Want to get into the holiday spirit and hold on to Thanksgiving just a little longer?
You can at Universal Orlando, where the theme park stages the Macy's Holiday Parade with some of the balloon friends — the Cat in the Hat, Curious George — from the annual New York City event.
"I just wish I could show you a child's face when they see a balloon for the first time," says manager of show development Michael Roddy, who calls the staging of the parade's giant inflatables a "mathematician's nightmare."
Universal kicks off its holiday celebrations with two concerts by Mannheim Steamroller at 6 and 8 p.m. Saturday with the Macy's Parade in between. The party continues through Jan. 1. "If you want to get an overdose of Christmas, come Dec. 6," Roddy says.
Expect music from Mannheim's new Christmasville album and songs from Grinchmas. The Steamroller wrote the Grinchmas score.
Speaking of Grinchmas: The Mean One and assorted Whos from Whoville perform in the annual show at Islands of Adventure.
Universal Orlando has a variety of deals in December, including a two-park unlimited admission ticket, good for seven consecutive days, for $94.99 plus tax. For more information and for other specials, see www. UniversalOrlando.com.
Here are other holiday happenings at Orlando area parks.
As in past years, the Cinderella Castle is now a giant holiday ornament, bathed in more than 200,000 tiny white lights — Castle Dream Lights. All the better to put visitors in the mood for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (select evenings through December). The party begins at 7 p.m. after regular park hours and features the castle's lighting, fireworks orchestrated to holiday tunes and Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade. Cinderella and friends take to the castle stage daily for a light-the-night moment. Admission to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party requires a separate ticket, $59.99 plus tax for ages 10 and older and $53.20 plus tax for ages 3 to 9. Your best bet: Buy in advance. On select dates, you can save about $7 per ticket. For availability, call (407) 934-7639 or go to www. disneyworld.com/holidays.
One of the best things about Epcot's Holiday Around the World is that no extra ticket is required beyond the regular admission. Each country in the World Showcase features its unique holiday traditions through Dec. 30. Other highlights of the nightly Candlelight Processional include a choir, orchestra and celebrity narrators. The event is at the America Gardens.
Disney's Hollywood Studios
It would not be the holidays at Disney without the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights on the back lot. The lights — and the faux snow — run through Jan. 4. The holiday treats are included in the regular admission.
Through Jan. 4, the park offers the Polar Express Experience, which combines scenes from the animated holiday movie with a winter wonderland in a multimedia ride. And there's Shamu Christmas . . . Miracles, a show that runs through Dec. 25. For more information, go to www.seaworld.com.
Gaylord Palms resort
The ICE! Extravaganza at Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee is back for a sixth season. In the resort's vast convention center are nearly 2-million pounds of ice carvings and ice slides. This year's theme — "Santa's Arctic Blast" — features several scenes starring the Jolly One himself. It is all kept at a chilly 9 degrees, so dress accordingly (parkas are provided). The event runs through Jan. 4 and is $9.99 to $24.99, depending on the day and ticket package. Parking is $12. For information on the resort's other holiday events and hotel packages, call (407) 586-4423 or go to www.gaylordpalms.com/ice.
Peter Couture can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org