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Oh what fun it is to ride
Lots of parks are decking their midways for the holidays
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In somewhat shocking news, the Walt Disney Company announced late Sunday that it had fired embattled CEO Bob Chapek and reinstated his predecessor, Bob Iger, as chief executive. It is a move that has been met with hosannas from fans, stockholders, creative professionals, and virtually everybody else with an interest in the media powerhouse. What might this mean for the Disney parks? I’ll weigh in with my thoughts this Thursday.
Sure, tons of folks will be traveling over the (Kali) River and through the (Forbidden Forest) woods to celebrate the holidays at the Disney and Universal parks. Historically, the week between Christmas and New Year’s is the busiest time of the year, with some of the Disney parks reaching capacity and closing their gates. (Although, the Mouse’s park reservations system changes the traditional calculus of “reaching capacity.”)
But the destination theme park resorts, which are open year-round, aren’t the only places where you could ride coasters and sip hot chocolate. I’ve already written about the over-the-top Christmas events at Dollywood in Tennessee and Silver Dollar City in Missouri. And I recently marveled at the brave souls who layer up and endure the considerable wind chill factor on spinning rides during WinterFest at Canada’s Wonderland. Let’s explore some of the other parks that get into the spirit of the season.
Holiday Lights at Kennywood in Pennsylvania, scheduled on select nights from November 19 to January 1, will feature the tallest Christmas tree in the state, boast two million lights, and offer rides on beloved staples such as the 1920s-era Jack Rabbit roller coaster, the vintage walk-through Noah’s Ark, and the recently restored spinning flat ride, Kangaroo. There will also be celebrity readings of “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” holiday-themed entertainment, and a buffet dinner with Santa Claus (who will likely hoard the sugar cookies).
All of the SeaWorld parks are presenting Christmas Celebration. They feature the Sesame Street characters as well as stars of the stop-motion animation classic, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” along with shows, twinkling lights, and rides and attractions. SeaWorld San Antonio, which is offering its holiday event on certain days through January 2, will present a Sesame Street Christmas Parade and a new nativity-themed show, “O Wondrous Night,” complete with live animals. SeaWorld San Diego is celebrating Christmas daily through January 8 and is presenting the new “Donner and Blitzen’s Lazer Light Show” as well as live reindeer. The SeaWorld Orlando event is offered select dates through January 3. The Florida park features Sea of Trees, a synchronized light show in its lagoon, and a fireworks finale each evening of Christmas Celebration.
There are over 5 million lights on display at Hesheypark’s Christmas Candylane, which is being held on select dates through January 1. The Pennsylvania park also offers TREEville, a trail of bedecked Christmas trees, some of its rides, including the B&M hypercoaster, Candymonium, and, of course, hot chocolate straight from the source. Separately, the park presents the drive-through Hershey Sweet Lights, which includes 600 animated displays. Just outside Hersheypark’s gates is Hershey‘s Chocolate World, which offers a range of holiday happenings, including Breakfast with Santa, the Holly Jolly Trolly show, and Hershey’s Holiday Chocolate House, which is decorated with–you guessed it–Hershey’s chocolate and candy.
The Sesame Place parks are presenting A Very Furry Christmas in Pennsylvania (through January 1) and at the new location in California (through January 8). They feature shows and parades with Elmo and the gang, rides, dance parties, and tons of lights. There will also be a Christmas Tree maze and a scavenger hunt at the San Diego park.
Some of the Six Flags parks, including Six Flags Magic Mountain in California, Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey, Six Flags Over Georgia, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in California, Six Flags Over Texas, and Six Flags Fiesta Texas, offer Holiday in the Park on certain days through January 1. In addition to select coasters and rides, visitors can indulge in seasonal treats, be wowed by lights and displays, and enjoy holiday-themed shows. At some of the parks, the Looney Tunes characters, such as Bugs Bunny, will be dressed in their holiday finest for meet and greets.
On select days, the three Legoland parks, including Florida (November 25 through December 31), California (November 19 through January 8), and the newest location in New York (November 25 through January 1), will mark the season with tree lighting ceremonies featuring Lego Santa, carolers, and dance parties. In New York, the first-ever event is called Holiday Bricktacular; the other two parks use the more generic name, Holidays at Legoland. The Florida park celebrates Kids New Year’s Eve early each evening from December 26 to 31 with fireworks.
Both of the Busch Gardens in Virginia (certain days through January 8) and Florida (daily through January 9) present Christmas Town. Weather permitting, the Williamsburg park will operate five of its coasters, including the wonderful new Pantheon, and a variety of other spinning and kiddie rides. Its popular “Celtic Fyre” show is re-themed for the holidays. Both of the parks also offer shows featuring the Sesame Street characters. All of the coasters and rides will be available in Tampa. The Florida park will also present “Christmas on Ice” in its Moroccan Palace Theater and offer fireworks on select evenings of the event.
Have you been to any of the holiday events at Six Flags, Busch Gardens, Kennywood, or any of the other parks mentioned in this article? If so, can you share any anecdotes? Are you planning to go this season?