Summary: Holiday Matsuri is one of the best cosplay conventions in Florida. Tons of programming and activities to do from morning to night, situated close to Walt Disney World at a very large hotel resort with a beautiful pool and waterpark.

If you live in Orlando, Florida, you probably already know about Holiday Matsuri. But if you live outside Florida, then Holiday Matsuri is the perfect vacation trip to getaway from the cold for a convention weekend!

In this article guide, I’ll give you everything you need to know about Holiday Matsuri based on my own experience attending.

All photos and videos in this article were taken by me.

The Basics

    Name: Holiday Matsuri (or HolMat for short)

    Date: Early-Mid December (December 20-22 in 2023. Yes that’s from Wednesday-Friday)

    Location: Orlando World Center Marriott in Orlando, Florida (it’s actually really far from downtown Orlando but I guess it’s technically still within the city limits)

    Costs

    Weekend Pass: $110 USD for 3-day pass

    Hotel room prices: Starting from $164 /night (booking under Holiday Matsuri hotel block). Don’t forget there may be a resort fee on top of the price!

    Budget: Approximately $400-$500 USD if lodging with 3 other roommates ($100-$200 for hotel, $60 for food, $95 for weekend pass, $30-$50 for gas if you plan on driving, $50 for items in the dealer’s room).

    Overall costs: Holiday Matsuri is pretty standard in terms of costs for a convention, with the hotel prices being slightly cheaper than usual in my opinion.

Some quick facts about Holiday Matsuri:

  • Holiday Matsuri takes places in December, which is honestly the perfect time to have a convention like this. It takes place in Orlando, Florida where it’s nice and warm! There are barely any conventions in North America happening in December, an Holiday Matsuri is the most notable one that takes place this month.
  • For 2023, Holiday Matsuri will take place from Wednesday December 20 to Friday December 22. So not on a Fri-Sun like most conventions. HolMat will take place on the weekdays!
  • Unlike most conventions where you normally dress up in cosplay, it’s called HOLIDAY Matsuri for a reason! In light of the holiday and Christmas spirit, many cosplayers dress up in holiday-themed cosplays. So this is the perfect opportunity to customize your cosplay with Christmas and holiday colors!
  • I would say Holiday Matsuri is a uniquely mid-sized convention. It’s definitely NOT your small, local convention, especially since the convention is 3 days. But it doesn’t feel like your big-time Anime convention like Anime Central or Anime Weekend Atlanta either. The convention combines the best of both; lots of activities while not feeling too large on the scale.

Here’s what this Holiday Matsuri guide will cover:

  • I. Getting to Holiday Matsuri
  • II. Holiday Matsuri Venue
  • III. Cosplay Photoshoot Opportunities at Holiday Matsuri
  • IV. Holiday Matsuri Programming
  • V. Holiday Matsuri Lodging Options
  • VI. Food And Drinking
  • VII. Verdict

I made a YouTube video last year if you want a shorter version. But if you want the full guide, read below!

I. Getting to Holiday Matsuri (Marriott World Center Orlando)

By driving/taxi

Let’s be real; this is the best and only way to get to Holiday Matsuri. Orlando is VERY sprawled out as a city, and the only way to get around the city in a reasonable amount of time is by driving or taking a cab.

If you’re driving or taking a roadtrip down to HolMat, the convention location is easy to reach (although parking is another thing, which I’ll get to in a sec). The Orlando World Center Marriott is located in the Southwest corner of Orlando, near a town called Kissimmee and very close to Disney World! All you have to do is take the I-4 highway and exit off World Center Drive. Make a left into the resort and you’re there! I heard the I-4 does get very busy since it’s the main highway of Orlando. So be sure to give yourself some extra time to get there. The I-4 does not have any road tolls or extra charges, so you don’t have to worry about that. But other highways in Orlando definitely have tolls, so be sure to double check the route you’re taking.

A few things you should know:

  • Keep in mind that you can only park 1 car at the Orlando World Center Marriott (i.e. convention venue for HolMat) if you’re staying in the hotel. That means if you don’t have a hotel reservation, you CANNOT park at the convention venue. Instead, the convention usually has free shuttle buses to/from various paid parking lots around the area. So you park your car at a parking lot and take the shuttle bus to the convention. In previous years, the costs for the parking lots range from $15 USD-$35USD a day. If you download the Holiday Matsuri app on your phone, you can check where the parking lots are located, and how much they cost.
  • The time I went to Holiday Matsuri, the area was JAMMED with traffic on the Friday of the weekend. Because everyone is driving a vehicle to the convention, the hotel lobby area is full of cars. I strongly recommend avoiding driving directly to the Orlando World Center Marriott unless you’re staying in the hotel. And as mentioned before, you cannot park your car there anyway if you’re not staying there. So you don’t have a reason to drive directly to the venue anyway. Head straight to the designated parking lot or to your hotel.
  • If you’re taking a taxi around, then it’s easy as telling your driver to take you to the Orlando World Center Marriott. When I was in Orlando for Holiday Matsuri, I did not rent a car but that actually made things easier for me. I took an Uber to the convention venue at Orlando World Marriott Center. It was super simple, convenient and reasonably priced. And for some reason, I avoided all that traffic chaos in the convention area. I think it was because taxis had their own dedicated area to pickup/dropoff passengers.

