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Twinkling lights, caroling and memorable photos with Santa, Christmas is a magical time of year. Home to hotels with over-the-top Christmas decor and festive-filled activities, these charming cities throughout Florida go above and beyond to create an ambiance filled with festivity and cheer. From ice slides and snowy landscapes to the bright lights of a boat parade, these towns in the Sunshine State go all out for December. Get into the holiday spirit at one of these festive Christmas towns in Florida that celebrate the holiday season in a big way.
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Designed after small American towns by Walt Disney, Celebration is a picturesque area with tree-lined streets and charming architecture. Known for its annual Now Snowing celebration, this event is the closest many Floridians will get to a white Christmas. The kids will delight in the magical white flurries from the sky, while Charles Dickens carolers, horse-drawn carriage rides and an ice rink complete the festive package. Sit back and enjoy the live performances, take a ride on the Express train or wait until the magical hour when it snows.
Christmas is the perfect time of year to visit St. Augustine, as its already charming streets are glowing with holiday charm at its huge annual Christmas event, the Night of Lights. Catch a ride on the trolley to admire the dazzling displays while you warm up with a hot chocolate. Attend one of the many family-friendly events, from a festive parade to the colorful boat displays at the Regatta of Lights. Participate in the much-loved Holiday Tour of Inns, or bring the kids to the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum on Luminary Night to say hello to Santa.
The epicenter of holiday fun, Pensacola goes all out for its annual Christmas celebration called Winterfest. Here you’ll find falling snow, hot chocolate, holiday performances and trolley rides, as this family-friendly event is a one-stop-shop for all things Christmas. This picturesque area lined with white-sand beaches also puts on a lighted boat parade near the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk, while a Surfing Santa Parade is where you can wave to some of your favorite Christmas characters.
Miami is Florida’s liveliest city with a plethora of exciting events held throughout the year, and Christmas is no exception. While it’s known as a party destination, there is plenty of appeal for families and kids, as Santa’s Enchanted Forest is the largest Christmas-themed amusement park in the world. Hop on one of the 100 rides, or enjoy the park’s interactive games and the petting zoo. For a more laid-back way to get in the spirit, you can marvel at the 50-foot Christmas tree covered in glittering lights in downtown Miami at Bayfront Park.
A family-friendly destination home to a variety of cultural attractions, St. Petersburg comes alive during Christmas. Visit the St. Pete Beach Boat Parade and Winter Festival in the Park to enjoy a lively ambiance with a line-up of twinkling boats that float past you as you listen to live entertainment and browse a festive holiday market. Alternatively, head to the Florida Botanical Gardens for their annual Holiday Lights in the Gardens or take a day trip to Busch Gardens to enjoy a dazzling ambiance at their annual Christmas Town.
It comes as no surprise that the theme park capital of the world knows how to put on a holiday display, as Orlando boasts a long list of Christmas event that will ensure even the biggest Scrooge will feel a bit jolly. SeaWorld, Universal and nearby LEGOLAND put on live entertainment and parades, while Disney has their famous Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party for the little ones with fireworks, character dance parties, and sweet treats. Light Up UCF features a light show and an ice rink, while ICE! at Gaylord Palms presents impressive ice sculpture displays and slides.
As Floridian as you can possibly get, West Palm Beach puts on a unique winter display of the world’s only 600 ton, a 35-foot-tall tree made of sand. Called Sandi Land, watch as the tree comes to life at night with over 5,000 sparkling lights. Admire a variety of other sand sculptures that combine its tropical and Christmas theme, while the kids can enjoy a snowman building area called SnowieVille and glow-in-the-dark putt-putt golf. You can also visit the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens for its annual Festival of Trees, where professional decorators create an impressive display.
Nicknamed the “Venice of America”, Fort Lauderdale likes to show off its waterways. A fun-in-the-sun city located on the Atlantic Coast, if you’re here in winter, you should visit the popular Winterfest Boat Parade and see the “Greatest Show on H20” for yourself. It’s here that private boats, giant showboats and corporate megayachts are adorned with lights, music, beauty queens and celebrities. For festivity indoors, attend the Fort Lauderdale Christmas Pageant, a 30-year tradition with familiar carols and musical drama in a turn-of-the-century setting.
A combination of stunning beaches and family-friendly attractions, Jacksonville is the perfect town to enjoy a Christmas ambiance. The 56-foot-tall tree lighting display that used to occur at Jacksonville Landing will adorn Hemmingway Park this holiday season. The towering tree will be covered in more than 78,000 LED lights at the city’s lighting ceremony, while Jacksonville Beach Deck the Chairs is an annual lighted sculptural exhibit not to be missed. When you want to pretend you’re up north for a few hours, head to the Jacksonville Ice & Sportsplex for an afternoon of ice skating and perfecting your twirls.
In winter, Tallahassee is covered in twinkling lights for the holiday season, where the entire family can enjoy the cheery ambiance at its annual Winter Festival. An annual holiday extravaganza, the downtown area transforms into a winter wonderland with live entertainment, a parade and arts and crafts vendors. If you’re looking for a tranquil way to enjoy the season, head to Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park to experience the camelias in full bloom while taking a candle-lit walk through the gardens and enjoying live holiday music.