From Central Florida to South Florida, there are endless things to do to celebrate Christmas and the holiday season through world-famous theme parks and magical light displays that bring holiday cheer.
The sunshine state is one of the best places to go in the United States to see an array of Christmas lights and events. Sip on hot cocoa while holiday shopping in downtown Orlando or go ice skating in the town of Celebration.
While Florida usually doesn’t have a white Christmas, it’s not surprising to find certain areas filled with fake snow to make the holiday spirit more apparent.
Florida, with its warm and sunny December days, offers a unique and thrilling twist on the traditional yuletide season.
Instead of shivering in a winter wonderland, you could be basking on a sun-soaked beach, sipping eggnog by the pool, or reveling in the brilliance of holiday lights under a starry, subtropical sky.
From festive parades and awe-inspiring light displays to holiday markets that rival Santa’s workshop, Florida transforms into a Christmas paradise like no other.
Here’s the scoop on the best Christmas things to do in Florida that you can’t miss out on!
Best Things to do for Christmas in Florida
1. Night of Lights – St. Augustine
One of the most famous light displays in the United States, the Night of Lights is a magical celebration in the historic town of St. Augustine. Starting November 18th in the evening, the buildings and the palm trees will come to life with mesmerizing holiday lights.
This award-winning light display in the Oldest City will stay up until January 31st with select nights offering a free shuttle and parking. The best photo locations for the lights are The Plaza de la Constitución and The Bridge of Lions.
2. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
Located in Magic Kingdom, this magical celebration is only on select nights starting November 9th to December 22nd! While Mickey is the heart of the joyful excitement, the rest of the Disney characters will join to sing along as the magic of the holidays spreads through the air.
Don’t miss out on Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks show, the falling snow in Main Street U.S.A, and Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade.
3. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay – Christmas Town
Busch Gardens is one of the most beautiful theme parks in the world with endless activities from rollercoasters to jungle adventures with real-life animals.
Their Christmas Town is a must-visit with over 10 million lights, festive holiday shopping, sweet treats, and even a Gingerbread Scavenger Hunt.
Feel like you’re on the Polar Express with the Busch Gardens Railway. The event runs from November 11th through January 7th.
4. Christmas Celebration in Seaworld Orlando
Seaworld Orlando is the definition of an aquatic Christmas celebration with tasty holiday food, breathtaking live shows, and plenty of places to shop for gifts inside the park. Make sure to have dinner with Santa and see O Wonderous Night on stage with live animals.
For select nights only starting November 10th through January 2nd, watch the Sesame Street Christmas Parade and the Holiday Reflections: Fireworks Finale.
While Legoland may not be as packed as Disney World or Universal, it is still worth preparing in advance for crowds as Christmas approaches. For every LEGO lover, spending the holidays at Legoland is a unique but jolly tradition for families.
Make sure to visit the post office to send letters to Santa and admire the giant LEGO tree or take photos with LEGO characters.
This jolly event starts November 24th and ends on December 31st with select days in between.
6. Tallahassee Winter Festival
Starting December 2nd, downtown Tallahassee will come to life with beautiful lights, live music, food vendors, and more. Don’t miss out on the lighting ceremony and the nighttime holiday parade.
Before leaving, take a stroll through Candy Cane Lane at McCarty Park.
While it’s too late to participate in the Jingle Bell Run, keep a look out for when to sign up for next year.
7. Gingerbread House Extravaganza – Jacksonville
One of the most special events in Jacksonville returns December 8th to give back to the children of the Jacksonville Historical Society.
Find endless Gingerbread confections at the Old St. Andrew’s Church. You can explore the gift shop and receive a tour of the Merrill House Museum. There also fun Christmas activities for children including photos with Santa and face painting.
Event ends after December 27th.
8. Zoo Lights at Palm Beach Zoo
The jungle will come to life starting November 17th with a million lights and giant animal displays.
Located in West Palm Beach, Zoo Lights will have even better entertainment and holiday magic this year with their Fountain Plaza light show syncing with music and cookie decorating in Santa’s Village.
9. Gaylord Palms Christmas Celebration
Celebrate the most wonderful time of the year at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center with giant ice sculptures, stunning Christmas decorations, and fun activities for the whole family.
This year’s sculptures are the characters from A Charlie Brown Christmas with The Grinch Stole Christmas tale told through sculptures last year.
Go ice tubing, decorate a gingerbread house, and watch Cirque: Spirit of Christmas. Buy tickets for this magical event, starting November 17th till January 3rd.
10. Santa’s Enchanted Forest
Experience some of the best holiday events at the world’s largest holiday theme park! Santa’s Enchanted Forest brings families together with dazzling lights, shows, games, and thrilling rides.
This magical park opens November 9th and continues till January 7th. Capture a photo with Santa and discover culinary treats with 50 food stands.
