There’s a very special event in the Orlando area this year, and if you’re a theme park fan you absolutely must go. This year is a tough one for everyone, including the great folks at Give Kids the World. Normally this incredible non-profit resort provides no-cost vacations for families with critically ill children. However, with the concerns of COVID-19 they have paused normal operations since March. With the lack of normal operations the folks at GKTW Village pivoted to create an amazing event: Night of a Million Lights. If you love dazzling Christmas light displays and theme parks this event is for you, here’s why.
- Over 3 million Christmas lights adorn the entire 83 acres resort.
- 168 Villas are decorated each with their own theme and sponsorship.
- Tons of photo opportunities throughout the village.
- Donated decorations from Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World, SeaWorld Orlando, Legoland Florida, and more.
- Marc’s Dino-Putt mini-golf course created by Universal Orlando is decorated, and Walt Disney World donated 3 million lights and decorations.
- Complimentary hot cocoa and ice cream cups.
- A handful of charming rides are available.
- Socially distant character greetings with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and Mayor Clayton
- Limited capacity, masks, and temperature check required. It is clear the theme parks helped GKTW with their safety precautions and crowd control.
- All proceeds benefits Give Kids the World Village which provides no-cost vacations, including admission to Orlando’s major theme parks, for critically ill children and their families.
When the Night of a Million Lights event was announced I was excited and knew it would be a great event. My husband, toddler, and I bought tickets for this past weekend, and it exceeded my expectations. Many have compared this event to the original Osborne Lights. The comparison is not to the dancing version of the Osborne Lights on the Streets of America, but the original version that took place on the backlot and included homes from popular television series decorated with the Osborne Lights. It is an accurate comparison, but this event is better than the original Osborne Lights – if you can believe it.
Reservations and tickets must be made in advance. You will select an available timeslot for entering the event to help with distancing and crowd control. We selected one of the earliest timeslots at 6:00 p.m. The attendance was reasonable; we did not feel crowded, even though it was a sold out night. Distancing does take some awareness, but I did not feel unsafe. Parking is free, and upon entering the Village’s grounds your ticket will be scanned and your temperature will be checked. Masks are required. Entering this event felt similar to entering Walt Disney World, in the sense of friendliness, organization, and the temperature check.
Be sure to grab a map when entering this event so you don’t miss anything. The Night of a Million Lights encompasses the entire 84 acres village. There are multiple neighborhoods with a collection of villas normally used for housing wish families. Each of the 168 villas is adopted by a company and adorned with dazzling lights and decorations. Some of my favorite villas were sponsored by Legoland Florida, Kennedy Space Center, Margaritaville Hotels and Resorts, and American Airlines.
Make sure to visit Marc’s Dino-Putt mini-golf course. This golf course was created and donated by Universal Orlando. While the course itself is not available for play, it is fully decorated. It’s fun to have a change of pace and explore the decorations around the course rather than strolling just the neighborhoods. In this area you can enjoy the heart of the village and see all the wonderful activities there are for wish families. Every part of this area is decorated, and there’s so many fun photo opportunities. The Wish Tree is especially beautiful, and interactive. There is also a Christmas Tree Trail.
There are a few rides in this area that are free to ride. There are short lines for more of the rides, and distancing markers were scarce. Near The Enchanted Carousel, you can spy three Christmas trees from last year’s Tree Trail at Disney Springs. In fact, in this area keen eyes can spy a few props donated from Walt Disney World. I was so excited to see “fire escape Santa Claus” who originally hails from Hollywood Studios. Santa and Mrs. Claus are also in this area for physically distant photos.
In the pool area you can enjoy music and singing, and complimentary hot cocoa and ice cream. Inexpensive casual food like pizza and hot dogs is available for purchase here, with proceeds going to the Village. Food and drink is to be consumed in this area so that guests walking through the village can keep their masks on. There are also two merchandise tables, one at the entrance of the event, and another in the pool area. There’s greeting cards, an ornament designed by a wish child, t-shirts, hats, and more, with all proceeds benefitting the village. Everyone who is staffing this event is a volunteer, so keep this in mind.
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes. We spent over two hours walking around, and could have spent longer if we didn’t have a tired toddler on our hands. Consider bringing your own hand sanitizer. There are hardly any stations throughout the village, but lots of interactive photo opportunities that have been touched by lots of hands.
Give Kids the World Village is located at 210 South Bass Road, Kissimmee, FL 34746. It is about a 20 minute trip from Walt Disney World. Even if you do not have your own vehicle, it might be worth the ride-share or taxi cost, especially on a weeknight evening when the parks close early. This is a rare opportunity to visit the village, and hopefully this will be the only year this event takes place. Hopefully this time next year the village can host wish families again. I used to volunteer here twice a week when I was in college, and it truly is a special place.
As someone who has lived in Orlando my whole life, witnessing countless Christmas and holiday events in the theme parks, Night of a Million Lights rivals the quality. It put things into perspective as I thought about the wish families past, present, and future. It reminded me about the giving spirit of the theme park and attractions community, and Orlando at large. If you want to feel the true meaning of the season, Night of a Million Lights will fill your heart with joy. Book your tickets now as select nights have already sold out.
What do you think of the Night of a Million Lights? If you have any questions about this event let me know in the comments.