An Epic Christmas Holiday at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen

Eight years ago, we were living in sunny Orlando, Florida. It was our first move as a family away from the same city our families were living in, and we were thrilled to be experiencing our first taste of truly being out on our own. We were young, energetic, and a whole lot tanner than we are now, but more importantly, we were also the lucky holders of season passes to all four Disney World amusement parks.

It couldn’t have come at a better time in our lives. Lexie was five and plenty old enough to appreciate the thrill of the rides and the joy of meeting her favorite Disney characters in person. My fear of heights hadn’t kicked in yet and I’d dangle from the highest rides with all the confidence of a 20-something who hasn’t yet realized that she isn’t invincible. For us, Disney World really was ‘The Happiest Place On Earth’. At least the first thirty or so times we went, anyway.

Over the course of one year, we went to Disney, I’m estimating, over 40 times. You know you’ve been too often when you wake up your five-year-old on a Saturday morning, tell her to get dressed because she’s going to Magic Kingdom for the day, and she groans and asks if she can just stay home instead. We were all pretty Disney-ed out by the end of that year.

Fast forward to the end of 2014. It had been almost a decade since we’d ridden on anything bigger and better than fair rides, and we were finally ready to give an amusement park another go. It was going to be our Christmas gift to Lexie. But where to go?

Disneyland Paris would have been the closest choice, but once you’ve experienced the best of the Disney parks, it’s hard for any others to compete. Then, the answer sort of fell into my lap. I was reading an article about the amusement park that inspired Walt Disney to create his own parks, when I realized the place they were writing about was right here in Europe. And – it gets better – the article said the best time to visit was during the Christmas holidays!

Three discount plane tickets later, and we were off to Copenhagen to spend a day at the legendary Tivoli Gardens.

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Festive Christmas markets at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen

Bird nestled in snowy branches at Tivoli Gardens

The day didn’t start out with a lot of promise. Rain was falling in sheets outside the window as we ate our breakfast at the hotel. We only had two full days in Copenhagen and I began to worry I’d made the biggest mistake ever in waiting until the second of these to visit the park.

We waited an hour to see if the rain would stop and then bundled up, three layers thick this time, and decided we were going to make the best of it, rain or not. (At that point, I wasn’t even thinking the rain would stop. I was just hoping the temperature would drop enough that maybe it would turn to snow.)

As we were walking to Tivoli Gardens, the rain started to look like it was letting up. I tried not to get my hopes up, though. I tried not to even think about it, because mental jinx.

But by the time we arrived at the entrance to the park, nearly everyone had closed up their umbrellas and the rain had been reduced to only a slight drizzle. And thanks to the rain keeping most other visitors away, we walked straight to the front entrance, no queue at all, and entered the park.

The same park that, as luck would have it, would continue to stay almost completely empty of other people until nightfall.

It was as if we’d rented the park out for ourselves and a dozen other strangers. We were jumping from ride to ride, sometimes even staying on the rides for another go because there were literally no lines at all.

Read More: Christmas in Copenhagen: A Saint Lucia Day Celebration

Peacocks standing near the fire at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen Staying warm by the fire in Tivoli Gardens at Christmas

Peacocks standing near the fire at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen

Visiting Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen at Christmas

The Demon roller coaster at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen Enjoying the rides at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen

The first thing we rode at Tivoli Gardens was the biggest, fastest ride they have – The Demon. It was Lexie’s first roller coaster that goes upside down and, brave girl that she is, she rode right in the front with me! Cory stayed behind to take a picture, and I’m so glad he did because every time I look at it I start cracking up.

We were not expecting the ride to go fast enough to knock our hats off, so in the photo you can see both of us with huge smiles on our faces…and our hands holding onto our hats like our lives depended on it. (Lexie’s ended up flying off at the end, but luckily a guy behind us managed to grab onto it!)

We ended up riding almost every ride in the park, most two or more times each. Our favorites were definitely The Demon, as well as the other two roller coasters, and the Golden Tower that took us way up above the park, held us there for a few moments, and then dropped us straight back down. I swear they heard our screams all the way in Sweden.

The only thing that caused me to have a minor freak-out was the swings. These were no ordinary swings, though. These swings took us up three billion feet in the air, even higher than the Golden Tower, and then left us swinging up there in the wind, our legs dangling free, as it spun around and around.

