creativecommons.org/ Joe Shlabotnik
Trade in the cold, slushy snow for white powdery sand this holiday season. With an abundance of sunshine and more than 800 miles of beautiful beaches, it is no wonder travellers from around the country flock to Florida for a sunny December. With all the activities happening around the state, there is a multitude of ways to experience the holidays like never before.
Pensacola Christmas Parade
Downtown Pensacola comes alive when more than 50,000 people flock to Palafox Place to enjoy the annual Christmas parade. Come out to this family-friendly parade On December 13 to experience local bands, the famous Blue Angels flight team and area Mardi Gras krewes. Stuff your stockings as floats toss down beads and other goodies to spectators.
Holiday Celebration at Omni Amelia Island Plantation
Kick off this holiday season at Omni Amelia Island Plantation on Nov. 28 with the annual tree lighting ceremony, featuring stilt walkers, train and hay rides, bounce houses, and, of course, Santa Claus. Beginning Nov. 29, Santa’s Workshop will include daily entertainment such as crafts, cupcake decorating, a hot cocoa bar, and more. On weekends, guests will be transported to the North Pole with live entertainment, gingerbread decorating, and even snow!
Gingerbread House Extravaganza
For the 11th consecutive year, the Jacksonville Historical Society is hosting the Gingerbread House Extravaganza fundraiser to raise money for children’s programs, but this is no ordinary bake sale. From Dec. 3-23, you can witness the artistry and detail of the edible creations, providing enough awe to keep your sweet tooth in check. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can submit your own masterpiece to be part of the fun.
Christmas on the St. John’s at the Jacksonville Landing
The 27th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at The Jacksonville Landing is an experience not to be missed. On Nov. 29, the 56-foot-tall energy-efficient tree will shine bright with more than 78,000 L.E.D. lights and more than 100 ornaments. The tree is also programmed to perform a 10-minute, synchronized light show set to various selections of holiday music. Come out and enjoy the festive holiday cheer through the month of December until New Years Eve.
St. Augustine Christmas Parade
Kick off the Nights of Lights celebration with the annual Christmas parade! On Dec. 6, head downtown to the historic streets of St. Augustine to witness one of the biggest parades in North Florida. Enjoy floats, cars, marching bands and horses, and even the arrival of Santa Claus himself. Don’t forget to stick around to pose with him, as picture opportunities will be available following the parade in the Plaza de la Constitucion.
Nights of Lights
During Nights of Lights, St. Augustine glows with holiday magic from the ground to the rooftops. Selected by National Geographic in 2011 & 2012 as one of the 10 best holiday lighting displays in the world, St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights features millions of tiny white lights that create a magical atmosphere in the nation’s oldest city. Running from Nov. 22 through the end of January, the celebration begins with holiday music and the lighting of the city’s Christmas tree. Tracing its origins to the Spanish tradition of displaying a white candle in the window during the Christmas holidays, the spectacular lighting reflects the city’s 449-year history and illuminates the beautiful setting for lasting holiday memories.
St. Augustine Ballet presents The Nutcracker
On Dec. 20 and 21, the St. Augustine Ballet will present one of the most timeless holiday traditions, The Nutcracker. This classic features a multigenerational cast, including local celebrities, professional guest artists, and the best of the area’s ballet dancers. Be transported to a winter wonderland as you join Clara and the Nutcracker Prince through an unforgettable journey.
Festival of Trees
The Guild of the Museum of Arts & Sciences invites you to spark your holiday spirit this year with a visit to the 10th annual Festival of Trees. From Nov. 11-29, these dazzling trees will be on display in Root Hall at the Museum of Arts & Sciences. Stroll through professionally decorated trees that are sponsored by local businesses, and bid on your favorite as all trees are up for sale to the highest bidder at the close of the display.
New Year’s Eve on Main Street Celebration
Ring in 2015 the right way at the biggest bash on Main Street! Be a part of the exciting atmosphere with multiple stages of entertainment, street performers, festival food, attractions for kids, fireworks over the ocean, and even a live ball drop ceremony at midnight. Main Street is the place to be for New Year’s Eve!
Light Up Ocala
On November 22, enjoy the start of the holiday season at Light Up Ocala, where you can view the gorgeous spectacle of lighting in downtown Ocala and its 42-foot Christmas tree. Live entertainment, crafts, food and fun for the whole family is to be expected, as well as the opening of Let’s Skate Ocala! Running from November 22 to January 4th, this ice skating rink is the perfect touch for some holiday cheer.
