Comfort and joy are “a walk in the park” in Orlando’s themed attractions beginning in mid-November and continuing throughout the holiday season. The theme parks celebrate every year –and 2018 is no exception—with an abundance of magic: 70-foot-tall Christmas trees, millions of twinkling lights, miles and miles of garland, festive parades, special entertainment, and even the occasional snow flurries –but the magical kind that does not require that visitors wear heavy coats and boots to enjoy. “It is a wonderful time of the year to visit the parks –I come again and again,” said Niki Cassello, a visitor from Chicago.
Here are some highlights that are on tap for this year:
• The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World– The “Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade” overflowing with magic presents gingerbread men and toy soldiers marching on the park’s Main Street and decked out floats with beloved characters including Anna, Elsa and Olaf from “Frozen,” as well as Snow White and her Prince, and of course, Santa Claus himself. The parade is presented on select evenings from Nov. 8 to Dec. 21 during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (a separate ticket event), and after Dec. 21, it is the featured parade in the park each day. The parade also features magical snowfalls on Main Street that turn the park, with its “icy” Castle into a living Christmas card. Also in the Magic Kingdom, there are shows themed to the season, character meet-and-greets, and the Holiday Wishes fireworks display. Info: www.disneyworld.com.
• Disney Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World– The holidays are celebrated to the max from Nov. 8 to Jan. 6with a magnificent Christmas tree, special lights around Echo Lake where the Dinosaur sports a huge Santa Claus hat, holiday images projected onto the Tower of Terror and magical snowfalls on the street that leads to the Tower of Terror. In the new Toy Story Land seasonal fun includes holiday music in the Alien Swirling Saucers attraction. Info: www.disneyworld.com.
• Epcot, Walt Disney World– The Festival of the Holidays celebrates traditions of the park’s World Showcase’s 11 nations and adds international seasonal flavors in special Holiday Kitchens. Other festivities include a tree-lighting ceremony with Disney characters, and the “Candlelight Processional” with a 50-piece orchestra, massed choir and well-known narrators who present the Christmas legend at the América Gardens Theatre in the park’s U.S. pavilion. Festivities begin on Nov. 22 in Epcot. Narrators this year include Pat Sajak from Wheel of Fortune. Info: www.disneyworld.com.
• Islands of Adventure, Universal Orlando Resort– Grinchmas in Islands of Adventure celebrates Dr. Seuss’ the Grinch and Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment Oscar-winning movie, “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.” The Seuss Landing section of the park transforms itself with holiday decorations and visitors may see the Grinch in his lair. A musical presentation tells the story of the Grinch from Nov. 17 to Jan. 6. Info: www.universalorlando.com.
• SeaWorld, Orlando– Christmas at SeaWorld offers holiday decorations and “snowfalls” in The Waterfront section of the park from Nov. 17 to Dec. 31. Additionally, there is a “sea” of Christmas trees, traditional music, characters such as Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, special entertainment including one about the Christmas legend and one with Shamu the whale as well as caroling along the park’s streets. Info: www.SeaWorld.com.
• Universal Studios, Universal Orlando Resort — Macy’s Holiday Parade takes to the streets at Universal Studios. The parade features some of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons in New York City. Other festivities include a tree lighting ceremony each evening with Santa Claus and decorations galore including the illumination of Hogwarts Castle in the Harry Potter area. Celebrations begin on Nov. 17 and run through Jan. 6. Info: www.universalorlando.com.
IF YOU GO: This is a busy time of the year at the Orlando theme parks so making hotel reservations as soon as possible is advisable. Good lodging options include the hotels on the Disney World monorail line to the Magic Kingdom and with a transfer, to Epcot (free buses take to the other Disney parks). These hotels include the Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Tower (the latter with “villa-type” accommodations). Info: www.disneyworld.com. Another good option is the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin from where guests can walk to Epcot and Disney Hollywood Studios (or take complimentary boats to those parks and complimentary buses to the other Disney parks). Info: www.swandolphin.com.