Even The Grinch can't resist the holidays at Universal Orlando Resort. // © 2017 Universal Orlando Resort
Feature image (above): A snowy Sunset Boulevard twinkles with holiday decorations during Sunset Seasons Greetings at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Fla. // © 2017 Walt Disney World
The holidays are just around the corner, and this year, theme parks are combining exciting new experiences with tried-and-true favorites to wish guests a merry — and magical — season.
From Nov. 9 to Dec. 31, the holiday season at Walt Disney World Resort will bring all-new magical experiences and festive entertainment to the Orlando, Fla., park.
At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the return of Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! — the popular nighttime projection and fireworks show — will be joined by new holiday happenings.
“Our newest holiday nighttime experience, Sunset Seasons Greetings, will feature spectacular projections of beloved Disney characters sharing favorite Christmas stories as a snowy Sunset Boulevard twinkles with holiday decorations,” said Thomas Smith, editorial content director for Disney Parks.
Holiday magic will also transform the Hollywood Tower Hotel into a gingerbread house and a frozen winter wonderland, where a certain summer-loving snowman from the animated film “Frozen” might even make an appearance.
Epcot will become the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays, with 15 Holiday Kitchens offering flavors of the season from around the globe. On Chip & Dale’s Christmas Tree Spree, guests can help the famous chipmunks collect ornaments using a special map to travel around the World Showcase. Plus, a favorite Epcot tradition, the Candlelight Processional, will return to tell the story of Christmas with celebrity narrators, a 50-piece orchestra and a mass choir.
In the Magic Kingdom, royal sisters Anna and Elsa from “Frozen” will lead a celebration that culminates in Queen Elsa using her powers to transform Cinderella Castle into an ice palace. And, during the separately ticketed Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, guests can celebrate the season with Disney characters — including a rare appearance by Jack Skellington as Sandy Claws — and see exclusive performances of Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, “A Frozen Holiday Wish” castle-lighting ceremony and show, “Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration” stage show and Holiday Wishes fireworks.
Meanwhile, at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, Calif., the holiday season runs Nov. 10, 2017, to Jan. 7, 2018. Favorite attractions will receive merry makeovers, including It’s a Small World Holiday, the Jingle Cruise and, of course, the Disneyland-exclusive Haunted Mansion Holiday, which will continue its spooky combination of Halloween and Christmas with characters from Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” In addition, Disney characters will join Santa Claus for A Christmas Fantasy Parade down Main Street, U.S.A., and when the sun goes down, the skies above Sleeping Beauty Castle will light up with the Believe...In Holiday Magic Fireworks Spectacular, complete with a “snowfall.”
Across the esplanade, the Disney Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure will highlight international seasonal traditions, including the Festive Foods Marketplace, which will showcase holiday dishes from different cultures. The return of World of Color — Season of Light will combine holiday music with classic moments from animated Disney films, including Goofy’s light display accompanied by Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Wizards in Winter.”
“Disney Parks are the place to create memories with families and friends this holiday season,” said Cal Almaguer, vice president of domestic travel industry sales for Disney Parks & Resorts. “At Walt Disney World and Disneyland, our theme parks have something in store to bring the spirit of the season to life.”
Christmas Bricktacular at Legoland Florida Resort, which runs Dec. 2-3, 9-10, 16-17 and 23-25, celebrates the holidays with a giant Christmas tree made of thousands of Lego and Duplo bricks; Lego building activities; meet-and-greets with Lego Santa and Lego Toy Soldier; and even the occasional snow flurry.
“The holiday festivities at Legoland Florida are bigger and better than ever,” said David Brady, senior public relations manager for Legoland Florida. “Our Christmas Bricktacular is followed by our kid-focused New Year’s Eve celebration. Guests won’t want to miss the spectacular lighting ceremony for our giant Lego Christmas tree and our always-awesome New Year’s Eve fireworks. Best of all, everything is included with park admission.”
The New Year’s events, which run Dec. 26-31, include dance parties and fireworks, and on Dec.31, a giant Lego brick (similar to the Times Square ball) will drop to mark New Year’s Eve at the kid-friendly hour of 8 p.m.
The holidays also come alive at Legoland California Resort from Nov. 18, 2017, to Jan. 1, 2018, with Lego Friends Live, photo ops with a life-size Lego Brick Santa and Reindeer and a nightly Lego Christmas Tree lighting.
Plus, kids can celebrate the new year with party hats and special glasses — but without missing bedtime — when a giant Lego brick falls from 22 feet in the air at 6 p.m. for San Diego's largest Kids' New Year's Eve Party.
Spirits will be bright at SeaWorld San Diego this winter with holiday music and live entertainment from Nov. 10, 2017, to Jan. 6, 2018, for SeaWorld's Christmas Celebration. Guests can enjoy “Dolphin Island Christmas,” a special daytime holiday show, and “O Wondrous Night,” a new musical with life-size puppets and live animals. For a truly special experience, families can say hello to a North Pole visitor during Breakfast With Orcas and Santa.
In Orlando, SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration, which runs Nov. 24 to Dec. 31, will thrill guests with world-class skaters performing in “Winter Wonderland On Ice”; entertainment inspired by the natural world, including holiday comedy “Clyde And Seamore’s Countdown To Christmas”; and “Shamu Christmas Miracles,” starring SeaWorld’s killer whales. Plus, for the first time this holiday season, SeaWorld guests can travel to the top of the world and meet the North Pole’s most famous resident: Santa Claus.
Merry mayhem will ensue at Universal Orlando Resort for Holidays at Universal Orlando, which runs Nov. 18, 2017, to Jan. 6, 2018. Minions will join Santa in Universal's Holiday Parade featuring Macy's, a new version of the park’s popular holiday parade. Plus, Grinchmas will return to Universal’s Islands of Adventure when the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular brings Dr. Seuss' classic holiday tale to life in Seuss Landing.
For the first time, Diagon Alley, London and Hogsmeade will be decked with festive decorations during Christmas at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, an all-new holiday experience culminating with a magical projection display on Hogwarts Castle.
“The Christmas celebration will crescendo nightly as a festive spell will be cast onto Hogwarts,” said Michael Aiello, senior director of entertainment and creative development for Universal Orlando Resort. “Using the latest technology, the castle will transform into a yuletide display, gifting fans with an amazing new view.”
But holiday festivities aren’t only in the Florida parks. Universal CityWalk’s EVE celebration on Dec. 31 will feature live entertainment and the largest dance floor in Orlando.
The magic continues at California’s Universal Studios Hollywood, where Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will bring seasonal decor throughout charming Hogsmeade village and a holiday light projection to the facade of Hogwarts Castle. Plus, a crew of merry Minions will spread Christmas cheer to visitors at Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and adjoining Super Silly Fun Land, and a 40-foot tree will shimmer with 200,000 LED icicles choreographed to music of the season.
Guests can also visit Who-ville to see the one-of-a-kind, 60-foot Grinchmas tree and snap Seuss-y selfies with The Grinch. And don’t miss the Who-Dolls’ big holiday revue and a reading of “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” by Cindy Lou Who.
Holidays at Universal Studios Hollywood runs Nov. 24, 2017, to Jan. 7, 2018, and Grinchmas takes place Dec. 2, 3, 9, 10 and 15-31.