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Home for the Holidays

Your definitive guide to the finest in holiday celebrations throughout Greater Orlando…

Baby Boogie Bash: New Year’s Eve Day Party 
Give the littlest feet in your family a chance to dance in t he spotlight and celebrate the last day of the year at Amaya Papaya Play Lounge. This family-focused event will feature disco lights, kid-friendly tunes, story time, crafts, toys, a balloon drop and immersive holiday theming to set the stage for warm introductions to 2018. Ages 0-7 are welcome to attend, and tickets start at $8. A slice of pizza and a drink will be provided to children and parents. THIS EVENT TAKES PLACE ON SUNDAY, DEC. 31 FROM 10:30 A.M. TO 1 P.M.

Back to Nature Wild Winter Wonderland 
Get in touch with your wild side and visit the Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge for their 7th annual Wild Winter Wonderland. This festival will feature story-time with Mrs. Claus, food trucks, vendors, crafts, workshops, light displays, treats, animal encounters, Grinch visits and more. THIS FREE EVENT TAKES PLACE ON SATURDAY, DEC. 2 FROM 2 TO 7 P.M.

Baldwin Park’s Jingle Bell Run 
Turn your holiday spirit and love of running into an opportunity to raise money and spread awareness for the Arthritis Foundation. Baldwin Park’s 5K Jingle Bell Run will feature holiday costumes, refreshments, special registration tee shirts and more. LEASHED FRIENDS ARE WELCOME, AND THE RACE STARTS PROMPTLY AT 8:30 A.M. ON SATURDAY, DEC. 9.

Chanukah on the Park 
Those of Jewish faith will be able to experience a unique, family festival, courtesy of the Jewish Community Center and Jewish Academy. This faith-filled night will feature live entertainment, chocolate Chanukahs, Chassidic dancers, face-painting, clowns, light shows, a $1,000 grand prize raffle and the lighting of a Grand Menorah. THIS FREE EVENT TAKES PLACE ON SUNDAY, DEC. 17 AT 5:30 P.M.

Christmas at Bok Tower Gardens
This year, Bok Tower Gardens is featuring a variety of independently priced events for the holiday season. Visitors can choose from Pinewood Estate tours, Christmas concerts, decorating events, walking tours, workshops and more. EVENTS ARE VARIED AND RUN THROUGH SUNDAY, JAN. 7.

Christmas at the Leu House 
Local interior designers will put a holiday touch on the historic, 11-room Leu House at the Harry P. Leu Gardens this season. Elegant, festive and classic decorations will be on full display in this sprawling estate. Tours are included with admission, and run for 30 minutes.THIS EVENT RUNS DAILY THROUGH JAN. 3.

Christmas Eve Open House
The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of Art will provide free admission to all galleries on Christmas Eve. Those interested can experience a comprehensive collection of masterpieces that include pottery, glass art, lamps, jewelry and more. Live performances by the Raintree Chamber Players will occur between 1 and 4 p.m. THIS FREE EVENT TAKES PLACE ON SUNDAY, DEC. 24 DURING NORMAL OPERATING HOURS.

Christmas in the Square 
The city of Sanford is proud to present a completely free, one-stop celebratory stop for all things merry this Christmas. The inaugural tree lighting ceremony will take place on Friday, Dec. 1 at 6 p.m. and will remain active throughout the month. THE CHRISTMAS PARADE WILL TAKE PLACE ON SATURDAY, DEC. 9 AT 6 P.M., AND WILL FEATURE FLOATS CRAFTED BY THE SANFORD RECREATION DEPARTMENT.

Church Street Station NYE Block Party
Your comprehensive block party for the year, Church Street Station will celebrate the New Year in style with an outdoor stage and live entertainment at all four participating bars, including the signature three-tier block. Fireworks will be on display during the iconic “Orange Drop” to commemorate the countdown to 2018, and a simulcast of Times Square will be available at participating locations. THIS EVENT TAKES PLACE ON SUNDAY, DEC. 31 AT 8 P.M.

Central Florida Ballet’s “Pyrotechnic Nutcracker” 
EXPERIENCE AN EXPLOSIVE TWIST ON A HOLIDAY CLASSIC AT THE ORANGE COUNTY CONVENTION CENTER’S LINDA CHAPIN THEATER. THIS PERFORMANCE OF CRITICAL ACCLAIM IS DIRECTED BY VASILE PETRUTIU AND FEATURES CUSTOM-MADE RUSSIAN SETS AND CLASSIC PERFORMANCES. Three total performances will take place on Saturday, Dec. 16 and Sunday, Dec. 17.

