Orlando is already home to some of the most exciting attractions around, so it’s no surprise that Christmas in Central Florida is full of magic and joy. Between the theme parks, attractions, and special events downtown, families have tons of holiday festivities to choose from all month long.
Walt Disney World
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas is the holiday event of the season, running on select evenings at Magic Kingdom until! Join Mickey, Minnie, and more than 15 other Disney characters all dressed up in their best Christmas outfits for an evening of holiday cheer. Joining familiar festivities like Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime parade is a redesigned castle show and special performances of Move It! Shake It! Dance and Play It! that have be re-themed for the holiday season. While some holiday events are restricted to Very Merry Christmas Party evenings, others such as A Frozen Holiday Wish and Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration occur nightly throughout the entire holiday season.
The holiday season began at Hollywood Studios on November 9. In addition to new decorations at Echo Lake, such as giant Christmas trees, colorful garlands, and extra large ornaments, there is a full roster of seasonal entertainment that will be available to enjoy until December 31. A brand new projection show called Sunset Season’s Greetings takes over billboards and the Hollywood Tower Hotel illustrate holiday stories told by Mickey, Minnie, and tons of other beloved Disney characters. For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing A Long gets a special addition for the holiday season, when Olaf joins the show with songs from Olaf’s Frozen Adventures. Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! also returns as the holiday evening spectacular. Special holiday character experiences are available at Once Upon A Toy Shop and Minnie’s Holiday Dine.
The Epcot International Festival of the Holidays (formerly known as Holidays Around the World) kicked off its seasonal celebration on November 19 with festive treats at more than 15 holiday kitchens, an interactive holiday scavenger hunt led by Chip and Dale, and tons of other seasonal surprises sure to make your day very merry! Epcot’s primary holiday fixture, the Candlelight Processional, started its run on November 24 and continues through December 30 featuring both new and returning celebrity narrators. Holiday evenings at Epcot end with a special edition of the Illuminations: Reflections of Earth fireworkds spectacular.
Disney Springs has brought back several Christmas favorites for the holiday season, including the Trail of Christmas Trees that leads to Santa’s Chalet. This year the trail is longer than ever with 25 uniquely decorated trees, including 10 special trees with decorations inspired by Disney classics like Dumbo, Snow White, Peter Pan, and Sleeping Beauty. At Santa’s Chalet, guests can give Santa their wish lists and pose for photos until December 24 when he goes back to the North Pole for the big night. Stitch’s Holiday Gift Hunt is back with an expanded scavenger hunt featuring four new stops including a special stop at the Christmas Tree Trail. The iconic Coca-Cola Polar Bear will be hanging out upstairs at the Coca-Cola store for a special Christmas meet and greet.
Universal Orlando Resort
Holiday festivities begin at Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure on November 18, and the celebration of the season continues through January 6, 2018. With a brand new line-up of seasonal Daily access to the festivities is included in regular park admission prices. Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter includes decorated store fronts, holiday food and drinks in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, performances by The Frog Choir and Celestina Warbeck, and a new projection show on the Hogwarts Castle to end the night. The Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s has more than a dozen new balloons and over 15 floats, some featuring new characters. In Seuss Landing guests can celebrate Grinchmas with the Who-Liday Spectactular and Breakfast with the Grinch and Friends. Mannheim Steamroller is back on the Music Plaza stage on select nights throughout the holiday season.
Busch Gardens began its transformation into Christmas Town on November 19. Surrounded by millions of twinkling lights, guests can explore a holiday wonderland full of fun for the whole family from special holiday shows and characters to hanging out at Santa’s House. This year, Sam the Snowman joins Rudolph, Clarice, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster and Yukon Cornelius for meet and greets in Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland. While in Celestial Crossing, guests can also play holiday games and enjoy festive treats while scenes from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer come to life. Inside Christmas Town Village, guests can enjoy yuletide carols, train rides, shop local artisan booths, and try tons of special holiday foods. You can purchase a 5 or 10 item Christmas Town Sampler, valid at any participating restaurant or try the limited time items a la carte. There are also several seasonal shows, including Elmo’s Christmas Wish, Christmas on Ice, Christmas from the Heart, and many more. Busch Gardens’ holiday celebrations run until December 31.
As Thankgsiving ends, Christmas begins at SeaWorld Orlando. The holiday festivities started on November 24 and run daily until December 31. Included with regular admission, guests can enjoy all their favorite shows with a special holiday twist, get exclusive meet and greet opportunities with Santa and his friends, and get a glimpse at unique seaside decorations. Holiday shows include O Wondrous Night, Shamu’s Christmas Miracles, Witner Wonderland on Ice, Elmo’s Christmas Wish, and Clyde and Seamore’s Countdown to Christmas. Bayside Walkway is taken over by The Christmas Market, whose backdrop is the incredible Sea of Trees. The Market features a model train village, holiday food and drinks, music and other live entertainment. Guests can also meet Santa, Rudolph, and other friends around the park. Seaworld’s Christmas Celebration is included with regular park admission. Browse discount SeaWorld Orlando tickets here.
