Vote of the Week: Thinking ahead to the holidays
Published: July 12, 2013 at 8:39 AM
Thinking about vacations is a form of mental time travel — for those moments, you live in the future. So even though the calendar reads "July," theme parks fans who plan ahead are already thinking about Halloween and Christmas.
As they do every summer, the major theme parks have begun to put tickets on sale for their fall and winter holiday events. Walt Disney World is selling tickets to Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. Disneyland is in pre-sale to Annual Passholders for its Mickey’s Halloween Party tickets, and speculation continues that the resort will add a hard-ticket Christmas party, too — this year or next.
Universal Orlando has put tickets on sale for its Halloween Horror Nights, and tickets for the Hollywood version should go on sale soon. Knott's Berry Farm just revealed its 2013 Halloween Haunt line-up and is selling tickets to the event now, too.
Throw in events at many other regional theme and amusement parks around the country, and fans won't lack options for special holiday events in the parks.
So... are you planning to go?
It's time for our Vote of the Week. Please tell us your holiday theme park plans. Are you planning to attend one of these "hard-ticket" holiday events? If not, will you be visiting a theme park during these seasons anyway? Or are you skipping the parks this holiday season? Please select the option that best describes your plans.
What's your favorite theme park holiday event? Please tell us, and why it's your favorite, in the comments.
Published: July 12, 2013 at 8:49 AM
The universal premium pass comes with a ticket for Halloween Horror Nights so I'll be there twice for that. (Once with my pass, once from the coupon for my wife's pass since she doesn't do scary stuff.)
Published: July 12, 2013 at 9:59 AM
Another year another Halloween Horror Nights for us. Gonna skip Mickey's Not-So this year and just go to Magic Kingdom on a night it's open later. The cost is just getting too high and the return isn't keeping up.
Published: July 12, 2013 at 10:42 AM
When I was younger, I went to Halloween events at Knott's Berry Farm two or three times, but it doesn't have any appeal to me now, and it's too scary and not appropriate for the kids.
Back in 1996, I went with friends to the second Mickey's Halloween Treat, which I believe cost $25 and was a lot of fun -- with trick-or-treat stations, shows, parades, and dressed-up attractions. Since they reactivated the Halloween parties and are marketing the heck out of Halloween Time, I read about how crowded the Disney parks are for the evening events, and with the price over $50 now, it just doesn't have any appeal.
Parks like Legoland have all-day activities with no separate hard-ticket admission, and there are lots of local activities around Los Angeles at places like the L.A. Zoo and the Aquarium of the Pacific included in the cost of admission.
It's brilliant marketing by Disney to convince the public in Florida and southern California that it's worth half the cost of a regular day ticket to go to a separate event for the evening, and it's obvious they are selling lots of tickets, but I'm just not convinced. If they go to a separate ticket for Christmas fireworks and the parade at Disneyland, we will sit those out as well.
Published: July 12, 2013 at 3:48 PM
To deviate from the Disney/Universal events, which the anonymous poster above slightly did, I can only attest to my attendance at Six Flags Great America in IL. Naturally, the park is closed during the winter, so that rules out Christmas. And Halloween is far from my favorite holiday (in fact, it's probably my least), but me and my friend always have the best double dates there during Fright Fest, so Halloween only gets my vote.
Published: July 12, 2013 at 4:22 PM
Will be making my annual trek to HHN at Universal Orlando and this year will also be doing Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween as well.
Published: July 12, 2013 at 5:41 PM
I love the Halloween events at the theme parks. The best ones I attended were Knott's Scary Farm in California, and Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando. Universal Orlando Horror Night is also very good, but the wait times are the most frightening thing of all. Next time, I'll spring for the front of the line pass. I mean, 60+ minutes for a maze that take a few minutes to go through? Never again.
Published: July 12, 2013 at 9:27 PM
The Christmas Festival at Silver Dollar City is outstanding and does not require a special ticket. The park opens late, usually 1 PM, and doesn't close until around 10 pm. Which means that if you get real lucky and the weather is above freezing, you can catch night rides on all the coasters - a huge bonus since the park generally closes by 7 or 8 pm the rest of the year. Wildfire is especially awesome at night because it seems like you are coasting in space due to the complete darkness along the course.
Also, there are two great broadway style holiday shows, a Christmas saloon show, a Christmas train, a Christmas parade, a huge dancing Christmas tree, millions of lights, and wonderful food and desserts (their wassail cannot be beat).
SDC is great most any time of the year (except during the ultra crowded summer months) but at Christmas it just goes to another level entirely.
Published: July 13, 2013 at 3:39 AM
We always make an annual trip to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Orlando. It's getting dramatically more expensive than it has been in past years and I would submit that it is the most expensive event at a US theme park if you get an express pass, topping out at just about $200.00 before tax on some nights.
