See how hotels at Universal Orlando Resort, Walt Disney World® Resort and other locations are making the 2019 holiday season brighter (Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort pictured).
When it comes to an unforgettable yuletide season, no destination beats Orlando — and the holidays become even brighter when you book a stay at hotels and resorts decked with festive flourishes. Spotlighting official properties at Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World® Resort, plus other places to stay in the Theme Park Capital of the World, here’s how some of our most acclaimed accommodations are creating happier holidays in 2019!
Learn more: Holiday Season in Orlando
Holiday Celebrations at Universal Orlando Resort Hotels
Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort Hotels
Universal Orlando Resort’s hotels will have the festive spirit in 2019 — including Hanukkah Menorah-lighting ceremonies from Dec. 22-30. They’ll also have special dining options on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 28), Christmas Eve (Dec. 24) and Christmas Day (Dec. 25), plus other ways to celebrate the season.
Learn more: Universal Orlando Resort Hotels
In the lobby of Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando, guests can enjoy holiday cookies and beverages from 3-6 p.m. starting Dec. 6, and kids’ holiday crafts and activities from 12-6 p.m. starting Dec. 20. Both complimentary activities run through Jan. 1, 2020. Furthermore, the lobby will host strolling holiday carolers from 7-9:30 p.m. on Dec. 20-25. On Dec. 20-24 from 6-9 p.m., meet Santa and Mrs. Claus on the Harbor Piazza. And on Nov. 29 from 6:30-9 p.m., join the Holiday Harbor Nights* event at the Harbor Piazza, where you’ll also enjoy live music, gourmet food from the hotel’s restaurants, a selection of wines, and the grand illumination of the hotel’s Christmas tree.
Nov. 29 is also the date of complimentary Christmas tree-lighting ceremonies, including:
- Hard Rock Hotel® at Universal Orlando (6:30 p.m.)
- Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando (6 p.m.)
- Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando (6 p.m.)
- Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort (4 p.m.)
- Universal’s Endless Summer Resort — Surfside Inn and Suites (6 p.m.)
Loews Royal Pacific Resort will have a second tree-lighting on Nov. 30 as part of its Wantilan Luau* under the Wantilan Pavilion. This resort will also host complimentary storytelling from 4-5 p.m. on Dec. 24, complete with milk and cookies. Then, from 4-8 p.m. on Dec. 23-24, guests can decorate ornaments and stockings for a fee in the lobby. Ornament decorating will also be offered for a fee in the lobby of Loews Sapphire Falls Resort from 5-9 p.m. on Nov. 29 and on Dec. 22-24.
Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort is hosting complimentary meet-and-greets with Santa’s elves in the lobby on Dec. 1, 8 & 15. From 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Christmas Day, they’ll have complimentary holiday arts & crafts in the TV Lounge. And from 6-7 p.m. on Dec. 13 & 20, guests of Universal’s Endless Summer Resort — Surfside Inn and Suites can look forward to complimentary meet-and-greets with Santa Claus himself.
In addition to quick accessibility to Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal’s Volcano Bay and Universal CityWalk, Universal Orlando Resort’s hotels offer ample amenities and exclusive benefits for guests, making it easy to add some mischief to your merry this holiday season!
* Separately ticketed events.
Learn more: Discount Tickets to Universal Orlando Resort
Holiday Celebrations at Official Walt Disney World® Resort Hotels
Gingerbread House at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa at Walt Disney World® Resort in Orlando (Photo by Kent Phillips & © Disney)
In 2019, every official hotel at Walt Disney World® Resort will have magical holiday decorations — including their newest property, Disney’s Riviera Resort, opening Dec. 16! A second fresh accommodation option, the Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, is also sporting festive Christmas décor.
Learn more: Official Walt Disney World Resort Hotels
Magnificent, breathtaking Christmas trees are sprucing up the lobbies at several official Walt Disney World hotels, including Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Meanwhile, the décor at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — French Quarter invites you to experience the holidays in the Big Easy.
Gingerbread Horse Carousel at Disney’s Beach Club Resort at Walt Disney World® Resort in Orlando (Photo by Kent Phillips & © Disney)
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa also features a larger-than-life Gingerbread House made with fresh gingerbread goodies. Speaking of that traditional holiday treat, the fan-favorite Gingerbread Horse Carousel in the lobby of Disney’s Beach Club Resort is celebrating its 20th anniversary. A fun challenge for the family — see if you can spot the 17 hidden Mickeys painted on this delicious masterpiece!
Other official Walt Disney World Resort hotels include Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort, Disney’s All-Star Music Resort, Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, Disney’s Old Key West Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — Riverside, Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, and Disney’s Yacht Club Resort.
