December Events in Florida
Whatever your passion, Florida has something for you. Here are just some of the major events scheduled in the Sunshine State. Please check individual websites for more details.
HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD – That’s Hollywood, Florida, not Tinsel Town. This friendly city nestled about halfway between Fort Lauderdale and Miami has two monthly events that are worthy of your attention: the Downtown Artwalk and the Dream Car Classic. The former presents a mural tour and the Hollywood Artisan Market, which features pop-up shops, artist showcases and vintage shopping. The latter features dozens – up to 85 – of hot rods, custom cars and trucks, modern beauties and classics.
When: Respectively, third Saturday and first Sunday of each month.
Where: downtown Hollywood
ART AFTER STONEWALL, 1969-89 – This amazing exhibit is being presented as the 50th anniversary of Stonewall Riots is being celebrated all this year. It includes more than 200 works of art and related materials (photographs, sculpture, film clips, video, music, performance pieces and historical documents and images from magazines, newspapers and television) that explore the profound impact the LGBTQ liberation movement on visual culture. Some of the artists to be featured are Andy Warhol, Diane Arbus, Alice Neel, David Hockney, Marlon T. Riggs, Judy Chicago, David Wojnarowicz and Luis Cruz Azaceta.
When: through Jan. 5
Where: Entire second floor of the Frost Art Museum at FIU, Miami
GRIDIRON GLORY: THE BEST OF THE PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME – This 6,000-square-foot exhibition presents a panoramic view of the story of professional football, from its humble beginnings in the early 20th century to the phenomenon it is today. It features more than 200 awe-inspiring artifacts, rare photos and documents, spectacular footage from NFL Films and interactive displays. Visitors are invited to try on vintage pads and jerseys and today’s equipment, and also step inside the Instant Replay Booth to see if they can make the right call.
When: through Feb. 9, when the 2020 Super Bowl is played in Miami.
Where: HistoryMiami Museum, Miami
BAYFRONT HOLIDAY VILLAGE – Attendees of all ages will enjoy daily LED light shows on the 50-foot Christmas tree, waterfront roller skating, over 50 vendors, festive music and al fresco food and drinks. It all adds up to Miami’s beautiful version of a tropical winter wonderland
When: through Dec. 25
Where: Bayfront Park, downtown Miami
CIRCUIT FESTIVAL – This has always been a popular international gay event, but it’s coming to the United States for the first time. There will be four massive nighttime events with world-class production in spectacular locations, at least three daytime parties and top international DJs.
When: through Dec. 2
Where: Various locations in Miami Beach
AMERICAN SANDSCULPTING CHAMPIONSHIP & BEACH FESTIVAL –This 10-day event features world-class master sand sculptors, speed sculpting, demonstrations and lessons, a state championship contest, a vendor village and a kids activity area with bounce houses and slides.
When: through Dec. 1
Where: Fort Myers Beach, behind the Wyndham Garden Hotel
SANTA’S ENCHANTED FOREST -- Get an early start to the ho-ho-ho season with SoFla’s tallest Christmas tree light show, millions of dazzling lights, hundreds of themed displays, delicious food, live music and carnival rides.
When: until Jan. 5, 2019
Where: Tropical Park, Miami
SANDI LAND: HOLIDAY IN PARADISE – A 35-foot Christmas tree sculpted from 600 tons of sand is the centerpiece of this annual month-long event. She has come to be known as “Sandi” and she is strung with real lights. There are dazzling nightly musical light shows and spectators can “sync with Sandi” using LED snowflakes that bring the audience into the show. Other highlights: Snowie-Ville, where kids and adults can create their own life-size tropical snowman; Holiday FantaSEA, a giant diorama aquarium with a tropical holiday theme, and concerts.
When: Dec. 5-Dec. 31
Where: On the waterfront in West Palm Beach
KEY WEST NEW YEAR’S EVE – Ball drop, schmall drop. Anybody can drop a glitter ball and call it a year. Not Key West – no way. Nobody does New Year’s Eve like Key West. The highlights: Conch Shell Drop and Drag Queen/Red Shoe Drop.
When: Dec. 31
Where: Key West
Web: sloppyjoes.com/events for the Conch Shell Drop and bourbonstpub.com for the Drag Queen/Red Shoe drop
MIAMI ART WEEK – Art Basel Miami Beach is the centerpiece for what has to be the most amazing week for great art anywhere. At the main hall, about 260 galleries from around the world will show work by masters of modern and contemporary art, as well as the new generation of emerging artists. Ambitious large-scale art works, films and performances become part of the city’s outdoor landscape. Art Basel is a whirlwind of non-stop revelry with great parties hosted by luxury retailers in the Design District or on rooftops of chic South Beach boutiques. Nightclubs host celebrity-splashed soirees and “pop-up” club events abound, from South Beach to Wynwood. Don’t miss the 20 or so smaller but wildly eclectic satellite art fairs, too.
