Been bitten by the ba-hum-bug this Christmas season? Trust us, you're not alone there. Nor can we say we blame you. Something about the last couple of years has had us at Uncovering Florida wallowing in the severe lack of holiday cheer over our mugs of expired eggnog.
But are we going to let a little spoiled milk and a bug bite get us down? C-HECK-ered pajamas, no! We deal with the unrelenting assault of mosquitos nibbling at our ankles all year-long, after all.
So we're going to put on our candy cane-striped stockings and hunt for Christmas-y Florida day trips to get you in the Holiday Spirit instead, and we think these 11 destinations and activities deserve a spot on your list — especially if you're looking for some of the best places to see Christmas lights in Florida!
1. Go Snow-Tubing at Snowcat Ridge
First on our list is Snowcat Ridge, Florida's only snow park! While you wouldn't expect to find snow in a state literally nicknamed The Sunshine State, the masterminds behind this winter wonderland gave Floridians the gift of a perfect place to escape the heat and play in the snow while pretending they're from the great white north for a day.
Whether you want to ride in a tube down a 60-foot tall, 400-foot long snow hill, pummel your pals with balls of frozen fury, roll up your very own snowman, skid around an ice rink, or warm up by the fire with a bite to eat from the Alpine Village, you'll have access to it all with just a single admission ticket, which will also save you $5 if purchased online. Snowcat is arguably even more fun at night, as the slopes get lit up with the glow of a nightly light show.
Tickets vary in price depending on which day you go and what time slot you select, with additional add-ons available, including unlimited snow-tubing time, at an upcharge.
2. Ride a Holly Jolly Trolley & Eat Free Sugar Cookies
Previously listed among "The 10 Best Holiday Lighting Displays in the World" by National Geographic Traveler, Old Town Trolley's Nights of Lights Tour will take you on a trip through the city to see the lights lining the city's streets. Sit back, sip complimentary warm apple cider and munch on free sugar cookies while taking in the sights between singing along to your favorite Christmas Carols. You'll also receive a pair of 3D glasses that enhance the lights' twinkle.
The trolley will be running nightly through January 28 of 2023. Tickets are $69.99 for a row, which can seat up to 4 guests. Go with your besties and split the cost for an affordable day-date, go with your babe for a romantic night under the lights, or grab the family and make it a new holiday tradition.
3. Experience "Now Snowing" in Celebration
This event takes over the entire town of Celebration, Florida for the holiday season, giving you the vibe of an old-school northern Christmas by making it "snow" every night at 6 pm. Aside from the whimsy of experiencing snowfall, the town center is lit up by a massive tree, the streets are filled with Charles Dickens-style carolers, and downtown is decked out with all of the Christmas décor. Local shops also go all out to bring in holiday cheer.
Residents of Celebration's Jeater Bend neighborhood coordinate for months to put together a music-synchronized light show that encompasses the block, making it a festive destination for those looking to admire Christmas lights also. The neighborhood also uses the light show to give back to the community, encouraging visitors to support a stocking-full of Florida charities with an optional $5 donation.
4. Explore Lake Eola Park
Whether you're looking to paddle an illuminated lake in a swan boat, admire all the art in the park, hunt for hole-in-the-wall shops for unique gifts, taste the festive fare from local restaurants, venture into Orlando to check out creative bars, like the always cool (literally) Ice Bar, or catch a show at the Walt Disney Amphitheater, there's plenty to be done on a budget around Lake Eola.
The area has a handful of events and shows coming to the park this month too, including movie nights, showing titles such as The Nightmare Before Christmas on December 9 and The Grinch (2018) on December 23, and more.
Other events on the docket include a free holiday rock show from super-string's group, Violectric, on December 10, a dog-friendly farmer's market on December 11, and The Nutcracker performed by The Russian Ballet of Orlando on December 17.
5. Take a Tour of the Illuminated Lighthouse & Checkout the Lights from the Tower
The St. Augustine Lighthouse is already a pretty cool visit for the maritime, paranormal, and history fanatics out there, but their Lighthouse Illuminations: Tides, Tidings, and Trees event just takes it up another notch. Spend an hour and a half exploring the lighthouse's twenty uniquely themed and decorated trees. Then make your way to the Keeper's House and Grounds, decked-out in lights and garland. Wind your way to the top of the lighthouse and get a rare nighttime view of St. Augustine's Nights of Lights display from above.
