It’s our favorite time of the year here in Orlando! The holiday rush is calming down, the masses are starting to leave (though we love our tourists and all that they do for our great city), and our annual passes are full force again! There’s a nice calm after the storm in the parks, where you can enjoy the stillness and the BEAUTIFUL weather Orlando winter brings. If you're a local, you know that in some ways, right now The City Beautiful feels exclusively yours.
We also love this time of year because it gives us a chance to enjoy some of the perks about living with a theme park in our backyard that we tend to take for granted. There’s SO much to do at Disney than just the rides and we wanted to give you a preview of some of our favorite activities that make an appearance when it quiets down around here.
1. Four times a year RunDisney hosts a racing event on property for guests that want to view the parks in a whole different light! November starts race season with the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend and then it quiets down again until January. The beginning of January brings the only marathon race with Walt Disney World Marathon Race Weekend, followed by the Princess Half Marathon Weekend in February, and rounding off with the Star Wars Rival Run Weekend in April. These events are so exhilarating, from the registration process (will I even get a spot?) to the week of anticipation! The days leading up to the actual races, you will have to go to ESPN Wide World of Sports to pick up your bib, and this also gives you a chance to peruse the numerous vendors, selling everything from racing gear to themed merchandise. It’s a runner’s delight ... and really can inspire anyone to do want to run these races (we're about to run our 4th half marathon)!
And if running anything with marathon in it is not your thing, each of the race weekends above offer a 5K & 10K, as well as kid races! If timing doesn't line up, consider racing at Port Orleans - French Quarter, where the on-site property hosts a Beignet Fun Run most Sundays (except race weekends) and you finish with a sweet treat to celebrate!
There's so much excitement in the air when a race comes to town!
2. In-park events start to come alive again in January, when EPCOT welcomes back the annual International Festival of the Arts. This particular event mimics the likeliness of the other in-park events, but draws on creativity and imagination. There are speciality food booths lining the World Showcase that make food a work of art, artists with their masterpieces on display, and performances by broadway stars, to name a few of the activities.
Festival of the Arts, which is in its third year, runs Jan 18 – Feb 25, 2019 and joins the ranks of the International Flower & Garden Festival, the renowned International Food & Wine Festival, as well as Festival of the Holidays. Flower and Garden happens in spring and showcases the horticulture in the park with their magnificent colors and celebrates the art of growing food. For those that like to munch around the world, the booths are back with deliciaes grown on property and Disney’s culinary team once again delighting in sample size. Food & Wine, which is a staple for many, comes back earlier than ever and with more booths than before to celebrate the culinary cultures of the world. And Festival of the Holidays introduces worldwide food and holiday traditions during the season! These events are included in your EPCOT or multi-park admission ticket.
3. Disney Special Events always has a special place in our hearts, as it’s a fun way to see the parks from a different lens. Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party encourages guests of all ages to dress up and trick or treat at Magic Kingdom! We have attended the event a handful of times and each one we love the memories we make in costume. Even though most rides are up and running during the event, you can fully enjoy the event without even stepping foot on a ride! We use this time to load up on candy, wait for special character meet and greet & dance parties, watch parades & shows unique to this event, and catch the full park fireworks display.
Following Halloween is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, where the park lights up at night in celebration of the holidays. From meeting Santa, to cookies and cocoa to your heart’s desire and topping it off with one-of-a-kind parades, shows and fireworks, this event is an added bonus, especially if you call this home for the holidays. These are sepearately ticketed events, but if you were wanting to explore the park in a different light, this is definitely something to check out!
4. Ever thought about staying on property? Right now might be the time! Disney offers hotel specials and discounts to Florida residents throughout the year. When you come make plans to spend time at the resort, enjoy the pool(s), participate in activities and RELAX! If the park is still calling you, you can always go, but we like to enjoy a true staycation exclusively at a Disney hotel to take in all it has to offer! We enjoyed Art of Animation a few years back, and swimming in one of their 3 pools until the sun disappeared. After sunset, they had movies on the green between the buildings. It was perfect.
If staying at the resorts is not for you, consider just popping by for a visit. The dining options are fantastic! From heading over to the Magic Kingdom loop and heading on the monorail for a date night; strolling Disney's BoardWalk and renting a tandem bicycle to explore the area; or dining with characters dining at a handful of the resorts. There's plenty to do that doesn't even require a ticket into the park!
5. Another option outside the parks is to check out the various activities of Disney Springs. From bowling at Splitsville, catching a show at House of Blues, seeing the world from above on Aerophile, or watching a movie at AMC, that’s only a portion of what the entertainment complex has to offer. The original Disney Village still stands in all of her glory, with classic shops and restaurants, like Rainforest Café and T-Rex, for kids of all ages. We just visited and got to catch the last night of the Christmas Tree Trail, where Disney Springs dressed a tree for the likes of every Disney movie! Heading over to the newer Disney Springs you will find more eclectic dining and shopping options. You can easily make a day of exploring the area or enjoy a Disney date night (we particularly enjoyed the progressive dinner style ones we’ve done).
For those that are toying with the idea of becoming loyal Disney patrons like us, Disney offers a host of ticket options. From day tickets to annual passes, you can find the one to customize what you need. And right now they have a special promotional offers for FL residents if you're not ready to dive in - the Florida Resident Discover Ticket offers 3 Days starting at $175!
If you're ready to explore options of visiting that can fit you, anything from a day trip to the resort to a staycation or full on vacation, let us know! We'd be thrilled to help you plan a trip, perfect for you!