There’s no question about it, Disney does the holidays right. Everywhere you look, there are sparkling lights and decorations, sweet wintertime treats, and lots and lots, of people. These last two weeks of the year are the busiest time to be at Disney World, but I have learned a few tricks over the years to keep everyone smiling through the season. Today, we’re sharing advice for experiencing the Festival of Seasons and weathering crowds during construction at Downtown Disney.
The Festival of Seasons is Downtown Disney’s holiday celebration, going on now through Dec. 29. The Marketplace is draped in glittering garlands and dressed with festive florals. On select nights from 6 to 10 p.m., the Snow Drifters Carolers roam the West Side spreading holiday cheer through song, while their counterparts, the Holiday All-Star Carolers, entertain throughout the rest of Downtown Disney with rousing holiday tunes. Also on select evenings, towering toy soldiers and snowflakes stroll throughout the Marketplace greeting guests as they celebrate the season.
I love strolling through the Marketplace taking in the sights and sounds of the holidays before getting down to the main event: shopping. After stopping by the Ghiradelli store for a sample of delicious peppermint bark, I always head to Marketplace Fun Finds, located near Earl of Sandwich. This unique little shop has a collection of discounted merchandise, including everything from clothing to housewares and small souvenirs that make perfect stocking stuffers! I find it’s always best to go with a plan, especially during the busy holiday season, so I always have my list ready when I go to shop. There are great little shops throughout Downtown Disney, but for one-stop shopping, World of Disney is the place to go! The massive store can be a bit overwhelming and crowded, so I always try to find a cast member if I’m looking for specific items, instead of wandering around the store. For you fellow shopping fanatics, we recommend arriving when Downtown Disney opens for the fewest crowds and the best chances of finding that perfect something.
Santa Claus is taking requests and posing for pictures at his Chalet in the Downtown Disney Marketplace, between Ghirardelli and World of Disney. To save you from waiting in a line, Disney is using a pager system (similar to waiting for a table in a restaurant) for this special meet-and-greet. Pick up a pager, go do some shopping, and when the pager buzzes, return within 10 minutes (don’t wander too far!) to join a short line to meet Santa. They do run out of pagers, so if this is a priority for your family, stop by early in the day, or check back often (every 45 minutes or so) to get your pager.
Santa Claus will not be doing meet-and-greets on Dec. 24 or 25 as he will be quite busy, of course. Santa Goofy is helping out Santa this year, greeting kids while Santa rests from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. Meet and greet times are 12 to 9:30 p.m. daily. (Here is where else you can meet Santa Claus at Disney World and the other Orlando theme parks.)
Despite holiday crowds, construction in and around the Downtown Disney area continues on, which can be quite overwhelming at times, particularly driving or trying to navigate tight corridors between construction walls. The parking structure is now partially open, which does alleviate some parking stress, but construction and heavy crowds can bring out the Scrooge in some people. You will likely wait in line for pretty much everything, including crossing the street. Be patient and pay attention to road signs and the directions of cast members. When walking through the area, stay to the right and watch out for small children and strollers!
Dealing with construction in addition to the holiday crowds can be stressful, but I think it will be well worth it when the revamped Disney Springs is complete with exciting new experiences, shopping, and restaurants. I can’t wait to try the Boathouse and Morimoto Asia by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto! In the meantime, there is plenty of holiday magic to enjoy at Downtown Disney this season.