Christmas in Charlotte | North Carolina

While you might not think about North Carolina as being super Christmas-y, given that we rarely have a white Christmas, there is actually PLENTY to do to celebrate the holiday season. If you’re planning to celebrate Christmas in Charlotte this year, here are some of our favorite, can’t miss Charlotte Christmas events – as well as things to do nearby!

Best Christmas Events in Charlotte pin

Singing Christmas Tree

Charlotte Singing Christmas Tree

The Singing Christmas Tree has been a Charlotte tradition for decades. In fact, this year marks the 68th annual performance of the Carolina Voices Singing Christmas Tree. This year, they’ll be performing at the Halton Theater on the Main Campus of Central Piedmont Community College!

Tickets range from $13-$50. The show is seventy minutes of fun and is sure to get the whole family into the Christmas spirit! And back this year, the popular Singing Christmas Tree for Kids show is offered on Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon. Tickets are still available for all of the shows:

  • Fri December 9, 2022 – 7:30PM
  • Sat December 10, 2022 – 11AM (Kids), 3PM, 7:30PM
  • Sun December 11, 2022 – 1:30PM (Kids), 4PM

Speedway Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway

If you’re looking for Christmas lights in Charlotte, then Speedway Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway is the perfect place! From November 18 – January 8, Charlotte Motor Speedway is transformed into an amazing drive-through light show with over four million twinkling lights, many of which are synchronized to music. On weekends (Thurs – Sun), check out the infield Christmas Village with vendor displays, fire pits, a movie theater, and visits with Santa!

Purchase tickets online and if you’re planning to visit on a Friday/Saturday night, consider upgrading to the Express Lane which allows you to bypass much of the line.

  • Fri November 18, 2022 – Sun January 8, 2023 – 6-10PM
  • Closed December 24
  • Tickets range from $30-40 depending on the day of the week; Express Lane is $70

WinterFest at Carowinds

WinterFest at Carowinds Christmas lights in Charlotte

Gather the whole fam for a sleigh-full of fun as Carowinds transitions into a winter wonderland at WinterFest. The park is covered in millions of lights, there’s a 70-foot Christmas tree – one of the largest in the area, and the whole park is bursting with Christmas spirit. From holiday-themed shows to deliciously festive foods, there’s something for everyone at WinterFest. Check out this post from our first visit to Carowinds WinterFest!

  • Select nights from Monday November 21, 2022 – Sun January 1, 2023
  • Tickets start at $33 – purchase ahead of time, online for the most savings
  • Military and passholder bring-a-friend deals are also available
  • 2023 Carowinds Season Passes (on-sale now) include unlimited admission to WinterFest 2021

Christmas Town USA

The quaint town of McAdenville, on the outskirts of Charlotte, is known throughout the country as Christmas Town USA. Every year, the town transforms into a Christmas wonderland with homeowners covering their houses in lights. For nearly 70 years, visitors have flocked to McAdenville to drive the 1.3-mile route through the town to see the Christmas displays.

  • Wed December 1, 2022 – Sun December 26, 2022
  • 530-10PM EVERY night

Holidays at the Garden

Daniel Stowe Holidays at the Garden Christmas lights in Charlotte

Located at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, Holidays at the Garden is a beloved Christmas tradition. The garden is transformed with hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights and is a magical experience. Stroll through the light displays at your own pace and while you’re there, don’t forget to grab dinner from one of the food trucks!

  • Wed – Sun evenings from Fri November 25, 2022 – Sat December 31, 2022 – 5-9PM (closed Christmas Eve/Day)
  • Purchase tickets online – limited tickets may be sold onsite depending on availability
  • Adults – $20; Senior 60+ – $18; Children 2-12 – $10; Members receive a 25% discount

Ice Skating at National Whitewater Center

Ice skating totally screams holiday activity and the rink at the Whitewater Center is the largest around. It covers over 24,000 sq feet and has four distinct skating areas, including two ice trails. The newest addition is the skating trail in the Upper Pond.

  • Ice skating is available from mid-November – mid-February
  • Tickets are $25; otherwise, ice skating is included in the All Access Day and Annual Passes

Christmas at the Library

Billy Graham Christmas at the Library Charlotte Christmas Events

Every year, the Billy Graham Library puts on an impressive holiday event. Christmas at the Library features a live nativity, story-time, carolers, horse-drawn carriage rides (additional charge), an optional Christmas dinner, and the Journey of Faith tour (that is also offered during daytime hours).

