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Here’s How Theme Parks Are Celebrating the Holidays This Year

The holidays are just around the corner, and theme parks are preparing for the return of many guest-favorite shows and parades, ride overlays, after-hours parties and holiday treats.

Here’s what to expect from Disney, SeaWorld, Sesame Place, Legoland and Universal.

Disney Parks

Soon after putting away the Mickey-shaped Halloween decorations, Disneyland will ring in the holidays from Nov. 11, 2022, through Jan. 8, 2023. World of Color – Season of Light and ¡Viva Navidad! will take place in California Adventure, while A Christmas Fantasy Parade and Believe...In Holiday Magic fireworks (featuring a magical snowfall) will happen at Disneyland Park.

Guests can also experience holiday attraction overlays like Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl, Mater’s Jingle Jamboree and “it’s a small world” Holiday. Haunted Mansion Holiday celebrates its 21st birthday this year with a gingerbread house featuring troublemaking trick-or-treaters Lock, Shock and Barrel.

Disney Festival of Holidays in California Adventure is always a seasonal highlight, showcasing tastes and traditions of Christmas, Navidad, Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Three Kings’ Day.

Walt Disney World is also getting into the holiday spirit from Nov. 11, 2022, to Jan. 8, 2023. Clients can visit Merry Menagerie at Animal Kingdom to see life-size, artisan-sculpted winter animal puppets and see Olaf the snowman at For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration at Hollywood Studios. In Epcot, Guardian of the Galaxy’s Star-Lord will trade his 80s playlist for seasonal jams at Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, while guests can enjoy the return of the Candlelight Processional — featuring the story of Christmas told by celebrity narrators — at Epcot International Festival of the Holidays.

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, an after-hours separately ticketed event, also returns to Magic Kingdom. On select nights from Nov. 8 to Dec. 22, visitors can enjoy Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration, Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks Show, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade and — in honor of the resort’s 50th anniversary — special photo ops and a holiday keepsake.

“We’re grateful for the support of the travel advisor community, who do an amazing job helping guests plan their holiday celebrations at Disneyland and Walt Disney World,” said Jodi Bainter, director of travel agency sales for Disney Destinations. “It’s thrilling to see Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party return to Magic Kingdom this year, and we’re also excited for the return of holiday favorites to Disneyland.”

SeaWorld and Sesame Place Parks

SeaWorld parks from coast to coast transform into winter wonderlands with twinkling lights, festive foods, seasonal shows and plenty of holiday cheer. SeaWorld San Antonio even boasts the largest Christmas lights display in Texas. SeaWorld's Christmas Celebration takes place on select dates from November to January in Orlando, San Antonio and San Diego.

Clients can also join the family friendly Very Furry Christmas Celebrations at Sesame Place parks in San Diego and Philadelphia, which feature holiday shows and parades, festive decorations and favorite Sesame Street pals dressed in their seasonal best. The event takes place on select dates from November to January; see each city’s website for more details. The Philadelphia park will celebrate Hanukkah and Kwanzaa on select dates, as well.

Legoland Parks

Celebrating its first-ever Holiday Bricktacular from Nov. 25 to Dec. 31, Legoland New York is pulling out all the stops with holiday decor in Brick Street and Bricktopia, a dance party, Letter to Santa postal service, holiday character meet and greets, a sing-along with Mrs. Claus and a Lego tree-lighting ceremony. From Nov. 19, 2022, to Jan. 8, 2023, Holidays at Legoland California includes meet-and-greets with holiday Lego characters — including Santa, the Toy Soldier and the Gingerbread Man — and a life-size Lego Santa and sleigh for awesome photo ops. Clients won’t want to miss the nightly Holiday Light Show, when the 30-foot Lego Christmas tree decorated with more than 400 Lego ornaments is illuminated to holiday tunes and falling “snow.” The Kids’ New Year's Eve celebration will ring in 2023 at a kid-friendly hour with rides, activities and an early fireworks display featuring cascading Lego bricks in the sky.

At Legoland Florida Resort, meanwhile, the Holidays at Legoland festivities include the chance to send letters to Lego Santa at the Holiday Village Postal Service, rock around the giant Lego tree to holiday tunes and take “elfies” with holiday characters. Events at Legoland Florida take place on select dates from November through December.

Universal Parks

Favorite holiday experiences are back at Universal parks, including Grinchmas and Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter — featuring The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle projection show — as well as performances in Orlando by world-renowned holiday artist Mannheim Steamroller.

“Both Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood offer incredible holiday celebrations that allow guests to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year with epic festivities,” said Lora Sauls, senior manager of entertainment creative development for Universal Orlando Resort. “Dazzling decorations and holiday-themed character encounters also come to life across both coasts to help bring the merriment of the season to our guests.”

Universal's Holiday Parade hits the streets of Universal Studios Florida with Macy's trademark larger-than-life balloons; holiday floats featuring characters from the Despicable Me, Madagascar and Shrek franchises; and, of course, Santa, who headlines the lighting of the park's 80-foot Christmas tree.

In addition to the seasonal Hogwarts projection show, the already magical Hogsmeade villages in both parks and Diagon Alley in Orlando are “extra” during the holidays, with decorations themed to each wizarding shop and special performances by the Hogwarts Frog Choir and Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees.

The Grinchiest time of year is also celebrated on both coasts with the Who-liday Spectacular, a live musical retelling of Dr. Seuss’s holiday classic. In Orlando, clients can join The Grinch & Friends Character Breakfast; in Hollywood, they can opt for the Who-bilation, which includes the lighting of a 65-foot Dr. Seuss-inspired Grinchmas tree and SoCal snowfall.

“There are tons of holiday touches at Universal Orlando that shouldn’t be missed,” said Donna DeGiacomo, a Florida-based travel consultant for Pixie Vacations. “But clients who have experienced Mannheim Steamroller say it’s the coolest thing they've done in a theme park — and one of the best concerts they’ve ever seen.”

Holiday celebrations run daily from Nov. 25, 2022, through Jan. 1, 2023, at Universal Studios Hollywood, and Nov. 12, 2022, through Jan. 1, 2023, at Universal Orlando Resort. Mannheim Steamroller performances in Orlando will take place Dec. 3, 4, 10 and 11.

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