When: Dec. 5-8 for Art Basel Miami Beach. The satellite fairs run concurrently with Art Basel, although some of them start a few days earlier.
Where: Miami Beach Convention Center and Collins Park for Art Basel. Various Miami Beach and mainland Miami locations for the satellite fairs.
Web: For Art Basel: www.miamiandbeaches.com/art-basel-miami-beach; for the satellite fairs: miamiandbeaches.com/art-basel/satellite
SEMINOLE HARD ROCK WINTERFEST BOAT PARADE -- It’s the gold standard of holiday boat parades with the well-deserved nickname of “The Greatest Show on H20.” This year’s Grand Marshal is glam rocker and pop-culture celeb Bret Michaels. Other Winterfest events include the Free Family Fun Day (featuring a real ice skating rink) and the Black Tie Ball.
When & Where: Dec. 14 along the Intracoastal Waterway from Fort Lauderdale to Pompano Beach for the Boat Parade; Nov. 24 at Huizenga Plaza in downtown Fort Lauderdale for the Free Family Fun Day and Dec. 7 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood for the Black Tie Ball.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Speaking of boat parades, you can’t swing a strand of holiday lights in SoFla without hitting a boat parade in December. Some of the other cities, just to name a few: Fort Myers, Key West, Naples, West Palm Beach, Pompano Beach, Punta Gorda, Boynton Beach and Boca Raton. Use Google for dates and times.)
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL ALEGRIA -- In light of its 25th anniversary, Cirque's most iconic production returns with a reinterpretation through today's lens, featuring new costumes, an updated set design, renewed acrobatics and new musical arrangements. Carried by an intangible wind of change, an emerging movement strives to shake the established order, instilling hope and renewal to bring light and harmony to their kingdom in decay.
When: Dec. 13-Jan. 26
Where: Under the big top next to Hard Rock Stadium, Miami
LUMINOSA CHINESE LANTERN FESTIVAL – Enjoy 13 acres of authentic Chinese Lantern lights fashioned with a Miami twist. You’ll be transported to a lush jungle illuminated with breath-taking larger-than-life displays. To top it off, you’ll experience yummy food and craft cocktails.
When: Now through Jan. 8
Where: Jungle Island, Miami
NIGHT LIGHTS IN THE NAPLES BOTANICAL GARDEN – For 35 nights discover (or rediscover) the natural beauty of plants from the tropics and subtropics as thousands of lights illuminate the garden. Enjoy gourmet treats and music by local performers. On select nights, your stroll will include making a wish on a Wishing Tree and special holiday performances by Opera Naples and Naples Ballet.
When: Nov. 29-Dec. 23, Dec. 26-30 and Jan. 1-5
Where: Naples Botanical Garden, Naples
ANNUAL LUMINARY HOLIDAY STROLL – Beautifully lit paths will lead the way throughout two of Florida’s most famous islands. Strollers will enjoy assorted holiday activities, snacks and refreshments.
When: Dec. 6-7
Where: Dec. 6 on Sanibel Island and Dec. 7 on Captiva Island
LET THERE BE MORE LIGHTS! – Tis the season and millions of lights will brighten the South Florida holiday skies. Here is where to see some of the best and the brightest: Santa’s Enchanted Forest at Tropical Park in Miami; Holiday Nights at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, and Festival of Lights at Fisherman’s Village in Punta Gorda. You’ll see so much more than pretty lights: Some examples: Santa’s Enchanted Forest features a 92-foot Christmas tree, 100 carnival rides (from scary to tame!), pony rides and a petting zoo. Holiday Nights will feature historic decorations, nightly entertainment and river cruises.
When: Respectively – Now through Jan. 5 for Santa’s Enchanted Forest; Nov. 29-Dec. 30 for Holiday Nights at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates; Nov. 16-Dec. 31 for the Festival of Lights at Fisherman’s Village
Web: Respectively – santasenchantedforest.com, fortmyersbeach.org/edison-ford-holiday-nights, fishville.com/festival-of-lights
COLLIER COUNTY CELEBRATES WINTER! – Who cares if it’s 80 degrees outside? Don’t miss these cool tons-of-snow centric events:
· Snowfest – They’re trucking in about 100 tons of snow for this one. You can climb up a snow mountain or toboggan and ski down snow hills. Also includes an ice skating rink, a carnival, arts and crafts, a petting zoo, pony rides, Mrs. Claus’s Kitchen and Santa’s South Pole.
