Most Amazing Christmas-Themed Amusement Parksholiday best. Strings of blazing lights and sparkling tinsel transform already thrilling amusement parks into something merry and festive. Here's a look at some of the best theme park transformations that plunge visitors into nog-filled reverie.
Bay Lake, FloridaBy day, the quaintly decorated theme park offers a warm holiday atmosphere with tasteful decorations and ambient seasonal tunes. At night, however, the Magic Kingdom goes through a full-on Christmas frenzy during Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. Festooned with miles of garlands, lights and trees, the park becomes a winter playground, hosting a mash-up of Santa Claus and some of Disney's best-known characters in Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade. Guests can munch on cookies and sip hot cocoa, ogle the Holiday Wishes fireworks display and even revel in fresh (manufactured) snowfall on Main Street U.S.A.
This hard-ticket event, held on select nights through Dec. 21, also gives visitors a close-up look at enchanted Castle Dream Lights that adorn Cinderella Castle during the Christmas season. Walt Disney World guests can also take advantage of nighttime holiday celebrations at the Candlelight Processional – a retelling of the Christmas story with celebrity narrators at Epcot, and the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Buena Park, CaliforniaThe Peanuts gang helps turn this theme park in Buena Park, CA, from Berry to Merry. A Peanuts Holiday Parade sets the tone, followed by an ice skating show, “It's Christmas Snoopy,” which takes the search for the meaning of Christmas to the ice in the farm’s 2,085-seat Charles M. Schulz Theatre. Snoopy's Magical Nights of Lights blaze forth from dusk to park closing, and the “Winter Wonderland” musical show is performed daily in Camp Snoopy.
Meanwhile, the Calico Carolers wander the streets of Ghost Town, filling the air with seasonal tunes and Dickensian atmosphere. The park's thrilling Timber Mountain Log Ride has been transformed into Elf Mountain, giving thrill-seekers a chance to look inside the world of Santa's elves.
Tampa, FloridaSparkling snow adorns typically tropical environs as Busch Gardens Tampa becomes something that looks more like the North Pole than central Florida. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Busch Gardens transforms into a Christmas paradise with endless examples of all things festive. The displays use more than 80 miles of lights that weave through a number of themed locations, including Celebration Village, Ice Wonder Way, Candy Cane Lane, Jungle Jubilee, Poinsettia Parkway and Christmas Town Village.
Visitors can fill up on roasted nuts, fruit-filled crepes, coffee and sandwiches. Wrap it all up by playing in some real snow or getting some one-on-one time with the big man himself at Welcome to Santa's House.
Hershey, PennsylvaniaChristmas in Hersheypark is about numbers. More than 2 million lights twinkle along Hersheypark Christmas Candylane, where guests can amble along at their own pace sipping hot chocolate and shopping -- or taking on as many of the 30 rides and attractions as possible that are open during this time of the year.
Some 600 animated displays, which can be viewed from the comforts of your own warm car -- are lit up along 2 miles of wooded trails at Hershey Sweet Lights. An interactive show, “Christmas in Chocolate Town,” combines top-40 tunes with holiday classics.
Orlando, FloridaAll the atmosphere and excitement of a Macy's holiday parade -- including giant balloons, floats and marching bands -- fill the streets of Universal Studios nightly. Just as the parade wraps up with an appearance by Santa, a dazzling light display ignites the central Florida sky during the theme park's nightly tree lighting ceremony.
At Universal's Islands of Adventure next door, Seuss Landing is transformed into Whoville, where the citizens of the Seussian town roam and interact with guests. The Grinch lurks nearby, ready to swipe Christmas in the park's nightly performance of “The Grinchmas Wholiday Spectacular.” On select nights through Dec. 23, Mannheim Steamroller performs holiday favorites from its extensive seasonal catalogue.
West Mifflin, PennsylvaniaA special Christmas light show set to music is the main holiday theme of Kennywood amusement park every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night through Dec. 30. Dazzling displays with more than 1 million lights, as well as carolers, special holiday fare, visits with Santa and holiday-themed rides infuse this family favorite near Pittsburgh, now in its 115th season, with a warm seasonal atmosphere.
The Kennywood holiday lights show takes place every half-hour after 5:30 p.m. in the area around the park's lagoon. Bundle up and ride the Gingerbread Express, or visit the Ghostwood Estate, whose halls have been appropriately decked with ghosts of Christmas past wearing Santa caps.
Carlsbad, CaliforniaSnowfall is infrequent around this coastal California theme park dedicated to all things blocky and interlocking. Yet there it is -- piled high and ready for snowball-throwing and snowman- making during Legoland California's Holiday Snow Days celebration.
Now through Dec. 31, guests can also experience the world's largest Lego Christmas tree lighting, have their picture taken with life-size Lego creations of Santa and his reindeer, and enjoy live holiday entertainment. On select Winter Nights, the park's Fun Town section blazes to life with lights and Christmas music as carolers wander the grounds spreading seasonal warmth.