It’s beginning to look like Christmas, the theme parks are now wearing their finest holiday attire
By Peter Covino
Finally, it is beginning to feel like fall and that means it should be a good weekend to visit the theme parks.
The Disney parks are already dressed up for the holidays. And with cooler temperatures (and before the holiday crowds arrive en masse) there is not a better time to go.
The snow has already started falling at the Magic Kingdom:’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. There is a party night Sunday and well as Thursday and Friday, this coming week.
Beginning at 7 p.m. (after regular park hours), guests with special event tickets to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party can enjoy all the holiday splendor with lively stage shows featuring Disney characters all dressed up for the holidays, a unique holiday parade and favorite holiday traditions including complimentary cookies and hot cocoa, and snow flurries on Main Street, U.S.A.
The night also includes a holiday “Celebrate the Magic” castle projection show and Holiday Wishes: Celebrate the Spirit of the Season nighttime fireworks spectacular.
The event continues on select nights through Dec. 20.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit disneyworld.com/christmasparty
Over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios one of the most popular events is underway, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights featuring millions of dancing lights, plus animated displays and 3-D effects.
A new addition to this festive favorite, Glow with the Show Ear hats will place guests in the middle of the seasonal display by illuminating and changing colors and patterns to synchronize with every spectacular moment. The yuletide show takes place nightly on the Streets of America through Jan. 5, 2014.
Over at Epcot, the Candlelight Processional, the annual holiday reading of The Christmas Story by a celebrity narrator accompanied by a mass choir and 50-piece orchestra also will be back, beginning this weekend and continuing through Dec. 30. Showtimes are 5, 6:45 and 8:15 p.m. at America Gardens Theatre.
Whoopi Goldberg and Ashley Judd highlight the list of narrators this season. The Candlelight Processional is included with Epcot admission. Guests also can purchase a Candlelight Dining Package, which combines lunch or dinner at select Epcot restaurants with guaranteed seating for the Candlelight Processional and VIP viewing of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.
Here in Osceola County, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is gearing up for the Old Spice Classic on Thanksgiving weekend, through Dec.1.
Eight teams are taking to the court at HP Field House.
The Old Spice Classic is one of the nation’s premier preseason Division I men’s college basketball tournaments, with this year’s lineup featuring Butler, LSU,
Memphis, Oklahoma State, Purdue, Sienna, St Joe’s and Washington State. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit oldspiceclassic.com.
Grinchmas, at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, is the Dr. Seuss way of celebrating Christmas, complete with the Grinch and plenty of Whos.
And The Macy’s Holiday Parade, with floats from The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, plus marching bands, Santa and more returns to Universal Studios.
Both are really nice events, if you have never been, and like all of the theme parks, if you wait until Christmas week, prepare for long lines.
The Universal events begin next weekend.
If you love the show over at Arabian Nights, the popular dinner show attraction will once again have a Christmas show this year.
Tickets are now on sale for the Arabian Nights Christmas show, “Amirah’s Wish.” This holiday tradition will run from Dec. 1-31.
Arabian Nights’ Christmas show began in 2004 and has quickly become a favorite for families in Orlando during the holidays, with many repeat visitor
“Arabian Nights’ Christmas show is the perfect way to enjoy the holiday spirit with the entire family,” said Arden Tilghman, President of Arabian Nights. “Our show wraps the most unique styles of horsemanship, acrobatics and aerial performance from around the globe into a fun, season spectacle.”
Audiences at “Amirah’s Wish” will find a completely different story line from Arabian Nights’ new show, “The Royal Celebration,” which debuted in July.
Christmas show tickets cost $66.99 and up with a 25 percent discount for booking online at www.arabian-nights.com. Tickets are also available at all Florida Walgreens stores in Florida. Paper tickets can be purchased in advance from any cashier, and then reservations made by phone.
Arabian Nights features world-class equestrian entertainment and some of the top Arabian horses in the world. The champion Arabians performing in the show come from Al-Marah Arabians, the historic horse farm owned by Mark Miller, who is also the owner of Arabian Nights. Miller’s family is only the third family to have had control of this herd in its 200-plus year history.
