Parks illuminate for the holidays
AT: Pam Sherborne
Amusement and theme parks across the U.S., big and small, are hosting an abundance of holiday celebrations to put the young and old alike in the holiday spirit.
Most festivities began in November and run until the end of December or into 2020.
Following are some of those holiday celebrations.
SeaWorld Orlando (Florida), SeaWorld San Antonio (Texas) andSeaWorld San Diego (California) kicked off the holidays with festivities that started Nov. 23 and will run through Dec. 31. The parks are aglow in millions of lights and offer festive food and beverages, strolling entertainment, holiday shopping, Santa sightings, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and more.
New this year to all three SeaWorld parks is the Sesame Street Christmas Parade as well as the presentation ofO Wondrous Night.
A highlight at SeaWorld Orlando is a sea of dazzling lights with the Sea of Trees as images on over 100 trees come to life, including a giant centerpiece tree that towers 70 feet above the water.
An additional new event at SeaWorld San Diego is Cirque Christmas.
Another SeaWorld Park and Entertainment company, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Virginia, began its holiday celebration, titled Christmas Town, on Nov. 16. The event will last until Jan. 5, with 10 million lights, the Christmas Town Express holiday-themed train ride, Santa’s Workshop, and festive food, drinks and unique holiday shopping. Guests can dine with Saint Nick and Mrs. Claus and enjoy musical performances from Sesame Street characters. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer will be on hand and live performances abound.
New for 2019 is an inspirational holiday music show and an all-new Christmas tree maze.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Florida, kicked off the holidays on Nov. 16 and will run through Jan. 6.
Being featured here are the Sing-Along Train, holiday shows and of course, visits with Santa and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Christmas Town at Tampa Bay features extended hours on weekends and additional select dates with even more festive experiences, including indulgent culinary treats at the Christmas Town Village, and nighttime experiences on exciting rides and attractions.
and Resorts Company
It’s the most wonderful time of the year in Hershey, Pa., withHersheypark Christmas Candylane currently underway for another holiday season. Christmas Candylane opened Nov. 15 and will run through Jan. 1.
The celebration features family-friendly rides and coasters, weather permitting, as well as four million sparkling lights and live entertainment holiday shows.
Hershey characters are abundant throughout.
A new offering for 2019, Reese’s Cupfusion attraction, has guests joining the mission to protect the factory and ensure the world is never deprived of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
Children can meet Santa in his indoor heated Candy Cottage and his reindeer also are making a special stop at Christmas Candylane.
Additionally, guests are able to view a variety of animals at ZooAmerica North American Wildlife Park.
Signature hot chocolate as well as other sweet treats like s’mores and King Size Shakes are being served.
The Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, is holding its holiday celebrations from Nov. 29-Jan. 1. Being featured are tours of the ship, of course. Located in the Port of Long Beach, the Queen Mary, anUrban Commons property, took its maiden voyage in May 1936. It is rich in maritime history, with authentic art deco and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Long Beach city skyline.
Additional highlights include strolling entertainment, gingerbread and stocking decorating, live performances, Santa meet and greets, and ice skating on the True North Ice Rink featuring a glittering 28-foot-tall Christmas tree in the center.
Coney Island Cincinnati
Coney Island Cincinnati, Ohio, kicked off Christmas Nights of Lights on Nov. 8. It will last through Jan. 5.
New for 2019 is a 45-foot-tall Christmas tree with shooting stars, 12 life-sized gingerbread men and new sing-along songs.
Among other highlights, the drive-through holiday light show is greeting guests with more than one million lights driven by more than 40,000 computer channels.
Jungle Island, Miami, Florida's eco-adventure attraction, has reinvented an ancient Buddhist tradition with a "Magic City" twist through the debut of its Luminosa Festival of Lights. In partnership withZigong Lantern Group andChina Lantern International, the park opened its new event on Oct. 5. It will run through Jan. 8.
Guests take a journey through light across 13 of the park’s 18 acres. The journey tells a magical story of the jungle, which begins with an exploration of wildlife, birds, bloom and the beautiful Biscayne Bay.
A few of the visual delights include oversized orchids and flowers, a demure cassowary and striking silk parrots in the Birds and Blooms exhibit, a sea of glowing jellyfish in the Biscayne Bay display and some of the world’s rarest animals down Jungle Trail.
Luminosa also features daily shows with Chinese acrobats, roving entertainment and live bands on the weekends, aMoet Champagne lounge, food trucks and bars.
Space Center Houston
A new holiday tradition is taking place at the Space Center Houston this year. Called Galaxy Lights, the event, being presented byReliant, began Nov. 5 and will run through Jan. 5. Galaxy Lights has transformed the center with a variety of space-themed installations of technologically-advanced LED lights, 3-D projections and interactive displays.
Among some of the highlights include a ride on theNASA Tram Tour to stargaze at an indoor meteor shower before traveling toJohnson Space Center through an LED lighted tunnel of more than 250,000 lights synchronized to festive holiday music. A 40-foot-tall Christmas tree is greeting guests at the building entrance.
