Here’s one easy way you can make this holiday season extra special: take your Yuletide-loving little ones to one of SoCal’s theme parks. Whether you’ve got a Potter-head looking for a yummy cup of hot Butterbeer or a Disney fan who wants to see Cars Land done up in lights, ’tis the season to get jolly—and there are plenty of places to do it! Flip through to find out what’s festive at Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal and more.

photo: Universal Studios Hollywood

Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Fans of all things Harry will want to spend their holiday at Hogsmeade, where Universal Studios has transformed the "Wizarding World of Harry Potter" section of the park into a twinkling spectacle worthy of every muggle's Christmas expectations. Potter-lovers will delight in the spectacular new holiday light and music show that is projected against the sprawling face of Hogwarts castle every night.

Also brewing are regular performances by the a cappella Holiday Frog Choir, a talented assembly of Hogwarts students who sing alongside their giant croaking frogs. And—special for the season—now's your chance to get your authentic Hogsmeade Butterbeer served hot!

Elsewhere in the park, “Grinchmas” returns, featuring a whimsical towering tree where Martha May and the Who Dolls perform holiday music sets throughout the day. The Who-liday Singers—a hip boy-band ensemble—will also perform nightly a cappella concerts featuring a mix of Christmas favorites and pop rock. (“Grinchmas” will take place weekends on December 2-3 and 9-10, and daily from December 15 through December 31, 2017.)

Of course, Universal's holiday magic starts even before you get into the park with the CityWalk's spectacular 40-foot tall Christmas tree, glistening with 200,000 LED icicles choreographed to the lights and sounds of the season — plus daily visits from Santa.

November 24 through January 7.

Online: universalstudioshollywood.com

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photo: Paul Hiffmeyer/ Disneyland Resort

Holidays at Disneyland & California Adventure

You can't go wrong when the Happiest Place on Earth meets the merriest time of year. The holidays are in full force at both Disneyland and California Adventure, both of which have been transformed with across-the-park additions of twinkling lights, special attractions, and seasonal food.

If you're planning on visiting California Adventure, be sure to check out the "Festival of Holidays," a seasonal celebration which lets guests taste, dance, and play their way through a variety of diverse holiday traditions including Christmas/Navidad, Hanukkah, Diwali, Kwanza, and Three Kings Day. The celebration brings with it yummy food booths (you can get a "passport" to check off all the dishes you've tried), special live performances (including a festive iViva Navidad! street party that'll get you dancing), and a roster of evening concerts including world renowned bands.
Hint: This is a great place to hang when you want a break from the inevitably long lines at the rides.

There are also a slew of holiday touches on the park's attractions, especially in Radiator Springs, where the famous cars are all dressed up for the occasion.
Pssst: Be sure to take your kids to the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, where little hikers should be on the lookout for Santa and his elves, who might be lurking just behind the next tree...

At Disneyland Park, the first thing you'll notice (in the evening, anyway) is that Sleeping Beauty's Castle has been transformed into a gorgeous winter sight with more than 50,000 twinkling LED lights. Disneyland parades and fireworks shows have also been reworked for the season and feature a dazzling array of special effects and beloved Disney songs and faces. Don't miss the chance to ride the "Small World," because the beloved boat ride has been reworked to reflect the holidays around the world. (Disney is offering FastPasses for this ride during the holiday season.)

November 10 through January 7.

Online: disneyland.disney.go.com

photo: Knotts Berry Farm

Knott's Merry Farm

Celebrate Christmas with Charlie Brown and his pals at Knott's Berry Farms' annual holiday celebration. Little cowboys can stroll through the Old West streets of Calico for unique seasonal treats (Christmas Pizza!), live Christmas carolers, a Christmas Crafts Village, and a nightly falling snow show that'll make your kiddos feel like they're in a bonafide winter wonderland. There is also a lineup of holiday shows including the "Merry Christmas, Snoopy!" ice show; "A Peanuts Guide to Christmas" at the Camp Snoopy Theatre; "It’s The Merriest Christmas Show Ever, Charlie Brown!" at the Calico Mine Stage; plus performances of "A Christmas Carol" and "The Gift of the Magi" on select dates.

Of course, no Christmas celebration would be complete without a visit from Santa. At the Christmas Cabin, kids can step inside and share their wish lists with the big guy himself.

November 17 through January 7

Online: knotts.com

photo: Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging

Six Flags Holiday In The Park

Six Flags Magic Mountain may be the roller coaster capital of the world, but this holiday season it's hoping to top off the thrills with a little holiday magic. To make things extra merry and bright, the park has added 1.5 million lights and uniquely themed “Wow Zones,” essentially transforming whole sections of the park into immersive walk-through light shows. Superhero-loving kids will want to check out DC Universe's three dancing musical light shows, a spectacle that is being called one of the largest programmed light shows on the West coast.

Got a little daredevil? Don a pair of VR goggles and ride on “Santa’s Wild Sleigh Ride,” an innovative virtual reality experience on The New Revolution roller coaster that puts riders on a high-speed sleigh ride with Santa and his reindeer.

The holidays also bring with them a roster of special live shows including the popular "Kwerkmas," a unique steampunk-themed display of acrobatic artistry with trapeze artists, gymnasts and aerial stunts in the Gearworks Theater.

November 18 through December 31 (Weekends only through December 10; then every day through December 31). Pssst: There's a snow shower that starts at 5 p.m.!

Online: sixflags.com/magicmountain

Snowland at the Great Wolf Lodge

Water slides and wave pools aren't exactly what come to mind when you imagine a winter wonderland, but the folks at Great Wolf Lodge want to make sure your holiday is as wet 'n wild as it is merry and magical. In addition to the 100,000-square foot indoor water park (the water's warm!), holiday guests will be treated to a slew of seasonal attractions including a life-sized gingerbread house (you can actually have dinner inside of it!), snow-themed suites and a complimentary hot cocoa bar. Little wolf cubs will also be treated to nightly holiday flicks in the hotel lobby, visits from Santa, cookie decorating with Mrs. Claus and snowfall-infused dance parties.

November 25 through January 1.

Online: greatwolf.com

photo: Legoland California

Legoland Holidays

If your kid's Christmas list includes plenty of those beloved little bricks, LEGOLAND is a must-do on your holiday to-do list. From a 30-foot tall DUPLO Christmas tree to a life-size LEGO Santa and his reindeer, kids will be singing Fa-la-la-la-LEGO all day long after a full day surrounded by all things LEGO. Along with its usual array of perfectly kid-sized rides (we recommend LEGOLAND for any family with kids under 12), the holidays bring a new slew of fun to the park. Kids can dance and sing along with the Yule Tides (a crew of musical elves who will light up the stage in Fun Town) or boogie with a brass band performing bluegrass music in the park's Heartlake City. New for this year, guests can enjoy an authentic “German Christmas Market” with inspired treats including traditional holiday breads, grilled sausages, giant Bavarian pretzel and more.

Pssst: Come on December 31 and experience midnight early! LEGOLAND does a ball drop at 6 p.m., followed by a grand fireworks celebration to end the night.

November 18 through January 1.

Online: legoland.com/california

From Grinchmas to The Merriest Place on Earth: do you have a family theme park fave during the holidays? Let us know in the comments below!

—Melissa Heckscher

 

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