Shorts and sunscreen have been replaced with jackets and scarves, and theme parks across the country have suited up to take the winter weather in stride. The gates are open for one last hurrah of the year as these parks offer the best of the holiday season. Warm up with the festive glittering lights, re-themed rides, seasonal treats, and, of course, the treasured opportunity to meet Santa. Though some of the bigger rides of these parks are closed for the winter, exploring the all-encompassing holiday worlds built in these parks is the main attraction.
1. Hersheypark: Hershey, PA
Bundle up and save room for dessert as Hershey’s chocolate-themed mecca transforms for the holidays. Hersheypark reopens its gates each November through December to feature its Christmas Candylane, a dazzling display of two million lights. Over 30 rides are open for the holiday season, and a majority of them are for young children. Though the roller coasters are not in operation due to weather, the park offers a few thrillers. Seek out the incredibly fresh hot chocolate in the park to keep you warm, inside and out.
2. Silver Dollar City: Branson, MO
Silver Dollar City pulls out the stops for Christmas. An impressive 6.5 million lights sparkle as guests stroll through the sprawling park. There's also an eight-story Christmas tree, which features thousands of colorful, glimmering lights that "dance" to music. The park offers helpful information on what rides are in operation throughout the season, dependent on temperature. Plan accordingly and check the weather as any visit to this park is not complete without a ride on Outlaw Run, the world’s only wooden coaster that boasts three inversions. Worth noting, Silver Dollar City offers a unique weather guarantee – if you experience 90 minutes of continuous rain or weather interruptions that restricts rides, you can stop by guest relations for a complimentary return ticket.
3. Kennywood: Pittsburgh, PA
Just off Pittsburgh’s Monongahela River, Kennywood is an old-fashioned, classic American theme park with a lineup of thrilling classic coasters. Each November and December, the roller coasters and thrill rides take a back seat to the Holiday Lights festival, Kennywood’s tribute to the season. Don't miss the Holiday Light Show, a 10-minute illuminated spectacle choreographed to holiday tunes (multiple times). Though the coasters and thrill rides are closed, kids of all ages will love the Gingerbread Express train ride.
4. Walt Disney World (Orlando, FL) and Disneyland (Anaheim, CA)
Anaheim’s original Disneyland and Orlando’s Disney World both go to great lengths to create a winter wonderland in their respective parks. All rides and attractions remain open at these year-round parks, many with special holiday twists, sure to bring a smile to all. Disneyland visitors can enjoy an array of winter- and holiday-themed events and activities, plus decked-out rides like Luigi's Joy to the Whirl. At Walt Disney World, there is plenty to see and do, including Jingle, Bell, Jingle BAM; Sunset Season's Greetings; and Minnie's Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks Show; to name a few. However, you'll have to visit within the next few days to experience the holiday magic -- everything ends on January 6.
5. Busch Gardens: Williamsburg, VA
Each year, from November through early January, Christmas Town takes over Busch Gardens Williamsburg each year. Attractions include holiday singalongs, figure skating, live musical performances, extraordinary light shows, Christmas tree mazes, and so much more. Many of the park’s rides remain open for holiday park-goers, including the world-class Verbolten, the multi-launch coaster that simulates a fast drive on Germany’s autobahn.