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Highlights from Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom. Video by Luann Manderrville, FLORIDA TODAY, Posted Nov. 13, 2016

There's a bonus for 'Star Wars' fans, too. (Hello, 'Rogue One'!)

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Holidaywise, there’s plenty happening in Brevard this weekend. However ... our neighboring county and its theme parks have a few things up their sleeves, too.

Whether you’re an annual passholder or have family visiting, here are 10 (more) reasons for you to visit Walt Disney World in Orlando this holiday season:

1. Very Merry Mickey

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas has undergone a bit of an upgrade with “Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration.” If you like those traditional Disney stage shows, you’ll love this, with its singing, dancing, tongue-in-cheek attitude toward everything from characters to cell phones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. The castle

This should be part of the above, but the animated images projected onto Cinderella’s Castle as a grand finale are mindblowingly spectacular. You’ll be reading about this. It’s impossible to ignore the shining, shimmering, splendid (wrong movie, but it works) million-light “A Frozen Holiday Wish,” too.

3. Epcot marketplaces

Epcot, which is about to undergo a re-do in some areas, also has gone all out for the holidays with “Around the World Marketplaces.” Think of it as Son of Food & Wine; it will have everything from tamales (at Feast of the Three Kings) to German-style punch to duck confit.

4. Lights fantastic

“Jingle Bell Jingle BAM!” at Disney Hollywood Studios is another of those projection masterpieces that feature familiar animated characters. Yes, people miss the Osborne lights (No one will say where they are or where they’re going, if anywhere, by the way; only that they’re safely stored), but this is a brilliant bit of technology for the family.

5. To see Santa

The Once Upon a Time Shop, where Santa Claus holds forth, also at the park formerly known as MGM. It’s a sentimental throwback to those department store Clauses, minus the cheesy trinkets.

6. Disneyfied Christmas trees

The animal-themed Christmas tree at Animal Kingdom, which blends nicely with its day-and-night attractions and holiday-decked characters. There are reasons things aren’t too boisterous there, though: the animals.

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7. Fun & games

Disney Springs, the entertainment haven: Singers, musicians, dancers and actors will be all over the huge, newly-expanded complex with holiday-themed everything. There’s a “Lilo and Stitch”-themed scavenger hunt and the “Once Upon a Toy Town Fountain,” there are stage shows, there’s seasonal music everywhere and in newer areas, a certain modish, low-key elegance of décor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. The shopping

Disney Springs, the retail haven: Town Center, highly reminiscent of old-Florida shopping districts (Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, anyone?), has all sorts of chic stores and boutiques you won’t find elsewhere in the area, as well as familiar names, and the prices are surprisingly fair. The weekend before Thanksgiving, Kipling had purses on sale for $29 and the prices at Sperry and Columbia were about what you would expect.

9. The food

Disney Springs, the dining district: Disney World never has been a slouch in the culinary department and this advances it yet again with a higher-end steakhouse, STK; Art Smith’s Homecoming Florida Kitchen, with modern takes on Southern comfort food by Oprah Winfrey’s chef; and the Southwestern-themed Frontera Cocina by another celebrity chef, Rick Bayless. There’s also D-Luxe Burger, a Disney-owned (read: “lots of oversight”) fast foodery that produces a variety of stunningly fine burgers to order. Chef Bill Brown said he wanted to produce “the best (theme park) burger anywhere” and if Epcot’s annual competition or reactions by a gang of food writers is any indication, he did. Desserts and snacks represent a step up too; the cupcakes at Sprinkles and the pastries at Amorette’s are marvelous. And you can get a great cup of tea, black (Assam or Darjeeling, anyone?) or otherwise; or French press coffee, at Joffrey’s.

10. The resorts

The hotels are first holiday stops for many Disney fanatics and locals because they look and smell magnificent, one reason for which is the artistry of their chefs. The life-sized, Austrian-recipe gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian has become a holiday tradition, the Contemporary now has a “Frozen”-themed, 17-foot-tall, gingerbread holiday ice castle, complete with mountains and fjords; and the Beach Club has its huge, edible, spinning gingerbread carousel.

Bonus: Wait! One more thing. If you see strangely beautiful things in the night skies over Disney Springs – like a massive, blue, fluttering dove that appears to have been illuminated by gigantic fireflies – enjoy them. They’re part of “Starbright Holidays,” the new 300-drone show put together by the wizards at Disney and Intel.

Need more information? Prices? Reservations? Directions? Visit disneyworld.disney.go.com.

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Universal's holiday fun

"You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch!" At Universal Orlando Resort, the theme park’s holiday celebration continues daily through Jan. 1. It features Grinchmas (the Grinch we interviewed during Universal's media preview event on Dec. 2 was *very* entertaining) and the Wholiday Spectacular, holiday parade and Mannheim Steamroller concerts at 7 p.m. Dec. 17 and 18. For more information, visit universalorlando.com.

Shellie Chapman, for FLORIDA TODAY

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2016 Holidays Celebration Media Preview Event at Universal Orlando Resort. By Shellie Chapman, For FLORIDA TODAY. Posted Dec. 5, 2016.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

The “Star Wars” buzz is finally here! On Dec. 5, during a media preview for the galactic film, Disney transformed Spaceship Earth (the big silver ball at Epcot) into the Star Wars Death Star. “Rogue One” actor Mads Mikkelsen, who plays Galen Erso, made a special appearance, too.

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Disney Creative Entertainment show director Michael Roddy unveiled a host of surprises:

• “Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away” begins Dec. 16 and will feature all eight films. Yes, all eight films with new characters.

• Launch Bay features authentic “Rogue One: A Story Wars Story” replicas

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The final trailer for 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,' starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna and Ben Mendelsohn. Lucasfilm

• The Star Tours ride is coming back. Plus, in 2017 there will be a new destination from “Star Wars: Episode 8.”

• Test your young Padawan knowledge with a “Star Wars”-guided seven-hour tour, which features a “Star Wars” buff, food and dessert party.

Luann Manderville, FLORIDA TODAY

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Disney celebrates the new film "Rogue One" plus new experiences and enhancements coming to Walt Disney World Resort Video by Luann Manderville Posted Dec. 6

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