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Robert Niles
Editor

Vote of the week: Have you ever spent Christmas at a theme park?

Published: December 24, 2009 at 11:11 AM

It's Christmas Eve, and on behalf of all the employees here at Theme Park Insider (okay, well, on behalf of me, then), I'd like to wish everyone reading the site a very happy holiday season, and to thank you for your support over the past year.

Main Street USA at Walt Disney World, Christmas 1982
Thanks to Theme Park Insider reader TH Creative for sending along this photo of Main Street U.S.A. at Walt Disney World, Christmas 1982.

Typically, I run the vote of the week on Friday, but since that's Christmas Day this year, I figured no one would read it. So it's coming at ya a day early this week.

And while we're on the topic of what people do - or don't do - on Christmas Day...

For those of you who have spent Christmas Day at a theme park, please share a favorite story about that experience, in the comments. And everyone else, heck, just tell us what you'll be up to this year (spend the day at home with family; spend the day at a airport or roadside shelter, watching the blizzard; movies and Chinese food; etc.).

And, again, thanks for reading Theme Park Insider. Be sure to join us next week, as we recap the year, and the decade, in theme parks. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Replies (22)

Jacob Sundstrom
Writer

Published: December 24, 2009 at 11:15 AM

I haven't - but I will be tomorrow!

So, no today, but yes tomorrow :).

Aurora McBride-Moore

Published: December 24, 2009 at 1:00 PM

As a child we used to spend every christmas at Disney. We would vacation from New Hampshire for 3 weeks on Disney property! I have fond memories of Magic Kingdom on Christmas Day! Siting on top of the train station watching the parade with my family! Drinking hot cocoa in my souviner mug and sharing popcorn and white chocolate covered strawberries! Christmas Night we always went to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at the Contemporary! We would get dressed up and eat like pigs!! lol!
82.21.129.11

Published: December 24, 2009 at 6:03 PM

A couple of years back i managed to convince all three couples and there kids to go to disneyland paris (we being English and never have been to any disney park)felt this would be a once in a lifetime trip so tried to make it as special as we could, so we plumpted for the disneyland hotel ! for those who have never been, the hotel sits across the main entrance to the magic kingdom, and is the closest you can get, We arrived the day before christmas eve and left the day after boxing day and i have to say it was the most magical christmas we have ever had ! it was freezing and the language barrier did get in the way a little, and the french did seem rather abrupt to be polite.... But riding Space Mountain on christmas day was the best present we could ever have. This trip started the disney tour off and now i only have tokyo & hong kong left to visit, but none of them not even florida at christmas has replaced the utter Magic of that Holiday ! nor have i seen so many charcters doing signatures or extra entertainers at any other park at anytime of year ! and because the french celebrate on differant days to the english the park was so quite, no qeues at all and till the day we come home, when things seemed to return to normal. And even this year year we have all said we want to go back to paris again in a couple of years when the latest addition to the family is old enough to handle it, even though we have been to the other parks (usa) we still felt more magic in paris, Oh and the hotel was out of this world i have never been to any other disney hotel and got the same level of close interaction with the park's, it was worh not having to drive,bus or tram to the parks ! It was just Magic ! !
24.90.249.214

Published: December 24, 2009 at 6:35 PM

No but I would love to do it
173.22.49.39

Published: December 24, 2009 at 9:52 PM

5 years ago, my mom had asked what my brother and I would like for Christmas, and we had said to hit the parks, obviously a joke. Mom took it seriously and we went out to Universal and got Annual Passes on Christmas Day. It almost felt like we had IOA to ourselves, since it was Christmas morning, and overcast. Who else would show up at a theme park under those conditions besides my family?
72.146.101.143

Published: December 24, 2009 at 11:18 PM

Did go to Magic Kingdom, didn't go on many rides or attractions, DID queue 3 hours for the haunted mansion, didn't eat a Christmas dinner, DID eat a chicken burger in a sit down restaurnat as thats all we could book for.

Would I spend Christmas day at Disney again? No way.
Would I spend a few hours at another local park? Yes, a few hours maximum.

Tomorrow I'll likely spend a few hours at Seaworld or Universal with no expectations of getting on anything.

Merry Christmas everyone :)

Mark Kausch

Published: December 25, 2009 at 3:55 AM

So, Jason, how did you vote?