When: Dec. 7
Where: Golden Gate Community Center in Naples
· Christmas Around the World Parade & Gala – Featured will be: a lighted Christmas parade, snow mountains (with 40 tons of snow, double last year’s event), a toboggan slide, Santa’s workshop (with arts & crafts for the kids), live entertainment, a bounce house and ethnic and American food.
When: Dec. 14 for both
Where: The gala is at the Immokalee Sports Complex and the parade starts down and ends at the Sports Complex.
EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY – Save some holiday calories for some SoFla food & drink events this month, including:
· Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival -- From specialty Chef Talk panels to gourmet five-course dinners with premium wine pairings, to evening karaoke cocktail gatherings, this gastronomic gala offers an unprecedented collection of talent for this four-day fest.
When: Dec. 12-15
Where: Various locations Palm Beach and Palm Beach County
· Sizzle SWFL Restaurant Week – It’s actually two weeks long and features specially-curated two course lunches ($16 and $21) and three-course dinners ($26 and $36). Eat your way happy across SW Florida.
When: Dec. 2-15
Where: Outstanding restaurants in Bonita Springs, Cape Coral, Estero, Fort Myers, Marco Island and Naples.
AMERICAN DANCESPORT FESTIVAL – One of the largest events of its kind, this two-day competition will feature some of the best hybrid ballroom/sports dancers in the world, with two world championships up for grabs.
When: Dec. 21-22
Where: InterContinental Hotel, Miami
I LOVE STOCK ISLAND FESTIVAL – Stock Island is known as Key West’s laid-back neighbor. Discover why at this festival, which features history tours, art tours, live music, fresh off-the-boat seafood, wine and beer tastings, a boat parade, kids activities, Little Mr. & Miss Stock Island contests and other elements that showcase the eclectic island and its working waterfront.
When: Dec. 13-15
Where: Stock Island
FORT LAUDERDALE CHRISTMAS PAGAENT – This celebrated event has been thrilling audiences for decades. It features a festive opening scene with traditional carols, inspirational contemporary songs and a musical drama of the nativity and life of Christ. Tip: Book as soon as you see this, because the run sells out quickly.
When: Nov. 29-Dec. 15
Where: First Baptist Church, downtown Fort Lauderdale
HOLLYWOOD BEACH CANDY CANE PARADE -- Join the fun on the famous Hollywood Broadwalk. The 64th annual event features marching bands, dozens of floats and more.
When: Dec. 7
Where: Hollywood Beach Broadwalk, Hollywood
ISLAMORADA HOLIDAY FESTIVAL – The 15th edition’s centerpiece is a 35-foot Christmas tree with “magical snow” blowing from its branches. Also: a 30-ton snow mountain, Santa Paws Pet Parade (prizes for best costume and best trick) and contests to choose the Best Baked Goodie, Little Miss Sugar Plum Fairy and Mr. Gingerbread Man.
When: Dec. 6
Where: Founders Park in Islamorada, Mile Marker 87
KING MANGO STRUT – The 38th Strut parade will bring off-beat, off-the-wall mango mania to a new generation of Mango Heads. Warning: No one and nothing is safe from parody and satire. Nutty characters welcome! After the parade, the King Mango Music Massacre begins with many top local bands participating.
When: Dec. 29
Where: Downtown Coconut Grove
OAKLAND PARK HOLIDAY VILLAGE – A relative newcomer to the holiday scene (this is year number three), it will feature a children’s activity corner, arts & crafts vendors, live entertainment, health & wellness seminars, cooking demonstrations, interactive games, visits from Santa and a food court supplied by city restaurants.
When: Dec. 6-7
Where: Jaco Pastorius Park, Oakland Park
MICCOSUKEE INDIAN ARTS & CRAFTS FESTIVAL – Experience the color and pageantry of costumed Native Americans from all over the country. Featured at the 45th edition: nonstop entertainment, arts, crafts, music and native goods. Featured artists include the White Mountain Apache Crown Dancers, the Wasu Kasna Dance Troupe, the Great Plains Dance Company and Iroquois Sky Dancers.
When: Dec. 26-Jan. 1
Where: Miccosukee Indian Village, Mile Marker 70, U.S. Highway 41, Miami
JUNIOR ORANGE BOWL PARADE -- Once again, the 71st annual parade is the flagship parade of the Junior Orange Bowl Festival season, which consists of some 20 athletic, academic and cultural events that are held throughout SoFla. The whole family will enjoy the colorful and creative floats and the marching bands.
