Melissa is a self proclaimed "Disney enthusiast" who started Rolling with the Magic to share her experiences at the Disney Parks from a perspective of a wheelchair user. She hopes her blog can provide the tips and advice you need to visit Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Disney Cruise line with physical limitations.
The holidays are the perfect time to visit the Walt Disney World parks and resorts. There are decorations everywhere, special events, and Santa even makes an appearance! It’s all Disney magic at its finest. We love visiting during this time of year. And the great news is everything is wheelchair accessible!
I have been visiting the Disney Parks my entire life. Later in life, those visits were in my wheelchair. But Disney is still a magical experience, no matter your ability. Here’s what you can expect plus a few tips.
Magic Kingdom Park
Visiting the Magic Kingdom is always magical. But during the holidays, that magic is magnified! And it starts before you even enter the park. The train station is decorated and a giant Mickey ornament made from poinsettias is the perfect spot for a family photo. As you enter the park, you are greeted by toy soldiers, candy canes, and a magnificent Christmas tree.
As you make your way down Main Street, U.S.A you can help but be in awe of the giant wreaths, garland, and Mickey wreaths on the light posts. It’s beautiful both day and night so make sure you see it at different times.
The Jingle Cruise also returns this holiday season. The Jungle Cruise is transformed with festive decor in the attraction queue and boathouse, holiday names for the Jungle Cruise boats and a slew of seasonal jokes from the Skippers to their passengers. This attraction is great because you don’t have to transfer from your wheelchair to experience it. You can find information on the wheelchair accessibility of the Jungle Cruise here. It’s a must do!
As the sun starts to set, the real magic begins. During a Frozen Holiday Wish, Elsa will transform Cinderella Castle into an ice palace. Photos can’t really do it justice. The castle looks amazing lit up for the holidays! Check the times guide or the My Disney Experience app for show times.
There are not designated wheelchair viewing areas for Frozen Holiday Wish. Or the fireworks if you stick around for those. Make sure to get there early to get a spot that works best for you. I like pulling up next to the fence along the garden areas in the plaza in front of the castle. It puts enough distance between you and the people standing so you can see.
Also during the holiday season you can attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This is a separate ticketed event that takes place at 7:00 pm on November 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 26 and 28 and December 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21 and 22. There is a special parade, fireworks, character meet and greets, and more. You can find more information here.
There is wheelchair seating for the parade during the party on Main Street, in front of Cinderella Castle, and in Liberty Square. The first parade is usually the most crowded so if you can catch the second viewing. But make sure you get there early because the wheelchair seating can fill up fast. If it’s full, watch the parade from Frontierland. It’s easier to grab a spot there than on Main Street, U.S.A.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Last year saw the debut of Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The show returns November 9 and features lots of Disney characters including the stars of Prep and Landing. The show is filled with holiday music, special effects, and fireworks. For added fun and VIP viewing, you can also attend the Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam! Holiday Party for an added fee.
Also at Hollywood Studios:
- Sunset Seasons Greetings – This new holiday experience features spectacular projections of Mickey, Minnie and other beloved Disney characters sharing their favorite Christmas stories as a snowy Sunset Boulevard twinkles with stunning holiday decorations. Billboards along Sunset Boulevard will come to life and projections will transform the Hollywood Tower Hotel into scenes of the season. This runs all night and will be easy for wheelchair users to check out from different parts of Sunset Boulevard.
- New Holiday Décor around Echo Lake – Extra-large ornaments, colorful garlands and a giant Christmas tree centered on the water will make Echo Lake the merriest of places this holiday season. Dinosaur Gertie will also be wearing a dino-sized Santa hat!
- ‘For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration’ – Holiday fun continues at the Hyperion Theater as Anna, Elsa and Kristoff welcome Olaf to this popular sing-along celebration. Just for the holidays, the show will include, all-new songs from Disney’s new animated short “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.” Wheelchair seating is available inside the theater.
- Minnie’s Holiday Dine at Hollywood and Vine – Meet Minnie, Mickey, Daisy, Donald and Goofy for lunch and dinner celebrations centered on seasonal deliciousness. From November 6 to January 7, Minnie and pals will be in their holiday finest. To make a reservation, check availability and book online at DisneyWorld.com/dining or call (407) WDW-DINE.
- Santa Claus returns to the Once Upon a Time shop November 9 to December 24 – Even if you don’t remember meeting Santa at a department store, you’ll love the beautiful and vintage setting of the Once Upon a Time shop. Santa Goofy will take over December 25-31 after Old Saint Nick returns to the North Pole.
Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam! is a fun show but can be hard for wheelchair users to see. There is no dedicated seating so you need to get there early to get a good spot. One option is to attend the Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam! Holiday Party so you can get reserved seating. If the show is important to you it is worth the extra cost. If you don’t want to spend the extra cash, grab a spot in front of the fencing across from the Chinese Theater. It’s not the best view of the fireworks but you can see all of the projections. It’s our go to spot.
