Theme Parks where it’s Always Christmas

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park gets all decked out just for the holiday season, but  at these theme parks it’s Christmas all year round!

Many theme parks dress up for Christmas—not only Disneyland and Universal but also smaller parks. Dollywood has its Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival, Sesame Place its Very Furry Christmas, Silver Dollar City its Old Time Christmas, Six Flags its Holiday in the Park, Lake Compounce its Holiday Lights, Cliffs its Cliff’s Magical Christmas, Hersheypark its Christmas Candy Lane. Knotts Berry Farm its Knotts Merry Farm, and more. These parks come as they are – they’re Christmas all year round (except for after-Christmas winter months when some close):

Santa’s Workshop in North Pole, N.Y., opened in 1949, six years ahead of Disneyland, and claims to be the forerunner of U.S. theme parks. The developer, Julian Reiss, had made up a story for his daughter about a baby bear who found Santa Claus and his workshop. The girl wanted to visit the place, so he built it. The park has child-oriented rids including Candy Cane Express train, a sleigh coaster, carousel, Ferris wheel and talking Christmas tree.

Santa’s Workshop in Cascade, Colo., opened in 1956, is a village where you can meet the North Pole crew from May through Christmas Eve. It has 28 rides, mostly geared toward children, including a high-altitude Ferris wheel, Peppermint Slide, and Candy Cane Coaster.

Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari Water Park in Santa Claus, Ind., has separate holiday-themed areas for 4th of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Many of the rides are geared toward children, but the park also has a Thunderbird roller coaster and two large waterslides, among other family and thrill rides.

Castle Noel in Medina, Ohio, is all indoors but includes a Blizzard Vortex tunnel, Santa’s Chimney Squeeze, and a 25-foot animated Christmas tree. Its major attraction is a huge collection of props from a dozen Hollywood Christmas movies and traditional Christmas displays from upscale New York department stores. You can even ride the red slide like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story.”

Santa’s Village in Jefferson, N.H. has 20 rides mostly geared toward children, including a Chimney Drop, Little Drummer Boy spinning ride, Little Elf Flying School sleighs, Yule Log Flume, Santa’s Express Train, Reindeer Carousel, and S.S. Peppermint Twist small roller coaster. Its Ho Ho H20 water park is open in the warmer month. The village has several coasters, a monorail, food, and entertainment.

Santa’s Enchanted Forest in Miami claims to be the world’s largest holiday theme park. It has more than 100 rides, shows, games, attractions, and a free carnival. In addition to the child-focused rides, the site has thrill rides and roller coasters for adults and families. The park is open from mid-October through early January.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Visit Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park over the holidays and enjoy Winter on the Mountain which includes holiday festivities such as visits from Santa, fire pits for roasting s’mores, live music and entertainment, as well as theme park rides and family attractions, cave tours and more.

Trend: Theme Parks Aim For Broader Demographic

This is not your father’s amusement park industry. 

Theme parks today are attracting more visitors and earning more money by reaching beyond – but not leaving behind – the “family-friendly” focus that has driven their success since Disneyland opened in 1955 to help the parents of baby boomers entertain their growing families. That model, which has proliferated around the world, suffered a downturn in the United States in the 1970s when the birth rate dropped after the boom, then revived with new venues such as Universal Orlando in the 1990s as the millennial population was growing up.

Today, facing another slowdown in the population of families with children, parks have adopted savvy marketing strategies to keep the customers coming. Attendance grew to 390 million in 2017 from 343 million in 2011, and receipts are expected to grow from $22.6 billion in 2017 to $27.2 billion in 2021. That’s driven largely by millennials, whether or not they have kids. In a survey, three-fourths of childless millennials said they were interested in visiting a theme park in the next year, just three percentage points less than millennial parents and far above the 59 percent of all parents. While about half of all parents consider theme parks a good value for the money, nearly two-thirds of millennials hold that opinion.

It’s the reward for smart marketing, industry observers say. Disneyland branded its Pixar Festival last year “Celebrating Friendship and Beyond,” suggesting that groups of friends as well as families should attend. The park’s new Toy Story section is a direct appeal to millennial nostalgia for the 1995 movie.

Those friend groups aren’t all millennials, though. Some parks are also aiming for wealthier people and older adults by holding upscale food and wine festivals and offering upsale premiums such as skip-the-line passes.