This event has been known to get busy quick and doesn't take guests at the door, so you're going to need to book your slot in advance by selecting your preferred date highlighted in green from the calendar. Red dates have no remaining availability. Then, select your timeslot that still has room left. Tickets are $19.95 per person.
6. Catch the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade
A bunch of local boats and private yachts putzin' down the waterfront strung-up in all the lights and decorations...while ALSO blasting tunes on a Saturday in December in Fort Lauderdale? This is probably about as "A Very Floridian Christmas" as you can get!
Put on annually, 100 boats all decked out and playing music ranging from Christmas jingles to hard-rock anthems will float down a 12-mile parade route, each showing off their interpretation of this year's theme, "Neon Nightlife Under the Sea" on December 10 at Las Olas Intracoastal Promenade Park.
Starting along the docks of west Stranahan House to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts around 7 pm, they'll then travel eastward along Fort Lauderdale's New River to the Intracoastal Waterway, continuing northbound to Lake Santa Barbara in Pompano Beach. If you want to make it a family event, show up early to enjoy all the amenities on-site before the show — gates open at 4 pm.
The best spot to catch the parade is from the Parade Viewing Area for $25. If you know of another place you can park your booty for free along their route, that's allowed too. But if you're not looking to venture to Ft. Laudy for this one, you can also watch it on TV or live-stream from the comfort of your home or hotel room. Don't forget your Christmas Jammies and the hot cocoa!
7. Make it a Thrilling Christmas at a Theme-Park
Okay, probably one of the more obvious suggestions on this list, but going to a theme-park during the holidays just makes them that much more magical. Between exclusive holiday themed treats, elaborate decorations, shows, and events, you'll have plenty of opportunity to get in that Christmas cheer.
Take to Busch Gardens to choo-choo on the Holly Jolly Holiday Train through the park during their Christmas Town event, taking in millions of twinkling lights — or score a sick view of the lights from above on the world's fastest and steepest hybrid coaster, the Iron Gwazi, instead. You can also enjoy festive shows, holiday treats, up-close animal encounters, and more. Tickets are also 40% off as a part of the park's holiday sale for a limited time.
Hit up Universal Studios to have a Happy Harry Potter Christmas in the streets of Hogsmeade with a hot butterbeer in hand, catch larger-than-life balloon characters and over-the-top-floats at the Holiday Parade, let out your inner Grinch (and get your picture taken with him) after watching The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular show, feast on green eggs and ham at The Grinch Character Breakfast, and much more.
Many people might consider Mickey king when it comes to magic, especially around the holidays. It's hard not to when Disney knows how to go all out with the décor, themed eats, holiday performances, and events year after year. No matter which park you go to, you'll have plenty of Holiday fun to choose from. Though, you may want to make sure that you go out of your way to make it to the Magic Kingdom. It might be the last time you get to speed down Splash Mountain before it closes for good — and gets replaced with a new ride.
Even Disney Springs goes all out, with exclusive holiday and 50th Anniversary Celebration merch worth checking out for the Disney collector on your list, flurries of flavor with seasonal sips and bites, a forest of incredibly decorated trees to wind through (and get a special surprise when you find them all), a meet-n-greet with Santa, live entertainment, and a nightly snowfall that's sure to make it feel like a bon-a-fide Christmas in Florida.
8. Be Enamored with Enchant Christmas at Tropicana Field
Hosted by Hallmark Channel, Enchant is a labyrinth of over 1 million lights that's taken over Tropicana Field, transforming it into a charming Christmas village.
The labyrinth of lights has a story-based element perfect for the kids, encouraging them to don their elf hats and help Santa find the missing parts to his Magic Time Piece, a device that makes it possible for him to deliver everyone's Christmas gifts on time. Adults may even feel like joining in the fun of the hunt knowing there's a vacation on the line. If you collect all 8 Star Timepiece Gears on your Passport, you can turn it in at the Hallmark Channel Holiday House for a chance to win their Hallmark Channel Trip Sweepstakes.