City of Orlando Annual Tree Lighting Celebration
Jump into the holiday season with The City Beautiful’s Christmas tree lighting event. Come out to Walt Disney Amphitheater at Lake Eola Park for some live entertainment, food trucks and of course, the lighting of over 80,000 lights on a six-story tall tree. THIS EVENT TAKES PLACE ON FRIDAY, DEC. 1. FESTIVITIES START AT 5 P.M., AND THE TREE WILL BE LIT AT 7 P.M.

Eola Wonderland Christmas Tree Show
If holiday light shows are your favorite tradition of the season, check out the Lake Eola Christmas Tree show this year. The first synchronized light and music performance will take place at 5:45 p.m. and every 60 minutes following until 10 p.m., for a total of five shows. THIS EVENT IS FREE TO THE PUBLIC, AND RUNS DAILY FROM DEC. 1 THROUGH JAN. 6.

Festival of Lights Parade
Experience history brought to life with the annual Festival of Lights Parade in downtown Kissimmee. All residents and business are welcome to attend and participate in float lineups and street performances. This year’s theme is “Jingle Bell Rock,” and all home-made floats will be included in official judging for prizes and bragging rights. THIS FREE EVENT TAKES PLACE ON SATURDAY, DEC. 9 AT 7 P.M.

Holiday Craft Fair
Find that perfect hand-made treasure at the 36th annual Holiday Craft Fair, presented by the Osceola Crafters Guild. Hundreds of vendors will be in attendance with one-of-a-kind cards, candles, ceramics, prints, jewelry, wreaths, ornaments and more. THIS FREE EVENT RUNS DAILY THROUGH SUNDAY, DEC. 17.

Holiday Lights Ride
Bikes, Beans and Bordeaux’s 10th annual Holiday Light Ride is back for another exciting trip around the downtown area. Bike riders of all ages are encouraged to decorate their wheels and meet up at the storefront before departure. A $2 donation is requested for the Audubon Park Garden District, and hot refreshments will be served afterwards. THE TOUR IS APPROXIMATELY SIX MILES LONG, AND WILL DEPART AT 7 P.M. SHARP ON SATURDAY, DEC. 9.

Holiday Movies in the Park
Relive some of your favorite holiday films with three free presentations provided by the Walt Disney Amphitheatre at Lake Eola Park. All screenings will take place on Friday at 7 p.m., and blankets and chairs are strongly encouraged. THIS YEAR’S SELECTIONS ARE ELF (DEC. 8), NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION (DEC. 15) AND THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (DEC. 22).

Holiday Shopping Extravaganza at Freedom High School
Support your local small business and get that perfect gift for your loved one at the Holiday Shopping Extravaganza at Freedom High School. Admission is free, and vendors will be on site offering deals on hand-made crafts, jewelry, baked goods and more. THIS EVENT TAKES PLACE ON SATURDAY, DEC. 2 FROM 4 TO 7 P.M.

ICE! Featuring Christmas Around the World
The Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center is transforming into a breathtaking ice display once again this holiday season. Featuring diverse traditions among several different nations, this ticketed display is a destination not to be missed. There will be hand-carved slides and sculptures, snow ball throws, scavenger hunts, nativity scenes, toy workshops and more. THIS EVENT RUNS DAILY THROUGH SUNDAY, JAN. 7.

Jewish Heritage Night at Amway Center
Bring friends and family out to the Amway Center for the 5th annual Jewish Heritage Night. Kids of all ages will be able to participate in an outdoor Menorah lighting ceremony, tip-off, halftime celebration and layups on the court. Discounted tickets start at $18 for upper level seating, and one free t-shirt is included with every purchase. THIS EVENT TAKES PLACE ON WEDNESDAY, DEC. 13 AT 6 P.M.

Light Up SoDo (South Downtown Orlando District)
Come support our local Main Street with the annual Light Up SoDo celebration. There will be vendors, wreath-making, face-painting, live music and entertainment and a special appearance from Johnny of Magic 106.7. THIS EVENT IS FREE TO THE PUBLIC, AND WILL RUN FROM 2 TO 6 P.M. ON SUNDAY, DEC. 3.

Light Up the Holidays at Cranes Roost Park
Join the city of Altamonte Springs as they celebrate their annual traditions with the lighting of Cranes Roost Park. This free event will feature music, live entertainment, fireworks, festive displays and of course, the lighting of a massive, 27-foot city tree. Refreshments will be available for purchase, and Santa and Mrs. Claus will be available for photos throughout the night. THIS EVENT TAKES PLACE ON SATURDAY, DEC. 2, FROM 5 TO 9 P.M. AND THE DISPLAY WILL REMAIN ACTIVE THROUGH THE END OF THE MONTH.

