“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…” While that can be said most everywhere around WDW this time of year, the holidays are most apparent at one location that keeps us in the Christmas spirit all year long: Downtown Disney. Thanks to year-round holiday shop, the 12 Days of Christmas, and snow-covered seasonal photo-ops, you could think it was December 25th on any of the other 364 days of the year while in the Downtown Disney Marketplace. However, one store simply isn’t enough this celebratory time of year, so holiday cheer is found Downtown-wide through the Festival of the Seasons!
The Festival of the Seasons brings together a multitude of treats for the senses as you stroll along to shop, have a meal or take in a show. Whether you appreciate holiday treats, festive music or the twinkling of merry lights, Downtown Disney has your bases covered! It creates an experience so immersive that you would have to be pure Scrooge, to not be moved into a cheery holiday disposition.
There are no ‘Bah Humbug’ Scrooges to be found at Downtown Disney! Rather, there is the big man in red himself, Santa Claus! Santa is available daily in his cozy chalet to visit with young and old alike! And even better, visits with Santa are completely free and you are able to take pictures with your own camera or pose for Photopass photographers! And, when Santa has to depart on December 24 for last minute delivery preparations, Santa Goofy will be in his place for even more special holiday photo memories! Lines for Santa have been long during some of the busiest times but move steadily. If you prefer to have a shorter wait time, aim to get in line a few minutes before he first arrives or during one of his break times. Be mindful of his hours so that you do not get in line right before a break is due to begin!
While waiting for Santa, a great way to pass the time is by enjoying a delicious holiday snack! It’s no surprise that Disney has outdone itself with the variety of treats available. Goofy’s Candy Company in the Marketplace and Candy Cauldron on the West Side are brimming with holiday-themed candy apples, cookies and gingerbread to snack on while strolling or to bring home. For a free treat, Ghiradelli is handing out seasonal samples of peppermint bark to tempt customers into purchasing larger assortments of chocolates as holiday presents. Or, if you prefer a more substantial seasonal meal, nothing can surpass the delectable Holiday Turkey at Earl of Sandwich. While more of a Thanksgiving taste, demand lets this one linger through Christmas to give everyone a chance to experience the warm turkey, cranberry and stuffing all on a toasted Earl’s bun. That is one sandwich that is definitely worth braving the lines at Earl of Sandwich, which are longer than those for Santa at peak times! If the holidays mean soup and a sandwich for you, it is definitely recommended that you plan your meals at off-hours!
Having a full tummy is a necessity to face the holiday crowds at Downtown Disney. While they are slim first thing in the morning, the draw of the stores and the magic of the evening twinkling lights on the trees make the area fill closer to capacity as the day goes on. If you have the option of using Disney bus transportation to make it down there, it would be highly recommended that you do so! The lots at Downtown Disney fill up quickly and there is no quicker way to lose your holiday spirit than to spend 45 minutes circling the parking lot looking for a space with scores of other drivers doing the same! Downtown Disney is in high demand in the weeks before Christmas for vacationers and locals alike thanks to the late shopping hours and wide variety of merchandise. While the stores tend to be busy year-round, especially World of Disney and the Lego store, they become even more of a draw around Christmas. A less crowded and blissfully pampering stop on your shopping trip should be Basin, where you can spoil yourself with complimentary samples of their indulgent hand scrubs while picking out cute holiday soaps as perfect stocking stuffers!
If the thought of the shopping crowds make you want to avoid Downtown Disney at all costs, don’t be frightened away!
There are plenty of non-shopping activities that can make a holiday visit worthwhile. A simple stroll to enjoy the carols playing over the loud speaker is an enjoyable way to pass the time. Or, rest your weary feet at the main stage across from World of Disney to enjoy visiting dancers, singers and other performers from around the country as they provide live entertainment. At night, the stage is home to a fun dance party that will have everyone joining in the fun! And as you meander down towards Pleasure Island and the West Side, there is an assortment of live musicians that will wow you with their talents.
Downtown Disney is a year-round destination to enjoy the best that Disney has to offer without stepping foot in one of the parks and the Festival of the Seasons makes it a great location to do the same with some extra holiday flair! Try to schedule a visit before the New Year if you can. But if you can’t, remember that the Disney Days of Christmas and holiday scenes are there year round to keep you in the Christmas spirit, even if you are visiting in August!