One of the best times to visit any of the Orlando theme parks is during the holiday season. From extensive holiday decorations, amazing events & experiences and some of the best holiday themed shows, its completely worth the trip to make a visit. However, due to the COVID pandemic all the major theme parks have made adjustments to their typical holiday lineup.
We are going to review what’s offered for 2020 at the Walt Disney World theme parks, the Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando.
Christmas at the Walt Disney World Resort (2020)
The Walt Disney World Resort is always the best places to be during the holiday season. Starting on November 6th and extending until December 30th, the holidays at Walt Disney World will encompass all four theme parks, Disney Springs and a number of the resort hotels.
The Magic Kingdom
There is no place better to visit during the holiday’s than Disney’s Magic Kingdom theme park.
Although Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is not taking place in 2020, there are still a number of amazing holiday events and experiences which include:
- Holiday Castle Projection (directly on Cinderella’s Castle)
- Holiday Trolley
- Mickey’s Holiday Cavalcade
- Santa’s Christmas Cavalcade
- Main Street Philharmonic
- Goofy’s Scrumptious Cavalcade
- A Royal Christmas Processional
In addition to the events and experiences, the Magic Kingdom will be decorated for the holiday season with fantastic theming along Main Street, USA. There will also be a number of holiday-inspired food and beverage offerings through the park.
Experience Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays which begins on November 27th and extends until December 31. There will be live musical productions, holiday entertainment (cavalcades include Santa Claus, Elsa and Micky himself), holiday themed food and a holiday cookie stroll throughout Epcot’s World Showcase.
Unfortunately the annual Candlelight Processional is not be offered in 2020.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
The holiday festivities continue at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Highlights of events and experiences include:
- Holiday theming to The Hollywood Tower Hotel
- Santa Claus Motorcade
- Minnie’s Holiday Dine at Hollywood & Vine
- For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration
Guests will find seasonal decor throughout the park.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Disney’s Animal Kingdom gets dressed up like only Disney can do. Watch the Tree of Live Awakenings – Holiday Edition where the tree comes to life with the holiday spirit. Highlights of events and experiences include:
- Santa Claus Festive Flotilla
- Donald’s Dino Festive Flotilla
- Mickey and Friends Festive Flotilla
- Discovery Island Drummers Festive Flotilla
- Chip & Dale’s Festive Flotilla
Guests will also find seasonal decor throughout Animal Kingdom.
From festive decorations to holiday inspired food & drink offerings, make sure you put Disney Springs on your “must visit” list.
- The Christmas Tree Stroll
- Santa’s Winter Watercade
- Holiday Scavenger Hunt
- Special Entertainment (DJ’s, stilt walkers, skaters)
- Let It Snow (snow flurries)
- Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar Holiday Takeover
The Holidays at Universal Orlando (2020)
Starting on November 14th and running to January 3, 2021 “Not Even The Grinch Can Steal the Holidays This Year”.
Universal’s Holiday Experience featuring Macy’s Balloons
In lieu of Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s, there is an all new walk-through experience where guests can get up close to the Christmas floats as well as the parade balloons.
Following is a video of the Holiday Parade from 2019.
The Grinch and the Whos
Straight out of Dr. Seuss lore, the Grinch and the Whos will make appearances in Seuss Landing throughout the day.
We will miss one of our favorite shows (“Grinchmas”) which will not be featured this year. But you can watch it in our video below.
In addition to those items referenced above, Universal is providing the following events and experiences:
- Holiday Tree Hunt
- Holiday Treat Trail (all new)
- Holiday Tribute Store (all new)
- Universal’s Holiday Character Celebration (all new)
- Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees – holiday show
- The Frog Choir – holiday show
Univversal is also offering a Holiday tour starting at $59.99 per person where guests get front-of-the-line access to the Macy’s parade floats/balloons, a private meet and greet with The Grinch and a private viewing of The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle.
Speaking of The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle, check out our video below.
Christmas at SeaWorld Orlando (2020)
SeaWorld Orlando’s Christmas Celebration returns starting on November 14th and runs to December 31, 2020. The park is transformed into a complete “Winter Wonderland” with over 3-million holiday lights, amazing holiday themed shows & experiences and great food & beverages.
It’s a Wonderful Night (new for 2020)
It’s a Wonderful Night “A New Story to Tell” is SeaWorld Orlando’s version for 2020. This show celebrates the holiday’s in keeping with the themed of this crazy year.
Winder Wonderland On Ice
This amazing show has been a part of SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration for years and always is a joy to watch. What’s new for 2020 is that guests are allowed to go on the ice (for a fee of course – this is a theme park after all) prior to the show.
Sea Lion High, The Christmas Special
Watch as Clyde and Seamore get ready for their Christmas Pageant in this zany holiday themed show.
In addition to the shows and experiences above, SeaWorld hosts a number of additional holiday features including:
- Sea of Trees
- Sesame Street Parade
- Waterfront Snow Flurries
- Visit Santa Claus
One of our favorite SeaWorld holiday events was Shamu Christmas Miracles. This show was “retired” in 2019 but its memory lives on as one of the best Orca shows that we have seen.
Although 2020 may seem like a “down year” for the holiday’s at the Orlando theme parks, there is still so much that is offered. Although the Endless Summer Florida family will miss many of our holiday traditions like the Shamu’s Christmas Miracles at SeaWorld, Mannheim Steamroller at Universal and the Candlelight Procession at Walt Disney World’s Epcot, we are happy to find that parks are open and able to offer a very nice holiday celebration as we close out this very crazy year.
As a Side Note
One thing is for certain in the Orlando area theme parks is change. Like the closing of our favorite holiday show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (“The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights”), the parks will evolve and figure out a way to continue to entertain while keeping their guests safe.
Our Favorite Orlando Area Hotels for the Holidays
The Grand Floridian Resort (Walt Disney World)
The Grand Floridian Resort is the premier hotel on the Monorail loop of Disney’s Magic Kingdom theme park. During the holiday season, Disney spares no expense to dress up this resort for Christmas.
Typically there is a three (or more) story Christmas tree in the lobby surrounded by numerous decorations, a full size gingerbread house and a cast member roasting chestnuts by an open fire.
The Hard Rock Hotel (Universal Orlando)
If you are planning on staying on-site at the Universal Orlando Resort, than the Hard Rock Hotel should be at the top of your list. Out of all the on-site hotels at Universal, the Hard Rock is the closest to the park entrance and it’s just a very short walk about the back gate. And guests always get the “Rock Star” treatment.
The Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld
If you plan on spending some time at SeaWorld for the holidays, then the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld is the smart choice to make. The hotels open atrium is usually very well decorated for the holidays and the Renaissance typically hosts a number of holiday themed events. The hotel is directly across the street from SeaWorld and it’s a short walk to the main entrance.
The Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center
The Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center is one of our favorite (if not our favorite) off site hotels in the Orlando theme park area. Although its right outside the entrance to Walt Disney World, it’s only 10 to 15 minutes to SeaWorld Orlando and about 20 minutes to the Universal Orlando Resort.
In addition to its fantastic rooms and amenities, the resort hosts CHRISTMAS AT THE GAYLORD PALMS which features a number of amazing holiday themed shows and experiences. Its lineup for 2020 includes:
- I Love Christmas Movies (walk through experience)
- Snow Flow Mountain (tube slides)
- Snowball Build and Blast
- Cirque Dreams Unwrapped (live show)
- #Lit Light Show
Check our our post CHRISTMAS AT THE GAYLORD PALMS (2020) to make reservations to the hotel and watch our video below.