It is unfortunate that many of our favorite theme parks close their doors at the beginning of the winter season and typically remain closed until Spring. While parks in warmer states like Florida and California remain open year-round, many are forced to close for the season due to chilly winter temperatures and frosty weather. However, a select few offer a chance to experience your favorite rides and parks during the jolliest (and coldest) season of the year.
Of course, we all know that Disney and Universal-owned resorts are open year-round and have incredible holiday offerings. For this list, however, we are going to exclude them in order to focus on some other theme parks that you may not expect to be open during the winter months. Join us in exploring 5 of the Best Theme Parks to Visit in the Winter!
1. Winterfest at Kings Island
Kings Island is not the only Cedar Fair Park to be hosting WinterFest this year. Kings Dominion, California’s Great America, and Carowinds will also host WinterFest events on select dates throughout November and December. Many of the offerings are the same from park to park. However, of the four parks hosting WinterFest celebrations, Kings Island had the most festival-specific activities and the best live entertainment line-up.
WinterFest at Kings Island begins with over 5 million lights and the transformation of their iconic Eiffel Tower into a giant Christmas tree. The activities offered include everything from artisan shops, pictures with Santa, cookie decorating with Mrs. Claus, ice carvers, snow tubing, crafts, some of your favorite rides (including Mystic Timbers), and more.
They also have ice skating available on their Royal Fountain which is transformed into Snow Flake Lake. There is an additional fee to ice skate which includes skate rental. One of the coolest offerings (pun intended!) is Jack Frost’s Igloo Village. You can rent one of these igloos at an additional cost starting at $199 and accommodate up to 8 people. The reservation includes not only access to your own luxury igloo, but also VIP seating at select shows, 4 souvenir hot cocoa mugs, and priority access to ice skating and cookie decorating. It is a great way to warm up in the chilly weather and ensure great seats for some of the great live entertainment.
There is a wide range of entertainment offerings during WinterFest. First, you can delight your ears with one of many musical groups including The MistleTones 1950’s trio, Four Drummers Drumming, Sounds of Nativity, Holly Holiday’s String-a-Long, and more.
There are also fun family shows. From a Peanuts Guide to Christmas show starring Snoopy and his friend to Kings Island’s version of A Christmas Carol called Bah Humbug…What the Dickens? There is something for everyone. As it gets closer to being dark, be sure to check out the nightly tree lighting ceremony. Finally, end the night with the WinterFest Wonderland Parade featuring Santa Claus himself.
2. Knott’s Merry Farm
One park that might offer the best weather of the parks on our list is Knott’s Berry Farm. This park is open year-round so you can visit all winter long. But from November 19 through January 8th, you can experience Knott’s Merry Farm. The winter festival includes thousands of lights and holiday décor throughout the entire park.
Enjoy a stroll through the Christmas Craft Village where you can find unique gifts for everyone on your list. You can also take a ride on your favorite attractions, and enjoy a nightly tree lighting ceremony with Snoopy and Friends. You might enjoy one of their seasonal sweet treats or savory “holiday classics with a twist.’ Of course, you will not want to miss some of the other live entertainment like Home for the Holidays, a musical revue featuring holiday classics, and even snow. Perhaps, you may prefer the excitement of the ice-skating show starring Snoopy and his friends. Finally, don’t forget to stop by Santa’s Christmas Cabin to say hi to the jolly fellow.
3. Dollywood’s Smokey Mountain Christmas
Deep in the Smokey Mountains, you’ll find the next theme park on our list, Dollywood. Dollywood’s location already makes for a picturesque holiday retreat, but when you add in the festive winter offerings at the park, it makes for an even better winter getaway. Select days November 5th through January 1st, Dollywood celebrates the holidays with Smokey Mountain Christmas Presented by Humana. The event has welcomed guests for over a decade with its vibrant themed lands and millions of lights.
There are several great experiences to check out at Smokey Mountain Christmas. First, don’t miss a ride on the Dollywood Express Light Experience where you can view the park’s lights from the train while enjoying your favorite holiday tunes. Next, you’ll want to check out one of the live shows such as Christmas in the Smokies or Twas the Night Before Christmas.
You will definitely want to try some of the festive food offerings like the pork belly skillet or gingerbread funnel cake before heading over to see whether your children are on Santa’s naughty or nice List. You can even purchase a tasting pass to try multiple dishes. End the night with a spectacular fireworks show set to fun holiday classics.
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