This post features narrator and dining package info for the 2018 Candlelight Processional at Epcot, whether the dining package is worth the money or Disney Dining Plan credits, and our review of this Walt Disney World show & various narrators we’ve seen.
For those unfamiliar with it, Candlelight Processional at Walt Disney World 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. It’s one component of the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays, which also includes the World Showcase Storytellers, Holiday Kitchen food booths, and the IllumiNations Peace on Earth finale.
As for Candlelight Processional, for the first time in 2018, it begins on Thanksgiving Day (November 22, 2018) and continues until December 30, 2018 with three performances per night–at 5 pm, 6:45 pm, and 8:15 pm. Candlelight Processional is held 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 narrators for the 2018 Candlelight Processional at Epcot:
November 22-23, 2018 – Chita Rivera
November 24-25, 2018 – Helen Hunt
November 26-27, 2018 – Alfonso Ribeiro
November 28-30, 2018 – Robby Benson
December 1-2, 2018 – John Stamos
December 3-6, 2018 – Neil Patrick Harris
December 7-9, 2018 – Whoopi Goldberg
December 10-12, 2018 – Bart Millard
December 13-14, 2018 – Blair Underwood
December 15-17, 2018 – Gary Sinise
December 18-20, 2018 – Pat Sajak
December 21-23, 2018 – Auli’I Cravalho
December 24-25, 2018 – Edward James Olmos
December 26-27, 2018 – Jodi Benson
December 28-30, 2018 – 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…
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, as some narrators have changed as celebrities become tied up with other commitments.
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.
Breakfast dining packages are again being offered for Candlelight Processional, 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 get 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 p.m. 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).
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 and don’t want to wait hours in line, you have a couple of options. First, show up to the standby line ~15 minutes before the last show of the night starts. Depending upon the popularity of the narrator and how busy Epcot is that evening, sometimes this last showing will still have seating. If not, at least you didn’t waste a ton of time standing in line.
In many scenarios, that strategy will work just fine. You may not have the best seats, but you’ll still be able to see the show and have a seat. If the theatre is already full, we recommend trying to watch from the walkway behind the America Gardens Theatre.
Cast Members will manage crowd flow back here in the walkway, but you can simply stand behind the theater (not in the walkway) and watch the show. This is actually a really good view for Candlelight Processional. Think of it as sitting (well, standing) in the balcony of the America Garden Theatre.
While we strongly recommend the dining package for those wanting good, guaranteed seats, if you’re on a tight budget or Candlelight Processional is not as much of a “must-do,” we think those strategies are good alternatives to save a bit of money, which can be spent on other holiday entertainment at Walt Disney World.
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
Ale & Compass – Yacht Club Resort (outside of Epcot)
Biergarten – Germany (Our Pick for Value/Christmas Ambiance)
For 2018, Candlelight Dining Packages for breakfast start at $38 plus tax per person for adults and $21 plus tax per child, ages 3-9. Candlelight Dining Packages for lunch and dinner start at $50 plus tax per person for adults and $16.99 plus tax per person for children, ages 3-9.
Note that those are the starting prices. Actual prices vary, with the most expensive option being dinner at La Hacienda de San Angel, which is $80 per adult! Click here to book the Candlelight Processional dining package, or you can call 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463).
In addition to favoring certain restaurants, 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.
A lot of people absolutely love the Candlelight Processional at Walt Disney World. 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 very beautiful, but definitely not the highlight of our trip.
Our favorite narrator for Candlelight Processional is Neil Patrick Harris. We’ve seen him a couple of times, and as NPH fans, we enjoyed this. I cannot say he really invigorated the show–it’s pretty solemn irrespective of host–but it was cool to see 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 us.
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.
Finally, you can download our free eBook, Vacation Kingdom at Christmas, which offers tips for visiting Walt Disney World during the holiday season. This eBook is 75+ pages, with 100+ photos, and tons of great recommendations & information! For more details on how to get this totally-free ebook, click here.
Are you a fan of Candlelight Processional? Which narrator have you seen for Candlelight Processional? Do you usually book the dining package or wait in line? Do you have any strategy for seeing Candlelight Processional without waiting in line? Any questions? Share your thoughts in the comments!