Friday, December 10, 2021

Night Of A Million Lights At Give Kids The World, 2021

Wow, y'all. What a difference a few days can make.

After my last post John knew exactly what I needed - because I spent several hours telling him. The next morning he visited a few local charities, and almost immediately found us a big construction project at a homeless resource center we love called The Sharing Center. They were panicking over a tight deadline when John walked in and offered our help, so this was clearly meant to be. On Wednesday I got to paint so much my hands are still cramped from the roller pole, and it was fantastic. I was so happy I kept tearing up at odd times, like when I saw how awful the tiny bathroom is that we're about to remodel. YUSSS.

 I know this light will turn to dark and back to light again, but for now, for today, I'm gonna dance around in my painter's jeans and be grateful.

Now, let's talk about another amazing charity: Give Kids The World, the free resort for children with life-threatening illnesses. You've heard me talk about them quite a bit here. Last year during the shut-down they had an event called Night of a Million Lights. (Here's my post with all the photos, go see!) This was such a success they've brought Million Lights back again this year, though with many changes. So naturally we had to go!

The changes are because the Village is open and operational again (yay!), so of course we aren't allowed to tour the neighborhoods where folks are staying. GKTW has done their best to compensate for the smaller venue by amping up what they do have: new and bigger displays, dancing synchronized lights shows, new merch and food options, and a delightful Santa meet-and-greet.

I'm getting ahead of myself, though.

Let's back up and talk about... our hats.

So last year it was just us and our friend Karen, and we decided last minute to wear festive, silly hats:

This was such an unexpected hit - people approached us all night to compliment our hats - that this year we decided to go bigger. I recruited 4 more friends, and some of us had a craft night to work on our headgear:

John finished his first, and was very proud:

This is before he added the glitter stars and lights.

Both of our hats are made from Dollar Tree santa hats & supplies, so cost about $5 each. John stuffed his with Polyfil to get it to stand straight up, while I rolled a posterboard into a cone for mine. Then I wrapped it in green tinsel, glued on some mini ornaments, and added lights:

It is VERY tall, but the brim was snug enough that it was secure, and actually quite comfy.

Also peep my new favorite t-shirt: TREE REX. This pun works for me on many levels, ha.

Karen brought an enormous foam snowflake (I think from Michaels?), which she attached to a fascinator base made from EVA foam.

The plush llama really makes it.

Our friend Arielle ended up wearing this one, because Karen then made another genius creation:

It's a full-sized wreath with one giant ornament dangling in the middle, Who-ville style. LOVE.

Speaking of Karen, she made some great TikToks of our night, so I'm going to cheat and include them here to get us started:


@gktwvillage ##nightofamillionlights was so much fun! And yes, we were the group with all the ridiculous hats - luckily they were a big hit! With @epbot @superfluousnougat and @rasldazl

♬ Holidays (feat. Earth, Wind & Fire) - Meghan Trainor
This next one features John being his usual self, ie, hilarious:
Group shot!

We aren't allowed into the area where the famous Wishing Tree is this year, but they dressed up this tree to look just like it:

The hanging balls have projected stars inside them somehow, and are STUNNING.

You still get to see a fair number of houses, even with most of the neighborhoods off limits. One big change is that the house lights dance to the music this year, which does make taking photos a little harder.

Lots of sparkly photo ops around every corner:

And a massively long tree trail:

Here's Traci in her light-up, bow-bedecked antlers:

Ken wore a plush moose hat with ornaments hanging from the antlers, and every time he looked down at his phone, we got this view:

Just a festive moose staring straight at us, haha.

Most of the big displays and houses are sponsored, so there were houses for various theme parks, restaurants, and attractions.

The Minion house has Gru up on the roof, and all the trees are decorated with bananas!

The Guinness Book of World Records house has an upside down tree like last year:

... and then a whole yard of creepily life-like mannequins that I gave a wide berth. o.0

This Santa body photo op is fun, though:

My man, everybody.

Palm trees and beach chairs for Margaritaville:

Plus the cutest golf cart with a giant margarita on the roof:

LEGO elves for Legoland:

This little cul-de-sac has a few merch booths and food vendors:

Because there's not as much to see on foot, GKTW added a tram tour this year of some of the streets in the occupied neighborhoods. Beside the queue for the tram tour is my favorite dancing lights tree:

The rainbow patterns are my favorite. So goooood.

Here comes the tram!

And it is ADORABLE.

Because this is GKTW, of course the tram is wheelchair accessible. So we got to sit in the end car with Ken & Sue, which has some primo views out the back:

I kept wanting to yell at the driver to slow down, because every INCH of these streets is packed with lights and gorgeous displays, and you find yourself trying to look everywhere at once.

One of my only non-blurry photos from the tour is the wrestling-themed house, which confused us greatly when all we saw at first was a cardboard cut-out of an angry looking woman in a red leather suit. :D

The wrestling ring made of lights is pretty great, though.

Driving through all these off-limits areas made me nostalgic for last year, when we got to go INSIDE the star castle and theaters and wander the town square. I doubt the public will ever get that chance again, so I'm really grateful for that experience. This is such a beautiful place, y'all. Even when it's not covered in lights.

