Whether you are planning a trip to The City Beautiful for the holidays or are a local just looking for family-friendly activities in Orlando for the holidays, there are plenty of options the whole family will love. Additionally, even though most amusement parks offer holiday-themed events, there are also several fun activities other than theme parks to get you into the holiday spirit.
So if you are looking for fun things to do with the kids, check out the following events and activities.
Best Light Displays in Orlando
Many people love seeing the lights during the holidays, and Orlando puts on a fantastic show. Check out these displays for some of the best experiences. Check out these displays for some of the best experiences that you and the kids are sure to love.
Night of a Million Lights
Night of a Million Lights is an immersive holiday light spectacular that runs from November 12th, 2021, through January 2nd, 2022, at Give Kids The World Village. Watch dancing lights in a make-believe neighborhood, all to festive music and lots of holiday treats. A tram takes guests around the village to the marketplace and other activities across the 89-acre resort. It all takes place at 210 South Bass Rod, Kissimmee. Be sure to buy tickets in advance of the visit.
Dazzling Nights at Leu Gardens
Running from November 19th through January 9th, Dazzling Nights takes place in the 50-acre Harry P. Leu Gardens. Tickets cost $22 to $25, and there are additional costs for parking. Guests get to see beautiful light displays, listen to holiday music, watch a redesigned show, and enjoy the stunning lit-up rose garden.
Cranes Roost Park Holiday Light Displays
Duke Energy teams up with the city of Altamonte Springs to turn on some 200,000 lights and a 60-foot fully decorated tree in the Cranes Roost Park Holiday Lights Display. The event includes live music, train rides, an appearance by Santa and Mrs. Claus, along with a fireworks display. Ice skating and family-friendly activities also take place during the event. There’s no admission cost, and food and beverages are available.
Lights on Jeater Bend
For those looking for more of a neighborhood feel, check out the Lights on Jeater Bend in Celebration. This display includes 11 homes decorated for the holiday season, synchronized to music. There are also fire and water displays. The lights come on each night from 7-9:30 p.m. starting October 16th. There is no charge, but the group encourages charity donations.
Best Places to Meet Santa in Orlando
Finding Santa in Orlando does not have to be a challenge. From the perfect annual photo to just a jolly handshake, here are some of the best options for meeting Saint Nick.
The Santa Workshop Experience
Icon Park hosts a Santa Workshop Experience that includes a meet-and-greet and much more. It takes place through December 24th each year. Kids can take a ride on Santa’s North Pole Express, enjoy warm drinks and treats, and visit Santa. There are also 40 restaurants, shops, and attractions in Icon Park to enjoy. Visitors must have reservations in advance.
Santa’s Wonderland at Bass Pro Shops
Each year, Bass Pro Shops hosts Santa’s Wonderland, providing a free photo with Santa to any child interested. It takes place through December 25th inside both Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s throughout the region. It’s often best to make a reservation online before attending since this can become an in-demand event.
Visit Santa at the Mall
For those looking for a traditional mall experience, several options exist in the area.
The Mall at Millenia
The Mall at Millenia hosts Santa through December 24th during mall hours. Advanced online reservations are necessary for photos or a visit. There’s also a mailbox to drop off wish lists. Those visiting who do not want a professional photo are encouraged to make a donation, which goes to the Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.
Altamonte Mall welcomes Santa for photos through December 24th. The mall encourages people to book an appointment time online to minimize wait times. Santa’s helpers make it fun to meet with Santa and snap a few photos during most mall hours.
The Florida Mall
The Florida Mall also has Santa scheduled for visits each day through December 24th during regular mall hours (though some days may be slighting different). Reservations may be beneficial for this event as well. Photos with Santa are readily available.
The Wall Crawl allows groups to visit with Santa during a semi-private, one-hour experience. There are stories, songs, and photos during the event. This opportunity provides children with more time to interact with Santa. You will need to set up reservations in advance. There are ten holiday-themed walls set up to create unique and fun photos. The event lasts as long as reservations are available.
Chanukah Events in Orlando
Orlando offers a range of Chanukah events to celebrate these rich holiday traditions. Some of the best of these events include the following.
Chanukah Night With the Orlando Magic
Guests who want to see some basketball can buy tickets for Chanukah Night with the Orlando Magic. It’s an opportunity to share the spirit of the holiday and have some fun.
Chanukah at Crayola
Celebrate a colorful Chanukah this year. Chanukah at Crayola is an opportunity for children to have fun with crayons in new ways. The event occurs annually at the Crayola Experience at 8001 S. Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando. Children enjoy songs, crafts, treats, and games as a part of the event.
Chanukah on the Park
A different way to celebrate this holiday is through Chanukah on the Park, sponsored by Chabad of Greater Orlando. The event includes an art acrobat show, a Grand Menorah lighting, a parade, live music, and numerous activities. It all takes place at 150 W. Morse Blvd. in Winter Park without charge to those visiting.
City Events and Parades
Many cities in the Orlando area bring the holidays to life in their own way. It’s hard to list all of the experiences possible, but here are a few favorite events.
Sanford Parade of Lights
The 2021 Parade of Lights takes place at 6 p.m. on December 11th in Downtown Sanford. It’s a fun-filled parade that includes lots of music, lights, and merriment. People line the streets to watch the numerous floats and even trains go by, all with fun themes and displays, most created by local organizations and groups.
