9 Ways to Celebrate Christmas in Florida — From Disney Parties to Boat Parades

Trade pine trees for palm trees this Christmas in Florida.

Despite the absence of snow, the Sunshine State is still a very merry place to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. The winter season is a great time to visit Florida because the weather is simply glorious; while northern Florida gets chilly but never snows, South Florida offers mild temperatures and bright, sunny days.

Christmas stocking on palm tree at Crandon beach, Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida

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If you’re sick of the cold weather and are happy to trade pine trees for palm trees, here’s how to celebrate Christmas in Florida.

Related: 15 Holiday Travel Tips for a Less Stressful Festive Season

Lightner Museum and Town Square in St Augustine illuminated at dusk during Christmas

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Go to Nights of Lights in St. Augustine.

St. Augustine is one of the most festive cities in America. Book a stay in St. Augustine during Nights of Lights and enjoy strolling the 500-year-old streets of the nation’s oldest city while it’s glowing with the help of more than three million lights. Aside from seasonal tours via train, trolley, water, or air, you can shop the city’s many boutiques, which are often festooned with seasonal decor, and dine outdoors — yes, even in winter — amidst the lights that illuminate every nook and cranny of this winding, charming city. The display runs from mid-November through the end of January each year. 

St. Augustine has no shortage of charming bed-and-breakfasts, but The Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens, St. Francis Inn, and Historic Sevilla House are especially popular among visitors. Can’t pick? Take the Annual Holiday Bed-and-Breakfast Tour, when more than 20 bed-and-breakfasts open their doors for tours while beautifully decorated in the spirit of Christmas.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse During Christmas at Walt Disney World Resort, Florida

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Attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

It doesn’t get better than the most magical place on Earth at the most wonderful time of the year. The jolliest event of the season, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, takes place on select nights from early November until just before Christmas and includes only-at-Christmastime attractions like Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks Show, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, and Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration at Cinderella Castle. You’ll also enjoy attractions decked out for the season and find special food, drinks, and merch.

While Magic Kingdom is arguably the most magical park to visit at Christmastime, the other Florida parks are also decorated for the occasion (Holidays at Legoland! Epcot International Festival of the Holidays!), so grab a vacation home for a week (or a month) and bring the whole family down to Florida for the season so you can check all the parks off your list. Or, for the full experience, celebrate Christmas at Gaylord Palms and stay amidst stunning holiday decor and the impressive ICE! event.

If you have enough time, you can even hop over to Tampa for a day trip to Busch Gardens’ Christmas Town or head to the annual Now Snowing event in the town of Celebration, where you’ll find nightly “snowfall,” strolling carolers, horse-drawn carriage rides, and even ice skating.

Make sand angels.

If you start feeling green with envy when friends and family post their snaps of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, head straight to the beach and make a few sand angels. You’ll feel better. 

See Sandi Tree in West Palm Beach.

Your town might put up a giant Christmas tree in the middle of Main Street each year, but only in West Palm Beach will you find a 35-foot tree made entirely of sand. With a festive music-and-light display decorating the carved sand, Sandi Tree returns each year as the star of the city’s Holiday in Paradise celebrations, which take over the waterfront in December with fun activations including smaller Christmas-themed sand sculptures, photo ops, light displays, and other holiday happenings.

Still need your tree fix? Hop over to the Christmas tree lighting on glamorous Worth Avenue in Palm Beach. Santa Claus himself has been known to make an appearance during the Christmas parade, usually in an exotic and shockingly expensive car.

Mail your holiday cards from Christmas.

Did you know there’s a town called Christmas in Florida? While there aren’t many attractions to make you want to book a long visit, there is one point of interest that draws many visitors each year: a post office with a stamp cancellation proudly bearing the name of Christmas. If you’re in Florida for the holidays, it’s worth the drive to the tiny town about a half hour from Orlando to mail your holiday cards and ensure each recipient on your list gets an extra-special dose of season’s greetings.

Explore Santa’s Enchanted Forest in Miami.

Forget cozy pajamas and staying home for the holidays. Miami is home to the world’s largest holiday theme park, Santa’s Enchanted Forest, which sports more than 100 rides, shows, games, and other attractions, including Mistletoe Lane, Christmas karaoke, a light show spectacular, life-size holiday displays, Santa’s Mailbox, and more. This year, Santa’s Enchanted Forest is open from Nov. 9 through Jan. 8, 2023. 

If you opt to spend Christmas in Miami, there are other can’t-miss attractions of the season, including holiday evening strolls at the historic Deering Estate, performances of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker at the Miami City Ballet, Zoo Lights Miami, and cinnamon rolls at Knaus Berry Farm, where you will wait in line for at least an hour (but the first bite will prove that it was 100% worth it). 

Annual Christmas Parade Of Boats Floats In Fort Lauderdale, Florida

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Watch a holiday boat parade.

Many big cities and small towns up and down the coasts of Florida put on holiday boat parades. This fun Christmastime activity includes hundreds of holiday-decorated boats parading along a waterway, usually in support of a good local cause. Some of the most popular boat parades in the state include the 12-mile Winterfest Boat Parade in Fort Lauderdale, the Palm Beach Holiday Boat Parade in Jupiter, and the Jacksonville Light Boat Parade along the St. Johns River on Thanksgiving weekend.

Ride the Polar Express.

Florida’s no polar climate, but the Polar Express still makes a stop down south amongst the palm trees. Each year, this fabulously festive train ride takes over the ever-popular Brightline trains for an enchanted ride to and from Brightline’s MiamiCentral Station. The magical re-creation is led by a cast of talented actors and includes hot chocolate and shortbread served by dancing chefs, caroling, a reading of the classic children’s story, and greetings from Santa himself. Wear your cutest Christmas pajamas and bring the whole family.

Surfing Santas of Cocoa Beach, Florida

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See surfing Santas.

This Cocoa Beach tradition is one of the jolliest in Florida. Each year, Surfing Santas — which are exactly what they sound like: a bunch of surfers dressed as Santa — gather on the beach in front of Coconuts on the Beach to hit the waves or paddle around on their SUPs on the morning of Christmas Eve. It’s a sight to behold and a perfectly Floridian way to kick off the holiday.

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