After living in Florida for over four years, we have visited most of the theme parks, many of them over Christmas time.
Here are my top picks for the best theme parks to visit this Christmas:
Universal (Islands of Adventure)
We went to Universal’s Island of Adventure last Christmas and we had a blast. We didn’t make it to the Universal Studios side of the park though – I’m told that is where you can see the floats from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade that takes place in NYC.
In terms of Islands of Adventure, the main Christmas parts of the park that I noticed were Hogwarts and Hogsmeade and Dr Zeuss’ Landing.
They light up the Hogwarts “castle” with a full light projection show. This is so popular that it can be really difficult to get into, so you may have to line up early. While it was specifically around the holiday season, I wouldn’t say that this is too heavy on the Christmas theme. That said, walking through Hogsmeade with the snow on the rooves, while drinking warm butterbeer did at least give you a sense of festivity to say the least.
Seuss Landing definitely had more of a Christmas feel. Of course, the Grinch is there so you have to be very careful he doesn’t steal any cheer you develop. The Lorax isn’t too keen on you cutting down real Christmas trees either. Other than that, this is the place to come for your Christmas dose at Islands of Adventure. We rode around on the little train ride above the area and got back in touch with our inner child.
Walt Disney World
The happiest place on earth must surely spread a ton of Christmas cheer. To be fair I have not been to all the Disney World parks at Christmas time (mainly Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom). Out of all the Disney parks though, Magic Kingdom is where you’ll want to go to get into the Christmas Spirit.
From mid November, the Christmas decorations are on display down Main Street. Cinderella’s Castle is adorned with lights. It’s a beautiful picture of festivity, especially at night.
To get the most out of a Disney Christmas, they have Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party which takes place at Magic Kingdom and is a separate ticket to your regular day pass.
Aside from the parks, Disney also has Disney Springs – a shopping center of sorts. There is always a lot going on here at Christmas time. They have a Christmas tree display – each tree is based on a different film. You’ll also find plenty of Christmas performances being held here.
Everyone is familiar with SeaWorld as a place to go to see ocean creatures but did you know they also go all out for Christmas? There is a place where you can meet Santa and the park is decorated. They fill the main lake up with lit up Christmas trees which form part of the nightly light show.
In my opinion Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay offers the most robust Christmas lineups of any of the Florida theme parks.
Though they can’t really compete with Cinderella’s Castle in all its beauty, Busch Gardens goes all out when it comes to Christmas lights.
Trees throughout the park are adorned in color while buildings near the park entrance are lit by projection.
Busch Garden’s train, the Serengeti Express, undergoes a transformation this time of year. It becomes the Christmas Town Sing A Long Train.
They also have a number of Christmas shows including the ice skating Show which is simply spectacular.
I saw another Christmas show there which was carols and Christmas music. It was refreshing to hear traditional Christmas carols. They also included the nativity scene which is harder to find in most Christmas celebrations.
Like SeaWorld, Busch Gardens also has a way for kids to meet Santa and have their photo taken with him. This can get very busy so it’s best to visit Santa early in the season.
What’s your favorite theme park to visit during the holidays?