Arabian Nights is located at 3081 Arabian Nights Blvd. in Kissimmee.
Visit the all-new website at www.arabian-nights.com.
The Kennedy Space Center will be a little bit out of this world when it celebrates the holidays.
From Nov. 28 through Jan. 5, the Visitor Complex celebrates the third annual “Holidays in Space.”
The Visitor Complex will be adorned with an array of holiday decorations, host daily visits and storytelling with Santa and Mrs. Claus (Nov. 29-Dec. 24), and spark the imagination with the new “Through the Toy Box: An Out-of-this-World Collection,” featuring toys, both vintage and contemporary, inspired by outer space.
From ray guns and space ships to coin banks and cosmic action figures, “Through the Toy Box: An Out-of-this-World Collection” represents mankind’s fascination with space over the last 100 years in the form of toys. The collection features nearly 100 treasured toys children have used to play out their fantasies of space travel, some of whom turned those dreams into reality. “Holidays in Space” is included in admission to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Souvenir photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus are available at an additional charge.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s popular Florida Resident Four-Pack special is back and available through Dec. 20.
A party of four Florida residents gets admission at the special price of $139 plus tax, a savings of more than $60. The Florida Resident $139 Four-Pack is available only via a coupon which can be accessed on the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex website, www.kennedyspacecenter.com. Guests must present the printed coupon and proof of Florida residency at the Visitor Complex ticket plaza to qualify for the special rate.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Bok Tower Gardens as well.
This year’s celebration features the first-ever Holiday Edition of the annual Sunset & Symphony concert, Saturday, Dec. 7, with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, guest vocalists, and carillonneur Geert D’hollander performing on the Singing Tower carillon.
It’s a special evening of holiday pops and classics like The Nutcracker Suite, Sleigh Ride, Carol of the Bells, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and many more.
You can also take advantage of the upgraded concert ticket option which includes access to the Holiday Home Tour at Pinewood Estate prior to the concert. (Limited availability.)
Concert tickets are $20, upgraded tickets, $28.
The concert begins at 6 p.m., with pre-show entertainment at 4:30 p.m.
Go to Boktower.org for more information.
Tis the season for family traditions! Last year, Busch Gardens® Tampa launched the biggest Christmas celebration ever, and this year, Christmas Town has even more jolly times in store! This year, Christmas Town has more snow, even more event nights and more than a million twinkling lights! Christmas Town transforms the park into a nighttime holiday wonderland of wintery surprises and all things Christmas, filling guests’ senses with seasonal sights, sounds and flavors, and continuing a beautiful tradition for Tampa’s families. What’s even better than that? A portion of the proceeds from Christmas Town will benefit All Children’s Hospital here in the Bay area.
This year’s event has added even more nights to experience all-new evening attractions, shows and shopping. Christmas Town is open 18 select nights from 6 to 11 p.m., Nov. 29 through Dec. 23.
NEW THIS YEAR Enjoy unlimited admission to all 18 nights of Christmas Town with the Christmas Town Unlimited ticket for just $89 plus tax for adults and $29 plus tax for children.
NEW THIS YEAR This year’s event also introduces Discovery Dollars, a new cashless wristband that can be preloaded with cash or linked to a credit card. Dollars can be used at merchandise and dining locations around Christmas Town to make your family’s night even merrier! Guests who set up accounts with cash can visit Guest Relations upon their exit to have unspent money returned. Unclaimed monies will be donated to SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund.