Herschend Family Entertainment company's park properties know how to get guests into the holiday spirit.
At Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, festivities started for Dollywood's Smoky Mountain Christmas on Nov. 9. It runs through Jan. 4.
Among highlights of the celebration taking place is the entertainment provided by Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and friends, a sit-down Christmas feast at many of Dollywood's award-winning dining locations, holiday shopping and strolling entertainment all under five million brilliant lights.
Santa and Mrs. Claus are on hand as well.
There is Glacier Ridge, with a 50-foot-tall video motion Christmas tree and award-winning holiday musical productions like Dollywood’s ownChristmas in the Smokies, It’s a Wonderful Life and many more.
Most of Dollywood’s signature rides and attractions are operating, with rides racing along just above the millions of twinkling lights.
The Old Time Christmas celebration atSilver Dollar City, Branson, Missouri, kicked off on Nov. 2 and will run through Dec. 30. The highlight for guests this year is the park's new 80-foot-tall Christmas tree. The custom-designed, towering tree soars eight stories and is the centerpiece of a new area, Joy on Town Square, which is serving as the entry to the park's holiday wonderland. This project cost $1.5 million to add this year.
Along with the new tree, the park is boasting nearly seven million lights. There are 1,000 decorated Christmas trees, 600 wreaths, over three miles of garland and 15,000 yards of ribbon all setting the stage for holiday entertainment, foods, shopping and attractions in this Christmas celebration.
It is featuring Rudolph’s Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade, as well as other Broadway-style production shows including original adaptations ofA Dickens’ Christmas Carol andIt’s a Wonderful Life.
Other features include Santa Claus Lane, the Sing-Along Steam Train ride through the Ozarks, Rudolph’s Christmas Town with crafts and activities, a talking Christmas tree at Tinker Junior’s Toy Shop, and even a holiday-themed Saloon show.
Over 40 rides and attractions are operating.
Wild Adventures, Valdosta, Georgia, will run its holiday celebrations Dec. 14-29. It is boasting over one million Christmas lights, a five-story-tall Christmas tree, appearances by Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, the Candy Cane Express, bonfires with holiday treats and a production of the The Miracle of Christmas with a A Living Nativity Scene.
Gaylord Resort Hotels
Millions of lights, holiday treats and eats, live shows and decorated trees are part of the 2019 celebrations at Gaylord Resort Hotels as each hotel puts its own twist on the holidays. One common highlight among the hotels is ICE!, which takes two million pounds of ice to create. The ICE! shows also feature known and fun characters.
Gaylord Texan Resort, Grapevine, Texas, is enjoying ICE! featuring "A Charlie Brown Christmas" as well as 125 acres of a winter wonderland with millions of twinkling lights. There are two million pounds of Texas snow for a two-story tall, eight-lane tubing hill. It also features a 54-foot-tall Christmas tree and a 6,000-square-foot outdoor ice skating rink.
The Texas event began Nov. 15 and will run through Jan. 5.
The other Gaylord hotels presenting holiday festivities are:Gaylord Opryland, Nashville, Nov. 8-Jan. 1, ICE! featuring "A Christmas Story;"Gaylord Palms, Orlando, Florida, ICE! featuring "The Polar Express," Nov. 25-Jan. 25;Gaylord National, National Harbor, Maryland, ICE! featuring "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," Nov. 15-Dec. 30, andGaylord Rockies, Denver, Colorado, ICE! featuring "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," Nov. 22-Jan. 5.
Many of this company's amusement and theme parks kicked off the holiday season in November with an abundance of festivities.
Canada’s Wonderland has been transformed into a magical winter wonderland with its new immersive event. WinterFest here opened Nov. 22 and will run Dec. 31. Guests are experiencing enchanting themed areas adorned with more than five million holiday lights, festive décor and three, 50-foot-tall Christmas trees.
Canada's Wonderland WinterFest activities are including ice skating on Snow Flake Lake in front of the iconic Wonder Mountain, a nightly tree-lighting ceremony, live holiday shows, strolling performers, select family rides, and interactive attractions like cookie decorating with Mrs. Claus, writing letters to Santa at the North Pole Post Office and creating take-home keepsakes at Sally’s Christmas Crafts. There is holiday shopping and plenty of holiday treats.
Other Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. parks presenting WinterFest, with their own twist, are:Great America, Santa Clara, California, Nov. 29-Dec. 31;Carowinds, Charlotte, North Carolina, Nov. 24-Dec. 31;Kings Dominion, Doswell, Virginia, Nov. 23-Jan. 1;Kings Island, Kings Mill, Ohio, Nov. 22-Dec. 31;Worlds of Fun, Oceans of Fun, Kansas City, Missouri, Nov. 23-Dec. 31, andKnott's Berry Farm, Buena Park, California, Nov. 22-Jan. 5.