Christmas is probably the only holiday I haven't spent at a theme park. I did start a tradition back in the day of spending New Year's Eve at Disneyland followed by New Year's Day morning at the Rose Bowl Parade. Begin pretty young, that "tradition" lasted all of two years, as I remember. Friggin' Pasadena streets are coooold that early in the morning!

TH Creative
Writer

Published: December 25, 2009 at 9:31 AM

My fondest theme park Christmas memory was working crowd control for the Candlelite processional in 1982. The event was still held in the Magic Kingdom, with the choir and orchestra set up in Town Square. It was amazing watching the processional move down Main Street USA from the castle.

Merry Christmas.

Robert Niles
Editor

Published: December 25, 2009 at 11:41 AM

Let me second any recommendation to visit Universal Orlando over the Christmas holidays. Not only do the parks offer a good amount of holiday cheer, the Orlando-area crowds seem to lock in on the Disney parks during these weeks, leaving the Universal parks (especially IOA) relatively free of crowds.

Now, this is my opinion based on a small sample of visits over the years. (I live in Los Angeles, not Orlando, though I do have family in Celebration.) But I've had good luck with the non-Disney parks (SeaWorld, too) over Christmas.

Anthony Murphy
Writer

Published: December 25, 2009 at 12:30 PM

Technically, no, but I did have Christmas Dinner at Yachtsmen Steak House. Very good!

I have been in a park for the 4th of July, New Years Eve, and New Years' Day

Joshua Counsil

Published: December 25, 2009 at 2:04 PM

We've gotten trips to theme parks as Christmas gifts, but I wouldn't be caught dead in a theme park on Christmas. We like to go on New Years Day, when the decorations are still around but the crowds aren't.

At the risk of sounding politically correct, Merry Christmas.

TH Creative
Writer

Published: December 25, 2009 at 2:10 PM

The photo at the top of this thread was snapped in late December 1982. I was working as a Jungle Cruise skipper (greatest theme park attraction ever, ever, ever ... next to 'Men In Black: Alien Attack.') and I was on my way into work.

And there was not a soul on Main Street USA.

Just me and my Canon Sure-Shot.

Doug Kelley

Published: December 25, 2009 at 6:08 PM

Yep, both WDW and DL. But I wouldn't recommend it to anybody who hasn't been there a lot because the crowds are huge and people don't get a lot of riding done. But, just to soak in Christmas they way it SHOULD be, there's no better place.
Brady Allen

Published: December 25, 2009 at 7:56 PM

Don't be to mad at me but I've just arrived today at WDW. I'm submitting this between courses at Narcoosee's at the Grand Floridian.(definitely recommend) After I finish my Lobster we are going outside to watch the Fireworks. Then back inside for dessert and hopping in the boat to the MK to watch the Light parade at 11:00.(best timing ever)

Merry Christmas everybody.

Joshua Counsil

Published: December 25, 2009 at 8:41 PM

I'm still gonna hold it against you, Brady.
Beth Olliges

Published: December 26, 2009 at 12:55 AM

My boyfriend and I made our first theme park Christmas trip two years ago, to Walt Disney World. We flew in on Christmas Day, and both being huge Gary Sinise fans, we really wanted to catch the 8:15 Candlelight Processional he was narrating. However, with our flight due to land just after 6:00, we knew time would be very tight.

Amazingly, everything worked out: our Magical Express bus left shortly after we boarded, we were first in line to check in at Caribbean Beach, then rushed over to the bus stop, and guess which bus pulled up -- Epcot! We had to stop at Guest Relations to process our annual passes, then started power walking through Future World, knowing we'd have to make it all the way to the other side of World Showcase. We kept saying, "We'll stop and look at decorations later!"

Then we got to the Lights of Winter. Our power walk simultaneously halted, our jaws dropped and we both stood there in absolute awe and wonder. We agreed it was one of the most beautiful things we'd ever seen, and slowly walked through the archway, as if in a daze... (How could Disney make the horribly misguided decision to remove this beautiful display? We consider it right up there with the Osborne Spectacle of Lights at DHS and Castle Dreamlights at MK.)

Upon reaching the other side of the archway, the urgency of our task returned, and we continued our power walk through World Showcase. We didn't make it into the CP seating area, but were among the first to line up for standing room behind the amphitheater! We had a terrific view, and were near a speaker, so we heard every word, every note! After the Candlelight Processional, the most urgent order of business was FOOD (which we'd neglected in all our rushing). This even took precedence over IllumiNations, so you know we were ravenous!

