Looking for a fun way to celebrate Christmas at Walt Disney World while on a budget? These holiday festivities around Crescent Lake are sure to get you in the holiday spirit!
Welcome to the final chapter of our Walt Disney World Christmas on a Budget series! In these self-guided itineraries, we’ve put together three full days of Disney World holiday fun without the price of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party… or any park ticket.
So far, we’ve explored two day trips: The Magical Seven Seas Lagoon Self-Guided Tour and a Holiday Stroll Through Disney Springs. Could there really be three days worth of seasonal Disney magic that doesn’t include the parks? I’d bet my Christmas list on it.
Let’s get started on our journey around Crescent Lake, where we’ll see the largest chocolate Santa in the world, galloping gingerbread and enough snacks to make even Buddy the Elf think twice.
Beach and Yacht Club
I know what you’re thinking: “How does a beach-themed resort mesh with visions of sugarplums dancing in my head?”
With a life-sized rotating gingerbread carousel, that’s how. While most Christmas decorations are pleasant and gently awe-inspiring, this one is a downright jaw-dropper. The theme for the carousel is different every year (and this is the 19th one they’ve made). For 2018, the Disney chefs have dedicated the horse designs to Daisy and Donald Duck.
After finding all 19 hidden mickeys on the carousel and taking far too many photos, stroll over to the Beach Club Marketplace. Along the way, you’ll see wreaths and Christmas trees that include flip-flops, crabs and lighthouses. If you have ever thought of decorating your house in tastefully coastal Christmas, it’s time take notes.
Cookie Painting at Beach Club Marketplace
At the Marketplace, you’ll find some ornaments for purchase along with some sweet treats. Among cake pops and cookies, you’ll find Minnie’s paint-your-own sugar cookie ($11) and Mickey’s chocolate Christmas puzzle ($14).
My suggestion is to grab these edible activities and head back to the lobby or even the courtyard on Crescent lake. Spend some time creating, assembling and then mercilessly gobbling your holiday treats while in the festive atmosphere. Holiday music will be piping through the speakers at every stop on our tour today, so the time for a sporadic sing-a-long is up to you.
On the Boardwalk
I probably don’t even have to tell you to head over to the Boardwalk. Viewing the sprawling entertainment district from the shore of Beach Club is enough to tempt you to make the hike over. Walking out of the Beach Club lobby, hang a left on the main path toward Epcot.
The halls are still properly decked along the path, keeping you in the festive mood on your short walk over the bridge to Disney’s Boardwalk. On your way to the resort, you’ll pass the Boardwalk Bakery and Seashore Sweets, but try to curb your snacking instincts until we hit the lobby of the Boardwalk Resort.
Inside the lobby, take a closer look at the trees. In true Boardwalk Resort fashion, there’s some tongue-in-cheek fun with turn of the century decor. My favorite ornament that I look for each year is the dogfish. Let me know if you find it.
It’s a Small Boardwalk After All
The 2018 gingerbread display here is a recreation of the Boardwalk itself! The Flying Fish, Trattoria al Forno and the iconic gazebo have all been recreated here in delectable cookie.
And who’s that in the Boardwalk Bakery? It’s Mickey and his fondant friends making holiday treats. Yes, I’m a 38-year-old woman, and yes, I squealed when I peeked in. This is such a fun detail for the kids to discover!
Check Out the Goods
And what has Mickey been working on in the bakery? Just turn around to peruse the treat table right across from the gingerbread display. These pop-up shops are set up at most Disney Resort holiday displays and feature food and merchandise exclusive to the resort and season.
Try a gingerbread martini ($11.49) to lift your Christmas spirits and grab some chocolate peppermint bark to gift to Disney fans back home ($6.19). Some of these (including the bark) are a great use of a Disney Dining Plan snack credit. There are also special-edition Boardwalk Resort gifts available for purchase, like mugs and pins.
We’ve seen a lot of amazing gingerbread creations at the Seven Seas Lagoon and Disney Springs. Want to try your hand at building with sugar? It just so happens that the Gingerbread Academy is now enrolling new students.
In this unique experience at Ample Hills Creamery on the Boardwalk, you’ll get to work with Disney’s pastry chef team to create your own whimsical masterpiece. You’ll create a 11” tall gingerbread house, and hot chocolate is included. ($125 for a group of up to 4 people). This experience typically takes place at 1 p.m. and needs to be scheduled ahead by calling the private dining team at 407-939-5175.
There’s plenty to do at the Boardwalk after viewing the gingerbread display. Surrey bikes are available for rent (starting at $20 per half hour), but watch that last hill (my son had to get out and push us the rest of the way).
If you haven’t yet visited the Abracadabar, it’ll surely add some curious magic to the holiday (and there’s free truffle popcorn for the kids). Street performers are a common sight on the Boardwalk, and they often pull the audience into the action.
Swan and Dolphin
After meandering around the Boardwalk, head to the Swan and Dolphin just in time for dusk. They’ve dubbed it Santa’s Favorite Resort, with lots of family fun planned for the Christmas season. Walking from the Boardwalk to the Swan and Dolphin, the Swan is our first stop, and will be to your left.
World’s Largest Chocolate Santa
After seeing a moving gingerbread carousel and a miniature Boardwalk displayed in icing, what could possibly surprise you? How about a 400-lb nutcracker next to the largest chocolate Santa in the world? Yes, the smell you’re imagining is real.
The huge chocolate display by the resort’s executive pastry chef, Laurent Branlard, is imposing, but only 5 million calories… who’s up for a cheat day?
The Fountain ice cream shop nearby features a different specialty milkshake each month, and for December, they’ve wisely chosen the The North Pole ($8.50), a winner for those who love peppermint at Christmas time. This shake comes with a peppermint patty, candy cane and plenty of whipped cream.
Dancing Lights Spectacular
When the sun sets, the palm trees come to life on the causeway between the Swan and Dolphin resorts. As Christmas music plays, the lights on the trees change to create some festive atmosphere as you explore the two resorts. Boogie across the causeway to the lobby of the Dolphin, where our Christmas evening continues with some very special guests.
Mrs. Claus Hosts a Festive Evening
On select nights at 6 p.m., kids can meet up with Mrs. Claus in the lobby of the Dolphin to begin an evening of Christmas fun. Show up a bit early to check out the spun sugar artwork and gingerbread house in the Dolphin lobby shop.
Mrs. Claus will light the 24-foot Christmas Tree and maybe even add some holiday magic to make it snow in Florida! She’ll then direct the kids to activities and hot cocoa at Santa’s Tiki Hut. Kids can then meet Santa himself to review important Christmas list business.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our self-guided tours for holiday fun at Walt Disney World!
Have any questions? I’d be glad to help you out – just send me a message on Instagram.
By Rain Blanken