Christmas Holidays at the Disney World Resorts…Where to Find the FREE Stuff!

While the Christmas holidays are the busiest time to visit Disney World, this time of year, with music, entertainment and fantastic decorations, is also the most beautiful. You don’t need park tickets to enjoy resort hopping and free fun. So where should you go and what should you do for free?

General Resorts

Holiday Performances – Choirs, from elementary and middle school through retirement ages, are frequent presences in the resort lobbies singing holiday tunes.  Stop and sing along with a few songs.

Christmas entertainment Disney World resorts

Treats on Christmas Day – For the past several years on Christmas day, Deluxe and Moderate Resorts offered Snickerdoodle cookies and lemonade in the lobby. These were the same kind of cookies given out at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Parties, and let me tell you, they were yummy. Looking for a Christmas day activity in Orlando without standing in line up to your elbows with thousands of people? Resort hop, and be sure to stop in the lobby.

free Christmas snacks at Disney World

Smores – Many of the resorts now have fire pits where they had out free marshmallows and fire sticks. Even in the summer whine’s hot, my sons thought this was pretty fun, so it’s got to be even better in cold weather. Check with your resort to see if there is a fire and ask about start time.

making marshmallows at Disney World Resort

Free Snack Samples – Many resorts are now offering cupcakes and assorted sugary goodies in their gift shops, kept in refrigerated cases for freshness. Check the top of the snack case for occasional free samples like cookies and fudge.

Window Shopping – There may be no better time to “window shop” at the resorts than Christmas. The decorations are amazing and the music is magical. It will be very hard to keep that Visa in your pocket though, so stay strong. Once you see some of the prices on ornaments, you may have reason to fight the urge to spend.

Christmas shopping at Disney resorts

Beach & Yacht Club Resorts

Beach & Yacht Club Villas –  You can see the “Holiday Village” in the resort lobby, which was created by Cast Members, there’s a miniature train that makes its way through a quaint village over to a sugar rock mountain.

The Edible Carousel – It’s pretty amazing to see the life-size, edible spinning Holiday Carousel, and 2014 will mark 15 years the carousel has been created. Be on the lookout for magical surprises and hidden Mickey’s hiding in the carousel’s décor.

Boardwalk Resort

The Holiday Gazebo  – Gaze up at this merry gazebo in the lobby at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort and examine a scene made entirely out of gingerbread and chocolate. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for Hidden Mickeys just waiting to be discovered.

Stitch’s Bakery Store Front  – Explore a Stitch-sized replica of the Boardwalk Bakery’s store front in the lobby. See if you can spy Lilo as Cast Members create gingerbread houses right in front of you.

The Stitch Display contains:

  • 50 pounds of Icing
  • 400 gum paste and sugar flowers
  • 300 pounds of chocolate
  • Over 2000 gingerbread pieces
  • 15 hidden Mickeys

While you are at this resort, you really need to take your group to get one of these desserts. It’s a true experience!

Contemporary Resort

Gingerbread Holiday Tree  – On the Grand Canyon Concourse, there is a a gigantic gingerbread holiday tree decorated with ornaments, candy canes and presents. Up until 2013, this tree was themed with Mary Blair’s Small World figures, but in 2014, Disney has (totally rammed Frozen down our throats) created a Frozen-themed tree for the Contemporary. Disney Characters have been known to pose here for photos, and if they are no where to be seen while you are there, you can snap your own photo in front of a holiday background near the tree.

The 2014 tree was inspired by Mary Blair’s “small world” figures and Disney’s animated movie”Frozen” and created by the Contemporary Resort Bakery Team. Thanks to WDW Shutterbug for the stats and photo.

  • 311 lbs. honey
  • 514 lbs. flour
  • 212 eggs
  • 67 lbs. spices
  • 35 lbs. sugar syrup
  • 222 lbs. icing
  • 433 lbs. chocolate
  • 1500 gingerbread shingles
  • and 14 hidden Olafs

See the Christmas Tree – Outside the resort, don’t miss the 70-foot-tall Christmas tree at the resort’s main lobby entrance, featuring nearly 36,000 white LED lights. Take a stroll outside; kids love to stand beside this tree in amazement of the truly immense size, and you’ll be impressed by the size as well.