After a bite to eat at Mexico (at least hearing IllumiNations and seeing a few fireworks), we wandered toward the exit, now taking the time to photograph all the decorations. We had time to stroll, because it was an Extra Magic Hours night at Epcot! When we finally left the park a few hours later, the tummy rumblings were beginning to return, and one of the few 24-hour eateries we knew of was Capt. Cook's at the Polynesian, so we took the Monorail there (even got to ride in the cockpit)! By the time we got to our room, around 3:00 a.m., we'd had a very full but very magical Christmas Day!

Rob P

Published: December 26, 2009 at 5:28 AM

With Magic Kingdom fulfilling it's forecast of swelling it's numbers to bursting on Xmas Day we'd already decided beforehand that we'd give that one a miss.
Instead we spent a really pleasant day at Animal Kingdom. It was before Expedition Everest so the crowds were fairly light ( oh those were the days ! ).

I remember that we rode Kali River Rapids while the sun still shone. Unfortunately , by the time we'd been soaked through , the sun decided that it had enough for the day and went to bed. With the temperature dropping and the breeze picking up we were left scrambling around the outlets trying to get some new dry clothes before we froze. Nothing doing there. So we went into our respective restrooms and stood under the hand dryers trying to dry off. Some of the looks we got were quite funny but , we thought, this was hardly uncommon at this time of year.

This attempt at getting dry wasn't very successful so we jumped on the bus back to the Hotel , changed , and returnied for the excellent Mickey's Jammin Xmas Parade. Well worth the effort.

We learned a valuable lesson that day about taking a change of clothing with you and making use of the lockers.

Robert Niles
Editor

Published: December 26, 2009 at 4:31 PM

*Great* story, Beth. Thanks for sharing that one!
148.177.1.213

Published: December 27, 2009 at 3:10 PM

We live in So Cal and decided to spend Christmas Day this year at Disneyland! It was jam packed, the busiest I have ever seen it-and we have a premium annual pass-so we frequent the park a lot. There was a time when we literally could not push the stroller through the crowd, it was crazy! Who knew so many people would be there on Christmas Day. We still had a fantastic time and noticed that the park really thinned out after 10pm. We rode Indiana Jones at midnight, got stuck on the ride and got to reride it again. When we finally got off we were the last people on the ride-it was a pretty cool experience!
24.9.181.139

Published: December 27, 2009 at 6:24 PM

Yes, last year I spent Christmas in Orlando. However, on Christmas we were in SeaWorld. It was great! But the lines did get a little annoying. I didn't expect so many people to be there on Christmas! Oh well, I would definitely do it again.
208.103.52.73

Published: December 28, 2009 at 4:47 PM

We went to Bush Gardens on Christmas day. Lines were very long. There was a football game either a day before or would be played in the next few days. College kids everywhere!!! Not sure I would do a theme park if there is a Bowl game played in the area or not. Enjoyed the decorations and seeing the animals get their Christmas gifts. But could not get on a ride at all. Kind of depressing to think we spent all that money and didn't get to really ride anything. Oh well...we know better for next time. Wait a day or two and go, no lines and college kids will have gone home.
Kelly Muggleton

Published: December 29, 2009 at 6:18 AM

We visited Disneyworld from England a few Christmasses ago, having been many times before we were happy to be selective on rides etc and were prepared for lines. I had luckily booked us dinner in the Liberty Tree Tavern for just before the Christmas Day parade. So we ate a gorgeous turkey meal and went outside the Tavern to claim our parade spot - it was a good one.... Then the good ol' relaible Florida weather kicked in and it started raining, and raining, and raining. The parade got cancelled and we were so disappointed!
But, we were resilient, donned our ponchos and set off around the park. With so many people sheltering, at times we felt like the only people in the park! That made our Christmas day even more memorable. We made up for it with Spectromagic and Christmas fireworks but it was still lovely just to be there on the day.

I even said on the 25th this year...it may be incredibly busy, but isn't the Magic Kingdom lovely at Christmas! The tree, the lights, the atmosphere... The whole family agreed, and the parade music cd I made in the Village a few years back went on the player!

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