Surviving Walt Disney World In the Cold

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Visiting Walt Disney World during the holiday season is exhilarating. The decorations, the special parades, holiday music and special treats make for a wonderous holiday experience. Until it gets cold, that is. A quick cold snap can definitely take your sunny Florida vacation and make it a little less magical. I remember during Reunion 2010 last year, while trying to watch IllumiNations, it got so cold I nearly couldn’t feel my toes. So what do you do when the cold hits?

The Studios is a good 2nd choice of destination in the cold.

Despite what you might think, just like the rain, cold is not the end of the world at Walt Disney World. So here are some tips and tricks on how to make the most of a frigid day.

Where to go – There are some parks that are easier to turn to than others to avoid the wind and cold. Foremost among those is Epcot, because the Future World pavilions are all enclosed. Spending time in The Land pavilion riding Soarin’ or Living with the Land, watching The Circle of Life film and grabbing some coffee or hot chocolate at Sunshine Season can make for quite an enjoyable time. Most of the Future World pavilions are structured that way, with an attraction, an interactive area and a nearby place to eat or rest. Downtown Disney is also a good choice, as the distance between the buildings are short, and there are plentiful coffee, hot cocoa, and places to sit and rest.

Two parks that are not as good options–but still may work–are Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the Magic Kingdom. While you will have a ways to walk between attractions, both parks have attractions packed together, and the main entranceways have shops packed together where it’s easy to walk through without going outside.

Catch the poinsettia trees at the TTC on your way around the World.

Places to avoid – Epcot’s World Showcase on a cold wintry day can be approximately the temperature of the North Pole. I’m convinced that I have been colder walking around World Showcase at holiday time than I was the one time I attended a sporting event in Milwaukee in winter time. The breeze coming off the lagoon is biting, and it does not let up.

Animal Kingdom is also a good place to steer clear of in the cold. The entire park is designed to be outside, and in the cold, that’s not where you want to be. Not to mention that the animals do not tend to stay outside in the cold, thus depriving the park of its main attractions.

Things to do – I mentioned the Future World pavilions above, and that part of Epcot is a fantastic choice for spending a cold day. Each pavilion offers at least 30 minutes of entertainment if you really stop and take your time.

If you’re really concerned about the cold, take a drive to the Transportation and Ticket Center, and take a monorail tour of the Magic Kingdom resorts to see the decorations. Starting on the resort monorail, you’ll see the poinsettias and tropical décor at the Polynesian, the Gingerbread House at the Grand Floridian and the giant wreath at the Contemporary. You can also take a boat (probably too cold) or bus over to the Wilderness Lodge and sit in the lobby by the giant fireplace to take in the Christmas tree.

Look at all the pretty decorations, like the Grand Floridian Gingerbread House.

Where to eat – Part of the appeal of Walt Disney World is dining, and in the cold, a warm, hearty meal offers some great benefits. First of all, taking some time indoors to sit and eat allows you to rest after the cold has sucked some life out of you. Plus, a nice warm meal will give you the energy to keep going. But where are the best locations?

In Epcot, I can’t recommend the Garden Grill highly enough. It’s a fun meal brought to your table, with Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale along for the ride. Plus, it’s in Future World. Over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a nice bowl of pasta from Mama Melrose’s will hit the spot, plus you’re right next door to the Christmas shop. In the Magic Kingdom, Liberty Tree Tavern’s menu offers some holiday fare that is just what the doctor ordered.

Whatever you do when cold weather strikes at Disney, don’t give up. There are so many unexplored corners of the resort that it’s no fun to sit in your room and wait for better weather. Instead, venture out and see what there is to warm the heart, if not those cold toes.

10 thoughts on “Surviving Walt Disney World In the Cold

  • December 12, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    I was also visiting the World early December 2010, and it was COLD even for someone from the UK!! My tip is to avoid the Wishes Dessert Party….brrrr!!

  • December 12, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    We usually just put on extra layers and keep on going 🙂

  • December 12, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    I too was down there in December 2010, and it was cold. It is the wind that can really get you. My tip would be to check the forecast a few days before you leave, and plan accordingly. Layers are the key, and a scarf and gloves really help keep you warmer. Although they do sell these on property, on cold days they run out. It is much better to bring your own and be prepared. I will say that we enjoyed watching people wander about the World wearing those holiday fleece bath robes last year. We were pretty grateful to have our coats with us. If it is wintertime, be prepared! It’s great to buy those Disney sweatshirts because you have always wanted one, but not as fun to shell out the $65 in a last ditch effort to stay warm. 🙂

    • December 12, 2011 at 2:50 pm

      YES! I have a few Disney sweatshirts, but none that I had to purchase to keep warm. Planning ahead with layers is a great tip.

