Family holidays to Orlando are popular all year round, but during the autumn and winter season the individual parks and attractions that make up Florida's Walt Disney World Resort attempt to outdo each other with a series of spectacularly flamboyant events.
Nobody does it quite like Disney, so cast all your inhibitions aside and get stuck in. For some extra-curricular holiday fun, here's how the season is shaping up...
Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
Heading off to Orlando in the next few weeks? If so you're in luck - the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival runs until November 13th, and offers a fantastic opportunity to dine and imbibe your way around the world. More than 25 international marketplace kiosks -- representing 6 continents -- will serve tapas-sized portions of regional specialities at $3 to $8 per serving, along with specialist stalls dedicated to desserts, champagne and craft beer. You'll also be able to meet guest chefs, winemakers and celebrity speakers and indulge in rare vintage wine tastings, cheese seminars, chocolate samplings, patisserie demonstrations and more.
When: Every day until 13th November, 2011 / Where: Epcot Theme Park, Walt Disney World
Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
Appropriate for children of all ages, Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party encourages its guests to dress up in their scariest costumes and trick-or-treat their way around Magic Kingdom, collecting all manner of delicious candy snacks along the way. Highlights include lots of favourite Disney characters in suitably scary Halloween garb, the special 'Happy HalloWishes' fireworks display which catapults Disney villains into the sky, and Mickey's own "Boo to You" Halloween Parade, complete with loads of clever lighting and theming effects and led by the spooky Headless Horseman.
When: Selected nights until 1st November. Purchase of an additional ticket is required / Where: Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World. Check the website for the event dates.
The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights
Jennings Osborne was an Arkansas businessman who started decorating his own family home with lights in the mid-1980s, at the request of his young daughter. Every year, the display was added to and was even extended to nearby properties, but eventually grew impractical. In 1995 Disney happily stepped in and offered a dedicated street within its Hollywood Studios attraction as a new permanent home, and the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights has been one of the resort's most popular holiday happenings ever since. Multi-coloured lights in their millions cover every conceivable window, wall and doorway and dim every ten minutes before sparkling back to life, all choreographed to traditional holiday music and topped off with a sprinkling of snow.
When: 10th November 2011 -- 3rd January 2012 / Where: Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World
Festival of the Seasons
Downtown Disney, the free-to-the-public outdoor dining, shopping and entertainment complex, is home to the annual Festival of the Seasons, a month-long celebration of the festive season. Be serenaded by carol singers, school choirs and marching bands while you shop for all your Christmas gifts on D Street, admire the balancing skills of the toy soldier stiltwalkers and visit Santa at home in his chalet. If you show him your wishlist and pose for a picture, he might let you perch on his knee (if you're good).
When: 9th November 2011 -- 8th January 2012 / Where: Downtown Disney, Walt Disney World
Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party
For the ultimate in Yuletide cheer Disney-style, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party is the only place to be. Celebrate the spirit of Christmas with your favourite Disney characters and Santa himself at Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade - and don't forget there are meet and greet opportunities throughout the park. Marvel at the glittering Castle Dream Lights on Cinderella Castle as you sip complimentary hot chocolate and cookies, and wander down extravagantly-decorated Main Street under a light dusting of magical snow. An exclusive holiday fireworks extravaganza rounds off the night .
When: Selected nights between 8th November 2011 - 18th December 2011. Purchase of an additional ticket is required / Where: Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World
Virgin Atlantic operate two daily flights to Orlando from London Gatwick. Virgin Holidays are the UK's market leader for all-inclusive package holidays and deals to Orlando, Miami and the wider state - no one knows Florida better. Visit the website for tailor-made family holidays and special offers.
Header shot of Epcot garden festival © Kjersti Joergensen | Dreamstime.com, Spectacle of Dancing Lights © Lucy Clark | Dreamstime.com, Epcot at night © Darwin Lopez | Dreamstime.com, Magic Kingdom © Steve Kingsman | Dreamstime.com, Downtown Disney © Gary718 | Dreamstime.com, Disney Christmas © Jerry Coli | Dreamstime.com.
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.