The Most Festive Things to Do in Orlando during the Holidays

Orlando Christmas Events 2021. “What parks are you going to?” asked everyone when we mentioned we were heading to Florida for Christmas. And to their utter dismay, we answered, “None.”

It may come as a surprise to some, but there are other things to do in Orlando besides the theme parks. Especially during the holidays!

Here are some festive and fun – some even free, Christmas events in Orlando that don’t involve long lines or high costs.

Click here to read my other things to do in Orlando in December for adults or families!

Top 10 Things to Do in Orlando, Florida for Christmas besides Disney World. #orlando #christmas #florida
Orlando Christmas events 2021 – Save the Pin on Pinterest for future reference! 

It’s the busiest time of year so don’t forget to make reservations or have a plan for dining, see my article on What Restaurants are Open on Christmas in Orlando.

1. Night of a Million Lights

For the second year in a row, Give the Kids the World Village is opening its doors to outside visitors. Throughout the year, the nonprofit resort usually provides free vacations to families with critically ill children but had to close during the pandemic.

The entire property is transformed into an Orlando Christmas village to raise money for future trips. 

The resort, geared toward children, is whimsical itself with a mushroom-capped enchanted carousel, castle of miracles, and Willy Wonka-inspired buildings, but for the holidays the village adds 3.3 million lights for a festive affair you will not want to miss!

Where: 210 South Bass Road, Orlando, Florida.

When: November 14th to January 2rd from 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM.

Cost: Ticket prices vary based on the day: $25 – $40 for adults and $15 – $20 for kids. Purchase tickets here. 

Related: Super Fun & Unique Day Trips from Orlando

2. Lights on Jeater Bend

A spectacular synchronized music and light display on Jeater Bend in the town of Celebration. So if you’ll be in Orlando during Christmas break, park your car and walk along the street for a dazzling show between neighbors.

Christmas lights sparkle in unison with the houses across the street, dancing to the music on the loudspeaker.

Santa with his bag of toys passes by a window, he looks so real I stop because I thought it was the owner of the house peeking out for a second. Olaf pops up on a large screen right before snow flurries start. It is a magical street!

Since we didn’t see much when driving down the street during the day, we almost didn’t come back at night. I’m so glad we did.

Our Christmas lights Orlando tradition always includes a stop at Jeater Bend now.

Red and green Christmas lights on Jeater Bend, a street in Celebration.
The lights and decorations on Jeater Bend, the most festive street in Celebration!

Where: 1033 Jeater Bend Drive, Celebration, Florida.

When: Thanksgiving to December 31st from 6:00 PM to 9:30 PM.

Cost: Free

Tip: To avoid crowds, try to visit weekdays.

3. Dazzling Nights at Harry P. Leu Gardens

Another new event is Dazzling Nights at the Harry P. Leu Gardens. And dazzling it is indeed. 

An ornamental Christmas tree will greet your family before entering a forest of fog and lights with a small chance of snow. Wander through a 65-foot tunnel of lights, 185 colorful Moroccan lanterns, and an illuminated rose garden while dancing to holiday tunes. It’s a surefire way to kickstart the Christmas vibes this year. 

Where: 1920 N Forest Avenue, Orlando, Florida.

When: November 19th – January 9th, timed entry between 5:30 pm and 9:00 pm. 

Cost: $25 per person, must be purchased online in advance. Plus $12 per car for parking. 

4. Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail

The Christmas Tree Trail at Disney Springs will return for Christmas in Orlando 2021!

Expect at least two dozen holiday trees each decorated for a different Disney character or theme with a few special additions inspired by “The World’s Most Magical Celebration!”

On our strolls in previous years, we saw Star Wars, Little Mermaid, Toy Story, Snow White, and Beauty and the Beast to name a few. 

You’ll also find Mickey Mouse-shaped pretzels, holiday drinks, and seasonal ornaments along the walk, and don’t be surprised if you get snowed on!

Tip: Attention any military folks, most restaurants offer discounts so don’t forget to ask.

Where: 1486 Buena Vista Drive, Orlando, Florida near the Once Upon a Toy store.

When: Daily from November 12th through the beginning of January.

Cost: Free

Christmas Lights Orlando 2021
Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail in Florida.
If you're heading to Florida for Christmas, do not miss the Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail.
The Fantasia Tree on Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail.