11. Pensacola Winterfest
This Winterfest brings Christmas to life with Christmas markets, photos with Santa and the Grinch, Polar Express tour, and more. Pensacola welcomes the joyful atmosphere starting November 17th and runs on select dates through December.
It is recommended to book tickets in advance as they tend to see out closer to the start date. Ticket prices can vary based on the day so check the calendar before booking.
12. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Christmas is not complete without Harry Potter. Step into his world by visiting Diagon Alley and admiring the lights on Hogsmeade at Universal Studios Florida.
Don’t forget to indulge in a butterbeer as the magical creatures from the Wizarding World chime in the holidays with a captivating performance. Although, the holidays are the most popular time to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, it is worth it as you revisit one of the most magical stories of all time.
The holiday events start November 17th and go on till December 31st.
13. Holidays in Space – Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
What happens when you combine space exploration with Christmas, you’ll just have to find out when visiting the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex starting December 15th.
Unlike other events, Holidays in Space doesn’t start in late November and features a magical projection show, a giant Christmas tree, and astronaut nutcrackers.
14. Holiday Boat Parade – Cocoa Beach
For one day only, Cocoa Beach will feature a holiday boat parade, giving people the option to sign up to be featured in the parade.
Be prepared to come across a variety of boats with a spin on Christmas decorations. The best spots the view the parade is at Sunset Cafe and Wildlife Watersports.
15. Harbor Walk of Lights
Even though they haven’t announced this year’s Harbor Walk of Lights in the Florida Keys yet, the past year’s holiday celebration included dazzling lights on the boardwalk and pet pictures with Santa.
16. Key West Holiday Fest
Celebrate Christmas with family like no other at the Key West Holiday Fest! This holiday event combines the colorful lights of the holidays with the tropical ambiance that Key West is known for.
Check out the magical parades, inn tours, and even burlesque shows.
17. Annual 5k Rudolph Red Nose Run
It’s never too late to support a local non-profit organization this season, especially if they celebrate Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer! Hosted by A Positive Step of Monroe Country in the Key West, their annual 5k Rudolph Red Nose Run is a fun way to get involved in the community while also supporting the kids who are at the most risk.
Sign up for the race that will take place on December 16th.
18. Winter Wonderland at Crane Point – Dec 17th
Enjoy a stunning winter wonderland at Crane Point Hammock Museum & Nature Trails on December 17th. You may spot reindeer ponies, Santa Claus, a chocolate fountain, and even snow.
19. Festival of Trees – Orlando Museum of Art
A great place to get the whole family into the holiday spirit is the Festival of Trees, Enchanted Holidays at the Orlando Museum of Art. With over 30 Christmas trees with unique decorations against a wooded backdrop, will make you feel like you’re in a Hallmark movie.
While the Christmas trees serves as the pinnacle of the event, the museum also features gingerbread houses, a raffle, silent auction, a pop-up boutique, and live entertainment.
Event dates: November 10-19th
20. Holiday Markets
Dotted throughout Florida, the holiday markets consist of local businesses selling a variety of food and goods. If you don’t want to travel all the way to Europe to come across an authentic Christmas market, consider visiting the American German Club’s Christkindlmarkt in Lake Worth.
Here are some other Christmas markets to visit while in Florida:
- An Old Fashioned Holiday – Del Ray Beach
- Art & craft Holiday Bazaar – Cocoa Village
- Atomic Holiday Bazaar – Sarasota
- Big Bang Bazaar – Orlando
- Brandon Annual Holiday Vendor Market
- Christmas Bazaar – North Port
21. Annual Winter Park Christmas Parade
Don’t miss out on one of the oldest Christmas parades in Central Florida on December 2nd! The 71st Annual Winter Park Christmas Parade is like a condensed version of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade but with holiday joy, featuring over 80 organizations, marching bands, and even a special appearance from Santa Claus.
22. Enchant Christmas at Tropicana Field
Located in St. Petersburg on the Tropicana Field, Enchant Christmas is everything you could imagine inside a storybook with walk-through light tunnels, a light up maze, and rows of vendors with homemade goods and food.
Don’t forget to ice skate with your family through the forest of lights as you make lasting memories at one of the most magical holiday events in the country.
Event Dates: November 24-December 31st
23. Space Coast LightFest
Located in Wickham Park, see the Christmas lights come to life as you drive through the light displays. Some nights will allow you to walk through the Christmas lights for a closer look at them.
You can even spend time with Santa with story time or through carols and crafts.
Event dates: Nov 13th thru Jan 3rd
24. Holiday Lights Water Taxi in Fort Lauderdale
One of the best cruises for holiday lights in Florida, the Water Taxi Holiday Lights Cruises provides a special view of waterfront mansions decked out in Christmas decorations. While the view of the holiday lights is spectacular, the cruise also offers live music and holiday cocktails.
