
- Go to Disney Springs! (Formerly Downtown Disney.) Why? Why not! The shopping, dining, and entertainment hub offers more than your average mall. There is truly something for everyone!
- A nightly tree lighting ceremony at the Once Upon a Toy fountain play area, along with a holiday-themed DJ dance party with games and activities
- Santa’s Chalet! Meet and take a keepsake photo with Santa Claus from November 11 through December 24, 2016; and with Santa Goofy from December 25 through December 30, 2016. In the past, this has been in their cottage across from Ghiradelli’s Ice Cream and Chocolate shop (near World of Disney). (Ghiradelli’s – another reason!) This meet & greet lets you check in and receive a pager until it’s your turn which is FABULOUS. They meet from noon until 10:00 pm daily.
- Live entertainment, including toy solider and snowflake stilt walkers, pop carolers, acapella groups and more—6:00 PM to 10:00 PM from November 11 through January 8, 2017
- Special performances celebrating Kwanza on Waterside Stage in the Marketplace on December 26 and December 27, 2016
- Songs and stories in honor of Hanukkah at Waterview Park in The Landing, with evening performances from December 24 through January 1, 2017.
- The Tree Trail: A decked out trail near the Marketplace bus loop with custom-decorated holiday trees—all centered around a different Disney theme
- The Lego store with thousands of Legos outside to play with, AND a small structure outside to play on as well.
- The Starbright Holiday Show: Disney introduces innovative entertainment that adds a dash of techno-savvy magic to its world-renowned spectaculars. Kids of all ages will be dazzled by the brilliant flurry of 300 twinkling show drones flying in formation to an amazing orchestration of classic holiday music. Watch as the night skies are set ablaze with colorful Christmas trees, peace-loving doves and more!Featuring never-before-seen synchronized light “choreography,” Starbright Holidays – An Intel Collaboration is the first show of its kind and invites Guests to witness innovative Disney storytelling at its brightest. Gaze upward, make a wish and watch the wizardry come to life! Nightly shows run from November 20, 2016 to January 8, 2017 at 7:00 PM and 8:30 PM
Take a sneak peek here:
- Take a ride! The monorail will likely be super busy the entire week. But you could ride it to each of the hotel stops on the track to sight-see. You could try a boat ride from the Magic Kingdom to Ft. Wilderness, Contemporary, or even from Hollywood Studios to Boardwalk. You can also cruise back and forth from Disney Springs to Port Orleans – Riverside.
- You can also watch the fireworks at Magic Kingdom from the Ticket and Transportation Center boat dock (the music is piped in) nightly, as well as from the Grand Floridian boat dock.
- If you drove in, about 15 -20 minutes south, check out The Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve. There is a 2.5 mile trail where you can observe nature, plants, and animals. It’s open from 9 am – 5 pm daily November through March, and open Monday through Friday the remainder of the year (excluding holidays). It’s free to visit and walk the trails, but donations are accepted. You can call ahead to verify they are open. (407) 935-0002.
- Head to Celebration, FL. This tiny town built and designed by Walt himself is practically a step back in time! You can enjoy free nightly Snow Falls at 6, 7, 8 and 9 PM, photos with Santa, and Strolling Holiday Carolers. There’s also an outdoor skating rink for an additional charge.
A Celebration tradition! Join Celebration Town Center as they kick off 18th Annual Now Snowing event with a Tree Lighting Ceremony on November 26th from 5:30-9 PM. This special tree lighting event will feature live music, a special entrance by Santa Claus himself, and family fun for everyone.
Now Snowing, Central Florida’s original and premier “Snowing” event, offers a new snowfall program, an ice rink and a schedule filled with surprises. Now Snowing is a month long Winter Wonderland Spectacular featuring strolling Charles Dickens Carolers, community performers, photos with Santa, horse drawn carriage rides, the Celebration Express train, and nightly snowfall at 6:00, 7:00, 8:00 and 9:00 PM.
The ice rink will be open daily from 4:00-10:00 PM through January 1st – Make sure to ask about Celebration Resident Skate Passes or multiple-day skate passes for guests (after November 26th )
- Your own resort will have daily activities for you each day. Every resort has a nightly movie (Disney movie, of course), and some resorts offer other activities in kids’ clubs. When you check in, your room should have an activities schedule for the week, or you can ask at the front desk.
- Have some downtime in the pool. With everyone else enjoying park time, especially mid-day, you should have the perfect time to go for a dip in the year-round-heated pools.
GO TO SOMEONE ELSE’S HOME (VISITING OTHER RESORTS):
If you’re staying on property, check out other Disney resorts for free. Here’s what you can catch.
- Grand Floridian – a 16 foot tall gingerbread house and gorgeous Victorian decor sit in the lobby and smaller versions are available to purchase.
- (and 17) Wilderness Lodge – A 60 feet tall tree fills the lobby (it takes 18 hours to put up!) Also once there, you can spend an evening with Chip & Dale at Chip & Dale’s Campfire Sing Along. Just take a purple trailresort bus (internal, and just stays inside the property.) It starts about 7:30 at night, and has a movie following. You can also make smores at the campfire. Smores ingredients can be purchased onsite OR brought in. You can also take in (for an additional cost) a beautiful carriage ride around either Wilderness Lodge OR Grand Floridian Resort.
- Beach Club – View a ton of decorations, including a large edible carousel. (Just because you CAN eat it doesn’t mean they’ll let you!)
- Yacht Club – Similar to Beach Club, but their edible decor includes a train (See above! lol!)
- Boardwalk Inn – An edible, miniature version of Atlantic City, complete with Ferris wheel, carousel, and beach sits in the lobby alongside other seasonal decorations. Because the Boardwalk is right next to EPCOT, you can catch part of the 9:00 fireworks show over the trees from the bridge near the back entrance of the park. You can also watch the street performers, engage in hula hooping, OR purchase snacks or rent surrey bikes… lots of options, but it’s a great place to people watch!
- Animal Kingdom Lodge – This beautiful resort is one of my favorites. Beautiful and rustic inside, gorgeous resort is made even more beautiful with a big tree with themed ornaments decorating it. But my favorite part is the animals wandering onsite. This is the resort I’ve stayed at most, and I love that through every window you are likely to see a host of wild animals. They wander around onsite, and you are free to take as many pictures as you like. Just find a window or observation deck and peacefully look to your heart’s content! Remember to be kind to the animals, as you are visiting them in their home,
- The Contemporary Resort – a holiday village made of gingerbread and chocolate is on display near the monorail platform.
And if you want to just relax and take a minute to yourself? You can also take in some of the activities available year-round to Disney resort guests:
- At Port Orleans-Riverside, you can go cane pole fishing for under $5 per hour, or $9 per day per pole. (Ask for the family special pricing.) You can also rent watercraft if you like.
- Have a Hidden Mickey Scavenger Hunt. A Hidden Mickey is a silhouette of the large circle and ears of Mickey and you can find them just about everywhere you look! Go to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and pick up a self-guided Hidden Mickey Hunt sheet at the front desk. It’s free! Then explore the hotel for Mickey. And while you’re searching, head down to Bay Lake and see the Fire Rock Geyser that erupts on the hour!
So that’s it! The top 25 things to do in and around Disney property that will help the introvert in you stay sane. Let me know which one is your favorite!