Now that it is almost February, I thought it was about time to recap my holiday travels on the trusty blog. The fam and I spent Christmas 2019 with Mickey at Walt Disney World, a first for us. We’ve visited close to Christmas before but never right over the holiday itself. As expected, we were not alone in our journey to the Most Magical Place on Earth. I couldn’t even hazard a guess as to how many others joined us for the holiday. Christmas through New Year’s is the busiest time of the year to visit Disney and the lines for darn near everything proved that as fact. Despite the crowds and daily rain, we still had a fantastic time at the Mouse while switching up the holiday routine.
Hitting the highlights…
- New resort! We stayed at Disney’s Riviera Resort, the newest on-site Disney property. It officially opened on December 16th and we checked in on the 22nd. You could tell that the finishing touches were still being added but the resort was AMAZING! I can’t think of one negative thing about this one, other than the price. (No, I DO NOT travel for free just because I am a travel agent. I pay just like you do.) The theme, while subdued compared to some of the other resorts, felt refined and artistic, posh without being stuffy. I would stay there again in a heartbeat!
- Skyliner! The newest form of Disney resort transportation, the Disney Skyliner gondola system, blew me away. I had iffy expectations on this one, just not sure how well this new option would really work and how it would compare to the buses as far as speed. Let me just say, Disney needs to install these things everywhere! They are so fast and smooth. Despite being high in the sky (yikes for my fear of heights), the fantastic views took my mind off of swinging in the breeze. Speaking of breeze, I was shocked at how much airflow these truly had. Now what that will be like in July, I’m not sure, but they’ve definitely got my vote so far.
- Very Merry Christmas Party! We’ve done this before, last year in fact, and it is always a hit. This was the last party of the year so I was expecting mega crowds since the party was sold out. The weather was pretty cruddy that day though, which always helps cut crowds… Don’t be the one that stays in the hotel room in the rain, get out there and have fun with fewer people! Truth be told, I do the parties more for the special aspects than the attractions themselves. The parades, fireworks, free treats, and ride overlays are what I’m looking for. The new fireworks this year were stunning, filled with projections like the Happily Ever After regular Magic Kingdom nightly fireworks. These projections are breathtaking. Do yourself a favor and forget that anyone ever said to watch fireworks from outside of Magic Kingdom. Get in the park, find yourself a good spot in front of the Castle, and prepare to be amazed. You need to be in the park and in direct view of the Castle to really get the full effect of the show now. Anyone can watch big booming fireworks from a distance but what Disney pulls off in the park is unparalleled.
- Yuletide Fantasy Tour! Any behind the scenes Disney tour is going to knock your socks off. We’ve done several as well as private VIP tours and never come away feeling like we overpaid (and some of these are $$$). This particular tour took us to Holiday Services behind Magic Kingdom, where Disney stores all of the holiday decorations for the parks and even Disney Cruise! You have never seen the level of organization that exists in that building elsewhere on Earth. What seemed like bazillions of ornaments, all sorted by size, shape, theme, location to be used, etc. plus wreaths, garland, trees, lights… holy cow. Then we stopped by Disney Event Group where so much magic happens, I’m surprised it doesn’t spill right out the door. Disney Floral and Gifts lives there, the team that makes some amazing gift baskets and flowers for guests to the resort. I even saw the basket heading out to be delivered to Lisa Ling, who was to be a narrator for the Candlelight Processional in Epcot. Super fun! Costumes, rehearsals, weddings, and so much more get tweaked and crafted there too. We wrapped up at Amorette’s Patisserie at Disney Springs, a huge fave of mine, where we were taught how to properly decorate a gingerbread cookie. What a way to end a spectacular holiday tour! Delish!
- Rise of the Resistance! Anyone who knows me knows I am a gigantic Star Wars fan. Shoot, we flew out to Disneyland for the opening of Galaxy’s Edge there in June, went to Disney World for their Galaxy’s Edge opening in August, and got up at a ridiculous hour just to get to Hollywood Studios in time to get a Boarding Group for the newest addition to Galaxy’s Edge, the Rise of the Resistance attraction in December. Let me just say, that ride is so much more than just a ride. It is a full experience and OMG was I impressed. If you’re not a Star Wars fan, will you understand it? Obviously not as well as a fan, but the backstory is that you’re at a Rebel (aka the good guys) base on the planet of Batuu (the planet that Galaxy’s Edge is set in) and something has happened that means you need to get off planet ASAP. You go through the steps to get away and you’re captured by the First Order (aka the bad guys) and need to find a way to safety. High intensity, full of action, and loaded with some revolutionary tech, this attraction has raised the bar for theme park attractions up so far. Get up early, get that boarding group, and enjoy every minute. We were Boarding Group 66, ironic?
- The EPCOT Experience! EPCOT is changing, a major metamorphosis, over the next couple of years. New attractions, shows, restaurants, a complete redo for the front of the park, and so much more. There’s a new attraction of sorts at the old Odyssey pavilion in Epcot, between Test Track and Mexico, called the EPCOT Experience. This is a brief show about the changes coming to the park as also has displays related to the new attractions as well as some super cool posters of current and former attractions. Definitely worth a stop for Disney fans and those interested about the future of the park.
- When money is no object?! During the Yuletide Tour, we were treated to seeing what you can get at Disney when money is no object. Now listen, in my profession, I get asked if Disney can do all kinds of things and my response is generally ‘no’ — not because they can’t or won’t but because you would likely laugh in my face if I told you cost. Can characters meet me when I get off the plane? Tuck my kids into bed? Let’s just say, sure they can. If you have the money, Disney will make it happen. Back to that tour, we saw where a ridiculously wealthy family had a private event created for just for them with every little detail completely customized. This family apparently has these events every year or two and we’re talking everything from customized wraps on the buses that transport them around to characters created from scratch just for them, including the costumes! Set pieces, special food, brand new costumes for the service staff, closing parks early just for them, they’ve done it all. So I guess when your budget has the flexibility to throw in a couple/few commas for some add-ons like this, Disney Event Group will make it happen.
Feeling a little jelly? I was too. Good grief, can you even imagine having Disney setup a whole team just to create an event like that for your family? Wowza. And no, travel agents don’t get anything free like that either. What a way to wrap up the trip! We finished the tour, hit Epcot again for lunch and a few more snacks, and then we were on the road again. After an overnight at Disney’s Hilton Head resort (LOVE that place!), we were navigating the ever-crowded I-95 on the way home. I will say, anyone that drives to Disney using I-95N/S, seriously consider forcing your GPS to take you off the interstate and through more local roads in North and South Carolina and Georgia. We’ve been doing this a lot when driving, as long as it doesn’t add a huge amount of time to the overall travel, and our trips have been a lot more pleasant. The traffic on I-95 can be so awful and filled with accidents, that the local roads with their cotton fields and glimpses into the past are a great alternative. If nothing else, you’ll end up with some interesting things to talk about based on what you see along the way. It’s not always about the destination…
Until next time!