Nowhere celebrates the Holidays quite like Orlando, and this year is no different. But, with so many festivities now on our doorstep, it is rather bewildering trying to keep track of them all!
Fortunately, we don’t have to this year as Visit Orlando has done the job for us, with a comprehensive listing of the full, fabulous array of special events, celebrations and experiences on offer over the next few weeks.
From Crayola’s Colorful Christmas at the Florida Mall to The Nutcracker at the Dr Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, and from Walt Disney World to Universal Orlando Resort, there is a positive cornucopia of seasonal splendor and classic holiday traditions on offer.
In fact, Orlando is listed as one of the top 10 holiday travel destinations by Hopper’s 2020 Holiday Guidance Report, and, with so many open-air options, you can be sure of a suitably socially distanced occasion, from photos with Santa to activities visitors can enjoy with their pets.
Here are the real highlights for 2020:
Covering more than 1,500 combined acres and offering a variety of outdoor attractions, Orlando’s theme parks bring holiday cheer with open-air nighttime spectaculars, extravagant décor and festive treats, all included in regular theme park admission. Select theme parks may require reservations; please check respective websites prior to arrival.
- Holidays at Walt Disney World Resort (through Dec. 30): Guests can experience a reimagined holiday celebration as the parks celebrate while keeping health and safety measures in mind. Favorite characters wave in their holiday best with surprise appearances from Santa during character cavalcades. Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom Park displays all-new holiday projections, providing a colorful backdrop for holiday photos. At Epcot, get a taste of holiday dishes around the world during the International Festival of the Holidays presented by AdventHealth. At Hollywood Studios, join Anna and Elsa during a holiday edition of “For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration.”
- Universal Orlando Resort (through Jan. 3): Beloved holiday traditions and characters come to life in reimagined ways that align with the destination’s enhanced health and safety procedures. Festivities include the all-new “Universal’s Holiday Experience featuring Macy’s Balloons,” where guests can get up-close with larger-than-life parade balloons and floats like never before; decorations and musical performances along the streets of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley; and character celebrations from fan-favorite, Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, the Minions and more.
- SeaWorld Orlando’s Christmas Celebration (select dates, Nov. 21 – Dec. 31): The park transforms into a winter wonderland sparkling with holiday cheer and more than 3 million beautiful lights this holiday season. New this year is an increased focus on safety measures, including the opportunity to meet Santa from a distance; celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa with Sesame Street friends as they sing and dance to their favorite holiday songs; and an emphasis on open-air experiences, like outdoor ice skating (extra fee required).
- Holidays at LEGOLAND Florida Resort (Nov. 27 – Dec. 31): This cheerful holiday event features festive shows, including all-new musical stage show, The Very Merry Mix-Up. Kids can write letters to LEGO Santa from the new interactive post office, Holiday Village Postal Service, and safely snap photos with favorite characters, including LEGO Santa himself at the park’s socially distanced selfie-spots. End the night with returning holiday favorite spectaculars, like the 30ft tall LEGO Christmas tree coming to life with twinkling lights and festive sounds.
Socially Distanced Holiday Photo Opportunities
- Wall Crawl, the Downtown Orlando “selfie” attraction, will host Santa Days (select dates through Dec. 20). This all-new socially distanced Santa photo experience will feature 10 holiday backdrops with professional lighting and a one-hour semi-private experience with Santa, including stories, songs and photo opportunities, all while St. Nick is creatively positioned 6ft away.
- The Santa Workshop Experience at ICON Park (through Dec. 24): New this year, guests can experience safe and socially distanced photos with Santa along with other open-air entertainment and activities, such as cookie decorating and story time with Mrs. Claus. For the meet-n-greet with Santa, a plexiglass barrier separates Santa and his guests, but the elves cleverly remove the plexiglass from the resulting photos.
- The Mall at Millenia (through Dec. 24): With a new approach to ensure a safe setting, advanced reservations are required for Santa visits. The Mall at Millenia is also hosting “Holiday Wander,” an interactive imagination immersion starting November 28 that invites children to wander through snowflake blizzards, a giant snow globe and Santa’s rooftop view ($10 per person; all proceeds benefit Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando).
