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Feeling Festive: Holiday Event Guide

Celebrate the season with these holiday happenings taking place across Central Florida.

December 1-31
St. Augustine’s Night of Lights
Now in its 26th year, this annual holiday lights display brings over three million lights to the historic downtown district. Historic Downtown St. Augustine, begins at sunset, free, St. Augustine,, (904) 824-4997

December 1
Handel’s Messiah
The choral performance by the Messiah Choral Society features over 120 choir members, including professional soloists, singing familiar masterworks such as “Hallelujah Chorus.” Bob Carr Theatre, 3 p.m., free, Orlando,, (407) 246-2121

December 1
Light Up SoDo
This annual family-friendly event will feature a kids zone, face painting, writing letters to Santa, stilt walkers, train rides, princesses, bounce houses, and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus. S. Orange Avenue and W. Grant Street, 4–8 p.m., free, Orlando,, (407) 715-3315

December 5 
What’s Up Downtown for the Holidays
The Downtown Development board hosts this annual holiday edition of What’s Up Downtown with performances from the Mad Cow Theatre, The Russian Ballet Orlando, The Nyce Guys, and more. Disney Amphitheater at Lake Eola, 11:45 a.m. – 1:15 p.m., free, Orlando,, (407) 246-3789

December 5
41st Annual Christmas in the Park
The city of Winter Park and The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art hosts this annual two-hour event, featuring the lighting of nine Tiffany windows as the Bach Festival Choir performs at the main stage. Central Park, 6:15 p.m., free, Winter Park,, (407) 645-5311

December 6
City of Orlando Tree Lighting Ceremony
Mayor Buddy Dyer’s annual celebration features a ceremonial lighting of a 72-foot Christmas tree, with live music, vendors and food trucks. Lake Eola, 5 p.m., free, Orlando,, (407) 246-2121

December 6 
Leu Gardens Movie Night
Enjoy an outdoor movie watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, while picnicking in the gardens. Leu Gardens, 7:30 p.m., $6 adult, $3 child, Leu Members receive free admission, Orlando,, (407) 246-2620

December 6 
Light Up Winter Garden
The city of Winter Garden is celebrating its 32nd annual holiday lights event featuring a candlelight ceremony with a million twinkling lights cascading down the street. Enjoy holiday shopping, delicious food and even some North Pole snow. Downtown Winter Garden, 6–9 p.m., free, Winter Garden,, (407) 656-4111

December 6, 13 & 20
Nutcracker Ballet
The Elizabeth Parsons School of Dance from The Windermere Community Theatre will put on a special presentation of The NutcrackerRosen Shingle Creek Show, 6:30 p.m., free, Orlando,, (407) 996-3663

December 6-8, 12-15
Singing Christmas Tree
This three-decade old tradition features a full choir and orchestra, dance, drama and 250,000 lights on display on two 45-foot tall Christmas trees. First Baptist Church of Orlando, times vary, starts at $10, Orlando,, (407) 425-2555

December 7 
Succulent Holiday Wreath Workshop
Learn how to create your very own succulent wreath for the holidays. All supplies will be provided by Bok Tower Gardens. Bok Tower Gardens, 10 a.m.–noon, $50 for members, $65 nonmembers, Lake Wales,, (863) 676-1408

December 7 & 8 
Mount Dora Christmas Tour of Homes
This self-driving tour showcases the most beautifully decorated homes in Mount Dora for the holiday season. Proceeds of the tour go to fund scholarships for students pursuing careers in the arts. Mount Dora Country Club, 11 a.m.–4 p.m., $20, Mount Dora,, (352) 720-3939

December 7
67th Annual “Ye Olde Hometown” Christmas Parade
This annual tradition hosted by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce is Central Florida’s longest running Christmas parade. The parade will feature more than 100 bands, dance troupes, floats, Santa Claus, and more. Starts at Historic Park Avenue, 9 a.m., free, Winter Park,, (407) 644-8281