Light Up UCF
Back for its 10th year straight, Light Up UCF is excited to provide affordable, wintertime fun to families in Central Florida. There will be ice skating, carnival rides, photo opportunities, holiday attractions and a very special Holiday Market featuring local artists. ADMISSION IS FREE, AND ATTRACTIONS ARE INDIVIDUALLY PRICED. THIS EVENT RUNS THROUGH SUNDAY, DEC. 31.

Cirque Musica Holiday presents BELIEVE
PREPARE YOURSELF FOR A HIGH-FLYING, DAZZLING ACROBATIC SPECTACULAR. THIS SHOW COMBINES SENSORY EXPERIENCES WITH HOLIDAY MUSIC AND DARING AERIAL STUNTS FOR AN EVENT THAT WON’T SOON BE FORGOTTEN. The sole performance will take place on Saturday, Dec. 23. Tickets start at $25, and doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Now Snowing in Celebration
COME OUT TO TOWN CENTER AND EXPERIENCE FOUR SEPARATE SNOWFALLS EACH NIGHT, AND DON’T FORGET TO TAKE A SPIN ON THE ICE-SKATING RINK BETWEEN THE BREAK IN SNOWFLAKES. THERE WILL ALSO BE CHRISTMAS CAROLERS, PHOTOS WITH SANTA, TRAIN RIDES, HORSE-DRAWN CARRIAGES AND LIVE ENTERTAINMENT. This free event runs nightly through Sunday, Dec. 31.

New Year’s Eve on Wall Street!
Head downtown to the “Wall Street” district for an all-out block party to ring in the New Year. Live entertainment will be on site to party through the night and will include DJs, outdoor street dances, lightshows and an official countdown to ring in 2018. Tickets start at $25 in advance, and slots are limited. THIS EVENT TAKES PLACE ON SUNDAY, DEC. 31 AT 8 P.M.

Santa Claus at the Eola House
Santa Claus will be making several stops at the Eola House this holiday season. Stop in to tell him your wish list and grab a stylized photo. HE WILL BE AVAILABLE STARTING AT 4:30 P.M. ON DEC. 1, AND RETURNING ON 10 ADDITIONAL SELECT DAYS THROUGHOUT THE MONTH.

Santa Photo Experience at The Mall at Millenia
Those wishing to see Santa and Mrs. Claus at their summer home can stop in at the Mall of Millenia for great photos, tasty treats and lots of decorations. MR. AND MRS. CLAUS WILL BE AVAILABLE DAILY DURING MALL OPERATING HOURS UNTIL SUNDAY, DEC. 24, AND GUESTS ARE WELCOME TO TAKE THEIR OWN PHOTOS OR PURCHASE SPECIAL PACKAGES.

Santa’s Christmas Tree Forest
If you’re craving an authentic labor of Christmas love, stop in at Santa’s Christmas Tree Forest to wrangle your own tree. Take a leisurely tour of the lot via hayride and point to the winner once you find it. With over 17,000 trees to choose from, even the pickiest of décor sticklers will be satisfied with their holiday trophy. Admission starts at $2, and partial costs may be used toward final tree prices. THIS EVENT RUNS THROUGH SATURDAY, DEC. 23.

Scrooge The Musical!
The Osceola Arts Main Stage series is proud to present Scrooge The Musical! this season. Follow the classic tale of a grumpy old man as he is visited by three iconic ghosts and reminded of the true magic of Christmas. Broadway veteran Brian Minyard stars as Ebenezer Scrooge, and Frank Siano directs this festive treat. TICKETS START AT $22, WITH MULTIPLE PERFORMANCES SCHEDULED FROM FRIDAY, DEC. 1 THROUGH SUNDAY, DEC. 17.

Singing Christmas Trees
First Baptist Church of Orlando will be performing their beloved Christmastime spectacular during select dates and times this holiday season. This presentation will include a choir, orchestra, song and dance performances and a dramatic showcase of several thousand lights on two 45-foot Christmas trees. One hour prior to show time, guests can experience live nativity scenes, petting zoos and a special Bethlehem Village. THIS IS A TICKETED EVENT, AND PRICES START AT $7.

