Welcome back to the WDW Ride Guide blog! This month has been a lot of fun as we have been exploring the holiday happenings at Walt Disney World. I don’t know about you, but I am already feeling the Christmas cheer! Last week was a fun walk around the World Showcase at Epcot as we discovered different traditions in Holidays Around the World. This week we are staying in the World Showcase for a special concert known as the Candlelight Processional!
Let’s get started with our Know Before You Go Essential Facts:
- This seasonal event is held at Epcot in the World Showcase
- The event is included in your normal park admission
- It runs from November 27 – December 30
- The show is held 3 times a day: 5:00, 6:45, 8:15 (except for Dec. 6th, only a 6:45 & 8:15 show run on this day)
- The show is 40 minutes long
This very special Christmas time concert is a magnificent combination of world class musicians, choirs, and celebrity narrators. Together they bring the biblical story of the birth of Jesus to life. The show is truly inspirational and has been filling audiences with hope and joy for 45 years. For this reason, it remains one of the most popular events during this time of year at Walt Disney World. Today we are going to talk about where to find this shining star of a show, what to expect, when to go, and how to get seats.
First, let’s talk about where to find the show. It dawned on me that if you are new to Epcot, it is important to familiarize yourself with the two distinct sections of the park. The first section you will encounter after entering the park is called Future World. This section is home to Spaceship Earth, the park’s iconic landmark, as well as rides like Soarin’ and Test Track (two of my favorites!). After you pass through this section of the park, you will come to the World Showcase Lagoon. It is a beautiful body of water surrounded by different sections called “pavilions” representing 11 different cultures from around the globe. Directly across from the entry point of the World Showcase Lagoon sits The American Adventure. Within this pavilion is the America Gardens Theater, a 1,000 seat outdoor theater.
This theater is home to the Candlelight Processional. Now, it is very important to know that this is an outdoor, uncovered theater. For December, Orlando averages a low of 50 and high of 73. Still, it is very possible to be uncomfortably hot on a humid day when attending the 5:00 show. Or, very likely to be pretty chilly on a cool day when attending the 8:15 show. The theater sits right off of the water of the World Showcase Lagoon, so a windy evening could prove a little cold. Of course, I haven’t even mentioned the afternoon showers that so often visit Orlando! Don’t forget those ponchos and be sure to keep an eye on the weather the day you plan to attend the park. The Candlelight Processional does not cancel due to inclement weather.
So, now that you know where to find the theater, but did you know there is more than one way to get there? Sure, you can walk all the way around the World Showcase, enjoying the different countries along the way. However, if you have already had a long day of walking and are heading to the park just for the Candlelight Processional, you might want to hop aboard one of the two Friendship Boats that transport guest from one side of the lagoon to the other. One boat takes guests from Canada to Morocco, and the other from Mexico to Germany. Either way leaves you with a short walk to the America Gardens Theater. It is important to understand that this mode of transportation is not a real time saver. Depending on when you arrive at the dock, you will probably have to wait a few minutes for the next boat to arrive, load, and then depart. From there, the boats take a leisurely path across the lagoon. While it is a pleasant ride and a great break for your feet, walking to the American Gardens Theater will usually be faster.
Once you arrive at the theater, you will find two lines. The line on the left will be for those utilizing a Dinner Package, and the line on the right will be for Stand By guests. We will circle back around to this shortly, but first let’s talk about the show itself! Once you have your seat in the theater you can enjoy the sounds of the 50-piece orchestra warming up. Behind the orchestra will be empty stands awaiting the choir. Soon, the conductor’s stand lights up and the conductor himself is introduced as he walks up to his podium. With a tap of his baton the night begins to fill with the sound of trumpets and the backdrop of the stage comes to life with light. Next, the lights above shine down, bringing the giant silhouette of the musicians into a clear picture of violins, clarinets, trombones, and more. Together they fill the theater with the sound of the Candlelight Overture.
After this rousing opening number, the Voice of Liberty choir joins the orchestra as they sing I Bring you Good Tidings of Great Joy. While they sing, a string of choir members wearing golden yellow robes and holding candles fills the stage. They take their place on the stands behind the orchestra and in the center of the stage form the shape of a giant Christmas Tree. When the piece concludes and the living backdrop of choir members are in place, the guest narrator for the evening is introduced.
The guest narrators are celebrities, mostly from television and film, that lend their voices to the reading of the Christmas story for 2-3 nights. Here is a list of who you can expect:
•November 27 to 29, 2015
•Neil Patrick Harris
•November 30 to December 3, 2015
•December 4 and 5, 2015
•December 6 to 8, 2015
•December 9 to 11, 2015
•Meredith Vieira – NEW
•December 12 to 14, 2015
•America Ferrera – NEW
•December 15 to 17, 2015
•Chandra Wilson – NEW
•December 18 to 20, 2015
•Daniel Dae Kim – NEW
•December 21 to 23, 2015
•Edward James Olmos
•December 24 to 26, 2015
•December 27 to 28, 2015
•December 29 to 30, 2015
One thing to note is that celebrity narrators and dates are subject to change without notice. Be careful, don’t get your heart set on one person in particular as you may arrive to find a different narrator for the show you are attending. Regardless of who narrates each show, there is an American Sign Language interpreter on hand to translate for guests who are hearing impaired.