And while Christmas Town brings exclusive Yuletide experiences, guests will also have the opportunity to ride some of Busch Gardens’ most popular roller coasters, including Cheetah Hunt, SheiKra and Gwazi. The special event includes attractions exclusive to the nighttime experience:
v This year, SnowWorld® Presented by Coca-Cola® brings real snow back to Florida! This guest favorite is bigger than ever for even more snow-filled fun! Slide down eight new slides, make a snowman, play in the soft white snow or pack the perfect snow balls to test your aim in the target practice area.
v All aboard the Christmas Town Express for the biggest Christmas carol sing-a-long on wheels. Friends and family are invited join in singing traditional songs of the season like “Jingle Bells,” “Frosty the Snowman” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” while circling the Serengeti on a beautifully lit vintage-style steam locomotive.
v The Claus family invites you into their North Pole home at Welcome to Santa’s House. While the elves are busy preparing for Christmas, Mrs. Claus is in the kitchen baking holiday treats, but even Santa himself will take a break from his busy holiday schedule to meet and take photos with families in his private study.
v Straight from the South Pole, the Christmas Town penguins have brought a bit of ice and snow all the way to Florida! Come chill with these dapper little creatures and marvel at their underwater antics at the newly expanded Penguin Point, complete with a giant penguin photo opportunity in the Nairobi area.
Even Busch Gardens’ most familiar fans will barely recognize the portions of the park that convert to Christmas Town through special entertainment, live music, festive treats, holiday shopping and more than one million twinkling Christmas lights:
v NEW Enjoy a trip back in time to celebrate Christmas in the good ‘ole days in Holiday Hills. In this nostalgic town, a live brass band sets the mood for seasonal fun with everyone’s favorite Christmas tunes while Mrs. Claus cooks up delicious holiday fare for the whole family at Mrs. Claus’s Family Feast.
v NEW Journey into Jungala to see a nature-inspired Christmas, including a new tree light show in Christmas Time Terrace. A larger-than-life Christmas tree comes alive every fifteen minutes with spectacular dancing lights. The breathtaking light show on this 40-foot tree is the perfect place for this year’s family photo.
v NEW Sneak a kiss with your sweetheart in the beautiful garden walkway of Mistletoe Memories. Here, romantic topiaries, flowers and sparkling white twinkle lights fill the trees overhead and set the scene for sweet moments with loved ones and beautiful photos worth cherishing.
v Celebration Village brings together the rich, warm colors of Christmas and heartfelt voices lifted in song to welcome guests as they enter Christmas Town. Draped in jewel-tone ornaments and glowing lights, the Moroccan Village comes alive with local choirs in the Marrakesh Theater and shops full of holiday gifts.
v Family and friends will cozy up to brave the chill in the air along Ice Wonder Way. The frozen pathway sparkles and shimmers in the night as brilliant white garland wraps the front of the Moroccan Palace, welcoming guests for special performances of Angels of Peace: A Christmas Journey on Ice.
v Wild colors, exotic decorations and intricate animal patterns create the kind of Christmas found only in nature! Stretching along the Cheetah Hunt walkway, Jungle Jubilee welcomes guests to Florida’s only triple-launch coaster and the iconic Crown Colony restaurant, featuring special holiday fare and the Carol of the Bells light show.
v Experience the humble magnificence of that first Christmas night and remember the real “reason for the season” along Miracle Way. Guests will marvel at a topiary representation of the Holy Nativity and illuminated angels, set along the Stanleyville Bridge in the warm glow of Christmas lights and sacred holiday music.
v Christmas has come to Sesame Street! Meet Elmo, Bert, Ernie, Big Bird, Zoe and Abby for photos and plenty of hugs for a funny, furry Christmas in Sesame Street A Very Furry Christmas at Busch Gardens. Stick around to see the characters in the all-new, heartwarming show Elmo’s Christmas Wish.
v When it’s warm in December and there’s more sand than snow, celebrate a Floridian Christmas with a touch of the tropics in the Enchanted Flamingo Valley. Guests will be “thinking pink” as they encounter decorated palm trees and a flock of festive flamingos created from thousands of twinkling pink lights.
v Christmas is in full bloom along Poinsettia Parkway, where guests can lose themselves among hundreds of traditional holiday flowers that set the scene for breathtaking pictures. Make a family memory in front of an enormous tree made entirely of beautiful red poinsettias.
