Where and What is the Candelight Processional?
The Candlelight Processional is a seasonal show that takes place in Epcot at the outdoor American Gardens Theater in front of the United States Pavilion. It is performed each night at 5:00pm, 6:45pm, and 8:15pm and each show lasts about 45 minutes. This year, the Processional runs from November 25, 2011 through December 30, 2011. The show tells the story of Christmas from a Christian Biblical perspective and is very much religious in tone. A celebrity narrates the story while a 50-person orchestra plays music and a mass choir sings popular Christmas songs. The full narrator list has not yet been announced, but they are expected to include the following:
- 11/29 – 12/01: Gary Sinise
- 12/02 – 12/03: Neil Patrick Harris
- 12/04 – 12/05: Ashley Judd
- 12/06 – 12/07: Whoopi Goldberg
- 12/08 – 12/10: Sigourney Weaver
- 12/11 – 12/13: Dennis Haysbert
- 12/14 – 12/16: James Denton
- 12/17 – 12/19: Edward James Olmos
- 12/20 – 12/22: Trace Adkins
- 12/23 – 12/25: TBA
- 12/26 – 12/28: Blair Underwood
- 12/29 – 12/30: Amy Grant
Clicking one of the above links will take you to their Wikipedia page. It’s important to note that it’s quite likely some of the narrators will change before the list is finalized. Last year, the list was change five or six times before it was finalized and some dates did not have a name attached until just a few days before the Processional began. In other words, while it is fun to look forward to or plan to see a specific narrator, things can and do change as schedules conflict.
The full show narrated by Jodi Benson on December 13 2013. The show is the biblical telling of the story of Jesus’ birth, complete with religious songs and references. You certainly don’t need to be religious to enjoy the story and music, but that is what it’s about.
Will My Kids Enjoy the Candlelight Processional?
It depends on the child. Sorry there are so few definitive answers when it comes to these sorts of things, but there truly is no “one size fits all” when it comes to what people will enjoy, especially when those people are children. If your kids are capable of waiting an hour or more for a 45 minute narrated show with a choir and orchestra then they should enjoy it. On the other hand, if they have trouble sitting through even the most exciting cartoon or movie then they will most likely have problems making it through the Processional without disrupting you and others. If they enjoy school band concerts or they have enjoyed similar choir or orchestra performances in the past then they should thoroughly enjoy the show. From what I’ve seen, about 75% of kids are enthralled, 15% look bored, and 10% are constantly squirming and begging to leave. Generally speaking, older children enjoy the show more than kids under the age of nine.
What Does The Candlelight Processional Cost?
The show is free, provided you have some way of getting into Epcot to see it (whether it be an Annual Pass, Magic Your Way Ticket, or a hole in the fence). However, the popularity of the show has spurred Disney to offer a Candlelight Processional Dining Package similar to the dinner package offered for Fantasmic. For a set per-person price or two credits on the Disney Dining Plan, the Candlelight Processional Dining Package includes an appetizer, entrée, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage at one of a variety of restaurants. In addition, you will get to enter the theater for the Candlelight Processional for a specific show before those who don’t purchase the Package and you will also be admitted to the private viewing area for Illuminations which starts at 9:30pm (one area for all Package users).