  • Mon November 28, 2022 – Fri December 23, 2022
  • Mon – Thur 5-9PM
  • Fri – Sat 5-10PM
  • Advance reservations are required and are going quickly

Kersey Valley Christmas

Kersey Valley Christmas

While it’s not technically IN Charlotte, Kersey Valley Christmas near High Point/Greensboro is TOTALLY worth the drive! We were invited to check out all of the Christmas fun they’re offering and I have a feeling this event will be an annual tradition for our family. One of my favorite aspects is that aside from photos with Santa/the Grinch, your admission ticket includes unlimited access to all of the activities!

Smiling Kids at Kersey Valley Christmas Christmas lights near Charlotte

And they have LOTS of activities to choose from!! The Kersey Valley Express Train Ride and John Deere pulled Christmas Wagon Ride both offer views of the million-plus Christmas lights on the property. But they take totally different routes so make sure to do both!!

Christmas in Charlotte Kersey Valley Christmas

The Kiddie Zipline and Cow Train were a hit with Ellie and the bigger kids loved the jumping pillows and the 200ft Dual Super Mega Ride*n*Slide. If you’re not visiting with littles and you skip the activities that are geared towards little ones, there’s still plenty of fun at the Kersey Valley Christmas experience!

  • Select nights from Fri November 25, 2022 – Fri December 23, 2022
  • Fri – Sat 530-10PM
  • Sun 530-9PM
  • Dec 19 – 23 530-9PM
  • Tickets are $35.94 (including tax + service fee) for ages 4+
  • Senior tickets (65+) are available for $24.67
  • BOGO tickets are available for military with ID at the ticket booth

What’s your favorite Christmas in Charlotte tradition? We’re always excited to check out new places (or new to us!) so leave your suggestions in the comments!

Christmas Movie and Dinner Combinations

Our family is big on traditions, and we have a wide variety that we incorporate throughout the year, ranging from a visit from the leprechauns on St Patrick’s Day to watching “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” the night before Thanksgiving. But topping the favorite traditions list in our house are the Christmas movie and dinner combinations that we enjoy throughout December! In early November, I write out our schedule to make sure we have time to get through all of our favorite combos. We do have five kids, after all, and five kids’ worth of activities to attend, so the planning definitely gets done early!

Christmas Movie and Dinner Combos

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So, without further ado, here are our favorite Christmas movie and dinner (or a treat…) combos!

Home Alone 1 & 2

kids eating pizza and watching Home Alone

With Home Alone, we always have pizza for dinner. Sometimes it’s from our favorite pizza place, sometimes it’s homemade, and sometimes it’s take & bake, but it is ALWAYS pizza. Because, really, at its core, Home Alone is a movie all about pizza!

ice cream and Home Alone 2 Christmas movie and dinner combination

And for Home Alone 2, we have ridiculously big ice cream sundaes. Our kids LOVE ice cream (who doesn’t?!), and while they definitely have their fair share, we don’t usually go all out with the toppings, so it’s a special treat when we break out the hot fudge, caramel, whipped cream, and cherries and watch Home Alone 2.

A Christmas Story

Chinese food while we watch A Christmas Story

While A Christmas Story isn’t one of my favorite Christmas movies, the kids definitely get a kick out of it, and since we get Chinese take-out for dinner, I’m totally down with it for movie night! Our Chinese take-out isn’t quite the same as eating dinner at a Chinese restaurant while being serenaded by waiters (“Deck the harrs with boughs of horyyy, Fa-ra-ra-ra-raaa, ra-ra-ra-raa!”), but it still makes for a fun night!

Holiday Inn

Holiday Inn Christmas Movie and Dinner Combos perfect holiday movie night

One of my all-time favorite movies, Holiday Inn, is fun to watch year-round, but we especially enjoy watching it at Christmas. Since the movie goes through all of the holidays in the year, we pick out dinner from a different holiday to enjoy. Our go-to pick is the 4th of July, and we have a summer barbecue in the middle of the Christmas season!

Christmas With the Kranks

Christmas with the Kranks dinner and a Christmas movie

When we watch Christmas With the Kranks, we get take-out Peruvian from our favorite Peruvian rotisserie place, Viva Chicken. Why Peruvian, you ask?? Because the daughter in the movie travels to Peru with the Peace Corps!

Christmas Vacation

Christmas Vacation and green jello and eggnog

Christmas Vacation is another favorite in our house. We don’t coordinate dinner with the movie, though the kids said we could do turkey jerky and an asparagus Christmas tree(!!); we ALWAYS have eggnog and green jello since they’re both such a big part of the movie.