5. Orlando Christmas Boat Parades

What is there to do in Orlando at Christmas? Lots, that’s what! One of the unique things are Christmas boat parades; floating celebrations of merriment and cheer!

Orlando Christmas 2021 Where and When:

  • December 4th at 6:00 PM, Dunedin, runs from Marker 1 Marina, south along the intracoastal to Union St, returns north to Dunedin Marina. Boats arrive at Dunedin Marina at approximately 7:00 pm. Limited viewing at Weaver Park and along Bayshore Blvd and Edgewater Drive. 
  • December 4th at 6:30 PM, Winter Haven Chain of Lakes, the parade travels from Lake May to Howard, back to May, then onto Lake Shipp. 
  • December 4th at 7:00 PM, downtown Mount Dora, beginning at the Lighthouse across from Gilbert Park on Tremain Street and Liberty Street.
  • TBD, Orlando Christmas Paddle 2020, Grills Lakeside Seafood Deck & Tiki.
  • December 11th at 6:00 PM, Apollo Beach near 1250 Apollo Beach Boulevard. 
  • December 11th at 6:00 PM, Cocoa Beach, starting at Mile Marker 101 near Centennial Park on State Road 520, ending at Cocoa Beach Golf Course. Best places to watch: Sunset Cafe, Wildlife Watersports, End of S. Banana River Blvd, and Cove Park. 
  • December 11 at 6:00 PM, Deland near 1889 Hontoon Road. The community party starts at 4 PM. 
  • December 11th at 6:30 PM, Cape Canaveral begins near the Humpback Bridge Saturday at dusk and proceeds through the residential canals of Sykes Creek and ends to the north near the SR 258 (Beachline) Bridge. 
  • December 17th at 8:00 PM, South Lake Conway, at the Southside of the Nela Bridge and will run clockwise.
  • December 18th at 7:30 PM, Middle Lake Conway, at the Sand Bar (SE Corner of Middle Lake) and will run clockwise around the center lake.
  • December 19th at 7:00 PM, North Lake Conway, at ‘the Point’ on (North) Little Lake Conway and will run clockwise.
  • TBD, annual Winter Park at Rollins College Beach Front and Student Center; Dinky Dock. 

Cost: Free

Other Awesome Places to Celebrate Christmas in the U.S.


6. Now Snowing Celebration Town Center

Close your eyes, hold hands, and wish for snow. Even if it’s a 70-degree Florida night with palm trees overhead, in the town of Celebration the magic of believing will make it happen.

No one cares that it is machine-made snoap falling from the sky. The kids will squeal with delight as tiny soap bubbles snowflakes land on their noses as they dance around to Christmas music playing from the speakers.

During the Now Snowing Celebration, you can go ice skating, take a Cinderella-style horse-drawn carriage ride around town, or hop on a train to see all the Christmas lights.  

Tip: Visit the charming town of Celebration during the day as well if you have time. There are a few restaurants, a cool hotel, and a mile and a half boardwalk around a lake and through nature.

Where: Celebration Town Center, Florida.

When: November 27th – December 31st, Nightly – Snow falls at various times between 5pm and 9pm. 

Cost: Free to walk around, additional fees for ice skate rentals or rides. 

Celebration Town Center decorated for Christmas with a tree, garland, and ribbons.
Celebration Town Center closes the main street and sets up a Christmas tree with other decorations outside the shops and restaurants.

7. Check Out a Resort or Two

At Christmas in Orlando, many of the Walt Disney World resorts go above and beyond with decorations and lights. The Wilderness Lodge is ranked #1 for many travelers with its rustic feel and roaring fireplaces.

The Grand Floridian has a life-size gingerbread house with a sweet shop inside! You can find gingerbread ornaments, cookies, and miniature gingerbread houses, all made using a classic gingerbread recipe from Austria.

Where: The Wilderness Lodge, 901 Timberline Drive, Orlando, Florida

Where: The Grand Floridian, 4401 Floridian Way, Lake Buena Vista, Florida

When: The month of December

Cost: 3 hours complimentary parking if you have restaurant reservations at most hotels or you can take public transportation.

Tip: The piano player at the Floridian starts at 3 PM daily and a prince and princess come out at 3:30 PM for a waltz every day except for Tuesdays.

Where to find Christmas lights Orlando edition including Walt Disney World resorts.
A piano player inside the gorgeous Grand Floridian at Christmas.
Orlando is not just for theme parks, check out these 10 festive things to do including the Grand Floridian hotel!
Gingerbread House at the Grand Floridian in Orlando.

