Your guide to Central Florida’s best events throughout the holiday season.
Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
For the first time, Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida and Hogsmeade at Universal’s Islands of Adventure have been transformed with holiday lights and décor. Expect a special holiday show from The Frog Choir inside Hogsmeade as well as holiday treats and hot cocoa throughout. The festivities are included in regular theme park admission ticket runs through Jan. 6.
Epcot International Festival of the Holidays
Explore the holiday traditions of Epcot’s 11 World Showcase nations in this recently rebranded yearly celebration. The festival showcases treats and drinks, such as roast turkey at the American Pavilion and Horchata Margaritas at the Mexico Pavilion, at special holiday kitchens. Celebrity narrators, including yearly favorite Neil Patrick Harris, are scheduled to take the stage alongside an orchestra and choir for a reading of the Christmas story. This event runs through Dec. 30 and is included with regular theme park admission.
Festival of Trees
Now in its 31st year, Festival of Trees is taking place at the Orlando Museum of Art again in 2017. Expect to see Christmas tree displays of all sizes as well as designer wreaths, tabletop displays and gingerbread houses. Many of these items are on sale through the end of the event on Nov. 19. Admission is $15 for adults and $5 for kids and includes admission to the current exhibitions in the museum.
Holidays at Universal Studios Florida
From now through Jan. 6, the park brings the New York-style holiday festivities to Florida with Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s. Get into the holiday spirit as the Minions join Santa for a parade featuring festive floats. Then, on select nights through Dec. 17, Mannheim Steamroller, the best-selling holiday artist of all time, is returning to Universal Studios for live performances of classic holiday tunes.
ICE! featuring Christmas Around the World
The Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center is once hosting the chilliest event in Orlando, complete with 2 million twinkling Christmas lights and larger-than-life decorations. At the annual ICE! event, guests can explore holiday scenes from around the world in a chilly 9-degree atmosphere before ending up in the North Pole to see Santa and his elves. The Frostbite Factory features live ice carving by artisans from China. While you’re there, slide down five ice slides, view the nativity scene and so much more.
Light Up UCF
Every year, the area in front of the CFE Arena is decked out as a winter wonderland with carnival rides, games and an ice skating rink. From now through Dec. 31, families are invited to enjoy the festivities, including a free Holiday Film Festival on a giant two-story screen and a new and improved Holiday Light Show with lights choreographed to seasonal musical selections and falling snow. On Dec. 16, the Light Up UCF Holiday Market will return for the second year, featuring local small businesses and artisans. Ticket prices for ice skating and the rides vary.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
On select nights through Dec. 22, Mickey Mouse and all his friends bring holiday cheer, hot chocolate and a whole lot of fun to the Magic Kingdom Park. Enjoy music, holiday lights and characters in festive costumes all while riding your favorite rides, dining at your favorite restaurants and shopping at the park’s specialty stores. The event begins with Anna and Elsa lighting Cinderella Castle in A Frozen Holiday Wish, and the evening includes Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade and Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration stage show complete with snowflakes. Special admission is required for this event.
Rosen Plaza’s Iced Out!
Orlando’s top chefs will gather at Rosen Plaza’s Holiday Iced Out! to take a stab at the Top Iced Out title in this buzz-worthy ice carving competition. Holiday cocktails and specialty treats will be available for sale to accompany this Food Network-style championship. The event will take place on Dec. 15 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and admission is free.
SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration
Meet up with Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Santa at SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration. This event includes a series of shows including Shamu Christmas Miracles, Winter Wonderland on Ice, Elmo’s Christmas Wish and Clyde and Seamore’s Countdown to Christmas. You can also wander through the Sea of Trees, and watch them dance to holiday music, while enjoying festive food and drinks. The festivities run through Dec. 31 and are included in regular theme park admission.
St. Cloud Christmas Parade
This year will mark the 100th anniversary of the first tree lighting of St. Cloud’s Amaryllis Christmas themed parade. From 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2, the whole family is invited to watch, free of charge, as the parade makes its way down Pennsylvania Avenue and back up Massachusetts Avenue. Not only will the parade be locally televised but it will also be live streamed on the St. Cloud Chamber’s social media pages.
The Grinchman Who-liday Spectacular
In the charmingly decorated Seuss Landing, you can roam the streets of Whoville, watch a live retelling of the Grinch’s classic holiday tale, and meet the Grinch himself. This Who-liday celebration takes place on select dates throughout December and is included with regular theme park admission.
The Polar Express
All aboard! The Polar Express Train Ride is in the Orlando area for the first time through Dec. 31. This holiday adventure pulls scenes straight from the children’s book, departing from and returning to Tavares Train station. Guests will have opportunities to meet the book’s characters and interact with them throughout the ride. The total duration of the trip is just over an hour. Children are encouraged to wear their pajamas just like the children in the movie did. Tickets range from $33-$99.