10 Theme Park Celebrations For a Holly, Jolly Holiday

Tarah Chieffi

New Albany, IN

We know 2020 has been a real Scrooge, but even with modified offerings and health measures in place, theme parks around the world are bringing major Christmas cheer this holiday season. From festive decor to live entertainment and over-the-top holiday treats, even that mean old Scrooge might get a smile on his face.

There’s snow much going on that we decided to break down the best places things to see, do and eat at 10 theme parks around the world. Unless otherwise noted, these events are included with park admission, so let’s get merry, Grinches. 

Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida. Credit: @waltdisneyworld

When: November 6 – December 30, 2020

Where: Orlando, Florida

While this year’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and the Candlelight Processional are cancelled for health and safety reasons, each of Disney World’s four theme parks has holiday treats, decorations, and even a chance to see Santa (from a safe distance, of course). At Magic Kingdom, guests will be greeted by a 65 foot tall tree and can catch Disney characters on parade floats throughout the day. Animal Kingdom’s decor evokes the spirit of nature and Hollywood Studios is taking on a glitzy Tinseltown feel. 

Expert Tip: If you want to experience the holidays at all four parks, now’s the time. The Taste of Epcot International Festival of the Holidays runs from November 27 to December 30 and includes food booths with dishes from around the world, a cookie stroll, live music, and more. 

Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Orlando Resort, Orlando, Florida. Credit: Universal Orlando

When: November 14 – January 3, 2021

Where: Orlando, Florida

Universal Orlando has more Christmas cheer than every Who down in Whoville combined. To comply with social distancing guidelines, this year’s Macy’s holiday balloons and Christmas floats will be parked so guests can safely stroll along and check them out. Santa, the Grinch, and other favorite characters will be on-hand for safe selfies, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will be fully decorated for the holidays.

Expert Tip: While you can get cold or frozen Butterbeer all year round, hot Butterbeer is only available during the holiday season, so sip up!

Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay, Florida. Credit: buschgardens

When: November 20 – January 3, 2021

Where: Tampa, Florida

This year, the Busch Gardens Christmas Town event combines new open-air activities with holiday favorites for a safe celebration. There’s an outdoor Christmas on Ice show, holiday-themed fireworks, and millions of Christmas lights to brighten your spirit. Guests can meet Rudolph, Santa, and his jolly elves while they sip hot cocoa and dine on a selection of holiday treats.

Expert Tip: If you love cookies as much as Santa, spring for a Holiday Sampler pass to save on seasonal food and beverages.

Legoland

LEGOLAND, Winter Park, Florida. Credit: LEGOLAND

When: Select Days November 27 – December 31, 2020

Where: Winter Park, Florida

LEGOLAND always has something fun and family friendly up their sleeves for all the major holidays. This Christmas season, kids (and grown ups) can meet LEGO versions of Santa and other popular yuletide characters, marvel at a 30-foot tall LEGO Christmas tree strewn with twinkling lights, and even help Santa’s Master Builders build toys out of LEGO bricks. 

Expert Tip: On New Year’s Eve, the final night of the event, there will be an 8pm fireworks show so kids can ring in the new year at a reasonable hour.

Disneyland Tokyo

Disneyland Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan. Credit: @tokyodisneyresort_official

When: November 10 – December 25, 2020

Where: Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo Disneyland’s official Christmas celebration was canceled this year, but they aren’t letting the holidays pass by without a few touches of merriment. Both Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea will have decor, special menu items (mmm…chocolate churros!), and characters like Donald and Duffy Bear in their holiday best. The Mickey & Friends Greeting Parade will even feature Mickey as Santa Claus! 

Expert Tip: Stop by the Horizon Bay Restaurant in Tokyo DisneySea for a fully-themed holiday meal complete with a reindeer-inspired dessert.

Alton Towers

Alton Towers, Staffordshire, England. Credit: Allen Towers

When: December 5, 6, 12, and 13, 2020

Where: Staffordshire, England

Alton Towers’ theme park and hotels are currently closed in accordance with COVID regulations, but they are offering a Festive Days Out event for local visitors. Select outdoor rides will be open for guests to enjoy, along with a socially-distant Santa, gorgeous Garden Lights Walk, and holiday entertainment and treats.

Expert Tip: England can get pretty frosty this time of year and most of this event takes place outside. Bundle up in a warm coat and bring along some gloves and a hat just in case.

Dollywood

Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Credit: @dollywood

When: November 7, 2020 – January 3, 2021

Where: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Visiting the snow-capped Smoky Mountains during Christmas time is enough to get anybody tapping their toes to Christmas music, but a visit to Dolly Parton’s namesake park will have you belting out “Let it Snow” all day long. The entire park is bathed in more than five million twinkling lights and guests can take in seasonal shows, festive food, and holiday shopping.

Expert Tip: Guests who visit on Fridays and Saturdays during the festival will be treated to an all new wintertime fireworks show. 

Silver Dollar City

Silver Dollar City, Branson, Missouri. Credit: @sdcattractions

When: November 7 – December 30, 2020

Where: Branson, Missouri

Expert Tip: Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas event takes on a traditional holiday ambience with trees, wreaths, and lights adorning every corner of the park, classic holiday feasts, caroling, and, of course, a chance to visit with Santa. Even the train that tours the Ozark Mountains surrounding the park is trimmed in colorful lights!

Expert Tip: Come hungry because there are holiday food and drink offerings throughout the park, including hot wassail and apple butter funnel cakes.

Hersheypark

Hersheypark, Hershey, Pennsylvania. Credit: @hersheypark

When: November 13, 2020 – January 3, 2021

Where: Hershey, Pennsylvania

A park dedicated to candy obviously isn’t going to pass up the chance to celebrate the holidays. Hersheypark Christmas Candylane event includes a Christmas tree made from Hershey Kisses, photo opportunities with dressed up Hershey characters, and access to Hersheypark’s famous coasters. Overnight guests can book a Cookies From Santa package that includes free milk and cookies at one of the onsite hotels.

Expert Tip: Even without a park ticket, visitors can check out Hershey Sweet Lights: a drive-thru attraction with close to 600 animated light displays.

Universal Studios Japan

Universal Studios Japan, Osaka, Japan. Credit: @universal_studios_japan

When: November 13 – December 27, 2020

Where: Osaka, Japan

At Universal Studios Japan, guests will find the typical lights, entertainment, and tasty treats…with a few Universal “twists.” In the Minion Park section, the decorations are yellow and Minions in funny Christmas costumes will be walking around to meet visitors. There’s also a special Happy Deco Mask program where guests can get holiday stickers to decorate their protective face coverings. 

Expert Tip: Catch favorite characters like Snoopy and Hello Kitty during the lively Happy Christmas Street Party in the Hollywood section of the park.