Make sure to arrive early for your time slot and select your ideal ticket.
25. Holiday in Paradise in West Palm Beach
Get ready to stay busy this holiday season when visiting the Holiday in Paradise. Their most iconic centerpiece is the 700-ton sand tree with just the right amount of illumination to light up the whole park.
Don’t miss out on the Clematis by Night featuring bands, Screen on the Green, and the Sandi and Santa’s Pancake Breakfast. Stop by the holiday shopping bazaar in the Lake Pavilion.
Event Dates: Nov 30th-New Year’s Eve
26. Candlelight Christmas Carols at Cambier Park
Located in Naples, this caroling event on December 15th is a great way to sing along to Christmas music and make wonderful memories.
The carols start at 6:30 pm but there is plenty of time beforehand to grab food and beverages through the food trucks.
27. Fifth Avenue South Christmas Walk and Tree Lighting
Spend Christmas in Naples with the Christmas walk and the Tree Lighting gallery! This event runs on December 8th and 9th with never-ending activities for all ages. Expect to be blown away by the day-long Christmas market.
28. Tallahassee SantaCon
Visit the biggest Santa bar crawl that allows adults to dress up in ugly sweaters and Santa costumes while indulging in some of the craziest drink concoctions. If you love Christmas and going on bar crawls, this event shouldn’t be missed!
Event Date: December 9th
29. Bradenton Beach Holiday Boat Parade
If you’ve ever visited the famous Bridge Street in Anna Maria Island, this spot is one of the best viewing areas to see the boats that take off at Jewfish Key. You can also view the parade at the Bradenton Beach City Pier.
You can always request to ride on the Anna Maria Princess Paddle Wheel Boat if you don’t have a boat.
Event date: December 4th
30. Privateers Christmas Parade
One of the best holiday events to attend on Anna Maria Island, the Privateers Christmas Parade is a joyful celebration for kids and adults! The parade starts on Coquina Beach and ends at the City Pier Park.
The excitement doesn’t end there but continues with the children’s party with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
31. Lake Buena Vista Resort Village & Spa
One of the top resorts near Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista Village & Spa offers a luxury experience for every guest with spa amenities, pools, and spacious rooms. This resort knows just how magical the holidays can become with their own layout of events the entire month of December.
Here the holiday events that Lake Buena Vista Resort has offered in the past and are likely to do again:
- holiday cocktails at Frankie Farrell’s Irish Pub
- photo op with holiday themed props
- holiday movies
- visit from Santa Claus
32. A Charlie Brown Christmas: Live on Stage at Florida Theatre
See the award-winning story come to life on the stage at the Florida Theatre! What makes this event so memorable is the faithful adaptation of the classic animated television special that many love till this day. A Charlie Brown Christmas Live Stage will feature fan-favorite characters Charlie Brown and even Snoopy.
After following their journey to discover the meaning of Christmas, join them in a sing along to traditional Christmas songs.
33. Celebration Town Center
It’s time to fulfill your Hallmark Christmas movie dreams by spending Christmas in the small town of Celebration. This laid-back area in Florida quite literally radiates the magic of Christmas with an ice-skating rink, boutiques decorated for the holidays, and lights strung everywhere.
The Celebration Town Center is the heart of the excitement with events and illuminations. Don’t forget to witness the nightly snowfall or ride the Celebration Express Train.
Event Dates: November 25th – December 31st
34. Haven Holiday Market – Winter Haven
Gear up for the 9th annual Haven Holiday Market coming on November 18th! The Haven Holiday Market is a great place to spend time with family while also picking up a few gifts along the way like food, art pieces, and more.
35. North Pole Express
Want to take a train ride to the North Pole? The Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish, Florida offers a magical ride to the North Pole where you can come across Santa. This 36-minute train ride is only available on select days.
You not only get to ride the North Pole Express, but you will also receive hot chocolate, cookies, and entertainment, all combined into one ticket.
36. Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s (Universal Orlando Resort)
Kickstart the holidays at Universal Orlando Resort with the Holiday Parade that features part of the Macy’s floats from New York.
The best places to watch your favorite characters come to life is in front of Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride and Starbucks. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular.
Event Dates: Nov 17th-Dec 31st
37. Sarah Brightman: A Christmas Symphony
Let the joy of the holiday fill your ears with Grammy-nominated Sarah Brightman as she lights up the Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. Grab a VIP ticket and experience the Christmas Symphony up close. You can also purchase the pre-party or dining package.
Event Date: December 12th
38. Trans-Siberian Orchestra – The Ghosts of Christmas Eve
Experience a whole new side to the holidays with the famous American rock band, Trans-Siberian Orchestra! See them perform a few of their popular rock opera songs like “The Christmas Attic,” “The Lost Christmas Eve,” and “Beethoven’s Last Night.”
