Every year as part of the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays, the American Gardens Theater hosts the traditional Candlelight Processional. On select nights, this hour long performance includes the telling of the Christmas story by a celebrity narrator, a 50 piece orchestra, and a full choir. This is a free event for anyone with park entrance, however the standby lines can get crazy long. This year we decided to book the Candlelight Processional Dining Package to avoid lines and get reserved seating to the show. Keep on reading for a review of our experience and our thoughts on if the package purchase was a good value.
General Package Info
In the past year or so we have started to become big fans of show and meal Dining Package options. Our time on vacation is valuable and with this dining package you are able to not only access the best seats but also avoid wasting time in a long line. We figure we usually buy a meal anyway so why not spend a bit more for a V.I.P. experience? Here are some details about the package itself:
Choose Your Restaurant: there is a large selection of restaurants in and near Epcot that you can choose for this package. There is also a range in pricing. 2018 packages start as low as $38 for breakfast at the Ale & Compass (in Disney’s Yacht Club resort), all the way up to $75.99 for a dinner in France. (Please note: prices do not include tax or gratuity)
Pick Your Time: just because the show is in the evening does not mean you have to book dinner. We like to choose a time during lunch as it tends to be cheaper and we can eat a large meal with the afternoon to walk it off.
What to Eat: a meal includes your choice of an appetizer, entree, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage.
Show Times: you will be assigned to one of three show times: 5:00, 6:45 or 8:45. Based on our experience it seems the earlier the meal, the earlier the ticket time.
How to Book: Dining reservations can 180 days in advance by visiting the dining section of the Walt Disney world website or calling 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463). If you are thinking of booking we recommend booking early for the best selection. (Please note: you do not have to pay until the day of the meal.)
Our Restaurant Selection
For our meal, we chose to dine at San Angel Inn Restaurante in the Mexico pavilion. This is always a favorite of ours given the romantic ambiance and Julie’s addiction to salsa. We booked the earliest Lunch time we could at 1:30pm so that we would have plenty of time to walk off the heavy meal around the World Showcase before the evening show. Our service was great and the meal was relaxing and enjoyable. We think it may have been awhile since we have eaten here because the menu seemed new to us, and had a lot of great options.
(Apologies in advance for the lower quality images. The restaurant is very dark and doesn’t make for the best photography.)
Coctel de Camarón $14.50
Acapulco-style Shrimp Cocktail in a spicy Marinated Tomato Sauce with Avocado and Lime served with Flour Chicharrón
These shrimp were really good, way more flavorful than a typical shrimp cocktail. This also came with little crisps to dip in the sauce which there was plenty of.
Queso Fundido $14.00
Traditional Monterey Jack Melted Cheese served with Chorizo, Poblano Peppers, and Onions accompanied by Flour Tortillas
So we really love cheese and this little skillet was full of it melted with some other items. We scooped it up and put it on chips. Yum.
Carne Asada Tampiquera $37.00
New York Strip served with Cheese Mole Enchilada, Chipotle Rice, Black Beans, Guacamole, Onions, and Rajas Poblano
This was quite the platter. Unfortunately the least impressive item was the steak itself. The flavor was good and it was cooked as ordered but the quality of meat was a little lacking. All the sides and quac were outstanding though.
Mole Poblano $26.00
All-Natural Grilled Chicken Breast topped with a classic Mole Sauce made with Pine Nuts, Spices, and a hint of chocolate served with Parsley, White Rice, Poblano Rajas, and Tortillas
This was the favorite item of the day. The Mole sauce was to die for and the chicken tender. It was cool getting different sides than the other meal too.
So here is where we went wrong. We love Mexican food. We love dining packages. But adding the two together was not the best choice for us. Mexican food is already really heavy. When you are ordering so many different dishes as part of the package (plus complimentary chips and salsa on top!) this was just way. Too. Much. Food. We got to the dessert round and said no way!
But our server was really awesome and instead substituted some drinks for us to take to go. We selected a “The Wild One” margarita ($14.00) and a Pina Colada ($14.00). Way better than dessert! (Please note: we wouldn’t suggest counting on being able to do this, it may have been a pixie dust moment.)
The Candlelight Processional
Our tickets were for the 5:00pm show. For Dining packages there is a special entrance where you show your ticket and then peel the back off to wear it as a sticker to enter. We were running a bit late and showed up at about 4:45, but were still able to find seats no problem. We sat about 10 rows or so back from the stage pretty and fairly close the the middle. The seating is bench style and keep in mind there are some trees throughout the seating which can impact view.
The show begins with the Orchestra already on stage, then a small group of trumpeters appear. Then one by one different groups of singers holding candles start being added to the stage. The green singers create a tree shape center stage, the red seem to be the lead singers and stand front and center, then finally the largest amount of the choir was in yellow and they come in by procession from the back of the pavilion. Last but not not least, is the guest narrator for the evening.
The celebrity narrators rotate through every few days. The initial schedule is generally realeased around September but often times isn’t finalized until the beginning of November. This can be frustrating for guest because you are expected to plan out your park days 180 days in advance without knowing who the narrator will be. Most years, the narrators include Neil Patrick Harris, Jodi Benson, Whoopi Goldberg, Cal Ripken Jr., Gary Sinise, and Pat Sajak. This year, we were lucky enough to see Alfonso Ribeiro, who was narrating for the first time. Two years ago, we were able to see Whoopi Goldberg.
The show is a mix of reading of the biblical story of Christmas mixed and performances of traditional Christmas songs. The orchestra and choir are quite talented. There are also different lights and projections throughout the show as well. While the show seems to be rooted in religious tradition, we as non church goers didn’t feel out of place.
The Candlelight Processional is a nice show to see during the holidays. We could see where some people may be more into than others. We were really glad to be able to witness a historic show like this but don’t think for us it would be a must do on every trip. More like a “must do once” to say you did. We happened to be traveling with people who we thought would really enjoy it on this recent trip, making it our second viewing.
Now if the Candlelight Processional is something you know you want to see, we say absolutely book a dining package. Save your time and get great seats, especially if you may only see it once. We also felt the value was very good. The cost of the package pretty much equaled out to what we ordered at the restaurant, so the reserved seating tickets were essentially free on top of that. Now the one caveat is, we would most likely not have ordered all the food we did if we were just having a normal dinner. But we figure once in awhile on a trip it is nice to splurge or a bigger meal and priority seating. Have you been to the Candlelight Processional before? We would love to hear who your narrator was!