The Ocala Christmas Parade
Experience a parade like never before at the 59th annual Ocala Christmas Parade! On December 13th, more than 60,000 spectators will line up at the two-mile route to witness this Christmas themed extravaganza. Some spectators have been known to line up the night before so they can “mark their spot” on the parade route. Don’t miss out on the largest nighttime parade in the state of Florida!
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
Experience the happiest place on earth during the happiest time of the year! On select nights from Nov. 7-Dec. 19 at the Magic Kingdom theme park, the Walt Disney World Resort brings its ultimate holiday cheer with Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Amid the enchanting holiday decorations, enjoy a parade featuring several favorite Disney characters, along with a special appearance by Santa Claus himself! Additionally, delight in the new fireworks show, complimentary cookies and hot chocolate, and even a wintry snowfall. With a holiday touch at every corner of the park, your experience will be nothing short of magical.
Universal Orlando Resort’s Holiday Celebration
Beginning Dec. 6 and running daily through Jan. 3, the Holidays at Universal Orlando features one-of-a-kind traditions for guests from one to 92 throughout the destination. At Universal’s Islands of Adventure, guests will smile from ear-to-ear during the heartwarming live show “Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular” featuring the Grinch and the Whos from Who-ville. At Universal Studios Florida, the Macy’s Holiday Parade will fill the streets every evening with the same larger-than-life balloons seen in Macy’s famous Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Plus, enjoy incredible live performances by the award-winning Mannheim Steamroller on select nights. This is a holiday celebration you won’t want to miss!
SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration
Waves of holiday spirit splash over the park at SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration. On select dates from Nov. 22 to Dec. 31, guests of all ages can marvel in the charming atmosphere of SeaWorld during the holiday season. With everything from Santa to Shamu, presents to penguins, and elves to Elmo, SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration is where holiday memories are made.
ICE! Featuring The Nutcracker
Experience a truly unique winter experience in Florida with ICE!, the award winning display of millions of pounds of ice, hand-carved into amazing sculptures by artisans from China. Experience The Nutcracker like never before, and join in on the icy experience by soaring down one of the two-story-tall ice slides. With the entire exhibit kept at 9 degrees, it is a true holiday event you won’t want to miss.
Nickelodeon Suites Resort
Nickelodeon Suites Resort will kick off its annual winter celebration, Let it Snow, on Friday, Nov. 21. The themed resort will be transformed into a winter wonderland, featuring a festival poolside inflatable slide, sparkling holiday lights, cozy poolside fire pits, and many holiday-themed activities at the Oasis pool. From Christmas trees to palm trees, this poolside holiday experience is one to be enjoyed in the Sunshine State.
Revel in the holiday magic at Busch GardensTampa’s Christmas Town, the Bay Area’s biggest Christmas celebration! On select nights from Nov. 23-Dec. 31, the park will be transformed into a nighttime holiday wonderland of wintery surprises and all things Christmas, filled with special entertainment, live music, festive treats, holiday shopping and over a million twinkling lights around every turn.
Venice Holiday Parade
Continuing a 36-year-old tradition, the City of Venice Holiday Parade is the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit. On Nov. 29, more than 3,000 enthusiastic and creative participants representing approximately 120 local companies, schools, churches, social organizations, and music groups join together to make this community family event fun for all ages. Pre-parade entertainment begins at 5 p.m. as Christmas music fills the air and the lighting of the decorations makes the town sparkle. Make sure to head down early and secure a spot, as you don’t want to miss a minute of the festivities!
A Night Before Christmas
Although Florida may be a long way from the North Pole, Santa Claus will still be making an appearance. But this time, he’s trading in his sleigh for a helicopter, as he’ll be flying into G.T. Bray Park for the annual “A Night Before Christmas” celebration in Bradenton on Dec. 6. Visitors missing the colder weather and flurries will enjoy the 10 tons of snow brought in for his arrival and all will enjoy the family activities in this winter wonderland.
Christmas Light Canal Cruises
King Fisher Fleet, headquartered at Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda, is now accepting reservations for Christmas Light Canal Cruises. These popular, family-oriented cruises tour residential canals to view the town lit up by Christmas lights, displays, and decorations on homes, boats, seawalls and docks. Christmas Light Canal Cruises run every evening from Dec. 4 to Dec. 31, or for those seeking a more intimate Christmas experience, private boat Christmas Light Canal Cruises are available aboard our 35-foot cabin cruiser, which accommodates up to six passengers.
