Sometimes, amusement parks are even more fun during the winter holidays! Many major theme parks offer holiday settings with twinkling lights, hot cocoa, crafts, live entertainment and visits with Santa. Plus, many of the ride—roller coasters included—remain open! Get in the holiday spirit at one of these dazzling holiday theme parks.
1. Santa’s Village – Jefferson, NH
While Santa’s Village is a popular amusement park in the summer, nothing beats a visit at Christmastime! Theme park admission includes access to rides (such as a festive train ride), shows, and visits with Santa Claus and his reindeer. Most of the amusement park’s stores and restaurants remain open during the holiday season, too. Bonus: Complimentary strollers are available to rent with admission (first-come, first-served basis).
Recommended Hotel: Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa
2. Smoky Mountain Christmas – Dollywood, TN
Head to the home of Dolly Parton with the family this season and prepare to experience the nonstop fun that is Smoky Mountain Christmas at Dollywood. Shows include Dollywood’s A Christmas Carol on Showstreet and O’ Holy Night in Craftsmans Valley. The little ones are sure to jump at the chance to meet Rudolph and his friends or lend Santa a hand in his workshop. Then head on over to the Parade of Lights (which runs daily throughout the park).
Recommended Hotel: Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa
3. A Very Furry Christmas – Sesame Place, PA
Celebrate A Very Furry Christmas at Sesame Place, just outside of Philadelphia. Events include Dine with Elmo and Friends, when families can feast on some yummy holiday foods and get a picture taken with both Santa Claus AND Elmo; 1-2-3 Christmas Tree, a hip and happening music and light show; and the Neighborhood Street Party Christmas Parade, featuring a whopping 10 floats and three performances. Elmo, Count von Count, Bert, Ernie, and Cookie Monster are always in attendance at this holiday theme park.
Recommended Hotel: SpringHill Suites Philadelphia Langhorne
4. An Old Time Christmas – Silver Dollar City, MO
An Old Time Christmas at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, is like no other holiday theme park. From a parade to rides to shops, there is a little something to get everyone in the holiday spirit.
Kids will be amazed by Christmas in Midtown, a huge area filled with light displays more than nine-stories high, a 50-foot Christmas tree, two moving trains and much more. Families can meet Santa on Santa Claus Lane, or watch the interactive show “Tinker Junior’s Toy Shop.” Other Christmas events include Rudolph leading the Christmas Light Parade and Christmas on Main Street (Silver Dollar City’s largest light show).
Recommended Hotel: Fairfield Inn & Suites Branson
5. Holiday in the Park – Six Flags Locations
Families will find some Six Flags parks completely transformed during Holiday in the Park. Trees are trimmed with lights, the air smells of pine needles and sweet and savory baked goods, and fun is on every corner. Kids can meet their friends from Looney Tunes or dive into a funnel cake, while parents hop on the Texas SkyScreamer or treat themselves to an enormous Bavarian creme puff. Other festive foods include hot chocolate, cider, and fried S’mores.
Holiday in the Park is offered at the following parks on weekends and select weekdays:
- Six Flags Great Adventure – Jackson, NJ
- Six Flags Magic Mountain – Los Angeles, CA
- Six Flags Discovery Kingdom – San Francisco, CA
- Six Flags Over Texas – Arlington, VA
- Six Flags Fiesta Texas – San Antonio, TX
- Six Flags Over Georgia – Atlanta, GA
- Six Flags St. Louis – St. Louis, MO
- Six Flags Great America – Chicago, IL
- Six Flags America – Baltimore, MD
- Six Flags New England – Springfield, MA
6. Holiday Lights – Lake Compounce, CT
This lakefront holiday theme park is home to Holiday Lights—a series of spectacular seasonal events designed with the whole family in mind. Activities include riding the North Pole Railway, caroling, story time with Mrs. Claus and cookie decorating. Food trucks also serve some seriously delicious and hearty fare!
Recommended Hotel: DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Bristol
7. Knott’s Merry Farm – Knott’s Berry Farm, CA
Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California, transforms into—wait for it—Knott’s Merry Farm! Live entertainment includes the Snoopy Ice Show, Christmas On Engine 41 and A Christmas Carol. Families can visit with Santa, as well, in his cabin located within the Wilderness Dance Hall in Ghost Town. Tasty treats such as cookies, eggnog, winter wine, craft beer and hot chocolate are also served at this holiday theme park.
Recommended Hotel: Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel
8. Christmas Candylane – Hersheypark, PA
The land of all things sweet features Christmas Candylane at Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania. At this holiday theme park, shows include Noel (a light show synced up to everyone’s favorite Christmas music) and Christmas Candylane Storytime with one of Santa’s elves at The Cookie Workshop on Kissing Tower Hill. Your little ones can visit with Santa in his Candy Cottage or dive into breakfast or lunch with him at Hersheypark Place.
Recommended Hotel: Hotel Hershey
9. Winter Wonderland – Dutch Wonderland, PA
Indulge in yummy holiday treats and enjoy themed family rides at Dutch Wonderland’s annual Winter Wonderland event in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Entertainment and activities include The Royal Light Show at Celebration Theater, Storytime with the Princess of Dutch Wonderland and Santa meet-and-greets next to Merlin’s Restaurant. Treats include cookies with Santa & Friends, ice cream at Breyer’s Ice Cream Parlor and funnel cakes at Nathan’s Famous and Funnel Cakes.
Recommended Hotel: BEST WESTERN Premier Eden Resort & Suites
10. Macy’s Holiday Parade – Universal Studios, FL
Who doesn’t love a good parade, especially during the holiday season? That’s why the Macy’s Holiday Parade at Universal Studios in Orlando has made it onto our list! Following the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, the magnificent balloons and floats are sent south to Universal Studios for families to experience the magic (in-person) all over again! After the parade is over, check out the tree lighting ceremony!
Next, head on over to Islands of Adventure for Grinchmas! Families can meet The Grinch himself, as well as other Whos from Who-ville. Come hungry and enjoy breakfast with The Grinch and friends, too.
Recommended Hotel: Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
11. Christmas Town – Busch Gardens Williamsburg, VA
With one of the largest Christmas light displays in North America, Christmas Town at Busch Gardens shines bright for the holiday season. There are more than 10 million lights twinkling and there’s even a lite Christmas train ride that will chug through holiday vignettes while families sing along to holiday favorites. Kids can visit Santa at his workshop, meet Rudolph, ride the roller coasters, or sing and dance at one of the many holiday shows
Recommended Hotel: Kingsmill Resort & Spa