Aside from the massive maze, you can also go ice skating, check some people off your shopping list at the gift market, feast on festive eats and drinks, and take the kids to see Santa. Tickets start at $35 for adults, and $20 for children, with a Night Owl option going for $25 if you don't mind only having the last 2 hours before close to explore. A Family 4-Pack, including 2 adult and 2 children's tickets, is also available, and will save you 20% compared to having purchased them separately. If you're looking to save a little more cash, go in the middle of the week, because kids get in free every Wednesday.
9. Get ICE-y at Gaylord Palms
Following a 2-year break as a result of the pandemic, ICE! returns to Gaylord Palms, filling its halls with over 2-million pounds of How The Grinch Stole Christmas-themed ice sculptures that create 10 scenes, as well as offering tons of other family-friendly holiday fun to be had until January 1 of 2023. Attractions, dazzling decorations, events, and more stretch throughout the resorts' 64-acres — creating a massive winter wonderland for you to explore.
Catch a Christmas-themed Cirque de Soleil performance, admire a light show dance above elaborately themed Christmas trees in the atrium, try to find your way out of the Naughty or Nice escape room, play in the snow and tube down an ice hill at The Snow Factory and Snow Flow Mountain, sip spirits at the Snow Bar Holiday pop-up, go to the Elf Training Academy, make edible gingerbread art at the Gingerbread Decorating Corner, and so much more.
You'll want to wear your coat for this one, since a state of the art cooling system will keep the ice sculptures frozen by maintaining a crisp 9 degrees Fahrenheit. You can learn more about what you can experience at ICE here, as well as book reservations to stay at Gaylord Palms here.
10. Sip up Christmas Spirit at Miracle's Holiday Pop-up Bar
Now through December 23, this one-of-a-kind Holiday pop-up event takes over different businesses to bring in cheer by way of sipping seasonal spirits surrounded by a cozy Christmas vibe. Just look at the event's photo gallery to get a taste of what to expect — we can't help but think it's SO STINKIN' CUTE, and a perfect holiday date-night spot for the couple that considers themselves liquor connoisseurs. Even the cocktails on the menu have cute names, like the "Elfin' Around," "Jingle Balls Nog," "Santa's Little Helper," and "Grandma Got Run Over by a T-Rex" among others.
The concept was birthed in 2014 after owner Greg Boehm's mom have given him the advice to halt construction on his previous cocktail bar venture, transforming the unfinished project into a pop-up bar serving holiday-themed beverages surrounded by over-the-top Christmas décor. Following the swarm at their NYC location, it only went up from there, expanding to 4 locations in 2016, and now enjoyed world-wide.
You'll find Florida's pop-ups for 2022 in Daytona Beach, Delray Beach, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Palm Beach Gardens, Sarasota, St. Augustine, St. Petersburg, and Tavares. Check their website's location page here to find your closest Miracle.
This Holiday Season, the business has also partnered with the Seva Foundation, pledging to donate 10% of the proceeds from the sale of their Santa Pants, Christmas Carol Barrel, and Santa Head Mugs. The Seva Foundation is a global non-profit eye-care organization that works with local communities around the world to develop self-sustaining programs to preserve and restore eyesight. You can find out more about the charity at seva.org.
11. Go Ice Skating & Explore the Winter Village at The Riverwalk
The Riverwalk at Curtis Hixon Park in Tampa is the ultimate family friendly spot to squeeze in some Christmas spirit. They transform the park into a Winter Village, offering ice skating for $17 per person (the price includes the ice skate rental), holiday themed treats at the local eateries, shops and maker-marts to get unique gifts for that hard-to-shop for person on your list, and free milk and cookies while riding on the Winter Village Express around Tampa and singing Christmas carols.
The park also will host a handful of events, some ticketed, including a lighted boat parade, winter wonderland bike rides, Santa sightings a handful of days throughout the month, a free movie on the lawn on December 19, and more.
Didn't see your favorite holiday day-trip tradition on our list or excited to check one of these out? Share it with us in the comments!
Article by Rachael Volpe.