On the other hand, we also hit up our local park, Busch Gardens Williamsburg for HowloScream, which is not a separately ticketed event. There are rumors that it will soon become a hard ticket experience, but for now we are able to enjoy it several times a season on our platinum pass.
We also attend BGW's Christmas Town event, which may be the one thing the park does better than Disney. This is a hard ticket event, but with our season's passes we get 50% off, resulting in a price, last year, of $13 dollars. The park is open from noon till 10. Each section of the park is themed differently in decorations and lighting. There are several shows and several rides open. Typically they have a coaster open, but it tends to get cold enough by the middle of December that they can't keep it open for the whole event run. They also bring in outside vendors that sell goods in a market place. I think this event blows Disney World's various Christmas experiences out of the water and it is well worth the price of admission.
Published: July 13, 2013 at 4:59 AM
For Orlando Events:
HHN has always been really well done, but I agree with a previous poster about the wait times- they are horrible. I also have been dissapointed in the themes for the past two years, hopefully this year will be better. Howl-O-Scream at BGT is also really well done- the lush landscaping in the park really adds to the scare factor at night; but again the lines can be terrible.
I had a terrible experience at Not So Scary last year- generally poor guest service and a feeling that the event was not worth the extra money. I won't be back. I have also been hoping for an east coast version of Holiday Mansion-- most people 'in the know' tell me that it will never happen though :( . I have not done Not So Merry, but I do love the Christmas Castle at MK, along with the other decorations at the park!
I always highly recommend SeaWorld's Spooktactular to families. It is included with park admission and is really great fun (for kids). Adults can trick or treat- but most activities are designed for kids. SeaWorld doesn't decorate the whole park for Halloween though, but the event seems to get a little bigger each year.
Last season I thought SeaWorld had the best Christmas event hands down! They park is beautifully decorated, shows are changed to Christmas themed, and new seasonal food is brought in. Just like Spooktactular it is included with park admission which also makes it the best value event in Orlando-- I hope they keep it up.
Published: July 13, 2013 at 4:23 PM
They are more annoying than they are fun. Christmas can be cool if you can go before schools let out. The most fun I ever had at Halloween was a Knott's Scary Farm back in the '80's. My date Barbara and I (clever us - we got around the "no costumes" rule by dressing totally in black) were in the final (of three) mazes when a monster jumped out at us! It threatened. I threatened. But the truth? The person in the costume was even more tired than we were (it was after 1:00 am). So it and I did what any adversarial duo would do: we began to waltz around the chamber. The next group, oblivious to the obvious, asked what we were doing. I looked at them and said, "We are dancing. What does it LOOK like we are doing?" To my unknown partner: I hope you are well and the memory brings you a chuckle. God Bless, always.
Published: July 14, 2013 at 7:19 AM
Our local park Kennywood, which is on the historical register, began opening during Christmas season two years ago. It's now become a tradition for us. Last year we went three times. The decorations and ambiance are excellent. It certainly gives a new slant to amusement parks. Drinking hot chocolate & sitting next to a raging bonfire while watching a Christmas themed light & music show on the lagoon gives you instant Christmas spirit. And this fall, since we'll be at Universal Orlando for two weeks, we'll attend our first HHN.
Published: July 14, 2013 at 8:04 AM
We always love going to HHN, even though it has become really pricey when you add the cost of the express pass to the cost of the event ticket. For me if I didn't buy the express there is no way I would go as 80% of your time would be standing in line. All in all I think the experience is still worth the price of admission, but it is reaching its limit for me soon.
We attended Mickey's Christmas Party one year and although it was kind of fun it definitely was not worth the price of admission if you are already a Passholder because you get popped for parking for this regardless because it is a separately ticketed event.
There are plenty of holiday activities at Epcot and Hollywood Studios that come with your regular admission ticket for us.
I would definitely recommend Mickey's Christmas Party to FL residents that don't have passes. The event is capacity controlled so even though you aren't there the full day you can pretty much do every attraction you want during that time.
Published: July 14, 2013 at 4:49 PM
From a 58 year old Universal AP holder, Love to walk around the parks early December when it is slow and the lights are up. Always go up for a few days then. However the only ticket I buy is to the Hollywood Studios for the lights. They are fantastic! Had enough of the Halloween zoo years ago.
Published: July 15, 2013 at 11:45 AM
For HHN, if you stay in the Universal resorts, they let you in early, so you can get two or three of the haunted houses done before the gates open to the rest of the world. I wouldn't go any other way. The Royal Pacific is the cheapest of their on site hotels, and in my opinion is the nicest.
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