Vioelectric Holiday Show
Support a good cause and get into the holiday spirit with the Vioelectric strings group, presented by the City of Orlando Department of Families, Parks and Recreation. This free concert is pet-friendlyand donations will be accepted on behalf of Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando. Participants will receive a free pet photo with Santa and Mrs. Claus. THIS EVENT TAKES PLACE ON SATURDAY DEC. 9 AT THE WALT DISNEY AMPHITHEATER IN LAKE EOLA PARK. THE SHOW STARTS AT 7 P.M.

What’s Up Downtown for the Holidays
Witness some of the best in song and dance at What’s Up Downtown for the Holidays at the Walt Disney Ampitheater at Lake Eola Park. Live performances will be provided by Russian Ballet Orlando, Mad Cow Theatre and more. THIS EVENT TAKES PLACE ON THURSDAY, DEC. 7 FROM 11:45 A.M. TO 1:15 P.M., AND IS FREE TO THE PUBLIC.

Winter on the Avenue featuring the Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony
The city of Winter Park and Chamber of Commerce are partnering up for their annual holiday kickoff celebration. This free, festive street party will include choirs, kid-friendly activities, exciting displays and a tree lighting ceremony at dusk. Admission is free and all are welcome to attend. THIS EVENT TAKES PLACE ON FRIDAY, DEC. 1 FROM 5 TO 10 P.M.

Winter Park “Ye Olde Hometown” Christmas Parade
Come out and experience Central Florida’s most prestigious, longest running Christmas parade. The “Ye Olde Hometown” parade will celebrate its 65th run on historic Park Avenue and will feature local bands, dancers, floats and Santa Claus. THIS FREE EVENT TAKES PLACE ON SATURDAY, DEC. 2 AT 9 A.M.

Winter Springs Winter Wonderland
Celebrate the season with the 36th annual Winter Springs Winter Wonderland extravaganza at the Winter Springs Town Center. There will be a holiday parade, a Christmas tree lighting, a children’s play area and entertainment from local performers. THIS EVENT TAKES PLACE ON SATURDAY, DEC. 2 FROM 4:30 TO 9 P.M.

AT THE PARKS

CHRISTMAS IN THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER
Have your wands at the ready as you venture into Universal Studios’ and Island of Adventure’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter this holiday season. Hogwarts, Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley will be decked out in generous measure with lights, garland and themed décor adorning every door and window. There will be special performances by the Frog Choir, the Banshees and Celestina Warbeck and plenty of seasonal treats to indulge in. This event runs nightly through Saturday, Jan. 6.

EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THE HOLIDAYS
Celebrate the beauty in diversity among our neighboring nations during the annual Epcot International Festival of the Holidays. Traditions will be on full display with holiday kitchens, yuletide celebrations, choirs, candlelight processionals, live entertainment and one very, very large Christmas tree. All ages are welcome, and standard park admission is required. This event runs during normal park hours through Saturday, Dec. 30.

EVE AT UNIVERSAL’S CITYWALK
Embrace the last night of the year with flair and celebrate EVE at Universal’s CityWalk this December. Enjoy unlimited gourmet meals and signature drink specials and dance the night away at any of the six clubs on site before concluding the year with a champagne toast. Live DJs will spin beats and create pyrotechnical displays on the largest outdoor dance floor as you all groove fashionably into 2018. This is a separately ticketed event for ages 21 and up, and will take place on Sunday, Dec. 31.

GRINCHMAS AT UNIVERSAL’S ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE
Come visit the grumpiest Who in all of Who-ville during the Grinchmas at Universal’s Islands of Adventure this holiday season. Suess Landing will don enough decorations for even the smallest of hearts to appreciate and a live retelling of the classic fairytale will be ongoing daily. Guests will also have the opportunity to take a holiday photo with the fuzzy green monster and snag a few sweet treats, too. This event runs nightly through Saturday, Jan. 6.

HOLIDAYS AT DISNEY SPRINGS
Enjoy some holiday magic while you shop to your heart’s content at the beautiful Disney Springs this season. Participating shops will offer an exclusive selection of limited seasonal gifts and restaurants will offer traditional meals, themed brunch opportunities and daily happy hours where applicable. Back this year is the Christmas Tree Trail, featuring several character-style Christmas trees available for photo opportunities. These events are free to the public and will take place on select days and nights now through Monday, Dec. 25.

JINGLE BELL, JINGLE BAM!
Witness the total transformation of Disney’s Hollywood Studios as holiday décor brings warmth across the grounds. Take part in a special scavenger hunt to locate Kris Kringle and feel the jingle magic as you enjoy the fantastic music, light projections and a massive dance party. Snag a special viewing area for the fireworks and indulge in your fill of seasonally themed decadent desserts at the separately ticketed holiday party, too. This event runs nightly through Friday, Dec. 22.