Holidays Around the World is transforming into the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays from November 19 to December 30 this year. The name may be changing but all of the charm and holiday spirit will remain. Tour the World Showcase and find out how different parts of the world celebrate the holidays. Each pavilion will feature a storyteller. Check the times guide and the My Disney Experience app for times.
You will also find:
- Holiday Kitchens – The number of holiday kitchens doubles in size this year. That brings it to a total of 15! Each will have new holiday flavors and a little something for everyone. You can also grab cookies and desserts at the Cookie Nook located inside the Odyssey complex. Sweet treats include snowflake sugar cookies and a warm apple fritter with cinnamon ice cream and caramel sauce.
- Chip & Dale’s Christmas Tree Spree – Chip and Dale are collecting ornaments for their Christmas tree. Guests can purchase a map and stickers from select merchandise locations and travel around World Showcase looking for the famous chipmunks with their ornaments. Guests can return their completed maps for a festive surprise, courtesy of Chip and Dale. Maps are available for $5.99 plus tax.
- Candlelight Processional – This is the most popular holiday offering at Epcot. The Candlelight Processional is a retelling of the Christmas story as told by a celebrity narrator accompanied by 50-piece orchestra and a mass choir.Disney legend Kurt Russell is among the new narrators and favorites like Neil Patrick Harris will be returning. The show takes place at the America Gardens Theatre each evening at 5:00, 6:45, and 8:15 on November 24 through December 30. TIP: Candlelight dinner packages are highly recommended. Reserve one by visiting disneyworld.com/holiday. They will guarantee you a spot so you don’t have to wait in line. People begin lining up hours before showtime for popular narrators.
- Fireworks Finale – The nightly fireworks display, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, will feature a special holiday ending. It’s a must see!
It can be hard to fit every storyteller into one day. Try to visit the World Showcase on multiple days to take in all the holiday fun and treats. Once you pick a time, get there a little early to get a good spot. The Candlelight Procession has wheelchair seating available with great views. We usually get a dining package just so we can get a guaranteed spot. IllumiNations has wheelchair seating available in the Germany Pavilion, UK Pavilion, and two spots in the World Showplace on the Future World side. But there is great seating all along the World Showcase Lagoon. I love the view from the Japan or the bridge between the France and the UK Pavilion.
There isn’t a better place to do some holiday shopping! Disney Springs has beautiful holiday decorations.
Also don’t miss:
- An Even Bigger Christmas Tree Trail – To capture the spirit of the season, guests can stroll among an even bigger Christmas Tree Trail. Twenty-five custom decorated holiday trees, each dedicated to a popular Disney theme, will be on display including 10 new trees inspired by Disney classics like Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, Snow White and Dumbo.
- Santa’s Chalet – Santa Claus is accepting Christmas wish lists and welcoming guests to his chalet newly located by the Christmas Tree Trail Nov. 10 through 24.
- Stitch’s Holiday Gift Hunt – Stitch returns to Disney Springs with an expanded scavenger hunt now featuring 16 stops, including a special stop at the even-bigger Christmas Tree Trail.
- Meet & Greet with the Coca-Cola Polar Bear – This huggable eight-foot tall brand ambassador is available for holiday photos on the second floor of The Coca-Cola Store.
- Gingerbread Displays – Disney Springs will have a set of gingerbread icons that celebrate the story behind Town Center and you will find a display in the window of Amorette’s Patisserie.
Resort Decorations and Gingerbread Displays
The parks aren’t the only things decked out for the season. Each Walt Disney World resort is decorated with Christmas trees, tons of garland, and a few even have gorgeous gingerbread displays. The smell as good as the look! Each resorts decorations match it’s theme. You can’t go wrong no matter where you choose to stay.
But some of the highlights are:
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort will display an 18 feet tall Cinderella Castle replica, made from thousands of gingerbread blocks, rolled fondant, and modeling chocolate.
- A life-sized holiday gingerbread house can be found Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. It is home to The Bake Shop that uses a classic gingerbread recipe from Austria for its cookies and ornaments.
- A life-sized, edible spinning carousel is a holiday tradition at Disney’s Beach Club Resort. And a holiday village with miniature train is a must see at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort.
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge has a Christmas tree in the lobby will put even the biggest Scrooge into the holiday spirit. Grab a drink, sit by the fireplace, and enjoy the yuletide cheer.
Even if you don’t stay at a resort with a gingerbread display that doesn’t mean you can’t visit! Hop on the monorail and tour Disney’s Contemporary , Polynesian, and Grand Floridian Resorts. Check out our guide to the Walt Disney World monorail for accessibility info. Spoiler alert, it’s great for wheelchair users on the resort loop. While you are at Epcot, exit the World Showcase via the International Gateway. Then you can take a tour of the displays at Disney’s BoardWalk and Beach and Yacht Club Resorts.
If you would like more Walt Disney World tips and wheelchair accessibility information, stop by my blog Rolling with the Magic. And feel free to send me a message if you have any questions. I love to talk Disney!
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