The Santa Clause (All Three!)

dinner and a Christmas movie Santa Clause marathon

We always plan a Santa Clause movie marathon on a Saturday in December.  We start in the afternoon with the first movie…

kids at Denny's for Santa Clause Christmas movie and dinner marathon

And then we head to Denny’s for dinner in Christmas jammies. Why Denny’s?? Because “everyone likes Denny’s- it’s an American institution”! Every year, the staff gets a kick out of how festive the kids look in their jammies, and we fill up on all-you-can-eat pancakes. After dinner, we head home to watch the next two movies.

ELF

Christmas Movie and Dinner Combination Elf dinner by candlelight

On the longest night of the year, the winter solstice, we always eat dinner by candlelight and make our “Elf” dinner and watch the movie.

Elf dinner full of sugar

Like Buddy the Elf, our kids LOVE sugar!! Our Elf dinner started because the kids were absolutely convinced that noodles with syrup and crumbled-up pop-tarts sounded delicious, and they realllllyyyyy wanted to try it. We added pancakes and bacon to the mix to add some substance to dinner, and over the years, we’ve added more sugary deliciousness like donuts and candy corn (they are one of the 4 food groups for elves!).

Our annual Elf dinner is easily our kids’ favorite Christmas movie and dinner combo since it’s so far from a “normal” dinner in our house. Still, we all look forward to the fun dinner and movie combos that we do throughout December. Family traditions are a great way to get the kids excited for the holiday season’s fun without focusing on the gift-giving aspect. Our dinner and a movie tradition allows us to spend quality time together doing something that we all look forward to and enjoy!

What’s your favorite Christmas movie??  Do you have any fun Christmas traditions??

Are you looking for more Christmas fun? Check out these posts:

Disney Very Merriest After Hours | Magic Kingdom

Following the announcement of the Disney After Hours BOO BASH for this fall, it came as no surprise that Disney is opting for an After Hours event for the Christmas season as well. The Disney Very Merriest After Hours party is a replacement for the usual Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party that we’ve come to know and love. This 4-hour event runs from 9pm-1am on select November/December evenings and also allows for admission into Magic Kingdom as early as 7pm. Updated 9/13/21 with Very Merriest Military Discount info.

VERY MERRIEST Offerings

Unlike the BOO BASH After Hours event running this fall with no parade and fireworks, VERY MERRIEST After Hours WILL have Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade and Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks show. It appears that while BOO BASH is much more like the Villains After Hours that was offered in 2019, VERY MERRIEST will be closer to the regular Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party – just with fewer hours and no character meet and greets.

  • Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade
    • No details yet as to if this will be running 2x per night like at MVMCP or just once
  • Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks
    • You’ll also be able to enjoy the brand-new fireworks spectacular, Disney Enchantment (part of WDW’s 50th Anniversary celebration), if you’re in Magic Kingdom before the park closes to day guests.
  • Holiday attraction overlays – yep, Jingle Cruise will be back this year!!!
  • Character sightings around the park (not traditional meet and greets)
  • Reindeer Wranglers performances in Frontierland
  • Club Tinsel Dance Party
  • Unlimited (select) snacks like ice cream novelties, popcorn, seasonal treats, and select beverages – just like at the other After Hours events
  • Holiday magic shots from DisneyPhotoPass
  • LOW WAIT TIMES at over 20 attractions

Once Upon a Christmastime Parade Very Merriest

2021 Disney Very Merriest After Hours Dates/Prices

Very Merriest After Hours will take place on select nights from November 8 – December 21, from 9pm – 1am. Like the other “After Hours” events, this one will take place after the park closes to day guests and does not require the park to close early – a common complaint of MVMCP during the busy holiday season. Tickets go on sale on 8/17/21 for resort guests (including the Swan/Dolphin and Shades of Green) and on 8/20/21 for the general public.

Very Merriest dates and prices are finally out, so without further ado, here are all the details. Prices for November dates range from $169-$209 + tax, and December dates are $209-$249 + tax. Annual Passholders and DVC Members can save $10 per ticket for early November dates. Tickets go on sale online, or call 407-939-4240 on August 20, though guests of select WDW hotels can book on August 17.

November: 8, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 19, 21, 23, 28, 30

December: 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 19, 21

There’s been no mention of military pricing yet but I’ll update again if/when that info is released. BREAKING NEWS — there IS a military discount available for Disney Very Merriest After Hours!! Tickets are non-refundable and sold on a first-come, first-serve basis only through Shades of Green. Prices are as follows, including tax:

November 8, 12, 14, 19: $183.75

November 9, 11, 16, 18: $164.50

November 21, 23, December 3, 10, 17: $222.75

November 28, 30, December 2, 5, 7, 9, 12, 14, 16: $203.25

December 19, 21: No military discount

Santa in the Once Upon a Christmastime Parade Very Merriest

Will you be attending the new Disney VERY MERRIEST After Hours this year? While I’m totally bummed not to have the Christmas party back in its full form, I’m hoping that we get the chance to check this one out!

