The Holidays are Wonder-full in Florida
By Georgina Cruz
As if by magic, majestic Christmas trees, myriad lights and other decorations, “snowfalls,” festive celebrations, delicious meals and treats appear in Florida each year beginning in some cases, in early November. Even in this time of pandemic, Florida is ready to celebrate the magic of the season with protocols, and a variety of events are on tap in various cities, resorts and theme parks featuring wonder-ful happenings, special attractions, light displays, and seasonal décor.
Below are some noteworthy events in popular destinations in Florida. Dates, as with all special events, are subject to change, so it is always a good idea to verify before planning travel.
St. Augustine – The annual Nights of Lights illuminate the Plaza de la Constitución and other points of the historic Old City with three million twinkling lights from Nov. 20 to Jan. 31. The result of the shimmering lights on the colonial architecture is fairy-tale-like. Trolleys and other tourist transportation is available for touring the illuminated historic center. Info: https://www.visitstaugustine.com/event/nights-lights.
Florida Keys – Among the festivities in the Florida Keys are boat parades with yachts and other craft decorated and illuminated as a nod to the holiday season. Among these events is the Key Largo Boat Parade at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 11 on Mile Marker 104. The theme for the 2021 Key Largo Boat Parade is “Naughty-cal & Nice.” Info: https://www.keylargoboatparade.com/.
Kissimmee – The magic of the holiday season is alive and well at Gaylord Palms Resort from Nov. 19 to Jan. 2. The resort is decorated with more than two million lights, poinsettias, and a 54-foot Christmas tree. Activities at Gaylord Palms include snow tubing, live entertainment, photos with Santa Claus, and gingerbread cookies and gingerbread house decorating. ICE! the popular attraction with two million pounds of ice sculptures, which was cancelled last year, had to be cancelled again for 2021 due to international travel restrictions that impact the artisans who create it. Info: www.ChristmasAtGaylordPalms.com.
Lake Buena Vista – In addition to the season’s festivities, Disney World is marking its 50th Anniversary this year, so more magic is afoot with new attractions and shows in the theme parks. And both the parks and resorts of Disney World, as well as Disney Springs with its shopping, entertainment and dining, celebrate the season with majestic Christmas Trees, lights, “snowfalls,” poinsettias, garlands and other decorations beginning in early November. This year, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party will not be presented, but there will be “Mickey’s Very Merriest After Hours” parties on select nights Nov. 8-Dec. 21 with fireworks, stage shows and plenty more on tap for holiday fun including projection effects that will transform Cinderella Castle with a kaleidoscope of whimsical designs, and “Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime
- Parade” with Santa, elves, reindeers and other beloved characters will march down Main Street, U.S.A.
In Epcot, the beloved Candlelight Processional, which was cancelled due to Covid-19 last year, returns as a highlight of the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays beginning on Nov. 26. Musicians, performers and celebrity narrators for the Candlelight Processional will all be vaccinated, according to Disney. Holiday kitchens will return around the World Showcase promenade, offering favorite dishes of the season as well as a Cookie Stroll.
Favorite Disney characters dressed in their holiday finest will appear –and Santa Claus will make pop-up appearances at each of the Disney Parks and Disney Springs, and a “snowfall” will occur within the Town Center, West Side and The Landing sections of Disney Springs. Info: www.disneyworld.com.
Visitors planning a few days’ stay to visit all the parks and make the most of the holidays have a flurry of resorts to choose from. Among my favorites are the Four Seasons Orlando, with lovely decorations including a majestic Christmas tree in the lobby, chocolate displays, and “Decking The Palms” with twinkling lights, wreaths and poinsettias in the resort’s palm-lined pathway. Special sweets and treats are offered at the resort including holiday gelato flavors (yum!) and the Spa features special treatments including one using calming frankincense and myrrh. Info: www.fourseasons.com/orlando.
Another of my resort favorites for a holiday escape is the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin. Among the highlights here are chocolate displays, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus on select dates, musical performances and classic Christmas movies. Info: www.swandolphin.com.
Orlando – Universal Orlando Resort Parks celebrate Christmas from Nov. 13 to January 2. In the Harry Potter attractions, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter –Hogsmeade in Universal Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida, there will be festive décor and special entertainment including a projection of holiday spirit as The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle unfolds. In Seuss Landing at Islands of Adventure visitors will be treated to the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular with the Grinch. And Merry and Mayhem will combine as the Minions join Santa Claus in Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring characters from “Madagascar” and “Shrek.” Info: www.universalorlando.com.