Candlelight Processional at EPCOT will occur November 24 to December 30, 2023 at Walt Disney World. This covers the normal narrator lineup, celebrity appearance dates, whether the dining package is worth the money, and our review of this Christmas-time show. (Updated December 1, 2023.)
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 and Holiday Kitchen food booths.
Walt Disney World has now officially announced 2023 Candlelight Processional dates, dining package details, and the celebrity narrator schedule. And wow is it a list of big names, with prolific new and returning narrators! As for the event itself, Candlelight Processional will be performed November 24 through December 30, 2023 as part of the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays.
Candlelight Processional performances are 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.
The 2023 Candlelight Processional narrator schedule has now been released for all dates from late November through the end of December. Note that this is subject to change due to scheduling conflicts (that happens from time to time with the celebrities, but is pretty rare).
In fact, the lineup for late November and early December just saw a couple of big last-minute changes. With limited notice, Ann-Margret and Simu Liu cancelled their appearances at the 2023 Candlelight Processional. Ann-Margret was replaced by frequent Disney collaborator Ashley Eckstein at the last-minute. A lifelong Disney fan and frequent fixture of Disney events, Eckstein received the call at her home at 2:15 p.m., and they wanted her at Epcot by 4:30 p.m. for the 5:15 p.m. performance.
Additionally, Simu Liu has been replaced with Bart Millard, singer-songwriter of the band MercyMe. In a post on social media, Liu said: “I’m so absolutely gutted to have to drop out of this year’s Candlelight Processional at Disney World. For those who were looking forward to seeing me, know that I was equally looking forward to be a part of your holidays.”
“The health of myself and my family are of paramount importance to me,” the Barbie star continued. “And so, after some health scares I’ve made the difficult decision to stay at home. Something tells me this isn’t the last you’ve seen of me At Candlelight though… let’s all keep fingers crossed for 2024!”
These are probably not the last narrators to drop out. As Corrine notes in the comments, Jordan Fisher just joined the Tony Award-winning show “Hadestown” last month, taking over the leading role of Orpheus. “Hadestown” has multiple daily performances in late December, and it’s hard to imagine Fisher missing those to narrate Candlelight Processional. (Why an announcement hasn’t been made already is beyond us.)
Here’s the updated 2023 Candlelight Processional at EPCOT narrator schedule:
Chrissy Metz (NEW) – November 24 and 25, 2023
Luis Fonsi (NEW) – November 26 and 27, 2023
Ann-Margret (NEW) – November 28, 2023
Ashley Eckstein (NEW) – November 29, 2023
Simu Liu – November 30 and December 1-2, 2023
Bart Millard – November 30 and December 1-2, 2023
John Stamos – December 3 through December 5, 2023
Neil Patrick Harris – December 6 through December 8, 2023
Marlee Matlin – December 9 through December 11, 2023
Brendan Fraser (NEW) – December 12 through December 14, 2023
Eva Longoria (NEW) – December 15 and December 16, 2023
Joey McIntyre (NEW) – December 17 and December 18, 2023
Sterling K. Brown (NEW) – December 19 and December 20, 2023
Jordan Fisher (NEW) – December 21 through December 23, 2023
Steven Curtis Chapman – December 24 through December 26, 2023
Audra McDonald (NEW) – December 27 and December 28, 2023
Lisa Ling – December 29 and December 30, 2023
Celebrity narrators, dates and other entertainment are subject to change or cancellation without notice.
Even if one or two do cancel, this is still the best narrator lineup we’ve seen since we’ve been attending Candlelight Processional EPCOT, roughly 15 years ago. There’s something for everyone here, with big-name newcomers like Eva Longoria, Sterling K. Brown, Brendan Fraser, having huge fan-followings. Hopefully someone gets Mr. Fraser his cup of coffee before his performance, or watch out! (Sorry, reference to the wrong theme park.)
Seriously though, the 2023 Candlelight Processional narrator lineup is stacked from top to bottom. At least half of this list really appeals to us, and even those with whom we’re unfamiliar have fan followings. Also, and I’m not going to name names, but it’s nice to see a few narrators who (I think) overstayed their welcome and had been phoning it in not in the lineup this year. Fresh blood can be a good thing.
