Christmas is in full swing in Orlando! Music fills the air; twinkling lights dazzle throughout the evening festivities; and tourists and locals alike can be seen wandering the parks in their Christmas pyjamas (yes, really, at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party). We did the full gamut of theme park events, extending our holiday round-up with a visit to both SeaWorld and Busch Gardens.
We met up with Muffett Baker, Entertainment Manager at SeaWorld, who shared her enthusiasm for both parks’ use of characters from the classic television special, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. “We are extremely excited to have a brand new element this year with Rudolph, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and Bumble the abominable snow monster,” she told us. “You can walk through the area of Rudolph’s ChristmasTown at SeaWorld and Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland at Busch Gardens and enjoy all the life-size, three-dimensional vignettes that tell the classic story, and then you can meet the characters. There are also a lot of fun things to do around it, including games and special food items.”
Seasonal foods include S’Mores (graham cracker, melted chocolate and marshmallows in a waffle cone – delish!), Warm Apple Crisp (sliced green apples and cranberries, with an oatmeal crumb topping in a waffle cone) and Mini Warm Cinnamon Donuts with chocolate or caramel sauce, plus Assorted Candy Bags, kettle corn (sweet popcorn) and Hot Cocoa. Savoury items include grilled slider sandwiches and short-rib brisket mac & cheese. Craft beers and spiked hot cocoa are also available. Or go all-out, food-wise, with SeaWorld’s Santa’s Fireside Feast, featuring an all-you-care-to-eat Christmas buffet and the chance to meet the Jolly Old Elf himself.
Muffett went on: “We are also very excited by the return of Clyde and Seamore’s Countdown to Christmas show, returning this year with our two lovable sea lions. Santa has never come to visit them, so they are doing everything they can to make sure he visits this year. It is fun and gives guests a different look at our animals in this show.”
In what is possibly the most welcome news, those hilarious mimes from the former Clyde and Seamore show have returned, and will be in attendance through 31 December, leading guests in Christmas carols and getting up to their usual antics. We hope it becomes a permanent change!
In recent years, SeaWorld has upped the bar on theme park Yuletide shows, and the stand-out annual addition is O Wondrous Night, a re-telling of the nativity story as recalled by the animals in the stable. It’s a delightful tale, with an immense finale.
“O Wondrous Night is, of course, one of our ‘can’t miss’ shows,” Muffett told us, “And it’s something we have been proud to present for a few years now. We have more than 30 cast members, including singers and dancers, life-size puppets and the big moment at the end with all the animals coming on stage. We audition especially for the show at least a month in advance, and we are lucky to get some returning cast members each time, as well as some new ones. It is quite a long rehearsal process but we think it is worth it.”
We asked if there have ever been any surprises during the show, given the fact that some of the actors may not perform on cue. “Animals are animals,” Muffett admitted, “And sometimes their personality will try to do something you didn’t quite expect – you never know for sure what they are going to do – but it always adds a fun element to the show and people really love it.” We couldn’t agree more and, if you have time for only one show, make this one ‘it’.
Winter Wonderland on Ice is another long-time favourite, with ice dancing to classic Christmas tunes in a setting as dazzlingly wintery and wonder-landy as it gets in Florida.
Shamu Christmas Miracles is another of SeaWorld’s returning shows, featuring Shamu’s friends performing to Christmas carols and inspiring guests to care for our natural world. Elmo’s Christmas Wish is also back, with characters from the children’s show Sesame Street helping their friend Elmo discover the one thing he most wants on his Christmas Wish list.
And the Sea of Trees music and lights show, featuring over 100 trees on the central lagoon, remains the glorious finale. As Muffett said, “We have the big-scale production of the Sea of Trees, which is always a favourite. This year we have a brand new 70-foot tree as the centrepiece, with enhanced lights that are all individually programmed to the musical score. We really hope guests stop to see this presentation.”
Busch Gardens also gets into the act, with some duplicates to SeaWorld (Elmo’s Christmas Wish, Christmas On Ice and Meet Rudolph), plus the wonderful Christmas Town Village, with craft items, gifts, and seasonal foods. Additional shows include:
We Three Kings Show, which follows the Magi’s journey through song as they make their way toward Bethlehem; Christmas Time Tree Show, featuring a giant tree filled with dancing lights; and Carol of the Bells lights and music show on the Serengeti Overlook Restaurant’s façade.
Music is a big part of the celebration as Dragon Fire Grill presents Christmas Celebration song and dance show, with an appearance by Santa Claus. Christmas From the Heart highlights contemporary Christian gospel music suited to the season, and the Hallelujah Showcase features local groups singing Yuletide favourites in the Marrakesh Theater.
Several rides are also open during the evening festivities at Busch Gardens, including the Christmas Town Express train, kiddie-sized Jingle Bell Express, plus the massive drop tower Falcon’s Fury and the thrilling roller coasters Cobra’s Curse and Cheetah Hunt.
Both SeaWorld and Busch Gardens have some of the best seasonal atmosphere in Orlando, along pathways filled with Christmas trees and twinkling lights in the landscaping, plus the chance to meet Santa and have a photo taken at Santa’s Workshop and Santa’s House, respectively.
The parks’ seasonal offerings are annual family Christmas events for us, and, if you’ve been before, you’ll know why. If not, we highly recommend an evening at each to kick off the Season Of Joy for you and yours, too!
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