Details, Christmas at Disney World
That’s why I’d always dismissed the appeal of a Christmas visit to Disney. The holidays are one of the most popular (i.e., jampacked) blocks on the park’s calendar. The regular over-the-top decor is pumped to an almost hysterical degree. The parades, theme restaurants and shows are all retuned to Yuletide frequencies.
That’s all fine, especially in the weeks before the Big Day. But I couldn’t imagine spending Christmas itself in a place that wouldn’t be able to provide the requisite living-room lounging, the presents around the tree, the pancakes in pajamas, all lit by tacky lights of my own stringing. (Secret note to adult readers: And just where would you hide that new bike from Santa?)
But then I read about one of the lesser-known enclaves within Disney’s vast holdings: a group of cabins in one corner of the Fort Wilderness Campground. Unlike the thousands of hotel rooms and condos on Disney property, each of these cabins is a genuine, if petite, single-family dwelling. Each comes with a kitchen good for cookie baking, a family room ready for a tree, deck rails begging for tacky lights, a yard where even an inflatable Snowman can be imagined and a driveway just right for the launching of a new Schwinn. They did seem to offer a chance to have a Disney Christmas that felt a bit like home for the holiday.
They’re also not cheap, natch, about $450 a night in late December. To make the budget work, the five of us drove the 880 miles from Washington, cramming most of the 16 hours into one day. We slept one night at an interstate motel and pulled in the day before Christmas Eve 2010 to find the revels well advanced.
The cabin precincts, a series of loops and cul-de-sacs, are at the edge of the campground, which is where the real full-contact holiday-decor war goes on. The Winnebagos and Airstreams are nearly buried in Christmas bling. With their neon palm trees and glowing Donald Duck sleighs and working reindeer carousels, these are some campy campers.
It’s a version of a good old neighborhood lighting arms race, with some families coming year after year, trucking in more plastic Santas, additional miles of candy cane lights, just one more mechanical Mickey to wave at the slowly passing onlookers — and there are a lot of those, the campground decorations having become a holiday event in their own right.