Epcot’s Candlelight Processional takes place three times a night in World Showcase from late November through December. The Candlelight Processional includes a celebrity narrator telling the Christmas story, a mass choir, and a 50-piece orchestra. We recently enjoyed the Candlelight Processional and this review will cover that experience along with some viewing tips.
Walt Disney World, and all Disney Parks around the world, aren’t lacking when it comes Christmas offerings. Despite the crowds, Christmas season is one of the best times to visit the parks. Epcot is especially full of extra entertainment to celebrate the season. Even with the number of special offerings throughout the resort, the Candlelight Processional is easily my favorite.
I had fairly high expectations heading into my first Candlelight Processional. Christmas entertainment is generally interesting and I love watching orchestras and choirs. Even with high expectations, I was blown away by the emotional and spiritual elements of the show.
Located in America Gardens Theatre in World Showcase’s American Adventure, Candlelight Processional is a fairly simple show in nature but executed to perfection. Before the celebrity narrator takes the stage, the orchestra and choir enters and plays a few songs. Throughout the show the music is wonderful and powerful. The conductors change periodically over the course of the Christmas season but, from what we saw and what I’ve watched and read elsewhere, the music portion is always beautifully done and professional.
After a couple of songs and the choir entrance, the celebrity narrator takes the stage. Celebrity can be a loose word when it comes to these type of shows but Disney has been able to attract some bigger names in recent years including Neil Patrick Harris, John Stamos, Helen Hunt, Cal Ripken Jr. and Whoopi Goldberg. On the night we attended the narrator was Alfonso Ribeiro.
A celebrity narrator doesn’t make or break the Candlelight Processional but it certainly can help the cause. I enjoyed watching Alfonso Ribeiro interact with the choir, singing or bouncing along to the songs sung. His closing remarks were heartfelt and he seemed to genuinely enjoy being there. I do think that most narrators would do a good job and I wouldn’t specifically plan to be there for anyone in particular.
As the show goes, the narrator reads the Christmas story of Jesus being born of the virgin Mary. For those that are curious, the narration does not take any liberties from the biblical story. The narration and story leads into songs performed by the choir and orchestra – some classic Christmas songs and others slightly more obscure. The presentation was seamless and I really enjoyed the flow of the show. Candlelight Processional concludes with a stirring rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah that is worth waiting in line to see in its own right.
Theme parks are often thought of shallow pieces of entertainment. The story telling doesn’t go deep and the shows are truncated versions of a more elaborate tale. While I don’t personally agree with that thought, I generally understand the sentiment. Candlelight Processional is everything but shallow. Lasting roughly 50 minutes, the program is emotional and full of depth. Whether you are religious or not, Candlelight Processional is a spiritual experience due to the warmth of the performances and the mix of music and narration. If you are at Walt Disney World during Christmas season then this is a must do.
The easiest way to see Candlelight Processional is by booking a dining package at one of Epcot’s many restaurants. This package will include a meal (appetizer, entrée, dessert and non-alcoholic drink) at one of the restaurants and a reserved space to sit at the show. During an especially crowded time of the year this is the safest bet on reserving a seat. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, this will cost you. The cheapest dining package in 2018 is $50 and judging by the popularity of the show, I would expect these prices to keep going up. Likewise, if you are on the Disney Dining Plan booking a dining package will cost two table-service credits. Either way this is fairly costly.
If you don’t want to spend the money or dining credits, there is standby seating for each show (5:00, 6:45, and 8:15) toward the back of the theatre. Depending on crowd levels, lining up at least half an hour in advance is advised. The last show of the evening will generally be the least crowded so if you’re going the standby route then I’d recommend that showing. We did the standby seating and had no trouble securing a seat, although it was near the back of the theatre and there are a few trees that will obstruct the full view, as you can see in the photo below.
Ultimately, if you manage to make it to Disney World in early December then the dining package isn’t necessary. If you are going around Thanksgiving or Christmas then spending the extra money may be worth it.
Whichever route you take, make sure you look at the view before taking your seat. Don’t sit down and be surprised by a blocked view when you look up a few seconds later. Try to get a seat that works for you because you’ll want a good view of everything.
One last word of advice is to dress warm. Yes, this is Florida and it’s likely warmer than wherever you’re visiting from. But sitting at an outdoor show for an hour once the sun goes down can be fairly cold. Even if you have been warm for most of the day, bring an extra layer because that will make the experience more enjoyable. On the night we saw the show, the temperature dropped below 50 degrees and everyone was doing their best not to shiver through the whole performance.
All in all, do whatever it takes to see Candlelight Processional. Whether that’s booking an expensive dining package or waiting in line for close to an hour, I think this experience is more than worth it.
Have you experienced the Epcot Candlelight Processional? Let us know in the comments if you have any thoughts or questions. Planning a trip to Walt Disney World? Check out our Disney World Trip Planning Guide to help you out. If you enjoy what reading Wandering in Disney, subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email and like our social media accounts. All of those links are on the right side of this page. Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!