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JOE TOURIST - Joyous Yuletide

For those of us spending the Christmas season in sunny Florida, here's an overview of some of the more promising holiday events this year.

Written by Joe Lane
Published: November 23, 2004 at 9:53 PM

JOE TOURIST - Joyous Yuletide
Christmas Offerings in Central Florida

It's that time again. As the holiday season descends upon us all nationwide, Orlando's theme parks are gearing up for another year of yuletide celebration. Here's a quick look at some of the festivities.

Walt Disney World has a whole slew of holiday traditions lined up this year. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party will run on special nights from November 28th to December 17th at the Magic Kingdom. This special admission event lasts from 7 p.m. until midnight and guests can enjoy a special Christmas-themed parade, a plethora of live musical Christmas shows (including the Country Bear Christmas Jamboree Special), snow on Main Street, Santa Claus and Santa Goofy, plus all the cookies and hot cocoa you care to eat and drink.

Epcot will bring back it's own time-honored tradition, the Candlelight Processional. A celebrity narrator will share the story of Christmas, accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra and a mass choir in an event that has been referred to by many as a breathtaking experience. The performance runs three times nightly, from November 26th to December 30th, and is a part of regular park admission, although there are dinner packages you can partake of. Epcot will also feature a number of special presentations, including Lights of Winter (miniature lights synchronized to Christmas carols), Holiday Storytellers (various holiday icons share their Christmas stories from around the world in World Showcase), Mickey's Tree Lighting Treat (a brief show featuring Disney characters in a tree lighting ceremony), and a new special Yuletide finale to IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights will be making its return this year at the Disney-MGM Studios. Although Residential Street may be a memory of the past (demolished to make way for the new Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show), the newly remodeled Streets of America area is the perfect place for the millions of lights to be displayed. You can see it all for yourself starting November 24th until January 2nd.

Universal Orlando will bring back two holiday events this year: Grinchmas at Islands of Adventure and Macy's Holiday Parade at Universal Studios. Both last from December 10th to January 8th.

At IOA, Seuss Landing will be transformed into a holiday Whoville, borrowing heavily from Ron Howard's take on the classic Seuss story "How The Grinch Stole Christmas". Guests can take a tour the Grinch's Lair and have their picture taken with the Grinch, then watch the Whoville Whobilation, a live musical rendition of "The Grinch". In previous years, a sixty foot ice slide called the Mt. Crumpit Snow Plummet has been featured, but it is uncertain whether it will be operating this year.

Next door at Universal Studios, the Macy's Holiday Parade will make a return appearance, complete with genuine balloons and floats from Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Past years have seen the old Boneyard area transformed into Balloonopolis, a display featuring some of the bigger Macy's balloons, including Snoopy, Barney and the Cat In The Hat. The 5th Avenue Food Festival will feature a number of seasonal and New York style foods. And rest assured, Santa Claus will likely be present for photo opportunities.

SeaWorld is getting into the holiday spirit this year. Starting on November 26th and lasting until January 2nd, guests at SWO can enjoy a myriad of Christmas events and performances. A special, nighttime Christmas-themed show, "Shamu's Christmas: A Child's Wish" will perform nightly from November 26th to December 30th in Shamu Stadium. The show combines the treats of killer whales and their trainers with a live choir and musicians. "Christmastide" Holiday Fountain Show will take place on the park's lagoon from November 26th until December 25th, when "Mystify" will return for a special weeklong engagement. The entire Waterfront area will be transformed for the holiday season with snow flurries, decorations, carolers and, of course, Santa (St. Nick is working double-time this year, putting in a LOT of appearances at theme parks and malls worldwide). Guests can also see and hear the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra perform live at the Bayside Stadium.

But wait! There's more! Over in Tampa, Busch Gardens will feature its Christmas Celebration, a song and dance number from now until January 2nd at the Desert Grill. Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede Dinner & Show will feature a special Christmas-themed show, including a live nativity scene. Shows are ongoing now until January 22nd. Gaylord Palms Resort presents the return of ICE!, an incredible exhibit: two million pounds of ice will be used to create extravagant holiday scenes, all in a chilly environment of 9 degrees (free parkas will be on hand). This event is ongoing until January 2nd.

If you have any comments or questions regarding these events, post 'em below and our TPI regulars will do their best to help you out. And don't forget to keep on ridin'!

Readers' Opinions

From Robert OGrosky on November 23, 2004 at 10:13 PM
I have seen picture from this years Osborne Lights and they look very good and i cant wait to see them in a few weeks. Has anybody see them in person here???? What did you think, are they better or worse than in the past??? Ive also heard that this year disney wont be handing out 3d glasses as part of the Osborne lights.
From Jason Moore on November 24, 2004 at 1:39 PM
I was over at MGM a couple days ago. It appeared as if they either already had, or were preparing to do some sort of official kickoff as there was a large light swith set up. The lights were not on at the time I was there. I'm not sure if they were going to be on later or not, but it wasn't quite dark enough yet when I was strolling the street. Even without the lights being on it still gave me a warm little holiday cheer feeling inside and I can't wait to go back and share them with my fiance who has never seen them before. I had at one point been skepyical of wether or not I would like them in their new setting, but all those fears have since been erased. They did have their official Osborne Lights merchandise for this year out already. The logo features a city skyline with lights wrapped around it and Stitch sitting upon all of it. Not sure why Stitch has been thrown into the mix, but I'm sure it will make my fiance happy to see him there.
From Michael Patalano on November 24, 2004 at 1:43 PM
Don't forget that Animal Kingdom is having a Holiday version of its Jammin Jungle Parade (renamed to Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade).

-Michael
CODE RED: "Tapioca!"

From kyle sussman on November 25, 2004 at 12:09 PM
Wow, I can not wait to go to Universal Studios.Today the Macys parade was tromendous on t.v. It would be great to see it live and without the crowd of one million.
From Joe Lane on November 26, 2004 at 11:55 AM
I'm gonna be real with you, Kyle: Universal's Macy's parade is no where near as spectacular as the original. That being said, I think Uni still does a decent job with what little they have to work with (most of the balloons are half the size of the actual large balloons in the New York version). Maybe this year will hold something special for theme park fans. We'll have to wait and see.
From Robert OGrosky on November 27, 2004 at 11:23 AM
I have never seen the Universal parade so im looking forward to it!!!
From Ruth Honor on November 28, 2004 at 1:53 PM
I'm spending my first Christmas in Orlando and I just can't wait. We're planning on seeing everything. I look forward to seeing the macy's parade since I was lucky enough to attend it in NYC last year and I'm thinking I might just have to sit on the Grinch's lap.
From Mark Fairleigh on November 29, 2004 at 7:04 PM
Thanks for the great article, Joe! This'll be our first Christmas in Orlando too. We'll more than likely spend all of our time at Universal, though the Candlelight Processional at Epcot sounds great. I always thought Magic Kingdom held Christmas festivities during Christmas week. Haven't they in the past?
From Joe Lane on November 29, 2004 at 10:49 PM
Seems the Magic Kingdom has been gradually cutting back on how long the event lasts. In 2002, the last Mickey's VMCP was on the 20th of December. In '03, the 19th. The Magic Kingdom IS open on Christmas Day, although the special nighttime treatment is available only to VMCP guests.

Enjoy your Orlando trip. Everyone, in fact. And if you folks have any questions, post them here or send me a comment, I'll try my best to get an answer back to you in a timely fashion.

From ee yi on December 21, 2004 at 4:56 PM
What is the name of the song in the Shamu's Christmas- A Child's Wish in Sea world??

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