After you meet your guest narrator for the evening, they will spend a few minutes warming up the crowd with their unique brand of humor or storytelling, making each performance slightly different. The narrators will not talk long before turning the focus back to the Christmas story and the Candlelight Processional. They begin to tell the story of Joseph, Mary, and the night the angel Gabriel appeared to announce the coming of Jesus. This is followed by the choir singing “O Come All Ye Faithful.”
From here the evening unfolds as the narrator and choir take turns telling the story of Jesus’ birth in word and song. All you have to do is sit back, relax, and absorb the spectacular sounds of this glorious concert.
If you are like me, then this sounds too good to miss! So, let’s spend a few minutes talking about how to make sure you don’t miss out. Earlier I mentioned there are two lines which form to get into the Candlelight Processional, one for guests who purchased a Dinner Package, and one for Stand By guests. If you are on a tight budget, or just plan to catch the Candlelight Processional if convenient, then the standby line is probably for you. You aren’t out any extra money or tied into the schedule of the event this way. However, it is very important to know that you are not guaranteed a seat in the American Gardens Theater if you opt for the standby line. Depending on the day and time you visit the park, you could find the standby line begins to form anywhere from 45 minutes to 5 hours before the first show. This is highly dependent on who the celebrity narrator for the evening and general park attendence. Obviously the most popular narrators will draw the largest crowds and therefore make the standby line an iffy option at best. The closer you get to Christmas, the more crowded Walt Disney World will be in general so there will just be more people to contend with for special events like the Candlelight Processional.
Again, if you are like me, then you don’t like the idea of missing out on this event, nor do you like the idea of waiting several hours in line! If that is the case, then the dinner package is the way to go. So, what is the dinner package? Well, this is a meal and a guaranteed seat at the Candlelight Processional. The meal may be a lunch or dinner and includes a 3-course meal or full buffet depending on which restaurant you select. You must make an Advance Dining Reservation and select the Candlelight Dining Package at the time of the reservation. Which showing of the Candlelight Processional you want to see will dictate what time you can reserve for your dining reservation. For example in past years:
5:00 pm show
- Dine between 12:30 and 2:30 pm
6:45 pm show
- Dine between 3:30 and 4:15 pm
8:15 pm show
- Dine between 4:20 and 5:45
These mealtime windows should give you ample time to make it over to the American Gardens Theater in time for your show. At your meal you will be given a seating badge for the Candlelight Processional. Present this when you get in line. Notice I did say get in line. You don’t want to show up for the 5:00 pm show at 5:00 pm. Doing so will negate the benefit of having the dinner package as Stand By guests are normally let into the theater starting 15 minutes prior to showtime. In other words, the earlier you get in the Dinner Package line, the better your seat will be. About 50% – 75% of the audience is made up of guests with the Dinner Package. So, my tip is to plan to tour the Japan, America, and Italy pavilions before your show time. If you arrive in this part of the World Showcase at least an hour in advance you can scope out the Dinner Package queue and see how soon you will need to hop in line. At the very least, plan to get in line 30-45 minutes ahead of showtime.
Let’s talk about the good news and bad news associated with the Dinner Package. The good news? There are a lot of restaurants in Epcot that participate in the dinner package. Here is a list:
Coral Reef Restaurant
The Garden Grill Restaurant
La Hacienda de San Angel
San Angel Inn Restaurante
Nine Dragons Restaurant
Tutto Italia Ristorante
Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria
Spice Road Table
Les Chefs de France
Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room
The price for the Candlelight Processional Dinner Package for adults ranges from $38 for lunch to $76 for dinner, depending upon which restaurant you select. For kids, ages 3-9, lunch starts at $13 and goes up to $34 at dinner. The Garden Grill Restaurant also offers a Breakfast Dining Package for $39 per adult and $23 per child. If you are on the Disney Dining Plan, you can pay for the Dinner Package with your plan, but be sure to reserve 2 Table Service Credits unless you want to pay out of pocket. So, you have a lot of options and this is a great opportunity to try out a new restaurant or cuisine from an unfamiliar part of the world!
However, we still have that bad news to discuss. Well, reservations for the Candlelight Processional Dinner Package began on July 7, 2015. So, if you haven’t already made reservations and are listening to the podcast at time of original release, that means guests have had 4 months to fill up these restaurants. At this point, chances of getting your first choice of restaurant and time are probably slim. Still, it never hurts to try, and families are constantly changing their plans. If you are unsuccessful on your first attempt, try, try again. You never know when you might get lucky. When you get ready to book, you can do so through Disney’s website or by calling (407) 939-3463, that’s (407) WDW-DINE, or contact your Disney travel agent.
If you are planning a trip for sometime in 2016 or beyond, this is a great podcast to tuck in your pocket and pull out next summer when the reservation lines open again. If you happen to be going to the Candlelight Processional in the coming days or weeks, I hope today’s blog has served to inform and excite! This really is a special event that you don’t want to miss. If you have any other questions about the Candlelight Processional please let me know. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.