December 7 
Light up the Holidays
The city of Altamonte Springs, Duke Energy, and Magic 107.7 FM are celebrating lighting up Cranes Roost Park, featuring live music, entertainment, fireworks, train rides, and of course Santa and Mrs. Claus. Cranes Roost Park, 5–9 p.m., free, Altamonte Springs,, (407) 571-8863

December 7
Ocoee Christmas Parade
This holiday parade will start at the intersection of Maguire Road and Enterprise Street and will end at Bill Breeze Park. Ocoee Lions Club, 10 a.m.– noon, free, Ocoee,, (407) 905-3140

December 7 
Ugly Sweater Bar Crawl
Choose your craziest holiday sweater to wear at this bar crawl and enjoy themed drink specials at participating bars in Downtown Orlando. Wall Street Plaza, 4 p.m.–midnight, tickets starts at $15, Orlando,, (678) 243-8639

December 7
Jingle Bell Run
The Arthritis Foundation host its Orlando’s most festive fun-run for charity. Starts at Lake Baldwin Park, 7:30 a.m., Registration starts at $30, Orlando,, (404) 872-7100

December 7 
Back to Nature Wild Winter Wonderland
Now in its sixth year, this event lets you meet Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and the Grinch, while surrounded by wildlife. There will also be workshops, crafts, face painting, vendors and live music. Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge & Education Center, 2–6 p.m., free, Orlando,, (407) 568-5138

December 7 
Winter Wonderland
Kick off the season with the 38th annual holiday parade featuring local businesses and performers sparking up Christmas spirit. After the parade ends, gather around with family and friends as the 15th annual Christmas tree lighting commences, bringing even more joy to the day. Winter Springs Town Center, 4:30–9 p.m., free, Winter Springs,, (407) 327-6593

December 7 & 8
Symphony Storytime Series: Twas the Night Before Christmas
The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra’s brass and percussion families are pleased to present one of the most iconic poems of all time. The Plaza Live, times vary, $10, Orlando,, (407) 770-0071

December 7 
Jingle Jam
Watch as several streets in historic downtown Sanford get transformed into a holiday wonderland. Prepare for live music performed on four stages, carnival games, a magic show, food and even a live wrestling match. Be on the lookout for Santa as he will make an appearance. Sanford Ave., 4–11 p.m., free, Sanford,, (407) 688-5000

December 8 & 15 
Breakfast with Santa
Celebrate the holiday season with a special breakfast, holiday music and a chance to sit on Santa’s lap. Alfond Inn, 9–11 a.m., $40 per guest and $20 per child ages 6 to12, Winter Park,, (407) 439-0820

December 12 
Holiday on the Drive
Prepare for Edgewater Drive to be transformed into a winter wonderland full of kid friendly activities, shopping, food trucks and more. Join in the fun with Santa and his buddies as they ring in the holiday season. Edgewater Drive, 5–9 p.m., free, Orlando,, (407) 392-1717

December 12 
‘Night of Lights’ Public Car Drive through
Grab the whole family for a ride of holiday wonder. Take a road trip through the Waterman Village Retirement Community campus and watch as the beautiful holiday lights illuminate the night sky. Waterman Village, 6–7:30 p.m., free, Mount Dora,, (352) 735-7100

December 13, 20, & 27 
Holiday Movies at the Park
Catch a Christmas movie screening at Lake Eola Park over three Fridays in December. Elf will be the first screening followed by How the Grinch Stole Christmas and finally National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Walt Disney Amphitheater, 7–9 p.m., free, Orlando,, (407) 246-2378

December 13-23 
Orlando Ballet Presents: The Nutcracker
Take a journey through one of the most cherished holiday traditions as Clara’s magical dreams come to the big stage. Be amazed as dazzling snowflakes, waltzing flowers and mischievous mice come to life as the lights dim and the music soars. Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, times vary, tickets start at $24, Orlando,, (844) 513-2014

December 14 
Trans-Siberian Orchestra: Christmas Eve and Other Stories
The multi-platinum, critically acclaimed rock group brings a new multisensory extravaganza to the stage. Amway Center, 3 & 8 p.m., ticket prices vary, Orlando,, (407) 440-7900