The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel
39th Annual Holiday Nights at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates
Experience the true hominess of the holidays at the Edison Ford Holiday Nights in Fort Myers. From Nov. 28 through Jan. 2, the historical museum that reflects the many contributions of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and their families is fully decorated for the holidays and open to tour. It was chosen by USA Today as one of the “10 Best Historic Homes for the Holidays”, which also included The White House, Mount Vernon, Monticello and the Biltmore in North Carolina. A not-to-be-missed tradition this season, the historic buildings and acres of gardens are decorated with lights and traditional decorations, and features many Edison and Ford inventions as well.
Captiva Holiday Village
Beginning Nov. 28-29 with a lighting of the town Christmas tree and an extensive firework display, Captiva Island transforms into a Holiday Village with events every weekend through Dec. 14. Enjoy great dining, accommodations and unique holiday shopping all along the gulf beaches. Stay for the funky and colorful parades, and even catch a boat cruise to marvel at the beauty from afar. This themed, fun-filled holiday extravaganza is set against the backdrop of the shimmering Gulf of Mexico with its breathtaking sunsets, providing the perfect setup for a Floridian holiday.
Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade
Experience a one-of-a-kind holiday boat parade at the 43rd Annual Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade! On Dec. 13, hundreds of beautifully illuminated boats are set to sail 12 miles, starting at the Riverside Hotel and traveling east to the Intracoastal Waterway, and north to Lake Santa Barbara. Continuing the tradition stemmed from the non-profit WINTERFEST, Inc., the festival is entirely dependent on sponsorship from local and national corporate sponsors, who bring Christmas to life through the magical boating display.
Santa’s Enchanted Forest
Experience the world’s largest Christmas theme park at Santa’s Enchanted Forest! From Oct. 30 to Jan. 4, visitors can truly get into the holiday spirit with over 100 rides, shows, games and attractions. Hundreds of thousands of visitors come every year to experience the magic of South Florida’s tallest Christmas tree, millions of dazzling lights, hundreds of themed displays, festive Christmas music, and delicious foods from around the world, live show entertainment and carnival rides suited for the entire family.
Miracle on 136th
Tis the season! On Nov. 22, The Falls Shopping Center will ring in the holiday season with the 18th Annual “Miracle on 136th Street” Holiday Parade, which promises to be bigger and better than ever. Local dignitaries and celebrities will ride in vintage and convertible cars during the parade, which will be led by celebrity grand marshal Peyton List of The Disney Channel’s “Jessie” series, and will benefit the South Dade YMCA Family Center. Following the Parade, The Falls will be illuminated by hundreds of thousands of lights, as well as paid a visit from Santa himself.
The Florida Keys & Key West
Schooner Warf Bar & Galley Lighted Boat Parade
The Schooner Wharf Bar and Galley Lighted Boat Parade is an island tradition that will help you get the holidays started with some tropical festivities that are uniquely Key West. On Dec. 15, this family event combines creativity, beauty, and nautical flair to bring out crowds ready to usher in the Key West Christmas season. Spectators can watch as a wide variety of watercraft, ranging from kayaks to sailboats to Coast Guard cutters pass by in a display of amazing lighting and décor. The parade is not all fun and games, however. There is serious competition among the owners and crews of the many vessels entered in the parade. At stake are more than $20,500 in prizes, and a free raffle valued at over $4,000.
Holiday Photos with a Dolphin
From Oct. 13-Dec. 19 at Dolphin Research Center, visitors who participate in the “Meet the Dolphin” program also can pose with the dolphins for a holiday photo! Visitors can bring holiday-themed props to pose with, and DRC’s experienced photographers will capture the images using high-resolution digital cameras. The program is offered several times each day on a walk-in basis and costs $25 per person in addition to general admission prices. Break out the Santa hats for a Christmas card photo like never before!
Light Up Key Largo
What better way to spend the holidays than with eggnog, caroling, and an appearance from Santa and Mrs. Claus? On November 29th, embrace the holiday spirit at Light Up Key Largo! The annual tree lighting is to be held at the Murray E. Nelson Government Center and Key Largo Cultural Center, along with live music, decorations, and seasonal food and drinks. With a celebration like this, virtually everyone is guaranteed to be put in a festive mood.