Escaping the Crowds at Disney During Christmas

I survived the commute to work this morning. I woke up after my food coma and hopped on the Long Island Rail Road to New York City. I can easily take off, but I “pay my dues” on Black Friday, as I take off the entire week between Christmas and the New Year.

I was worried about coming into work today. I used to work on 40th and Broadway, but my job recently moved its offices to the headquarters on 34th street (any guesses?). That means I need to head to one of the most popular stores in America on Black Friday. It’s quiet here on the 17th floor, but I’m told it’s mayhem down at the store.

Fortunately, I was able to evade the crowds and make it to work safely. After all, I’m a pro at strategically avoiding crowds, right? So, with just FOUR WEEKS left until Christmas at Disney (we’re in the final countdown, people!) let’s take a look at the best ways to avoid and take a break from the crowds at Disney during Christmas week.

Arrive at the Parks Early

Disney recently released the hours for Christmas week. Most parks open at 8am, with a morning EMH from 7am-8am. We do Magic Kingdom every Christmas – that’s no secret. We arrive by 7:30am and pack in as many rides and attractions as possible before 10am. Why? Because 10am is when the park gets crowded. Very crowded.

I’m not sure why, but the park isn’t overwhelmingly crowded at rope drop – even on Christmas Day. My theory is that most families sleep in, eat breakfast together and take time to open gifts before heading to the park. For early risers, this provides a fantastic opportunity to head to the park and experience the attractions at a reduced wait time. We’ve walked onto Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear, and Jingle Cruise is usually around a 30-minute wait shortly after opening.

Stay Late

Right now, there’s only one late-night EMH for Magic Kingdom: December 30th. I’m not sure this will give you too much of a break from the crowds, as this is the “dress rehearsal” for New Year’s Eve. I expect Disney to add some additional late-night EMHs, though.

Most one-day guests, off-site guests and young families will leave the park after the first parade and showing of Wishes, Fantasmic or Illuminations. This should alleviate the crowds a bit. The later the night gets, the lower the crowds will get and the lower the wait times will be. My sister and I love roaming Magic Kingdom at 2am. There’s something really magical about the park that late at night.

Head to the Resorts

The resorts are so beautifully decorated that they’re an attraction in and of themselves. Take a break from EPCOT or Hollywood Studios by heading over to the Boardwalk, Beach and Yacht Club Resorts. Most of the resorts have a gingerbread display and feature Christmas trees decorated according to the respective resort’s theme. I’d also walk over to the Swan and Dolphin!

If you’re at Magic Kingdom, take the monorail tour. Stop at the Contemporary, then the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian. The Grand Floridian has the most elaborate decorations, with a life-size gingerbread house and an elegantly decorated Christmas tree. The lobby is truly breathtaking.

You can also head to the Wilderness Lodge. The lobby is the most “Christmas-y” place on property. It literally feels like you’ve stepped inside a ski lodge, without the snow and cold weather. I’d also recommend checking out Fort Wilderness, especially at night. The campers at Fort Wilderness decorate their campsites. Some go more traditional, while others construct some pretty elaborate decorations. We visited a few years ago. I remember one campsite had a ton of inflatables, while another erected a mini Disney World replica, stocked with Christmas lights. Fort Wilderness offers horse drawn carriage rides throughout the campsite to view the decorations. I believe it costs around $80.

Find an Activity

It’s Orlando in December. It can be cold, it could be hot, or it can be “perfect” outside. You really never know. The inconsistencies in the temperature make it difficult to make plans this far out, but do plan for a day outside the parks. Whether you hang by the pool, go golfing or rent a boat for the day, the activities throughout Disney offer an excellent opportunity to escape the crowds. My family loves to rent a boat for an hour or two. We usually rent the boat from The Contemporary and drive it over to the Seven Seas Lagoon. The lagoon offers some awesome views of the resorts and Magic Kingdom.

Purchase a Park Hopper

It’s totally worth it, especially during Christmas week! Let’s say you get into Magic Kingdom and it’s way too crowded, do you “tough it out” or leave for the day? Well, you have another option. You can head to a less-crowded park. The Park Hopper gives you a real leniency. It’s a benefit for on-site guests, and a must-do for off-site guests. Off-site guests have a greater risk of being turned away due to phased closures. Always be prepared with a park hopper, which would allow you to go to another park should your first choice be at capacity.

Disney Springs

Disney Springs is really up and coming. The marketplace has really stepped up its Christmas decorations and features a meet-and-greet with Santa (pre Christmas) and Goofy Santa (post Christmas). Get in some last-minute holiday shopping, or just explore the area. This year, we plan on grabbing a drink at Jock Lindsey’s or the BOATHOUSE. We also love window shopping at Disney Spring’s plethora of stores. The Ghiradelli store is always giving out free peppermint bark samples on Christmas Eve. It’s a tradition to stop by on our arrival day.

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