Disney: Holiday and 50th Celebration

If you browse some of my past wandering posts I did a blog series dedicated to Disney and the various parks; as we first visited in 2019. That was my first time ever to the most magical place on earth and I enjoyed blogging about our adventures and impression of the resort. Check those out if you want more detail on what we did in each park. I never thought we would be Disney people but now I can say we will probably go at least once a year now. Especially now with the direct and wonderfully priced flights from Allegiant Airlines out of State College (and Harrisburg) to Orlando/Sanford Airport. Highly recommend! Bigger plan than normal for the University Park airport and you are in sunny Florida in 2 hours time.


We decided to return in early December 2021; as I wanted to see Disney decorated for Christmas. Bonus was that Disney World was also celebrating 50 years! Meaning there are lots of things surrounding that to see and do. We also had company this time. Another husband and wife duo who are dear friends of ours; joined us for a few day. I also had some family decide to go at the same time. My brother, his wife, and their two kids came; along with some of my sister in-laws family.


While I will shortly do a little summary of each park with updates and things pertaining to them specifically. First I will just touch on general items that you see in each park or at places like Disney Springs. First let's start with Christmas/Holiday items. All the parks had a big Christmas tree somewhere near the entrance decorated. Disney Springs actually had multiple ones and each one was themed after one of their movies. While each of the parks seemed to decorate buildings and areas with things like garlands, wreaths, and misc. holiday stuff; it never felt in your face. I half expected it to feel like stepping into a Hallmark movie and it did not. It was actually easy to forget we were there during the holiday season.


The stores in most parks did have some holiday attire and decorations for sale. I saw lots of people carrying around the light up Mickey Jingle Bell set that doubles as as drink dispenser. Holiday inspired treats were around at various places, especially at any bakery or sweet shop. The Joffrey's coffee stands also had some holiday inspired beverages.


Below a picture of one of the drink dispensers from Disney Food Blog(highly recommend this site when planning a Disney vacation).

The 50th celebration stuff was similar to the holiday stuff across the board in terms that each park had attire, souvenirs, and specialty food items/treats for sale in celebration. There are the gold medallion things you can purchase and collect that are spread across the parks and Disney resorts. Which I learned about after we got home, gosh darn it! My favorite thing in all the parks though was the 50th anniversary golden statues. Each park had unique gold statues of Disney Characters. There are scavenger hunts you can do to try and find them all. Below are a few pictures we took of the statues.




No I will break down each park. Again this is summary of things we did that were different from our last trip or pertained specifically to the holidays or 50th anniversary celebration.


Hollywood Studios

The biggest change from the last time we were there to now was the opening of two new rides; Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway, and Rise of the Resistance. First Mickey and Minnie's ride is just ok in my opinion. We got in line what was an estimated 75 minute wait , which ended up being closer to 2 hours. I am glad we rode it as it was cute and worth experiencing once. However, its one of those I wont probably ride again unless the wait time is 30 minutes or less; or I get a lighting lane. Rise of the Resistance though was a great experience! I am not even a big Star Wars fan and really enjoyed this ride. The attention to detail in this is incredible. I also like how its broken down into various segments so you feel like you are going on an adventure. I know the ride breaks down a lot and can have a long wait time; but so glad we waited. In fact the wait time for us ended up being like half of what was advertised when we got in line. I also didn't do Smugglers Run last time we visited, but did this time and enjoyed that as well (though I say Rise is the better ride).


Below a picture I took during the Rise of the Resistance Ride.


Two other things to note here. First, get a breakfast ronto wrap from Ronto Roasters found in Galaxy's Edge; it was a quick and delicious way to start our day. We also did the Frozen sing along again. It was like last time except they added on some special holiday stuff at the end with the cast.


As for the holidays, we did try a frozen salted caramel hot chocolate. It was hard to save some for my husband, as he was being my Prince Charming. I accidently left my Mickey Ear's on Smugglers Run and it was towards the end of the night. He ran back from the front of the park to see if they could find them. Luckily they were able to locate it!


Picture I took of the Tower of Terror in it's holiday covering.


Animal Kingdom

We did all of the same rides again this time and still love this park a lot. The animal walks and Kilimanjaro Safari's is still my favorite experiences in all the parks. Last time we didn't visit a lot of food places. We did the character meal at Tiffin's for lunch; and it filled us up for the entire day. This time we visited this park twice so we got to sample more of this park's food. First for lunch shared the chicken tikka masala Yak & Yeti. It was delicious and I still think about how good that naan bread was. The Yak Attack drink and a delicious mousse dessert finished off our meal. Note we were unable to get a reservation ahead of time. What we did was show up minutes after they opened. There was still a small line but we were able to get on a wait list which took about 45 minutes. We just hung out nearby and the restaurant texted us when our table was ready.


Our dessert from Yak & Yeti that day.


For an afternoon snack we tried the Buffalo Chicken Chips from Trilo-Bites near DinoLand. Its fried chips topped with buffalo chicken and other goodies and is a great snack to share. If you want mac and cheese, check out the Eights Spoons stand or visit Flame Tree BBQ. Its basically the same mac and cheese that you can get toped with pulled pork. Eight Spoons had just the pulled pork on top of the mac and cheese; which we did one day. Flame Tree we did the other day and had mac and cheese topped with pulled pork, coleslaw, and an onion ring.