When: Dec. 15
Where: Downtown Coral Gables
TASTES OF MIAMI – If you haven’t yet been to the Miami Seaquarium, this would be a good time to go. This colorful and energetic-five day Latin & Caribbean food and music festival features an array of good eats and sounds, dance and arts and crafts. Each day, local food trucks will offer up their savory dishes. In addition, other food locations will serve churros, arepas and Tex-Mex corn. The music will be hot, too, as outstanding local bands will keep everyone on their dancing toes. Speaking of dance, Salsa and Zumba instructors will be on hand. Kids can enjoy a play area, with games and prizes, bounce houses and arts and crafts.
When: Dec. 26-30
Where: Miami Seaquarium (admission to the seaquarium also includes Tastes of Miami)
44TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY NIGHTS AT THE EDISON AND FORD WINTER ESTATES-- Edison Ford Holiday Nights reflect the many contributions of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and their families to the local community. It was chosen by the editors of USA Today as one of the 10 Best Historic Homes for the Holidays.
Historic buildings and more than 20 acres of gardens are decorated with lights and traditional decorations. The event offers a special holiday tour, Children’s Tree Trail, Santa visits on select nights, refreshments and shopping in the Ford Cottage Shoppe, Museum Store and Garden Shoppe.
When: Nov. 29-Dec. 28 (event closed Dec. 24 and 25)
Where: Edison and Ford Winter Estates, Fort Myers
35TH ANNUAL CHRISTMAS LUMINARY TRAIL AND OPEN HOUSE-- This event draws visitors from all over the world as they join local residents to celebrate the season with 3 miles of luminary candles and events.
When: Dec. 6 on Sanibel Island and Dec. 7 on Captiva Island
Where: Sanibel and Captiva Islands
ANNUAL PORT BOCA GRANDE LIGHTHOUSE AND MUSEUM LIGHTING-- Celebrate the annual lighting of the Gasparilla Lighthouse with music and refreshments.
When: Dec. 7
Where: Boca Grande Lighthouse and Museum, Boca Grande
BROADWAY PALM DINNER THEATRE-- Celebrating its 26th season in southwest Florida, Broadway Palm offers an exciting holiday lineup that includes Sounds of Christmas in the main theater Nov. 21-Dec. 25. In addition, Off Broadway Palm presents A Christmas Carol, A Live Radio Play Nov. 14-25 and the Children's Theatre features The Elves and the Shoemaker Nov. 29-Dec. 24.
Where: Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre, Fort Myers
BARBARA B. MANN PERFORMING ARTS HALL-- Treat yourself to A Magical Cirque Christmas on Dec. 7 and Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker on Dec. 29.
When: Dec. 7 and Dec. 29
Where: Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, 13350 FSW Pkwy, Fort Myers
31ST ANNUAL FORT MYERS BEACH CHRISTMAS BOAT PARADE-- Enjoy some Christmas spirit from 6 to 8 p.m. The parade passes establishments including Bootleggers Waterfront Barbeque, Parrot Key Caribbean Grill, Matanzas on the Bay, Nervous Nellies, Doc Ford’s and Bonita Bill’s where you can kick back and enjoy the fun presented by the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce.
When: Dec. 7
Where: Fort Myers Beach
ANNUAL BONITA SPRINGS CHRISTMAS BOAT PARADE-- This sparkly parade kicks off at 5:30 p.m. from BayWater Boat Club and Rentals.
When: Dec. 14
Where: Starts by BayWater Boat Club and Rentals, Bonita Springs
THE SOUTHWEST FLORIDA SYMPHONY HOLIDAY POPS CONCERTS--Holiday Pops featuring Tony Desare will be presented Dec. 13 at Shell Point Village Church in Fort Myers; Dec. 14 at Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers, and Dec. 15 at First Presbyterian Church in Bonita Springs.
Where: Fort Myers and Bonita Springs
CAPE CORAL CHRISTMAS BOAT PARADE-- Enjoy food, music and a visit from Santa during this boat parade and festival from 4 to 10 p.m. in Four Freedoms Park. Boat parade begins at 7 p.m.
When: Dec. 21
Where: Four Freedoms Park, Cape Coral
GASPARILLA INN & CLUB’S TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS-- The height of the “Social Season” begins in late December, just in time for the launch of the Twelve Days of Christmas. With a new theme to each day, special activities spark holiday magic for the entire family through the New Year. Festive decorations, cheerful caroling, classic holiday movies and gingerbread house decorating are just a few of the events offered during the Twelve Days of Christmas celebration at The Inn.
Where: Gasparilla Inn & Club, Boca Grande
DOWNTOWN FORT MYERS RIVER DISTRICT HOLIDAYS-- The calendar is packed with holiday events to get you in the spirit of the season. Festival of Trees, Holiday Stroll and Tree Lighting, Burroughs’s Home & Gardens Holiday House, Music Walk and a New Year’s Eve celebration to welcome 2020 and more.
