Amusement, theme parks around the world offer holiday festivities
AT: Pam Sherborne
Despite the on-going global coronavirus pandemic, or maybe even because of it, amusement and theme parks around the world are doing what they can to lift spirits during this holiday season by offering celebrations.
While some are doing more limiting for social distancing, others have had to offer drive-throughs due to local and state mandates.
The following are some of the 2020 holiday offerings.
Visitors to Winter Efteling this year are finding some changes, yet the Efteling magic of the holiday season with its lights, festive garlands and bonfires, among other gay wintertime decor, is still in full view.
The wonderland event, in its 22nd year, began Nov. 16 and is running through Jan. 31, 2021.
"We are very happy that Winter Efteling can take place again this year, including the beautiful addition of our Warme Winter Weide winter garden," said Koen Sanders, Efteling’s commerce, creation and development director.
As in previous years, the Fairytale Forest is beautifully illuminated at night, there is winter entertainment again and every evening ends with the spectacular Aquanuara water show.
Not returning due to social distancing mandates associated with the global pandemic are the ice skating rink, the cross-country ski track and the Winter Efteling Illusions shows.
New this year is the Warme Winter Weide winter garden, an open-air section within the park featuring partly-covered seating, catering, stalls and live entertainment. Bonfires are lit so visitors can warm up while enjoying snacks and drinks.
There also is live entertainment in the new Warme Winter Weide winter garden.
In addition, the water coaster De Vliegende Hollander (The Flying Dutchman) is open and will remain so until Jan. 3, 2021, weather permitting.
New Year’s Eve also will be celebrated at Efteling. But, instead of the usual fireworks show, there will be an enchanting light show that can be seen from anywhere in the park. This will allow everyone to usher in the new year in a special way without having to gather in large groups.
Reservations to Winter Efteling and the New Year's Eve at Efteling have to be made in advance.
The park has reopened with a new limited-time, limited-capacity event, Kings Dominion’s Taste of the Season: An Outdoor Holiday Experience.
This new holiday celebration is featuring 25 sweet and savory tastings, festive themed areas, live shows and 16 popular rides throughout the park. The event is set to run Dec. 5-27.
Park officials have developed stringent health, safety and hygiene protocols, which align with CDC guidance and incorporate information from company and industry health and safety experts, along with state and local government officials to protect guests and associates.
"Kings Dominion has a comprehensive safety plan in place that has proven to be effective in all of our sister parks that were allowed to safely operate earlier this year," said Tony Johnson, vice president and general manager. "We can't wait for families to return to the park and make treasured holiday memories safely."
Reservations will be required for all guests to manage capacity and maintain social distance standards.
Space Center Houston,
Galaxy Lights, Space Center Houston's holiday season celebration, kicked off Nov. 15 and is set to run through Jan. 3, 2021.
Galaxy Lights is an immersive holiday lights Space City tradition, bringing guests one of the most interactive and technologically advanced light displays in Texas. The opening weekend debuted with a live SpaceX Crew-1 launch viewing for those lucky visitors.
In partnership with Reliant Energy, Space Center Houston expanded Galaxy Lights this year to include new spacious outdoor and indoor experiences.
Highlights include two high-tech kinetic light shows, a new outdoor path, a 200-foot LED light tunnel made of more than 250,000 lights synchronized to festive holiday music and a new interactive light pad made of 143 multicolor platforms under the wing of the historic shuttle carrier aircraft.
Other highlights are six, 20-foot trees representing each of the six International Space Station partners, a 15-foot wreath made of all the ISS partner flags and a massive 40-foot-tall, 100-foot-long sparkling shooting star set near the SpaceX Falcon 9 exhibit.
There also is plenty of holiday food and beverages.
Legoland California Resort,
The holiday season is always special at Legoland California Resort and, while the park is not open at this time, the resort has created a special experience for its guests to celebrate winter, Holidays at Legoland! The event kicked off on Nov. 20 and will run through Jan. 20, 2021.
Visitors have the opportunity to holiday shop and dine and enjoy shimmering lights, live entertainment, the famous 30-foot-tall Lego Christmas tree, festive decor and more.
The park’s Fun Town turns into a winter wonderland as buildings are trimmed with twinkling lights and holiday décor. Lego characters also are on-hand including Santa, Toy Soldier and Gingerbread Man.
Visitors also may enjoy seasonal treats and live music performances, walk around a newly themed Miniland U.S.A and enjoy building Lego ornaments among other building activities.
Families are welcome to extend the Lego holiday by staying overnight at the magical Legoland Castle Hotel.
Guests are required to purchase tickets online in advance. Other health mandates are being required.
Legoland California Resort includes Legoland California, Sea Life aquarium, Legoland Water Park, Legoland Hotel and Legoland Castle Hotel.
Christmas Celebration has returned to SeaWorld San Diego, California, this year with an ocean of holiday cheer across more than 100 acres of outdoor space decked with sparkling lights, decorations, holiday festivities and an earlier start than ever before. The celebration kicked off Nov. 13 and runs on select dates through Jan. 4, 2021.
Under local pandemic mandates, SeaWorld is open as an accredited zoo with limited capacity and enhanced health and safety measures.
Returning highlights this year include thousands of twinkling lights at the Sesame Street Christmas Village where families may enjoy physically-distanced photo opportunities with everyone’s favorite furry friends. Also returning are Holly Jolly Marketplace, Hanukkah Celebration and special backdrops for photos.