Mickey Wreath – One of my very favorite Disney Christmas decorations has to be the Mickey Mouse wreath at the Contemporary. This wreath is four stories tall, measuring 25 feet in diameter and has 18 feet elliptical mouse ears. As you approach the Contemporary in the monorail from the Magic Kingdom, it lights up the night.

Gingerbread Pin Signings – By  the gingerbread tree in years past, visitors have been offered opportunities to meet the Disney chefs behind some of Walt Disney World’s best holiday gingerbread creations. For 2013, the chefs were signing Gingerbread Trading Pins. Pastry chef Jeff Barnes was at the Contemporary Resort in 2013 on November 15th from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. I suggest you call the resort to see if any signings will take place this year. With the new Frozen theme, I would highly suspect there will be Frozen gingerbread-themed pins available.

Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

Gingerbread House – In what may be the most famous of any Christmas decoration on WDW property, there is a life-size gingerbread house built in the Grand lobby during the holidays. 2014 is the 16th anniversary of the gingerbread house, which is 16 feet high and 17 feet wide, taking six men almost 10 days to create.

Grand-Floridian-Christmas-Gingerbread-House-

What sort of ingredients are used to make this fabulous  once-a-year holiday creation?

  • 1050 of honey

  • 140 pints of egg whites

  • 700 pounds of chocolate

  • 800 pounds of flour

  • 35 pounds of spices

The Tree! – Decorated with a Victorian theme, you have got to see the bird cages, intertwined swans, and lots of amazing golden-colored ornaments adorning this humongous Christmas tree. Assembled in just one night while guests sleep, the tree is four stories tall (40 feet) and sparkles with 45,000 lights.

Meet Holiday Minnie & Mickey – Mickey and Minnie Mouse, dressed in their Christmas finest, arrive to take photos in front of the grand Christmas tree. Lines are not that long, so bring your camera and ask a Cast Member to snap a shot of the whole family.  This would make a fabulous Christmas card photo.

free picture of Minnie and Mickey at Disney World

Hear Some Tunes – Beginning mid-afternoon, you will hear live music as soon as you walk into the lobby. Starting around 3 p.m., a pianist starts playing and alternates with an equally talented orchestra until almost 10 p.m. There is no better place in all of WDW to hear live musicians performing mostly Disney themed tunes, all for free. The orchestra is called the “Grand Floridian Society Orchestra.”

Free music at the Grand Floridian Resort

If you take a walk around toward the Polynesian Village, the beach area here is lovely. Take a seat or a swing and enjoy the surroundings.

Disney World Polynesian Village beach

Wilderness Lodge

Enjoy the Christmas Tree –  When the holiday season rolls around, a massive Christmas tree is erected in the center of the lobby. PhotoPass photographers are available to snap your picture, or you can just take your own photo.

Meet Holiday Minnie & Mickey – Dressed in their Christmas finest, our favorite Disney couple arrives to take photos by the “indoor stream.” Lines are not that long, so bring your camera and ask a Cast Member to snap a shot of the whole family.

Wilderness Lodge Christmas tree

Disney World Wilderness Lodge Christmas decorations

Wilderness Lodge indoor lobby stream

As a FREE bonus, we have some bonus information on what to do at Downtown Disney, because entertainment is free there as well.

Bonus- Disney Springs

Enjoy Some Live Music – With restaurants like House of Blues, Paradiso 37, Raglan Road, there is no shortage of Downtown Disney music floating over the crowds. Even the new bowling alley, called Splittsville Luxury Lanes, frequently has outdoor musicians.

street performers at Disney SpringsJPG

Festival of the Seasons  – Enjoy Downtown Disney holiday entertainment (November 15 – December 29 for 2013) plus holiday sights and sounds.  Live Christmas entertainment includes carolers, Latin, jazz and pop performances of cherished holiday songs, costumed stilt walkers, street performers, and a lively holiday dance party with deejay.

Festival of the Seasons  – (November 14 – December 29 for 2014) Speaking of free live shows, Disney has performers walking around showing off everything from acrobatics and magic to theater. Live mini-concerts pop up in various places throughout the Downtown Disney area. Our family has watched Christmas Soldiers on stilts dance above our heads, had our photos taken with mime-type performers, and listened to some of the best singers and guitar players we’ve ever heard perform live. Often there are street performers like jugglers, comedians, fire-eaters, and jazz ensembles in the evenings. Find a spot with a good view and enjoy the show.

