Whether it’s the middle of 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 countdown 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
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
It’s a Wonderful Shop is tucked away in a lovely little corner of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Located near Muppet-Vision 3-D and Mama Melrose Restaurant Italiano, this shop is adorable even from the outside. As you approach the 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 the shop’s namesake, the holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Note the movie set lighting and ceiling above, lending to the park’s theme that you are experiencing movie magic.
This shop is surely one of my favorites, but it’s small selection, lack of personalization station, and the fact that it offers the same holiday merchandise as the rest of the Disney shops urge me to rank is last.
#4 – Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe
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 shop 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. This is done to make it feel as though you are perusing homes that have been decorated for the holidays rather than visiting a shop, 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 ornaments personalization year-round. I have always loved this service, and I am sad that the rest of the parks no longer offer 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 words 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 inside the store — landing it at the number 4 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. Die Weihnachts Ecke translates to “The Christmas Corner”. No matter the time of year — even if it’s sweltering outside — this shop immediately puts me in the Christmas spirit. Most impressive of all, every ornament in this shop is made in Germany or in the classic, one-of-a-kind German style. Additionally, you won’t find these ornaments in any other Disney shop, 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 my German heritage pulling rank on me, but there is so much I love about this shop that I had to put it in the number 3 slot on our list. Die Weihnachts Ecke offers unique merchandise as well as authentic German treats and special holiday linens. For me, whenever I set foot in here, it really feels like Christmas no matter the time of year.
#2 – Port of Entry Christmas Shoppe
Islands of Adventure
We now journey to Universal’s Islands of Adventure. 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 there is also sparkling holiday jewelry, dining ware, and Christmas miniature villages.
The best feature in Universal’s only dedicated Christmas shop is the personalization station. And since the shop offers much, much more than just Universal character ornaments, the personalization possibilities are nearly endless. In fact, when I stopped by to chat with the personalization artist, she explained that she was currently working on a bulb with a guest’s school name and logo. She also showed me a diamond ring ornament that she had personalized for a man to use to propose to his girlfriend. 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 this shop apart from Disney’s variety. Not many people know about the personalization service, so they are not as absurdly busy like the Disney artists, who can take up to two weeks to complete an order during the holiday season. Depending on volume and the time of day, you place your order at Islands of Adventure and have your decorated ornament completed the same day!
#1 – 12 Days of Christmas
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 Disney property, there are lots of thematic elements that are wonderful to enjoy. Throughout the store, you will find different 12 days of Christmas elements. Two of my favorites are “eleven 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” and the other plays “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 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 tree skirt themed carpet. Many people pass by these giant decorate tree limbs with a moment’s notice, but I always get a giggle standing underneath them as I relive a moment in my childhood.
At 12 Days of Christmas you will also find the king of all ornament personalization stations. 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
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Not surprisingly, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the only Disney theme park without a dedicated Christmas shop. Though I love the Jingle Jungle Parade, my favorite WDW park is indeed the least “Christmasy” of the four 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 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 view all of our BIG 5 posts.
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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