If you’re one of the many Walt Disney World fans who still misses the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights and spending hours each Christmas season simply strolling the Streets of America at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, this is for you. Night of a Million Lights at Give Kids the World Village is about the closest thing to a spiritual successor to that, and already the best thing to do for Christmas in Orlando–probably all of Florida.
For those who are unfamiliar with it, Give Kids the World is a nonprofit that provides families of children with life-threatening illnesses cost-free accommodations during their visit Walt Disney World, Universal, and other Central Florida theme parks. It’s only appropriate to start by highlighting Give Kids the World, because the organization and place is truly extraordinary.
For families of children who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, who have had to rise to the challenge of a grueling schedule of doctor appointments, painful treatments, and escalating medical expenses, having a chance to visit the Most Magical Place on Earth is an opportunity for a temporary reprieve from that immense stress and worrying.
A big part of this special experience is certainly Give Kids the World Village, an 89-acre, whimsical nonprofit resort that provides critically ill children and their families with magical weeklong wish vacations at no cost. This is a place where magic happens, in every sense of the term. When a family arrives at Give Kids the World Village for their once-in-a-lifetime trip, the team there moves mountains to ensure that each family has an amazing experience.
Give Kids the World Village is a place where “no” is not in the vocabulary. It’s a place where limitations are removed, and families are granted a reprieve from the trials and tribulations faced during grueling treatment periods. It’s impossible to fully convey this in words–you have to see Give Kids the World Village yourself to even begin to understand its scale, scope, and significance.
Now, during Night of a Million Lights, you can do exactly that, with a rare glimpse inside the Village…
Night of a Million Lights began last year as an inventive pivot for Give Kids the World, as the Village was forced to close to families. Nearly 100,000 guests attended last year, and it earned a number of accolades and unanimously rave reviews.
In only one year, Night of a Million Lights quickly became a beloved Central Florida Christmas tradition. It has pivoted once again this year with the return of families to the Village, finding new ways to be brighter and more festive, while preserving the privacy and comfort of wish families during their visits.
Give Kids the World’s second annual Night of a Million Lights holiday spectacular runs nightly through January 2, 2022, illuminating the Central Florida skyline, about 20 minutes east of Walt Disney World in Kissimmee.
At its core, Night of a Million Lights is a walk-through of a fairytale neighborhood with every house on the block illuminated in a wall of Christmas lights, Clark Griswold style.
Visitors to Night of a Million Lights can explore a sparkling tree trail, view larger-than-life holiday displays, take photos at step-in frames and backdrops, and enjoy a guided tour of 100 magnificently lit villas from the comfort of a tram, all included in the price of the ticket.
The event runs from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily, with entry times staggered to prevent crowding (we did the last time slot of the night and it wasn’t even remotely crowded–quite the opposite, in fact). Tickets for Night of a Million Lights at Give Kids the World can be purchased here. Proceeds from ticket purchases support Give Kids the World and its charitable mission.
This year’s Night of a Million Lights enhancements include a 360-degree dancing lights show encompassing 21 fully programmed buildings set to music, with six three-minute holiday vignettes playing each hour. In addition, a holiday marketplace offers food and beverage options, festive holiday merchandise, and an opportunity to meet Santa in his elaborately decorated Florida home.
Also new this year, guests can make their visits extra special by purchasing one of a variety of VIP packages, ranging from behind-the-scenes guided tours and premium dessert parties to special events and exclusive balcony experiences.
If aspects of the above description sounds familiar to Walt Disney World fans who loved the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, there’s good reason for that.
According to Give Kids the World, a majority of the lights were donated by Walt Disney World. Upon stepping foot into the Village, it’s fairly obvious where in Walt Disney World those lights were sourced.
The production value and polish of Night of a Million Lights also appear to have Disney’s creative “fingerprints.”
