Holiday Events at Florida's Theme Parks

Disney World, Universal Orlando, Legoland, Busch Gardens, and SeaWorld Orlando

Holidays at Disney World

Charlie Champagne, photographer

In Florida, theme parks like Disney World are magical no matter what time of year you go, but it could be argued that November and December are the most magical months. With the addition of Christmas and holiday cheer, the parks really know how to supersize the magic factor.

Naturally, supersized fun also means supersized crowds and the week between Christmas and New Year’s is typically the busiest of the whole year. It’s not unusual for the Magic Kingdom at Disney World to reach capacity and to restrict admission on some days during the holiday week, so if you’d rather avoid crowds, you probably should stay away from the parks during that specific week.

Keep in mind that the parks do their best to accommodate the crowds by extending their hours, increasing the capacity of attractions, and offering more events to entertain the high number of guests. Plus, they do get decked out for the holidays as early as November when attendance tends to be lower.

Before we delve into the details for each park, it’s important to note that, as with nearly everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a curveball at parks and their holiday programming. All of the parks are planning to proceed with their 2020 Christmas and holiday events, but they have been modified to accommodate social distancing and to account for lower attendance (which is restricted because of the virus). More info about this year’s events are noted for each of the resorts below.

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Holidays at Walt Disney World Resort

Christmas fireworks at Disney World Magic Kingdom

Ryan Wendler, photographer

No one does the holidays like Disney World, where every last detail is completely decked out. From November to January, lights will be strung, trees will be decorated, and other festive finery will be displayed across all of the different Disney parks. Events-wise, here's what each park is offering for this year's holiday season:

  • Magic Kingdom: Unfortunately, the specially ticketed event, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, has been canceled for this year. It typically includes the fireworks show, Minnie's Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks, as well as Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade. However, festive holiday projections are illuminating Cinderella Castle, the Jingle Cruise (a made-over Jungle Cruise) is sailing, and Toy Soldiers are marching down Main Street U.S.A.
  • Epcot: The park, with its World Showcase pavilions of many nations, is getting into the spirit as well with its International Festival of the Holidays. However, one of Epcot's holiday highlights, Candlelight Processional, is not being held this year. There will be holiday kitchens with tastings available at many of the World Showcase pavilions as well as themed entertainment and visits from Santa Claus.
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios: For the past few years, the Chinese Theater has ignited each evening for the multimedia show, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam. But, as with all nighttime shows at Disney World, it will not be shown this year. The Sunset Boulevard section of the park will, however, feature Sunset Seasons Greetings, a special dose of holiday whimsy with projections, special effects, and a sprinkling of Disney-engineered snow. And Buzz and Woody invite guests to celebrate Holidays in Toy Story Land.
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom: The safari-themed park usually celebrates the season with a Holiday Hoopla Dance Party in DinoLand U.S.A., special entertainment at Discovery Island, and Christmas at Pongu Pongu in Pandora – The World of Avatar–none of which is happening this year. Instead, the park is presenting “festive flotillas,” barges that sail along Discovery River and filled with characters dressed in their holiday finest
  • Disney Springs: The massive shopping, dining, and entertainment complex, Disney Springs, offers a Christmas Tree Stroll, visits from Santa Claus, and a holiday scavenger hunt.
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Holidays at Universal Orlando

The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle Universal Orlando

Universal Orlando

Universal Orlando well be decked-out for the holidays from November 14 2020 to January 3, 2021. Both sections of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter get holiday makeovers with special shows and decorations, however the highlight of the season is the Christmas light show projected onto Hogwarts Castle. The park usually offers Universal's Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s, complete with floats and balloons shipped down from the famous New York parade. However, this year, the floats and balloons will be on display, and visitors can stroll past them. At Islands of Adventure, visitors typicslly celebrate the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular, which features a musical retelling of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." But, during the pandemic, the Grinch and his buddies will only be on hand to greet guests (from a safe, social distance.)

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SeaWorld's Christmas Celebration

Christmas at SeaWorld Orlando
SeaWorld Orlando

From November 14 to December 31, 2020, SeaWorld adds some holiday cheer to its marine theme park in the form of special shows, festive decorations, and live holiday music from musicians and carolers. Kids will enjoy the show, "Sea Lion High: The Christmas Special." The skating show, "Winter Wonderland on Ice," also promises holiday cheer.

Other features include Sea of Trees, a display of decked-out Christmas trees with lights that are synchronized to carols and the park also presents "Rudolph's Movie Experience," a special effects show featuring the red-nosed reindeer.

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Holidays at Legoland

Christmas Bricktacular at Legoland Florida
Legoland Florida

Legoland Florida, which is about an hour's drive from Orlando, offers a low-key holiday event with a huge Christmas tree made out of Lego blocks, the show, “The Very Merry Mix Up,” appearances by Santa and a Kids' "New Year's Eve" (that will actually take place at a kid-friendly 7 p.m.) featuring fireworks and music. The holiday season at Legoland starts on November 27, 2020 and is presented on select dates until December 31.

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Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Tampa

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Tampa
Busch Gardens Tampa

As at its sister park, SeaWorld Orlando, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer will also fly into Busch Gardens. Visitors can meet him and his friends at Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland from November 20 to January 3, 2021. They can also meet Rudolph's boss, Santa, and check out the twinkling lights and other festive decorations. The park presents the shows, “Three Kings Journey” and “Elmo’s Christmas Wish.” Busch Gardens Tampa is presenting its annual ice skating production, “Christmas on Ice,” in an outdoor theater this year.

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