Whether it’s the middle of the summer or deep in December, you can always find a group of dedicated stores at Orlando’s theme parks that feature holiday merchandise and Christmas ornaments. You’re never far from the season of giving while you’re taking a vacation in Central Florida!
In this week’s BIG 5 blog post, join me as we count down the top five Orlando theme park shops that help us celebrate the magic of the holidays 365 days a year.
#5 – It’s a Wonderful Shop (Hollywood Studios)
It’s a Wonderful Shop is tucked away in a lovely little corner of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Located near Muppet-Vision 3D and Mama Melrose Restaurant Italiano, this store is adorable even from the outside.
As you approach Wonderful Shop, be sure to notice the details on the fire escape landings. This beautiful brick multi-story building could easily fit in New York City, and the concrete snow and snowman serve as a favorite photo spot.
Though the shop is tiny by theme park standards, it is beautifully decorated with elements that would fit well with its namesake, the holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life. Note the movie set lighting and ceiling above, lending to the park’s overarching theme that you are experiencing movie magic.
It’s a Wonderful Shop is surely one of my favorites, but its small selection, lack of personalization station, and the fact that it offers the same holiday merchandise as the rest of the Disney stores urge me to rank it last.
#4 – Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe (Magic Kingdom)
This is the one that started it all! Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe, located in Orlando’s first theme park, is also the very first dedicated Christmas shop inside a theme park.
But have you noticed it doesn’t look much like a holiday store from the outside? There’s a reason: it is historically inaccurate that a Christmas shop would exist in the era in which Liberty Square is based. So the exterior and some of the interior look like separate homes, which is done to make it feel as though you are perusing residences that have been decorated for the holidays rather than visiting a store – though, over the years, the interior has lost most of that effect.
This is also the only Christmas store inside a Disney World theme park that offers ornament personalization year-round. I have always loved this service, and I am sad that the rest of the parks no longer feature it. The good news is that you can bring ornaments you may have purchased at other Disney shops and have them personalized here, so long as you have your receipt. Pricing basically works out to $3.00 per word.
Although the setting inside Magic Kingdom is appealing, its small size coupled with busy attendance makes it somewhat difficult to really enjoy yourself here, landing it at the number four spot on our list. Plus, there is no unique, exclusive Magic Kingdom merchandise to really set it apart.
#3 – Die Weihnachts Ecke (Epcot’s Germany Pavilion)
The vast majority of our holiday traditions originated in Germany, so it’s appropriate that Die Weihnachts Ecke (which translates to “The Christmas Corner”) is on our list.
It’s also appropriate that, no matter the time of year – even if it’s sweltering outside – this shop immediately puts me in the Christmas spirit. Most impressively of all, every ornament here is either made in Germany or in the classic, one-of-a-kind German style. And you won’t find them in any other Disney store, save for a select few inside Downtown Disney’s 12 Days of Christmas shop.
Rather than walls of ornaments, these beautiful glass treasures are displayed on Christmas trees. There’s one tree dedicated to each style of ornament, including Disney characters and an entire pickle tree. (The pickle ornament is a tradition for American families who celebrate German heritage – like my own!)
So maybe it’s the German in me pulling rank here, but there is so much I love about this shop that I had to put it in the number three slot on our list. Die Weihnachts Ecke offers unique merchandise, as well as authentic German treats and special Christmas linens. It’s hard to make the holidays feel any more special.
#2 – Port of Entry Christmas Shoppe and Park Plaza Holiday Shop (Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida)
We now journey to Universal Orlando. For many years, the only Christmas shop located within all of the resort could be found at Islands of Adventure. And I have to say, despite its conspicuous location along the main pathway entering the park, this year-round Christmas shop somehow remains a best-kept secret.
The entrance itself is whimsical, with snow-covered columns wrapped in garland and the subtle shutters with a snowflake silhouette design. Inside, not only will you find hundreds of unique, dazzling ornaments, but also sparkling holiday jewelry, dining ware, and Christmas miniature villages.
Continuing in the holiday spirit, Universal has just recently added a dedicated holiday store at Universal Studios Florida. I cannot think of a better location for this shop. Perfectly positioned on the corner facing Gramercy Park and the Transformers Ride queue, the Park Plaza Holiday Shop brings a year-round touch of the holiday season to Universal Studios’ New York backlot. It’s much smaller than its sibling next door at Islands of Adventure and focuses primarily on ornaments.