For shows, I did three new ones this time. First the bird show they do at the tree of life on the top of hour. Its only last like 5 minutes but you get to see all the stunning and vibrant macaw birds soaring overheard while you stare in wonder. We went back to the tree of life show that night for the holiday show they projected on the tree. This holiday show would run like every half hour and it was a great show. It showcased nature and the cycles of the seasons; and the affects it can have on the wild animals who live through them.


Finally, we did one of the kite tails shows. It seems like there are two of them. One is Jungle Book themed and the other Lion King. We saw the Jungle Book themed one. While I did enjoy it and would recommend it; I wish we would have caught the Lion King one. I am not a huge Jungle Book fan. It takes place over the open water and you can watch cast members on jet skies carrying around big kites of characters from the stories to music.


Just one of Steve's favorite images he captured while exploring Pandora at Animal Kingdom.




Epcot

If you read my last post on this park, you will know I wasn't impressed. In fact we weren't sure we wanted to go back to this park, but I really wanted to see some of the holiday stuff and ride Remy (which had opened after our last visit), so we gave it another chance. I am glad we did as I enjoyed myself so much more this time, and didn't leave the park feeling disappointed like I did last time.


Picture below Steve took of the globe lit up at night.


Remy's Ratatouille Adventure was the newest ride. When we visited they were doing virtual queue or you had to purchase a lighting lane. There was no standby line; but that has changed now. I didn't think we would get a chance to experience the adventure, but after being on the app constantly that morning, I was able to purchase us a lighting lane for 7:45 pm. The ride puts you in a little vehicle shaped like a mouse, and get to run around the kitchen like you are mouse sized. My husband was fascinated by how the carts work. There is no track it appears to all be done magnetically and each goes its own path. Overall an enjoyable ride.


The special festival taking place was for the holidays. There were little food stands set up around the park that offered holiday inspired dishes from various regions of the world. My favorites were the pork from a Hawaiian inspired stand, and the schnitzel with spaetzle from Germany. We also did the holiday cookie crawl. Five of the food stands had an different (and good size) cookie you could purchase for $2.50. When you bought one you could have your passport book (received when you entered the park) stamped. Once you had all five, there was a stand you could go to and redeem your prize. The prize was a free 6th cookie as well as an ice cream treat.


In terms of other food, Steve had a taco at a quick service stand in Mexico that I cant' remember the name; but it was good. We also shared some fish n chips from Yorkshire County Fish shop and those things are legit. Trust me they taste like actual fish and chips I got when visiting England. We also tried the chicken fried rice combo at Lotus Blossom Café, but that the only dish I had that day that didn't impress me.


Lastly, we stuck around for the Harmonious Fireworks Spectacular. This was hand's down my favorite thing that we did in all four of the parks this time. The show did include fireworks, but it was mostly light and projects done over the water. They touched on the various cultures of people around the world; all to the tune of songs from Disney movies. It was a captivating and entertaining display and that alone was worth the price of admission.


Didn't get the best pictures, but here is one I took of the Harmonious show.



Magic Kingdom

Finally the main park and I loved it just as much this time as the last. We still got to go on all our favorite rides, though I was disappointed they haven't started redoing splash mountain yet. For this park we did pay extra for the Mickey's Very Merriest After Hours. It was an after hours event that start at 9:00pm and ran to 1:00 am (though we didn't stay for the entire thing). Similar to the Halloween after party we did in 2019, we were able to check in for the event early in the park. There we received a wrist band that allowed us to stay in the park as they were clearing out other guests around 9:00. Our two friends who traveled with us also bought tickets for the after party.


The party has limited capacity and the crowd was about half what it was through the day. That made wait time for rides very low and I think the most we waited was like 15 minutes. Included for free were some various snacks through the park. Several of the quick service cafes had free cookies and hot chocolate that they handed out. The cookies were individually wrapped from Cheryl's, so it was easy to get extra to take home. Some stands had popcorn, ice cream treats, and bottles of soda and water for free. I still laugh when I think about how many bottles of soda our one friend took; but hey they normally are like $5


There were some specialty treats you could purchase at various stands. The four of us shared a gingerbread funnel cake topped with apple pie filling, vanilla ice cream, and a caramel sauce. It was as dedicant as it sounds and made a good dessert for the 4 of us. I also got a gingerbread almond cake pop that was dipped in white cholate and dressed up like Minnie Mouse.


The funnel cake we tried! Picture from The Disney Food Blog.



Their was a holiday themed parade where we got to see all of our favorite characters and Santa. The fireworks display on the castle, never disappoints. It was holiday themed and completely different than the one we saw on the castle during the regular park hours. Photo below taken by Steve during the show when the castle looked wrapped up like a present.

Finally as we were leaving there was snow on Main Street! It was really foam, but as you can see from the picture below my husband took, it was not lacking that Disney magic.


Overall we had another magical vacation at Disney. We didn't spend the days upon days of research for this trip as the first one; and went more go with the flow. I think we missed a few things due to this (like those 50th medallions); but it didn't dimmish the experience. We look forward to our next trip!


One final picture and something they added to the Disney app since last time we were there are these filters. Some are always there, but some special characters only make an appearance when are in certain areas of certain parks; like me below with Grogu.


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