Celebrate the Holidays at Animal Kingdom

Walt Disney World is the Most Magical Place on Earth and that’s especially true during the holiday season. November 8 kicked off the holiday fun at Animal Kingdom, and this year, they went ALLLL out making it a can’t miss park during the holiday season.

Animal Kingdom Holiday Pin Image

This post is sponsored by Walt Disney World, but as always, all of the magical opinions are my own. #DisneyHolidays

Animal Kingdom Holiday Entrance with garland over the sign

We always go to WDW over Veterans Day weekend to attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, and this year was no exception. The kids and I were excited to check out all of the new holiday offerings at Animal Kingdom while we were in town. Just like the other parks, the holiday decor begins before you’re even IN the park- the garlands over the sign were BEAUTIFUL.

Discovery Island

Crossing the bridge to Discovery Island, guests find themselves in the midst of a celebration of winter, hand-crafted by the eclectic community of artists who make the island their home. Life-size, artisan-sculpted animal puppets (including reindeer, foxes and polar bears) roam around by day while colorful rooftop luminaries light up the night.

Discover Island Merry Menagerie Puppets at Animal Kingdom

Once you cross over the bridge to Discovery Island and walk towards the Tree of Life, you’re greeted by the Merry Menagerie puppets. We had so much fun interacting and playing with them and the performers did a FANTASTIC giving each their own personality. We probably spent half an hour just hanging out with the puppets and their performers and could have easily stayed much longer.

Holiday mural at animal kingdom

The new mural wall at Animal Kingdom is absolutely breathtaking and I foresee it being the backdrop for a lot of Christmas card photos this year. You can find this one on the walk from Discovery Island to Pandora, right across from Tiffins.

Tree of Life Awakenings

At the center of everything, the Tree of Life awakens each evening as a series of wintry tales emerge from within, complemented by a familiar and heartwarming holiday-inspired musical score. Between awakening moments, the Tree of Life continues to shimmer and sparkle throughout the night, alive with the magic of nature and the spirit of the holidays.

New tree of life awakening disney holidays

The Tree of Life Awakening is a can’t miss when you’re at Animal Kingdom in the evening. Beginning after the sun sets and running throughout the night, this projection show features holiday stories full of wildlife- and a great soundtrack. The kids (and I!) were completely mesmerized as we watched!

DinoLand U.S.A.

Throughout DinoLand U.S.A., all of Donald Duck’s friends gather for Donald’s Dino-Bash! get into the spirit with colorful holiday decorations they have each chosen according to their own styles.

DinoLand Christmas lights at Animal Kingdom

The decorations in DinoLand are fun and colorful and fit in perfectly with the theming!

giant dinosaur covered in Christmas lights at Animal Kingdom

Even the 50-foot brachiosaur on the OldenGate Bridge is in on the holiday fun this year! Check out that Santa hat and white beard!!

Scrooge McDuck meeting with five kids at Animal Kingdom while it's all decked out for Christmas

All of the character meet and greets are extra-festive this time of year. We didn’t wait in line for too many of them, but you can’t celebrate Christmas at Animal Kingdom without taking a quick picture with Scrooge McDuck!

Asia

The residents of Anandapur have decorated the theater district in celebration of Diwali, India’s holiday festival of lights. Glowing flowers, lanterns and more illuminate the square between Anandapur Theater and the waterfront stage, home to authentic and colorful cultural performances. 

Holiday lights and lanterns in Asia at Animal Kingdom

The hanging lanterns and lights were beautiful during the day and even more spectacular all lit up at night. The décor in this part of the park is so understated that you may miss it if you’re walking quickly, but I think that just adds to the charm and it blends in perfectly.

Peppermint soft serve ice cream cone at Animal Kingdom

Walt Disney World goes all out on festive treats and our favorite at Animal Kingdom was definitely the peppermint soft-serve cone. The Anandapur Ice Cream Truck is dishing up this festive treat, along with vanilla and chocolate cones for $4.99 (or one DDP Snack Credit).

Five kids enjoying ice cream cones by Expedition Everest

We each got a cone- clearly, the boys all share my love of peppermint, while the girls opted for vanilla and chocolate (such silliness!)- to enjoy on our walk to Expedition Everest.

