You may not build a carrot-nosed snowman or roast chestnuts on an open fire, but there’s plenty else to keep you enthralled in Florida during the Yule holidays. Theme parks, cities, parks and hotels all are gearing up with special holiday events.
For the first time, Busch Gardens this year will stage holiday events in the evening. More than 70 lighted boat parades are scheduled on waterways all over the state. Special concerts are in the works, along with Christmas markets, home tours and culinary treats like gingerbread creations. Santa Claus will make dozens of visits.
The fun starts in late November. Here are details of a sampling of special events:
THEME PARK & ATTRACTIONS
• Busch Gardens Tampa Bay: For its brand new evening celebration of Christmas, a separate-admission event, the theme park will take on a festive patina with many thousands of sparkling lights, decorated trees, holiday music and shows, train rides, colorful flowers and topiaries, and other signs of the season — even real snowdrifts for kids to play in.
Sections of the park will be renamed for the evening. In Ice Wonder Way, guests can see a new ice-skating show. Elmo and his friends will greet kids in the Sesame Street Season of Fun. Children will board a pint-sized train at Jingle Bell Junction, and they and their parents can sing carols as the Christmas Express train circles the park. Jimmy Osmond and his family will sing each night, and in the Stanleyville Theater the Grammy-award-winning Jars of Clay will perform a closing concert every night.
Christmas Town will require a separate admission (daytime admission not included or needed) of $34.99 for ages 10 and up, $9.99 for children 3-9. It will be open 6-11 p.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Nov. 30 to Dec. 23. 813-987-5523, www.buschgardens.com.
• Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom will again put on Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, as it has for 25 years. Guests at this separate-ticket event will take in stage shows, parades and fireworks, meet costumed Disney characters and enjoy complimentary cookies and hot cocoa amid twinkling lights and wreaths, and decorated trees. Guests may even hunker down as snow flurries fall on Main Street. Dates for the party are Nov. 9, 12, 15, 16, 25, 27, 29 and 30, and Dec. 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20 and 21. Admission ranges from $53.95 to $59.95 for kids 3-9, $59.95-$64.95 for ages 10 and up depending on the date.
At Epcot, a Candlelight Processional celebrates the holiday, along with a celebrity narrator, mass choir and 50-piece orchestra three times daily Nov. 23-Dec. 30. Neil Patrick Harris and Gary Sinise will appear on select nights at the America Gardens Theater. Disney’s Hollywood Studios will have the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, with millions of lights, animated displays and 3-D effects, Nov. 9 to Jan. 6. Disney information: 407-824-4321, www.disneyworld.com.
• Universal Orlando: The Grinch comes back to this theme park in a stage show, Grinchmas Wholiday Spectacular, which tells the Dr. Seuss story of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Mannheim Steamroller, whose Christmas music has sold more than 40 million records, will perform eight times on Dec. 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22 and 23. Macy’s Holiday Parade, with holiday characters, floats and balloons, will step off every evening from Dec. 1 to Jan. 1. 407-363-8000, www.universalorlando.com.