The holidays are here, and while theme parks might usually be summer entertainment, three nearby parks are changing that. With Busch Gardens’ Christmas Town, Kings Dominion’s WinterFest and Six Flags America’s Holiday in the Park, not only are there still opportunities for exciting rides deep into the winter months, but wonderful opportunities to make new holiday memories with family and friends.
With over 10 million lights and an experience that celebrates the ways different countries and cultures highlight the holidays, Busch Gardens’ Christmas Town is absolutely worth the trip to Williamsburg. Visitors traveling through replica European villages will hear popular holiday songs sung in the language of whichever country they’re in. The park’s new Traditions Tree Maze has several stations to learn more about Hanukkah, Diwali and other holiday celebrations from around the world.
The best way to experience all the beautiful lights in Christmas Town is by picking up a Ghirardelli hot chocolate and riding the Christmas Town Express. The train takes riders throughout the park, showcasing gigantic exhibits and hidden lights displays, from traditional Christmas tree lights to stunning neon arrangements.
The theme park knows exactly how to get its guests in the holiday spirit, with experiences that immediately bring about Christmas cheer. Busch Gardens is full of Christmas shops, including a place to decorate cookies and tons of ornaments to pick from. Gorgeous photo opportunities are everywhere, in addition to being able to meet Santa and Rudolph. There’s even the Tastes of Christmas Town Buffet, for those looking for a holiday feast a little early.
Christmas Town also features a wide variety of shows, such as the adorable “Elmo’s Christmas Wish,” “Scrooge No More”—a musical retelling of “A Christmas Carol”—and “’Twas That Night,” an ice show featuring World champion ice skater, Elvis Stojko.
Of course, Busch Gardens also has great rides, many of which are still open for the holiday season. Their newest coaster, InvadR, is possibly more thrilling in complete darkness, and Verbolten’s shocking drops and twisty indoor track would surprise even Santa’s reindeer. For those who want some scares with Christmas memories, Finnegan’s Flyer is a fantastic way to get a rush, and check out the park’s lights from high up.
At Kings Dominion’s WinterFest, the festive joy can be seen before entering the park. The iconic Eiffel Tower is turned into a massive, 300-foot tree for the season, standing high above the millions of lights throughout the park. In front of the tower tree, the International Street Fountains have become Snow Flake Lake, where guests can ice skate around dazzling lighting displays and illuminated trees. While also on International Street, check out Let It Snow, where Jack Frost makes it snow every fifteen minutes.
Fittingly, Planet Snoopy has become Charlie Brown’s Christmas Town, where kids and adults can experience A Charlie Brown Christmas in real life. In Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree, guests can explore a maze in order to find the perfect tree for Charlie. At Sally’s Christmas Crafts, kids can make their own ornaments and Christmas cards. Charlie gets two shows as well, “A Peanuts Guide to Christmas” holiday sing-along, and “Charlie Brown’s Christmas Spectacular,” a musical starring the entire Peanuts gang.
WinterFest has plenty of music for everyone though, such as “Cool Yule Christmas,” where 12 singers perform holiday songs under the Eiffel Tower. Throughout the park can be found Blitzen’s Brass Band, or at the Old Christmas Gazebo, one can find The Mistletones trio singing 1950s-style songs, or the carolers known as Jingle Jazz.
For those looking for holiday snacks, WinterFest has plenty of unique treats. Blitzen’s Burgers offers bacon cheeseburgers on doughnuts, while Prancer’s Festive Funnel Cakes offers a gingerbread funnel cake.
To catch all the stunning lights, take a trip on some of Kings Dominion’s high-flying rides. The Americana ferris wheel is ideal for checking out the lights, while Dominator and the newest coaster, Twisted Timbers, give a great view, if you can stop screaming long enough to look around.
Unlike most of the other parks in the area, Six Flags America’s Holiday in the Park will keep almost all of its rides open for the holidays, weather permitting. For anyone who’s interested in thrills as much as holiday moments, Six Flags has you covered. The Mind Eraser has been renamed Reindeer’s Flight for the season, however rides like Roar and 2019’s new floorless coaster, Firebird, will run as usual.
But there’s still plenty of Christmas excitement to be had at Holiday in the Park. Their 40-foot Silver Bells Tree and 27-foot Main Street Christmas Tree are magical highlights and guests can meet Santa Claus, as well as various Looney Tunes characters in their holiday best.
Holiday in the Park also has quite a few show opportunities throughout the park. “Behold, the Messiah” tells the story of the Nativity, “Dancing Through the Holidays” is a singing and dancing celebration of the season, and “Saving Christmas!” has Santa’s elves trying to save Christmas.
As for food, Six Flags has some great holiday options. Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen offers a Christmas dinner of holiday favorites, and the park offers various Christmas-inspired funnel cakes. For those particularly cold nights, Six Flags even has fire pits for making your own s’mores.
Whether you’re interested in experiencing holidays around Europe, ice skating on frozen ponds, or riding insane roller coasters in December, Busch Gardens, Kings Dominion and Six Flags America have you covered, however you want to celebrate the holidays.
Ross Bonamie is a freelance writer in Fredericksburg.
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