Pandora- The World of Avatar

The ex-pats living and working on the moon of Pandora bring a little holiday fun to their interstellar home, with a display at Pongu Pongu of holiday décor, combining vintage pieces from Earth with items handcrafted from materials indigenous to Pandora. 

Pongu Pongu decorated for the holidays

Pandora joined the holiday fun this year, though Pongu Pongu is really the only place that you’ll see anything festive. We had fun searching for the nods to both Christmas and Hanukkah!

Pongu Pongu covered in Christmas lights

And at night, it looks even more Christmas-y when the lights are turned on!

Pandora at night

Even though the holiday décor doesn’t extend throughout Pandora, if you’re there after dark make sure to check out the bioluminescent lights on the walkways.

Holiday Décor by Night

As day becomes night, the rooftop luminaries all around Discovery Island bring a warm and festive glow to the entire village.

Discovery Island garlands and animal luminaries at night at Animal Kingdom

Discovery Island looked festive during the day, especially with the puppets roaming, but at night, OH. MY. GOSH! It was BEAUTIFUL! The garlands and rooftop luminaries were the perfect touch and provided holiday beauty without being over the top.

Animal Kingdom Christmas tree

Even though it’s technically outside of the park, it’s still part of the holiday décor at Animal Kingdom. The giant Christmas tree all lit up at night is one of my favorite places to get a picture of all the kids. And on the plus side, since it’s not IN the park, you can stop by for a picture with the tree even if you don’t want to visit Animal Kingdom.

Is It Worth It?

So, the question that I get asked all the time: Is it worth it to go to Animal Kingdom just to check out the holiday stuff? Yes, a million times, yes!

Happy family in front of the Animal Kingdom Christmas tree

Not only can you get a great family photo with the beautiful Animal Kingdom Christmas tree, but you get to experience a Disney park with decorations that you won’t find anywhere else. Each part of the park has it’s own distinct decorations and they range from simple and almost hard to spot, to completely over the top. In years past, I never would have made the trek to Animal Kingdom JUST for the holiday décor, but they really upped their game this year! And make sure to get a peppermint cone while you’re there!!

WinterFest at Carowinds

Now that Halloween is over for another year, here in North Carolina, it’s time to get ready for WinterFest at Carowinds!  Every year, the park is transformed into a magical, winter wonderland covered in 5 million twinkling lights, and the transformation is breathtaking– I never thought that our local amusement park could pull off such a magical feat!

Magic at WinterFest

The night begins with the tree lighting show at 5:30pm, at the giant, 70-foot Christmas tree.  A full cast of singers and dancers, as well as Snoopy and his friends, countdown to the opening of the park and then the tree lights up and the Christmas-y family fun begins!

WinterFest Rides

Even though the big roller coasters are not open during WinterFest (due to the cold temps!), many of the attractions are still open and running.  Of course, we ALWAYS ride the carousel since it’s Ellie’s fave!

The swings in the County Fair area of the park are always a hit as well!  It’s so much fun to go on the rides in the dark and see all of the Christmas lights throughout the park.

WinterFest Snacks

Carowinds really upped their game in the seasonal snack department last year and I cannot wait to see what they add this year!!  Our kiddos LOVED decorating the giant Christmas cookies from Mrs. Claus’s Kitchen.  You do have to pay extra for them but at $14 for 4 ginormous cookies and unlimited frosting/toppings, we found it to be an excellent deal!!

Plus, they have to-go boxes if you can’t finish eating your creations– they’re REALLY big!  They made for a great snack throughout the night.

WinterFest Fun

The Christmas lights adorn nearly every tree in the park, as well as many of the walkways, and they do a great job getting you into the Christmas spirit!  They also make a great background for your Christmas card photos!

There is a really fun petting zoo that our crew adored!!  Lots of goats, plus donkeys and a camel!!

We all had a great time at WinterFest last year and cannot wait to go again this season!  It is easily one of our favorite places for Christmas fun in the Charlotte area!

Things to Remember When You Visit WinterFest

  • WinterFest at Carowinds is a ticketed event unless you have a Gold or Platinum season pass.  If you buy your Gold Season pass now, it includes unlimited visits to WinterFest in 2018, plus admission to Carowinds for ALL of 2019- such a great deal!!
  • Tickets start at $26+tax and vary depending on the night you’re attending.  Check online for the latest deals!
  • This year, WinterFest kicks off on November 18 and runs Fri-Sun through December 9.  Starting December 14, WinterFest runs every night through the end of the year (except December 24-25).
  • Lots of people dress up for Christmas-y fun at Carowinds- we either wear Christmas-y shirts or sweaters!
  • Check the weather because it can get REALLY cold once the sun sets!

