What could be more magical than visiting a theme park? Visiting a theme park during Christmastime! It seems that just about every park in the country steps up their game a few notches during the holidays with new displays, shows, parades and of course, Christmas lights. And while some offer added festivities for an extra fee, many others include it all within the price of a ticket. Here are the best of the best happening from coast to coast this holiday season.

LEGOLAND: CA & FL

Both LEGOLAND California and LEGOLAND Florida are getting in the Christmas spirit presenting holiday shows, opportunities to pose with Santa and his LEGO reindeer, jam to the sounds of The Yule Tides (a band featuring Santa’s elves) and feast on the flavors of the season including holiday cookies, peppermint milkshakes, warm apple cider and more. Capture one-of-a-kind photos including a giant LEGO wreath, life-size LEGO snowmen and a sleigh with reindeer made out of thousands of bricks!

LEGOLAND California Resort
1 Legoland Dr.
Carlsbad, CA 92008
Offering the added fun from Nov. 17 – Dec. 31, 2018

LEGOLAND Florida
One LEGOLAND Way
Winter Haven, FL 33884
Offering the added fun on Dec. 1-2, 8-9, 15-16 and 22-31, 2018.

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Disneyland - Anaheim, CA

Every inch of “The Happiest Place on Earth” will be decked out in holiday flair from the lampposts on Main Street, U.S.A. to the Jungle Crusie boat in Adventureland and in the middle, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle will be transformed at night with ethereal lighting effects and snow-capped turrets. Special events include a new Christmas Fantasy parade, the “Believe…in Holiday Magic” Fireworks Spectacular and special holiday editions of “It’s a Small World” and “The Haunted Mansion.” Across the way at California Adventure, enjoy seasonal transformations of some of the park’s more popular rides like Mater’s Jingle Jamboree and Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl. The sister park will also celebrate in a different way with iViva Navidad!—a celebration of The King’s Day. Join The Three Caballeros as they lead a colorful assortment of musicians, dancers and giant mojiganga puppets during a jubilant street party.

Disneyland
1313 Disneyland Railroad
Anaheim, CA 92802
Offering the added fun from Nov. 9 – Dec. 31, 2018.

photo: Great Wolf Lodge

Great Wolf Lodge - Nationwide

All of the Great Wolf Lodges with their indoor water theme park is a fun retreat for the family any time of the year, but during Christmas-time, the place becomes even more special. Each lodge has their own activities and schedule, so be sure to check what your nearest location will be offering. With that said, most will be offering some version of “Snowland” this year with indoor snow showers, twinkling lights and larger-than-life gingerbread houses. Of course, Santa wouldn’t miss the event for the world and will be on hand for the tree lighting ceremony, and your kids might enjoy enrolling into the North Pole University snow-mester classes for holiday-themed activities and earning their own “snowploma.” If everyone still has energy, take in the nightly “Snow ‘n' Glow” dance parties too.

Great Wolf Lodge
Offering the added fun from Nov. 24 – Jan. 4, 2019.

Busch Gardens - VA & FL

Busch Gardens is always a fun place to visit any time of the year, but winter is especially nice as "Christmas Town" will be beaming with twinkling lights, Yuletide shows, holiday shopping and more fun events at both Tampa Bay and Williamsburg locations. In addition to Santa, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (perhaps you’ve heard of him?) will be here with a few of his friends ready for photo taking too. 

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
10165 N McKinley Dr.
Tampa, FL 33612

Busch Gardens Williamsburg
1 Busch Gardens Blvd.
Williamsburg, VA 23185

Offering the added fun from Nov. 17 – Dec. 31, 2018

photo: Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World Theme Parks - Orlando, FL

Perhaps the biggest holiday celebration will be held at five Disney theme parks in Orlando starting with “Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration” in the Magic Kingdom. The “Once Upon a Christmastime Parade” features all your family’s friends in festive wear with gingerbread men, elves and more along for the ride. Over at Cinderella Castle, Queen Elsa will perform some holiday magic transforming the castle into a sparkling and icy centerpiece. Over in Tomorrowland a new show called, “A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas” is a show featuring Disney buddies and intergalactic takes on Christmas tunes and head on over to Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café for “Club Tinsel” a dance party for the whole family.