Guests at official Walt Disney World properties enjoy a wealth of benefits, including early access to FastPass+ planning (up to 60 days before arrival versus 30 days), additional time at Walt Disney World’s theme parks via Extra Magic Hours, optional Disney dining plans, and complimentary MagicBands and transportation. These resorts also provide immediate access to all the can’t-miss holiday magic at Magic Kingdom® Park, Epcot®, Disney’s Hollywood Studios®, Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park and Disney Springs®!
Learn more: Discount Tickets to Walt Disney World Resort
Holiday Celebrations at Hotels Throughout Orlando
Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando — aka “Santa’s Favorite Resort”
No matter where you stay in Orlando this holiday season, chances are that holiday décor will be abundant. Here’s a look at how two legendary resorts beyond the theme parks are celebrating. Keep in mind that in addition to festive extras, the properties will also have special Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dining options at their acclaimed onsite restaurants.
Learn more: Amenity-Packed Orlando Resorts
Billed as “Santa’s favorite resort,” this gorgeous property is gearing up for the 2019 season with an assist from Santa, Mrs. Santa and their elf, Kandy Kane. What’s more, the trio is available for meet-and-greets on select nights in November and December at Santa’s Tiki Hut, featuring reindeer, palm trees, flamingos and holiday cheer.
Many hotels only have one Christmas tree-lighting ceremony per year — but at the Swan and Dolphin, you can enjoy the magical spectacle on select nights all through December. Join Mrs. Claus at 6 p.m. as the lobby transforms into a festive holiday scene featuring a state-of-the-art, 24-foot-tall tree. The ceremony is followed by hot holiday beverages and crafts for kids at Santa’s Tiki Hut.
Children will also enjoy the resort’s Bedtime Elf Tuck-ins, which are available on select nights starting in November. After booking the specially ticketed experience, elves will deliver a storybook, cookies and milk in a souvenir cup to your room. They’ll also read a bedtime story and tuck children in. And on Dec. 24, children can pick up magic keys for Santa at the concierge desk. Be sure to hang one on your door so Santa knows to visit!
In the Swan’s lobby, you can witness a life-sized Chocolate Holiday Santa Scene, made with approximately 2,000 pounds of chocolate sculpted by the resort’s executive pastry chef, Laurent Branlard. Available throughout December, it features Santa sitting in his chair and a 7-foot-tall, 400-pound chocolate nutcracker, plus a chocolate fireplace, chocolate Christmas tree and chocolate toy train.
Last but not least, don’t miss the Swan and Dolphin’s nightly Dancing Lights Show. Taking place between sunset and 10 p.m., the dazzling musical extravaganza transforms the outdoor causeway into an unforgettable holiday spectacle.
The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes
This famous resort in the International Drive area isn’t just getting decked out for the holidays. It’s also hosting Gingerbread School, a specially ticketed activity where you’ll join the Pastry Team and learn how to build your own gingerbread house using the life-sized version in the lobby as inspiration. The fun-filled activity begins by building the house with pre-baked gingerbread panels on a wooden foundation. You’ll then select from dozens of different types of candy and other edible details to decorate and personalize your house.
Gingerbread School is available at 9 a.m., 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Nov. 30 – Dec. 1 and Dec. 19-22, as well as 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. on Dec. 7-8. Furthermore, a specially ticketed Gingerbread House Decorating Contest will take place on Dec. 14, 21 & 26 from 3-5 p.m. And on Dec. 7-8, 14-15 and 20-23, Santa’s Teddy Bear Tea will have seatings at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. These special events all require reservations.
Having a great place to stay during the holidays is key, but even more important is unforgettable activities for the whole family to enjoy. See how Orlando is celebrating the season in 2019, and make plans now to join the party!
The sights, sounds and tastes of the season come together for Winter Wonderland at Rosen Shingle Creek. From 6:30-9:30 p.m. on Saturdays from Dec. 7-14, the AAA Four Diamond Hotel celebrates with face-painting, balloon animals, holiday karaoke, and special encounters with Santa and Mrs. Claus, as well as 30 Christmas trees decorated by local nonprofit organizations. The festivities are complimentary for anyone dining at an onsite restaurant; otherwise, wristbands are $10 for adults and $5 for children under 10.
In the early evenings on the same dates, Rosen Shingle Creek is also hosting a ballet performance of The Nutcracker, which is free to attend. And during early evening hours on Fridays from Dec. 6-20, you can enjoy a free Holiday Choir Performance. The ballet and choral productions are both presented in the hotel’s grand lobby.
Cover image courtesy Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort.
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