Ironically I had to wait for enough space in the crowd to get this shot:

::bah dum CHA::

My photo can't do it justice; this vignette was incredible with all the blue and silver sparkles.

Fun Fact: Did you know WDW donated the Osborne Lights to GKTW for this event? That's right, some of these are the actual Osborne lights, y'all. How cool is that? The lights live on!

The vibe at Million Lights felt different this year: there were more people in a smaller space, so it was crowded and less relaxed, less chatty. That said, we still had so many people break out into delighted smiles at our headwear, laughing and calling out compliments. A++, highly recommend wearing silly light-up hats if you visit Night of a Million Lights.

Which brings me to the end of our night. After the tram tour we didn't have anything left to see, so we decided to visit Santa in his "Summer home."

The line down the driveway wasn't long, but it moved very slowly. We didn't mind: we chatted, snapped photos of each other, and had a merry ol' time.

We finally made it to the porch, where we could take turns in the rocking chairs:

Once through the front door, we saw the entire house is themed, and it is Christmas goodness right down to the table settings:

The living room is so cozy I want to curl up on the couch with a hot cocoa:

And look at the jaw-dropping fireplace, hnnnng:

::grabby hands::

Oh hey, I just noticed the "SC" for Santa Claus. Love it.

A volunteer came out to prep us for meeting Santa and Mrs. Claus, assuring us that everyone in the home was vaccinated in case we wanted to remove our masks.

Here's Santa's face as our ridiculous little troupe filed in:

We were the very last group of the night, and the Mr. & Mrs. were clearly exhausted, but radiated gentle good cheer. They asked if we'd like them to stand, and we quickly told them to stay put, we'd come to them.

John took charge of taking everyone's photos, and did his usual routine of growling, whistling, and yelling compliments.

"You're a tiger! You're a sexy tiger!

"Not you, Karen, I was talking to Santa."

(DED. This poor couple, y'all. Bahahaaa.)

When it was John's turn for a photo I took over, awkwardly.

"Um, you're a tiger?" ::nervous laugh::

And y'all, it's a testament to John's charm that he got them BOTH to do tiger claws:

Santa was laughing so hard, he even said he wished he could have a copy of this photo. So Santa, if you're out there, this one's for you. (But sorry, John's taken. ;))

One last group shot:

After this the whole area had cleared out, so we had the streets to ourselves as we walked back towards the shuttle buses.


In fact we very nearly MISSED the last shuttle bus, so thanks to the volunteers who jogged over to tell us to move it or lose it, haha. (Parking is a few miles away in a large grass lot, so the buses are a must.)

One last giggle: While we were all on the bus Traci texted this to the group with the caption: "Spot John & Jen."

HA! (I'm leaning way forward here because my hat kept hitting the ceiling).
Million Lights is running now through January 2nd, so if you're in the Orlando area this month, definitely add it to your to-do list. Tickets range from $25 to $40 for adults, and you choose a 2-hour time slot for your visit. I recommend the latest time slot for the least amount of crowds, and for a better chance of chilly temperatures. (Gotta wear that ugly Christmas sweater, after all!)

This is not a sponsored post, btw, and we bought our own tickets. I just really like this place.

I hope you enjoyed your virtual visit with us! And that your weekend is full of light, love, and sexy tiger claw photo ops. Mrowr.


P.S. Hey, you free tonight? Want to watch The Santa Clause with me? Then head over to the Epbot Discord at 8:30pm EST! We try to do this every other Friday: we chat (text only) & swap .gifs while watching the same movie together. Then there's a matinee showing Sunday afternoon at 3pm EST, in case you miss Friday night.

Discord is a free, low-stress way to socialize with your fellow 'bots anytime, not just on movie nights. It's a smaller group, and the mods and regulars are super welcoming and chill. Pop over and say hi sometime, you'll see!


  1. re: the portrait hanging over the fireplace


    Your Pal,

    Storm the Klingon

  2. Ahem, I believe that SC is for "Scott Calvin." ;) What an awesome set of pictures! I feel completely in the Christmas spirit right now. I'm so glad they carried on doing this, even in a smaller fashion!

  3. A few years ago now, my step-great-niece, my nephew, her mother, and their baby boy went there (not for xmas) because of my great-niece's condition. They had a great time and it was a phenomenal opportunity.

  4. I cannot stop smiling!!!! Thanks for including us in the fun. Love the hats. Trying to figure out where I can go with my own hat. Just driving down the road with those lights would crack me up!

  5. Something else to make you smile: Bibi meets a piglet

  6. Love it so much. I want to go and volunteer there. And I live in CA.

  7. This is gloriously sparkly! Thank you for the photo tour.

  8. Thank you so much for the virtual tour! We stayed there in October & they were just starting to put up the lights. Amazingly, you got a picture of the villa we stayed in - we were in the her half of the villa with the wrestling ring!
    I also enjoyed re-reading last year's post now that I recognize all the places. Thank you for all you do for GKTW. The experiences there mean so much to the Wish kids!


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