By bus/train

Don’t even bother. Orlando ain’t like New York or Toronto where you can take transit around the city. I tried myself when I went to HolMat. According to Google Maps, it would have taken me over 2 hours and a detour along Disney World to reach the Holiday Matsuri venue by public transit. Just spend the extra money, hire a taxi and get to the Orlando World Center Marriott in less than 30 minutes (assuming no traffic).

By plane

Back in the day, many of the attendees of Holiday Matsuri were either from Orlando or somewhere within Florida. But now the convention is becoming more popular, there seems to be a lot more attendees from outside the state and even outside the country (me included).

So let’s talk about getting to Holiday Matsuri from the airport.

Orlando’s International airport is located on the southeast side of Orlando. As mentioned previously, the public transit in the city is pretty bad. So getting to Holiday Matsuri by public transit won’t be much of an option.

Your best bet would be to rent a car from the airport or take a taxi from the airport.

Renting a car makes more sense if you are staying outside the convention area at a motel/hotel far away that’s cheaper. Or if you plan on doing a lot of commuting around Orlando during the convention weekend.

But if you’re staying right at the convention venue for the entire weekend (like I did), then you can just easily take a cab to the venue.

If the traffic is good, it should take at most half an hour to get from the airport to the Orlando World Center Marriott.

II. Holiday Matsuri Venue

The Orlando World Center Marriott is huge!

Oh yes! The Orlando World Center Marriott is simply amazing. You may think it’s just a hotel venue, but it’s considered a resort. The building is HUGE with lots to see and do inside and outside.

Some notable things about The Orlando World Center Marriott:

  • The Falls Pool Oasis. In my opinion, the BEST feature of the venue. There’s a BEAUTIFUL water area that’s shaped like a lagoon where you can go swimming in the big lagoon-shaped pool or in the hot tub. There are lots of beach chairs and even a rock-shaped waterfall as well! (I went swimming a couple of times and didn’t want to leave the warm weather and go back home where it was snowing and -30C). The perfect place to get some amazing cosplay photos, which I’ll cover in the next section.
  • River Falls Water Park. There is also a nice water park! They have 3 big waterslides and a lazy river. This you have to pay extra to get in though.
  • Multi-story building. Although the convention activities themselves take place on the bottom floors, the hotel is really tall! This makes for some great views if you’re staying at the resort. You can get good views of the pool and even views of Disney World from a distance.

I never got bored staying at the Orlando World Center Marriott for an entire weekend. There was always something to do that at this venue, whether it’s attending convention activities or using the amenities like the big pool and hot tub!

The only downside I can think of is the location. Because Orlando is so sprawled out,if you want to leave the area, you’ll need some wheels because there is nothing close or nearby. It’s not like Fan Expo in Toronto or Otakuthon in Montreal where you can just walk out and have a bunch of restaurants and bars/nightclubs nearby. The Orlando World Center Marriott is in the middle of nowhere!

But that’s okay. The venue is so nice and HolMat is so awesome. Why leave anyway? 😉

III. Cosplay Photoshoot Opportunities at Holiday Matsuri

When the convention venue looks like this, you have endless possibilities for cosplay photoshoot opportunities!

If you’re a cosplayer looking to get some photos, then you will LOVE Holiday Matsuri! There are many unique photoshoot opportunities you can get here that you normally cannot. And you don’t have to fight over a gazebo to get one!

Here are some of the highlights:

  • The pool and waterfall area. By far the best place to get some amazing cosplay photos. If you’re doing a beach-themed cosplay, then taking photos here is absolutely a golden opportunity. Here you’ll find a beautiful pool, a hot tub, a waterfall cascading off an artificial cliff, beach chairs and so much more. This area is open at most times of the day, even in the evenings. So you’ll have plenty of time and opportunities to get some photos in.
  • Various props. For some reason, the pool area has a lot of random things, such as a life-sized Connect 4 board and Chess flooring. If you get creative, you can get some pretty cool shots in here as well.
  • Christmas trees! When I was at HolMat, they had a few large Christmas trees that were beautifully decorated. I’m sure it’ll be the same this year. If you’re doing a Christmas or holiday version of a cosplay, then you definitely need to take a photo beside these trees.
  • Palm trees. As someone who is from a colder climate, seeing palm trees is always exciting! Why not get a few photos beside the palm trees? 🙂
No idea why there was a Connect 4 board, but I made use of it!
Beautiful waterfalls.
Had to get a photo beside the palm trees. 🙂

IV. Programming at Holiday Matsuri

Get some photos beside the Christmas tree if you have a holiday cosplay!

So I’ve talked a lot about Holiday Matsuri and the venue itself. But what about the actual programming and activities?

I can say from my experience, it’s pretty damn good! For a mid-sized convention, there is a LOT of things to do and see during the HolMat weekend.