2013 Candlelight Processional Dining Package Pricing:
In order of least to most expensive for lunch:
- Lunch: $35.14 (Adult) $19.16 (Child)
- Dinner: $55.37 (Adult) $28.75 (Child)
Nine Dragons Restaurant
- Lunch: $41.53 (Adult) $13.84 (Child)
- Dinner: $53.74 (Adult) $18.10 (Child)
- Lunch: $42.59 (Adult) $14.90 (Child)
- Dinner: $53.24 (Adult) $18.10 (Child)
- Lunch: $43.66 (Adult) $14.90 (Child)
- Dinner: $56.44 (Adult) $19.16 (Child)
Rose and Crown
- Lunch: $46.85 (Adult) $13.84 (Child)
- Dinner: $59.63 (Adult) $19.16 (Child)
San Angel Inn
- Lunch: $51.98 (Adult) $15.18 (Child)
- Dinner: $65.82 (Adult) $17.58 (Child)
- Lunch: $57.50 (Adult) $14.90 (Child)
- Dinner: $69.22 (Adult) $19.16 (Child)
- Dinner: $57.50 (Adult) $29.81 (Child)
- Lunch: $58.57 (Adult) $15.97 (Child)
- Dinner: $71.35 (Adult) $10.23 (Child)
Chefs de France
- Lunch: $59.63 (Adult) $15.97 (Child)
- Dinner: $74.54 (Adult) $21.29 (Child)
- Lunch: $63.89 (Adult) $17.03 (Child)
- Dinner: $74.54 (Adult) $20.23 (Child)
- Lunch: $63.89 (Adult) $17.03 (Child)
- Dinner: $74.54 (Adult) $20.23 (Child)
La Hacienda de San Angel
- Dinner: $69.74 (Adult) $17.58 (Child)
What Time Should I Make My Dining Reservation with the Candlelight Processional Package?
Each show has a specific window where reservations can be made,
Show 1 (5:00pm): Dining reservation between 12:30pm and 2:30pm
Show 2 (6:45pm): Dining reservation between 3:30pm-4:15pm
Show 3 (8:15pm): Dining reservation between 4:20pm and 5:45pm
Consider booking toward the beginning of the window so you have plenty of time to enjoy your meal before heading over to the theater. With three course, meals can take 90 or more minutes.
What Proof Do I Need to Get into the Reserved Seating Section?
When you arrive at the restaurant to pay for your meal, you will receive a badge for each person on the reservation. The badges do not have names on them and there is no way to prove that the person with the badge is actually the person who was on the reservation. You will definitely want to keep your badges safe. While I’m sure it’s frowned upon, you can technically give the badge to whoever you want. For example, if you’re traveling with your extended family, you could give your kids’ badges to someone else in the family and let Grandma watch the kids while the adults enjoy the show.
Which Candlelight Processional Package Restaurant Should I Pick?
Check out the Epcot restaurant menus here. Click on a restaurant and then “View menus” on the right. Because the cost is fixed, you’ll get the most value for your money if you select the most expensive items. If you’re on a budget, Biergarten for lunch is the best value. The price is only a couple dollars more expensive than the regular buffet price. Via Napoli is a good choice for lunch because it’s the same menu as dinner and the price is considerably less expensive. For dinner, Restaurant Marrakesh is a very good value. By ordering some of the more expensive items, you’ll end up paying only a few dollars more than you would compared to the regular prices.
Is The Candlelight Processional Package Worth the Cost?
When you purchase the Package, you’re paying not only for the meal, but also peace of mind and convenience. The Dining Package guarantees you a seat for one of Disney’s most popular shows. People will wait five or more hours to see Neil Patrick Harris perform. If you’re not willing to wait at least an hour in the standby line, and often more, it’s unlikely you’ll be seated for a show. Disney sells a ton of the dining packages because the markup is so high and it guarantees every seat at the restaurant is paying top dollar. Because of that, there are fewer and fewer seats available for guests not using the package each year. Three or four years ago, packages would sell out at the popular restaurants on the first day they were available. Now, packages are available for months.
If you’re big eaters or can plan around a big meal, you can get some value out of the package if you’re smart about going to a restaurant where you’ll order the most expensive entrees. Biergarten and Garden Grill don’t have huge premiums compared to the regular cost either if that’s the way you want to go. On the other hand, if your family doesn’t tend to eat a lot, you may want to forgo the package.
How Long is the Wait for the Candlelight Processional? When is the Best Time to See the Show?
The 5pm show is almost always the least crowded and your best chance to get a seat without purchasing the Candlelight Dining Package. The only downside is that it may not be completely dark at that time. While it won’t hamper the show in any physical way, a lot of people prefer to watch the Procession in darkness, because it adds a bit of ambiance to the story. Here are some general guidelines about the best way to see the Processional:
- As far as crowds are concerned, weekdays are always better than weekends. Friday and Saturday will be the two busiest days, along with any day with Extra Magic Hours.
