12 Top Christmas Events In Florida For The Best Festive Cheer

The holiday season is upon us again! While there will be no real snow or snowmen to be had in Florida this Christmas, the season can still be white and it can still be merry: No Grinches or Scrooges allowed (unless they are there to entertain the kids)! The events we’ve found for you below will take you and the kids through magical, twinkling, festive forests, through tunnels of Christmas trees, on walks through light displays of all sizes, and give you the chance to grab a hug and photo with both the Santa family and their elves. Look forward to some holiday cheer at these family-friendly winter wonderland events in Florida. When you’re done, have a look at our recommendations for the best seasonal ice skating rinks in Orlando

Here are our top picks for the best things to do in Florida this Christmas.

1. ICE! At Gaylord Palms

  • November 17 – January 3, 10am – 8pm.
ICE! At Gaylord Palms. Source: Management

Since 2001, crowds have been heading to celebrate the holidays in style at Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Kissimmee, which offers an annual, totally unique icy treat for all ages to enjoy; a dazzling, immersive story to walk through, with a different theme each year. 

ICE! is a 20,000-foot, 9°F, walk-through experience, averaging 20-40 minutes (though you can take as long as you like). Throw on your gloves and Gaylord blue parka (provided) and head on in to explore. A Christmas masterpiece of 2 million pounds of carved and colored ice awaits you inside. The 2023 theme is “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

ICE! is the work of master craftspeople brought from 7,000 miles away in Harbin, China, who chip away at all that ice over several weeks to create magical thematic scenes to amaze you.

Not only that: ICE! guests big and small have the chance to zip down two-story-tall ice slides, try out the gingerbread decorating corner, watch a show at the cirque “Spirit of Christmas,” and go on a Snoopy scavenger hunt in the 4.5-acre garden atrium, looking for festive decor for Snoopy’s famous red house.

Tickets: There are various packages on offer, some of which include accommodation – check it out online to find a deal that suits you. Be prepared – parking last year was a wallet-breaking $30!

Where: 6000 West Osceola Parkway · Kissimmee, FL.

Website: christmas-at-gaylord-palms

2. Key West Holiday Fest

  • November 22 – December 31.
Key West Holiday Fest. Source: Management

When you think of Key West, you think of sun, sea and seafood, right? But Santa gets his time in the sun too! No snow? No problem – there’s so much to do, you’ll barely notice the lack of flakes! The impressive Key West Holiday Fest offers holiday parades on road and waves, and spectacular Christmas light displays on the Harborwalk of Lights – boasting more than 60,000 twinkling lights in nautical style – with palm trees, buoy trees and lobster trap trees taking the place of your traditional Christmas tree. A unique Key West Christmas for sure!

Free admission.

Where: Key West Historic Seaport and Key West Bight Marina.

Website: keywestchristmas.org

3. Pensacola Winterfest

  •  November 17, 19, 24 – 26; December 1, 2, 8, 10, 15 – 17, 19 – 24.
Santa heading to Pensacola Winterfest. Source: Facebook

One of the top festive events in Florida, Pensacola Winterfest’s celebration promises more than 400,000 dazzling lights, the chance to talk with Santa, plenty of games to play, and a two-mile ride on the renowned Winterfest Trolley through historic Seville Square and Palafox Street. Keep your eyes open for some surprise stowaways jumping aboard to say “hi,” among them the Grinch, Charlie Brown and even Elvis! 

Join in a song and dance with your favorite characters at the free, public preshows every night. In fact, from 5pm, there’s something on almost every minute until closing at the Winterfest Plaza.

And be sure to head there Christmas week when Scrooge and Marley will be making a ghostly appearance to end the season with a bang!

Missing the snow? Be there at 5.30pm on Fridays, 5pm on Saturday and Sunday and see what happens….

Don’t Miss…

  • Visiting Santa
  • The Elf Parade with fireworks
  • The Polar Express Tour
  • The Puppet Magic Tour
  • Santa’s Puppy Party
  • The Scrooge Tour
  • The Grinch Tour

Tickets: Prices vary by date and tour type, but average $10 – $16 for kids and $14 – $22 for adults. Check their official website for details. Photos are on the pricey side, but we’re assured of their quality – for groups $37 – $50.

