‘Tis the season for hot cocoa, festive gatherings . . . and theme parks? Believe it or not, taking the family to an amusement park is the perfect way to kick off the holidays. Theme parks around the Bay Area (and beyond) have hauled out the holly and filled up the stockings to bring families the coolest holiday celebrations around. Their special holiday decorations, attractions, and entertainment are sure to warm the coldest grinchy heart. Flip through to see all the holiday happenings at theme parks from Marin to SoCal.

California’s Great America

Make holiday memories at California's Great America. The park's annual Winterfest celebration features lavish decor, fun family activities and live holiday shows that the whole family is sure to love.

Festive decor

The park is dressed in its holiday finest, with whimsical details all around. Look up at Gold Striker roller coaster and you'll see Santa on his sleigh, perched on top of the tunnel. Hometown Square and Orleans Place are festooned with lights. Photo opps abound, from giant toy soldiers to a 30 foot-tall inflatable Santa and a reindeer-shaped topiary. Don't forget your camera!

Seasonal Attractions

The holiday fun begins as soon as you step into the park and take in the sight of Snowflake Lake, the park's holiday ice rink. Surrounded by brightly lit Christmas trees and polar bears, with Carousel Columbia in the background, you won't find a more picturesque ice rink anywhere. With snowflakes projected onto the ice below and the stars up above, it's got all the makings of a holiday experience to remember.

You and your very merry crew will find many more holiday activities as you make your way through the park. Pose for photos with Santa. Decorate cookies with Mrs. Claus. Watch the daily tree lighting and snowfall.

Over at Planet Snoopy, families can make their way through a Christmas tree maze and help Charlie Brown and Linus pick out that one special Christmas tree. Not far away, Charlie Brown's sister Sally mans a Christmas craft station for kids under 12. In addition, sweet surprises await your little sweeties at Candy Cane Lane. They can stroll through a candy forest, gawk at a giant gingerbread house, befriend a gingerbread family and meet Ms. Candy Cane.

Holiday Entertainment

At Winterfest, there's a show for everyone. If you like pop tunes, watch Cool Yule Christmas, performed in Celebration Plaza under a 70-foot-tall Christmas tree. If you enjoy musical theater, head to the Theatre Royal, where the elves at Tinker's Toy Factory give a fun musical performance as they prepare for Christmas. Ice skating fans will love the ice show at Great America Theater, where everyone's favorite beagle, Snoopy, stars in It's Christmas, Snoopy! World-class skaters, lavish costumes and spectacular sets make this a must-see holiday performance. Those who enjoy a good light show should head to Orleans Place, where thousands of lights flash and sparkle in time to favorite holiday tunes.

4701 Great America Parkway
Santa Clara, CA
Phone: 408-988-1776
Online: cagreatamerica.com

photo: California's Great America

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Do you plan to visit an amusement park this holiday season? Which one? Tell us about your experience in a comment!

—Ana Picazo