- The 5pm show is almost always the least crowded and the 8pm show is the most popular.
- Even if you purchase the Candlelight Processional Dining Package, you will still want to be in line at least 30 minutes prior to the start of the show. People who purchase the Package really, really want to see it and they will be in line for it early, even though they are guaranteed a seat somewhere in the theater.
- Popular narrators will bring larger crowds with them and the wait time necessary to get a seat will dramatically increase.
- November 29th – 31st and December 20th-30th will be extremely busy due to the higher overall crowd level. If the Candlelight Processional is important to you, consider the Dining Package to guarantee a seat. Otherwise, be prepared to wait 90 or more minutes with no guarantee of being able to sit.
- My favorite tactic is similar to what I do at other shows. Plan to be in the United States Pavilion around 4pm and check the line. Be sure to ask the attendant at the back of the line whether or not he/she thinks you’ll be able to get a seat. They count the number of people as they enter the line and they have a good idea about whether or not there will be a seat for you. If you get the green light then you can either get in line or if the line is really short, grab a snack/drink and get in line. If it already looks like it’s close to “selling out” then you know you’ll need to return even earlier for the next show or you can enter the line now in anticipation of the next show. On the evenings right before Christmas, you may need to get in line more than two hours ahead of the scheduled start time.
- It is possible to hear the show from the World Showcase promenade without being seated in the theater, but it is usually difficult to see. If you have seen the show in the past, listening may be enough, especially if it saves you two hours in line. There is not much action on the stage to speak of.
What is the Private Illuminations Viewing Area Like with the Candlelight Processional Package?
The private viewing area is located at the base of the World Showcase near Future World. In other words, it’s near the entrance to the World Showcase from Future World. There are no seats, so you will either be standing for the duration of your wait or you may be able to sit on the ground. It’s quite a hike from the United States Pavilion to the front of the World Showcase and it will probably take you at least 10 minutes to get from the theater to the Illuminations viewing area. It will take longer depending on the crowd level and how many people you have to dodge and push through. The good news is that you’ll be among the first to exit Epcot after Illuminations if you’re getting on a bus, going to the monorail, or returning to your car in the parking lot. If you’re headed to the International Gateway to exit to your Epcot-area resort then you’ll probably want to find somewhere out of the way to stand for a while as the masses exit. I recommend visiting the 6:45pm show because it will give you plenty of time to move to the private viewing area. You will be much more rushed if you visit the 8:15pm show.
This Is Much More Complicated Than I Was Expecting. Is It Worth It?
Yes, the Candlelight Processional is one of Disney’s best and longest running shows. At potentially no additional cost (if you opt for lunch at Biergarten), you will get to enjoy a celebrity narrating the story of Christmas in front of a 50-person orchestra and mass choir. On the other hand, if you aren’t interested in a religious show or singing and music then you probably want to skip it. The question about whether or not it’s worth waiting an hour plus is a more difficult question to answer. Considering the standby line at Soarin’ is at least 60 minutes in the afternoon for a five minute ride, waiting 60-90 minutes for a 45 minute live show with hundreds of performers doesn’t seem like that bad of a tradeoff. If you’ve completed most of what you want to do at Epcot and Disney World in general then you’re not losing out on much by waiting in line for the show. If there’s plenty more on your itinerary, and you’re chomping at the bit for the show to be over so you can run to Test Track, you’re probably better off enjoying the rides and other attractions, rather than spending potentially three or more hours on the Candlelight Processional. I have never heard anyone talk poorly about the Processional, other than to say it was more religious in tone than they were expecting. Other than that, it is a professional show of the highest caliber and anyone who enjoys Christmas, signing, and music will love it.
The Dining Package is available by calling 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463) or by visiting https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/epcot/candlelight-dinner-packages/.