When Harry met Santa
How are the Universal and Disney parks celebrating the holidays?
I know. It seems like summer just ended, you’ve barely acknowledged fall, and you’re inundated with pumpkin spice everything. But ready or not, the holidays will be here before you know it. Barely a month from now, the U.S. Disney and Universal parks will be kicking off their holiday hoopla. Let’s see what they’ve got in their toy bags this year.
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Mickey will be very merry again
After riding out the pandemic (presumably socially distanced at home with Minnie) in 2020 and offering a modified holiday celebration in 2021, the ebullient Mr. Mouse will pull out all the stops for the returning Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party starting November 8 at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. The separate-ticketed nighttime event includes a holiday-themed parade, fireworks extravaganza, stage show, and dance parties along with short wait times on most of the park’s popular attractions. With prices ranging as high as $199 per person, attendees may want to overindulge in the “complimentary” cookies and cocoa. During the day, visitors can check out holiday-hijacked attractions such as Jingle Cruise, Space Mountain – Holiday Run!, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor Holiday Show, the Mad Tea Party Christmas Party, and Tomorrowland Speedway Race Through the Holidays.
Over at multi-culti Epcot, Holidays Around the World kicks off November 25. It will include the Candlelight Processional, a solemn retelling of the Christmas story by celebrity narrators along with a choir and orchestra, and performers sharing their culture’s holiday traditions at World Showcase pavilions. Of course, it wouldn’t be an Epcot festival without food booths, so expect holiday-themed noshes throughout the park.
The other Disney World parks also offer holiday fun, albeit on a smaller scale, with “festive flotillas” along Discovery River at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and a Santa Claus Motorcade up Hollywood Blvd. along with Sunset Seasons Greetings, a mini projection mapping presentation on the Hollywood Tower Hotel, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Alas, that park’s perky Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! nighttime projection show will not be presented this year.
Joy to the Whirl at Disneyland
On the Left Coast, Holidays at the Disneyland Resort commences on November 11. Disney Festival of Holidays returns to Disney California Adventure with odes to Navidad, Hanukkah, Diwali, Kwanzaa, and Three Kings’ Day as well as Christmas. The park will have its own Epcot-like food-a-thon with its Festive Foods Marketplace. Two of Cars Land’s attractions, Mater’s Jingle Jamboree and Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl, get overhauled for the season. The park’s nighttime spectacular will transform to World of Color - Season of Light.
At the original Disneyland Park, the longstanding A Christmas Fantasy Parade (cue the marching toy soldiers!) and Believe… in Holiday Magic fireworks display will return along with the attraction makeovers “it’s a small world” Holiday and Haunted Mansion Holiday (the Halloween-Christmas mashup inspired by “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas”).
Wizards and Whovillians celebrate Christmas at the Universal parks
Mere days after it packs up its chainsaws and fake blood from Halloween Horror Nights, the Florida resort will present Holidays at Universal Orlando. Starting November 12, highlights will include Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. There will be special shows at both parks such as Revel in The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle with projections on the distinctive edifice. (I prefer the evocative holiday version of the nighttime presentation to The Nighttime Lights show that’s offered the rest of the year.) I’m not a fan of hot Butterbeer, but if that’s your thing, ‘tis the season to score some.
Also at Universal Studios Florida, giant floats and even more humongous balloons will make their way through the park for Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s. Mannheim Steamroller, known for its new-agey takes on Christmas classics, will bring its synthesized stylings to the park on select days. Over at Islands of Adventure, the Mean One will preside over Grinchmas featuring the live show, “Who-liday Spectacular.”
Not to be outdone Holidays at Universal Studios Hollywood will also offer its own Grinchmas, although since the Whoville set on the park’s Studio Tour is gone, the snub-nosed gang will now gather on the Upper Lot. There will be a Seussian tree lighting ceremony, complete with snowfall (granted, it’ll be SoCal fake snow). The California park will present Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter as well, including the nighttime castle projection show.
Will your holiday plans include visits to the Universal or Disney parks? Have you celebrated the holidays at the parks in the past?