Ho-Ho-Holidays In Florida – Christmas Is Not Just One Day!
By Georgina Cruz
Florida is always ready to party, and when it comes to marking Christmas it does not limit itself to just one or two days but starts celebrating big time in November and festivities often continue through January. Among what is planned for this coming season in several cities, resorts and theme parks are special activities and attractions, majestic Christmas trees, and twinkling lights galore.
Here is some of what’s on tap in some popular Florida destinations:
St. Augustine – The Nights of Lights illuminate the Plaza de la Constitución in the Old City and the historic district with three million lights from Nov. 23 to Jan. 31. “The historic district looks like something out of a fairy tale,” said Kitty Parker of Vero Beach. Other events of the season include an annual Christmas parade. Info: https://www.visitstaugustine.com/event/nights-lights.
Lake Buena Vista/Orlando – The resorts at Walt Disney World celebrate the season to the max with impressive Christmas trees, millions of sparkling lights, poinsettias, garlands and other decorations including gingerbread houses. Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is a dream in Victorian style and magnificently decorated for the holidays with a lovely Christmas tree and a 16-foot-tall gingerbread house in the lobby. This house requires 800 pounds of flour, 600 pounds of sugar and 1,050 pounds of honey to construct and it sports a chimney that “smokes” every so often. And in case the sight of so much sweetness tempts you there is a kiosk on the back of the house that sells gingerbread treats.
The Grand Floridian is on the monorail line to the Magic Kingdom that is also decorated to the nines for the holidays with millions of lights, Christmas trees including a 70-foot one on Main Street U.S.A., poinsettias and Cinderella Castle illuminated with more than 300,000 dazzling white lights that give it the impression of being an ice castle.
Special events at Disney World include Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in the Magic Kingdom with “snowfalls” on Main Street and a holiday parade with the beloved Disney characters and Santa Claus himself; and the Candlelight Processional in Epcot with an orchestra, massive choir and celebrity narrators including Pat Sajack of “Wheel of Fortune,” who tell the legend of Christmas. Info: www.disneyworld.com.
Another option in Lake Buena Vista/Orlando is Holiday Happenings at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin resort in the area of Epcot. This resort offers a variety of activities and festive events in November and December with appearances by Santa (dressed for the tropics) and Mrs. Claus and their favorite elf, Kandy Kane; tree lighting ceremonies with Mrs. Claus in the lobby of the Dolphin on select nights, and meet-and-greets with Santa and Mrs. Claus on select nights. Other attractions include a 2,000-pound life-sized chocolate sculpture of Santa Claus (possibly the world’s largest chocolate sculpture) and there is a festive chimney, Christmas tree, play train set and seven-foot-tall Nutcracker on display in the lobby of the Swan during December. Info: www.santasfavoriteresort.com.
Key West – The Annual Key West Holiday Fest presents a variety of events in December including lighted bike rides, photos with Santa Claus and visits to old inns decorated for the season. The Old City’s decorations include lighted lobster traps in the shape of a Christmas tree. Info: https://fla-keys.com/calendar/all/key-west/201912/.
Kissimmee – The magic of the holiday season comes to Gaylord Palms Resort from the end of November to early January each year. The resort is dressed to the nines in Christmas décor including more than six million lights, poinsettias, a 54-foot-tall Christmas tree and other decorations. ICE! is a popular attraction with themed ice sculptures of almost two million pounds in weight sculpted by hand. This year’s theme is “The Polar Express.” There are stations to observe some of the ice sculptors from China at work. Other activities at Gaylord Palms include eight slides in 18-foot-high snow hills at Alpine Rush Snow Tubing, live shows, and gingerbread decorating. Info: www.ChristmasAtGaylordPalms.com.
Christmas on the high seas from Florida – During sailings to the Bahamas and the Caribbean of Disney Cruise Line ships from Florida ports in November and December, there are Very Merrytime Cruises. These itineraries boast Christmas decorations including a 24-foot-tall Christmas tree and a big gingerbread house, themed activities and entertainment including gingerbread house decorating and tree-lighting ceremonies, appearances by Santa and Mrs. Claus, meet-and-greets with Disney characters in their holiday finery, and many festivities for the whole family. Info: www.disneycruise.com.