Experience Christmas and New Year in Orlando, Florida
By Richard Jones
From Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebrations and new rides and characters at Universal and SeaWorld, to re-imagined Christmas and New Year’s Eve experiences and holiday shopping under the palm trees, Orlando has it all for a seasonal getaway.
With US borders reopened, holidaymakers can escape the chilly temperatures to plan the perfect winter vacation in the Sunshine State – or even give their loved ones the ‘gift of travel’ to make up for the missed holidays over the past couple of years.
Here, we round-up what’s going on in Orlando during the festive season and throughout the winter.
Walt Disney World Resort
‘The Most Magical Place on Earth’ first opened its gates on October 1 1971.
To mark Walt Disney World Resort’s 50th Anniversary, the resort is inviting guests to an 18-month celebration, ushering in a spectacular array of new attractions, EARidescent décor, evening spectaculars and much more.
Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom, the Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom, the Hollywood Tower Hotel at Hollywood Studios and Spaceship Earth at EPCOT will all be lit up in dazzling ways.
This Christmas, Disney Very Merriest After Hours at Magic Kingdom Park is a holiday event with festive food, dance parties, and Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade.
Meanwhile, the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays takes guests on a global celebration with costumed performances, seasonal food throughout the 11 World Showcase nations, along with wondrous sights, sounds and flavours celebrated by cultures near and far.
The two other parks at WDW, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, are introducing exclusive holiday character dining and festive night-time illuminations.
Universal Orlando Resort
Over at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Grinchmas, a Who-liday Spectacular and live retelling of the classic tale starring the Grinch, will put a little snark in your holiday spirit at Seuss Landing.
Meanwhile, at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, there is festive decor at both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. Enjoy a hot Butterbeer, while both the Frog Choir and Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees put a holiday spin on their performances.
Guests can cap off their evening by enjoying The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle – a spectacular transformation of Hogwarts castle with a stunning projection, which features ghosts singing carols, a recreation of the Yule Ball, and students riding broomsticks.
Universal’s Holiday Experience featuring Macy’s Balloons is a festive walk-through experience bringing guests closer than ever to the larger-than-life balloons and colourful Christmas floats. Characters from Shrek, Madagascar and Despicable Me join in the fun, along with the big man himself, Santa.
During SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration, over three million sparkling lights will shine throughout the theme park. As well as the fan-favourite Sesame Street Christmas Parade and the new Elmo’s Christmas Wish Show, other festivities include live performances, seasonal food and meet-and-greets with Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Winter Wonderland on Ice.
The bustling Christmas Market, nestled along Bayside Pathway, features festive entertainment and delicious culinary delights.
And on New Year’s Eve, spectacular music and a bold fireworks display will send a wave of welcome to the New Year ahead.
SeaWorld’s waterpark Aquatica is plunging into 2022 with a brand-new waterslide, Reef Plunge.
Guests will slide through eye-catching translucent cut-outs and rings, and twist and turn though over 330 feet of fibreglass, zooming past a vibrant array of marine life in the new dynamic habitat.
Finally, guests can currently book the Discovery Cove Ultimate Swim package for as little as £134 per person, saving up to 42 per cent.
Tampa’s biggest and brightest holiday event, Christmas Town, is returning, complete with millions of lights and the all-new Santa’s North Pole Experience in which jolly elves guide guests to see Santa in his workshop.
Plus, there is Storytime with Mrs Claus as she shares traditional holiday tales and a joyful song, and festive bursts of Christmas colours in the Holiday in the Sky fireworks show on the Festival Field.
Christmas on Ice at the Moroccan Palace Theater is Busch Gardens’ longest running holiday show as skaters perform incredible feats of athleticism set to holiday classic songs.
Iron Gwazi, the tallest hybrid coaster and the fastest and steepest hybrid coaster in the world, opens in March 2022, just in time for Spring Break.
The much-anticipated new ride will take thrills to new heights, plunging riders from a 206-foot-tall peak into a 91-degree drop and reaching top speeds of 76 miles per hour.
Also around Orlando
ICON Park will transform into a magical winter wonderland.
To kick off the celebrations, it will host its first tree-lighting ceremony with an impressive 40-foot-tall Christmas tree visible from International Drive.
The 35th annual Festival of Trees transforms the Orlando Museum of Art into a glittering wonderland, filled with sparkling trees, gingerbread houses and stunning decor.
Downtown Orlando’s Wall St Plaza area, features themed bars linked by an open-air courtyard, for an annual New Year’s Eve Block Party with light shows, dance parties and a big countdown to 2022.
And finally, Christmas shopping doesn’t get any more pleasurable than beneath palm trees in the Florida sunshine.
Orlando Premium Outlets is the place to snag discounted merchandise from designer and brand-name outlet stores like Armani Exchange, Burberry, lululemon, Prada, Coach, Tory Burch and more.
For a more luxurious shopping experience, the stylish Mall at Millenia offers everything from the latest Apple gadgets to international high-end retailers.
Enjoy seven nights in Orlando, with Virgin Holidays, including scheduled Virgin Atlantic flights from Manchester Airport direct to Orlando, room-only accommodation at Clarion Suites Maingate from £869 per person. Price is per person based on two adults sharing and departing on December 12, 2021 and includes applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Virgin Holidays is a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected. To book: www.virginholidays.co.uk or call 0344 557 3859.
For latest travel information, tools and offers to make winter sun holiday planning easier, visit Orlando’s UK website: www.visitorlando.com