I made it through the first round okay, but on the second round, my imagination went into overdrive and the only way I saw this ride ending was either with us dangling precariously from the cables with sweaty hands or, even worse, falling all three billion feet down to the ground and ruining everyone’s Christmas holidays with our untimely deaths.

Against all odds, we survived. And I’ll likely never get on another swing more than three feet off the ground as long as I live.

When we weren’t hopping on rides, we were hanging around the little “fires” strategically placed throughout the park, even though whatever they were burning made us seriously light-headed. (At a certain point, we got cold enough that we’d rather be warm and risk passing out than stay cold.)

Most of the time, we didn’t mind the cold, though. Tivoli Gardens was decked out like a true winter wonderland, so the cold temperatures only served to make the fake frost and snow that much more believable.

It only took us just a few minutes inside to see why Walt Disney chose to mirror his parks after this place – Tivoli Gardens is the second oldest amusement park in the world and it’s still got it going on!

The rides are loads of fun, the food is good, and the park itself – just the way it looks, particularly at Christmas – is something straight out of a storybook. I didn’t think it could get any better, but after the sun went down, Tivoli Gardens really outdid herself.

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Magical twinkle lights hanging from the trees in Tivoli Gardens at Christmas Magical twinkle lights hanging from the trees in Tivoli Gardens at Christmas

Asian pagoda at Tivoli Gardens lit up for Christmas

Swans lit up in front of the Moorish Palace at Tivoli Gardens

Festive Christmas-lighted pathway inside Tivoli Gardens Celebrating Christmas at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen

Pirate ship floating in the lake at Tivoli Gardens at night

Empty swings at Tivoli Gardens in winter Carousel lit up inside Tivoli Gardens at Christmas

View of Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen from the top of the Ferris wheel

I apologize for the giant photo dump, but this is only half of what I considered to be blog-worthy photos. It’s not hard to capture the spirit of the season here because Tivoli Gardens has thought of everything. It really is like walking around some kind of magical North Pole Christmas paradise.

As soon as the sun set, we took a break from riding rides to walk around the entire park and take some photographs. It ultimately turned into a pretty long walk because every couple of feet we were stopping to ooh and aah at something else. This probably would have gone on for a good bit longer if it weren’t for Lexie reminding us what we really came here for.

And so we rode most of the rides in the park once again, and let me tell you, riding some of these at night is a completely different experience than in the day. (Try riding a roller coaster when you can’t see what’s in front of you, even with your eyes open, and tell me that’s not scary!)

Tivoli Gardens did get much busier at night than it had been during the day, but it still wasn’t overly crowded. And most people seemed to be more interested in hanging around the Christmas markets than the rides, anyway.

Speaking of the Christmas markets at Tivoli Gardens, that’s where we, too, found ourselves at the end of the evening. We enjoyed a warm dinner of crepes and hot cocoa in the markets, and then let Lexie pick one last ride, which, after serious deliberation, was exactly the same ride we started the day with. How appropriate.

We entered the park one hour after it opened, and eight hours later, we said our goodbyes. If it weren’t for the fact that we just couldn’t stand the cold any longer, we probably would have stayed until closing, but my warm bed was calling.

Given how it all started, our day could have gone in a completely different direction, but as it seems to do more often than we deserve, the universe aligned itself for us at the last minute and this day at Tivoli Gardens ended up being one of our favorite travel days ever.

Funny to say that about an amusement park when we’re off seeing places of, I suppose, quite a bit more importance, but sometimes you just need a day where the biggest decision you make is which roller coaster to get on next.

When we first arrived in Copenhagen and witnessed the Saint Lucia Day celebrations at Nyhavn, I didn’t think anything we did on the rest of our trip would be able to compare, but this day proved me wrong. Tivoli Gardens was definitely the cherry on top of one amazing Christmas holiday!

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Visiting Tivoli Gardens at Christmas is magical - the twinkle lights and Christmas markets turn the park into a winter wonderland! Visiting Tivoli Gardens at Christmas is magical - the twinkle lights and Christmas markets turn the park into a winter wonderland!

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  • Gerard ~ GQtrippin
    September 14, 2016 at 9:00 AM

    Great pics. Looks cold indeed. I’m thinking about going to Copenhagen during Christmas with my wife. I heard many shops and restaurants were closed during that time. Did you have issues finding places to eat and other things to do like Paper Island during that time?

