Visiting a theme park in California is always a cause for celebration, but many of these family favorites take festive to a whole new level around the holidays. If you're planning a Golden State adventure in November or December, taking in the bright lights, holiday-themed décor, and festive food is a must-do.
Here's a rundown of the festivities planned at the major theme parks.
Disneyland Resort, Anaheim
Disneyland kicked off its holiday season in Anaheim on Nov. 8 with decorations around the park including a 60-foot tall decorated Christmas tree, blue icicle lights on Sleeping Beauty’s castle, holiday costumes for characters, and the grand Christmas Fantasy parade, complete with a Santa float. The Haunted Mansion has been transformed inside and out with the spooky fun of The Nightmare before Christmas, while It’s a Small World features a holiday-around-the-world theme. Evenings conclude with a DJ-led Holiday Dance Party and the finale of a Holiday Magic fireworks extravaganza.
Universal Studios Hollywood
Visit this popular park in Los Angeles County to celebrate the season from Nov. 28–Dec. 26. Check out Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, with Hogwarts Castle draped in lights for an evening music show and the shops of Hogsmeade selling specialty holiday wares and meals. “Grinchmas” returns with Who-ville in all its glory, including chances to pose for photos with a colorful Seuss Christmas Tree, the Grinch, and other characters from the classic story. Universal CityWalk will also be decorated for the season, and its stores provide plenty of Christmas shopping opportunities.
Great Wolf Lodge, Garden Grove
This waterpark resort near Anaheim launches its annual Snowland festivities on Nov. 29, and continuing through Jan 5. The colorfully decorated lobby will feature daily faux snow showers and the resort will host complimentary activities including a Reindeer Antler Toss, Pin the Nose on Mr. Snowman, and a nightly Frosty Fest Dance Party. Inside the 84-degree indoor waterpark, kids can participate in the Polar Bear Plunge, drawing a bear on an “iceberg” and sending it down a slide. Santa and will be there to visit with kids and share in the activities.
SeaWorld San Diego
SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration launches a sea of more than one million lights decorating the entire park on Nov. 23. Rudolph’s Christmastown and the Sesame Street Christmas Village will offer photo ops with characters, fun Christmas-themed games, Christmas Carol sing-a-longs, a 5 p.m. Christmas tree lighting ceremony, and a chance to chat with Santa himself. A Christmas-themed Winter Wonderland on Ice features figure skaters while the Cirque Du Soleil troupe heats things up with a wild Nutcracker-themed Cirque Christmas performance. Even the sea creatures get involved with Dolphin Island Christmas and Seamore the Sea Lion Christmas shows.
LEGOLAND California, Carlsbad
Starting Nov. 23, LEGOLAND California’s holiday season will feature a 30-foot-tall LEGO Christmas tree and wandering Santa, Toy Soldier, and Gingerbread Man characters. There will be a “Santa’s Top Elf” live performance and a nightly musical Holiday Light Show. LEGOLAND is also offering a Holiday Vacation Package from Nov. 23–Dec. 25 with discounts on hotel-and-admission combos.
Knott’s Berry Farm, Buena Park
Visit the transformed Knott’s Merry Farm to celebrate the holidays from Nov. 22–Jan. 5. Every evening will bring winter to the Orange County theme park with falling “snow” accompanying thousands of lights blinking to the beat of Christmas Carols. Snoopy and friends will entertain with a Christmas-themed ice show and a wholesome Peanuts Guide to Christmas performance. Santa will greet kids in his Christmas Cabin, while Mrs. Claus hosts cookie decorating. Classically costumed carolers will conduct singalongs in the park to keep everyone in a Christmas mood.
Find holiday fun at this Central California theme park from Nov. 29–Dec. 31 with an array of light displays and performances happening Friday through Sunday evenings. There will be live performances of A Charlie Brown Christmas with hot chocolate and a Signature Feast available, complete with roast turkey and baked ham. The marketplace with offer holiday crafts along with specialty foods and drinks.
California’s Great America, Santa Clara
The Bay Area gets a dose of the season at Great America’s Winterfest, running from Nov. 29–Dec. 31. The busy Peanuts crew will be hosting Christmas carols, crafts, a theater show, and even the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree Lot, with a maze of trees leading to the famously small tree for a fun photo op. Guests can rent skates and glide across Snow Flake Lake in front of the Carousel. There will be holiday treats, visits with Santa, a nightly tree-lighting event (with snow!), and an array of Christmas decorations and performances.