Sooner, longer, goner: Theme-park festivals are in flux

It’s been a growing trend for years, but 2019 may well be the year that theme parks go “all in” on festivals and special events. A major sign was SeaWorld Orlando’s decision to have out-of-the-ordinary experiences every weekend of the year. That maneuver steals away the Forever Festival crown away from Epcot, which has a long dry spell, fest-wise, during the busy summer season.

There are other changes, including events moving significantly earlier on the calendar.

SeaWorld starts with its Festival of the Three Kings, which debuted in 2018. It has a holdover or two from the Christmas season, including the “O Wondrous Night” stage show, but there are some fresh elements, such as papas rellenas, bacalaitos and frozen mango margaritas on the menu. Three Kings runs through Jan. 6. (The Sea of Trees is still in place, too.)

The next two SeaWorld festivals will be new offerings. On weekends between Jan. 12 and Jan. 17, the park will have Inside Look, featuring rare behind-the-scenes access to its animal operations. Then, Feb. 2-3, it’s Elmo’s Birthday Weekend, a sort of appetizer for the Sesame Street area that’s scheduled to open in the spring.

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