Which Theme Park Celebrates the Holidays the Best?

December 17, 2022, 5:57 PM · Finals week continues here on Theme Park Insider, but we hope that this one feels better than any of yours from high school or college.

Today's final-round for in the 21st annual Theme Park Insider Awards is for Best Holiday Event. Again, to clarify, we are talking about year-end holiday events here. Most of our finalists are Christmas-focused, but Disneyland throws in a Festival of Holidays at California Adventure that encompasses Hanukkah, Diwali, and Kwanzaa, while Universal Orlando's celebration includes a Thanksgiving icon with its version of the Macy's Parade.

Six events stood out among those nominated by Theme Park Insider readers over the past weeks. Now it's your turn to pick which of these six will win this year's honor. Your finalists are:

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Christmas Town

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Christmas Town

Holidays at the Disneyland Resort

Holidays at the Disneyland Resort

Holidays at Universal Orlando

Holidays at Universal

Knott's Merry Farm

Knott's Merry Farm

SeaWorld Orlando Christmas Celebration

SeaWorld Christmas Celebration

Smoky Mountain Christmas at Dollywood

Smoky Mountain Christmas

Please consider this your invitation to campaign for your favorite in the comments.

Previous categories: Best Halloween Event and Best New Attraction of 2022

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Replies (7)

December 17, 2022 at 6:03 PM

SeaWorld, and it's not even close for me. Some of the folks in the Disney/Universal bubble need to break out and experience this wonderful event sometime.

December 17, 2022 at 6:08 PM

SeaWorld is overall the best - unless you like shoulder to shoulder Disney suffering

December 17, 2022 at 6:34 PM

I still say that Disneyland is the best overall due to the sheer amount of holiday exclusive offerings (including two ride overlays that are arguably better than the classic versions), but I concur with the above that in the Orlandosphere SeaWorld beats out Universal and especially Disney by a pretty sizable margin.

December 17, 2022 at 7:33 PM

Sea World from this list followed by BGT.

Very honorable mention goes to an event not on the list….Winterfest at Kings Island. I was really impressed by that event.

December 17, 2022 at 7:43 PM

I've always hear that Kings Island's Winterfest is the best out there. I've done Carowinds, and it's good. But King's Island is suppose to have an incredible parade.

December 18, 2022 at 3:22 PM

'Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party'.

December 18, 2022 at 10:01 PM

I think Silver Dollar City, Sea World Orlando, and Dollywood top this list. These three parks have the perfect mix of decor and entertainment. BGT would be top tier if it had like one more good show but other than the ice skating show the entertainment seems to be on a shoestring budget. Also I will admit I have been sour on the Sea World company the past several years because of ridiculous pricing (I swear everything at SWO and BGT is more expensive than the other Florida parks) and shoddy management decisions like 5% and rides having shortened operating hours to save money.

Some of the SF ones are shockingly well done, Great Adventure is a park I like to rip on but credit where it's do the park looks really nice during the Christmas event and I like that they operate most all of their coasters even in the cold.
(Now of course being the biggest park in the countries biggest market should be really good...but lets be serious here do we really expect it to be?)

Overall WDW has a lot of nice Christmas decor but the fact that MK's Christmas event is an upsell I think takes it off the list. While the Halloween party has a point to it (you wear a costume and go trick or treating), the Christmas Party has always seemed like more of an obvious cash grab. There are some neat things about it (fireworks, parade, holiday Speedway, holiday Space Mountain) but they could easily just do this each night during the holidays without having to a whole separate ticket event for it.
But based off a rough calculation they make like $2.5 million just in ticket sales per event, and they have like 4 of them per week, so that will never happen.

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