Christmastime at Disney

The decorations are hung across the castle with care in hopes that St. Nicholas soon will be there. It’s the most wonderful time of the year in the happiest place on Earth. What a magical combination for visitors of all ages. After years of dreaming to see my favorite place during the holiday season, my wish finally came true this past month.

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My first visit with the decorations was to Magic Kingdom the weekend after Halloween. The transformation happened almost over night and I have never seen anything more magnificent. I had seen pictured of past years decorations, but standing next to the 50ft tree on Main Street was a whole new experience. Let’s start with Main Street USA. When you first walk into the park, you are greeted by the Christmas Tree aforementioned, along with wreaths adorning every building down the line. Then you are greeted by the castle. Covered from head to toe in thousands of tiny twinkle lights, called the “Dream Lights” that are made possible by Elsa’s frozen magic. Holiday music plays over the speakers and the 80 degree weather helps to pretend your cuddled up by a fireplace. The whole experience is magical as heck, and the characters are even dressed for the occasion.

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Likewise, the other parks and resorts follow suit in their decorating. Hollywood Studios takes the vintage view on Hollywood and covers their streets with tinsel to match the glitz and glam feel. Their tree is full of movie references and joy as it lights up the exterior part of the park with it’s Christmas glow. At night, Jingle Bell,  Jingle BAM! takes the stage as projections are shown on the Chinese Theater and fireworks dance along to the Christmas music blaring over the speakers. The story line of this nighttime spectacular follows the elves from Disney’s Crash and Landing as they seek to find a missing Santa on Christmas Eve. The night is finished with a thorough coating of “snoap” (a snow substitute made of soap bubbles) on Sunset Blvd as guests exit the park. One of the most magical feelings is experiencing the snow in the warmth of Florida in December.

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Epcot and Animal Kingdom both participate in the holidays as well with subtle decorations throughout the parks. In Animal Kingdom, you could meet Santa Goofy and Pluto as well as Baloo and King Louie all dressed up in their winter attire. In Epcot, you can experience the holidays around the world in World Showcase to learn about different traditions each culture participates in. End the night watching the Candlelight Vigil hosted by various celebrities in the Disney community, such as Neal Patrick Harris or Whoopi Goldberg, and melodious voices from the Disney choir.

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I was blown away by how the parks celebrated the holidays, but the fun doesn’t end there. My friends and I then decided to take a day trip to Disney Springs and resort hop around property to get the full experience. At Disney Springs, you are immediately greeted but wreathes and garland strung across the pathways between stores as Christmas music plays in the background. They created a Christmas Tree trail that displayed trees featuring decorations from all the Disney classics, such as Mulan and The Little Mermaid. The decorations outdid themselves. There was also wandering entertainment throughout the shopping district. Between a roaming Santa, toy soldiers on stilts, and a DJ spinning a constant loop of holiday tracks, it was hard to avoid the Christmas spirit. The coolest part, in my opinion, was the nighttime drone show that they recently created. Like each of the parks that had a nighttime show, Disney wanted the guests at Disney Springs to also enjoy something special that separated this from just another Florida strip mall. It is the first of it’s king and consisted of over a hundred small drones that lit up and flew above the lake, synchronized to music of course. I had never seen anything like it before,  but hope to see more in the future! Unfortunately I was too mesmerized to take a video, but you can see what it looks like here.

The resorts were also completely decked out for the holidays. A handful of them setup large gingerbread displays that bakers at the resort create by hand each year. The Contemporary resort had a tribute to Frozen.

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The Beach Club resort had a carousel made completely of gingerbread and chocolate that actually moved. Legend has it that there were 17 golden hidden mickeys painted on it, yet we spent over 45 minutes looking and only found 16.

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The Grand Floridian had the most grand display of all. IN the lobby was a life size gingerbread house that doubled as a gift shop that cast members actually stood in and worked out of. The details were incredible.

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It’s no secret that Disney goes all out for the holidays and I’m so lucky that I was able to experience some of the magic without paying an extra $100 for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Although, the crowds are definitely so much worse, it was still incredible to take in. It was magical to say the least.

Until next timexoxo,

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First Semester Recap

I did it. I survived my first semester of college. And wow, what a wild ride that was.

The past four months have been nothing but eventful for me as I embarked on this journey that keeps on going. Every day was a new adventure and I am nothing but grateful for all the opportunities that I had and all of the people I have met so far. It’s so exciting to say that I am now officially 1/8 done with my collegiate experience, but it’s also sad to think about. Based on how much of a great time I had this first semester. It makes me sad to think about the end. Although I’m getting ahead of myself because I have barely even dipped my toes in the water of opportunities.