LEGOLAND CHRISTMAS BRICKTACULAR
Build your holiday cheer from the ground up during the Legoland Christmas Bricktacular this holiday season. This all-inclusive celebration will feature a life-size brick Santa, sleighs, reindeer and wreaths inside a giant snow globe, as well as opportunities to take photos with Lego Santa and his Lego Toy Soldiers. Guests can also enjoy music, dancing, letter writing, snow flurries and a glittering 30-foot Christmas tree that will perform several times each night. This event is included with regular park admission and runs select nights from Saturday, Dec. 2 through Monday, Dec. 25.

LEGOLAND KIDS’ NEW YEAR’S PARTY
Construct your favorite way to say goodbye to 2017 and finish out the year in style at the Legoland Kid’s New Year’s Party. Guests can enjoy a dance party, scavenger hunt, special building event and giant Lego brick drop to ring in the New Year. Free viewing glasses will be available for all guests to experience a special Lego fireworks finale, too. This event is included with regular park admission and will take place on Sunday, Dec. 31.

MICKEY’S VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS PARTY
Join Mickey and all of his closest friends for a Disney celebration like no other this Christmas. Your favorite characters will be dressed in their holiday best and ready to take you on an adventure through Magic Kingdom, with stops for sweet treats, dance parties, exciting shows, Santa visits and a lightfilled parade. All ages are welcome, and tickets start at $89. This event runs nightly through Friday, Dec. 22.

NEW YEAR’S EVE AT WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT
Put on your favorite pair of mouse ears and raise your glasses for an exciting New Year’s Eve at Walt Disney World Resort. Exclusive dining options are available at select restaurants throughout the resort, and Epcot, Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios will offer specially themed dance parties and whimsical firework displays to help ring in the New Year with just the right amount of Disney magic. Celebratory events are included with regular park admission, and dining experiences are separately ticketed happenings. All activities will take place on Sunday, Dec. 31.

ROCK ‘TIL THE DROP NEW YEAR’S EVE PARTY
Rock out in an exclusive party celebrating only the best in classic hits throughout the ages at Rock ‘Til The Drop New Year’s Eve Party at Hard Rock Live! Dress your best and bring the whole family out to enjoy a varied menu, live music and entertainment, a champagne toast and more. This event is appropriate for all ages, and prices start at $50. Unlimited non-alcoholic beverages are included with each purchase. This is a separately ticketed event, and will take place on Sunday, Dec. 31.

SEAWORLD ORLANDO CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION
Join Shamu and his marine mammal friends as SeaWorld transforms into a winter wonderland this Christmas season. Experience floating trees, festive food, seasonal markets, Christmas carols, special performances and more. Be sure to stop in at the Wild Arctic to visit Santa and Rudolph the Red- Nosed Reindeer, too. This event is included with regular park admission and runs select nights through Sunday, Dec. 31.

SEAWORLD ORLANDO NEW YEAR’S EVE
Join in harmony with our friends of the sea and celebrate SeaWorld Orlando New Year’s Eve this December. An enormous celebration will unfold throughout the park and will feature live music, dance parties, festive eats, interactive DJ stations and craft beer stands for the older flippers. The night will conclude with a wave goodbye to 2017 and a breathtaking fireworks display to splash into the new year. This event is included with regular park admission and will take place on Sunday, Dec. 31.

SUNSET SEASONS GREETINGS
Celebrate a throwback to classic Hollywood as Disney’s Hollywood Studios transforms Sunset Boulevard into a tinsel town treasure this season. Expect exciting twists on traditional displays, glimmering streets, new character interactions and shows, and a very special snowfall on the strip. Guests can also dine with Minnie and visit Santa Claus or Santa Goofy during specific dates. All ages are welcome, and standard park admission is required. This event runs nightly from through Sunday, Dec. 31.

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLIDAY PARADE FEATURING MACY’S
Step aside and find a seat as the streets of Universal Studios become a runway for a big and bright holiday parade, featuring Macy’s department store. Santa Claus is teaming up with Minions, friends of Madagascar, and Shrek himself to spread the merry and create a whole lot of mischief. All new floats will be on display, and this event is included with regular park admission. This parade runs daily from through Saturday, Jan. 6.

This article originally appeared in Orlando Family Magazine’s December 2017 issue.

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