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Florida Thanksgiving & Christmas

Christmas parade in Winter Garden
Christmas parade in Winter Garden

Florida is a truly magical place during the holiday season. Most theme parks start the holiday season at Thanksgiving and then continue on through Christmas to the start of the New Year.

The holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year in Florida so it is important to make sure you arrive at the parks early as often they will close when they reach capacity and it makes sense to make dinner reservations well in advance.

Most of the Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations are free or included in the standard ticket admission, others are by separate ticket (as described)


From just after Thanksgiving, November 27 until Christmas Day, December 25, SeaWorld is specially decorated for the holiday season.

The evening Shamu show is transformed into Shamu's Christmas: Miracles, where singers and musicians combine with the killer whales and trainers.

Clyde and Seamore present "Clyde and Seamore's Countdown to Christmas".

An all new "A Sesame Street Christmas" musical show sees Elmo, Big Bird and other Sesame Street characters explaining the true spirit of Christmas to Abby Cadabby.

Another new show for 2009 is "Winter Wonderland on Ice" at the Bayside Stadium where ice skaters perform in front of water fountains and fireworks.

As in 2007, the Wild Arctic helicopter simulator ride is being transformed into The Polar Express Experience at SeaWorld based on the Warner Bros. Pictures film starring the character voiced by actor Tom Hanks. Riders will board the 'train' to take them to North Pole which is specially decorated with Christmas tree, sleigh and Santa Claus himself.

The new ride will run from November 13 until January 3, 2010 and then after that it will revert back to the normal Wild Arctic theme.

Note that the Makahiki Christmas Luau is open from November 13 to January 4 except for Christmas Day. You can also sample a Christmas breakfast with some of the Sesame Street characters at "Elmo and Friends Christmas Breakfast".

Universal Studios

At Universal Studios, between December 5 and January 1, you can see Macy's Holiday Parade with some of the signature giant inflatable characters and floats from Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

The parade sets off around dusk with marching bands from around the country plus toy soldiers, stilt walkers, clowns and of course, Santa Claus. It finishes outside the facade of Macy's Herald Square where the tree lighting ceremony takes place.

There is also the KidZone Holiday Show where characters dance to holiday hits in a live show, the sing-along Barney's Christmas Show and the Blues Brothers Christmas Show with snow on Delancey Street at the end of each show.

On December 5, Mannheim Steamroller are in concert with Chris Isakk on Decmber 12 and Natalie Cole on December 19.

Universal's Islands of Adventure

The story of the Grinch is brought to life at Universal's Islands of Adventure in Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmasbetween December 5 and January 1.

In the evening there is a Seussian-tree lighting ceremony and a musical Whoville Whobilation show telling the tale of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas".

Visit Seuss Landing which is transformed into the festive town of Whoville and meet the Grinch himself.

Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens holds their Christmas Celebration from the week before Thanksgiving on November 21 until the New Year on January 3.

The park takes on a festive holiday look and in the Christmas Celebration which features song and dance you get to see snowmen, reindeer, toy soldiers and a visit from Santa and his elves.

At the Stanleyville Theater there is "Christmas on Ice" and at the Marrakesh Theater you can listen to live gospel and spiritual music at the "Christmas from the Heart" show.

New for 2009 is a Christmas breakfast at the Desert Grill where you can join Santa and his merry elves.

Cypress Gardens

Cypress Gardens is currently closed.

Silver Springs

Silver Springs hosts their 17th Annual Festival of Lights from just after Thanksgiving on November 27 on selected nights until January 3, 2010.

Millions of sparkling lights illuminate the gardens with twinkling topiaries and animated holiday scenes from dusk until 8:30pm each night.

Each night, local choirs sing seasonal songs, whilst strolling carollers and musicians move throughout the park. There is also a Lighted Boat Parade and special stage shows on Fridays and Saturdays, plus Santa Claus (through December 24).