Candlelight Processional Review & 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.

One of the most popular events of the Christmas season at Walt Disney World is the Candlelight Processional at Epcot. You can find the complete Epcot Candlelight Processional schedule here on Walt Disney World’s official website (subject to change without notice).

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.

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. 

  • Biergarten – Germany (Our Pick for Value/Christmas Ambiance)
  • 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
  • Tutto Italia – Italy
  • Via Napoli – Italy (Our Pick for Value/Quality)

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. Here’s the 2014 Candlelight Processional narrator list (so far):

  • Nov. 28-29 – Jodi Benson
  • Dec. 5-6 – Whoopi Goldberg
  • Dec. 15-17 – Sharon Stone
  • Dec. 18-20 – Ana Gasteyer
  • Dec. 21-23 – Marlee Matlin
  • Dec. 28-30 – Steven Curtis Chapman

Additional narrators are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

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 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 likely will not go in 2014, as we saw Neil Patrick Harris last time, who we think is about the coolest person ever, and the hosts this year when we’ll be in town don’t stack up to him. 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!

For comprehensive tips for planning your Christmas-time trip to Walt Disney World, check out our “Ultimate Guide to Christmas at Walt Disney World.

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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24 Responses to “Candlelight Processional Review & Tips”

  1. Lori says:

    We’re going to the Candlelight Processional for the first time this year. We’ll be there when Trace Adkins is scheduled as the narrator. I’ve been to WDW more than 20 times, but never for the Christmas activites. So excited! We’ve booked the lunch dining package for Nine Dragons – we’ve never eaten there before. I’m glad to know that you think the dining package is well worth the money. I was concerned that it might be a waste of money. I’ll let you know how it is!

    Thanks for your wonderful blog – I look forward to reading it everyday and looooooove your pictures.

    • Stephanie matthews says:

      You will love it! I perform in it again this year! I already performed in one this year! <3 favorite thing on earth. Then again, singing in it is more fun than watching it I'm sure :)

  2. Very good info! I saw John O’Hurley, Jodi Benson, and Brad Garrett last year. It is quite amazing how different it can make the show feel. John by far had the best voice for it, but Brad got a lot of hilarious one liners in there. Neil Patrick Harris would definitely be the one I would highlight for this year as well. I’m sure he’ll be quite creative with working comedy in. I will add on that note though, that the various narrators do tend to influence crowd levels. Combined with the time of day, week, and month, seating reservations may not be needed. It seems like the early and late shows are least busy, and dates in the beginning and middle parts of the month don’t fill up as much either. The Jodi Benson show we went to was an 8:15, mid-week, beginning of the month and we walked right up at 8:10 and got pretty good seats. I guess it just depends if you want to roll the dice or not!

    • Stephanie matthews says:

      My two favorite narrators that I have seen so far (I sing in the processional) are John o’hurley and Steven Curtis chapman (he gave me a hug!)

  3. Amanda Susan says:

    I saw NPH in 2008 and he was good. That was my first experience with the Candlelight Processional and I’ve decided it’s something I need to do every year. It’s my favorite thing at WDW. I’ve seen Steven Curtis Chapman twice and although different from NPH, still very good. This year it’s Susan Lucci. I don’t think anyone can do a bad job narrating though, it’s a beautiful show.

  4. John B says:

    I was there for Whoopie in Dec 2010 (maybe we were there the same day??). I had never been to the Processional before and I loved it. I did the dinner package at Nine Dragons (which was pretty good).

    You seem to think it’s a bit too stuffy, but that’s what I like about it. Everything in WDW is so based on “magic” and “fantasy” etc, it’s nice to have something grounded in reality. And given the subject matter, I think the Processional deserves to be a solemn event. When I go back to WDW for xmas (prob 2012), I will def get another dinner package.

    • Rhona says:

      I absolutely agree with John B! The Processional is like a Christmas Church Service for those of us who are far away from our own Church during the second most important day of the year for Christians. What Tom calls “stuffy” is in fact just treating God with the respect and awe that He so rightfully deserves. That anyone could wish to make a comedy out of the greatest gift that He ever bestowed on the world, His Son Jesus Christ, is a real tragedy and downright shameful disrespect. This show will always be our very favourite thing to experience in Epcot, if not all of Disney World!

      • Tom Bricker says:

        I’m not suggesting a change in tone, just reviewing it from my perspective. Regardless of your beliefs, you have got to realize that not everyone visiting Walt Disney World is a Christian, and even those who are Christians aren’t always looking for a “church service.”

        Doing something akin to a church service at Walt Disney World does not appeal to me at all. I’m sure others agree with me. It appeals to you a lot. I’m sure others agree with you. That’s the great thing about Walt Disney World–there is a lot of variety and something for everyone.

