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Holiday celebrations at Central Florida's theme parks

Parades, fireworks, candlelight processions, tree-lighting ceremonies, animal shows, concerts - the theme parks have scheduled a raft of holiday activities this season, including the lighting of a Christmas tree made of 270,000 Lego and Duplo bricks at Legoland, Central Florida's newest park.

All the events require purchase of park admission, but unless otherwise noted, are included at no extra charge. Except for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom, they will take place during regular park hours, although some parks will extend their hours during the holidays. Here's a rundown of events:

LEGOLAND

"Christmas Bricktacular" kicks off Dec. 5 with the park's first-ever tree-lighting ceremony, with a 30-foot tree built of forest-green bricks, in The Beginning section of Legoland, near the entrance. Subsequently, a different family will be chosen each day through Dec. 31 to help light the tree. In addition, Santa Claus will be available for photos and naughty-or-nice discussions with kids in the botanical gardens each day.

Information: 877-350-0LEGO (350-5346), www.legoland.com.

UNIVERSAL

Holiday Fanfare runs Dec. 3 to Jan. 1 at both parks. Universal Studios has a nightly Macy's Holiday Parade, with a tree-lighting ceremony and giant helium character balloons - and an opportunity for select guests to act as balloon-handlers. Mannheim Steamroller will perform six Friday and Saturday night concerts, Dec. 10, 11, 17 and 18.

Universal Islands of Adventure will feature the live stage show Grinchmas Wholiday Spectacular, starring the Grinch and the Whos from Whoville. There also will be meet-and-greets and character breakfasts with the Grinch.

Information: Main number 407-363-8000; tickets 407-224-7840; www.UniversalOrlando.com/holidays.

DISNEY

Magic Kingdom: Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, which started early this month, is an after-hours event requiring separate admission. Some but not all of the park's attractions are open during the party, which also includes a parade, fireworks, a "snow fall," meet-and-greets and live entertainment with Disney characters. Hours are 7 p.m.-midnight; remaining dates are Dec. 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16 and 18. Admission: $62.95; $57.95 ages 3 to 9; $6 per ticket discount if purchased in advance. In addition, there will be a light show with Disney characters at Cinderella Castle, with the castle being transformed into an ice palace at dusk each day through Jan. 3.

Epcot: Candlelight Processional, a retelling of the story of Christ's birth with choir, orchestra and celebrity narrator, takes place every day at 5, 6:45 and 8:15 p.m. now through Dec. 30. The event is included with park admission; dinner packages with reserved seating are extra. In addition, the World Showcase has storytellers who share holiday traditions and tales from their homelands.

Hollywood Studios: The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, a display of Christmas decorations and millions of lights that dance to holiday music, takes place every night (except. Dec. 8) through Jan. 7 on the backlot.

Animal Kingdom: Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade, led by King Louie and Baloo, takes place at 4 p.m. daily through Jan. 3.

Information: Tickets 407-939-1289; disneyworld.com/holidays

SEAWORLD

SeaWorld Orlando's Christmas Celebration newest holiday show is O Wondrous Night - The Greatest Story Never Told, with carols and the Christmas story told through the eyes of animals. Other shows are Winter Wonderland on Ice, an ice-skating show with fountains and fireworks; Shamu Christmas - Miracles, the killer whale show; Clyde and Seamore's Countdown to Christmas, involving sea lions, otters, walruses and an elf; A Sesame Street Christmas, with dancing and sing-alongs; and a fountains and fireworks finale. The park also offers the Polar Express Experience, the Sea of Trees, the Makahiki Christmas Luau ($46) and Santa's Fireside Feast ($29.99 adults, $19.99 ages 3-9, $5 discount for pass holders). Holiday events take place Friday through Sunday nights through Dec. 11, then nightly Dec. 16-31.

Information: 888-800-5447; www.SeaWorldGetAways.com.

BUSCH GARDENS

Christmas on Ice, an ice-skating show, takes place in the Moroccan Palace daily through Jan. 1. The Marrakesh Theater has Christmas from the Heart, with a choir performing holiday gospel and spiritual songs. The Desert Grill will have breakfast with Santa and his elves and the Christmas Celebration musical show on Dec.10 ( $18 adults, $12 children).

Information: 888-800-5447; www.buschgardens.com.

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©2011 The Miami Herald

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