December 14 
Downtown Orlando Christmas Parade
Hosted by the Rotary Club of Orlando, this year’s parade will spread Christmas cheer like no other. Robinson Street and Orange Avenue, 4 p.m., free, Orlando,, (407) 603-5098

December 14 
Winter Spark in Baldwin Park
Enjoy this family-friendly event packed with holiday food, shopping and an opportunity to get a photo taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus. But be prepared because at 7 p.m. sharp a festive light parade will be floating down New Broad Street. Baldwin Park Village Center, 4–8 p.m., free, Orlando,

December 14 
Violectric Holiday Show
Listen as this acoustic and electric string ensemble led by Grammy-recording artist Michelle Jones performs its seventh annual holiday show. Attendees are encouraged to bring donations for the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando. Walt Disney Amphitheater at Lake Eola, 6:30 p.m., free, Orlando,, (407) 434-1261

December 14 
Christmas Parade
This annual illuminated Christmas parade will once again light up historic downtown Sanford’s streets. Watch as Santa marches down Magnolia Square as he waves to all the good girls and boys. Magnolia Square, 6–8 p.m., free, Sanford,, (407) 688-5000

December 14 
Snow Fest
Get the chance to play with real snow this holiday season during Snow Fest. Enjoy ice skating, a snow slide, bounce houses, curling and so much more. RDV Sportsplex Ice Den2–6 p.m., $20 for ages 3 and up, Orlando,,(407) 916-2550

December 17 
Cirque Musica Presents Holiday Wishes
Be amazed as the symphony orchestra brings to life a holiday story by playing some of the world’s favorite holiday classics during an incredible circus performance by acrobats and aerialists. Amway Center, 7:30 p.m., tickets start at $35, Orlando,, (407) 440-7900

December 21
MetroWest WinterFest
This year’s holiday celebration is a Toy Story Winter Wonderland featuring a snow slide, ice skating, pony rides and a merry-go-round. Be on the lookout for Santa as he makes his way to town, posing for photos during the event. MetroWest Golf Club, 4–9 p.m., free, Orlando,, (407) 601-5995

December 23 
Jewish Heritage Night with the Orlando Magic
For the sixth year in a row, experience a basketball game like no other as the Chicago Bulls play the Orlando Magic featuring a halftime menorah lighting. Amway Center, 6–8 p.m., ticket prices vary, Orlando,, (407) 970-3040

December 31
New Year’s Eve Gala
Ring in the New Year at The Alfond Inn with live entertainment courtesy of The Buzzcatz, an open bar and a chance to celebrate at midnight with a live stream of the Times Square ball drop and a champagne toast. The Alfond Inn, 8 p.m.–12:30 a.m., $199 a person, Winter Park,, (407) 998-8090

December 31 
Thornton Park New Year’s Eve Street Party
New Year’s Eve is a time for massive parties and this one doesn’t disappoint. Now in its 11th year, this block party gives attendees access to six different venues, three stages and four DJs. This event is for ages 21 and older. Thornton Park District, 8 p.m.–2 a.m., $10-$20 online, $30 at the door, Orlando,


Walt Disney World Resorts
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
Spread Christmas cheer with Mickey as Magic Kingdom is transformed into a winter wonderland. Join all of Mickey’s friends for the “Once Upon a Christmas Parade” and Minnie’s first ever “Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks Show.” Help Queen Elsa decorate Cinderella’s Castle and gather along with all of Magic Kingdom’s characters to welcome Santa to town. Tickets for the holiday celebration start at $99. This event runs nightly through Sunday, December 22.

Epcot International Festival of the Holidays
Enjoy the festivities at Epcot by embracing 11 World showcase nations holiday traditions. Partake in the cookie stroll around the world and feast on seasonal food and beverage specialties while listening to live music. The Candlelight Processional will be performing with a celebrity narrator accompanied by a 50-piece choir and the “Joyful!” vocal ensemble will be playing holiday songs in celebration of Christmas and Kwanzaa. The event runs during normal park hours through Monday, December 30.

Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!
Disney’s Hollywood Studios is being transformed into a Christmas wonderland showcasing beloved scenes from some of the best Disney holiday movies as snow cascades through the air. Projections will light up buildings and rooftops of movies such as Mickey’s Christmas Carol and Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas. After the shows, fireworks and a laser light show will light up the night sky. This event is included in regular park admission and runs through Sunday, January 5th.

Sunset Seasons Greetings
When nightfall hits in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, spirited scenes unfold. Characters like Mickey and Minnie, the Toy Story crew and more come out to celebrate their favorite holiday traditions as billboards come to life and the Tower of Terror transforms. This event is included in regular park admission and runs through Sunday, January 5th.

SeaWorld Orlando
SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration
Christmas meets the sea this holiday season with over three million twinkling lights strung up throughout the park. Get ready for live music, festive food and beverages along with meeting Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and his friends and family. This event is included in regular park admission and runs through Tuesday, December 31st.

Universal Orlando
Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Prepare yourself this holiday season as Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade transform into a land of holiday cheer. With festive decor and brilliant lighting, enjoy holiday treats and drinks along with the songs of seasonal melodies performed by the Frog Choir and Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees. As the night unfolds, watch as the Hogwarts Castle lights up, bringing true magic to the meaning of Christmas. This event is included in regular park admission and runs through Sunday, January 5th.

Grinchmas at Universal’s Islands of Adventure
Watch out as Dr. Seuss’ Whos from Who-ville spread Christmas cheer while the Mean One himself causes holiday high jinks. The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular is a live retelling of the classic tale with music recorded by Mannheim Steamroller. After the show meet up with the Grinch himself for a photo op and maybe an autograph. This event runs select days through Wednesday, January 1st.

Universal’s Holiday Parade Featuring Macy’s
The Minions once again join Santa Claus to help spread holiday cheer during Universal’s Holiday Parade Featuring Macy’s. See some of your favorite characters from Shrek and Madagascar stand on top of floats spreading merriment and a little mischief during this annual holiday bash. This event runs select days through Monday, January 6th.

The Grinch and Friends Character Breakfast
All the way from Mount Crumpit comes the Mean One himself, the Grinch, to breakfast at Seuss Landing in Universal’s Island of Adventure. Maybe his heart will grow three sizes this holiday season as he stops to pose for photos at every table. But watch out, he is known to steal some bacon and create a little trouble. Tickets for the holiday celebration start at $34.99 for adults and $20.99 for kids. This event runs select mornings through Wednesday, December 25th.

EVE at Universal CityWalk
Get ready for this New Year’s celebration party at Universal CityWalk. Enjoy unlimited gourmet cuisine, signature drinks and access to five CityWalk clubs. Break dance on one of the biggest outdoor dance floors featuring a live performance by DJ M-Squared. After the ball drops, help ring in the New Year with a pyrotechnics firework display and champagne toast. This is a separately ticketed event for ages 21 and older and will take place on Tuesday, December 31st.

Holidays at LEGOLAND
Celebrate the holidays the Legoland way with singing, dancing and holly jolly fun. Rock around Legoland’s 30-foot Lego Christmas tree decorated with interactive lights, music and a bit of snow. Enjoy a meet and greet with Lego Santa, his reindeer and sleigh, and one of his toy soldiers. You’ll also get to do your own hands-on building. This event is included in general admission and runs for select days through Tuesday, December 31st.

Kids’ New Year’s Party at Legoland
Ring in the New Year as the giant brick Lego drops at a kid-friendly hour. Celebrate with a dazzling firework show, building games, dance parties and more. There will be plenty of activities for the kids and unforgettable memories made throughout the night. This event is included in general admission and runs nightly through Tuesday December 31st.

The Holy Land Experience
The Spirit of Christmas is Alive at The Holy Land Experience
Take a stroll through Christmases of yore as the Holy Land Experience performs its highly acclaimed musical The Heart of Christmas. Explore a live nativity scene where guests will witness Gabriel’s encounter with Mary, the travel through Bethlehem and the birth of baby Jesus. This event runs daily through Saturday, January 4th.

This article originally appeared in Orlando Family Magazine’s December 2019 issue.