69th Annual Winter Park Christmas Parade
The 69th Annual Winter Park Ye Olde Hometown Christmas Parade is one of the most loved annual events in Winter Park each year. The parade involves more than 80 organizations, including local police and fire, scouting groups, marching bands, and many local business leaders. The parade starts at Park Ave. and continues with a turn onto New England Ave. before ending at Hannibal Square.
Winter Park Rotary Holiday Boat Parade
The city of Winter Park also hosts the Winter Park Holiday Boat Parade. It takes place on December 11th at 6 p.m. Visitors gather along Lake Virginia or Dinky Dock Park to watch this boat and dock holiday display. Residents and businesses put on the event, with donations supporting local food pantries.
The Belle Isle Holiday Golf Cart Parade
Cornerstone Charter Academy hosts The Belle Isle Holiday Golf Cart Parade on December 20th at 7:30 p.m. The route stops at two Belle Isle homes. All residents that wish to participate meet in the Cornerstone Charter Academy’s church and depart at 8 p.m. to visit the two selected homes.
City of Longwood Christmas Parade
The Longwood Christmas Parade happens on the 1st Saturday of December each year. It involves local youth groups, the fire department, high school marching band, and other local groups on floats, driving antique cars, and walking. Animal performances, motorcycles, and monster trucks all make their appearance, too, followed by Santa himself.
Orlando Theme Park Holiday Events
Many of the theme parks in Orlando put on their holiday spirit in various ways. Here’s a look at some of the most recognized and fun events to consider a visit. Most require paid admission for the event.
SeaWorld Orlando Christmas Celebration
SeaWorld Christmas Celebration runs through January 2nd. Many of the park’s attractions are operational during the event, but there are other things to enjoy, including more than three million lights around the park. In addition, there’s a Sesame Street Christmas Parade and even ice-skating. Holiday fireworks take place each night, too.
Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort
Universal Studios has some of the most impressive theme park events during the holiday season. Here are some to check out.
Grinchmas at Universal’s Islands of Adventure
Grinchmas brings The Grinch to life, in a good way, for the holidays. The event happens through January 2nd. The park decorates Seuss Landing and brings Who-ville to life. It’s a bit snarky but fun for the whole family. Photo opportunities with the Grinch are available as well.
Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Another of Universal’s theme parks to transform is a favorite of many Muggles. Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter allows guests to enjoy the holiday-themed cheer along Diagon Alley and in Hogsmeade. Both areas have castles that light up with holiday lights. In addition, the Frog Choir and Celestina Warbeck, and the Banshees put on themed shows.
Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s
Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s takes place throughout the park. This parade brings the season to the fullest in a true Macy’s style parade. Larger-than-life balloons float down the streets with characters many recognize and love, including Shrek and Despicable Me.
Colorful Christmas at Crayola Experience Orlando
A visit to Crayola Experience Orlando may be in order for those who want to check out some life-sized animatronics, including Randy the Reindeer and Edwin the Snowman. The event includes a magical light show and fun gifts, including a Christmas cracker and 3D gingerbread ornaments. Running through January 4th, visitors need to buy tickets in advance for this fun event.
Holidays at Legoland Florida
Legoland Florida also puts on a fun holiday-themed event during weekends through the end of December. The giant LEGO Christmas tree is perhaps one of the best parts of this event, but there are also holiday characters, treats, numerous activities, and many lights decorating the park. Seasonal shows are also available. Tickets are necessary to experience the holiday fun.
Best Places to See the “Snow”
Orlando enjoys the snow through the holidays in fun and unique ways. Here are some of the best places to experience it firsthand.
Gaylord Palms Mission: Saving Christmas Featuring Elf
Running through January 2nd, Gaylord Palms Mission: Saving Christmas Featuring Elf is a journey to save the holiday at Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee. This interactive virtual event includes faux snowball fights and a snowball cannon.
Avalon Aglow at Downtown Avalon Park
On December 11th, Avalon Aglow takes place at 5060 River Glen Blvd in Wesley Chapel. The event offers a bounce park, food trucks, lots of vendors, and fake snow, ending with fireworks at 8 p.m.
Oh, What Fun Lake Nona Holiday Festival
At Lake Nona Town Center, the Oh, What Fun Lake Nona Holiday Festival is sure to bring in the faux snow experience and much more. The fun happens through January 2nd. There’s holiday music spread throughout Peppermint Square.
Celebration’s Now Snowing
Celebration Town Center is the perfect place to see the snow during Now Snowing. It runs each night through December 31st. Snow falls throughout the evening as strolling Charles Dickens-style carolers sing. There are photos with Santa and a horse-drawn carriage to enjoy, too.
Unique Things To Do for the Holidays in Orlando
Looking for some more fun to have? Think outside the box. Here are some ideas.
Take the Kids to a Bowl Game
There may not be a better experience than going to a bowl game. The passionate crowds and magnetic energy are hard to match. Check out the Cheez-it Bowl on December 29th at Camping World Stadium. Another fun experience is the Citrus Bowl at Camping World Stadium on January 1st. Cheer on your favorite teams, or just come for the fun.
Stetson Mansion in DeLand
The Stetson Mansion is a historic home worth exploring, transforming into a stunning holiday experience every year. Christmas tours take place daily through January 22nd. Reservations are necessary. Check out the mansion at 1031 Camphor Lane in Deland.
Explore all that Central Florida has to offer throughout the holiday season. These are some of the best things happening, from attractions to exploring all of Orlando through the glittering holiday lights. You surely won’t be disappointed no matter what you and the kids decide to do to get into the cheer of the best time of the year.