Here are some of the highlights for 2023:

  • Idol Fest – A big event at Holiday Matsuri, where various idol groups perform and the audience decides which one is the winner. I myself am not really into idols, but the performances were amazing. One of the groups even did cartwheels on-stage! I highly recommend checking this out.
  • Dreamland Maid Cafe
  • Holiday runway contest – their version of the Masquerade
  • Video game room – pretty big for a mid-sized con
  • Arcade games
  • Gaming contests and competition
  • Panels
  • K-Pop Rave
  • Cosplay Deviants Party – similar to the rave but a lot more spicy. (18+)

If you want to see all the activities and programming for HolMat 2023, be sure to download their app to view the schedule. As of right now, the schedule has not been released but it should be out closer to the event date.

I’ve never seen a convention with Skee-Ball in the gaming room. It was awesome! Maybe they’ll have it again this year?

V. Holiday Matsuri Lodging Options

The view from my hotel balcony. Simply beautiful.

From what I heard from the locals, it used to be easier to get a hotel for Holiday Matsuri when the convention was smaller. But now that many more attendees are coming to HolMat, it’s become a lot more difficult to snag a hotel within the area.

Here are your options:

Orlando World Center Marriott. The convention venue. I’ve already talked about beautiful and awesome this place is, so no need to go on about that. But more importantly, it’s super convenient as you don’t have to worry about commuting or taking any shuttle buses to the convention. When I went to HolMat, I was fortunate to get a hotel room at the Orlando World Center Marriott and not have to worry about commuting at all. Not only that, the hotel prices for the Orlando World Center Marriott is pretty good and reasonable for being the host venue. So if you’re able to secure a booking at the Marriott last-minute or planning to go next year, this should absolutely be your first choice.

Overflow hotels. Your next option is to stay at one of the official overflow hotels. They’re all really nice and the prices are fairly reasonable, some even cheaper than the Orland World Center Marriott. All of them have a shuttle service that can take you to/from the convention. You can also walk to the convention center from these overflow hotels. They’re about a 15-20 minute walk, which is not too bad. However, the area is not very pedestrian-friendly and some areas don’t have sidewalks. So if you do decide to walk, be very careful! If you don’t feel comfortable, then best to wait for a shuttle bus instead.

Offsite. Orlando is one of the most-visited places in the U.S., thanks to Disney World. So that means there are TONS of motels, hotels and Airbnb’s you can stay offsite. If you have a vehicle or decide to rent a car, there are so many options for accommodations. Doing a search on Google Maps, I was able to find a bunch of hotels under $100 USD/night within a 10-20 minute drive from the convention. From your offsite hotel, you can either drive to one of the designated paid parking lots and take the shuttle to the convention. Or you can call a taxi from your hotel to reach the convention, and call another taxi when you’re done for the day. The one disadvantage of staying offsite is you likely won’t be able to go back and forth during the convention, because I believe the paid parking lots have no in/out privileges. So if you needed to go back to your hotel during the day and leave the parking lot, you’d have to pay again when you come back.

VI. Food And Drinking

As mentioned previously, location-wise the Orlando World Center Marriott is in the middle of nowhere. So unless you have a vehicle, your food options are pretty limited at the convention. And there are no large grocery stores nearby either, so you’d have to stock up before you get to the convention.

The good news is that there are plenty of restaurants inside the Orlando World Center Marriott.

My favorite place to get food during the convention is a place called Central Pantry, located inside the convention center. It’s like a hybrid of a fast food restaurant and a convenience store. They have hot items such as sandwiches, burgers and salads. And a bunch of stuff like snacks, frozen foods and coffee. It’s the most affordable place to get food at the convention and their food is pretty good. Central Pantry is pretty much open all day, which is nice and convenient. There was usually a long lineup for this place, so definitely be patient when buying stuff here.

There are some other upscale restaurants in the Orlando World Center Marriot such as the Falls Pool Bar & Grill. It’s right beside the pool area; get a nice drink and food with views!

I also wanted to mention the Lobby Lounge. It’s a great bar/restaurant right in the heart of the convention area. Good for people watching or watching sports games, or if you want to get your drink with your friends or the person beside you. Gets pretty lit at night!

If you do have a car with you or don’t mind taking a taxi to a place nearby; Disney Springs is only a 5-10 minute drive away on the other side of the I-4 highway. It’s a beautiful area to hang around in the evening with plenty of restaurants and bars.

The legal drinking age in Florida is 21. Drink responsibly!

Verdict

Who would want to leave this? 🙂

Holiday Matsuri is one of my favorite conventions down in the U.S. Not only is it the perfect vacation getaway from the cold with the beautiful pool and venue, but the convention organizers give you so many things to do at the convention, making the weekend incredibly fun.

I often ask my Floridian cosplay friends, “What are the best conventions in Florida?” ALL of them always say Holiday Matsuri. And after attending it for myself, I can see why.

If you live in the Orlando area or in Florida, you probably know that HolMat is a must-attend convention for you as a cosplayer or congoer. But if you live outside of Florida, then Holiday Matsuri is the best convention happening in December, a time where very few if any cons are taking place. Definitely check it out!

I hope you found this Holiday Matsuri guide helpful in planning your convention weekend. As always, if you have any other questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer!

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