December's light displays add sparkle to a month known to be cold and dreary in much of the US. These easy to navigate theme parks and zoos provide plenty of holiday dazzle for you and your family.
A display at Busch Gardens Williasmburg. Courtesy photo.
December’s light displays add sparkle to a month known to be cold and dreary in much of the US. Colorful lights, prancing reindeer (mechanical and real), musical performances plus hot chocolate and hand-crafted trinkets go a long way to engendering a good-will-to-all spirit, even if you don’t celebrate Christmas.
These easy to navigate theme parks and zoos provide plenty of holiday dazzle for you and your family.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Williamsburg, VA
Christmas Town, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, comes alive with 8 million lights. View the ice show, see Scrooge sing his way to enlightenment at the Globe Theatre, watch toy soldiers prance in “Deck the Halls,” and ogle the 50-foot Christmas tree in the Germany section. Stroll by Italy’s Escape from Pompeii to capture a waterfall of lights and take time to pet the postcard-pretty Clydesdales. Select days through Jan. 3, 2016. The park is closed on Christmas Day.
Legoland California Resort, Carlsbad, CA
Wander through a festive wonderland created by Lego bricks during the park’s Holiday Snow Days + Winter Nights festival. Figure out how the park built the 30-foot-tall Christmas tree from 245,000 green Duplo bricks and adorned it with hundreds of Lego ornaments and 11,000 lights. The park creates real snow so that kids can pitch snowballs at Lego targets and wriggle in the white stuff to make snow angels. Fireworks illuminate the night skies Dec. 26-31 plus the park hosts Kids’ New Year’s Eve on Dec. 31 from 3-6 pm. Guess what drops to signal the new year—a Lego brick, of course. Through Jan. 3, 2016. Tree lighting and fireworks on select dates.
Hersheypark, Hershey, PA
At Hersheypark’s Christmas Candylane, touch real reindeer, reserve breakfast or lunch with Santa and Mrs. Claus, glide across the ice at Rudolph’s Skating Pond, get some thrills by riding four roller coasters and watch 200,000 lights on trees sync to Christmas music at the nightly shows. In addition, pack the gang in your car to drive through nearby Hershey Sweet Lights, a showcase of some 600 illuminated animal displays. Candylane runs through Dec. 31, but is closed Dec. 24 and 25. Sweet Lights runs through Jan. 1, 2016.
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Cincinnati, OH
Ride the Toyland Express train, stroll by the gingerbread village, eat stickfuls of marshmallows and chocolate at S’Mores-N-More and admire the park’s 2 million synchronized lights reflected in the lakeside light show. On Dec. 31, you can take part in the Zoo’s kid-friendly Happy Zoo Year celebration, complete with puppet shows, fireworks and an early 8:55 p.m. countdown. The display is open through Jan. 2, but closed evening of Dec. 24 and all day Dec. 25.
Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Washington, DC
You never know what animals will “appear” at the National Zoo’s annual holiday party. Anteaters, horses, toucans, bears, elephants, and a wolf howling at the moon took shape in lights at previous festivals. You can also see real apes, reptiles, and other critters at the animal houses that remain open during these evening celebrations. The annual ZooLights tradition blazes with 500,000 lights. Families can dance to live music, get photos with Panda Claws, and slide down Lion/Tiger Hill on 150-foot long faux snow slide. Open through Jan. 2, but closed Dec. 24, 25, and 31.
What's your favorite place to see holiday lights? Comment below or connect with me on Twitter, @familyitrips. And check out our photo gallery below.
Photos of some of our top picks for holiday light displays.