Haunted Mansion Holiday

Christmas has become big business for theme parks all over the globe. By laying on lavish special events, the parks can boost attendance during what could otherwise be a quiet time of year of them. Theme park Christmas events are much more than just cheap cash-ins – they often feature special, one-off attractions that can only be experienced during the festive season.

Of course, the quality of Christmas celebrations is just as variable as anything else to do with theme parks. Some parks throw up a few lights here and there, while others spend millions of dollars on yule time attractions. Here are 10 of the best theme park Christmas events around.

10. White Christmas at Warner Bros. Movie World (Gold Coast, Australia)

White Christmas

Image: Jordan Messenger, Wikipedia

It’s unlikely to snow at Christmas down on Australia’s Gold Coast. That doesn’t stop Warner Bros. Movie World from getting into the spirit, using artificial snow to create its own festive wonderland. The attractions on offer change every year, with everything from ice skating to special parades being on the menu.

9. Magical Christmas at Drayton Manor (Staffordshire, England)

Magical Christmas

While much of Drayton Manor remains closed over Christmas, the hugely-popular Thomas Land children’s area is open. Adorned with Christmas decorations and lights, it is likely to be a huge hit with train-spotting kids, who’ll have the chance to take a ride aboard Thomas himself.

8. Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Williamsburg (Virginia, USA)

Christmas Town

Image: Tony Alter, Flickr

A ridiculous, 50-foot tree towers over the Oktoberfest area of Busch Gardens Williamsburg during one of the most impressive Christmas events in the US. The park is divided into a selection of “hamlets”, each dedicate to a different Europeann country. These receive a Christmas overlay, allowing guests to celebrate the season in multiple different cultures.

7. Christmas Celebration at SeaWorld Orlando (Florida, USA)

Christmas Celebration

Image: Ricky Brigante, Flickr

It faces tough competition from nearby Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, but that hasn’t stopped SeaWorld Orlando from launching its own Christmas attractions. Chief among these is the Polar Express 4-D, a special makeover for the park’s Wild Arctic ride.

6. Grinchmas at Islands of Adventure (Florida, USA)

Image: Stuart and Rachel Johnston,

Look out at Islands of Adventure…the Grinch has arrived to steal Christmas! As Universal itself puts it: “Everyone has Santa Claus, but only we have the Grinch.” Don’t miss the strange, wibbly-wobbly Grinchmas tree.

5. The Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Florida, USA)

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Image: topshampatti, Flickr

Back in 1995, Disney stepped in to rescue the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. Originally hosted at the Osborne family home in Little Rock, Arkansas, it had simply grown too big. Now it boasts millions of twinkling lights, and draws in huge numbers of guests at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

4. Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival at Dollywood (Tennessee, USA)

Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival

Image: Mr G’s Travels, Flickr

Named after Dolly Parton’s 1986 television film, the Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival is a major highlight in Dollywood’s calendar. As you might expect from Parton, the highlight is a series of live musical performances. On top of those, the Parade of Lights features more than 4 million lights. You can even attend a real Christmas carol service in Dolly’s Christmas Chapel on Sundays.

3. Enchanted Christmas at Disneyland Paris (France)

Enchanted Christmas

Sometimes it snows for real in Paris around Christmas time. If not, though, Disneyland Paris has got you covered. It may not feature as many one-off holiday attractions as its sister parks in the US, but the park still looks beautiful in its festive finery.

2. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Disney’s Magic Kingdom (Florida, USA)

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Image: through dans eye, Flickr

It’s the most popular theme park in the world, and the Magic Kingdom also hosts one of the most popular Christmas events. It lacks the holiday overlays of Disneyland, but still features special parades, fireworks and “snowfall” on Main Street, USA.

1. Christmas Celebrations at Disneyland (California, USA)

Christmas Celebrations

Image: HarshLight, HarshLight

The original Disney theme park still tops them all when it comes to celebrating Christmas. Several of Disneyland’s most famous rides receive special makeovers, with the Haunted Mansion Holiday boasting a Nightmare Before Christmas theme. Add in fireworks and parades, and you’ve got a real festive winner.


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