In Epcot, take a seat to hear the biblical story of Christmas presented by a celebrity narrator (including Alfonso Ribeiro, Neil Patrick Harris, Whoopi Goldberg and others), a 50-piece orchestra and a massed choir or take in the IllumiNatons: Reflections of Earth show on the water which includes an additional holiday finale to its usual show.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios’s “Sunset Seasons Greetings” presents a laser effect show and “snow” while weirdly transforming the Tower of Terror into scenes of the season. Another night-time show, Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! features state-of-the-art projections, fireworks, special effects and music.

Finally, Disney’s Animal Kingdom will feature the Festival of Lights in India.

Walt Disney World Resort
Orlando, FL 32830

Knott's Berry Farm - Buena Park, CA

Knott’s will become Knott’s Merry Farm this November with special seasonal shows like the Holiday Ice Show featuring Snoopy and other Peanuts characters with world-class ice skaters, a nightly tree-lighting ceremony, and the streets of Calico (Ghost Town) will offer seasonal treats, Santa’s Christmas Cabin, traditional live Christmas Carolers, a Christmas Crafts Village, and more. Then, when the sun sets on the Farm, the buildings and paths on Main Street and School House Road are filled with glow and snow! Making for a great ending to a perfect day.

Knott’s Berry Farm
8039 Beach Blvd
Buena Park, CA 90620
Offering added fun this November (see website for select days)

Silver Dollar City - Branson, MO

Bring the family to Silver Dollar City to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas amid the glow of over 6.5 million dazzling lights in the awe-inspiring Christmas In Midtown Light Display and the five-story Special Effects Christmas Tree. Together, they will show off over six and a half million lights. The Silver Dollar also presents two Broadway-styled Christmas shows, the Rudolph’s Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade with nine floats and 45 costumed characters.

Silver Dollar City
399 Silver Dollar City Pkwy.
Branson, MO 65616
Offering the added fun from Nov. 3 – Dec. 30, 2018.

Universal Studios - CA & FL

Celebrate Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at either Universal Studios location as Hogsmeade is transformed with festive décor during the day and snow at night. Check out the “Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle” show for a holiday spectacle presented against the castle and enjoy a different take on Christmas music with the Holiday Frog Choir presented by Hogwarts students. The Three Broomsticks restaurant will be serving up holiday meal fare to warm up your insides too. Other events include Christmas parades and The Grinch.

Universal Studios Hollywood
100 Universal City Plz
Universal City, CA 91608

Universal Studios Florida
6000 Universal Blvd
Orlando, FL 32819

Offering added fun from Nov. 17 – Jan. 6, 2019

Six Flags Theme Parks - Nationwide

There are 17 Six Flags Theme Parks planted across the states, and each offers its own unique experiences including Christmas. While many will offer similar themes under the title “Holiday in the Park” and offering experiences with thousands of lights and meet-and-greets with Santa, you’ll want to visit the Six Flags' website to see what will be happening when. Some events worth noting are the Fiesta Texas location, that presents a live nativity show, “The Majesty of Christmas,” the Holiday Express Train and the “Singing Saps” which are animated Christmas trees. In addition to their many holiday shows, Six Flags America in Washington D.C. is going old school with roasting marshmallow stations.

Six Flags Theme Parks
See each location for dates for holiday events

Dollywood - Pigeon Forge, TN

Christmas is a big deal at Dollywood. So big that the park is expanding their Christmas festivities this year with more lights and shows, including the new Glacier Ridge themed area which boasts of a new sparkling display and a 50-foot-tall video motion Christmas tree. Dollywood’s Smokey Mountain Christmas events also offer different Christmas shows like “Christmas in the Smokies” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” and others. Rudolph the Red-Nosed-Reindeer will be hanging around here as well this season. Grab a mug of hot chocolate and gather your family for the Parade of Many Colors.

Dollywood
1020 Dollywood Ln.
Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

Offering added fun from Nov. 10 – Jan. 5, 2019.

—Jeff Totey

 

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