What should we do (and not do) in Orlando over Christmas break?
November 30, 2017 6:33 AM   Subscribe

Family of four - Mam, Dad, college freshman, and high school sophomore are vacationing in Orlando December 23 - 30. We plan on going to various amusement parks. We've been to the area before, but not during the holidays. My understanding is that there are a number of special events and shows during this time. It is also my understanding that it will be silly crowded, so I'd like us to be able to maximize our amusement/aggravation ratios. Are there things that we should be sure to do/see? Are there things that would not be worth our time?
posted by qldaddy to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you plan on doing Disney, I would just do the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas special event and not a regular admittance day. The party starts at 7pm, but they will let you into the park starting at 4pm. The crowd will be a little lighter during the party, but the trade off is that you can’t get FastPasses. Keep in mind that as long as you are IN LINE at closing time, they WILL let you ride the ride.

What you CAN do is download the My Disney Experience app onto your phone. They have just this month started offering an order ahead service for their Quick Service Restaurants. Basically, you order and pay through the app (while you’re in line for a ride or something) then when you get to the restaurant you use the app to tell them you’re there so they start your food. They then use the app to tell you which window to pick up your food at. Awesome, right?

There’s also a Christmas celebration at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I don’t know too much about that as it’s new and also I can’t go this year so why torture myself with all the cool details.

Have so much fun!! I’m happy to answer Disney questions, just MeMail.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 6:42 AM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

We go the the Harry Potter parts of Universal every other year when we visit my family. I know people say it's crowded, but we've never found it unbearable. Using the single rider lines is the secret to getting through without super long waits.

One thing that's always a crush is putting your stuff in the lockers before some rides. We send one person to do it, because those spaces are terribly congested.
posted by advicepig at 7:40 AM on November 30, 2017

If you do Universal, especially if you're only there for a day, pop for the line skipper pass. You'll still stand in line, but it will help A LOT. It's pricey, but if you're already spending the money to be there, you'll have a lot more time to enjoy the park vs. standing in line.
posted by joycehealy at 7:43 AM on November 30, 2017

When I was in Orlando a couple years ago with my family we drove to a local fresh water spring fed lake and did some paddling. It was beautiful, relaxing, and a nice way to connect. We saw an alligator and made some great memories when my kid freaked out about her boat getting stuck in the bushes that we still all laugh about.
posted by latkes at 8:23 AM on November 30, 2017

You probably are visiting to get away from cold weather but ICE at the Gaylord Palm Hotel is kind fun. Everything is made of ice include a fun ice slide.

Maybe an airboat tour? there are several around the Orlando/Kissimmee area

Orlando Science Center, I believe it has a number of hands on exhibits
posted by porkygrrl at 10:39 AM on November 30, 2017

If you're staying on site at Disney, consider bringing swim suits. You might get one nice pool day while you're there, and the resorts pretty much all have good to great pools.
posted by wnissen at 11:11 AM on November 30, 2017

Outside of the parks, make sure you hit the Deluxe hotels to see their decorations, especially the giant gingerbread houses. We used to regularly do a monorail tour, getting hot cocoa or a cocktail & dessert at each of the three monorail hotels to see everything. You can buy gingerbread shingles at the Grand Floridian and they're delicious.

Take advantage of My Disney Experience; if you've frontloaded your fast passes for early in the day, you can book additional ones as soon as you've used your third. You can also use it to check wait times and make dining reservations on the fly. I'll second the advice to use mobile ordering where it's available, especially in Animal Kingdom at the newer Pandora restaurants.

Away from Disney/Universal:
There's snow ("snow") every night in Celebration, plus beautiful decorations and usually carolers. Grab some cuban food at Columbia or sports bar/comfort-type food at Celebration Town Tavern.

You'll be too late for boat parades, but you can still go see some insane mansions with equally insane Christmas decorations on the Winter Park boat tour. The bands playing in the Russell Athletic Bowl will also parade and perform in WP on 12/28, finishing in Central Park where there's, among other things, outdoor ice skating -- which may not be a novelty to you, but it sure is in Florida.
posted by ThatSomething at 4:56 PM on November 30, 2017

We did Universal this summer with two college age kids and the above hints are all good. I would also do the 2 park pass so you can ride the Harry Potter train back and forth. Outside of the parks we did an airboat ride and enjoyed it more than we expected. I assume it will be chillier on a boat that time of year though.
posted by maxg94 at 6:11 AM on December 1, 2017

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