I can’t say for certain the degree to which Disney Creative Entertainment or Imagineering were involved in creating the dancing displays, but it would be hardly unprecedented. Disney has been a strong supporter of Give Kids the World in the past, with Imagineering designing various buildings, assisting with attractions, and more.
Numerous departments at Walt Disney World offer support to Give Kids the World, in the form of volunteer teams, financial assistance, resources to help improve facilities, and even weekly Disney character appearances. Executives from Disney even sit on the Board of Directors and Advisory Board of Give Kids the World.
Suffice to say, Walt Disney World and Give Kids the World work very closely with one another.
Disney isn’t the only one–it’s our understanding that Give Kids the World has similar relationships with Universal, SeaWorld, Legoland, and other area attractions.
This collaborative community effort is the type of thing that’s great to see–especially when it’s for such a worthy cause.
We don’t want to go overboard with the comparisons to the Osborne Lights, but Night of Million Lights is reminiscent of the earlier years of the Disney-MGM Studios display.
This is like when the Osborne Lights were back on Residential Street, before they moved to the Streets of America and became the more elaborate spectacle.
That’s not to say there’s anything quaint about Night of a Million Lights.
It features much of the modern technology harnessed by the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights in its later years, just in a charming and whimsical neighborhood of storybook villas. It’s really the best of both worlds, and the idealized setting make the parallels to its predecessor at Walt Disney World even more pronounced.
With that said, Night of a Million Lights clearly belongs to Give Kids the World and is not simply a “Disney display” at a different location.
In addition to the dashes of Disney, there are also homes with decorations themed to SeaWorld, Margaritaville, the PGA Tour, Hasbro, WWE, Mears, Universal Orlando, and more. The best homes are arguably by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! (yes, really) and ITEC Entertainment.
Beyond the magic of Give Kids the World Village itself, it’s wonderful to see the local community rally around such a worthy cause and collaborate on a truly spectacular light display.
In addition to support from Central Florida’s themed entertainment industry, hundreds of individual volunteers spent over 30,000 hours bringing the Night of a Million Lights to life. Their dedication shows in the finished product, which is truly breathtaking.
In terms of practical advice, we’d recommend arriving to the parking area for Night of a Million Lights around 30 minutes prior to the start of your time slot. (If you don’t have a car, drop-off is even easier with Uber or Lyft.)
Plan on doing a good amount of walking, as the area encompassing Night of a Million Lights is quite large. That means a lot of steps, but it also means that guests are really dispersed and “crowds” aren’t really a thing. We spent a full 2 hours at Night of a Million Lights, and we’d recommend allocating close to that to it.
Words and photos don’t do full justice to Night of a Million Lights, so here’s a quick video shot by Sarah of the ‘dancing lights district’ of Give Kids the World.
You can only see a portion of this residential loop in the video, and it’s one of several ‘zones’ at Night of a Million Lights. Suffice to say, there’s a lot to see during the event!
Ultimately, Night of a Million Lights at Give Kids the World earns our highest possible recommendation. If you’re looking for something to do outside Walt Disney World, this is absolutely, unquestionably worth your time and money.
Even if you cannot attend Night of a Million Lights, we’d strongly encourage you to make a contribution to Give Kids the World. Readers have asked how they can support the blog since we don’t do Patreon or subscriptions. This your answer. If you like this blog and have found it has helped improve or add value to your vacations, please donate to Give Kids the World.
Give Kids the World is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization (meaning your donation is tax-deductible) with a 98.08/100 score on Charity Navigator. More than 90 cents of every dollar it spends goes to program services, and only 2.2% of their revenue is spent on administrative expenses, which is an exceptionally low amount. (It should also go without saying, but we are not receiving anything for this ‘endorsement’ of Give Kids the World or Night of a Million Lights. We paid for our own tickets to the event and will do so again without hesitation.)
Have you experienced Night of a Million Lights at Give Kids the World Village? Agree that it’s one of–if not the–best things to do during the Christmas season in Orlando? Do you miss the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights? If you’ve experienced both, do you see the similarities? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? 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!