Our team has picked the best ways to celebrate the holiday season as only Central Floridians can do.
1. Pet Lovers Holiday Craft Fair
Kick off the holiday shopping season with Winter Park Lost Pets on Nov. 30. This event will feature pet stockings, handmade dog jackets, artisan crafts, fine crafted jewelry, digital holiday pet photos and more.
2. Margaritaville Resort Orlando
It’s 5 o’clock somewhere so spend a day or start a staycation at one of Central Florida’s most laidback properties. Make a splash at the Island H2O Live! Water Park, get a treatment at the spa or dig into a Cheeseburger in Parade in a poolside cabana.
3. Pop-up Holiday Cocktail Bars
Get in the spirit with two pop-ups bars that will only be around for the holidays. Miracle on Orange will be hosted at The Courtesy in downtown Orlando and Sippin’ Santa will be at Avanti Palms Resort on International Drive. Both will serve festive cocktails perfect for the season.
4. Monorail Crawl
Disney’s monorail route goes through three upscale hotels, where you can stop to marvel at the holiday displays and grab a snack and drink if you prefer. Be sure to check out the new “Beauty and the Beast” themed lounge at the Grand Floridian, and remember that you can have a similar adventure on the new Skyliner.
5. Disney Springs
From ho ho ho to hot cocoa. From timeless gifts to quality time. This season, unwrap the joy of Disney Springs®—where you’ll not only discover wonderful times together, but you’ll also find that perfect gift. Choose from some of your favorite brands—including Coach, The LEGO® Store and World of Disney® store.
There’s also incredible dining like Wolfgang Puck® Bar & Grill and Jaleo® by José Andrés. Not to mention live entertainment and plenty of enchanting surprises along the way—including a magical Christmas Tree Trail, Yuletide carolers and quality time with Santa. ‘Tis the Reason to experience Disney Springs® this season. Visit DisneySpringsGiftGuide.com and get inspired for all your holiday shopping at Disney Springs.
6. Light up UCF
Central Florida’s ultimate winter wonderland, Light Up UCF, returns for a 12th season of “Snowy Nights and Sparkling Lights” through Jan. 5 at Addition Financial Arena near the University of Central Florida. Guests can get swept up in holiday cheer in a variety of ways – both old and new. This year’s event will feature new music with more lights, a Holiday Film Festival, fun rides and attractions, and an all-new carousel! Plus, attendees will have opportunities to enjoy photos with Santa, ice skating and snow. This holiday tradition provides fun for the whole family and is a wonderful activity to show visitors from out of town how Central Florida does the holidays. Visit lightupucf.com to learn more.
7. Watch a performance of Orlando Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”
From Dec. 13 to Dec. 23, the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts hosts the Orlando Ballet for a beloved holiday tradition: “The Nutcracker.” As the lights dim and the music soars, the magical world of Clara’s dreams will take viewers on a journey through sparkling snowflakes, waltzing flowers and dancing sweets. Thousands of Central Florida families enjoy this production every year to find out if the Nutcracker will triumph over the mischievous Mouse King. Make it part of your family’s tradition, too, with a regular showing or a one-hour family show on Dec. 14 or Dec. 15. Ticket prices start at $24, and there are varying levels of VIP experiences available that include access to watch the company in class on stage before the performance and some exciting extras.
8. Spend a day at ICON Park
This walkable entertainment destination in the heart of Orlando’s renowned travel district is the perfect place to ride, dine, drink and explore. More than 40 restaurants, bars, shops and attractions are anchored by The Wheel, which towers 400 feet above Orlando. Each rotation takes about 22 minutes, giving you plenty of time to soak up Central Florida’s spectacular views. While you’re there, get face to fin with a variety of sea creatures at SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium, meet your favorite celebrities at Madame Tussauds Orlando and learn about animals of all sizes at SKELETONS: Museum of Osteology. Fuel your day at The Wheelhouse Market or one of the on-site restaurants, shop at a number of small boutiques or relax on the lawn in the middle of it all. Free parking is available in a multi-level garage.