When: Dec. 1-31
Where: Downtown Fort Myers
63RD ANNUAL HOLIDAY HOUSE DECORATED HISTORIC HOMES--Thousands of lights decorate the historic Burroughs Home and Langford Kingston Home in historic downtown Fort Myers. Check here for details.
When: Dec. 7-22, 5-9 p.m. nightly
Where: downtown Fort Myers
HOLIDAYS ON THE SEMINOLE GULF RAILWAY-- Set sail for a holiday light extravaganza on the Seminole Gulf Railway. Enjoy soup and salad going north to Punta Gorda for a boat tour through Punta Gorda Isles and entree and dessert on the journey back to Fort Myers.
When: Holiday Light Extravaganza, Dec. 9, 10, 16, and 17, Holiday-themed murder mystery show, Dec. 24, New Year’s Eve Gala Dec. 31
Where: Fort Myers
ADVENTURES IN PARADISE HOLIDAY CRUISES-- Cruise the tranquil waters of San Carlos Bay-- which so happens to be Santa’s favorite bay --experiencing a relaxing journey on a Christmas Eve Sunset Cruise. Other offerings include a Santa Dolphin and Wildlife Cruise and a New Year’s Eve Sunset Dolphin Cruise.
When: Santa Dolphin and Wildlife Cruise on Dec. 24; Christmas Eve Sunset Cruise; New Year’s Eve Sunset Dolphin Cruise
Where: Port Sanibel Marina, Fort Myers
FORT MYERS BEACH NEW YEAR’S EVE AND TOWN BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION-- Come celebrate the birthday of the Town of Fort Myers Beach and New Year’s Eve at Times Square. Festivities begin with free cupcakes starting between noon and 1 p.m. Live music will be played throughout the day. Ball drop is at midnight with fireworks immediately afterward.
When: Dec. 31
Where: Times Square, Fort Myers Beach
MAGIC OF LIGHTS – See over a million holiday lights in this dazzling drive-through holiday light display that the whole family can enjoy from the comfort of your own vehicle. New to this year’s Magic of Lights is an out-of-car experience featuring a S’Elfie Tunnel, refreshments and snacks and an expanded route with new displays and an additional 100,000 lights. Returning favorite traditional displays include the Enchanting Tunnel of Lights, 12 Days of Christmas, 200-foot Candy Cane Lane and Snowflake Forest, as well digital animations of Santa and his reindeer.
When: til Jan. 1
Where: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach
SNOW ON 7TH PARADE – What do you get when you combine faux winter, Christmas spirit and Tampa’s historic cigar-rolling district? The fun and frollick-y Snow on 7th Parade, now running on 8 years of holiday tradition. This year’s event will feature middle and high school marching bands, local dance teams and krewes, a visit by both the Tampa Mayor and Santa Claus and, of course, lots of beautiful snowfall to cover the streets.
When: Dec. 14
Where: Ybor City, Tampa
ST. PETERSBURG HOLIDAY OF THE ARTS – Art lovers and shoppers looking for an original, handmade artwork gift can check out stunning works by more than 100 artisans from throughout Florida and across the United States. This free outdoor gallery will feature painting, photography, sculpture, metalwork, digital art, jewelry, glass, ceramics, woodworking, mixed-media, fiber art, metalwork and much more.
When: Dec. 14-15
Where: Williams Park, downtown St. Petersburg
CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR HOME TOUR – Considered one of the best holiday home tours in the nation according to USA Today’s 10Best, the Stetson Mansion is once again opening its doors to the awe and delight of visitors from all over the world. The privately owned High Victorian mansion was built in 1886 for Florida's first snow bird, John B. Stetson, the famed hat maker. Guided tours of over-the-top elaborate and elegant designer decorations in ten rooms detail the meaning for each rooms theme. Tours are offered five times daily and reservations are required.
When: til Jan. 15
Where: Stetson Mansion DeLand
ENTRE NOUS CLUB TOUR OF HOMES – A longtime tradition entering its 42nd year, this holiday-themed tour spotlights four gorgeous Manatee County homes of all styles, owned by gracious hosts hosting refreshments and sweet treats to curious guests. Get a glimpse of others’ decadent décor and participate in a raffle, buy some desserts or shop for handmade cards and other holiday arts and crafts gifts during your stops.
When: Dec. 7-8
Where: Palmetto, Bradenton, McLewis Bayou and Warner’s Bayou
BUSCH GARDENS CHRISTMAS TOWN – Tampa’s jungle safari-esque theme park transforms into a winter wonderland with millions of twinkling lights, a a sing-along train, visits with Santa and Rudolph, holiday ice skating shows and an array of special treats such as hot chocolate, frozen eggnog waffle cones, winter-themed craft beer and bread pudding. The park is open extended hours on weekend and special dates.