Where: Old County Courthouse, 223 South Palafox St., Pensacola, FL

Website: pensacolawinterfest.org

4. St. Augustine Christmas Parade

  • Saturday, December 2, 9am – 10am.
St. Augustine’s Annual Christmas Parade. Source: Management

Short but sweet, St. Augustine’s Annual Christmas Parade brings Christmas to you in the form of decorated cars and floats – both private and put together by local organizations, accompanied by marching bands, antique cars and horses and carriages, and a plethora of festive decorations and games! Even Santa joins in the fun: After the parade, head to the Plaza de la Constitución to have pictures taken with him.

Admission: Free

Where:  Starts at the “Shrine of Our Lady de La Leche” at Mission Nombre de Dios, 27 Ocean Avenue. The parade ends at the St. Augustine Visitors Information Center at 10 W. Castillo Drive.

Parking:  The seasonal Park and Ride Shuttle will start at 8am on December 2.

Website: visitstaugustine/christmas-parade

5. Sandi Land West Palm Beach

  • December 1 – December 31.
The sand tree. Photo by Ariel W.

Visit the world’s only 35-foot, 800-ton holiday sand tree – yes, you heard right: sand! And it is only one of many seasonal sculptures you’ll get to enjoy there. Every year has new sandy surprises, illuminations, festive music and rides. 

Admission is free.

Where: 162 S Clematis St West Palm Beach, FL

6. Jolly Days At Brevard Zoo

  • December 22 and 23, 11am – 1pm.
Santa and a hungry friend. Source: Facebook

Animals love Christmas too, so go share some holiday fun with the 75-acre Brevard Zoo’s inhabitants. Between the festive games, dancing to music, and watching the animals “unwrap” holiday treats, you’ll see Santa and Mrs. Claus giving tours and having photos taken, and all this alongside the regular keeper chats on different animals (we have a soft spot for the meerkats!).

Santa and Mrs. Claus are available for photos on both days, from 11am to 1pm.

Tickets: All Jolly Days activities are included with general Zoo admission.

Where: 8225 N Wickham Rd, Melbourne, FL. 

Website: brevardzoo.org/special-events

7. Festival Of Trees, Orlando Museum Of Art

  • November 10-19, 2023.
 Festival of Trees, Orlando Museum of Art. Source: Facebook

This annual celebration of festivity sees the Orlando Museum of Art putting on display over 30 designer Christmas trees and at least as many vignettes, wreaths, gingerbread houses and table tops (which are all available for purchase) to add some sparkle to an already very interesting museum visit.  

Guests can participate in the popular Entertaining and Design tablescapes raffle, a Silent Auction, get a photo with Santa, and shop at their Toyland and  pop-up Boutique, as well as soak up the fun of live entertainment throughout the event.  

Don’t Miss…

  • Opening Night Tree-View Party (November 10th)
  • Breakfast with Santa (November 11th, 12th, 18th)
  • Children’s Reindeer Romp (November 17th) 
  • The Ugly Sweater Sunday Fun Day (November 19th)

Organized by the Council of 101, the Festival of Trees continuation depends on the generosity of sponsors, chefs, designers, decorators, and the attendees who buy the trees, wreaths, gingerbread houses, and who visit the pop-up shops. 

Tickets to this event also include access to the museum’s other exhibits. Adult: $20, Children: $12 (3-12).

Parking $7 daily.

Where: 2416 N. Mills Ave., Orlando, FL.

Website: omart.org/festivaloftrees

8. Santa’s Enchanted Forest, Miami

  • November 9, – January 7, 5pm – Midnight.
Santa’s Enchanted Forest. Source: Management

Santa’s Enchanted Forest has claimed the title of world’s largest Christmas theme park, boasting more than 100 rides, cheerful shows, music, carnival games, festive food, millions of twinkling lights, Christmas displays (both life-size and miniature!) and other fun attractions. And a night out there is simply not complete without some Christmas Karaoke!

Don’t Miss…

  • Mistletoe Lane
  • South Florida’s Tallest Christmas Tree
  • Christmas Light Show Spectacular

Tickets: Season Pass – Children (3-8) From $44, Adult (9+) From $55

Where: 7400 NW 87th Ave., Miami, FL.

Website: santasenchantedforest.com

9. Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando

  • Select nights, November 9 to December 22, 7pm – midnight.

Disneyworld at Christmas is so famous, it barely needs a mention, but we love it so much, we couldn’t keep Mickey off this list! Wish your favorite Disney Characters a “Happy holiday!” as you wander the magical illuminated Christmas setting, which so masterfully brings the spirit of the season to life!

And yes, Santa will be there too!

Don’t Miss…

  • Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks show
  • Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade
  • A yuletide stage show at Cinderella Castle
  • Free cookies and cocoa
  • “Snowfall” on Main Street, USA

Tickets: Ticket prices vary by event date:

  • Adult (ages 10 and up): $159 to $199 per ticket, plus tax
  • Child (ages 3 to 9): $149 to $189 per ticket, plus tax

Where: Orlando, FL

Website: disneyworld/mickeys-very-merry-christmas-party

10. Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Orlando Resort at Christmas. Source: Management

Universal Orlando Resort says they do the holidays bigger, louder and brighter than anyone else on this list. We have to agree- a trip to Universal at Christmastime, while pricey, makes for truly unforgettable memories.

Don’t Miss…

  • The live Grinchmas show 
  • The nightly Macy’s Holiday Parade
  • The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, with sights, sounds, and tastes straight out of the books and movies!
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Source: Management

Tickets: From $119.

Where: 6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL.

Website: universalorlando.com/Events/Holidays.

11. Town Of Christmas

  • Open daily, 10am – 4pm, including holidays (closed on December 24, 25).
The permanent Christmas Tree in the town of Christmas. Photo by Rachelle V.

While at other times of year, it’s just a sleepy little town that tourists pop into from time to time to visit the 1837 replica fort, at Christmas, things really light up. Join in the time-honored tradition of getting your Christmas cards sent from the “Christmas, FL” post office. The town also offers a historical park with a museum showcasing life back in the original 1800s settlement. 

At Christmas, you can enjoy a choice of belly-warming savories and sweets as you watch special Pioneer demonstrations – broom making, blacksmithery, basket weaving, rope making, spinning, quilting, lace making, wood carving, and more, before heading across to the giant craft fair with over 150 stands selling handmade items for that extra special gift, alongside an antique engine and tractor display.

The permanent Christmas Tree in the town of Christmas is a symbol of love and good will; the Christmas spirit every day of the year.

Admission is free.

Where: 1300 North Fort Christmas Road, Christmas, FL

Website: godo/FortChristmas

12. Gingerbread House Extravaganza, Jacksonville

  • December 8th – December 27th.
Gingerbread House Extravaganza. Photo by Dan Scanlan / Florida Times-Union

You will never look at gingerbread the same way after a visit to this festive, gloriously sweet-smelling treat! For over a decade now, the Jacksonville Historical Society has been hosting the annual Gingerbread House Extravaganza at Christmastime to raise money for children’s programs. The artistry and detail that goes into the making and display of these edible masterpieces is a delight to the eyes. And if you have the talent, why not enter your own gingerbread creation? 

“The gingerbread extravaganza is something I look forward to every year. There is a certain magic to the display of community-created architectural confections displayed in that gorgeous historic chapel” – jaxrestaurantreviews

Tickets: Donations for a charitable cause.

Where: Old St. Andrew’s Church, 317 A. Philip Randolph Blvd.

Website: jaxhistory/gingerbread-extravaganza

The Takeaway

Don’t feel you’re going to miss out on the spirit of Christmas because you’re in the Sunshine State and there’s no snow- there’s still plenty of Santa’s magic to go around, and plenty of wintry fun to be had!

What Else Can I Do In Florida?

Looking for more fun Florida activities? Why not try out Florida’s natural hot springs for a swim after your photo shoot with Santa? We love Three Sisters Hot Springs, where you can swim with the manatees in winter, and the turquoise beauty of Alexander Hot Springs – just watch out for the alligators! If it’s celebrating you’re doing, explore our recommended best birthday destinations in Florida, and if it’s some beach time you want, here are Florida’s top tide pool beaches.


While we at Traxplorio do our very best to give you the most up-to-date information, we always recommend you do your own research before you travel to a particular area or visit a specific destination, and check conditions with relevant official authorities. Thanks for understanding, and enjoy your adventure!

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