What’s your favorite holiday event in your city??

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Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party Tips and Tricks

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is one of our all-time favorite things to do at Walt Disney World and it’s the perfect way to kick off the holiday season!  As soon as the park closes after the last Halloween party, the Halloween decorations come down and the Christmas ones go up.  Almost overnight, the Magic Kingdom is transformed into a Christmas wonderland, and about a week later, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party begins and runs until right before Christmas.  We always make the trip down to Florida to start our holiday season with Mickey, and now, I’m sharing some of our best tips and tricks with you so you can enjoy a magical night at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, too!

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party Tips

VERY MERRY TICKETS

The Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party dates were released in March 2018 for this year’s party and tickets were available over the phone initially, and then also available online here or at the gate.  While it’s not imperative to buy them as soon as they’re released, the parties do sell out, especially the first one of the season and those around Thanksgiving.  Traditionally, Friday night parties are more crowded because locals can easily attend and not have to worry about work or school in the morning.  Weeknight parties are typically the least crowded especially those earlier in the season (barring the first party).

DATES FOR 2018

November: 8, 9, 12, 13, 15, 16, 25, 27, 29, 30

December: 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 21

Party ticket prices range from $99 adults/$94 kids to $125 adults/$120 kids if you purchase them in advance.  You’ll be paying more if you want to buy them the day of the event (and that’s assuming that it’s not a sold-out party).  Double check for discounts if you’re an annual passholder, DVC member or eligible for military tickets because they could save you enough for a few Mickey ice cream bars!  Note for military tickets: Buy them at Shades of Green and they’re tax-free!  Also, if you want to attend a sold-out party, those eligible for military tickets can purchase at the gate, the day of the event but no discount is offered.

ARRIVAL

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party Arrival

Like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party runs from 7pm-midnight but you can actually get into the park at 4pm (or a smidge earlier since they sometimes open the tapstyles around 345pm).  And, if you’re a DVC member, you can actually get in at 2pm!!  We took advantage of that perk this year and enjoyed a couple of extra hours in the park, which was great since we were just there for the party and didn’t have park tickets.

We recommend NOT using a park ticket on your party day and instead, spending it relaxing at your resort or resort hopping to check out all of the Christmas decorations, especially at the resorts on the monorail loop.  The Christmas decorations at all of the Walt Disney World deluxe resorts are absolutely magical but we especially love the Gingerbread House at the Grand Floridian and then Gingerbread Castle at the Contemporary.

If you arrive at the Magic Kingdom before 6pm (when it officially closes for day guests) head to the far right and make sure you go through one of the Event Entrance tapstyles.  Once you’re through, a Cast Member will put a party wristband on your (right!) wrist and the Christmas magic begins!

VERY MERRY GAMEPLAN

With the ages of our kids right now and the fact that some years, our only time at Magic Kingdom is for the parties (Not So Scary and Very Merry!), the rides and treats are the biggest draws for our family. We make sure to arrive at the park by 4pm (or 2pm this year for DVC members!) and then go on as many rides as possible AND eat dinner by 7pm when the party officially starts.  This year we also stopped for a popcorn snack break to pick up the new Pluto Christmas Sweater refillable popcorn bucket!

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party Popcorn

Once the party starts, we spend our time doing a mix of rides, treat stops, and enjoying the party entertainment, but we almost always skip the character meet and greets because our kids don’t want to “waste” park time in character lines.  If meeting the characters (especially the popular ones) is important to you, make sure to get in line for your first choice well before 7pm (like at least an hour early) so that you don’t waste official party time waiting in line.  This year, several of the character meet and greets actually started around 5pm- they were definitely checking wristbands so if you’re not really there for the party, don’t even bother getting in line.

We definitely take a different approach to Very Merry than most people and I think it’s partly due to the ages of our kids, as well as not being locals and needing to buy so many tickets (so we really want to get our money’s worth out of our time!). For our family, going to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party allows us to spend 8+ hours in the park (this year we got it up to almost 12 hours!) with lower crowds than usual, at night (which is our absolute favorite), participate in some Christmas fun, and go on lots of rides with much shorter lines!  If you’re an annual passholder or are doing the party as part of a longer trip, I can absolutely see the appeal of doing character meet and greets and spending the bulk of the night focused on party exclusive events and entertainment!