For the Disney Adults out there, John Stamos (our favorite narrator) and Neil Patrick Harris are the biggest names. For more mainstream millennials, there’s Joey McIntyre and Jordan Fisher. Actually…are those different generations? All I know is that Sarah loves the New Kids on the Block and Happily Ever After, so she’s more than just a little disappointed to be missing Candlelight Processional this year!
Candlelight Processional Dining Packages
Candlelight Processional Dining Packages are now available. Advance Dining Reservations are highly recommended and can be made 60 days in advance. Keep in mind that this is still subject to the 60+10 rule for on-site guests, meaning that all dates are now available. Most are sold out.
With that said, there is a reported issue impacting Candlelight Processional ADR availability. For whatever reason, you might not see any times available via the online system…even when there are options. Nine times out of 10, this is just because everything is booked up. But we have had several readers report scoring ADRs when calling despite nothing showing up via the My Disney Experience app or website. Don’t count on having similar luck, but it is something to keep in mind as a last resort.
Beyond that, watch for more availability to be released or otherwise open up. See our Guide to Advance Dining Reservations at Walt Disney World for tips & tricks to increase your chances of success in scoring a 2023 Candlelight Processional Dining Package, even in the days and weeks after they’re originally released!
Choose from 8 unique eateries at EPCOT offering 2023 Candlelight Processional Dining Packages. A meal at participating restaurants includes:
At Spice Road Table: 2 small plates and one nonalcoholic beverage per person, plus a tagine and dessert platter for your party to share
All other participating restaurants: an appetizer, entrée and dessert, or one full buffet/family-style meal, as well as a nonalcoholic beverage
One guaranteed seat per person to the Candlelight Processional held on the same day
Explore participating restaurants and dining package prices, which exclude tax and gratuity:
If you’re not able to score elusive ADRs for Candlelight Processional sit-down dining packages, fear not. You may be able to purchase a same-day dining package, which allows you to:
Dine without reservations at Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts & Barbecue that day
Enjoy guaranteed seats to a Candlelight Processional performance later that day
To check availability for same-day dining packages, visit Regal Eagle’s Distinctly Patriotic Smokehouse: A Salute to All Foods, But Mostly Barbecued Meats ~ A Sam Eagle Craft Drafts & BBQ Joint. Same-day Candlelight Processional Dining Packages are subject to availability and may not be available on peak dates.
Last year, both Regal Eagle and Spice Road Table regularly had same-day availability. For most dates, it was relatively easy to score Candlelight Processional viewing via these walk-up restaurants than by booking Advance Dining Reservations at the eligible table service restaurants.
The difference is that there were only 5 table service restaurants last year, and this year there are 8. That’s still far fewer than 2019 or prior years, when there were 16 (!!!) participating table service restaurants in EPCOT and the Crescent Lake Resorts. Not only that, but 3 of those 16 restaurants offered breakfast dining packages in addition to lunch and dinner.
Don’t stress out if you’re shut out of ADRs and are “forced” to do the same-day Candlelight Processional dining packages. While the uncertainty might be unpleasant, the options are good. We are fans of Regal Eagle, but it’s not our ideal way to eat around World Showcase during the holidays.
Spice Road Table is without a doubt the way to go if you’re to do a same-day Candlelight Processional Dining Package. Yes, it’s $12 more expensive, but it offers at least that much more bang-for-buck, with a menu that’s more approachable than you might think.
We recently did lunch at Spice Road Table and had a fantastic meal–I guess I better get to writing that review!
On the table service front, we highly recommend Biergarten Restaurant. This is always our top pick thanks to its jovial Christmas atmosphere, music, and value for money. Read Our Christmas Feast at Biergarten Restaurant for what the holiday time experience is like there.
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…
Candlelight Processional Viewing Tips
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.
(Note: the percentage reserved for dining packages was far lower last year due to far fewer participating restaurants. Our guess is that the same will NOT be true for the 2023 Candlelight Processional. Staffing shortages are no longer as much of an issue, and more restaurants are likely to be added to the lineup.)
The higher the percentage allocated to dining packages, the more “competitive” the standby line for Candlelight Processional performances. 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) and reserved seating at one performance of Candlelight Processional. 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.
Candlelight Processional Review
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 the Christmas Party, I’d recommend the latter 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. Additionally, 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? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!