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Christmas Celebrations in Orlando’s Theme Parks

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Orlando, Florida theme parks with towering trees, poinsettias, millions of lights, even snow flurries filling every available nook and cranny.This is the “magical” Florida kind for which you don’t need to pack a coat, gloves and boots.

Each year, the theme parks are transformed into three-dimensional holiday cards and the Christmas ornaments are supplemented by more parades, carolers, themed shows and other spectacles than would fit in Santa’s big red, bottomless gift bag.

This is what’s on tap for this holiday season:

Walt Disney World, Orlando — A 70-foot-high Christmas tree adorned with Victorian-style ornaments is the focal point on Main Street at the Magic Kingdom, along with miles and miles of garland, profusions of poinsettias and twinkling lights galore. New this year is the Castle Light Show, with countless white lights illuminating Cinderella Castle.

A Castle light-up ceremony with Cinderella, Mickey, Minnie and the gang is presented each evening. A must-see event at the Magic Kingdom is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, presented on select nights from Nov. 12 to Dec. 21. The party features holiday-themed entertainment with Disney characters; the Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade with floats, dancing reindeer and Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, among others, plus the Holiday Wishes –Celebrate the Spirit of the Season fireworks display, and yes, Florida “snow flurries.”

“We come every year,” said Vickie Paynor, a visitor from Chicago who came to the party with her family last year. “It’s become a tradition –the kids love the parade and we feel like we’re in another world.”

Tickets for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are $47.95 for adults and $40.95 for children 3-9 years old (under 3 years old are admitted free). The party is generally sold-out by the evening of the event, so advance purchase is a good idea.

Disney-MGM (this park will be called Disney Hollywood Studios beginning Jan. 1) offers the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights from Nov. 12 to January 6.

The light show, in the Studios’ Backlot section, boasts millions of lights, animated light displays and “snow flurries.” The Hollywood Holly-Day Parade is presented every day. It, and the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights, is included in park admission.

For a bit of international flavor, Epcot presents “Holidays Around the World” from Nov. 23 to Dec. 30. This event presents Christmas legends of various countries including Los Tres Reyes Magos (The Three Magi) in the Mexico pavilion and Pere Noel in the French pavilion.

The park is decorated to the nines with towering trees, poinsettias and lights including a synchronized light show, “The Lights of Winter,” illuminates a canopy adjoining the World Showcase breezeway and every evening there is a Christmas tree lighting ceremony with Mickey and friends featuring music and storytelling.

A special event in Epcot is the nightly Candlelight Processional –featuring celebrity narrators, a massed choir and orchestra. It is featured nightly at the America Gardens Theatre and it’s included in admission to Epcot.

At the Animal Kingdom Park, Mickey and his gang celebrate the season with Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade presented from Nov. 12 to Jan. 6. At Camp Minnie-Mickey visitors can meet and greet the Disney characters dressed in their holiday finery and enjoy caroling at Santa Goofy’s Holiday Village, which is decorated with Christmas trees and features live entertainment.

Sea World Orlando — “Seasons greetings” always begins with “Sea” they might say at Sea World. The park presents “Christmas at Sea World” each year, celebrating the holiday season with decorations, carolers, and shows –Sea World’s trained sea lions, seals and other marine creatures perform–and the forecast calls for “snow flurries.” Presented from Nov. 24 to Dec. 25, the festivities are included in the admission price: $64.95 for adults; $53.95 for children.

Universal Orlando Resort — Arguably, the nation’s most famous holiday parade, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, comes to Universal Studios in December packing its giant balloons, floats, marching bands and Santa Claus too, of course. Each evening Santa himself presides over a ceremony to light up the park’s towering tree. Festivities are included in park admission.

At Universal’sIslands of Adventure, the mean Grinch is the star of the “Grinchmas” celebration, inspired in “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. During December, the park’s Seuss Landing section is transformed for the holidays and visitors can visit the Grinch in his lair and enjoy themed shows. “Grinchmas” is included in park admission.

Cypress Gardens, Winter Haven — This park offers the nostalgic “Old Fashioned Christmas” from Nov. 16 to Dec. 30. The centerpiece of the celebration is an 80-foot-high Christmas tree that will be lit up for the first time during a ceremony at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 16. Other holiday adornments include millions of lights, poinsettias and garlands.

The “Jingle Street Parade” is a procession of holiday characters, Christmas music and lights “The Miracle of Christmas,” re-tells the Christmas legend with music. Another spectacle, “A Holiday Homecoming” is a wartime romance that tugs at the heartstrings of anyone who has had to be separated from loved ones during the holidays.

Other festivities include visits from Santa Claus and an exhibit, “Santa Through History” that shows how Santa Claus has changed through the years. A must-see is “Frosty Follies,” an ice skating show with holiday music. “Old Fashioned Christmas” is included in admission to Cypress Gardens.

Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay — This park, themed to the Continent of Africa, is decorated for the holidays with poinsettias, Christmas trees and other ornaments and presents holiday-themed shows. The festivities are included in park admission.

Information courtesy of Orlando Sentinel

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