Christmas is the Most Wonderful Time in the World
Magic is always in the air at the Walt Disney World Resort, but the Christmas holiday season brings an extra special feeling. If you have never experienced WDW at this time of year, please let me enlighten you on what you’ve been missing. In addition to the usual gorgeous theming around the parks and resort hotels, at Christmas, Disney sprinkles even more pixie dust around the World to share the holiday spirit with guests.
I would like to focus on the monorail resort loop. These include three Deluxe Resorts as categorized by Disney: the Grand Floridian, Contemporary and Polynesian. They tend to have some of the most elaborate decorations at Walt Disney World. Each resort takes their traditional theme and cranks it up a notch for the holidays. While there are others like the Yacht & Beach Club and Boardwalk that also have magnificent displays of their own, I will save those for a later date.
One of the most popular resorts to visit during the winter months is the Grand Floridian with its famous gingerbread house display. Before you enter the resort’s main entrance, you discover poinsettias everywhere. There are even some beautiful deer grazing amongst them (okay, not real deer, but the light displays are quite pretty and lifelike). From the moment you enter the cavernous Victorian lobby, the scent of gingerbread is gently wafting through the air to greet you. Before you get to the house though, you encounter a colossal Christmas tree that seems to tower over the entire open floor plan of the Grand’s lobby.
The tree reaches several stories high and is instantly the focal point as you set foot inside the Grand. It is decorated in a very traditional theme with white lights, red balls, bows, angels, birdhouses and various other ornaments keeping in line with the Victorian styling of the resort. In addition to the large tree in the center of the atrium lobby, there are numerous smaller trees spread throughout the common areas of the hotel. Garland drapes elegantly over the balconies of the stories above, drawing your eye up to the magnificent stained glass windows in the ceiling.
Now as beautiful as the trees and garland are, the main reason most people make the trip to the Grand Floridian during the holidays (assuming they aren’t staying there, of course) is to see the gingerbread house. The house is constructed the first couple of weeks in November and is a sight to behold. I have not yet had the privilege myself to see the construction in progress, but having seen video of it, I can tell you it is quite an undertaking with scissor lifts and scaffolding much like an actual construction site.
Head Pastry Chef, Erich Herbitschek is the mastermind behind it all. He has lead the pastry team building the gingerbread house for the last 12 years, since its inception. Back when he developed the idea, he used ladders and tall cast members to help in the decorating of the house. Now, he has a permit to drive the scissor lift that is brought into the lobby late at night while most guests are sleeping.
The gingerbread house is simply amazing. It is something everyone should go see at least once if they get the chance. As with all things Disney, there are hidden Mickeys placed throughout the display. There are also incredible details from the different characters stenciled into the windowpanes, to the pastry chef’s names placed on presents by the top of the chimney. Of course you can also purchase shingles of the gingerbread or even a comparatively miniature gingerbread house of your own to take home. Feel free to enjoy the scent of the gingerbread at no charge to you.
Moving on to the next hotel in the monorail loop is the Contemporary Resort on the shores of Bay Lake. If you are traveling on the monorail, one of the first things you see before you go through the concourse is the gigantic Mickey wreath on the exterior of the north end of the main building. Seen from inside and out, it lights up at night and brings that true magical feeling having Mickey seemingly smiling down over the Magic Kingdom.
As you descend from the 5th floor of the Grand Canyon Concourse, to the 4th, you see another gingerbread display climbing the walls of the central pillar of the hotel. With the Mary Blair mural and an It’s A Small World backdrop, the gingerbread tree takes on a whimsical feel. The tree is decorated with patches of snow, poinsettias, candy canes and more hidden Mickeys. This installment seems to blend almost seamlessly into the feel of the Contemporary with its simple clean lines. While not quite as large as the house at the Grand Floridian, the Contemporary’s tree is definitely worth checking out while taking a break from the Magic Kingdom or waiting for an ADR at the resort.
The Polynesian Resort has a very relaxed South Seas vibe and incorporates the flora of the region into its holiday décor. Trees and wreaths pop with color from tropical hibiscus flowers, starfish, miniature drums and even outrigger canoes. One of the things I most look forward to each year is the presentation of the little gingerbread displays made by the chefs of the Kona Café. These Hawaiian vignettes are spread out typically on the upper level around the café, sushi bar and right when you enter from the monorail platform. Unfortunately, as of last week when I visited, they were not completed yet. (When I inquired as to a date, I was informed they would finished by December 17th). However, I do have pictures from previous years to give you an idea of the creativity and humor that goes into each one. From the Iolani Palace, to churches, bars, pineapple fields, Christmas tree farms and about everything in between, the chefs really do get a chance to show off their talents with each showpiece. They are certainly not the breathtaking wonder that is the Grand Floridian lobby, but they are truly magical to me and transport me to a place I can only dream of visiting.
Now the ukulele versions of Christmas carols may not do it for everyone, but I will take Mele Kalikimaka almost any day of the week. The entire feel and theme of the resort is just one of the reasons why the Polynesian is one of my favorite resorts (aside from my love of Hawaiiana, dole whips, the grassy knoll, Wishes from the beach, Electrical Water Pageant, backscratchers (if you don’t know, ask) and being on the monorail loop).
If you haven’t had the chance to spend the most wonderful time of the year at any of the Walt Disney World Resorts, I highly recommend taking your time to visit. Even if you are staying at a different resort, or even off property, it is worth it to spend a few hours exploring the magic. The cast members really do put an incredible amount of effort into making the holidays special throughout the World, but at Christmas that really shines through. Relax, grab some hot chocolate (yes, it does get that cold here in Florida), and stroll through the monorail resorts with loved ones taking in the delightful sights, sounds and smells of the season. Merry Christmas!