Never in my life have I known a year that needs holiday cheer more than this one. It has tested our patience with our immediate families as we were stuck inside for a lockdown. It has tested our patience with our extended families as we fought (both figuratively and, in some cases, literally) through a brutal political season. This is when we most need the magic and awe of the holiday season, and nobody does it better than Walt Disney World.
I recently made a visit to the Magic Kingdom to check out the decorations, character cavalcades, and…of course…the snacks that go along with the most wonderful time of the year. It seems only fitting for the year that I made this trip during Tropical Storm Eta. The weather, however, could not damper the mood. There is something glorious about Main Street USA in November and December.
Despite the pulsing rain, my jaw still dropped at the sight of that giant tree in Town Square. It is not the first time I gazed down Main Street at this time of the year, and it will not be the last, but it was particularly cathartic on this occasion. The festive spirit that seemed almost to be an impossibility in April is now here. We certainly understand the day-to-day stressors that exist outside the monorail loop; however, there is a relief in knowing that we still get to celebrate.
Not long after arriving, I saw the first character cavalcade of the day; featuring the big guy, himself…Santa Claus! I would get to see Saint Nick three times on the day; including a “rainy day” version of the cavalcade. He also rode past the crowd on Main Street one last time, as the sun was setting for the day, right before the castle projections. It felt like Mr. Kringle was out enough to make sure guests had the chance to see him, but it was not overdone to the point it didn’t feel special to see him. That is a delicate balancing act, and Disney toed that tight-rope quite well from what I could see.
There were three other character cavalcades on the day. Some of the Princesses went by on their usual float, but it was now adorned by fir trees and season decorations. The Princesses, themselves, were also dressed for winter weather. It was a great touch, and Merida at the back of the float with holly in her red hair was the perfect icing on the cake. Goofy, Max, and Clarabelle had their own cavalcade with some Gingerbread men leading the way. Max was driving what appeared to be a gingerbread car.
Of course, Mickey and Minnie were a part of a cavalcade. Both in holiday outfits, and riding a float with a large tree. In front of the vehicle, Pluto, the Mad Hatter, Alice, Pinocchio, Geppetto, Peter Pan, and Wendy danced to the music. Following our favorite mouse couple were Donald Duck, Tigger, Mary Poppins, and Bert. Mary and Bert were in their nanny and chimney sweep attire, and not dressed for an outing in a chalk drawing. That was a particular treat for me; considering Mary Poppins is my favorite Disney movie of all-time.
There were also visits from the Main Street Philharmonic with toy soldiers making way for the talented musicians. The marching of the soldiers, combined with the rhythms of the drummers, really made for a great atmosphere. That wasn’t the end of the music, either, as the Dapper Dans performed holiday classics at the train station. The Dans always combined incredible talent as a barbershop quartet with some hilarious “Dad Jokes.”
You can’t talk about the holiday season at Magic Kingdom without mentioning the treats. Walt Disney World has really brought its A-Game in this department in 2020. The stand-out item has to be the Twice Upon A Cupcake. At first, the cupcake appears to be quite normal, with a tree-and-ornament appearance on the outside. After cutting into the dessert, you see that the vanilla cake doesn’t just lead up to a pile of icing. The cake makes a point, so that there is a better balance of cake-to-icing. This really, really prevents the cupcake from being too sweet (I must confess, many of these special seasonal offerings can be too sweet for my taste). The cake was moist, and hid another surprise. There is a Hidden Mickey in red velvet cake on the inside, as well. You must make sure to cut this treat open in the middle before devouring it. The Twice Upon A Cupcake can be found at the Starbucks location on Main Street USA, also known as the Main Street Bakery.
At the Confectionary, I got a Gingerbread Mickey cookie, which was excellent. They also had a variety of other seasonal snacks, like Pecan Pie Krispie’s, candy apples, and a variety of red-and-green cupcakes. You can also find a dessert taco at Pecos Bill in Frontierland. As the season continues, I will try many of these options for you, and any more that may appear.
Some old friends have made a return to Liberty Square to wrap up 2020. The Muppets are appearing for special meet-and-greets right next to the entrance to the Hall of Presidents. Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, the chickens, Fozzie, and Sam Eagle all graced us with their presence. Fozzie and Sam Eagle even attempted (of course, unsuccessfully) to hang some lights, and they played “Jingle Bells” on a string of silver bells. The cast members in Liberty Square also did a fantastic job of leading all of the on-lookers in song during the performance.
Last but not least, when the sun finally set, Cinderella Castle was lit up with a series of 3D projections. From looking like a wrapped present, to featuring snowflakes, guests were standing in awe of the display. With the limited hours since reopening, this has been the first many people have seen of Magic Kingdom after dark in quite some time. Even as a regular, it had been a long time since I got to witness it. We forget the beauty that comes with the lights on Main Street, and that is only magnified with the holiday decorations.
After seeing the way Walt Disney World handled Halloween celebrations after the cancelation of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, I was sure that they would bring that same feeling for the holidays after Mickey’s Very-Merry Christmas Party was canceled. Disney has no control over outside events, but they can do everything to make you forget…even for just a second. The season is marked by family and friends, but it is also defined by the promise of a New Year. I think in 2020, that is a spirit that we can all need.