They’re fun all year-round, but during the Yule season, Florida’s theme parks get dolled up in holiday decor and put on some special holiday events. The celebrations already have started at some parks.
It’s a happy season, and this year some new twists have been added to the annual events. Most holiday events are included in regular park admission. Check each park’s website for pricing options, which may include Florida resident discounts and packages that provide both lodging and admission.
WALT DISNEY WORLD, ORLANDO
Magic Kingdom: Disney is tying some of its holiday doings to its animated movie, Frozen. Queen Elsa and Princess Anna will star in A Frozen Holiday Wish, a stage show at Cinderella’s Castle, which will be bathed in 200,000 white lights. The royal pair, joined by Kristoff and Olaf, also appear in a parade at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, a separately ticketed, after-hours event held on select nights until Dec. 19. Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade will be presented to day guests from Dec. 20 to 31.
Mickey’s party guests can enjoy all rides, get doused with snow on Main Street, and warm up with complimentary cookies and hot cocoa. Admission varies depending on date, but starts at $67 adults, $62 children 3-9. Remaining party dates are: Nov. 30, Dec. 2, 4, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, and 19.
Epcot: The Candlelight Processional is an annual tradition, during which the Christmas story is retold by a celebrity narrator who is accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra and mass choir. Performances are at America Gardens Theatre daily through Dec. 30.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Frozen characters host a sing-along in the Premiere Theater. Nearby will be scenes inspired by the film and a site where guests can play in real snow.
Another annual tradition, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights will showcase millions of dancing lights, animated displays and 3-D effects with holiday tunes amid snowfall. The attraction runs to Jan. 4.
Inspirational music is heard daily at the Future World Fountain Stage in JOYFUL! A Gospel Celebration of the Season, with performances through Dec. 29.
Disney information: www.disneyworld.com.
BUSCH GARDENS, TAMPA
Busch’s Christmas Town holiday celebration, which in past years has been a separately ticketed event, now is included in regular park admission.
New this year, the Egypt area of the park has been transformed into a little town of Bethlehem where guests can follow the journey of the Three Kings. Another new area is Celestial Crossing, where a giant LED star fights the way to Mrs. Claus’ Family Feast and the Christmas Celebration show. It’s also home to the Bottle Christmas Tree, created by area schools with 5,000 bottles.
Returning to Christmas Town are Santa’s House, the Christmas Town Express sing-along, Penguin Point, and Elmo’s Wish, which stars Sesame Street characters. The only attraction not back from previous Christmases is SnowWorld, a play area with real snow.
Christmas Town dates are Nov. 30, Dec. 5-7, 12-14 and Dec. 18-31. www.christmastown.com.
Unversal Studios: Macys Holiday Parade is back, sporting the same helium-filled balloons seen in the iconic New York parade, along with a tree-lighting ceremony led by Santa Claus. After the parade, guests can enjoy holiday music by Mannheim Steamroller on select dates: Dec. 6, 7, 13, 14, 20 and 21.
Islands of Adventure: The Grinch is back in a live show, Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular, showcasing the Grinch and the Whos from Whoville. Guests can meet the Grinch and the Whos daily.
Christmas events are included in regular admission. www.UniversalOrlando.com/holidays.
New this year are packages that provide reserved seating and/or front-of-line status at several Christmas shows. While all Christmas events are included in regular admission, a separate charge is made for these packages.
Back again in the park’s Wild Arctic sector is the popular Polar Express Experience, which takes guests via a simulator to the pole and Santa. Other holiday attractions include Shamu’s Christmas Miracles, starring killer whales; O Wondrous Night, the Christmas story through the eyes of animals; Winter Wonderland, an ice-skating show; Elmo’s Christmas Wish, with Sesame Street characters; and Holiday Reflections, the closing show with dancing waters and fireworks choreographed to holiday music.
Holiday season events are offered on select dates through Dec. 31. www.SeaWorldOrlando.com.
LEGOLAND, WINTER HAVEN
Weekends in December will showcase Christmas Bricktacular, featuring the Lego Christmas Tree, a 30-foot-high tree made of Lego bricks; Lego Santa and Toy Soldier characters; model building; a scavenger hunt; photo opportunities with a Lego Santa; holiday decorations and snow flurries in the Fun Town sector; and nightly fireworks Dec. 26-31.
The park also will stage an early Kids’ New Year’s Celebration Dec. 31 with a Lego brick drop at 7 p.m.
All holiday features are included in regular admission. www.legoland.com.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, CAPE CANAVERAL
Two new holiday features are beginning this year at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Starting Dec. 2 is the Holiday Rocket Garden Light Show, a choreographed light and music presentation. Another element will be added Dec. 22-30, when 3-D images tracing NASA’s history will be projected on the side of the 225-foot-long Saturn rocket.
Also showing Dec. 26-31 is a Holiday Light Laser Spectacular that KSC says will be bright enough that astronauts in the International Space Station will be able to see them.
All holiday features are included in regular admission. www.KennedySpaceCenter.com.