When: til Jan. 6
Where: Busch Gardens, Tampa
PLANT CITY BIKE FEST – In its 18th year, the Plant City Bike Fest takes over downtown, filling the streets with every motorcycle model imaginable. Along with checking out the live music, food vendors, bike gear for purchase and other activities, see the best bikes competing to win categories such as custom, metric, Harley, vintage, trike, “Best of Show People’s Choice” and more. Free and fun for families.
When: Dec. 7
Where: Downtown Plant City
ATOMIC HOLIDAY BAZAAR – Shoppers and collectors seeking unique, affordable and quirky holiday gifts this year can find everything they need at the Atomic Holiday Bazaar, a cool marketplace where independent artists and crafters bring their edgy and creative jewelry, t-shirts, tote bags, mugs, dolls, pins, artwork and other odd trinkets and baubles for sale at bargain prices.
When: Dec. 14-15
Where: Sarasota Municipal Auditorium, Sarasota
WINE & CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL – Pair Florida-fermented red and white wines with locally made chocolate treats at this annual event, which is part wine tasting and tours, part arts and crafts show and part concert. Regional blues, jazz and R&B bands entertain while guests mingle about the grounds, sip vino or craft beer and do some Christmas shopping. Bring your lawn chairs and blankets and enjoy the rolling hill scenery of Clermont.
When: Dec. 13-15
Where: Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards, Clermont
DOWNTOWN ST. PETE HOLIDAY EVENTS – Holidays in the Sunshine City are a joy, bringing Santa, snow, ice skating and gorgeous lights to some of St. Petersburg’s prettiest waterfront parks. The popular, one-day Snowfest features a toboggan slide, an art tent and karaoke, or bring your blankets and enjoy The Search for Santa Paws in Vinoy Park. For those just looking to stroll among the holiday beauty, St. Pete’s parks will be decorated with thousands of lights and decorations every night from Nov. 30 through Jan. 1.
When: til Jan. 1
Where: Albert Whitted Park, North Straub Park and Vinoy Park
CRACKER STORYTELLING FESTIVAL – Holding strong for more than three decades, this longstanding Florida folk festival aims to preserve the state’s rich pioneer “cracker” history through stories, poems, song, puppetry and music. Well-known Florida storytellers from all cultures and backgrounds tell fascinating stories, often encouraging audience participation, in the rustic Homeland Heritage Park.
When: Dec. 4-6
Where: Homeland, Polk County
HUNSADER FARMS COUNTRY CHRISTMAS – Visit a real Florida farm and soak in the holiday country fun of train rides, hayrides, campfires, a Christmas village with Santa, pony rides, a petty zoo and live bands. Stay for dinner by stopping at any of the food vendors selling turkey legs, pizza, burgers, warm pretzels, hot chocolate and other festival fare, or shop at the antique and crafts store.
When: Dec. 13, 14, 15 & 20, 21, 22
Where: Hunsader Farms, Bradenton
OCEAN-REEF-BEACH FESTIVAL – Celebrate and honor Florida’s beach lifestyle with educational programs and displays, a chowder cook-off, a sea turtle maze for kids and more. The very best of this oceanfront community – such as local artists and jewelers who work with ocean themes and surfboard shapers – come together and help visitors appreciate and embrace the region’s natural resources and beauty.
When: Dec. 7
Where: Pelican Beach Park, Satellite Beach
SOUTHERN LIVING IDEA HOUSE — Discover more than 100 ideas to enhance and modernize your own home from paint colors to hot home tech at the annual Southern Living Idea Home. This modern home honors the architecture and design of the historic homes in old Fernandina with more than 1,400 square feet of porch space to celebrate the south. The home also includes sweeping riverfront views from allowing the exterior and interior design to coexist and celebrate each other. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Amelia Island Museum of History.
When: until Dec. 8
Where: Crane Island, Amelia Island
WHERE JELLY ROLLS, FAT QUARTERS AND STIPPLING RULES — Not all artists show their flair for creativity with a paintbrush and canvas. Some utilize delicate stitch work, rainbow-colored fabric and metallic thread. September’s event lineup will have North Florida quilt lovers on the go.