First off, let me start by saying that making friends is hard. It’s slightly easier when it’s the first month of the school year and everyone else is in the same boat as you, but when it comes down to it, finding a second version of you in a sea of 60,000 people is a lot tougher than I imagined. In high school, all my friends were in band. We had a common interest and we all got along and were able to spend so much time together so it just made sense. Going into college without joining band made me nervous because I wouldn’t have that activity to connect me with anyone. But I did what any logical millennial would do, and spent my summer on the internet meeting people. This was very smart of me because I made so many connections before even stepping foot on campus, so my first week was compromised of meeting these people that I already have held conversations with. It made the socially awkward side of me slightly more comfortable so we could avoid the awkward introductions and lead to a smooth transition. This worked for about half of the people I’m currently friends with. The other half involved me being a big girl and actually talking to strangers in class, around the housing communities, or being introduced via friends of friends. Intimidating of course, but the payoff is worth it. Put yourself out there. It works. I promise.

(A collage in which I am shown posing the same way in every photo because I am unoriginal and lame)

Luckily, the friends that I made have cars and were willing to schlep my butt across the greater Orlando area all semester so that I could see and do as much as my wallet allowed. As you know, I gave in and let Disney brainwash me into spending way too much money on an annual pass. Totally worth it though thanks to my weekly excursions to the parks. I call it studying. Gotta experience hospitality at it’s finest in order to be the best dang hospitality major there is right? Either way it’s cheaper than my hospitality courses so I’m saving myself so much money in the long run 😉

Also, Orlando sucked with it’s concert scene up until the moment I got here so I was #blessed to be able to catch a few more this first semester to add to my never ending list of why people need to spend money on experiences instead of objects. The first New Politics, put on by our school during welcome week and wow did they bring the party. 10/10. After that was James Bay in the pouring rain, but honestly if his music were a weather, that would be it so I saw it rather fitting. Bless by the voice of an angel as I shivered in the pit because Floridians don’t know a proper A/C balance. After that I *finally* got to see my fifth grade crush and the guy who helped me discover my love for rock music, David Cook. And I was front row. And it was at Disney World. I think you get the point on how excited I was for, during, and after that moment. Finally we have Fitz and the Tantrums part two. Same tour I saw this summer, but this time with more glitter and a lost voice. Blessed again. I also purchased tickets to see The 1975 but ended up selling them because I’m a quitter. But a quitter who takes responsibility for herself because there is no way I would have done well on my finals if I spent the weekend prior in line at the venue. You win some you lose some.

I promise I did more this semester than just spend money (unless you consider every class I attended adding more and more to my never ending debt of student loans, ouch). Yet a majority of my life savings did end up at Steak n Shake because those 2am runs were my weakness. I totally rocked my school work this semester. Although I don’t have my grades back yet, I know how well I was doing in my classes before my finals and I know my scores went really well so I’m excited to see the GPA I established so that I can move forward with internships and volunteer opportunities. Next semester I plan on challenging myself further by taking 18 credit hours versus the usual 15. It’s all part of my five year plan to work for Disney and take over the world.

My extra-curriculars were also bomb af. If you keep up with my life, you know how amazing Her Campus UCF has been for me and how much I’ve grown through the semester so I won’t repeat myself and ramble. I just get very excited about how well I’m doing and all the opportunities for the future with this activity. I received so much praise for things that I didn’t even know I was capable of and it for sure changed me for the better. My other activity, Campus Activities Board (CAB) is also really exciting to be a part of. It’s so cool to be part of the behind the scenes action for all the fun activities the school puts on each semester. Being on the concert board will definitely help in the future with my goal of minoring in entertainment management. Although these activities provide me with a lot of opportunities, I’m excited to get involved more next semester with groups that will help me in my field of study. There is a theme park publicist group that I would love to join to help combine my hospitality major with my hobby of writing. There is also a hospitality honor society that would definitely be smart to join.

Orlando has provided me with so much and I am so grateful that my first semester in college turned out the way that it did. It definitely had its ups and downs, but you know how much I love roller coasters and I’m in it for the thrill.

I tried a lot of new things and I stepped out of my comfort zone more than I ever imagined I could in 15 weeks’ time. I changed up my hair. I stopped wearing makeup (on occasion). I met people who inspire me to succeed. I found friends who cared and avoided the ones who caused negativity. I luckily didn’t gain the freshman fifteen, but there’s still time and it could happen. I have a new mindset on life and how it should be lived. And I surprisingly discovered that I’m a neat freak. I never would have guessed that in a million years. I’m returning home similar to who I was before but better.

(Left: Me on my first day in Orlando, Right: Me on my last day in Orlando)

I’m so lucky to call UCF my second home and I’m already counting down the days until I can go back (not just because this Pittsburgh weather sucks, but definitely a key factor). I’m an adult now and I have the whole world ahead of me and I’m excited to see where it takes me from here.

Until next timexoxo,