Yuletide Fantasy Tour at Walt Disney World
By: Kim Miller
Bright and early on Tuesday, November 28, 2017, my husband and I set out from Boardwalk Villas to meet up with our group for Disney’s Yuletide Fantasy tour. After entering EPCOT via the International Gateway and walking around an empty park (nobody in the background of any pictures – how awesome is that?!), we met our cast member tour guides and fellow tour-takers at the front of EPCOT. Our guides Diogo (from Brazil) and Anna (from Colorado) checked us in, gave us our name tags, took pictures, and provided instructions and rules of the road for our tour.
The group then boarded our private motor coach where we were divided into two groups (my husband and I were in Diogo’s group) and received our listening devices so our guides wouldn’t have to shout at us all morning! The motor coach took us around to the back of the Germany pavilion where we disembarked for our first tour stop. Diogo brought us to the front of the Germany pavilion (still considered back stage at this point because World Showcase wasn’t open – no pictures in backstage areas!) and discussed the origin of the Christmas Tree and early decorating traditions. One fascinating discussion involved the pickle ornament. Diogo pointed out that although many Americans believe using a pickle ornament is a universal German tradition, it was actually practiced only in a small portion of Germany. We then proceeded to the American pavilion where Diogo discussed the story of Hanukah and the tradition of the dreidel. Following a photo op in front of the American pavilion Christmas tree, we boarded our motor coach for the Magic Kingdom.
On the way to the Magic Kingdom, we saw where the Food and Wine booths and the American Sailing ship are stored when not being used while Diogo and Anna discussed Kwanza and other holiday traditions from around the world. Upon arrival at Magic Kingdom and the obligatory bag check, we gathered in front of Tony’s restaurant in town square where Diogo discussed the origins of the Candlelight Processional and facts about the Magic Kingdom Christmas tree, glass ornaments and the aluminum tree fad of the 1950s and 1960s. Following our short but sweet visit to Magic Kingdom, we walked to our motor coach and listened while Diogo and Anna discussed their favorite Christmas movies (Diogo seems to think Batman Returns is a Christmas movie!). Also on the walk to our motor coach, Diogo admitted that being from Brazil, he has never seen real snow!
Our next stop was the building where the magic happens. Where all of the Walt Disney World Christmas decorations are created and stored. This was probably the coolest part of the tour. After donning our safety glasses, we walked through a literal warehouse of Christmas decorations of all imaginable kinds. Here is where a small group of cast members work year-round to design, create and assist in the installation of every Christmas tree, light (literally millions of LEDs), ornament, wreath, etc., for each of the parks, Disney Springs, and every resort on property. They are currently planning for decorations three to five years from now, and factor in new park areas (Pandora at AK, Toy Story and Star Wars at HS), and refreshed designs for all areas. We were told that the cast members who perform this work love their jobs and never get tired of living Christmas every day of the year! Once back on our motor coach, we were treated to a holiday marshmallow crispy treat.
Our final stop was Wilderness Lodge, where we were told that the resort was specifically designed with Christmas decorations in mind. This was based on hard lessons learned from Grand Floridian resort, which had no electrical outlets within reach of the location where their Christmas tree is installed. We gathered as one large group in the Wilderness lounge where we received a treat of warm apple cider (among the best we’ve ever had), and even received a copy of the recipe. Our tour concluded by dropping the group off where we started at EPCOT. Upon disembarking the motor coach, we received a Yuletide Fantasy pin to remember our tour.
Simply stated, this tour was awesome! Both Diogo and Anna were enthusiastic, personable, and intimately knowledgeable about all things Disney. My husband and I enjoyed this tour as much as the Keys to the Kingdom tour, which we took several years ago. The amount of walking on the tour is manageable and the tour itself is scooter friendly (two members of our group used scooters for the majority of the tour). We highly recommend this tour to any and all!
If you would like more information on a vacation to Disney please email me or contact me through my Facebook page. Let me know if you would like to add one of Disney’s fabulous tours to your vacation!