2016 Candlelight Processional Info & Tips

Neil Patrick Harris Epcot Candlelight Processional

Candlelight Processional at Epcot is the telling of the Christmas story by a celebrity narrator with music sung by a mass choir and performed by a 50-piece live orchestra.

Three performances are held per night–at 5 pm, 6:45 pm, and 8:15 pm–in the America Gardens Theatre across from the American Adventure in World Showcase. There’s a reason one of the most popular events of the Christmas season at Walt Disney World is the Candlelight Processional at Epcot: it’s a beautiful show that many guests find to be a moving and spiritual experience.

Calling Candlelight Processional one of the most popular events is no exaggeration–long lines plus expensive dinner packages have sort of contributed to us being “over” Candlelight Processional. We have really enjoyed it in the past, but it’s something that is a huge hassle if you don’t have a dining package or don’t mind watching from outside the theater.

Here’s the list of confirmed narrators for the 2016 Candlelight Processional at Epcot:

  • 11/25-27 – Steven Curtis Chapman
  • 11/28-12/1 – Neil Patrick Harris
  • 12/2-12/3 – Whoopi Goldberg
  • 12/4-12/12 – TBA
  • 12/13-12/15 – Meredith Vieira
  • 12/16-12/18 – TBA
  • 12/19-12/21 – Joe Morton
  • 12/22-12/27 – TBA
  • 12/28-12/30 – Cal Ripken, Jr.

If you’re wondering whether it might be worth doing plus some ideas for making the most of the Candlelight Processional Experience, we have some tips & tricks and a review in this post…

Tips

The parenthetical that the schedule is “subject to change without notice” is no joke. Celebrities will cancel if “something better” comes up, and it’s not uncommon for multiple iterations of the schedule to be released as the date draws nearer.

Make sure you monitor the schedule to make sure your chosen performer is still set for the date you’re attending as your trip draws closer. Disney will update the schedule faster than fan sites that repost it, so make sure to just go directly to the link above for the most up-to-date schedule.

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While the America Gardens Theater where Candlelight Processional is held can seat over 1,000 guests per performance, between 50% and 75% of these seats are reserved for guests who purchase dinner packages. All of these dinner package guests are guaranteed seats in one of the three nightly Candlelight Processional performances.

Plus, for 2016, breakfast dining packages are also being offered, in addition to 2 new restaurants (outside of Epcot) also offering dining packages. More dining package availability will likely bump that number up above 75% in terms of reserved seats.

This means that the standby line for most performances gets super long. Ridiculously long. So long that if you’re a tourist or visiting on vacation, you should not even consider not getting a lunch or dinner package for the Candlelight Processional, especially when a popular narrator is presenting. When Neil Patrick Harris last presented, we saw people lining up for the 5 pm performance of Candlelight Processional around noon!

The dinner packages include a meal consisting of an appetizer, entree, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage (or full buffet “experience,” where applicable), reserved seating at the show and access to an exclusive fireworks viewing area. For what you get, the dining package is not that expensive (or at least the cost is not badly inflated), and your time on vacation is definitely worth the price. I know the three hours or so of waiting in line that we’ve saved by purchasing the dining package has been well worth it–to us at least!

If you elect not to do the dinner package, we recommend trying to watch from the walkway behind the America Gardens Theatre, rather than waiting hours in the standby line. Sometimes Cast Members will manage crowd flow back here, but often you can simply stand behind the theater and watch the show.

The following are the locations participating in the dining package for the Candlelight Processional. As you can see, our recommendations are for Biergarten or Via Napolia. 

  • Akershus Royal Banquet Hall – Norway
  • Biergarten – Germany (Our Pick for Value/Christmas Ambiance)
  • Captain’s Grille – Yacht Club Resort (outside of Epcot)
  • Chefs de France – France
  • Coral Reef– The Seas
  • Garden Grill – The Land
  • La Hacienda de San Angel – Mexico
  • Nine Dragons Restaurant – China
  • Restaurant Marrakesh – Morocco
  • Rose and Crown – UK
  • San Angel Inn – Mexico
  • Teppan Edo and Tokyo Dining – Japan
  • Trattoria Al Forno – BoardWalk (outside of Epcot)
  • Tutto Italia – Italy
  • Via Napoli – Italy (Our Pick for Value/Quality)

Due to popular demand, the Candlelight Processional dining packages are expanding for 2016. In addition to lunch and dinner, breakfast packages will be available at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall and Garden Grill.

Additionally, breakfast, lunch, and dinner Candlelight Processional packages will be available this year at Captain’s Grille at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort. Breakfast and dinner packages will be offered at Trattoria Al Forno at Disney’s BoardWalk.

For more information and our thoughts on these restaurants, check out our Disney Dining Reviews.

For prices and to book the Candlelight Processional Dining package you can call 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463).

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We also prefer certain narrators (and some, like Neil Patrick Harris, are much more popular in general). We note below some of the more popular narrators among Disney guests.

Review

A lot of people absolutely love the Candlelight Processional. We like it quite a bit, but we aren’t absolutely gung-ho, call Disney Dining the very first day the packages go on sale, crazy about it like some people. It’s neat, but definitely not the highlight of our trip. It’s beautifully done, but at some points it seems overly stuffy.

I suppose I would much rather hear the recital of some Christmas Carols by the choir with the celebrity enthusiastically telling some other Christmas story. As it is, it’s very solemn and proper. It just doesn’t seem animated or lively enough for me, but that’s just my personal preference, I suppose. Your mileage may vary, and probably will depending upon how religious you are.

We did not go to Candlelight Processional during our Christmas 2015 trip; Neil Patrick Harris (our second favorite host) was done the day before we arrived, and Whoopi Goldberg was the narrator during our visit. We saw Neil Patrick Harris last time we went, who we think is about the coolest person ever.

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A few years ago, we booked the package, but it was mostly to see John O’Hurley, or J. Petermann, as fellow Seinfeld fans may know him. More recently, we went to see Whoopi Goldberg, because seating was included with our D23 Magic & Merriment event package. Whoopi Goldberg was okay, but on the “cool scale” she just doesn’t stack up to NPH or J. Petermann.

Overall, Candlelight Processional, at the bare minimum, has “do it at least once” status. Some people love it to the point that it’s their favorite Christmas offering at Walt Disney World. Others find it too dry and slow, and are not moved by the story. I don’t think it’s quite fair to compare Candlelight Processional to a Christmas Eve church service, and I think there’s a good chance that even those who are not religious will enjoy it. You really don’t know until you try it–and in order to try it, you really should book one of the dinner packages. With that said, if your budget doesn’t allow for both Candlelight Processional and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, I’d recommend the Christmas Party over the Candlelight Processional Dinner Packages without hesitation.

For comprehensive tips for planning your Christmas-time trip to Walt Disney World, check out our Ultimate Guide to Christmas at Walt Disney World. For Walt Disney World trip planning tips and comprehensive advice, make sure to read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide and related articles.

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Your Thoughts…

Are you a fan of Candlelight Processional? Do you usually book the dining package or wait in line? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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