The best feature in both of Universal’s Christmas shops is the personalization station. And since they both offer more than just Universal character ornaments, the personalization possibilities are manifold. And though, in recent years, the personalization possibilities have been scaled back a little bit, they’re still a wonderful feature, particularly when compared to the limited options at Walt Disney World.
For any Harry Potter fans, take note that the Universal Team Members are not allowed to use any Harry Potter references in the personalization. For example, a large, round gold bulb caught my eye. I asked for it to be personalized to say “Hufflepuff,” and, sadly, it was not allowed, due to the restrictions set forth by author J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. Still, the Team Members that do the personalization are super friendly and very helpful. Prices here are the same as Disney, basically $3.00 per word.
The variety of both character-themed and non-park-related ornaments, plus the personalization service, really sets these shops – especially at Islands of Adventure – apart from Disney’s variety. And since not many people know about the personalization option, they are not as absurdly busy as the Disney artists are, who can take up to two weeks to complete an order during the holiday season.
Depending on volume, time of day, and the season, in fact, you can place your order at Universal’s shops and have your decorated ornament completed anywhere from two days to, even, the very same day!
#1 – 12 Days of Christmas (Downtown Disney)
Prepare for Christmas insanity! This is the premier destination for anyone interested in Disney Christmas decorations. It is also a classic shop, as many of the decor elements have not changed since the store opened way back when.
Besides offering all the ornaments and decorations that can be purchased throughout the entire Disney property, there are lots of thematic elements that are wonderful to enjoy, mostly revolving around the “Twelve Days of Christmas” song. Two of my favorites are “11 puppies panting” and “on the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me two Tweedledees.”
Also, there are two television screens in separate corners of the shop; one plays Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas, while the other displays Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas. Outside, the windows of the shop have sweet little vignettes using classic Disney character figures.
My favorite decor element inside the shop is something that makes one of my childhood fascinations real: when I was a little kid, I would sit close to our family’s Christmas tree. As I stared at the tree, I wondered what it would be like to be the size of a chipmunk, like Chip and Dale, and live inside or under the tree.
Here at 12 Days of Christmas, there are multiple displays where giant decorated Christmas tree limbs tower above. The look is carried down with a red tree stand sitting on a tree skirt-themed carpet. Many people pass by these giant Christmas tree limbs without a moment’s notice, but I always get a giggle standing underneath them.
You’ll also find the king of all ornament personalization stations here. Additionally, you can have stockings and tree skirts embroidered. Toward the back of the shop is a wintery white room where hat personalization and leather embossing takes place. Tip: I have found that insanely long check-out lines can be avoided in this small room.
I can’t believe I just gave up one of my Downtown Disney shopping secrets, but – hey – I’m in the holiday spirit, so why not give a little?
Honorable mention – Island Mercantile (Animal Kingdom)
Not surprisingly, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the only Disney theme park without a dedicated Christmas shop. With the elimination of the Jingle Jungle Parade, my favorite Disney World park is indeed the least “Christmasy” of the four theme parks.
But there’s one saving grace: located on Discovery Island, facing the fascinating Tree of Life, Island Mercantile is comparable to Magic Kingdom’s Emporium or Epcot’s Mouse Gear, and it always has at least a small stock of Christmas ornaments.
There are two benefits of Island Mercantile over the other Disney holiday shops. First, you can sometimes find ornaments that have sold out in other parks here. And, second, the fun animal-themed decor throughout the store is actually very intricate and worth a look, even if you’re not Christmas shopping.
Whichever shop you visit, a Christmas ornament or the beautiful holiday decor is a fantastic way to commemorate your Orlando vacation. Once you have selected an item, each year it can be displayed in your home, reminding you and your family of the time you traveled to the world’s number one vacation destination.
By the way, if you’re planning on visiting Universal Orlando this December, don’t miss our complete insider’s guide to the holidays in the OI Universal Center. Otherwise, you can stop by the OI Blog archive for all of our BIG 5 posts or tell us your favorite holiday theme park traditions in the OI Forum.
Orlando theme park Christmas shops – photo gallery
Click any image to view it full-screen. When the full-screen image is open, click to the right or use the right arrow on your keyboard to advance through the gallery.
Note that the photos appear in the same order as the list of shops above.
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