Sunday, October 26, 2008

Christmas with Lieutenant Dan

Chris – My first Christmas at WDW was in 2002. My wife and I had recently moved south and we had ramped up our Disney visits considerably now that we were within driving distance. Upon reading about the Candlelight Processional at Epcot and seeing the list of celebrity narrators I commented to her that I would love to see Gary Sinise. I’ve always been a fan and he was doing the narration for December 24th-26th. My wife surprised me and booked us a room for Christmas Eve at Port Orleans Riverside. And so began our tradition of spending the holidays at WDW and always making it a point to see the Candlelight Processional.

So, what is the Processional? Simply put, CP takes place three times nightly in the American Gardens Amphitheater and is the telling of the Christmas story by a celebrity narrator. Accompanied by a mass choir and a 50 piece orchestra, with holiday music interspersed through the whole thing it is an unforgettable way to spend forty-five minutes. If you want to experience CP you’ll need to know that there are two ways to get in. There is a standby line that fills up extremely early and there is the Candlelight Processional Dinner Package. The package is booked ahead of time and in one of three tiers of restaurants. Included in the package are an appetizer, entrĂ©e and dessert. More importantly though, the package guarantees you seating as those who purchased the package are seated first. This is a great deal at one of many great restaurants and I can’t recommend it enough.

Tier 1 restaurants: Biergarten and Garden Grill
Tier 2 restaurants: San Angel Inn, Nine Dragons Restaurant, Rose and Crown Pub, Restaurant Marrakesh
Tier 3 restaurants: Le Cellier Steakhouse, Chefs de France, Teppan Edo / Tokyo Dining, Tutto Italia, Coral Reef

Shows are at 5:00, 6:45 and 8:15 p.m.Scheduled Celebrity Narrators include:

John O'Hurley Nov. 28 - 30
Neil Patrick Harris Dec. 1-3
Brian Stokes Mitchell Dec. 4 - 6
Virginia Madsen Dec. 7 - 9
Marlee Matlin Dec. 10 - 12
Monique Coleman Dec. 13 - 15
Chita Rivera Dec. 16 - 18
Abigail Breslin Dec. 19 - 21
Steven Curtis Chapman Dec. 22 - 24
Edward James Olmos Dec. 25 - 27
Angela Bassett & Courtney Vance Dec. 28 – 30

Narrators change from year to year (we’ve seen Gary Sinise, Rita Moreno and John Stamos, all of whom were awesome!) but the one thing that never changes is the passion and emotion conveyed through the Candlelight Processional. I’ve talked to many people from all walks of life and with very different beliefs and it seems that everyone can find a piece of the show that moves them and fills them with the spirit, whatever that may be for them, of the holidays.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Christmas Hot Dog

As we’ve already talked about, there are so many things to look forward to and love about Disney at Christmas. As we’ll talk about in greater detail later (exhaustive, fantastical, mouth-watering detail) there are many AMAZING places to eat in and around WDW. It’s an awesome thing to eat Christmas dinner in California Grill atop the Contemporary and be able to see the fireworks at the end of the night. But please believe, my gentle snowflakes that you must plan well in advance for such dinners. Should you choose to spend the holidays in the “World” you should check with your travel agent (see pretty box at upper-right) regarding booking your dining as faaaaaaaar in advance as possible.

However, if you haven’t planned far enough ahead or you have tried and not been fortunate enough to get advanced dining reservations or if you just decided to show up on Christmas day, fear not. There are still some places to eat; you’ll just be doing so at a counter service restaurant. This is most definitely NOT a bad thing, people! So you may have a hot dog for lunch or dinner Christmas day, who cares!?!?! You could be eating a Casey’s Corner hot dog, possibly one of the most magical foods to ever grace the planet. Trust us, we’ve both been there and as the saying goes, life is what you make of it. Hot dogs and fries in the “House of Mouse” will make just as much of a Christmas to remember as that dinner in Cali Grill. As we’ve said before, aren’t those memories what these trips are all about? I knew you’d agree. ; )

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Holiday Illuminations, or: How to Make My Wife Cry

Those of us that have visited Epcot have probably had the opportunity to see Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. Illuminations has been the running show to close Epcot each night since the Millennium Celebration began in 1999. There’s clearly a reason that this show has been ongoing and hasn’t changed much in the last nine years: it works and it’s amazing.

When the holidays roll around, Disney chose to stick with an already great show and, instead of altering Illuminations, simply adding an ending befitting the season. If you’ve never had the chance to see Holiday Illuminations, I can’t begin to recommend it enough. Narrated by Walter Cronkite, the ending includes a brief wish of peace and goodwill that is then repeated in the native language of each country represented in the World Showcase Pavilion. Set to “Let There Be Peace on Earth” the montage culminates in a fireworks display so intense and so amazing that you’ll feel it throughout your entire body.

Click below to start brief slide show of Holiday Illuminations pictures.

Walt Disney World Holiday Illuminations

If you are at all emotional, this one will grab you and break you in the most wonderful of ways. If you aren’t emotional, then you’ll still cry. Believe me when I tell you that I’ve watched the biggest and baddest of men reduced to crying like a little kid with a skinned knee. There is just no escaping the emotion that Holiday Illuminations evokes and I can’t imagine why you would want to. It is a wonderful, moving five minutes that will give you a holiday memory that you won’t soon forget.

Click below for a video of the Holiday Illuminations Ending