  • December 12, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    I love Disney sweatshirts and fleeces but I have found my windbreaker with light sweater layers beneath to be the warmer choice. I’ve even worn the sweatshirt under the windbreaker for extra layers. I always pack gloves and a pashmina. The pashmina can double as a scarf, shawl or hat. It’s amazing how much warmer you feel with your hands covered.

  • December 12, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    My friends and I have been during a week that I am convinced had the most insane temperature differences in WDW history. 85 degrees Fahrenheit one morning, 22 degrees that night with 25 mph winds. To make the story more interesting, that night, we ate at Via Napoli at World Showcase (reference to other comment about North Pole. So true.) and watched IllumiNations after. In the misting rain and wind. Thankfully, my friends and I had planned ahead and brought layers and toboggans and our North Face TriClimate jackets (a great idea for WDW vacations in winter, as it is a two piece set of light windbreaker/rain jacket shell and a light fleece jacket that can be combined to create a thick, warm, waterproof winter coat). We were fine, but our parents on the other hand, were not. When they headed home to the resort after IllumiNations, the three of us teenagers even ventured out to Animal Kingdom for the very rare EMH nighttime experience, and stayed out until about 3am there and at Downtown Disney just hanging out and drinking hot cocoa. It was an amazing night I will never forget!

  • December 13, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Our local theme park here in the frigid Northeast U.S. is open over the holidays, the main attraction being all the Christmas lights that are, of course, best viewed after sunset when the already-chilly temperatures are dropping fast. And the place is usually packed with people bundled up in their winter coats and thermal underwear. Check the long-range forecast for Orlando, pack appropriately, and barring a steady rain or gale-force winds, you should be fine.

  • December 15, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    We were there last year, also. We noticed that most of the buildings had no heat, so we were slightly warmer inside because we were protected from the wind, but we had to remain bundled up. The only place we were ever warm enough was our hotel room at POFQ. We humans are never satisfied, it’s either too hot or too cold! I was aiming for the “goldie locks” time of year, and boy was I wrong!

  • December 15, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    layers layers layers. windbreaker (unlined) long sleeved t-shirt, quick dry undershirt. mitts or gloves (thin) .

  • December 20, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    My wife and I do a lot of backpacking and we have hit the trails on Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior in Sept. so we have developed a good system of keeping warm and dry in a place that is not so warm and dry and unpredictable. The same things apply to WDW other then you will not die from hypothermia.

    1. Synthetic fibers are your friend. Cotton and wool get wet and stay wet. Synthetics will keep you warm even when wet and dry faster.

    2. Under Armour (or similar) underwear. They will keep you from chaffing hot or cold, transfer moister away from your skin, and dry quickly. I like their shirts as a base for the same reason.

    3. Like others have said, layers! A good system is wearing a fleece with a very lite water proof shell. If it warms up, you can just wear the shell if its windy or raining.

    4. We wear hiking boots for comfort but also because they are water proof. Walking through puddles is not a problem at all. Make sure you dry them next to a vent when you are at the hotel. I also bring sports sandals with Under Armour black ankle socks (synthetic). I can wear or not wear the socks if the weather gets warm or cold.

    5. Good option for me, not so much for my wife: Zip-off pants. Plenty of times its cold in the morning but warms up in the afternoon, having the convertible shorts is nice.

    6. Fleece gloves should be enough for FL. Light and dry out quickly.

    7. Hot water bottles. I use Sigg aluminum bottles for water and will heat up water for them if its cold. You can use your coffee maker in your room to heat them up. Put them in a sock so you don’t burn yourself and this can last for a few hours. Once cool you can drink the water or pour it out to lite up your load.

    8. Wear a outdoors, brimmed hat. It keeps your face and neck from burning in the sun and keeps your face more dry (and glasses free of water) in the rain. Having a cold, wet, face can make you sick.

    9. Not clothing but always have your meds with you in the park and as soon as you start to fill sick, start popping them. You are paying way too much on this vacation to allow yourself to get sick.

    10. Always have a bag (each of you in your party) to put your layers in as it warms up.

    That’s my top ten.

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