What is your favorite theme park holiday tradition?

December 15, 2016, 10:52 AM · Christmas is just 10 days away, and holiday celebrations are running at full force in many of the nations top theme parks. Visitors can enjoy themed firework displays, holiday shows and parades, seasonal overlays on attractions, and, of course, heaps and heaps of yummy holiday food.

But what's your go-to, must-have holiday experience at a theme park? Whether you go every year or not, if you've ever had the pleasure of experiencing a theme park holiday event, you probably found something that you now consider a favorite.

For me? My favorite thing about theme parks during the holiday season has nothing to do with decorations or food. It's the weather.

I've spent most of my life and the vast majority of my theme park visits in Southern California and Orlando, where the summer temperatures can be oppressively hot. Throw in the humidity in Orlando, and summer theme park trips can be uncomfortable for anyone not acclimated to extreme weather.

When I worked at Disney, I kept the air conditioning in my room set to 82 degrees at night, as I found that helped me to cope with the heat of driving rafts to and from Tom Sawyer Island all day. The worst was when I had to go grocery shopping. I could feel the frozen food aisle at Gooding's sapping my desire to live with ever-present heat.

But in December... ahh! I could spend all day in the parks and literally not break a sweat. We also got these absolutely wonderful pea coats to wear on Tom Sawyer Island when the temperatures dropped below 65 — my single favorite Disney costume piece, along with the sweet cropped coats we got over at Pirates.

Cool weather meant the return of a bunch of great costume accessories across the resort: coats, hats, and other pieces that we didn't get to wear during the other, ludicrously hot months of the year. And because they made only limited appearances, these winter accessories tended to be in pretty good shape, as they had been worn and laundered to the breaking point, as our regular costumes sometimes were. Or maybe they just felt better it was just because we weren't sick of seeing them every day, too. (This was back in the day when Disney kept and laundered cast member costumes, so no one took them home.) Living in a hot climate means a rather limited wardrobe, as you just can't bear to wear too much.

So, for me, holidays at theme parks are all about clothes — the fun stuff that we get the chance to wear not just to celebrate the holidays but the season of cooler weather in general.

What is your favorite theme park holiday tradition?

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Replies (15)

December 15, 2016 at 11:39 AM · We traditionally like going in the weeks prior to Christmas high season. We get to enjoy the Christmas offerings of the parks when it is less crowded and find the cast members and other tourists to be more relaxed.

Some of my favorite things to do is to watch the fireworks and to watch the holiday shows. I love watching the pure joy of small children as Santa comes at the end of parades...now that is Christmas at it's best!

December 15, 2016 at 11:49 AM · It used to be Osborne Lights at DHS, but Disney took them out. Hopefully Universal will pick up more lights for their New York area next year.
December 15, 2016 at 2:27 PM · Great Adventure Holiday in the Park
December 15, 2016 at 3:57 PM · I love having The Macy's Parade at Universal Orlando. I also think it's great that park guests are allowed to be balloon handlers. It's something just about everybody who grew up in America has seen in their lifetime, and to get a chance to be part of the parade is a big thrill.
December 16, 2016 at 1:38 AM · It was the Osborne Lights at DHS. We went this year and it was just not the same. Not even close. Very sad.
December 16, 2016 at 3:37 AM · Honestly, I don't really care much for the seasonal overlays and excessive holiday decorations in many theme park today. A little goes a long way with me and a lot of the time it just comes across as tacky. So there's no "must have" holiday experience for me. But I can relate to Robert with regards to enjoying the cooler weather and more dapper attire. Trouble is winter is a busy time for me and few times I've been able to get to a theme park during the Christmas season it's always been insanely packed.
December 16, 2016 at 4:36 AM · Epcot's candlelight professional and illuminations peace on earth final
December 16, 2016 at 6:38 AM · The week following New Years has a lot less crowds and still has the cool winter weather. The Christmas decorations will still be up and many Christmas shows, food and entertainment will still be playing. Thus, you'll still have a great time. I love Disneyland's Christmas parade and Small World Holiday and will see them after my Annual Pass blackout dates are lifted.
December 16, 2016 at 8:29 AM · My tradition is mostly sitting at home in London with the family saying 'remember that Christmas at WDW'
'Oh I bet its gorgeous there right now'
'Remember it rained the whole afternoon and we felt like we had the place to ourselves!'
(That last comment is proof it was a long time ago!)
December 16, 2016 at 10:32 AM · Love going to Busch Gardens Williamsburg,for Christmas every year the light displays and the shows get bigger and better. My granddaughter loves it as well. we have been there 3 times for the Christmas events
December 16, 2016 at 3:17 PM · For me it's simply the decorations, hot chocolate and festive ambience - plus the opportunity to extend roller coaster season, which typically ends in the Northeast at the end of October. In the Northeast we have an entirely different situation from Robert's; if I were to go to Florida - as I did a couple of years ago to Busch Gardens Tampa - it would be to warm up, not to cool off. Went to Holiday in the Park at Six Flags Over Texas last weekend, hoping that it would be nice and warm but in fact it was decidedly chilly.
December 16, 2016 at 4:29 PM · ^Great Adventure has a wonderful Holiday in the Park. My love El Toro isn't open but it's still fun. I'm checking out the Holiday in the Park at Discovery Kingdom soon and I am very excited.
December 17, 2016 at 9:24 AM · This is a terrible idea. Why buck 45 years of tradition just to make a quick buck.

If somebody thinks not having alchol at Magic Kingdom is a dealbreaker, they probably shouldn't be going to the Magic Kingdom in the first place. I mean, they have THREE other parks that you can as much wine and beer as you please!

Go to EPCOT!

December 19, 2016 at 10:54 PM · Holiday in the Park at Six Flags - from what I have heard 'Holiday' is set up by an outside company which could explain why the parks do such a great job and look so amazing for the season...contrast to Fright Fest which is sorely lacking in theming and décor. Also it is neat to get to ride coasters at night and see all the Christmas lights from way up above, a rare perspective indeed!

I have experienced 'Holiday' at SF Over Texas and SF Over Georgia and look forward to this tradition hopefully for decades to come.

December 21, 2016 at 1:16 AM · Pumpkin and Gingerbread Beignets in french quarters/new orleans square/train station /fountain area, haunted mansion holiday, and the awesome sight of its a small world all lit up with the animal bushes, etc. Small World outshines the castle in every way. On the Knotts side of things, the snoopy christmas on ice is the best show you can get in any of the SoCal parks at any time, and We make it a point to see that show every year. Now that CAA has the christmas water show, that night become a tradition. We were going to start ice skating at DD in front if the DD AMC, but it waa to expensive and you had to wear a helmet and the rink was to small. The irvine specteum tink is to small too, so we go to the sanra monica rink. To bad they had to tear down the ice chalet in costa mesa. Forgive the /sp er's

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