by Beth Keating
November 12, 2021
Disney Springs is all decked out for the holidays, and among the decorations which seemingly popped up overnight are 20 festively bedecked trees that will bring a touch of holiday magic to your visit. Coming out of an AMC movie the other night, I noticed the first of the trees opposite the theater, all lit up in its sparkling finery, and decided to come back in the daylight to get a closer look at some of the details.
Thinking that it was still early enough in the season, and leery of the crowds that had closed down the Lime garage the previous weekend, I opted to arrive at Disney Springs on a weekday when the shopping venue first opened. What can I say? I am a rope dropper, even at Disney Springs. I reasoned that it would not only be easier to take photos of the trees in the daylight, but that crowds would be lower, thus making photo capturing less tricky. I was correct only for the first hour or two, and then the crowds started filing in. I expected that most of them would be heading to the stores to do their gift and souvenir shopping, but more than a few were there to embark on the 2021 Christmas Tree Stroll.
The Christmas Tree Stroll is one of those activities that seems like it crosses all age groups. One family with elementary age kids was racing from tree to tree, eager to place all their stickers in the right places on the map and get their prize as quickly as possible, while a princess-costumed preschooler was having her picture taken at each of the Princess-themed trees, posing with her best royal stances at each location. Another older couple was making a leisurely jaunt of it, ambling from tree to tree, collecting different snack treats along the way in addition to their Tree Stroll stickers. When I met up with them, the hubby joked that he was on his 6th tree, but only his 5th snack. By lunchtime, many a park guest was using the walls and benches in front of the trees to sit and eat their meals.
For those unfamiliar with the Christmas Tree Stroll, it is a chance to slow down a little (well, for most visitors), and take in the holiday ambiance. Many families use it as a kick-off to their seasonal celebrations, munching on favorite snacks or drinks as they enjoy the decorations – and in the evenings, the “snow” that magically falls at Town Center. This year, toy soldier stilt-walkers and snowflake skaters will also be making appearances. Live and piped in music add to the atmosphere.
Presented by AdventHealth, this year’s stroll has twenty different themed Christmas trees, inspired by Disney films, television shows, and beloved characters, scattered throughout the neighborhoods of Disney Springs.
In addition to the simple beauty of the decorations, one of the nice things about the Christmas Tree Stroll is that it serves as a scavenger hunt of sorts. The festively decorated trees also offer two completely different experiences: A daytime hunt, when the creative details of the trees are more obvious, but also a twinkling nighttime stroll, when the trees are lit up to their sparkling best. It’s hard to decide which visit is more fun.
Guests can pick up a free Christmas Tree Stroll map at one of half a dozen sites, and complete their stroll by finding each tree and adding a sticker representing the tree’s character or story to the correct place on the map. Once you’ve located all the trees, maps can be returned to the redemption locations for a special treat. The BOATHOUSE, Planet Hollywood, City Works, Under Armour, Basin, and Amorette’s have both the maps to pick up, as well as a spot to redeem your prize. (Note: For those of you who have picked up maps at the welcome center in the past, maps are not available there this year.)
This year’s trees are themed to: Frozen; Moana; The Lion King; Raya and the Last Dragon; The Princess and the Frog; Star Wars; Black Panther; Toy Story; Beauty and the Beast; Cinderella; The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Coco among the movies, and Haunted Mansion; Mickey and Minnie; the “Disney Parks;” Disney+; and Disney Junior among the rides, characters and other Disney entities. Three additional festive trees round out the line-up, with a sparkling gold tree of open circular ornaments (if you tip your head in the right directions, you’ll no doubt discover a few overlapping hidden Mickeys!); and two towering trees soaring overhead. Most of the trees are easy to spot, but you do have to look carefully to find a few that are tucked down side paths.
Our family’s favorite trees this year were the Star Wars tree, with its First Order stormtrooper helmets, Jawas, Chewbacca’s bandolier, and Kylo Ren’s lightsaber; the brightly flowered Moana tree with Hei Hei hidden in the branches and little Kakamora coconut faces peering out; and the Haunted Mansion tree. (I’m aware that Haunted Mansion is more of a Halloween deal, but the sheer number of Easter Eggs and ride-related details hidden on this tree could keep you searching its branches for a long time. This tree is really fun for Disney geeks!)
The trees may be the standout decorations that visitors come to Disney Springs to enjoy, but there are other delightful displays scattered around the sidewalks as well. Among the unique tableaus? A set of steam punk inspired reindeer stand guard near the Orange garage, and a family of stylized metal penguins make their home in front of – what else?- a cascading waterfall in The Landing section of the Springs.
Take the time to relax and enjoy the spectacular decorations during the 2021 Christmas Tree Stroll, and bring some extra magic to your holidays.
Beth Keating is a regular contributor to DisneyBizJournal.
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