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Vallejo's new role: Winter wonderland

VALLEJO -- Christmas has taken over in a big way at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom -- the former Marineworld/Africa USA.

More than one million lights sparkle atop buildings, topiaries, canopies and trees in the 135-acre theme park. In the middle of it all, standing majestically at Dolphin Fountain, is a Christmas tree that Six Flag's touts as the world's largest.

The Douglas fir -- 125 feet tall and 55 feet around -- was trucked from Oregon and hoisted into the park by a helicopter. In the dark, it stretches beyond prying eyes, up, up, into the clouds as kids stare skyward in search of its tippity top.

To further instill the holiday spirit, the park -- a summertime favorite of thrillseeking roller coaster riders and fans of its animal acts -- offers themed areas. In Winter Wonderland, for example, giant snowflakes, icicles and fluffly snow make the perfect home for Frosty the Snowman. And at Candy Cane Lane, larger-than-life striped canes are joined by other holiday treats to form a vista for an up close look at Lake Chabot.

The animals at Six Flags star in all new holiday shows. Sea lions and otters perform in "Super-Spirited Sea Lions Save Christmas," and dolphins fan out from the stage.

No holiday spectacular is complete without Santa Claus and gifts. So Six Flags built Santa his own 21st century workshop where little ones can bring their Christmas lists. After dropping of their wish lists, kids can smile for the camera with Santa himself.

For most children, toys are at the top of their lists, and to allow youngsters to enjoy them, the park hosts Toyland. Gigantic Nutcracker Soldiers, oversized stuffed animals and presents as big as cars and refrigerators all decorated with ribbons and bows make their home in Toyland. If just reveling in the laughter of children isn't enough, these toys magically spring to life and put on a terrific Christmas show.

You don't have to wait for warm-weather spring and summer to experience Discovey Kingdom's kiddie-size enchantments. The rides are running, and the holiday spirit is running high -- as high as the tippy top of a very tall tree.

WHERE: 1001 Fairgrounds Drive, Vallejo

WHEN: Sundays (today and Dec. 23) 4-9 p.m.; Dec. 17-22, 4-10 p.m.; Dec. 16-30, 2-8 p.m.; New Year's Eve, 4 p.m.-midnight; and Jan. 1-6, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. The park is closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. NOTE: Evenings can become chilly, make sure to dress appropriately.

COST: General admission $39.99; children (under 48 inches tall) $24.99; under 2 free. NOTE: If you go online and purchase advance tickets for Holiday in the Park, the price is $24.99. You can use the convenient Print-n-Go feature and proceed straight to the entrance gate.

GETTING THERE: Take Interstate 580 west over the Altamont Pass. In Dublin, go north (toward Sacramento) on Interstate 680. Merge onto Interstate 780 west, exit to the left toward Benicia / Vallejo. Merge onto Interstate 80 east toward Sacramento. Merge onto Highway 37 west toward Napa. Take the Fairgrounds Drive exit toward Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. Turn left onto Fairgrounds Drive and continue to the entrance to the park. Parking $15 for all vehicles.

DRIVE TIME: 1 hour, 37 minutes (Mapquest)

MORE INFO: 707-643-6722, www.sixflags.com/discoverykingdom

To comment, click on the link with this story at www.modbee.com.

Bee assistant librarian Karen Aiello can be reached at kaiello@modbee.com or 578-2392.

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