RIDES

We typically head to Tomorrowland once we’re in the park so that we have a chance to go on Carousel of Progress before the park closes for day guests (for some reason, it’s not open during either the Halloween or Christmas parties).  While we’re over there, the big kids go on Space Mountain and we all go on the PeopleMover!

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party Peoplemover

Our family LOVES the PeopleMover so we go on it at least once every time that we’re in the park– but usually way more than that!

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party Jingle Cruise

For the holiday season, the Jungle Cruise transforms into the Jingle Cruise, and those silly skippers change up their puns and keep the holiday laughs going all the way through the new year.

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party Jingle Cruise Skipper

The boats are decorated with Christmas ornaments and garland and take on Christmas-y names, too!  Normally, we’re not fans of riding Jungle Cruise at night because it’s hard to see the “animals” but Jingle Cruise looks extra-festive once the sun goes down and the Christmas lights go on.

VERY MERRY TREATS

Once the party officially starts at 7pm, there are treat stops throughout the park where you can get (complimentary) snacks!

  • Tortuga Tavern: Snowman Soft Pretzel and Sno-Cone
  • Cosmic Ray’s: Snickerdoodle Cookies and Hot Chocolate
  • Storybook Circus: Peppermint Crunch Cookies (though this year they don’t have the milk…)
  • Liberty Square Ticket Office: Ginger Molasses Cookies and Eggnog
  • The Friar’s Nook: DOVE Chocolate and Apple Cider
  • Auntie Gravity’s: Chocolate Chip Cookies and Sno-Cone

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party Cookies

Pinocchio Village Haus is the best one-stop treat location because it has all four cookies: Chocolate Chip, Peppermint Crunch, Ginger Molasses, and Snickerdoodle.  They give you one of each cookie along with hot chocolate or orange Fanta and you’re welcome to go through the line as many times as you’d like in case you want extras.

HOLIDAY WISHES

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party Holiday Wishes

Holiday Wishes, the exclusive Very Merry fireworks show, should not be missed- it runs every party night at 10pm.

The hub/Main Street is the best place to watch the show so that you can see all of the projections on the castle.  However, if you’ve already seen Holiday Wishes, or don’t want to deal with the crowds by the Castle, Storybook Circus and the Rivers of America are both great locations to watch with fewer crowds.

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party Holiday Wishes Tink

However, if you want to be able to see Tinkerbell fly during the show (weather permitting!), you have to make sure that you have a clear view of the castle and the sky towards Tomorrowland.  You cannot see her fly if you’re on Main Street or in other areas of the park.

ONCE UPON A CHRISTMASTIME PARADE

The Once Upon A Christmastime Parade runs nightly during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at 830pm and 11pm starting in Frontierland and then making its way down Main Street.  This is my absolute FAVORITE parade in the current WDW parade line-up and we stake out spots for it EVERY year.  Before the parade begins, the snow starts to fall on Main Street and it is absolutely magical!

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party Parade

If you’ve never seen it before, I would definitely add Once Upon a Christmastime to your must-do list!  While Frontierland is less crowded and you don’t have to get there as early to find a spot, it absolutely does not compare to watching the parade from Main Street, with the snow falling and Cinderella Castle in the background.

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party Parade

The toy soldiers are the absolute best part of the parade!!

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party Parade

Those silly reindeer are a close runner-up though!

Once Santa makes his way down Main Street, it really feels like the Christmas season has started!

MICKEY’S MOST MERRIEST CELEBRATION

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party Most Merriest

Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration is another party exclusive and runs nightly at 740pm, 925pm, 1030pm, and 1155pm on the Castle Forecourt Stage.  We love watching the 1155pm show because it doesn’t take up very much party time and it keeps you in the park past closing!

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party Most Merriest

Aren’t these two the cutest?!

The END of the Night

We wrap up every night at the Magic Kingdom with an ice cream cone from the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor while we watch all of the guests walk down Main Street and out of the park.  And once Main Street has cleared out, but before the Photopass photographers close up for the night (so sometime between 1230-1am), we get a family picture in front of Cinderella Castle.  We all wore ugly Christmas sweaters for the party this year (even though it was 85 degrees out!!) so I wanted to make sure that we had a great family picture of us in our sweaters!

And then we slowly make our way towards the exit, stopping every so often to turn around and snap a picture of Cinderella Castle at the end of an empty Main Street.  We always have a magical time at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party which is why we keep going back every year!  It’s one of our favorite ways to kick off the holiday season, and even though it can still be hot in Florida in November, it feels like Christmas when you’re walking down Main Street in the snow!

