When Should Theme Parks Start the Christmas Season?

November 1, 2022, 6:07 PM · It's the day after Halloween, which means that many around the nation are rushing to put up their Christmas decorations and get going with the holiday season.

Are you in the holiday spirit already? Or would you prefer a break between the goth chaos of Halloween and the sweet sentiment of the Christmas season?

Once upon a time, we had such a break, and it was called Thanksgiving. But theme parks pretty much have decided to ignore November's biggest holiday in favor of cutting to the big finale at year's end. Granted, you will find plenty of turkey- and pumpkin pie-inspired foodstuffs for sale at the parks leading up to Thanksgiving Day, but almost no one is programming entertainment and attractions for that holiday.

Requisite shout-out here to Indiana's Holiday World, which does celebrate Thanksgiving throughout its season - but that season does not actually extend to November and Thanksgiving Day. Sigh.

Among major year-round theme parks, Universal Studios Hollywood holds off until Thanksgiving passes to begin its holiday celebrations. Yes, Epcot also holds off until "Black Friday" to start its Festival of the Holidays, but Christmas blankets so much else at the resort by that time that I feel like I cannot give Walt Disney World credit for holiday patience.

Personally, I appreciate at least a weekend off after Halloween before seeing Christmas trees and lights appear and eggnog hitting the dairy case. I need the space to breathe there. But I suspect that if it were not for Halloween, some parks would be firing up the Christmas celebrations soon after the start of the new school year.

So when are you ready to celebrate the holidays? Talk to us in the comments. In the meantime, here are the start dates for some notable theme park holiday events:

Walt Disney World: Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party starts November 8, the resort-wide Holidays celebration starts November 11, with the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays starting November 25.

Universal Orlando: Holidays at Universal Orlando, including Grinchmas, Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s, and Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, begin November 12.

Disneyland: Holiday entertainment and attractions begin November 11 at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.

Universal Studios Hollywood: Grinchmas and Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter begin November 25.

Knott’s Berry Farm: Knott’s Merry Farm starts November 18.

SeaWorld: SeaWorld's Christmas Celebration begins November 10 in San Antonio, November 11 in Orlando, and November 14 in San Diego.

Busch Gardens: Christmas Town begins November 11 in Williamsburg and November 14 in Tampa Bay.

Six Flags: Holiday in the Park begins November 24 at Magic Mountain in Los Angeles and November 25 at Great Adventure in New Jersey.

Dollywood: Smoky Mountain Christmas begins November 5.

Silver Dollar City: An Old Time Christmas begins November 5.

Happy holidays to all, and thank you for reading Theme Park Insider.

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Replies (11)

November 1, 2022 at 6:33 PM

what about Knott's Merry Farm?

November 1, 2022 at 6:43 PM

Ouch. Knew I would forget one. Added.

November 1, 2022 at 7:08 PM

I think I'm of two minds here that essentially lead to the same answer. First, I don't have much use for Thanksgiving in its conventionally celebrated way. We don't need a whole month to let corporations hit us over the head with turkeys, pilgrims or —god forbid— how thankful we should be for a diet soda. Second, Christmas is excellent. Many people love Christmas, and if that makes them happy ... I dunno, I can hardly begrudge them the two month window.

That is coming from someone who is ready to start celebrating Halloween on August 30 every year. Perhaps sooner.

November 1, 2022 at 7:33 PM

Considering most retailers these days start selling Christmas stuff just after the 4th of July, I’m somewhat pleasantly surprised that they hold off until the first week of November. But if you think the holiday decorations go up quickly at the start of the season, you should see how quickly the stuff comes down in early January!

November 1, 2022 at 8:11 PM

With how busy parks can get during the Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s weeks, I’m fine with parks starting the holiday season early. It gives people some slow days to appreciate the limited-time offerings.

November 2, 2022 at 1:18 AM

I think a bit of a wait after Halloween to get to Xmas stuff is fine but mid-November seems a perfectly good time to start it.

November 2, 2022 at 2:32 AM

For me personally, I usually don't start feeling in a Christmas mood until late November. As such, in an ideal world, I'd love it if them parks waited until the weekend after Thanksgiving to kick off their Christmas events, which would give about 4 weeks for them. However, given the popularity of such and the budget that goes into them, I think it's fair to start them the second weekend of November, which is approximately 6 weeks out. Starting the first weekend in November, or even worse, October, is just too early.

November 2, 2022 at 6:47 AM

November 2nd to get in a holiday experience before the crowds figure it out!

November 2, 2022 at 1:40 PM

From a (sadly) commercial standpoint, Thanksgiving is limiting for theme parks, outside of food. So, much like retail...Christmas festivities start on November 1st. The yearly Oct 31st / Nov 1st Mariah Carey memes & IG posts sum it up perfectly. (At 12am on Nov 1st, she she magically switches from her costume to All I Want For Christmas mode) and that's pretty much how the theme parks are.

On the positive side, for those who love the holiday (count me as one :). It gives people more time to visit & enjoy the season offerings..without limiting it to a just 5 weeks or so.

November 3, 2022 at 11:50 AM

Start on Dec 23 and end on Dec 26.

November 5, 2022 at 11:58 AM

Having returned from a trip to Walt Disney World that started on October 30 and ended on November 2, I can say that while I was ok with the Christmas decorations in Magic Kingdom that went up on the 1st and 2nd, the Christmas music blaring in the 97 degree heat as soon as we got off the ferry on the 2nd just felt off. Literally went from seeing Chip n Dale trick or treating two days before. Maybe the music could play only at night? But during the day when it’s sweltering and sun is blazing, the music this early seemed incongruous. Bonus: did have a wonderful Jingle Cruise skipper, Marcos, and enjoyed that seasonal spin.

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