Event Date: December 23rd in Tampa
39. 5 Nights of Holiday Magic – Bonnet House & Gardens – Fort Lauderdale
A unique holiday event based on a fundraiser is the 5 Nights of Holiday Magic at the Bonnet House & Gardens. Every part of the house and gardens will be decked out in Christmas decorations specifically done by designers.
This event offers guided tours and opportunities to shop the wreaths, trees, and other decorations displayed throughout the property. Come prepared for live music and drinks.
Event Date: December 2nd
40. Old Town – Orlando
What better place to spend the start of the holiday season than the famous entertainment district in Orlando? Many years ago, Old Town and the Fun Spot was nearly dying out with many stores closing but recently, the landmark was revamped and has brought a record amount of people, especially during the holidays.
Take your time wondering the streets of Old Town or ride a rollercoaster in the Fun Spot but make sure to look out for falling snow and a giant Christmas tree.
41. Nutcracker! – Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall – Fort Myers
You haven’t celebrated Christmas without seeing the Nutcracker live on stage. Now is the year to make this magical classic a tradition with awe-inspiring acrobatics, puppets, and gorgeous costumes.
Event Date: December 29th
42. Daytona International Speedway (Magic of Lights Holiday Display)
One of the best Christmas things to do in Florida is visit the Daytona International Speedway for the Magic of Lights holiday display. Drive through one million lights starting November 17th and running till December 31st.
43. Stetson Mansion Christmas Spectacular Holiday Home Tour
If you can’t make it to the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, head on over to the Stetson Mansion where you’ll receive a home tour with extravagant Christmas decorations decked out on every corner of the mansion.
You do have to buy tickets in advance while also having the option of a self-guided or guided tour.
Event Date: Nov 1st-Jan 20th
44. Gingerbread Fantasy Holiday Light Display
This may be one of the best free holiday events in the Sunshine state. The Rose Villa Southern Table and Bar transitions into a fun, gingerbread house that looks like it popped right out of a storybook.
You can take photos with family and friends starting November 17th through January 5th.
45. 12 Nights of Lights – Village of Baytowne Wharf
If you love entertainment and Christmas lights, it’s time to visit the 12 Nights of Lights at the Baytowne Wharf in Destin. Admire the falling snowflakes from the trees and the colorful lights perched on the branches of Christmas trees.
Enjoy this light display for nearly the whole month of December!
46. Disney Springs
Just like any other Disney Park, Disney Springs prepares well in advance for their spectacular holiday displays and events. Even though there aren’t specific details about the holiday events in Disney Springs yet, be sure to check back on their website for an updated calendar of events.
But it is worth noting that this park is great for Christmas shopping with a variety of stores that matches everyone including the LEGO Store and Zara.
47. Dickens on Centre
Step inside Victorian London with the Dickens on Centre Festival in historic downtown Fernandina Beach! This free vent will make you feel like you stepped inside A Christmas Carol with live stages from the Victorian era.
Grab plenty of festive treats and drinks before you go.
Event Date: December 7-10th
48. Annual Amelia Island Museum of History Holiday Home Tour
For two days only in early December, Amelia Island Museum of History welcomes the holiday cheer with a home tour of famous houses in the area that are all spruced up for the holidays.
Event Date: December 1st through the 2nd
49. Tween Waters Inn – Captiva Island
Enjoy the lights syncing with the music for free at the Tween Waters Inn! This annual holiday tradition is one of the best holiday activities on Captiva Island for friends and families to have a great time.
Catch the fireworks show on the beach and the Christmas tree lighting. Visit their website for luxury boxes and passes.
Event Date: November 24th
50. Sanibel Tunnel of Lights
Visit the Sanibel Community Playground & Park for a magical experience with your family as the whole park is illuminated in vibrant lights. The best part is you don’t have to pay to see these enchanting lights.
Christmas Activities in Florida Guide
In Florida, the Christmas season truly comes alive with a dazzling array of festive activities and events. From the moment Thanksgiving weekend signals the start of this joyous time of year until early January, the state is abuzz with enchanting Christmas celebrations like boat parades and live performances.
Whether you’re strolling through beautifully illuminated streets in the historic district of Saint Augustine, savoring the warmth of a beachside holiday, or immersing yourself in a myriad of Christmas events like building gingerbread houses or writing Christmas cards, Florida offers a unique and unforgettable experience.
The festive season in Florida isn’t just about sunshine and palm trees; it’s about creating the best ways to cherish memories with loved ones, celebrating the spirit of giving and embracing the joy of Christmas day.
Keep on the lookout for more holiday events in Altamonte springs and nearby areas in Florida!
Get the scoop on more holiday fun below: