Okay, I have finally experienced all of the 2020 holiday offerings at Walt Disney World. Overall, I would say this year was a bit of a mixed bag, which is to be expected. It’s hard to be too critical given the circumstances. I’m a little late to the holiday review game. There are plenty of articles, blogs, and videos out there outlining in great detail EVERY offering at Walt Disney World. So, I’m just giving my best and worst holiday experience at each park.
Best: Surprise Character Cameos
I absolutely love seeing the characters pop-up in their Christmas attire! The Muppets at the Hall of Presidents were my favorite followed by the County Bears. These little cameos add some much needed pixie dust to the theme park experience especially with the cuts to live entertainment. I hope that these character sightings will continue even when characters’ meet and greets are able to return. It’s a great way for people like me who don’t want to wait in line for a photo-op to still see the characters.
Worst: Holiday Cavalcades
I know that I am in the minority for this one. I have never liked parades (even as a child). My pre-Covid strategy was to check for parade times to make sure that I could avoid the route during those times. Now, there’s no avoiding it. Don’t get me wrong. The floats and costumes are adorable, but these mini-parades do not alleviate crowds, and it felt like there was a new cavalcade coming through every 10-15 minutes. At one point, I thought I said “Seriously, another one???” under my breath, but it was clearly audible by the dirty look I received from the guy standing (not six feet apart) next to me. I think Universal Studios has a better method with a walk-through experience where guests can see the parade floats and characters.
Best: More Plant-based Options
This may not be a big deal for everyone, but it was nice to have a whopping three choices compared to the single black and white cookie option from last year. While I still think these food booths are WAY overdone and EPCOT relies too heavily upon them, the plant-based options were shining stars this year. Vegetarians and vegans can get latkes and black and white cookies at the L’Chaim! booth and holiday pot pie at the American Holiday Table.
Worst: No Storytellers
Whether it’s the Candlelight Processional or the World Showcase storyteller, the EPCOT Festival of the Holidays has always been significant to me from a cultural traditions perspective. I loved learning about the customs and holiday stories told around the world. It definitely feels like an incomplete festival without the storytellers. On the bright side, you can still hear Voices of Liberty and the Mariachi Cobre at the America Gardens Theater.
Best: Vintage Holiday Aesthetic
I LOVE the quirky, vintage inspired decorations here! They look like mismatched items that I would have found in my great-grandmother’s attic (if she had an attic). Yet, somehow, it all comes together magically. With the warm sounds Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters’ Christmas carols floating through the air, I am truly transported to an enchanting Christmas moment. It will never replace the Osborne Lights, but this park definitely gets holiday decorations right.
Worst: Hollywood Holiday Tower Hotel
To be honest, I have never liked this feature during the holidays. It’s an awkward juxtaposition to try to invoke warm holiday wishes from a building that has blood curdling screams coming from it. The other problem is that Sunset Blvd gets too crowded with people watching the Hollywood Tower of Terror projection show.
Best: Tree of Life Awakening
Unlike the Hollywood Tower of Terror, the winter woodland projection show works really well here. It’s a magical experience that you can view from multiple locations around the park. This helps alleviate too large of crowds forming at Discovery Island (crowds still form here though).
I think this park does an amazing job adding unique decorations to each land. The character “flotillas” are probably my favorite cavalcade-type experience in all four of the parks. It doesn’t disrupt foot traffic, but still gives guests the opportunity to see characters through-out the park. The downside is that it might be a bit difficult to snap a selfie, since the flotillas move pretty quickly.