LEGOLAND Florida Resort
LEGOLAND’s Christmas Bricktacular fills the park with festive fun each weekend in December, starting December 2-3. Sparkling lights, occasional snow flurries, and decorations including a giant LEGO Christmas tree set the mood for the holiday season while interactive activities and special meet and greets make the Bricktacular unforgettable. Guests can get into the spirit by participating in a holiday themed scavenger hunt and LEGO building activities, or pose for the perfect holiday photo with LEGO Santa and LEGO toy soliders.
I-Drive Dazzles take place every evening starting December 1 with the I-Drive Holiday Tree Lighting at Pointe Orlando. Starting at 6 PM, guests can enjoy special live entertainment, dining and shopping discounts, free 3D holiday glasses and free photos with Santa before the official lighting of the 50 foot holiday tree.
At the Orlando Eye, guests can enjoy a special light show with festive music at 8 PM every night and again at 10 PM on Fridays and Saturdays, along with lots of other special holiday entertainment starting December 1. The Christmas celebration ends on December 30.
Christmas arrived at Leu Gardens on November 12 with Christmas at the Leu House, a 30 minute tour of the historic estate that has been festively redecorated for the holiday season. Local interior designers decorated the 11 room estate to reflect their signature style while keeping in line with the time period of the home, creating an ode to Christmas past with classic holiday ornaments and other vintage touches. Tours occur frequently throughout the day from 10 am to 3:30 pm until January 3, 2018 and are included with regular admission to the gardens.
Gaylord Palms has become just as much a holiday fixture in Orlando as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, due to the ICE! phenomenon. In its 15th year, the winter wonderland’s theme is ICE! Featuring Christmas Around the World, representing the United Kingdom, Mexico, Germany, and many other countries around the world. Included among the holiday scenes and sculptures depicting diverse holiday traditions and two-story ice slides are the North Pole, Santa’s Toy Shop, and a crystal ice Nativity scene.
Just outside of ICE! is Alpine Village, a bustling marketplace where guests can enjoy shops, seasonal food and beverages, and even take photos with Santa inside his workshop. Also in Alpine Village is real snow, perfect for throwing snowballs at targets in Santa’s Snow Throw or for flying down an 8-lane hill in a snow tube. At night, snow tubing becomes cosmic tubing with flashing LED lights and upbeat holiday music. Guests can sit in on Mrs. Claus’ Christmas Traditions, in which Santa’s other half leads a 30 minute sing-a-long before sharing warm cookies and milk with the audience or decorate their own holiday treats in the Gingerbread Decorating Corner. With the help of gingerbread friends Cinnamon and Nutmeg, kids can decorate their own gingerbread house or themed cookie kit to take home.
Other holiday activities around the resort include a Build A Bear Workshop scavenger hunt to find Snowburst the Gaylord Hotels’ teddy bear and his buddies on their quest to make sure Gaylord Palms is properly decorated for the holidays and Cirque Dreams Unwrapped, a 25 minute show on the Atrium Stage. The high flying adventure, set in a timeless winter wonderland, includes unique acts and costumes. The hotel’s massive Christmas tree, located in the atrium, performs a nightly show called Joyful that features millions of dancing lights choreographed to a festive musical score.
The massive resort’s holiday festivities run daily through January 7, 2018.
Lake Eola Park
The City of Orlando’s Annual Tree Lighting Celebration kicks off the holiday event schedule at Lake Eola on December 1 from 5-9 pm. The free event takes place at the park’s Walt Disney Amphitheater, complete with live performances, food from TheDailyCity.com Food Truck Bazaar, and a countdown to the lighting of the 72-foot Christmas Tree.
On December 2, the festivities continue with a holiday concert from the Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra. The orchestra’s 8th annual holiday benefit concert supporting the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Network begins at 6:00 PM on stage at the Walt Disney Amphitheater. Admission to the charity concert is free, but a monetary donation to the Salvation Army is suggested.
What’s Up Downtown for the Holidays takes over the Walt Disney Amphitheater on December 7, beginning at 11:45 AM and ending at 1:15 PM. Guests can pack a picnic lunch and head to Lake Eola Park for free performances from the Russian Ballet Orlando, Mad Cow Theatre, Docs & Dellas, Dr. Philips Center’s Premiere Performance Ensemble, and Howard Middle School’s jazz band and show choir.