Top 7 Theme Parks for the Holidays
Ring in the season at these theme park holiday events.
Holiday events have always been popular at theme parks, and more and more are jumping on the seasonal bandwagon. Most parks offer the holiday festivities along with the traditional attractions, but be sure to check the websites for the full schedule, as not all rides are able to operate in colder temperatures.
From Tokyo Disney's Countdown Party to Dollywood's Smoky Mountain Christmas, here are the top seven holiday events at theme parks around the world.
1. Magic Kingdom
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a “hard-ticket” (additional cost) event at Walt Disney World running on select nights in November and December. Get your family ready for a wonderful evening at the Magic Kingdom that features a special parade for the holiday, a Christmas version of the popular “Wishes” fireworks show, a spectacular Cinderella Castle lighting ceremony including Anna and Elsa from Frozen, and lots of other special entertainment.
Highlights: Along with all the holiday entertainment, guests can enjoy complimentary cookies and hot chocolate, and since it’s a limited hard-ticket event, all the major rides are open and typically have shorter-than-usual wait times.
Fly into: Orlando International Airport
Dollywood’s Christmas spectacle has won multiple awards over the years as one of the world’s best holiday events. It features 4 million holiday lights, Dollywood’s new signature version of A Christmas Carol, several holiday performances and a chance for kids to meet Rudolph and his friends, the characters from the classic animated TV film Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Highlights: Dollywood is among the best theme parks in the country and features award-winning shows and attractions ranging from thrill rides to family rides, most of which are available (weather permitting) during the holiday event.
Fly into: McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, Tennessee
3. Tokyo Disney Resort
Tokyo Disney Resort's Countdown Party is one of the most sought-after New Year’s Eve celebrations at a theme park anywhere in the world. The tickets are in such high demand that you have to enter a lottery to get them. The opportunity to purchase special event-specific merchandise, one of the best fireworks shows at any theme park, and access to either Tokyo Disneyland or Tokyo DisneySea (you have to buy a ticket for 1) all night long are included in the ticket.
Highlights: Both parks feature an all-night party, which is a rare opportunity to ride some of your favorite Tokyo Disney attractions in the middle of the night.
Fly into: Narita International Airport or Haneda Airport in Tokyo
This is among the most impressive holiday events you’ll find at a theme park: You’ll hear the story of Christmas told by a celebrity narrator accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra and a breathtaking choir. In the World Showcase section of Epcot at the America Gardens Theatre, you’ll hear the story of the babe in the manger like you’ve never heard it before. The theater comes to life with a massive choir singing warm and inspiring holiday music. This special event is included with the price of park admission, and you can purchase dinner packages for premium seating.
Highlights: Celebrity narrators include Jodi Benson (who voiced Ariel in The Little Mermaid), Neil Patrick Harris, Whoopi Goldberg and Trace Adkins. Check the website for specific dates for each celebrity.
Fly into: Orlando International Airport
5. Europa Park
Want to celebrate the holidays German-style? Europa-Park, one of the premier theme parks in Europe, offers a park-wide Christmas event with a wonderful European feel. The park is lit up and includes special holiday attractions such as snow tubing and ice skating for kids. With ice sculptures, millions of lights and possibly even real snow on the ground, winter is the most beautiful time to visit Europa-Park.
Highlights: Europa-Park is a great theme park resort, featuring several on-site hotels, restaurants and attractions for the entire family.
Fly into: Frankfurt Airport
6. Holiday World
No article about holidays in theme parks would be complete without mentioning Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana. One of the very first “theme parks” in the U.S., Holiday World features sections focused on some of our favorite holidays, including the Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
In the Thanksgiving section, the park reimagines classic family rides such as the Tilt-A-Whirl, which turns into the Turkey Whirl. There is even a dark ride where you have to “call” the turkeys and have them join you for a Thanksgiving meal (of pizza, of course), as well as a wooden roller coaster, the Voyage, themed to the pilgrims’ journey. Holiday World is open May through October, allowing you to celebrate the holidays all summer long!
Highlights: Holiday World is known for its world-class roller coasters — the Voyage, the Raven and the Legend — along with family attractions with holiday themes. The award-winning Splashin’ Safari waterpark is also included with admission.
Fly into: Kentucky’s Louisville International Airport or Evansville (IN) Regional Airport
7. Silver Dollar City
Silver Dollar City, one of the highest-ranked parks in the country, transforms over the holidays with a park-wide Christmas event. Shows include Rudolph’s Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade, It’s a Wonderful Life onstage, a musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol, a living Nativity and much more.
Highlights: Silver Dollar City is known for its wide collection of family-friendly attractions, including the Outlaw Run roller coaster, outstanding shows and award-winning food. Most attractions are open (weather permitting) during the holiday event.
Fly into: Springfield-Branson National Airport or Branson Airport