9. Participate in an event with The Celebration Foundation
Founded in 1996, The Celebration Foundation works to build a better community through the arts, culture and education. This December, celebrate the season with a series of family friendly events. The Holiday Home Tour & Winter Wonderland event features festive décor presented by residents of the Celebration community. On Dec. 7 and Dec. 8, attendees are invited to stop at each home and admire the exterior and interior decorations in a self-guided tour that takes approximately two hours. A VIP Winter Wonderland event on Dec. 6 offers a preview of the trees and tablescapes that can be expected at the Winter Wonderland stop of the tour, along with cocktails, appetizers and dancing. Additionally, the Brass Band of Central Florida will take the stage in the first performance of the Celebration Foundation Concert Series on Dec. 14.
10. Discover and explore at Orlando Science Center
For more than 60 years, this award-winning, hands-on museum has brought science to life for residents of Central Florida as well as visitors from around the world. With four floors of interactive exhibit halls, labs and workshops, theaters, an observatory and experiences that change with the seasons, there is always something exciting for visitors to see and do at Orlando Science Center. OSC reaches approximately 153,000 students and educators each year through its STEM Discovery Center educational programs, both onsite at the Science Center and offsite at schools and community organizations. Whether you visit when school is out, when your family is visiting for the holidays or at any point throughout the year, the OSC experience will be out of this world.
11. Stetson Mansion
At Stetson Mansion’s 9th Annual Christmas Spectacular, 10 rooms in the beautiful Victorian home will feature elaborate decorations and 24 nativities from around the world.
12. Christmas at Gaylord Palms
In addition to 2 million holiday lights and acres of decorations, the hotel hosts a variety of holiday events, including the Cirque Dreams Unwrapped Stage Show, Secret Santa Scavenger Hunt, ICE featuring The Polar Express and so much more.
13. Sanford’s Holiday Home Tour
On Dec. 7, the Sanford Historic Trust will kick off the holiday season by opening the doors of several featured historic homes for a once-per-year tour. Not only will attendees get to marvel at the architecture but also at the holiday décor.
14. SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration
Through Dec. 31 SeaWorld will be transformed into a winter wonderland complete with holiday cheer and over 3 million twinkling lights. Enjoy seasonal shows like O’Wondrous Night and Winter Wonderland on Ice, watch the all-new Sesame Street Christmas Parade and meet Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reineer and his friends.
15. Epcot International Festival of the Holidays
Each night through Dec. 30, a celebrity narrator will tell the Christmas story set to the sounds of a choir singing carols at the America Pavilion in Epcot. While you’re there, explore the holiday traditions of the 11 World Showcase nations by watching live musical performances and savoring authentic food and beverage items.
16. Holidays at Universal Orlando
This resort-wide celebration includes the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular and The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle projection show at Islands of Adventure as well as special performances by Mannheim Steamroller and Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s at Universal Studios.
17. RDV Sportsplex Snow Fest
This annual winter celebration will take place from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Dec. 14. Expect ice skating, real snow, kids’ snow slide, bounce houses, face painting curling and a ton of family fun.
18. Cure Bowl
On Dec. 21, teams from the American Athletic Conference and Sun Belt Conference will take the field at Exploria Stadium for this annual college bowl game that raises funds for breast cancer research.
19. The Heart of Christmas at The Holy Land Experience
This Broadway-style production follows a pair of families from two very different times as they take a journey of hope, love and sacrifice and search for the true spirit of the Christmas season. The annual nativity scene will also return to the park.
20. Boxi Park
Lake Nona’s hottest new concept is the place to be for food and entertainment if you’re hosting family and friends during the holiday season. Enjoy live music, fun events and many unique restaurant offerings.
21. Downtown Winter Garden
The City of Winter Garden is hosting the 32nd Annual Light Up Winter Garden on Dec. 6 to kick off the holidays, but the downtown area is also a great place to entertain all season long. Shop small for gifts at local boutiques, grab a meal at a local restaurant or spend the day at Plant Street Market.
22. Winter on the Avenue
Winter Park will also host its annual holiday event on Dec. 6. Festivities include a tree lighting ceremony, holiday choirs, carolers and a visit from Santa. Explore all that Park Avenue has to offer while you’re there.
23. Bok Tower Gardens
Just a short drive from Orlando, Bok Tower Gardens offers artistic, cultural and spiritual experiences for visitors through events and tours. The Pinewood Estate will also be transformed for the holidays so visitors can enjoy a Holiday Home Tour, carillon conerts and festive foliage.
24. Holidays at Rosen Hotels & Resorts
From holiday buffets to poolside ice carvings, the Rosen Hotels & Resorts properties will be decked out for the holiday season. Go on an I-Drive crawl to view the décor and participate in all of the fun events that will be offered.