Disney Springs Festival of the Season Christmas

Stop the family for a photo.

Disney Springs

Lego Store – Stop by and play with Legos, or take your picture with many of the huge Lego decorations.

Downtown Disney Springs Lego store free activities

There are some lovely sunsets at Disney Springs, which are always free.

Downtown Disney Springs lake sunset

Visit with Santa – During the Downtown Disney Festival of the Seasons, you can visit with Santa and have your picture taken. Santa’s cottage is typically located in-between The World of Disney Store and Arribas Brothers and Basin.

Disney Springs free Santa Photos

After Santa heads back to the North Pole, then Goofy takes over for photos. Times may vary, so stop by what was formerly Santa’s Chalet to see when Goofy will be available.

Goofy's chalet at Disney Springs

See a Show– Look for an outdoor stage across from The World of Disney store. There is a large amount of seating, which is more comfortable in winter because you will be seated in direct sun light. This can be a great place to rest weary feet. This stage is used as a performance area for middle through high school and college bands playing everything from jazz and pop to holiday tunes. You’ll see ballet dancers, dance teams, and hear choirs singing and dancing their way through every genre of music imaginable. Disney has very high standards for acceptance as guest performers, so sit back and enjoy the free show.

 

Christmas is one of the busiest times at Walt Disney World, but it is stunningly beautiful. When we can get to Orlando during the holidays, my family spends a lot of time wandering the resorts and gift shops, away from the huge crowds and long waits at the theme parks. Roller coaster rides are great, but taking in the holiday sights and sounds is equally as memorable.

Cjristmas decorations at Disney World

plan a Christmas Disney vacation

Christmas Mickey Mouse

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you on the monorail, traveling toward gift shops filled with Christmas merchandise…

 

To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.

Amanda Major Cheapskate Princess

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Disney’s Cheapskate Princess

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Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals!

Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Mike Ellis, our Disney Vacation Planner with Pixie Vacations.

Call Mike at 919-606-6725 or e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.

Amanda Major CheapskatePrincess.comAmanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.

Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast. 

We hope we can help save you some money too. Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Travel Consultant with Pixie Vacations, Mike Ellis. You can also e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.

Understanding Disney Park Closure Phases: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

Disney theme park closure phase

There are a LOT of people taking vacations to Disney parks, which these days can pretty much be year ’round. There seem to be no “down” times to go to Disney with short lines and low crowds like in years past. And during holidays, things can be just downright crazy! If you are one of those people planning a trip to Disney, you need to be aware that all these visitors in one place at one time can affect your vacation in more ways than you may realize.

Walt Disney World will limit the amount of people they allow through the gates so guests have more fun and stay safe. What happens if you are vacationing during these crowd-intense times? Can you get shut out of the theme parks?

Use this link for more Cheapskate Guides!

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Parking Lots Closing

The first thing to close when crowd attendance levels start to peak will be the Disney parking lots, because they generally reach capacity levels before the parks start closure procedures. At this point, your car may be diverted to an alternate parking lot. You will be provided bus transportation back to the park with the closed parking lot, provided that park is still open to visitors.

Time = Money. Driving over to another parking lot will take a lot of time, with traffic moving slowly, bumper to bumper. You will use up time getting to the new parking lot, plus time to get to your destination. When parking has reached the point of diversion, your day is going to get off to a slower start. 

Parks Closing

Now remember that the phrase “park closure” does not mean Cast Members simply shut the gates immediately; there are levels of closures.

Every single Disney World theme parks has reached a level of closure at some point, even if it was a lower level, and predictably because of its popularity, Magic Kingdom is the most likely to start closure procedures based on high crowd levels.

Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom are less likely to reach closure phases, but it is definitely possible because they are smaller parks with less standing around room than Magic Kingdom.

Epcot has massive amounts of space, so it’s less likely to close than the other three parks.

Even Disney’s water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, can close due to high crowd levels, which can occur during Easter holidays and the week of July 4th.

“Best of the Best” Walt Disney World Freebies

Disney World park closure phases

Phases for Closure

The Disney Company does not currently publish any specific information regarding park closure phases. What we assume about closure phases can change at any time with no notice to anyone, so this is our best guess guide. 

