UPDATE 12/15/20: Six Flags Discovery Kingdom has transformed these offerings into Holiday in the Park Lights Drive-Thru Experience to adhere to state and local restrictions. Click here for our updated review of that experience.
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom kicked off their annual Holiday in the Park festivities on November 27th with new safety protocols in place for the health and safety of park guests. Like our visit this summer, you have to make a reservation to visit as the park has strict capacity limits. But if you’re in California, it’s one of just a handful of options for a safe outdoor holiday lights experience.
Leading up to the week of Christmas, the park is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 2:00 pm to 8:00 pm, with sunset starting in the 5:00 hour (Available days expand to week-long operation the week of Christmas and New Years with the exception of Christmas Day). Among the entertainment offerings ahead of nightfall are three animal shows and the opportunity to get a photo with a penguin. On the day of our visit, penguin photos were wrapped up by 3:00 and we didn’t get there in time, but it looks like a lot of fun.
All of the midway games have been themed to the holidays, some of which have a guaranteed prize like picking an ornament off a tree and opening it to see which size prize you won.
Food stands are offering special holiday treats and hot cocoa lovers can get a souvenir mug and a wristband to enjoy unlimited refills during their visit. There are also two locations in the park with small outdoor fire pits where guests can purchase supplies to make s’mores. We’ll have “Some more” about that later.
Guests also have the opportunity to meet Santa during their visit. I took a peek through the window and noticed that even jolly ol’ St. Nick was wearing a face mask, which is required of all guests and team members in the park.
Other holiday characters can be found throughout the park. If you happen upon Jack Frost, you just might get a snow flurry! These types of photo ops have a marked spot where guests can stand to have their picture taken. We also saw characters like nutcrackers, a poinsettia princess, and peppermint elves throughout the park.
There are also fun oversized holiday decor for selfies, like this giant snowman.
Most of the Christmas trees throughout the park don’t look that great until the lights come on, but this beautiful poinsettia tree near the entrance to both dolphin auditoriums was beautiful by day and by night when spotlights made it glow red.
The first of the three shows we enjoyed was called “A Dolphin Holiday.” The set was decorated with a Christmas Tree and the dolphin trainers each dressed in holiday attire. A host read a narration as the dolphins did tricks and retrieved floating ornaments to decorate their tree.
Next was “Wanted: Santa's Helper” where an elf was holding auditions for a dolphin to help pull his submarine this Christmas. Two dolphins competed, performing high jumps and hitting suspended targets. You’ll have to attend a performance to see who wins during your show. Seating in all shows are marked with dots instructing guests where to sit and team members walk around making sure everyone is on a dot to keep their distance in these outdoor seating venues.
The third show is called “A Very Merry Christmas” and stars sea lions, seals and otters. A mischievous elf decides to ruin Christmas by stealing the key that activates all of the holiday lights around the world and it's up to the animal stars to save the day.
Once the sun sets, the park really comes alive in a spectacular way. The main entrance plaza is where you’ll find the tallest Christmas tree in the park, with LED lights on the surrounding buildings. It brought back memories of the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Walt Disney World as the colors change and dance to Christmas music. From classics by Frank Sinatra and Darlene Love to more contemporary bops by Britney Spears and Mariah Carey, there’s plenty of space for families to spread out and enjoy the continuous shows.
One of the park’s two s’mores locations is also within view of the show. The pre-packaged packs have the chocolate already applied to both sides of the graham cracker cookie, making it easy to assemble once your mallow is warmed to your preferred level. Tables are located next to each small fire pit in a roped off area so groups can remain 6-feet apart.
The rest of the park is decorated, too! There’s a candy cane trail with lots of great photo opportunities on your way to the Sea Lion Stadium.
The waterfront dining area has lights on every roof and projected snowflakes on the ground, a great place to enjoy a meal and the view.
This area also has a light-up snowflake tree.
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is also using Holiday in the Park Lights! to spread some holiday cheer. During the first weekend, a Contra Costa County canned food drive allowed visitors to make donations in exchange for free admission and park members could donate in exchange for holiday gifts instead, choosing from light-up ornaments or a hot beverage thermos. Throughout the event, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom will donate a teddy bear to local toy drives for each bear purchased.
Here’s a look at the adorable teddies waiting to go home with you and spread cheer to kids in need this holiday season.
The typical Six Flags shopping options are available with licensed characters from Looney Tunes and DC Comics, but the park also offers exclusive holiday merchandise including blankets, sweatshirts and drinkware. Sweet treats are also available for purchase, including homemade holiday fudge.
Here’s another look at the holiday light show before we wrap this article up.
For more information on Six Flags Discovery Kingdom Holiday in the Park Lights!, visit their official website.
Holiday in the Park Lights! is running now through January 3rd at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in California’s bay area, a great way for families to safely enjoy holiday cheer in an outdoor, socially distant setting.
Alex joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and has been a lifelong Disney fan. His main beats for LP are Disney-branded movies, TV shows, books, music and toys. He recently became a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA).