Even though it doesn’t feel like winter in Florida, there are tons of ways to celebrate the holidays. I have lived here for twelve years and with all the different events going on, I hardly miss the snow!
Today I am sharing all the best Christmas things to do in Florida across the state.
Originally this post just covered Central Florida Christmas things to do, but I have now expanded it to include South Florida and North Florida. I made sure to add Christmas activities for all ages and budgets.
You can also find a theme park section for holiday things to do at Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld, Legoland, and Busch Gardens.
Here are over 50 Christmas things to do in Florida for 2023!
Christmas Things to Do in North Florida
Everyone knows about the ultimate Christmas experience in North Florida and that is Nights of Lights in St. Augustine! However, there are plenty of holiday things to do in the panhandle and across North Florida too.
The weather even dips into chilly enough temperatures some nights to justify hot cocoa drinking.
Here are the top Christmas things to do in Florida north of Orlando.
1. Nights of Lights in St. Augustine
By far the most popular North Florida Christmas event is the Nights of Lights in St. Augustine. This is when the entire downtown is decorated with millions of twinkle lights that make for a stunning display.
The event is so popular, it goes from mid-November until the end of January so everyone has a chance to see it!
I have a whole post about Nights of Lights here with information, but I wanted to mention a few things to keep in mind. The first is that this event is very crowded, especially on weekends, and the traffic is especially bad.
To truly enjoy the experience, getting a hotel or bed and breakfast downtown is ideal so you can enjoy walking around without dealing with logistics.
Also, there are lots of trolley tours to see the lights, which are fun with singing and narration. We have experienced Nights of Lights on foot and had no problem seeing a lot of the displays, so the trolley is not necessary if you do not mind walking!
It really is an exciting event and every Floridian should go to St. Augustine during the holidays at least once to experience it.
2. Gingerbread Extravaganza in Jacksonville
If you are making a weekend of visiting St. Augustine, you may want to stop by Jacksonville for some holiday cheer too. This exhibit features a variety of handmade gingerbread displays and decorated trees put together by local creators.
You can stop by Old St. Andrew’s Church and see them December 8th through 27th, as well as get some goodies from the holiday bake shop.
3. Cascade Park Holiday Stroll in Tallahassee
For a musical evening, check out Cascade Park for a one-night holiday event. This park hosts an open house where you can pursue the park and check out Christmas musical stations along the trail.
They host all types of performances from a community orchestra to a saxophone performance to a barbershop quartet. You can also enjoy free hot cocoa during your stroll and watch the light show at the fountain.
4. Tallahassee Winter Festival
For one night only, Tallahassee throws its traditional winter fest downtown. This is one of the biggest street festivals of the year and it features local entertainment, a tree-lighting ceremony, a holiday parade, and a decorative candy cane lane.
There is fun for young and old at this event and plenty of Christmas things to do to help get into a jolly mood.
5. Christmas at the Village of Baytowne Wharf
Throughout December, the Village of Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin is abuzz with holiday things to do. In addition to being beautifully decorated, three days a week, you can see the 12 Nights of Lights show along the village tree and through the town.
There are also frequent holiday concert series for hearing festive music. And for those who like winter frolicking, check out the ice-skating rink!
6. Pensacola Winter Fest
To be immersed in a winter wonderland, visit Palafox Place for Pensacola Winterfest! Starting before Thanksgiving, you can experience a snowfall and a magical trolley ride through winter scenery.
In addition to pictures with Santa or the Grinch, guests can experience a variety of Christmas performances including a Cajun Christmas and an elf parade.
Tickets start at $14 and are available every weekend before Christmas.
7. Deck the Chairs at Jacksonville Beach
For a unique way to see Christmas decorations on the beach, Jacksonville is decorating lifeguard chairs this year. You can go to Deck the Chairs along the beach starting after Thanksgiving and through New Year’s Eve.
This event offers a festive beach experience with lots of holiday decorations and entertainment,
8. Christmas on the Square at Historic Downtown Live Oak
Another cherished North Florida Christmas event is the Christmas on the Square in Live Oak Florida. Taking place, the first weekend of December every year, this town has a long weekend celebration with a tree lighting ceremony, a fun run, a craft fair, and a Christmas parade.
But best of all, there are professional holiday fireworks free to watch!
9. Dickens on Centre at Fernandina Beach
Last for Christmas things to do in North Florida is the Dickens on Centre at Downtown Fernandina Beach. If you visit the second weekend of December, you can see the town transformed into a Victorian Christmas village with entertainment, shopping, and treats.
There is live music, Santa photos, a bounce house, and vendors. It’s just the thing for families to kick off the holiday season!
Central Florida Christmas Activities and Events
If you don’t want to buy a theme park ticket, there are plenty of holiday things to do in Central Florida without one! Here are some ideas with a cheaper or no entry fee to get your fill of holiday cheer.
10. Holiday Nights at Island H2O
For Christmas lights galore, Holiday Nights is the best place to visit in Florida! Head to the Island H20 Water Park in Kissimmee to explore an interactive village filled with lights.
In addition to seeing the amazing displays, there is a holiday market, visits with Santa, and a dancing lights show. The attraction opens November 8th and goes every night until New Year’s Eve.
Admission ranges from $25 to $40 for adults depending on which day you go.
11. ICE! At Gaylord Palms
Every year, the Gaylord Palms goes all out hosting a Christmas spectacular. There are tons of things to do here with the main event being an ice carving exhibit crafted from 2 million pounds of ice!
The hotel also has a real snow tubing hill, a half-hour-long Cirque du Soleil-type show, a Sounds of the Season concert, and more. Tickets start at $30, but to experience everything, you can get bundle packages for around $60.
This is also one of the few places you can experience freezing temperatures in Florida, so be sure to bundle up!
12. Holiday Pops at Winter Park
For a free Orlando Christmas event, head to Winter Park on December 3rd for a concert. This is an annual event that takes place in Winter Park where visitors can enjoy a Christmas performance by the Orlando Philarmonic Orchestra.
I went last year and my family had a great time having a picnic dinner, enjoying the music, and then wandering Park Avenue amongst the decorations.
13. Stetson Mansion Christmas Spectacular Tour
For a look at a Victorian mansion in its Christmas finest, head to DeLand for a Stetson Mansion Holiday Tour! This estate was built in 1886 and is one of the oldest and largest mansions of the Gilded Age in Florida.
For $30, you can tour the entire residence and marvel at the ornate decorations and gorgeous grounds.
14. Enchant Christmas at Tropicana Field
Over in St. Pete, Tropicana Field is transformed into a lit-up winter wonderland. At Enchant, you can explore a beautiful light maze full of wintery sculptures. There is also a market to stock up on gifts and an ice-skating trail.
You can experience all this with a $34 ticket starting on November 24th.
15. Now Snowing in Celebration
Another town center celebrating is Celebration, Florida! This cute suburb near Disney is fun to visit on its own, but during December, you can experience it snowing there!
In addition to nightly “snow” falls, there are street performances, Santa visits, horse-drawn carriage rides, and ice skating to partake in throughout the town.
16. Magic of Lights Daytona Beach
Another Central Florida experience for holiday light lovers is Magic of Lights in Daytona Beach. This is a drive-thru attraction at Daytona Interal Speedway where you can see the park lit up with tons of lights and Christmas decorations.
For only $22 per car, it’s a fun way to see lights and belt out Christmas carols.
17. Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park
Over in Tampa, the riverfront is ready for the holidays with a Winter Village. Open daily starting on November 17th, this area is a gorgeous place to walk around and see decorations.
There are also tons of activities for all ages, including ice skating, CURLING, a silent disco, and holiday rides on the TECO line streetcar.
18. Bok Tower Gardens at Lake Wales
For those who love tasteful Christmas decorations, Bok Tower has the perfect event. Starting in November, the Pinewood Estate, as well as the gardens, are decorated beautifully for the holidays.
You can also see a Holiday Concert with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra for $35 or check out the Holly Jolly Plant Pop-Up Market. It’s the perfect excuse to see the gardens, and tower, and get in the holiday spirit!
19. City of Orlando Tree Lighting Celebration and Light Show
For Christmas light lovers, head to Lake Eola to see their gigantic Christmas tree. Every night, you can watch a synchronized light and music show on the tree!
The first day of the tree lighting is December 1st and there will be live music, vendors, and food trucks to celebrate the start of the season. Then, you can see it snow every weekend.
There are also similar tree-lighting events at at most cities in Central Florida.
20. Surfing Santas at Cocoa Beach
Every year on Christmas Eve, over 500 people go surfing at Cocoa Beach dressed as Santa Claus! This is one of the most unique Christmas things to do in Florida.
I went last year and it was such a spectacular sight and a great way to start Christmas Eve. This event is completely free and goes on until lunchtime, but get there early if you want to find free parking.
21. Light up the Holidays at Altamonte Springs
For a firework show, you don’t need an entry ticket, head to Altamonte Springs on December 2nd. Here they have their Light Up the Holiday event which includes a firework show.
I have been there for their Fourth of July fireworks and they are honestly the best I have seen outside of Disney!
So definitely check this out for free fireworks, in addition to holiday displays and entertainment.
22. Christmas at the Pier in St. Petersburg
Another way to experience a coastal Christmas is to visit the St. Petersburg Pier during December. They have it decorated with lights and trees, as well as music, entertainment, and more.
In the past, there has been an ice skating rink, Santa visits, and fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
South Florida Christmas Things to Do
If you want to celebrate the holidays without any chance of feeling the cold, head south for Christmas on warm, sandy beaches. This area rarely gets a chill this time of year, so you can relax in the sun while still getting a taste of the holidays.
Miami has the most South Florida Christmas things to do, but you can find festive events from West Palm Beach to Key West. Here are a dozen ideas for holiday happenings in South Florida.
23. Santa’s Enchanted Forest at Hialeah
For a Christmas-themed carnival with rides, shows, lights, and treats, Santa’s Enchanted Forest is one of the biggest events near Miami.
Now in Hialeah this year, this seasonal amusement park is fun for all ages. It opens right after Halloween and costs about $30 per person.
Highlights include the light displays, giant Christmas trees, and carnival rides.
24. Snowfall at the Dolphin Mall in Miami
For a taste of winter, head to the Dolphin Mall. Starting Thanksgiving weekend, the Ramblas Plaza becomes a winter wonderland with decorations and snowfall nightly.
Kids and pets can meet Santa and everyone can enjoy festive music.
25. Decorations at the Vizcaya Gardens in Miami
Though beautiful all year, during the holidays you can experience the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens decorated to perfection.
Check their website for exclusive evenings to tour the estate at night and see string lights, the Christmas tree, and more. This experience also includes tour guides to share the history of the holidays at Vizcaya.
26. Holiday Lights Water Taxi in Fort Lauderdale
Starting at the beginning of December, the Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi offers a Holiday Lights Cruise along Las Olas.
With the purchase of a $45 ticket, you can float by the gorgeously decorated mansions of Fort Lauderdale and take in the sights. The cruise lasts an hour long and includes live holiday music and a cash bar.
27. Holiday Evening Experience at the Fort Lauderdale Bonnet House Museum & Gardens
Here you can see the tropical decorations, as well as enjoy music and festive drinks. For those who want an extra special experience, this event makes for a weekend to remember.
28. Holiday in Paradise at West Palm Beach
Head down to the Palm Beach Waterfront starting after Thanksgiving to see the 35-foot-tall Sand Tree decorated with lights and projections. Here you can find plenty of photo ops, music, and entertainment. During the day you can check out local vendors and at night see the light show.
It is a wonderful place to walk around and get into the holiday spirit all month long.
29. Mizner Park Holiday Tree Lighting in Boca Raton
The weekend before Thanksgiving, locals look forward to the Annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony at Mizner Park. This is a family fun event with carnival rides, an ice skating rink, and performances.
The tree is lit hourly to much fanfare with music and a light show. Afterward, you can enjoy the local dining and shopping around Mizner Park.
30. Key West Holiday Lights Tour
A tour on the Conch tram lasts an hour and includes a narrated tour along with caroling. It starts two weeks after Thanksgiving with tours available nightly throughout the month.
31. Christmas on Third Street South in Naples
There is even the chance to meet Santa, in addition to lots of photo-ops.
32. Holiday Nights on St. Armands in Sarasota
Another favorite of the Christmas things to do in Florida is to check out Christmas decorations at St. Armands Circle in Sarasota. Though they have decorations all month, the first Saturday of December is the best day to go.
This is when there is a Christmas parade complete with Santa, as well as Christmas Tree lighting, carolers, and shopping and dining promotions. The whole town center is lit up and decorated, making for a beautiful display to enjoy.
33. ALL-idays at the Square
One of my favorite places to visit in West Palm Beach is the Square and they celebrate all the holidays that take place at the end of the year with a festival.
From November 11th through New Year’s Eve, events are going on every weekend from artisan markets to yuletide caroling. You can also get pictures with Santa, see snowfall, and enjoy festive music for free!
34. Edison and Ford Holiday Nights in Fort Myers
Another South Florida Christmas tradition is the Edison and Ford Holiday Nights which have been going on for over 45 years.
Located in Fort Myers Riverside, the Edison and Ford Museum is decorated head to toe with lights, Christmas trees, wreaths, vintage décor and more. Visitors can see the lights and decorations, in addition to touring the estate, every night in December.
35. Holiday Village at Downtown Delray Beach
To spread the holiday cheer throughout Delray Beach, a holiday village is open from November 29th through New Year’s Eve. Each week, there are different events, like a menorah lighting, a boat parade, and a jingle bell jog.
The local merchants will also be offering specials so it’s a great time to get in your small business shopping.
Christmas Things to Do At Florida Theme Parks
The Orlando theme parks celebrate the holidays in their own way, most starting in November. Disney World has the most going on with every park and resort covered in Christmas decorations.
However, there are a lot of fun things to do at the other theme parks as well. Here is what each theme park offers for the holiday season.
36. Walt Disney World
There’s no denying that the holidays are a big deal at Walt Disney World. Every park and resort has something special going on, with much of it starting right after Halloween.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is the biggest event at Magic Kingdom and it runs select nights from November 9th through December 22.
However, this ticketed event is not the only way to experience Christmas at Disney.
All four parks will be decorated and have some holiday offerings throughout the day for guests. Epcot is the most popular for its Holidays Around the World festivities. Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios have a couple of special shows as well though.
Without a park ticket, you can still enjoy the decor of Disney Springs and its free Christmas Tree Trail.
One of my favorite things to do is just visit the resorts. Starting at Thanksgiving, the Magic Kingdom and Epcot deluxe resorts are beautifully decorated with most having a giant centerpiece tree.
Taking a monorail ride and marveling at each resort’s decorations while snacking on gingerbread is a beloved tradition in my family!
37. Universal Orlando
Not to be outdone, Universal Orlando has plenty of Christmas offerings starting November 12th and none require a special ticket.
At both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios, you can experience entertainment and decorations at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and an evening Christmas projection show.
Other park offerings include Grinchmas at Who-Ville, the Universal Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s balloons, and Mannheim Steamroller Concerts.
Universal has also taken a cue from Disney and has all its resorts decorated for the holidays. The Loews Portofino Bay Hotel looks especially beautiful and offers pictures with Santa.
New Year’s Eve is a big deal here too, with parties and shows at the theme parks and City Walk.
38. Seaworld Orlando
I finally went to SeaWorld for Christmas last year and it was spectacular! They put up over 3 million lights to create a winter wonderland, complete with a lake of floating Christmas trees.
Besides the decor, Seaworld has a bunch of Christmas entertainment to experience.
Included with daily admission starting November 10th, there is a sea lion and elf show, the thirty carol O’ Wondrous Night show, and Winter Wonderland on Ice.
And to add to the Holiday experience, there are snow flurries at night and the chance to meet Santa Claus. If you like sea life and animals, this is the perfect Christmas spot!
39. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
If you happen to visit Busch Gardens during the holidays, there are a few special offerings. The entire park is decorated to look like Christmas Town with tons of twinkle lights.
You can also meet Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and other characters, like the Abominable Snowman.
There are some spectacular shows to get into the spirit too. This includes Christmas on Ice, which is similar to the Rockettes, Elmo’s Christmas Wish, and Three King’s Journey. This is all included in your park admission and it starts on November 11th
40. Legoland Florida
For a taste of Brick-mas, Legoland has holiday shows and meet and greets going on every weekend starting after Thanksgiving. There is the Holiday Village, Christmas characters, and a LEGO Christmas Tree.
The coolest part is that the 30-foot tree is made of legos!
However, the main event that Legoland has for the holiday season is Ring in the Year. Every night the week after Christmas, they have a Kids’ New Year’s Eve Party complete with fireworks and a brick drop before bedtime.
Christmas Things to Do Throughout Florida
This last section has ideas for Christmas things to do in Florida wherever you are located! You can usually find some version of these events in any city across America, often with their own unique spin.
From doing a Christmas-themed 5K to seeing a holiday performance, these are cherished traditions my family used to enjoy in New Hampshire and now have found down in Florida.
Check Facebook or a Google search to see when and where you can find these celebrations near you!
41. Holidays at the Zoo
There are many zoos in Florida all celebrating in their own way!
At the Brevard Zoo, you can enjoy Jolly Days the weekend before Christmas where you can see the animals receive holiday gifts. There are also decorations, games, music, and Santa Claus meet and greets.
On the other coast, Zoo Tampa features Christmas in the Wild, which includes a 50-foot Christmas tree, tons of decorations, treats, and meet and greets. General Admission includes these offerings.
Be sure to check out Zoo Miami, the Jacksonville Zoo, and other local zoos for holiday happenings.
42. Festival of Trees
One of my family’s favorite Christmas things to do in Florida is check out the Festival of Trees the weekend before Thanksgiving. They do these all over the country, and you can find plenty in Florida.
For a small donation, you can view tons of Christmas trees all decorated to a different theme.
This year you can find a Festival of Trees at the Orlando Museum of Art, the Melbourne Community Center, the Long Center in Clearwater, the Daytona Museum of Arts and Science, and many more.
43. Holiday Themed Runs
With the cooler weather, a Christmas-themed 5k can be such a fun way to celebrate. I think the best one in Central Florida is the SeaWorld Reindeer Run where you get to run through the theme park!
There are dozens of other options including the Tampa Jingle Bell 5K, the Space Coast Jingle Bell 2 miler, and the Winter Springs Candy Cane 5K.
Make sure to wear some jingle bells or a red nose!
44. Christmas Boat Parades
For locals, many say one of their favorite Christmas things to do in Florida is to go to a boat parade! Many boaters will decorate with lights and displays and then you can watch them go by on the water.
I have seen events like this going on in Cocoa Beach, Satellite Beach, New Smyrna, Daytona Beach, St. Pete, and Tampa, so find one near you for some seas and greetings!
45. See a Christmas Play
Take a break from Lifetime Christmas movies and see a classic in person!
Of course, the Nutcracker is always a classic and you can see this show at the Dr. Philips Center, the Cocoa Village Playhouse, the Tampa Ballet Theater, and more locations around the state.
Another show I might be seeing this year is White Christmas in Cocoa Village. Check your local playhouse to see what Christmas shows or concerts are being performed.
Know Before You Go: Things to Do for Christmas in Florida
If I see any other holiday activities, I’ll be sure to add them to this post and my Instagram highlights! For now, this should cover most of the Christmas things to do in Florida.
Here are a few tips for enjoying Christmas in Florida to the fullest:
- If you plan to spend Christmas in Florida, expect warmer weather than the rest of the country, but don’t be surprised if there is a cold front! In Central Florida, the temperature is usually above 70 degrees Fahrenheit, but we have a couple of days each year when it dips into the forties. Make sure to bring a jacket, even if you are going to South Florida, just in case.
- For events that go all week, I recommend visiting on weekdays to avoid crowds. I have been to local and theme park Christmas attractions and both can get very crowded on the weekends.
- Regarding theme park crowds, Disney World and Universal have very high crowd volumes starting Christmas Eve and lasting through New Year’s Eve. They often reach capacity on the major holidays, so get to the parks early and do not expect to ride all the rides if you go then. Weekdays in early December are much less crowded.
- For info regarding parking and times for many of these events above, I recommend finding the event on Facebook or its website. Facebook especially will have any last-minute updates and ticket information.
- Looking for a Florida-themed Christmas present to celebrate your vacation or give to a Floridian in your life? Check out my Holiday gift guide with over 50 present ideas!
Have you ever spent Christmas in Florida? This will be my sixth here and I personally am most excited about all the pretty Christmas trees! What are your favorite Christmas things to do in Florida?