All Ages

11 Theme Parks Guaranteed to Get Your Family in the Holiday Spirit

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 rides — roller coasters included — remain open! Get in the holiday spirit at one of these dazzling Christmas theme parks.


Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival - Dollywood

Head to the home of Dolly Parton with the family this season and prepare to experience the nonstop fun that is the Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival 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

A Very Furry Christmas - Sesame Place

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!

Recommended Hotel: SpringHill Suites Philadelphia Langhorne
Silver Dollar Christmas; Courtesy of Silver Dollar City

An Old Time Christmas - Silver Dollar City

An Old Time Christmas at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, is like no other holiday celebration. 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 trees, 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


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: Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey; Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California; Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Valejo, California; Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington; Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio; and Six Flags Over Georgia in Austell.


Holiday Lights - Lake Compounce

This lakefront 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

Cliff's Magical Christmas - Cliff's Amusement Park

Just because there's no snow at Cliff's Amusement Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico, doesn't mean you and your family can't get into the holiday spirit! Cliff's Magical Christmas boasts half a million sparkling lights, a 120-foot giant Christmas tree, and a bunch of fire pits to keep you feeling warm and fuzzy. Kiddies will love meeting the one and only, Mr. Claus, and listening to stories told by his Mrs.

Recommended Hotel: Hampton Inn Albuquerque-University/Midtown

Knott's Merry Farm - Knott's Berry Farm

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.

Recommended Hotel: Knott's Berry Farm Hotel


Christmas Candylane - Hersheypark

The land of all things sweet features Christmas Candylane at Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania. At this Christmas 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

Winter Wonderland - Dutch Wonderland

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

Macy's Holiday Parade - Universal Studios Florida

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
Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Williamsburg - Courtesy of Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Christmas Town - Busch Gardens Williamsburg

With one of the largest Christmas light displays in North America, Christmas Town at Busch Gardens, Williamsburg, VA 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