My Favorite Florida Holiday Events and Celebrations

The Christmas holiday season is already opening in Florida at the same time the snowbirds and robins are arriving in the state.  Some of the events are very commercial while others are delightful and many have become traditional.

Here are my observations on some of the events and places that visitors, residents, and other late November to the New Year that people can consider:

 All the major theme parks love Christmas with their evening extra admissions specials. They can afford to put on spectacular light shows at Cinderella’s Castle and Hogwart’s Castle with all the additional revenue.

FLORIDATRAVELER Santa-on-the-beach

While Magic Kingdom’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and Universal Studio’s Grinchmas and Christmas Town Busch Gardens are popular attractions, nothing beats Disney Epcot’s Candlelight Processional.   Tickets are hard to get to see the huge choruswith its celebrity narrators and traditional holiday entertainment.

FLORIDATRAVELER wdw epcot Candlelight

If you’re in the Orlando area, there are two other spots that meet my Christmas list.  No resort does Christmas like the Gaylord Palms, just a few miles east of Walt Disney World.  The monstrous lobby is frozen to below freezing and tons and tons of ICE! turn the hotel into a winter wonderland with inner tube ice slides, light shows, and holiday food offerings.

floridatraveler GAYLORD PALMS scene

Non-guests buy tickets for this indoor spectacle.

My family once had a condo on Water Street in downtown Celebration, the town built by Disney.  Every night it snowed and you can expect horse and carriage, foods and music.


It snows every night in Celebration.

Florida has 72 Christmas boat parades and Floridians love them.  The Rose Bowl of parades for its huge ships and crowds is the Fort Lauderdale Winterfest Boat Parade.

This year’s “Best of the 80’s” is planned for December 15 and the you can expect the 12-mile water route to be filled with lighted craft.


In the Panhandle the Holiday in the Harbor Destin Lighted Boat Parade off Harborwalk Village is planned for December 10.

If you like zoos and Santa, both the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa and the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne had Christmas night programs that combine animals and the holidays.

West Palm Beach’s waterfront has something uniquely Florida: Sandi-Land, a 35-foot, 700 ton Christmas tree made of beach sand.  Of course, the entire Landing Area has exhibits and holiday action.  At least, it won’t melt but what about rain?

floridatraveler SANDI LAND west palm beach

Every town in Florida has Christmas lights and often holiday activities like ice skating in downtown Tampa, but to me the most wondrous lighting is Saint Augustine’s Night of Lights.   From now until next year, the magnificent Victorian hotels and Spanish buildings of the Ancient City are dressed in beautiful Christmas lighting.

It should be noted that it was in Saint Augustine that the first Christmas was celebrated by a town populace.  The city has a giant cross on that site.

FLORIDATRAVELER St_-Pete-Beach-Boat-Parade

I guess if you want lots of Christmas entertainment and rides, you should go to Miami’s Tropical Park, home of the largest holiday theme park in the nation.  The park is turned into Santa’s Enchanted Forest and it seems every carnie show in Florida has set up operation.  Circus shows and musical entertainment go on for two months!

About floridatraveler

Historian and travel writer M. C. Bob Leonard makes the Sunshine State his home base. Besides serving as content editor for several textbook publishers and as an Emeritus college professor, he moderates the FHIC at
This entry was posted in adventure vacation, art, attractions, disney, florida history, florida vacations, mcbobleonard, Recreational Experiences, travel, Universal Studios, Walt Disney World, wdw and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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