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With cooler weather, holiday activities, and endless sunshine, Florida is a pleasant place to visit in the winter. Perfect for exploring Florida’s pristine coastline and natural outdoor landscapes, the humidity of summer fades, and festivals, fairs, and outdoor adventures take precedence. Whether you’re looking for the best Christmas towns or a sunny getaway, discover the top vacation ideas for a winter getaway in Florida.
Part of The Florida Keys archipelago made up of 1,700 islands, Key West is a popular destination known for its laid-back tropical vibes, water activities, and key lime pie that can be appreciated even in December.
Why Do It? Winter is the perfect time to visit, as the 70-degree weather and cool ocean breeze are all visitors need to kick those winter blues. With all its summer activities still in full swing, here visitors can charter a boat and go diving, deep-sea fishing, or spend a day snorkeling in addition to swimming, sailing, and jet-skiing.
Good to Know: Nature lovers will love exploring the crystal clear waters at Dry Tortugas National Park and observing gorgeous winged creatures at the Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, while history and literary enthusiasts will be captivated with the Ernest Hemingway Home and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic Park.
The theme park capital of the world, Orlando is the place to be for thrill-seekers. At this time of year, you’ll find shorter lines at big-name parks like Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and Islands of Adventure.
Why Do It? LEGOLAND is less than an hour away and puts on its annual Christmas Bricktacular, the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center has “The Sound of Music” performances, while ICE! at Gaylord Palms boasts an impressive family-friendly holiday event with a display of interactive ice sculptures and displays carved from two million pounds of ice.
Good to Know: Not into theme parks? There’s plenty of non-theme park action in Orlando too. Space enthusiasts can explore the world-renown Kennedy Space Center, while those intrigued by Florida’s alligators can enjoy Orlando’s oldest major attraction, Gatorland.
Sunshine is the best way to treat winter blues, and Miami does it best with its stunning beaches and an extensive list of activities for a range of travelers.
Why Do It? South Beach is where to go to be and be seen and get the party started, Ocean Drive and Coral Gables Miracle Mile are a shopper’s paradise, and Jungle Island, the Miami Seaquarium, and Zoo Miami are ideal for animal lovers. Art enthusiasts will enjoy the popular Art Basel contemporary art fair with over 250 art galleries from 31 countries and the Art Deco Weekend celebrating South Beach’s Art Deco architecture.
Good to Know: Little ones can visit Santa’s Enchanted Forest, which features an insane amount of activities, rides, and entertainment.
“The Happiest Place on Earth” for both kids and kids at heart, Disney deserves a mention on its own. With cooler weather, smaller crowds, and shorter lines, it is the perfect time to explore this majestically decorated theme park.
Why Do It? You’ll find a long list of fun activities at Disney during the holidays. Epcot puts on its annual Candlelight Processional, displaying a feast for the senses with a full orchestra and mass choir as a backdrop to the Nativity, while Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is perfect for the little ones with live entertainment, character appearances, and festive parades. Epcot also has a World Showcase, providing a storyteller from each country to captivate audiences with their traditional customs, while the nearby quaint town of Celebration puts on its “Now Snowing” event, the closest visitors will get to seeing snow in the Sunshine State.
Good to Know: From life-sized gingerbread houses to classic characters made out of treats, miniature trains, and winter wonderland villages, Disney’s long list of luxury hotel properties seemingly compete to create the most impressive festive displays.
Considered one of America’s most charming cities, St. Augustine is even more lovely during the wintertime.
Why Do It? You can stroll along its 450-year-old cobblestone streets in the historic district through historical landmarks, quaint cafes, and haunted ghost tours, while history buffs can explore the Castillo de San Marcos Fort, stroll through the Colonial Quarter to watch the famous re-enactments, and drink from the Fountain of Youth that dates back to 1565.
Good to Know: St. Augustine also boasts an award-winning annual holiday lights display. This popular Night of Lights celebration brightens this charismatic city with more than 2 million dazzling lights strung towards a towering Christmas tree.
Offering a range of fun-filled activities and mild temperatures, Tampa is a perfect winter getaway destination for all types of travelers.
Why Do It? Art enthusiasts will be fascinated with Dali’s most comprehensive collection of paintings outside of Europe at the Dali Museum, while animal lovers can visit the Lowry Park Zoo and try to catch a glimpse of Florida’s treasured manatees at the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center. Busch Gardens holds its annual Christmas Town event, turning the park into a magical winter wonderland with holiday shopping, festive treats, and a Santa House with elves, Mrs. Clause, and photo opportunities for the family.
Good to Know: You can also take a run on Tampa’s annual outdoor ice skating rink set up at the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park downtown or cheer on your favorite college football team at the winter ReliaQuest Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.
One of the most beautiful towns in Florida, Mount Dora offers visitors an array of antique shops perfect for finding those unique holiday gifts.
Why Do It? Lined with 19th-century clapboard houses amongst antique shops, outdoor cafes, quaint restaurants, art galleries, and bed and breakfast inns, Mount Dora is a pleasant town to explore in the wintertime. Visit Menninger’s, the largest antique marketplace in the southeast for unique treasures, attend the annual Christmas Lighted Boat Parade on the downtown waterfront, or hop on the century-old Cannonball Christmas Express for storytelling and singing with Santa.
Good to Know: Nearby Scott’s Maze Adventures also provides fun for the entire family with themed corn mazes, hayrides in its 7-acre cornfield and delicious homemade jam in their country food market.