Things to Remember for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

  • Dress up!  Unlike the Halloween party, most people don’t wear full costumes but many guests do dress up in festive shirts or Christmas pajamas. It’s so fun to see all of the people walking around the party in their Christmas-y best and we try and get ideas for what to wear to our next party while we’re there since so many people are dressed up!
  • Get there early!  While the party officially runs from 7pm-midnight and those are the hours for the exclusive party offerings, you can get into the park at 4pm with a party ticket (or 2pm this year if you’re a DVC member). Spend your morning/early afternoon relaxing and arrive right before 4pm in order to maximize your time in the park
  • Get lots of cookies!  This year, the cookies are individually wrapped so you can stock up and bring them home if you want.  I think we had about forty cookies to bring home by the end of the night!
  • Buy your ticket early!  You don’t have to buy your ticket as soon as they’re released but if you want to go to the first, last, or a Friday party, definitely buy your tickets sooner rather than later.
  • See if you qualify for any discounts!  Tickets are definitely expensive, even more than the Halloween party, but there are discounts for military, AP, and DVC for some of the November/early December parties so double check before you buy.
  • Check the weather!  While it’s the tail end of hurricane season, it is Florida and rain is likely- we always make sure to bring disposable ponchos with us!  Also, November and December can be really hot or really cold so make sure to pack appropriately.
  • Have fun!!  Go with a plan, especially if you want to see a lot of the party exclusive characters, but take time to soak in the atmosphere. There is nothing better than the Magic Kingdom decorated for Christmas.

Have you been to Very Merry yet this year?? Do you have any tips for a first timer??

Christmas In July

Christmas has always been one of my favorite holidays- like to the point that growing up, I could never sleep the night before and I was up all night, waiting in anticipation.  And by 7am (our family’s designated Christmas morning wake-up time), I was completely ready with hair, make-up, and nails done, having already read a book or two while waiting to get ready.  So, it should come as no surprise that I love the Christmas season and want to enjoy it throughout the year.

A few years ago we started celebrating “Christmas in July” at our house, partly as something to look forward to as the summer dragged on, and partly because I love celebrating Christmas!  We’ve incorporated some our favorite Christmas traditions into a celebration that we look forward to all year long.

We always make Christmas cookies and listen to Christmas music (and there’s usually some Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers playing since that transports me to my childhood!).  In December, we always make multiple kinds of cookies (we love cookies!) including cut-out sugar cookies, but for Christmas in July, we keep it super easy and just do sugar cookies.  I typically buy unfrosted, round sugar cookies from the grocery store but we always make homemade frosting and pull out all of the sprinkles and toppings.

Of course, the kids snack while they’re decorating.  In Ellie’s case, it’s usually one sprinkle on the cookie, and then one in her mouth.  And they ask repeatedly if they can eat the cookies as they frost, but we save them for the end.

The kids love putting their personal touches on the cookies and it’s fun seeing their personalities come out in their decorating.  I have one specific child whose goal is to get on as much frosting/sprinkles as possible which makes the cookies absolutely disgusting to everyone but him… so he gets to eat everything he decorates (smart kid!).  And a couple kids are very particular with their decorating and sprinkle placement is a precision-task.

After the cookies are decorated, it’s time for dinner and a movie.  Growing up, our Christmas Eve tradition was to go see a Christmas movie at the movie theater and then come home and have pizza for dinner.  We’ve continued that tradition with our kids but adapted it a bit depending on the year.  If there’s not a Christmas movie in theaters or the years that our kids weren’t old enough/cooperative enough to sit through a movie, we watch classic Christmas cartoons at home while we have our pizza, so that’s what we do for Christmas in July, too.

And it wouldn’t be Christmas in July without some presents!  Now, while we may go all out on Christmas, we absolutely do not go all out for Christmas in July.  Typically I just wrap up things that I found on clearance at Target and have sitting in my closet, but I make sure to use Christmas paper or bags so that it’s extra special.

Every once in awhile their gifts will have more value, but they’re technically things that we were already going to pay for so it’s not like it’s costing us additional money.  One year, the kids got tickets to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party as their Christmas gift– we were already planning on going, but Christmas in July gave us the opportunity to surprise them with the trip in a fun way!

I think my absolute favorite part of Christmas in July is the chance to do something together as a family.  As the kids get older, I know they’ll want to spend more and more time with friends or they’ll be busy with jobs and activities, but at least for now, they look forward to this day in July and it’s a can’t-miss event for them.  And I get to spend time surrounded by those that I love, eating cookies and listening to Christmas carols– what could be better?

Does your family celebrate Christmas in July?? What’s your favorite Christmas tradition??

 

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