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December dispatches from the parks – PREP261

Anthony, Mary, Amy, and Jenny called in to give trip reports from their visits to Walt Disney World during the first two weeks of December 2020. Here’s how it went…

These are notes from this episode. There’s much more info included in the audio so be sure to listen to the episode for a better explanation.

The Basics

Anthony, Mary, Amy, and Jenny shared what their visits to Disney World were like during early December 2020 for the holiday season.

Specifically, Anthony talked about his visits to Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and his journey ordering Tonga Toast from Kona Cafe at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.

Mary shared what it was like being at Animal Kingdom and finding the animals from Disney+’s Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, while Amy called in from the Pirates of the Caribbean line and at Epcot as she watched Santa’s sleigh cavalcade drive by.

Finally, Jenny discussed staying at Disney’s BoardWalk Villas, what holiday crowds were like, and visiting Disney Springs.

Magic Kingdom (December 5)

Anthony visited Magic Kingdom on Saturday, Dec. 5, and had a chance to watch the cavalcades one right after another.

He was able to catch all of the holiday cavalcades between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. They all ran within 15 minutes of one another. (Read more about Disney World cavalcades.)

The Santa cavalcade started by the Fire Station on Main Street, U.S.A. instead of following the standard parade route (begins in Frontierland by Splash Mountain and ends by the Fire Station at the front of the park).

credit: Darci Stewart

Santa began at the Magic Kingdom entrance, came down Main Street, traveled around the Hub by Cinderella Castle, and then went back the way he started.

Anthony recommended that this is a great time to get photos of Santa later in the day around sunset, especially in front of the castle.

Before grabbing dinner at Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen at 6:45 p.m., Anthony walked around to look at the Christmas lights and decorations.

Hollywood Studios (December 6)

Anthony woke up at 6:50 a.m. to snag a boarding group for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.

He was able to get boarding group 65 for two people. He said it helped to have a watch with a seconds hand, since the 7 a.m. virtual queue distribution times go fast.

Anthony recommended having one person as the designated person to hit “Join,” while someone else watches the clock and tells you exactly when the clock strikes 7 a.m. (or 1 p.m., the second distribution time).

rise of the resistance

He also roped dropped Hollywood Studios and was able to get in line for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway by 8:24 a.m. and on the ride at 8:50 a.m.

Following, there was also only a posted wait time of 20 minutes for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and he was on and off in about 15 minutes.

After getting off Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, most attraction wait times were about 40 minutes, so he walked around and took photos before eating at Minnie’s Seasonal Dining.

Kona Café (December 7)

During the evening of Dec. 6, Anthony was able to get a 7:50 a.m. reservation for Kona Café at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, because he was craving Tonga Toast.

On the morning of Dec. 7, he tried to get a Lyft, but the closest one was 20 minutes away, so he got an Uber, which was only 7 minutes away.

Upon arrival, he was dropped off by the bus stops rather than in front of the main doors leading into the Great Ceremonial House’s lobby due to the resort’s extensive refurbishment.

Kona Cafe at Polynesian

He used the Mobile check-in feature in the My Disney Experience app and was seated earlier than his reservation time. He ordered Tonga Toast, a French Press pot of coffee for two, and the Liliko’i Juice (orange, passion fruit, and guava blend.

When Anthony was finished, a Lyft picked him by the resort’s bus stop and took him to the Orlando International Airport to fly home.

He said the TSA pre-check lines at were longer than normal at security. There are also boards at security displaying the wait time.

Magic Kingdom (December 8)

At 7:46 p.m., Amy was in line for Pirates of the Caribbean. She had a day of short wait times.

Thunder Mountain had a posted wait time of 65 minutes, but she waited 22 minutes. Splash Mountain was a 14 minute wait, even though the posted wait time was 10 minutes. Peter Pan had a posted wait time of 40 minutes, but Amy waited only 20 minutes.

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin was only a 5 minute wait (had a 30-minute posted wait time), and Space Mountain had a posted wait time of 40 minutes, but Amy waited a short 19 minutes.

Tony's Town Square at Magic Kingdom has outdoor seating

Amy also had a “delicious” dinner at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant for the first time. Afterwards, she enjoyed the Christmas decorations and the lighting for Cinderella Castle.

Epcot (December 9)

Amy arrived at the International Gateway on Dec. 9 at 10:53 a.m. for 11 a.m. opening, went directly to temperature screening, was held for a few minutes before having her temperature taken, and then was able to walk through the touch points.

disney skyliner at epcot international gateway

Amy rope dropped Test Track and was able to walk directly on, just like she did later in the day for the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros.

The rest of her day consisted of eating and drinking around the world, enjoying the holiday cavalcades, Christmas music, and 60-degree weather.

BoardWalk Resort Area (December 17)

Jenny reported from Disney’s BoardWalk Resort area, after picking up a Mobile Order from the BoardWalk Bakery around 10 a.m.

She said the temperatures were cooler, Christmas music was playing all around, and she could hear the Friendship Boats going by.

BoardWalk Bakery at Disney's BoardWalk

She also noted how the clown slide at the Luna Park Pool had been removed and replaced with Mickey and friends theming.

Amy said when she checked in to the BoardWalk Villas it was pretty empty, but several people were checking in that morning and it seemed like holiday crowds were arriving.

Disney Springs (December 18)

While hanging outside World of Disney in Disney Springs, Jenny said she arrived at opening and they were only filling the Orange Garage. She prefers the Lime Garage.

About an hour after opening, there was a 20 to 30 minute wait to get into World of Disney. It was a cool day, with lots of sunshine and good mask compliance.

Riviera Resort (December 19)

Jenny hopped on the Disney Skyliner with her sister from Epcot’s International Gateway to have lunch at Riviera’s Bar Riva.

disney skyliner at riviera resort

She “highly recommended” visiting this resort and checking out the dining options, especially Bar Riva.

Even though it’s technically a pool bar, Jenny said it’s not your typical pool bar and a more upscale version thanks to the menu and theming.

Bar Riva is covered with open-air seating. The resort was on the busier side, but easy to distance from others.

Learn more about dining on the Disney Skyliner.

Some Key Takeaways

  • Cavalcades usually run every 15 minutes
  • Use a watch or clock that displays the seconds for joining Rise of the Resistance virtual queue
  • Get to the parks early if you want to rope drop, because you can usually ride attractions before official park opening
  • Grab an animal guide to find all of the animals at Animal Kingdom (you can also find them in the My Disney Experience app)
  • Try to rope drop Test Track for a shorter wait (you might even walk on)
  • Visit other resorts for more dining options, especially if you have Disney Skyliner access
  • Always check dining reservations because availability constantly changes
  • Wait times might be shorter than what’s posted

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Thursday 31st of December 2020

This was really enjoyable. Keep it up! It was interesting hearing the thoughts of a variety of people in the midst of a trip.


Tuesday 22nd of December 2020

I absolutely LOVED these in park commentaries! I’m traveling down to WDW in May and I hope this continues because I would love to do some !! ?