    • Sarah Shumate
      September 15, 2016 at 9:47 AM

      Hi Gerard! We were in Copenhagen the week before Christmas and everything we went to see + all restaurants were still open. We did not make it out to Paper Island, though, so I can’t say for sure about that.

  • Jessi @2feet1world
    February 26, 2015 at 7:14 PM

    Beautiful shots! I really loved Tivoli too, although I didn’t actually go on any rides – just soaked in the sun (late-May bank holiday) and the fun atmosphere :)

  • Emmymom
    February 13, 2015 at 5:28 PM

    Yeah! Glad the rain stopped for you- though their red noses in that one picture just makes it still look so cold! I am such a wimp now. The first year we had Knotts passes we went 16 times I believe, and yeah ended up taking a year off after that as we got burned out.

  • susannem
    February 12, 2015 at 5:11 AM

    I went to Tivoli Gardens about 6 years ago so it was great to relive the experience through your stories and photos. We were there in the end of April so it was much warmer and full of beautiful flowers. I love to experience it at Christmas. The only ride I remember going on was an old wooden roller coaster.

  • rorybore
    February 12, 2015 at 3:07 AM

    I am so jealous!! I went to Disney in Orlando when I was younger, but I don’t really remember much. and it was a really horrible time in my life when my parents were near divorce: the trip was a last ditch effort to save it I gather. good times. ugh. So I would definitely would like to revist and truly have that Happiest Place on Earth feeling, and of course, give that to my own kids.
    But this place is incredible!!! I am glad you did the photo dump for us. It really looks spectacular – and especially at night.

    • Sarah Shumate
      February 13, 2015 at 3:40 PM

      Oh, how sad. You definitely deserve a do-over. I hope you get to take the whole fam and really enjoy it the second time around!

  • Alyson Tart
    February 11, 2015 at 10:24 AM

    We went there last May and had so much fun! I even enjoyed it, although I hate roller coasters. They talked me into it by filling me with a litre of beer and then telling me the ride DIDNT go upside down when really it did. Imagine my shock upon that first flip!! Glad y’all enjoyed the holiday there!

    • Sarah Shumate
      February 13, 2015 at 3:39 PM

      A liter of beer and THEN roller coasters? That doesn’t sound like the best idea… ;)

  • Sammy @ Days Like This
    February 10, 2015 at 10:56 PM

    Okay, I am going to Copenhagen this weekend and was going to skip Tivoli again (I’ve been to Copenhagen before), but now I think I should goooooo. It looks so pretty!!

    • Sarah Shumate
      February 13, 2015 at 3:38 PM

      I’m not entirely sure they’re open right now. You might want to check that. I think they may only open for Christmas and summer!

  • Amanda @ Rhyme & Ribbons
    February 10, 2015 at 11:11 PM

    Oh wow. All those lights are stunning! It makes complete sense that this was Disney’s inspiration! Beautiful! x

  • Melanie Fontaine
    February 10, 2015 at 10:57 AM

    I actually had a pretty scarring experience at the Tivoli Gardens as a child! I was probably five years old and we went on a ride that my parents assumed would be completely harmless, because the Danish word used to describe it means something completely different in German, but ended up being an actual roller coaster that scared the living daylights out of me! I’m not particularly fond of roller coasters to this day and I blame it on this experience! ;) I think it’s super fun that the Tivoli Gardens were the reason you went to Copenhagen! And not having to stand in line is always a plus! :)

  • Ashley | Domestic Fashionista
    February 10, 2015 at 4:00 PM

    So beautiful! I just love the lights of Christmas! I have yet to attend any park during the holidays but it seems so fun and whimsical! We have gone to Disneyland about 4 or 5 times in the last five years (it’s 7 hour drive for us!) and I finally told Brent that I refuse to go again unless it is during Christmas! I cannot believe you did Disney World over 40 times! That is so funny!

    An interesting concept to consider when you say it is your best travel day yet. It is so easy to run around wanting to see everything when sometimes not having to think and plan so much can be quite enjoyable. I need to remember this for my poor husband who often gets exhausted by my need to see it all. Thanks for sharing. How many days until Christmas!??! (I kid…I so don’t need Christmas yet!)

    • susannem
      February 12, 2015 at 5:09 AM

      I love Disneyland at Christmas. I hope you get to experience it.

