Disney Dose of Christmas Spirit!

plutoCome with us! Walt Disney World in Orlando is a moveable feast for Christmas addicts like us. So we’re spending an EPIC day visiting 14 lavishly decorated Disney Properties by boat, ferry, bus and monorail — all for FREE!! Our day included 7 buses, 1 ferry, 3 monorails, and 4 boat rides!

Ohhh and Ahhh over chocolate carousels, gargantuan festooned Christmas trees,  gingerbread castles, and then cap it off with Epcot spectacular fireworks…where else but Walt Disney World can you spend an entire day oogling for FREE?

Downtown Disney – Port Orleans French Quarter – Port Orleans Riverside – Contemporary Resort – Polynesian Resort – Fort Wilderness – Grand Floridian – Animal Kingdom Lodge – Old Key West Resort – Swan – Dolphin – Beach Club – Yacht Club – Disney Boardwalk

Here’s how to do it!

Park FREE at Downtown Disney to take in the Festival of the Seasons – there’s Santa, a chocolate sweet shop and coffee to fortify for the day ahead!

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By bus, we head to Port Orleans French Quarter and Port Orleans Riverside Resorts. A dose of the Big Easy and lavish plantations take us back to time of Southern charm and fragrant magnolias.

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The Sassagoula River Cruise boat meanders through the forest back to Downtown Disney for another cup of coffee and a free sample of Ghirardelli chocolate.YUM!

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We get in a little more shopping and then back on the bus for a quick stop at the Contemporary Resort. A Holiday Gingerbread  Tree awaits. Made of of 750 pounds of flour and 510 pounds of honey, it got our mouths watering for a taste.

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Oh, there’s the monorail! We hop on here for a quick ride to the Polynesian Resort. The spirit of Aloha is evident throughout the resort with hibiscus and fragrant leis hanging on Christmas trees. The pool looks so inviting we take a peek as we board our sleigh on the water.

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Motor launch time! Smell the gingerbread from the front door of the Grand Floridian Resort. WOW! There’s a Gingerbread House that defies the imagination. One of the Disney chefs puts on a wonderful demonstration of decorating a gingerbread house of your own and did I mention the Christmas Tree? This lavish display of Christmas is something not to miss!

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Back on the boat, it’s time to get rustic. Deep into the woods for the Wilderness Lodge. There’s a campground and a soaring tree in the enormous lodge that makes it feel as though you are far away from the hustle and bustle of Orlando.

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Back on the boat and then on to the Magic Kingdom Entrance. From here we hop a bus to the Animal Kingdom Lodge where all sorts of wild animals roam. A beautiful African inspired Christmas tree with animal print decorations filled the lobby. For a look at the animals, go outside on to the boardwalk where you can see the giraffes, zebra, ostrich and various antelope roaming around the property.

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Now the bus takes us to back to Downtown Disney to the Marketplace Station where we pick up the next bus to Old Key West Resort. What a charming place! The nautical theme reigns over this decidedly more residential vacation club. Be sure to stop into the Gurgling Suitcase bar and say Hi! to Joe the bartender, he’s awesome!

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One more bus to Boardwalk Disney as the day winds down and the lights begin to shine.

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Take a peak inside the Swan and Dolphin Hotels, check out the colored palms shining on the waterfront, then a trip along the boardwalk to explore a little more and perhaps a pint at Big River Grille and Brewing Works.

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Gotta pop in at the Yacht Club Resort to see the vintage electric train village. There’s just something about a train set at Christmas!

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Last stop at the Beach Club Resort to see if we can find the 12 hidden Mickey’s in the chocolate carousel. The white chocolate pony named Wonderland is my favorite, what’s yours?

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If you time it just right, a perfect spot to watch the Epcot fireworks is on the bridge. The night was perfect and the fireworks typical of Disney – awesome!

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You’re welcome to follow our route for a day of family fun yourself — all you need is a comfortable pair of shoes and the Disney Christmas Spirit!


  • Parking is free at Downtown Disney, but get there early. We started at 8:45am and got a front row spot.
  • Buses from DTD Marketplace start running at 9am
  • The Sassagoula River Cruise can take you from the Port Orleans French Quarter to the Riverside, but it’s only a pleasant 0.5 mile walk along the river.
  • DTD is a great spot to start and end. It is essentially a hub for all bus traffic.
  • While gaping at the massive Grand Floridian gingerbread house, don’t forget to buy a gingerbread Disney character or chocolate covered gingerbread Mickey Ears to share.
  • We decided to take a break at the Animal Kingdom Lodge to grab a light late lunch at the Sanaa restaurant downstairs. It was past lunch seating and not yet dinner but we were invited to order appetizers from the bar. Being practically the only ones in the restaurant, we decided on a Safari Amber (brewed on site for the Animal Kingdom Lodge) and an order of Bread Service for Two. The bread order blew us away! We picked 3 breads and 3 accompaniments. Ordering the Naan and Paneer Paratha breads with cucumber raita, coriander chutney and roasted red bell pepper hummus. The appetizer was only $8.99 and the one order filled us up completely. Not a bad price for a Disney Resort.
  • Every park (Epcot, WDW) typically will have transportation options to any of the resorts.
  • Resorts will typically bring you to a park (WDW, Animal Kingdom, Epcot) but not to another resort.
  • Definitely take some boats! With ferries, motor launches, and river cruises available, these are nice rides and many are faster than other transportation options. The were usually less lines at the boats as well.
  • Fireworks at Epcot begin at 9:30pm to end a LONG day!

The MAP of our route – but if you’re limited on time here are our NOT-TO-MISS Favorites:

Epcot Fireworks from the Boardwalk Bridge
The Grand Gingerbread House at the Grand Floridian
Disney Beach Club – Chocolate Carousel


Originally posted in December 2011, but worth sharing again.  Have a great Disney Holiday!

About the author

Cheryl MacDonald left the corporate world in 2007 to pursue a dream of living life to the fullest. She and her partner, Lisa Chavis continue to travel the world inspiring others to Live Their Dream!


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