Get Your Guide is a great company that offers discounted tours and attraction tickets. One of the most unique tours out of Orlando is the Swim with Manatees Tour which is an all day excursion. Did you know Crystal River (which is under two hours away from Orlando) is one of the few places in the WORLD where you can swim with these amazing creatures? If you book through our site, at no additional cost to you, you’ll help us support the blog since we receive a small commission. Read about our experience swimming with the adorable underwater sea cows here

Other unique tours they offer from Orlando:

8. Disney Holiday Fireworks from Outside the Park

You don’t necessarily have to be at a Walt Disney World theme park to enjoy the fireworks display. Our favorite location is the Grand Floridian’s pier where you can see the Electrical Water Pageant and Magic Kingdom’s fireworks above the lake.

A great option on a cold night (that does happen on occasion in Florida!) is eating at Narcoossee’s, their signature restaurant known for its seafood. You’ll feel like part of the show when you hear the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular music and accompanying narration come on overhead.

Other Locations Outside the Park to See Fireworks

Where: The Grand Floridian, 4401 Floridian Way, Lake Buena Vista, Florida

When: Check Magic Kingdom’s fireworks schedule for times.

Cost: 3-hour complimentary parking if you have restaurant reservations at most hotels or you can take public transportation.

9. Cirque: Spirit of Christmas

A 25-minute interactive show chock full of whimsical costumes, colorful characters, daring showmanship, and entertaining theatrics. 

Arrive fifteen to twenty minutes early to check-in and see the Dreams of Christmas Light Show above the stage.

Where: Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center, 6000 W Osceola Pkwy, Kissimmee, FL

When: November 19th – January 2rd, 1:00 PM and 6:30 PM Monday – Friday, 1:00 PM, 6:30 PM, and 8:00 PM Saturday and Sunday.

Cost: Prices vary based on type of seat and time of show. Adults $11.99 – 29.99, Child (4 – 11) $4.99 – $19.99. Tickets have been released and must be reserved for all shows.

Parking Fee unless validated by a restaurant or Guaranteed Seating available for a fee. Purchase tickets here. 

Tip: Arrive early and try to go on a weekday to avoid crowds.

Gaylord Palms Christmas 2021 events include Cirque: Spirit of Christmas
Looking for things to do in Orlando besides the theme parks? Check out these 10 festive places to go!
Cirque Dreams at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando.

NOTE: Due to current restrictions for international travel keeping the artisans from the states, the Gaylord Palms Orlando Christmas ICE display will not be returning. 

10. Snow Flow Mountain

Gaylord Palms Resort creates a one-of-a-kind experience each holiday season. Last year’s pop-up theme was the movie, A Christmas Story, and this year they have created a Snow Factory where you can tube down ice slides and hilly ice coasters.

Where: Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center, 6000 W Osceola Pkwy, Kissimmee, Florida.

When: November 19th – January 2nd

Cost: $21.99 per person plus tax, purchase tickets in advance online.  Purchase Discounted Tickets here.

Top things to do in Orland besides Walt Disney World during Christmastime.
Ice slide at Gaylord Palms in Orlando just like in the movie A Christmas Story!

3 Places to Visit if You Love the Movie, A Christmas Story

11. Send your Holiday Cards from Christmas, Florida

Is there a Christmas town in Florida? I know there is a town in Indiana called Santa Claus but only recently found out about Christmas.

There’s not much going on in town, but a unique thing to do is to bring your letters and cards to the local post office around the holidays to get postmarked with an official and special stamp and logo.

It’s Always Christmas in Christmas, Florida!

12. Bok Tower Gardens

If you enjoy getting out in nature a bit, head south to the tranquil Bok Tower Gardens, known as America’s Taj Mahal.

Not only does it have a “singing” tower with a 60-bell carillon, but beautiful gardens and a 1930s Mediterranean-style mansion decked out in Christmas decorations as well.

Where: Bok Tower Gardens, 1151 Tower Boulevard, Lake Wales, Florida.

When: November 23rd – January 6th.

Cost: $15.00 for adults and $5.00 for children.

Tip: Concerts are held at 1 PM and 3 PM daily.