- From the Cedar Chest: Generations of Southern Quilting, 1830s to Today (through Dec. 14, Gadsden): Art exhibit curated from private and public collections in North Florida. Features historic and contemporary quilts, some of which have been completed by different family members through the decades. (gadsdenarts.org/Cedar-Chest)
- Big Bend Quilt Trail (through Dec. 14, Gadsden): To enhance Gadsden Arts Center & Museum’s exhibit, “From the Cedar Chest” (see listing above), the area is creating a quilt trail throughout the area. A Barn Quilt, or Quilt Trail, have typically consisted of large, painted plywood squares in which each features a single 8-by-8-foot quilt block celebrating the heritage of quilting in North America and is installed on outdoor exterior walls along a route. (gadsdenarts.org/Cedar-Chest)
TIFFANY TREASURES AT THE CUMMER — Don’t miss the last chance to see more than 60 works by Louis Comfort Tiffany spanning 30 years of the famed glassmaker’s career. This special exhibit traveled to Florida from Chicago’s Richard H. Driehaus Collection and includes his trademark stained glass windows and lamps as well as various blown-glass pieces. Visitors can also watch live glass blowing demonstrations on Nov. 15-16 and 22-23, when Jacksonville’s Burnt Glassworks brings their mobile studio to the Cummer to create pieces inspired by the work of Tiffany.
When: until Jan. 5
Where: Cummer Museum
CHRISTMAS TREE FARM — No, you won’t have to go all Clark Griswald and hike through several feet of snow to pick out your perfect Christmas tree at Whispering Pines Christmas Tree Farm. The family farm in Milton sells pines, cedars and Leyland Cypress trees for $4.00 a foot during their “Choose and Cut”. You also don’t even have to come prepared — they lend bow saws to customers and have free twine and netting to help you get your ideal beauty home.
When: through December
NIGHT OF LIGHTS — Exploring the nation’s oldest city during the holidays when it’s aglow with three million twinkling lights is one of the state’s can’t-miss holiday experiences. But what can turn a beautiful night on the town to something a little bit more special is by planning your visit during one of these events.
· 22nd Annual Luminary Night (Dec. 4): The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum’s annual celebration includes a visit from Santa and live entertainment both inside the lighthouse and on the lawn of the U.S. Coast Guard Coastal Lookout.
- Christmas Parade (Dec. 7): Floats, marching bands, cars and horses all lead up to highly anticipated arrival of Santa who will be available for photos in Plaza de la Constitucion afterward.
- Regatta of Lights (Dec. 14): Trawlers, shrimp boats, yachts and sailboats bedazzle their decks with lighted displays for a cruise along Matanzas Bay between the Bridge of Lions and Castillo San Marcos.
When: Nov. 23 - Feb. 2
Where: St. Augustine
WINTER SOLSTICE CELEBRATION — The Southeast Native American Festival features two days of Southeastern Native American dancing, music, storytelling and children’s crafts. Arts and crafts vendors will be selling gourd art, traditional instruments, shell art, fabrics and clothing with Southeastern Native American designs, herbal products and woodcarvings. Festival goers will be able to participate in the cultural demonstrations that include dancing, storytelling and craft working.
When: Dec. 14-15
Where: Mission San Luis, Tallahassee
PENSACOLA WINTERFEST — All aboard! Like Tom Hanks’ conductor calling you to action, grab a ticket and take a seat on the trolley for an hour-long ride through downtown Pensacola featuring live performances of scenes from the holiday classics like Scrooge, The Polar Express, Peanuts and the Grinch. The 2019 tour will include a reimagining of the Nativity and the Island of Misfit Toys, as well as a new stop inspired by Home Alone. Other Winterfest highlights include the Elf Parade and Opening Ceremony (Nov. 29), the 20-minute Polar Express Mini Tour (Dec. 18-24) and the Grinch Mini Tour (Dec. 18-23).
When: Nov. 23-24, Nov. 29- Dec. 1, 6-8, 13-15, 18-24
HAVANA WINTER FESTIVAL & LAWN MOWER PARADE — Christmas comes early to Havana’s tree-lined Main Street which boasts one of the more unique Christmas parades in the state. Yes, there are the traditional parade accoutrements like classic cars, local school bands and cheer squads but decked out lawn mowers (and not just the ones that you ride) truly are a sight to behold. It’s a mid-morning affair, giving families plenty of time to wander through the downtown stores to enjoy the holiday decorations.
When: Dec. 14
CLASSIC CHRISTMAS CAROLS AT THE CAPE SAN BLAS LIGHTHOUSE — Before Hurricane Michael, a group of Port St. Joe residents gathered donations to light their historic downtown for the holidays. After the hurricane, they carried through with plan but instead hung 60 strands of lights from their historic lighthouse turning it into a “Christmas tree” of hope in 2018. This year, join the Forgotten Coast Ukulele Orchestra for a night of Christmas carols at the base of the lighthouse. If there’s a chill in the air, a cup of hot cocoa will warm up those vocal chords.