v On your way to seasonal shops, delicious treats or to play in the snow, stop by Jingle Bell Junction and step into a larger-than-life-sized greeting card for fun family memories beneath a thousand dazzling Christmas lights, located at the crossroads of Christmas Town in Gwazi® Plaza.
v Explore Christmas Town Village’s quaint holiday cabins while shopping for the perfect gift and indulge in a delicious seasonal treat like hot chocolate, waffles with ice cream, warm-baked cookies and rustic sandwiches along the Gwazi® Park walkway. Kids can climb aboard the Jingle Bell Express, a pint-sized train for a holly-jolly ride.
v Steps away from the playful flock at Penguin Point, bright and colorful lights line the pathway and fill every branch of every tree surrounding the North Pole. Savor holiday treats and sights as your family prepares to meet the big man himself on the way to Welcome to Santa’s House.
Guests who have come to love Busch Gardens’ traditional holiday shows will still be able to see Christmas on Ice, Christmas from the Heart and Christmas Celebration during the day. But at Christmas Town, new shows will provide a very special evening of family-friendly entertainment:
v NEW Join Elmo, Cookie Monster, Zoe and everyone’s favorite Sesame Street friends in Christmas Town’s all-new show, Elmo’s Christmas Wish. Sing and dance along with Elmo as he makes a Christmas wish to Santa and learns the meaning behind Christmas.
v NEW Christmas Time Tree Show brings a larger-than-life Christmas tree alive every fifteen minutes with spectacular dancing lights.
v NEW Join the adventure as everyone’s favorite Madagascar friends including Gloria, Alex, King Julien and the penguins go on a vacation with a Christmas twist in Madagascar Live! Operation: Christmas Vacation. Fun and colorful holographic ornaments fill the trees overhead on the plaza pathway leading to this all-new show.
v World-class skaters will bring to life favorite Christmas songs both traditional and contemporary, in a cool, angel-inspired ice show, Angels of Peace: A Christmas Journey on Ice, produced especially for Christmas Town by the creators of Christmas on Ice and Iceploration.
v Busch Gardens’ Crown Colony House restaurant sets the stage for a stunning ballet of music and light each night under the stars. The Carol of the Bells features tens of thousands of Christmas lights covering the façade of the stately building set in motion to a choreographed presentation of stirring seasonal songs.
v Local church choirs, school choruses and professional performance groups from around Florida raise their voices in joy and fill the Marrakesh Theater with song and Christmas cheer in the Hallelujah Showcase. Performance groups will change nightly and feature traditional, classic and new holiday ballads and favorites.
For those who can’t wait to get their night at Christmas Town started, guests are invited to pull up a chair at Mrs. Claus’ Family Feast for a special evening filled with stories, songs, a delicious buffet of traditional holiday fare, plenty of opportunities for holiday hugs and photos with Mrs. Claus and her favorite elves. Space is limited for this exclusive dining experience and reservations must be made in advance at ChristmasTown.com
“Christmas Town is a unique holiday tradition for Tampa Bay-area families,” says Jim Dean, Busch Gardens Tampa’s park president. “We’ve creating a season-long celebration for family and friends unlike any other event our guests have ever seen – the kind of Christmas fun only Busch Gardens can provide.”
Christmas Town is a separate-ticketed night event, and regular daytime admission is not required or included. General admission for Christmas Town is $60 for adults and $20 for children plus tax. Busch Gardens annual pass members will receive the deepest discounts with advance online pricing starting at $25, and special offers are available for guests wishing to upgrade their paid daily admission to Busch Gardens. Gift cards and tickets are available at Bay area Publix and AAA locations and additional discounts are offered through promotional codes from Coca-Cola® at Dunkin Donuts® and Fantastic Sam’s®. Families with children ages 3 to 9 will enjoy a special advance-purchase price of $10 for their youngest members.
Christmas Town will also offer some magnificent new opportunities for groups looking to book a unique holiday party. For details, call the Busch Gardens Events Team at (813) 987-5523.
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