It’s the holiday season and for many that means taking a drive south to visit one of the Southern California’s theme parks. Although each park draws crowds like children to Santa Claus in the mall, they have all added some holiday cheer.
Mixed with the familiar rides and attractions are the smells of holiday cooking, the sounds of holiday music drifting through the air, the sights of millions of lights to mark the season, and even a definite chance of snow.
Disneyland and California Adventure
The Walt Disney resort parks aren’t just wrapping a bow on their regular attractions. This year’s holiday season is a blend of the traditional – such as 20th anniversary of holiday lights on It’s a Small World – to the new as with the complete change to the World of Color water show at California Adventure.
The most significant holiday touches are at California Adventure, which looks to reflect the wide range of traditions practiced in California. That includes the introduction of the latest princess to food vendors sprinkled throughout the park that offer ethnic foods with a modern touch.
Turning Disneyland Resort from the “happiest place on Earth” into the happiest holiday place on the planet fell to David Duffy, director of creative entertainment. It’s a job that started almost immediately after last year’s holidays.
“This year, with the introduction of Festival of Holidays, I think we are finally going to give California Adventure that holiday identity its been looking for,” Duffy says. “What I think is so cool is that we have gone back to California for that inspiration. We are celebrating all of the diversity that is here in California.”
The Festival of Holidays celebrates cultures with music, dance and craftmaking, plus food at the Festive Foods Marketplace. The daily lineup of entertainment includes nearly 50 performances of nine shows, including the debut of a holiday show by Princess Elana of Avalor from the Disney Channel animated series.
The celebration includes Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas/Navidad and Three Kings Day (Dia de los Reyes).
“It really feels like a real compliment to what we do over at Disneyland. It’s a very contemporary California take on the holidays,” Duffy says.
Other holiday dressings at California Adventure include Santa Claus at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, decorated Cars Land, changes at A Bug’s Land and a 50-foot Christmas tree at Carthay Circle.
The biggest change is the new World of Color – Season of Light, which features holiday images and music. There are 1,200 fountains shooting water as high as 200 feet to tell the story. Songs include “Let it Snow” by Dean Martin and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” by Michael Buble and Idina Menzel.
“This is a completely new show,” Duffy says. “We have been working on the show for nine months. We had a holiday show before but wanted to introduce a whole new perspective this year. This show is taking some of the most beloved songs you know and are probably part of your family traditions and combined those with Disney imagery.”
Highlighting the holiday look at Disneyland is the 20th anniversary of It’s a Small World being transformed with holiday lighting. Also, Jungle Cruise is now the Jingle Cruise and the Haunted Mansion Holiday is where Jack Skellington and his friends from Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” give Christmas a touch of Halloween.
Disney characters celebrate the season in A Christmas Fantasy parade.
For more information go to Holidays at the Disneyland Resort .
The grinchy-green “Grinchmas” returns to Universal Studios Hollywood. The Grinch, his faithful dog Max and residents of Whoville will be on hand. A 60-foot tall Grinchmas tree will be at the Universal Plaza to serve as the backdrop.
Visitors will be able to be part of the “Grow Your Heart 3 Sizes” campaign by sharing their good deeds on a postcard to be mailed to the Grinch. Guests can design their own Grinchmas ornament and sit in on storytelling with Cindy-Lou Who.
Grinchmas runs Dec. 3, 4, 10 and 11 plus daily Dec. 16-Jan. 1.
The Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride will take on a touch of the holidays.
The holidays at Universal Studios Hollywood are included in the price of theme park admission. For more information go to www.UniversalStudiosHollywood.com.
Knott’s Berry Farm
Knott’s Berry Farm has been turned into Knott’s Merry Farm with thousands of twinkling lights, new live entertainment, a Christmas crafts fair, holiday food and carolers. Snow will fall nightly snow on the streets of Calico.
“It’s the Merriest Christmas Show Ever, Charlie Brown” debuts at the Calico Mine Stage. The one wish for Charlie Brown is to spend the holidays with his family, especially with Snoopy, who is visiting his family around the world. The show will be on select dates through Jan. 8.
The Peanuts gang will be doing triple duty as they also can be seen in the ice show “Merry Christmas, Snoopy!” in the Charles M. Schulz Theatre and in “A Peanuts Guide to Christmas” at the Camp Snoopy Theatre. Performances are on select dates through Jan. 8
For more information about Knott’s Berry Farm, go to knotts.com.