Theme Park of the Day: Knott's Berry Farm

This year's Christmas and holiday events at Disney, Universal and other top theme parks

November 4, 2010, 2:58 PM · It used to be that the day after Thanksgiving marked the traditional beginning to the Christmas holiday season. These days, the start's moved up to day after Halloween, given the number of press releases that have hit my in-box this week, detailing holiday events at the nation's top theme parks.

Here's the round-up, for your holiday vacation planning:

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Walt Disney World
The holiday season starts at Walt Disney World on November 8, with the debut of The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios and the hard-ticket Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom.

On Nov. 26, the Holidays Around The World and Candlelight Processional get underway at Epcot and Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade returns to Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party runs selected evenings until December 19. The Epcot events run through Dec. 30, and the other events continue until January 3, 2011.

All events except Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party are included with park admission. For more information, visit

Universal Orlando
Universal's actually holding off until after Thanksgiving for its celebrations, in deference, I suppose, to its premier attraction, the Macy's Holiday Parade, being the focus of New York's Thanksgiving celebration. The Macy's parade runs daily at Universal Studios Florida from Dec. 4 through Jan. 1, 2011.

Over at Islands of Adventure, Grinchmas runs for those same days, featuring the Grinch and Whos from Dr. Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" in stage shows and meet-and-greets.

In addition, Mannheim Steamroller will play at Universal on Dec. 4, 11 and 18. All events are included with park admissions.

SeaWorld Orlando
SeaWorld Orlando debuts a new "Sea of Trees" Christmas tree display and Christmas Market shopping area this year. The park also returns its many holiday attraction overlays:

In addition, SeaWorld is offering the Makahiki Christmas Luau, which requires a reservation and additional charge. All other holiday events are included with park admission. The holiday shows take place Friday through Sunday, Nov. 26-Dec. 12, and then daily from Dec. 17-Jan. 2.

The holidays start on Nov. 12 at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Highlights include the "it's a small world" Holiday and Haunted Mansion Holiday overlays, as well as the Christmas Fantasy Parade, "Believe in Holiday Magic" fireworks and the crystallized Sleeping Beauty's Winter Castle. Big Thunder Ranch transforms into Santa's Reindeer Round-Up, where the kids can queue up for a visit with Santa.

All events are included with park admission and run through Jan. 2, 2011.

Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios Hollywood will again truck in several tons of real snow for its annual Grinchmas celebration, which runs Dec. 11 and 12 and continued daily from Dec. 18 through Jan. 2, 2011. The park will also offer meet and greets with the Whos and the Grinch, a nightly tree-lighting ceremony and celebrity readings of Dr. Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." Visitors on the park's Studio Tour will ride past the original movie sets where the "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" movie was filmed.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg
The Virginia theme park reopens as ChristmasTown, starting the day after Thanksgiving and running Friday through Sunday through Dec. 12 and daily from Dec. 18 through Dec. 31.

New at the park this year is the Miracles show in Il Teatro di San Marco. The Deck the Halls, O Tannenbaum and Rejoice shows also return, as do holiday lights displays throughout the park. (Many regular attractions are open, too.)

Busch Gardens Williamsburg opens for ChristmasTown 3 pm to either 9 or 10 pm. Tickets are $21.99 and are available online. (Passholders can get a 50 percent discount.)

Dollywood's Smoky Mountain Christmas runs from Nov. 6 to Jan. 1, 2011. This year marks the final season for Dollywood's Babes in Toyland show. In addition to the Polar Express Experience and Lighted Christmas Parade, the following shows also return this year:

Visitors who purchase a full-priced one-day ticket online will receive a free meal voucher, valid anytime after 3 p.m. at Hickory House BBQ, Victoria's Pizza, Red's Diner or the Sweet Shoppe.

Replies (10)

November 4, 2010 at 3:17 PM · You forgot to add Silver Dollar City to your list
November 4, 2010 at 4:11 PM · The great thing about Busch Gardens Williamsburg is that unlike the Disney or Universal parks in Florida they decorate the entire park with lights. This year they are planning on the normal 1 million lights thru England, France & Germany, but they are also going to have 1 million lights in the Italy section.

If you were unable to go for the first year of Christmastown I would highly recommend it as the park is beautiful lit up for Christmas and they even have a marketplace in the Germany section where you can buy product from vendors from throughout the state of Virginia.

November 4, 2010 at 6:13 PM · If anyone's got info on events at other theme parks, please feel free to add that in the comments. Thanks!
November 5, 2010 at 10:08 AM · @Frank, I was torn between Williamsburg and Hershey for the days after Christmas.
Thanks for the push. We are Virginians, albeit NoVA and it would be nice to keep those $$ in the local economy. Love what BG has been doing for kids, military, and those with disabilities.
November 5, 2010 at 12:56 PM · Whether or not it's because of their Thanksgiving Day parade, I gotta thank Universal for celebrating the festivities for a reasonable amount of time. Come on, Christmas in early November? That's a bit much.
November 10, 2010 at 6:52 AM · Hey, I'm a Disney World fan, but I gotta give Universal Orlando some credit for holding off after Turkey Day. (Ditto for Epcot - it's my favorite Disney Park because it holds off until that holiday to start off its event!) If you don't mind the Christmas creep, now's your chance to experience WDW with less crowds!
November 5, 2010 at 8:42 PM · I'm going down to central Florida for thanksgiving and I'm going to hit Busch Gardens since it's one of the view big theme parks I have never visited. I only wonder if they have a holiday event this year.
November 5, 2010 at 10:13 PM · six flags discovery kingdom starts the day after thanksgiving
November 7, 2010 at 11:19 PM · The holidays are my absolute favorite time at the parks. Wish I could visit them all but it looks like this year it'll just be Universal and Islands for us!
November 8, 2010 at 9:22 AM · I'd also like to note that when I visited in January 2007, Universal had their decorations up for the first week of January while Disney took theirs down after New Years. This was a nice touch as the first week of January still encompasses the technical Christmas period, which ends after Little Christmas (January 6). Additionally, the parks were emptier, so our family got to enjoy the Christmas festivities while avoiding the Christmas crowds.

To me, this also indicates a general appreciation of the customers. From a business standpoint, Christmas should start in November after the Halloween rush is over, and end on January 2 as the crowds from Christmas and New Years have mostly vanished. This seems to be Disney's sentiment. Universal, conversely, starts the festivities after Thanksgiving, which is still a bit early but a definite improvement, and ends after Little Christmas. They won't attract any extra customers with the January festivities, but they keep the decorations up, regardless.

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