While up north Christmas is all about shoveling snow and hot cocoa, in Florida we do things a little bit differently. While the weather does get cooler around December, it rarely hits temperatures that will have you reaching for the hat and mittens.
If you are looking for festive activities this holiday season that don’t involve cold weather or snow, come south for the winter. There’s so much to do in Florida for Christmas, you’ll be glad you did!
1. Check Out Sandi
While the Rockefeller tree gets all the glory, we have our own version right in West Palm Beach, Florida. Sandi is the 700 ton, 35-foot tall sand tree that’s built every year and decorated with lights. There is a lighting ceremony with bands and other festivities, as well as mini-golf and a sand sculpture garden.
There is a ton to do in West Palm Beach around Christmastime. Come for Sandi and stay for the gay bars and bustling arts district, Pineapple Grove.
2. See A Boat Parade
There are many boat parades in Florida – they’re great fun and definitely an essential part of the Florida holiday season. No matter where you are in the state, you’re sure to find one near you.
If you are planning on seeing a boat parade, plan ahead! It’s tricky to drive around because drawbridges will be up for the parade.
Some of the best views come from restaurants on the water. Be sure to reserve in advance because slots fill up quickly.
3. Party With Mickey Mouse
Disneyworld is a wonderful place to be at Christmas. Yes, you can be a part of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, with special seasonal celebrations and festive decor everywhere. Keep in mind that Christmas is a popular time to visit Florida theme parks, so reserve your tickets early and expect crowds.
4. Deck The Chairs With Boughs Of Holly
If you are looking for an original Florida experience, then head over to Jacksonville and check out the Deck The Chairs art exhibit. This public art display opens around Thanksgiving and typically runs until New Year’s.
Deck The Chairs is a charity event to raise money for arts education in Florida. Local businesses and other interested parties get together every year to decorate lifeguard chairs. It also features live shows and concessions, so it’s definitely a great place to visit.
5. Host or Attend A Bar Crawl
Why not be a little naughty this Christmas? A bad Santa Bar Crawl might be just the thing if you are looking for an alternative to the traditional fancy dinner. To commemorate the season, why not make some new friends and get a little tipsy at the same time? You can also check out similar events in Ocala and Fort Lauderdale.
6. Watch A Lightshow
Instead of staying indoors, Floridians like to go out for the holidays. The weather is excellent this time of year, especially in the cool evenings. This is the perfect time to take in a light show.
There are several light shows and Christmas village displays all over Florida. Mt. Dora has a charming lights festival with special events every weekend. St. Augustine Florida is especially famous for its gorgeous Christmas lights – you don’t miss the Night Of Lights where the whole Old Town is decked out in a dazzling display!
7. Take In A Movie In The Park
There are many ways to take advantage of the glorious Florida weather, and one is to watch movies in the park. If you happen to be in the St. Pete Clearwater area, then you can take in a holiday movie in Horan park. There are also a ton of holiday movies playing around Orlando, so grab your picnic blanket and check out your local listings.
8. See Some Mermaids
That’s right, mermaids! Watch mermaids perform a show at the Weeki Wachee National Park. It’s a full show with music and coordinated underwater dancing.
9. Spend Christmas At Universal Studios
Disneyworld isn’t the only theme park in town. If you want to spend the holidays in Orlando, why not spend Christmas at Universal Studios instead? With promos and parades, spending the day at Universal would be a total (fun) deviation from the usual Christmas plan.
There are special seasonal shows all over the parks. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is especially magical this time of year.
10. Shop At A Christmas Market
Ditch the mall and look for one-of-a-kind gifts from local artisans and vendors. Check out your local listing for Christmas markets that pop up around Florida cities. One of the most festive markets is the Christkindlmarkt which is run by the German Club of Miami.
11. Play In The Fake Snow At Snowfest
In case you do miss the snow, Florida has something even better. There are places where we make our own snow, so it’s always perfectly powdery – never the grey slush that snow can turn into after a while. Naples has a family-friendly snowfest with a variety of activities, games, and rides for attendees of all ages.
The Sundial in St Pete also hosts nightly snow shows. And you can walk under a snowscape at the Dunedin holiday festival and parade.
12. Hang Out At The Beach
It’s Florida! Go out and enjoy the marvelous beaches, the humidity is low and the weather is gorgeous. You might as well take advantage and spend the holidays at the beach. Who says that this season can’t be sandy instead of snowy?
If you happen to be in Cocoa Beach – which isn’t too far from Orlando – you can even catch the Surfing Santas who congregate there every year. It’s become a big event with a costume contest and hundreds of surfing Santas.
There are tons of ways to spend Christmas. While there are some great traditions up north like skiing and tobogganing, you can still get into the holiday spirit in Florida without the sub-zero temperatures.
We Floridians know how to have a good time around Christmas. Give Florida a chance and explore the south for the winter!
***Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate or sponsor links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful).
Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.