        However, to slam my straightforward review as ‘downright shameful disrespect’ is fairly close-minded, I think.

  5. Ellen says:

    “Brick-Pick” – I love it!!!!!!!

  6. C. Evans says:

    I went last year for the first time. Corbin Bernsen was the narrator and it seemed a little flat. However, humor was added by the young (tone-death) boy next to me singing along. Also I told my friend that it was the Christmas Story with music. About two songs in she asked me where was Ralphie and his Red Ryder BB gun. I broke out in one of those uncontrollable laughs and was like “no…it’s the other Christmas Story.” At that point any deep and moving experience was lost! I am going to try it again this year just to see what NPH will do with it!

  7. Robin says:

    Celebrity changes are no joke- Whoopie has been replaced with Geena Davis for Dec 2-3 already this year.

    We have enjoyed the reserved seating and dinning in the past, however we will be traveling with our 2 year old who does not sit for long periods of time. So this year we are just going to be listening from the outside. I agree it’s not that exciting to watch, but it’s all in what you hear with the music and the reciting of the story. That is one of things I love about this, you don’t have to have seats and actually view it to enjoy it.

  8. Sonya says:

    The Candlelight Processional is one of my favorite events at Disney. I have only seen it 2 years back to back (2000 & 2001), but I happened to see it both times with Gary Sinse. I thought he was good. I think I was more excited to finally get my hands on the CD the 2nd year so I could listen to it any time I wanted! It is definitely on my list of things to do on our next visit. I will for sure take your advice on the dining option because I don’t remember the lines being that bad 10 years ago. I don’t remember having a problem getting in but I’m sure that has changed!

  9. Natasha says:

    The Candlelight Processional is one of my very favorite things at Disney!! I have seen Blair Underwood and Trace Adkins. Trace blew me away, his voice is so awesome telling the story. Some of the kids from one of the choirs rode our bus back to the hotel that night and sang to us on the dark ride. It made a magical night last a little longer!!!

  10. Janie says:

    Hi Tom/Sarah,

    Very informative post, thanks. We will be at WDW Nov 27th-Dec 11th next year (2014), and I’m looking forward to seeing this. Think we will take the advice of booking a dinner package. We are on the DDP so as far as I know this would cost us 2 table service credits. To this end we will look at booking for a restaurant we had already planned to go to, so probably La Hacienda de San Angel. Do you think this package is a good use of 2TSC?

  11. Dawn says:

    Last year (2012) was our first Christmas at Disney experience and we had the best time. We signed up for a candlelight processional package, at the urging of our travel agent, and were so glad we did. We had a late lunch at the Biergarten (which was fabulous, by the way) then caught the 5 pm concert with Gary Sinise. He did an excellent job with the narration a then when the performance was over, spoke to the crowd a bit on a more personal level and we really enjoyed it. He came across as someone who sincerely wanted to be there. I will say that I’m glad we purchased the package because people were lined up HOURS before it even began, trying to get a seat. I can’t imagine standing in line that long. I don’t know if we will make it back to Disney for Christmas again but if we do I would definitely see it again.

  12. Dusty says:

    I would like to book a dinner dining package, but I don’t get it. I am on the website doing the find a table thing. It will only let me change the date and rest. not the time or the number of guests. Also, I have searched with the info that it puts in over several days and it says nothing available on ANY rest. Could this be correct?

    • Amanda says:

      Try calling the Disney dining reservations. The first time I called, all of the packages were completely booked for the weekend that we will be in town. I kept calling every few days and was finally able to make a dining reservation yesterday. Keep trying!

  13. Becky says:

    My daighter is singing at the CP next week! So excited!

  14. Becky says:

    My daughter is singing at the CP next week! So excited!

  15. Linda says:

    I love the procession! We saw it 2x on our recent dec. trip with two different narrators. Have seen it in previous trips as well. We have never gotten the package! We have usually been in line an hour before and gotten in. As a Christian the reading of THE story is beautifully done and the highlight of our December visits. We activated our annual pass to make sure we can return next Dec as well!

  16. Danielle says:

    Are you able to get a discount on the packages with a tables in wonderland card at all? Thinking about the Biergarten one. What were the prices on the packages running last you knew?

  17. Kelly says:

    Tom, did you buy your Candlelight Processional CD at Epcot? I see your link to Amazon but was wondering if I can buy that in park when we visit this December. Love your blog and photos. Spot on.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I bought mine on eBay. At one time they did sell them in the park, but I haven’t seen them in a while. Doesn’t mean that they aren’t still available (maybe I’ve missed them), though.

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