    • Sarah Shumate
      February 13, 2015 at 3:37 PM

      Disney at Christmas is the BEST. I’ve never been to Disneyland, but if it’s anything like Disney World at Christmas, you guys would love it! We went for all their special events, like the parades and the ceremonies (got to see Neil Patrick Harris at one!) but even just the way the parks look all decked out is worth making a trip in December!

      I’m sort of already counting down to Christmas. We had such a good one this past year. I want to do it again already!

  • Jo
    February 10, 2015 at 9:42 AM

    Oh wow that is so cool! We don’t enjoy going to Disney Paris, so we tend to go to the Efteling in Holland.

    • Sarah Shumate
      February 13, 2015 at 3:31 PM

      I haven’t heard of that one! Is it a big or small park? I prefer the ones like Tivoli where it’s big enough to keep you busy all day, but not so big that it gets overwhelming. If we hadn’t had year passes to Disney, I’d have been VERY overwhelmed. The passes allowed us to enjoy it little by little, though.

      • Jo
        February 17, 2015 at 11:42 AM

        It is quite big. You can easily spend all day there. What we like is that you don’t queue for as long as what you do at Disney. Also, the park is spread out more so you get to walk further between rides. You should check it out.

  • Katrin
    February 10, 2015 at 9:43 AM

    I love that everybody tries to stay warm, even the animals. :) such great pictures! Can you believe that I have never been to Disney World? I am probably the only one. But Tivoli Gardens looks like so much fun. Glad that the stupid rain stopped and you had the park for yourselves. That was good luck! I want to go and visit too!

  • Stacie Stamper
    February 9, 2015 at 5:31 PM

    Twinkling lights just make everything seem so magical. This looks like another fantastic trip, and you guys are troopers for braving the cold. Does Cory usually have a beard or did he have to grow it to bear all of this cold weather travel that you all have planned?

    • Sarah Shumate
      February 13, 2015 at 3:30 PM

      Ha! I was wondering when someone would say something about his beard! :) He grew it out in November because all the guys in his office were, and then we both loved it so much that he didn’t shave come December.

  • Robert
    February 9, 2015 at 3:22 PM

    Beautiful photographs, Sarah! Tivoli Gardens looks amazing. I can’t actually remember why, but for whatever reason we never visited when we were in Copenhagen. I think we just ran out of time. I’m so disappointed we didn’t now though! lol. At least I got to visit vicariously through you, I guess… And it gives me an excuse to visit again right? :D

  • Wild Hearts + Green Tea
    February 9, 2015 at 9:13 AM

    I don’t even know what to comment on first! I’ve been to Disney World a good few times when I was really young (hardly remember it) and can’t wait to go back as an adult and really appreciate everything (well, as an adult would) from the sights to the fireworks. This tivoli looks so cozy with all of those beautiful lights and the fires (though, very strange they made you lightheaded!) Thanks a lot for sharing this post, made me smile :)

    • Sarah Shumate
      February 13, 2015 at 3:25 PM

      I believe the fires were powered by some sort of gas, and that’s what was making us light-headed. We were probably standing too close, but we were so cold. I’d have jumped in the fire if I could!

  • Inher30s
    February 9, 2015 at 1:32 PM

    Looks so magical, cold but very festive! I went to the Gardens over Easter and it was cold then too but lacking some of the lighting magic. Loved all the peacocks though, I spent most of the time photographing them!

  • Sara
    February 9, 2015 at 10:03 AM

    Wow, Tivoli looks so magical for Christmas! You definitely made a good call by not going to Disneyland Paris. Since you’ve had so much experience with Walt Disney World, it would have been a big disappointment. I’ve been to Tivoli in July and it was so much fun. I’ve heard how great it is during Christmas time, and have been curious about it – thanks for sharing!

  • Samantha Angell
    February 9, 2015 at 8:48 AM

    Wow, I hadn’t realized Tivoli was the second oldest amusement park in the world when I visited! It sounds like it was a great experience for your family. When is the next trip to Orlando to relive your Disney days? Also, absolutely love that you wrote (and believe in!) mental jinx…I do the same thing all the time!

    • Sarah Shumate
      February 13, 2015 at 3:24 PM

      I’d go to Disney World tomorrow if I could! Probably less than a year after we let our passes expire, I was ready to go again. I’d like to take Lex again now that she’s old (and tall) enough to ride the bigger rides!