Things to do in Orlando in December for adults include a visit to Bok Tower Gardens.
Christmas at Bok Tower Gardens is beautiful.
Orlando is not just for theme parks, check out these 10 festive things to do including Bok Tower and Gardens!
Christmas Display at Pinewood Estate

13. Eola Wonderland Christmas Tree Show

Situated on the banks of Lake Eola, watch as Orlando’s 72-foot Christmas tree awakens every night to music and lights up with red, blue, green, and gold lights. 

Where: Lake Eola Park in Downtown Orlando.

When: November 30th through Jan. 5th at 5:45 PM, 6:45 PM, 7:45 PM, 8:45 PM and 9:45 PM daily.

Cost: Free as long as you park along Eola Drive.

Orlando Christmas is not complete without a visit to see Lake Eola's Christmas tree.
Eola Wonderland Christmas Tree Show.

14. Holidays at Old Town

Walking down the brick-paved streets of Old Town will bring you back to a simpler time. Festive decorations are strung up throughout the area, along with a 40-foot traditional Christmas tree. 

The strip is a great place to find some special gifts. Extreme Woodcrafts offers puzzle boxes, frames, aircraft models, and more. There is retro memorabilia from the Forties, Fifties, and Sixties at the Wound ‘N Around. And there are a few stores that carry Disney apparel, souvenirs, and toys. 

On the weekends, you can experience family-friendly events with live music, fluffy “snow” falling on the streets, and car shows and cruising. 

Where: Old Town in Kissimmee

When: November 23rd – December 25th

Cost: Free.

One of the fun things to do in Orlando for Christmas is to visit Old Town in Kissimmee.
Old Town Christmas in Kissimmee.

15. Lake Nona Lights

Two neighbors started the tradition by trying to create a “killer light show.” As the years pass by, they add more and more and have been deemed one of the best light displays in Central Florida. 

Where: East Park Subdivision off of Narcoossee Rd. at 9800 Old Patina Way in the Lake Nona area of Orlando Florida.

When: November 26th – December 31st, Sunday – Thursday 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm and Friday & Saturday 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm.

Cost: Free.

16. Light Up the Holidays in Altamonte Springs

Walk the trail in Cranes Roost Park to find a choreographed fountain with synchronized dancing water and lights, 200,000 lights on over 100 displays, and an oh-so-merry 60-foot Christmas tree.

Events throughout the season also include live holiday music, Santa appearances, and outdoor holiday movie nights. 

Where: 274 Cranes Roost Blvd, Altamonte Springs

When: November 26th – January 3rd, Nightly at Dusk. 

Cost: Free.

17. Stetson Mansion in DeLand

Explore elaborately decorated rooms at the historic Stetson Mansion, one of the top attractions and holiday home tours in all of Florida.

Self-guided tours of the luxury estate of the inventor of the cowboy hat, John B. Stetson, will be offered during the 10th annual Christmas Spectacular! Expect over the top light displays and extravagant ornamentation.

Where: 1031 Camphor Lane, DeLand

When: November 1st – January 22nd.

Cost: $30 per person, plus taxes.

18. Jolly Creek Holiday Festival

Last year the Jolly Creek Holiday Festival and Marketplace took place in Kissimmee, but 2021 dates have not been confirmed yet. You can pick up gifts, see it snow, make crafts, eat s’mores, meet Santa, experience live music performances, and more. 

Where: Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures, 2001 E Southport Rd, Kissimmee.

When: Select nights from November 20th to December 13th, 2020. Then daily from December 18th to January 2nd, 2021.

Cost: Festival Only $10 for Children under 13 and $18.99 for adults. Festival plus an Airboat Ride $31.50 for children under 10 and $36 for adults. 

19. Oh, What Fun! Festival

Enjoy live shows, holiday-themed pop-ups, Christmas trees, food trucks, and arts and crafts in Peppermint Square. Plan a visit to the Oh, What Fun! Festival on weekends to find the Peppermint Forest Tree Lot, Santa’s Cottage, Kid’s Craft Village, DJ Peppermint & The Snow Squad Dance Party, and Peppermint the Penguin. 

Where: Lake Nona Town Center

When: Select nights starting at 5pm from November 26th to January 2nd.

Cost: Free.

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3 Responses

  1. CAROLE

    Loved this list for fun things to do in Orlando at the holidays.
    Looking for a special outing for some seniors locally.
    Would love to see you add the Christmas display at the Stetson Mansion in Deland, FL. It is incredible and one of the best holiday displays in the country.

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