- Give Kids the World Night of a Million Lights (through Jan. 3): The non-profit resort, dedicated to providing cost-free vacations to kids with life threating-illnesses, opens its doors to the public this holiday season for this fully immersive walk-through holiday light spectacular, featuring more than three million glittering lights. Admission includes unlimited access to the Village’s wheelchair-accessible attractions and complimentary holiday treats. Staggered entry times promote social distancing and masks will be required for all guests ages 2 and above.
- Dazzling Lights at Harry P. Leu Gardens (Dec. 1 – Jan. 3) is a new family-friendly three-quarter-mile interactive holiday experience with photo opps in front of a 30ft Christmas tree, interactive ground lights that, when stepped on, light up and ring like holiday bells, a 65ft long immersive tunnel, “snow” and holiday music. The event is entirely outdoors and designed to ensure adequate social distancing with timed entries.
- The 8th Annual Violectric Holiday Show (Dec. 12), a free family-friendly and pet-friendly 90-minute live outdoor concert, featuring traditional holiday favorites mashed up with classic rock tunes and modern hits performed by Central Florida’s top strings rock group at the Walt Disney Amphitheatre at Lake Eola Park. Seating at the event will be limited to 50% but the concert will be simulcast around all of Lake Eola.
- A Fringemas Carol: A Live, Socially-Distanced, Dickens-Inspired, Theatrical Journey (Dec. 11-13): The new outdoor holiday experience based on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is an immersive retelling of the classic tale as guests are separated into small groups led by carolers and Ebenezer Scrooge throughout stationary scenes.
- Winter Park Christmas Parade (Dec. 5): Enjoy Winter Park’s Ye Old Hometown Christmas Parade, the longest-running parade in Central Florida, now in its 68th year.
- Winter Garden Christmas Golf Cart Parade (Dec. 13): Head to downtown Winter Garden – along Plant Street – for this annual spectacular of dozens of superbly-outfitted golf carts in their festive finery, with all profits going to local charities.
- Gatorland’s Holiday Ho Ho Ho-Down (select dates Nov. 27 – Dec. 20): an all-new holiday event with festive holiday carolers, a Very Merry Train ride and interactive holiday displays, all with enhanced social distancing.
Other Festive Events
- Orlando Winterfest and Holiday Market (Dec. 3-6): The holiday gift show held at the Orange County Convention Center safely brings guests a festive holiday shopping experience with its Holiday Market, featuring unique gifts that include health and beauty, home and garden, apparel, accessories and more. The event will also include live music, holiday treats and activities for the whole family.
- The Nutcracker (select dates, Dec. 4-20), presented by the Orlando Ballet, returns to Downtown Orlando’s Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, with enhanced sanitation and socially distanced seating to ensure a safe environment.
- The Ritz-Carlton Orlando and JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes (Select Dates Nov. 28 – Dec. 22), will host a variety of holiday activities and events to safely celebrate the season while observing social distancing guidelines. Both guests and non-guests may join the pastry team for Gingerbread School or Santa’s Teddy Bear Tea, for a festive spin on traditional tea with an ornament craft, and a socially distant Santa greeting.
- Christmas at Gaylord Palms (through Jan. 3): New this year, guests can walk through their favorite Christmas movies in the “I Love Christmas Movies” immersive experience, including 13 scenes from holiday favorites such as “The Polar Express,” “A Christmas Story,” “Elf” and more. They can also play in the “Florida snow” at the all-new Snow Factory, which features a hilly ice coaster and a snowball-making machine, have breakfast with the Grinch, and enjoy live shows like Cirque Dreams Unwrapped and The Greatest Story.
- Crayola’s Colorful Christmas (Nov. 21 – Jan.4): New this year, guests can create a 3D gingerbread ornament, enjoy a musical light show and sing-along with reindeer friends and other life-sized animatronic characters. All activities are designed with enhanced cleaning, social distancing and reduced contact measures.
Contributed by The Central Florida Tourism Collective. The Collective is a group of like-minded tourism interests united in wanting to give our followers & visitors a reassuring message of life here in the heart of the Sunshine State’s main industry: https://www.facebook.com/CentralFloridaTourismCollective/