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It may seem like the holidays are still far away, but major theme parks are already planning festive fun for guests. Because the holidays are a highly popular time of year to visit, encourage clients to start making their lists of the seasonal shows and attractions they don’t want to miss.
We’ve rounded up the must-see celebrations from popular theme parks so they can get a head start.
DisneyFrom Nov. 8, 2019, through Jan. 6, 2020, Disneyland Resort is observing the holiday season with festive food, sparkling decor and even a Southern California snowfall. Walt Disney World Resort, meanwhile, will see the debut of a new holiday celebration at Animal Kingdom and a new holiday-themed fireworks show at Magic Kingdom.
"The holidays are filled with festive traditions and exciting new experiences to celebrate the season at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort," said Joann Delgin, director of travel agency sales for Disney Destinations. “From our beautiful glistening castles to special holiday decor, attractions, parades and nighttime spectaculars, the season is a guest favorite.”
At Disneyland, Mickey Mouse and his friends — including Santa and Mrs. Claus — party down Main Street, U.S.A in the fan-favorite Christmas Fantasy Parade. The night skies light up with the “Believe in Holiday Magic” fireworks spectacular, complete with a magical snowfall finale. Plus, two classic attractions receive their annual holiday makeovers: It's a Small World Holiday takes guests on an international holiday cruise, and Haunted Mansion Holiday continues its Halloween/Christmas mash-up courtesy of Jack Skellington and the Mansion's 999 happy haunts.
Across the esplanade, Festival of Holidays returns to Disney California Adventure to commemorate winter celebrations around the world. Festive Foods Marketplaces, for example, offers dishes representing diverse cultures and family traditions, while Viva Navidad is a lively street party hosted by the Three Caballeros. “World of Color – Season of Light” also returns this year with a display of colorful lights, holiday music, favorite animated scenes and hundreds of dancing fountains. At Cars Land, the four-wheeled residents of Radiator Springs are getting into the holiday spirit with Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl and Mater’s Jingle Jamboree. And clients won’t want to miss a photo op with the charming Snowcar.
For the first time, Disney’s Animal Kingdom will join the festive fun at Walt Disney World Resort with entertainment and decor in every land, including the Holiday Hoopla Dance Party with Chip ’n Dale in Dinoland, U.S.A.; an out-of-this-world holiday display in Pandora – The World of Avatar; and wintry tales and holiday music at the Tree of Life on Discovery Island.
At Epcot, The International Festival of the Holidays features costumed storytellers and Holiday Kitchens serving recipes from across the globe. The highlight of this festival is the Candlelight Processional, which features a 50-piece orchestra, a massed choir and a celebrity narrator telling the story of Christmas.
At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the “Sunset Seasons Greetings” show is projected onto the Hollywood Tower Hotel. At night, “Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam!” lights up the Chinese Theatre facade with music, fireworks, special effects and projections.
Magic Kingdom, too, becomes a winter wonderland during stage show “A Frozen Holiday Wish,” where Queen Elsa from “Frozen” transforms Cinderella’s Castle into a palace of ice. On select dates, Mickey invites guests to his Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, where partygoers experience exclusive holiday fun such as Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas and the stage show “Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration.”
“For the first time ever, during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, select attractions are receiving special enhancements for the holidays,” said Thomas Smith, editorial content director for Disney Parks. “When you get behind the wheel on the Tomorrowland Speedway, you’ll find yourself cruising a festive freeway with thousands of lights and stylized decor. Plus, Space Mountain will launch you on a jaunt through the cosmos with dazzling lighting and high-energy holiday tunes.”
Guests of this separately ticketed event can also ride the holiday-themed Jingle Cruise and see the all-new “Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks” nighttime show. For an even sweeter time, Holiday Fireworks Dessert Party offers seasonal treats and preferred viewing.
Universal From Nov. 16, 2019, to Jan. 5, 2020, Universal Orlando Resort will be filled with magic — and a bit of mischief.
“When you celebrate the holidays at Universal Orlando Resort, you’ll find incredible experiences for the whole family,” said Robyn Ryan, senior director of travel industry sales for Universal Orlando Resort. “From seeing beloved Universal characters during Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s to enjoying all the holiday magic during Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — hot Butterbeer is a must-try — there truly is something for everyone."
Hogsmeade Village and Diagon Alley will be transformed with twinkling lights and enchanted decor for Christmas at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. At night, the facade of the school of witchcraft and wizardry will light up with The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle Christmas using projections inspired by J.K. Rowling’s stories.
Meanwhile, mischievous Minions from “Despicable Me,” along with other favorite characters, take to the streets for Universal’s Holiday Parade, which features more than 30 balloons and floats. During Grinchmas at Islands of Adventure, families can enjoy a live musical performance of Dr. Seuss’ classic holiday story or share a meal with “the mean one” during a separately ticketed breakfast at Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous.
From Nov. 28 to Dec. 29, guests of Universal Studios Hollywood will delight in the Grinchmas Who-lebration featuring an all-new state-of-the-art, 55-foot “Grinchmas” tree, and a “Who-liday” snowfall. Plus, the merry and mischievous Minions are celebrating the holidays at Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and Super Silly Fun Land. Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter brings winter cheer to Hogsmeade village with themed decor; the nighttime holiday projection show on Hogwarts Castle; and carols performed by the Frog Choir, a group of Hogwarts students accompanied by their talented giant frogs.
SeaWorldFrom Nov. 23, 2019, to Jan. 5, 2020, spirits will be bright at SeaWorld San Diego with holiday music and lighted trees. Guests will also enjoy Rudolph's Christmastown, where they can hang with the red-nosed reindeer and dance to holiday tunes next to the 40-foot Happiest Christmas Tree.
The park’s silly sea lion duo Clyde and Seamore spoof television Christmas specials in their family-friendly holiday show, while dolphins and pilot whales offer a tropical twist in a seasonal performance of their own. Clients seeking a unique holiday experience can attend the separately ticketed Breakfast with Killer Whales and Santa on a private patio alongside the marine animals.
Families visiting SeaWorld Orlando from Nov. 23 to Dec. 31 will delight in live shows and holiday foods. Plus, on Dec. 31, SeaWorld Orlando's New Year's Eve musical celebration will offer a fireworks display.
At SeaWorld San Antonio, meanwhile, from Nov. 15, 2019, to Jan. 5, 2020, clients can view the largest Christmas light display in Texas, which features more than 9 million lights. They can also dance and sing alongside “Sesame Street” characters during the all-new Sesame Christmas Parade.
Legoland From Nov. 29 to Dec. 31, Legoland Florida Resort is feting the holidays with two interactive shows: “Holly Jolly Jubilee,” a musical with Santa and his elves, and “Rockin’ Around,” a Christmas dance party around a 30-foot-tall Lego Christmas tree, complete with snow. Plus, giant holiday-themed Lego builds of Santa and a toy soldier are perfect for seasonal photos.
From Dec. 26-31, a special Kids’ New Year’s Party lights up the night sky with a fireworks show designed to be viewed through complimentary Lego glasses that make it look like thousands of Lego bricks are exploding overhead.
From Nov. 23 to Dec. 31, a 30-foot Lego Christmas tree marks the spot at Legoland California Resort. Clients will love the “Lego Friends Holiday Show” in Heartlake City and tap their toes alongside the Yule Tides, a group of harmonious elves. Families can also snap a selfie with Lego characters in the new Holiday Village.