“Closure phases” are initiated by Disney to restrict the amount of guests coming into theme parks. There are four phases to closures. These closure phases also may not last all day long. If enough guests leave mid-afternoon or in the evening, closure restrictions can be listed and more guest will be permitted entry. 

Phase One

Guests allowed to enter:

  • Annual Passholders
  • Multi-day or multi-park tickets holders
  • Guests staying on Disney Resort property
  • Guests re-entering the same park that day
  • Guests who entered another park that day (park hoppers)
  • Guests with in-park reservations or appointments
  • Guests arriving using Disney transportation rather than personal transportation

Guests not allowed to enter:

  • Visitors with no park tickets
  • Visitors with one-day, single-park tickets
  • Visitors intending to use Cast Member passes

Phase Two

The only guests allowed through the turnstiles and into the parking lots are:

  • Annual Passholders
  • Guests staying on Disney Resort property
  • Guests re-entering the same park that day
  • Guests who entered another park that day (park hoppers)
  • Guests with in-park reservations or appointments
  • Guests arriving using Disney transportation rather than personal transportation

Guests not allowed to enter:

  • Visitors with no park tickets
  • Visitors with one-day, single-park tickets
  • Multi-day or multi-park tickets holders
  • Visitors intending to use Cast Member passes

Phase Three

The only visitors allowed through the turnstiles and into the parking lots now:

  • Annual Passholders
  • Guests staying at a Disney Resort
  • Guests with in-park reservations or appointments

Phase Four

The theme park and the parking lot is now closed to all arriving guests. You can assume the entire world is now standing inside that park. 

5 Steps for Planning a Disney Vacation: A Cheapskate Princess Guide*

crowds during holidays at Disney World

How Can You Ensure You Get In?

1. Scheduling

So we really love celebrating holidays at Disney World, with all the decorations, music, and special fireworks. But traveling during really busy times means long lines, people standing elbow to elbow, waiting in traffic, etc.  Our first suggestion to beat the huge crowds is simply to avoid taking vacations during major holidays like Easter, July 4th,  and the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Schedule a trip close to a holiday, but not too close, and crowd levels will be lower and more manageable, way below the point of initiating closure phases.

Use this guide: Best Times to Visit Walt Disney World: A Cheapskate Princess Guide*

2. Arrive at the Parks Early

If you want to secure a parking spot and get yourself through the park turnstiles, you need to get an early start.  Standing around before the park opens will be way better than sitting in a car stuck in traffic later on, hoping you don’t get directed to a different parking lot.

Best Times to Visit Walt Disney World: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

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3. Stay on Resort Property

Booking your stay on resort property has several advantages, even if you pay more for this privilege.

By waking up already located on Disney property, you can utilize Disney resort transportation. Guests arriving using Disney transportation rather than personal transportation are allowed through the turnstiles through a level two closure. 

Disney Resorts guarantee their guests access to a Disney World theme park. However, just because you are guaranteed to get into a park does not mean you will be able to get into the specific park that you want to visit. And just because you get in, standing side by side with all those people, this does not ensure you’ll enjoy the low-stress holiday you were looking forward to enjoying (see scheduling tip #1.)

Where to stay? Use this guide: *Differences in the Disney World Resort Levels: A Cheapskate Guide

4. Make In-Park Reservations or Appointments

Guests with in-park reservations get into the parks through a level three closure, so save up your money and schedule a special event or meal just to be sure. 

You can start making ADRs (Advanced Dining Reservations) 180 days in advance of your trip. This is very important as dining reservations fill up fast during holiday seasons. Use this guide: Disney World Advanced Dining Reservations: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

Surviving Disney World at Christmas: A Cheapskate Princess Guide*

 

 

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you considering what you and the fam. are doing during Christmas vacation…

To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.

Amanda Major Cheapskate Princess

.

Disney’s Cheapskate Princess

.

Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals!

Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Mike Ellis, our Disney Vacation Planner with Pixie Vacations.

Call Mike at 919-606-6725 or e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.

Amanda Major CheapskatePrincess.comAmanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.

Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast. 

We hope we can help save you some money too. Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Travel Consultant with Pixie Vacations, Mike Ellis. You can also e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.