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Disney and Other Top Theme Parks for Christmas

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Families flock to Orlando and Anaheim and the international Disneylands during the Holiday Season, when the theme parks sparkle and stage special events.  Read below for Christmas highlights in the Disney parks, and see also suggestions for other theme parks that make the season bright. Best of all, most special events at theme parks are included in regular park admission. And while the parks are definitely crowded, guests can enjoy extended hours -- Magic Kingdom, for instance, stays open until midnight or later on some nights.

1. Disney World: Magic Kingdom - Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party and More

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort.
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort.
Many of the Christmas events in the Magic Kingdom are included in regular park admission, such as a tree lighting ceremony most nights on Main Street; special Holiday Wishes Fireworks, set to the music of classic holiday songs; and a nightly Castle Dream Lights show at Cinderella's Castle. The Magic Kingdom also has a special-ticket party on multiple nights starting in mid-November: Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party includes a holiday Parade, snowfall on Main Street, character greetings and stage shows, and Holiday Wishes fireworks. Only Christmas Party guests are in the theme park during these evenings, which gives families a chance to enjoy popular attractions in a less crowded way.

2. Epcot: Holidays Around the World and Candelight Processional

Epcot Candlelight Processional - Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort.
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort.
Epcot's World Showcase Lagoon -- with its pavilions from 11 countries-- is fun to visit at any time of year, but gets even better when Holidays Around the World adds Christmas traditions at each "country": Pere Noel in France, la Befana in Italy, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah at The American Adventure Rotunda...

Epcot also hosts one of top Disney Christmas events, the Candelight Processional: a retelling of the Christmas story with a celebrity narrator accompanied by a choir and a 50-piece orchestra. Narrators have included Isabella Rossellini, Whoopi Goldberg, and Edward James Olmos. The Candlelight Processional is included with park admission, and takes place several times each evening from late November on. Epcot also has a nightly Mickey's Tree Lighting Treat event and a special themed version of the IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth laser light and fireworks show that ends the night in this theme park.

3. Disney's Hollywood Studios: Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World.
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World.
This Hollywood-themed park -- home to popular attractions such as Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, The Twilight Zone of Terror, and Star Tours-- hosts a spectacular display of holiday lights which sparkle beneath "Florida snow" in the Streets of America backlot area. The display had its origins in Little Rock Arkansas in 1986, when businessman Jennings Osborne first strung up a light display that grew and grew, and eventually was migrated to Orlando where millions of lights now "dance" to a medley of holiday music.

4. Christmas at Disneyland California

Photo courtesy of Disneyland Resort.
Photo courtesy of Disneyland Resort.
Highlights include holiday decorations for Cars Land in the Disney California Adventure theme park, and special fireworks, Christmas Fantasy Parade, and snowfall in the classic Disneyland theme park. Also, a Candlelight Processional takes place along Main Street U.S.A. on multiple nights, and the Haunted Mansion has special decorations based on Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas".

5. Disneyland Paris: Enchanted Christmas

Photo courtesy of Disneyland Paris.
Photo courtesy of Disneyland Paris.
From early November through the first week of January, Christmas fun at "EuroDisney" includes Santa Claus, a giant Christmas Tree, snow on Main Street, a nightly Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony and a night-time Disney Dreams show with state-of-the-art techniques projecting images on Sleeping Beauty's Castle.

At Hong Kong Disneyland, meanwhile, Christmas celebrations include a Toy-Riffic Street Party on Main Street and a nightly procession with dancers, snowflakes, pixie dust, and pyrotechnics.

6. Universal Orlando: Grinchmas and Macy's Holiday Parade

Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando.
Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando.
Orlando's other multi-park theme park complex also has terrific extras for guests during the Holiday Season. In the Universal Studios Florida theme park, the Macy's Holiday Parade happens every evening, with authentic giant balloons from Macy's famous Thanksgiving Parade in New York City. Meanwhile, in the Islands of Adventure theme park, Seuss Landing turns into a winter wonderland for Grinchmas, and features a live musical show based on Dr. Seuss's beloved "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" book. The show has an original score was written by Mannheim Steamroller, who also headline Universal's Concert Series; this group has sold more than 40M Christmas albums worldwide. All these special events are included with regular park admission.

7. Hershey Park, Six Flags, and More

Photo courtesy of Hershey Entertainment.
Photo courtesy of Hershey Entertainment.
In Hershey PA, aka "Chocolatetown", Christmas events include "Hersheypark Christmas Candylane" in the Hersheypark theme park, with dancing lights, a special show, and over 30 rides, and "Christmas in Chocolate Town", a dinner show at Hershey Lodge.

About.com's Guide for Theme Parks has other suggestions for Christmas-time, including "Holiday in the Park" festivities at a number of the Six Flags theme parks that dot the U.S.

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