“I’ve heard from several people in the industry that they expect elderly visitors to outnumber toddlers in the very near future,” Robert Niles, founder of Theme Park Insider, wrote in the Orange County Register.  “Other than maybe Legoland, parks can’t aim just at families with small children and expect to keep growing anymore. Theme parks need to find ways to keep fans visiting after they grow up, even they don’t have children of their own to bring to the parks.”[1]

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is family-owned and America’s only mountain-top theme park. Visit Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park to learn more about our park and theme parks in general.

Other Great American Theme Parks to Explore

Photo op from Exclamation Point

You won’t find a theme park on top of a mountain, much less inside a mountain, anywhere but Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. But if you’re interested in collecting a variety of rolling, watery, funny, tasty, accessible, thrilling, and good old-fashioned theme parks, we like this list from

  1. Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Founded in 1963 and family-owned until 2001, this 48-acre park calls itself a Kingdom for Kids. It has more than 35 rides, attractions, and shows, including a water play area, three roller coasters (one wooden), a log flume, a riverboat ride, animatronic dinosaurs, bumper cars and high-dive shows.

  1. Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg, Pennsylvania

Knoebels was founded on July 4, 1926, and is still family-owned. Part of its attraction is free admission, free parking, free entertainment and free picnic facilities. The park has more than 60 rides and attractions, including six roller coasters (one wooden), arcade games, mini-golf, a bald eagle habitat and two carousels originally built more than 100 years ago. You can still catch the brass ring for a free ride.

  1. Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus, Indiana

Opened in 1946, with the water park added in 1993, this 125-acre family-owned park was one of the first to offer unlimited soft drinks to visitors. The park is divided into Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween and 4th of July themed sections, with food and music as well as rides reflecting the season. It has three wooden roller coasters, one steel coaster and two water coasters.

  1. Silverwood Theme Park and Boulder Beach in Athol, Idaho

Opened in 1988, with the water park added in 2003, this 413-acre playground is the northernmost U.S. theme park. It has 66 rides and attractions, including one of five giant inverted boomerang coasters in the world, five other roller coasters (two wooden), a Ferris wheel, bumper boats, a drop tower, a log flume, water slides, two wave pools and a popular steam train.

  1. Adventureland Amusement Park in Altoona, Iowa

This family-owned playground, opened in 1974, with the Adventure Bay water park added in 2010, has more than 100 rides, shows, and attractions, including five roller coasters and a whitewater river raft ride. It has numerous kid-friendly rides, a petting zoo and three game areas – Alpine Games, County Fair, and Dragon Island.

  1. Lake Compounce in Bristol, Connecticut

Lake Compounce, founded in 1846, is the oldest continuously operating amusement park in the United States. The 332-acre playground was completely renovated after it opened under new management in the mid-1990s. It has 44 rides, including one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the world and one of the newest, the mountainside Boulder Dash, among its five coasters. Lake Compounce, where cold drinks are free at hydration stations, also has a lakeside train ride, a drop tower, a Ferris wheel and a log flume.

  1. Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, Texas

Built in 2010 by Gordan Hartman after his daughter was born with cognitive and physical delays, Morgan’s Wonderland is the world’s first theme park designed for children with special needs, although it is open to everyone (the accessibility is also convenient for older adults). The 25-acre nonprofit park has about 25 wheelchair-accessible attractions, including a carousel, Ferris wheel, train ride, wheelchair swings and Sensory Village. The three-acre Morgan’s Inspiration Island water park was added in 2017. Children with disabilities are admitted free.

  1. Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California

Knott’s Berry Farm started on a berry farm that also sold preserves and pies in the 1920s, then added restaurants and shops, and finally built a Ghost Town in 1940. It expanded with a Camp Snoopy in 1983 and was sold by the family in 1997. Soak City, a water park, was added in 2000. The playground has five themed areas – Ghost Town, Fiesta Village, The Boardwalk, Camp Snoopy and Indian Trails. It has 35 rides, including nine roller coasters, two water rides and train rides.

  1. Carousel Gardens Amusement Park in New Orleans, Louisiana

This center in New Orleans City Park is focused on the 1906 Live Oak Ladybug Rollercoaster, locally known as the Flying Horses but has 16 other rides including a drop tower, a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, a Tilt-A-Whirl and a miniature train. It is closed for most of the winter.

  1. Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio

Cedar Point, opened in 1870 and second only to Lake Compounce for longest-running park, attracts more than 3.5 million visitors a year, the most of any seasonal theme park. The 365-acre playground has more than 70 rides, including 16 roller coasters, two water rides, a 136-foot Ferris wheel, a 1912 carousel,and a train ride along Lake Erie. Performances are in the Extreme Sports Stadium, the Celebration Plaza Stage and smaller venues.