When: Dec. 23
Where: Cape San Blas Lighthouse, Port St. Joe
RAILS TO TRAILS FESTIVAL — Celebrate the conversion of the Sunshine State’s former railroad tracks to biking and hiking trails by hitting the road. Riders will get an opportunity to explore a small piece of the larger Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, which extends from Florida through North Carolina. The morning bike ride is only one part of the day which also includes live music and a celebration of the Gullah Geechee Heritage featuring cultural arts and crafts, Gullah food, a film screening and Heritage Corridor discussions.
When: Dec. 14
Where: Armstrong Park, Elkton (St Johns)
SPIRIT OF THE HORSE 2019 — A family-friendly, holiday equestrian production about two orphans who meet a snow queen, scary villain, toy soldiers and a prince and princess on their journey to acceptance and love. Presented by the KYB Dressage and Alachua County Agriculture and Equestrian Center benefitting Horses Without Humans Rescue Organization.
When: Dec. 6-8
Where: Canterbury Showcase, Newberry
CHRISTMAS ON THE SQUARE — For 35 years, downtown Suwannee has been ringing in the holiday season with two days of good cheer, live music and a visit from Santa. The weekend’s festivities kick off Friday night with the Jingle Bell Fun Run & Walk, the lighting of the Christmas tree, fireworks and SNOW! Both days will include live music, food, bounce houses, kids’ slides and more than 300 arts and crafts vendors. Saturday night keeps the holiday spirit rolling with the Christmas Parade of Lights.
When: Dec. 6-7
HOLIDAY HOME TOUR — Pound the pavement (for worthy causes, of course) in the historic district of Fernandina while enjoying festive holiday finery at five Victorian homes. Tour guests can also purchase a combo ticket (at a discount) that includes a visit to the 2019 Southern Living Idea House on Crane Island. This is the last weekend the Southern Living Idea House will be open for tours and it features sweeping riverfront views with more than 1,400 square feet of wraparound porch space.
When: Dec. 6-7
DUELING BEACH BALL DROPS — Who knew? Both Destin and Panama City Beach (PCB) ring in the New Year with a beach ball. But, there is a slight difference. The festive beach ball drops twice at the Destin Harbor event, once at 8 p.m. for the younguns and then later at the stroke of midnight for the late night owls. Meanwhile in PCB, the streets of Pier Park are closed so that 10,000 beach balls hanging in nets from the sky can rain down on revelers during the kid’s beach ball drop at 8 p.m. Finally, at midnight fireworks accompany the lighted beach ball drop for adults. Both events include live entertainment.
When: Dec. 31
Where: Destin Harbor, Panama City Beach’s Pier Park
Web: emeraldcoastfl.com/winter, visitpanamacitybeach.com/ball-drop
CHRISTMAS IN WAKULLA — Florida small towns roll out the red carpet to celebrate their neighbors and welcome guests at the holidays. Wakulla County, which sits just south of Tallahassee and has a gorgeous stretch of coastal communities along the gulf, offers four family-friendly celebrations.
- St. Mark’s Christmas Jubilee (Dec. 7, St. Mark’s): Community tree lighting, holiday music, cookies, ugly sweater contest and Santa, but the highlight is always the annual Golf Cart Christmas Parade. visitwakulla.com/event/st-marks-christmas-jubilee
- Christmas in Panacea (Dec. 7, Panacea): The city brings the North Pole to the Sunshine State by including snow (yes, snow!) to play in as part of their annual celebration. Also includes a lighted night parade, bounce house, live entertainment, children’s activities and free admission to the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab. visitwakulla.com/event/christmas-in-panacea
- Christmas in the Park (Dec. 14, Crawfordville): Photos with Santa, kid’s games, train rides and arts and crafts vendors selling holiday-themed goods at Hudson Park. visitwakulla.com/event/christmas-in-the-park
- Christmas in Sopchoppy (Dec. 14, Sopchoppy): Annual festival featuring local arts and crafts retailers selling holiday merchandise, live Christmas music, food and a visit with Santa. hvisitwakulla.com/christmas-in-sopchoppy
FIRST CITY LIGHTS-- Experience the magic of the city of Pensacola, dressed up for the holidays with over 400,000 lights.
When: Through December
Where: Downtown Pensacola
HOLIDAY CUBE—This larger-than-life cube provides the perfect Instagrammable spot for all of your holiday photo needs.
When: Through December
Where: The corner of Jefferson and Government Street, Pensacola
HOLIDAY PARADES-- Candy, beads and the Grinch. It’s the closest you can get to Mardi Gras with the bonus of holiday cheer. Check out these Pensacola area offerings, including an Elf Parade, a Surfing Santa Beach Parade, a Lighted Boat Parade and more.
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