An array of new features this year includes Santa Presents: Christmas Animals Around the World outdoor presentation with live animals including camels and reindeer. Also new this year is Rudolph’s Movie Experience, Kwanzaa Festivities, Cookies and Photos with Santa, Stocking Stuffer Christmas Trail and Christmas Treasure Hunt.
There will be no shortage of holiday food and beverage.
To celebrate the season safely, SeaWorld consulted with medical experts to offer a modified event with required reservations and limited capacity. This seasonal event features open-air entertainment and experiences as well as enhanced health and safety measures.
SeaWorld San Antonio also is presenting a Christmas Celebration this year. That event kicked off Nov. 20 and is set to run through Jan. 3, 2021.
SeaWorld San Antonio has modified the event to allow guests to safely visit the park, roam its expansive 250-acre grounds and enjoy holiday events. In addition to enhancing the park’s already strict health and safety measures, capacity will be significantly limited to create even more open space for a visit that provides plenty of opportunity to maintain physical distancing in a safe environment.
Along with returning favorites, new this year are Christmas Fireworks Finale, Hanukkah Celebration and Kwanzaa Festivities.
Games are being offered, holiday food and beverage are plentiful and photo opportunities are everywhere.
SeaWorld Orlando Florida rolled out its Christmas Celebration on Nov. 14. It is set to run through Dec. 31. Like its sister parks, guests at the Florida park are enjoying new events such as Hanukkah Celebration and Kwanzaa Festivities. There also is a new Christmas carol show called It’s a Wonderful Night: A New Story to Tell.
Sesame Street Land has gotten into the spirit with characters singing and dancing to holiday songs. Visitors are enjoying the return of the park’s Sea of Trees and Rudolph’s Christmas Town. The Christmas Market is featuring festive entertainment and holiday-themed food and drinks.
In addition to the new show, SeaWorld Orlando is offering visitors an outdoor ice skating rink at Bayside Stadium.
Washington State Fair
The Washington State Fair, Puyallup, Washington, is bringing the magic of Christmas to the Puyallup area with its first Holiday Magic, a festive, drive-through holiday experience. The event will run Dec. 4-Jan. 3, 2021.
Holiday Magic will provide the opportunity for guests to drive through the fairgrounds and immerse themselves in the true magic of the season. There will be thousands of lights displaying the fun that only the holiday season can bring.
Along with the sights and sounds, guests will also be able to enjoy scrumptious treats and Candy Cane Lane Cocoa and Coffee Bar.
Six Flags Theme Parks
With California theme parks remaining closed due to state government mandates, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, California, is presenting Holiday in the Park Drive-thru Experience in an effort to provide safe outdoor holiday family fun.
The event kicked off Nov. 20 and will run through Jan. 3, 2021.
This first-time, drive-through experience takes visitors on a counter-clockwise route through the 125-acre park and past millions of holiday lights choreographed to music. The route includes eight distinctly different areas throughout the park, including Rockin’ Universe in the DC Universe area, Merry Lane in Metropolis, The Underground at the West Coast Racers coaster, and Winter Wonderland at Viper coaster.
Magic Mountain's rides will remain closed during the event.
Advance, online reservations are required.
Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, New Jersey, kicked off its Holiday in the Park festivities Nov. 14. It is set to run through Jan. 3, 2021.
The spectacular winter festival is sparkling with more than a million glittering lights, festive foods, thrilling rides and holiday entertainment with a continued focus on safety.
This immersive and enchanting holiday experience is bigger than ever before with 14 specially-themed areas. Coordinated sights, sounds, scents and attractions will give each section a distinct character.
Opening for its sixth season, Holiday in the Park is debuting new attractions including the Jolly Jamboree party in the park’s catering area and the Illuminated Animals with new lit animals. The Wild Safari area of the park has extended its season to offer the Wild Safari Drive-Thru Adventure.
Returning signature attractions include Holiday Magic: A Celebration of the Season, character appearances, Gingerbread Junction with the giant inflatable gingerbread man, Polar Point ice-blue trees, Joy to the World lit pathway, wood-burning fire pits, holiday eats and festive photo spots.
The park has held two new holiday events, the Holiday Wine Fest Nov. 14 and 15 and Holiday Food Drive event on Nov. 21 and 22.
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas kicked off Nov. 7 and will run through Jan. 3, 2021. With more than five million gleaming Christmas lights and a dazzling new holiday fireworks show, guests are surrounded and immersed in the holiday season.
While many favorites of the Christmas celebration have returned, new attractions also are being offered such as the Christmas fireworks display called Merry & Bright. The show features a number of holiday songs synced to the fireworks. Performance dates will be available on Dollywood.com and the Dollywood app.
The spotlight also shines brightly on the park’s award-winning entertainment this season. Some of the shows include: Christmas in the Smokies, a new show called Heart of the Holidays, a Christmas with the Kingdom Heirs, O’ Holy Night, Appalachian Christmas with the Smoky Mountain String Band, Holiday Wild Roots, The Mistletones and the Candlelight Carolers.
Glacier Ridge offers an expansive arctic experience where guests stop by at the Wilderness Pass Plaza to watch the Wonderful Christmas tree show featuring a 50-foot-tall animated tree that sparkles to life to present a fully-synchronized, dazzling light show throughout the evening.
Santa's workshop is on full display and the park's rides will thrill and chill.
And for those looking to celebrate the holidays with the perfect family meal, Dollywood’s team of chefs have a menu full of culinary surprises sure to delight in several food and beverage locations throughout the park.