Celebrate the Holidays in Orlando
Updated: November 30, 2023
Whether you’re planning a “Christmas in July” vacation, holiday travel or like to feel festive no matter the season, you’ll find plenty of fun things to do in the Orlando area. Known for its year-round sunshine and thrilling theme parks, Central Florida transforms into a seasonal paradise that offers a myriad of activities for everyone. From world-class attractions and shopping experiences to unique themed events, this city ensures your holiday spirit stays lit throughout the year.
The fall and winter seasons in Orlando are particularly enchanting, with a host of celebrations and festivals that add a magical touch to the city's vibrant atmosphere. If you're wondering what to do in Orlando, the possibilities are endless. From booking Orlando for Christmas to indulging in holiday shopping at the city's bustling malls and boutiques, there's something for everyone. Experience the joy of the season like never before as you explore Central Florida destinations, including Kissimmee, Lake Buena Vista and Orlando – not to mention the smaller, more festively named communities of Celebration and Christmas, Florida.
Christmas is a charming unincorporated community in Orange County, located about 24 miles east of Orlando. Surrounded by thousands of acres of marshland, it’s a destination, particularly for its holiday-themed name and attractions. Fun things to do include the Airboat Rides at Midway and Fort Christmas Historical Park among other points of interest. During the first weekend in December, the town hosts the annual Fort Christmas Cracker Christmas festival, which features pioneer demonstrations as well as arts and crafts. Don’t forget to bring your ready-to-mail holiday cards to the town, but come early. Every holiday season, thousands of people send cards from the post office, to have them postmarked with the town's festive name, adding a unique and charming touch to their season's greetings.
Disney Springs® and Disney's Days of Christmas
Lake Buena Vista, Florida
The waterfront complex is one of the best places to see Santa during the holidays, but you’ll want to visit throughout the year. To complement the festive atmosphere, Disney's Days of Christmas store, located in the Marketplace section, welcomes visitors year-round for a unique holiday shopping experience. It offers a wide array of seasonal essentials, such as Disney décor, stockings and ornaments — many of which you can monogram or add important dates or other customizations. For a fun twist on holiday accessories, guests can even purchase a Santa hat that doubles as Mickey Ears. However, the highlight of the season is the Christmas Tree Stroll, featuring beautifully decorated Disney-themed trees that add to the magic of the setting. Whether you're seeking the holiday spirit or looking for the perfect Christmas memento, Disney Springs® offers an unforgettable seasonal experience.
Eola Wonderland Christmas Tree Show
Lake Eola Park, located in the center of downtown Orlando, enchants with its calm lake views, lovely swan boat excursions and the convenience to explore a selection of restaurants and stores in the neighboring downtown area. During the holiday season, the park transforms into a spectacular winter wonderland; it’s a must-visit Christmas destination in Orlando. Don’t miss the annual “Eola Wonderland Christmas Tree Show,” an exquisite sight of synchronized lights and music, is one of Lake Eola's main attractions. The city's official Christmas tree stands magnificently near the park's famed water feature, offering a magical display of lights and music. You're also welcome to the Lake Eola Holiday Movies, where Christmas classics are screened for everyone to enjoy beneath the stars.
Holinights Celebration at the Promenade at Sunset Walk
Your Central Florida holiday itinerary should include the Holinights Celebration at the Promenade at Sunset Walk, 3251 Margaritaville Blvd., which is part of AAA Four Diamond Margaritaville Resort Orlando, with its many restaurants, entertainment events and retail shops. The free celebration, operating select nights in November and December, features Santa Claus, playful elves, toy soldiers, musical entertainment and a 42-foot Holinights Christmas tree. For an extra festive experience, take the Pearl Express Train Tour to experience the outdoor entertainment district’s charm. The all-ages train departs from the Promenade's “North Pole Roundabout” all day.
ICE! at Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center
The holiday highlight here is ICE! at Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, which welcomes you to a winter wonderland of three-dimensional ice sculptures as well as holiday programming from mid-November to early January. After you take pictures with Santa Claus, go sledding and appreciate all the things to see and do, including the atrium, heated outdoor pool, local restaurants and holiday concerts and activities that add to the festivities at the Kissimmee resort, which has also certified as eco-friendly through the Florida Green Lodging Program.Book Now
flickr / CC BY SA/Janne Rakkolainen
Are you looking for a “cool” place to go in Orlando? Hovering at 22 degrees, the Ice Bar not only offers drinks — literally on ice — but also features 70 tons of hand-cut ice and sculptures, making it an attraction on its own. Even kids can check out the wintry atmosphere, with those ages 8 and up welcome from 5-9. (Gloves and coats are provided with an entry fee.) Chill with a nonalcoholic beverage or a crafted cocktail. After 9 p.m., ages 21 and up can warm up in the FIRE Lounge.
Traditionally, fried foods are eaten during Hanukkah, but you don’t have to wait to nosh on fried falafel and other such Mediterranean classics as hummus and cucumber salad. Under the supervision of the RCF-Rabbinate of Central and North Florida, this spot on International Drive provides fast kosher food at an affordable price. Bonus: If you want to go shopping, Kosher Grill is a few blocks from Orlando International Premium Outlets.
Lake Nona’s Oh, What Fun!
The holiday season dazzles at Lake Nona's "Oh, What Fun!" festivities during select days in December. For Hanukkah, you can expect the lighting of the menorah, children’s activities, and traditional food and blessings during the first night of the eight-day celebration. In addition to a sprinkling of snowfall, there are holiday performances from local schools, modern circus acts, live music and children’s story times. Don't miss making memories by snapping photos at both the event photo wall and Boxi Park or visiting the Holiday Market Way that promises fun for the entire family. As the festive charm extends throughout the Town Center, follow the Evergreen Tree Trail to AAA Four Diamond Lake Nona Wave Hotel and savor seasonal libations at the Fa La La La Bar in the Lake Nona Wave Hotel Sculpture Garden.
AAA/Janet Brindle Reddick
Magic Kingdom® Park
Lake Buena Vista, Florida
Celebrating the holidays at Magic Kingdom is an unforgettable experience that immerses you in a world of festive wonder. As soon as you step into any of the Walt Disney World theme parks and resorts, you'll be greeted with a holiday spirit that's hard to resist. However, the real magic lies in Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, one of Disney’s most popular events. This enchanting celebration runs from early November to late December 22 and transforms the park into a glistening winter wonderland. The park comes alive with twinkling holiday décor, captivating shows and spectacular firework displays that light up the night sky. But the joy doesn't stop there! You'll also get to enjoy special visits from Mickey and Minnie Mouse.Read More
Courtesy of Rosen Plaza Hotel
Rosen Plaza Hotel
Are you celebrating Hanukkah in Orlando and wondering where to stay? Along with offering winter deals, this AAA Diamond hotel has a culinary team trained to produce “high-end glatt kosher cuisine, on-site and off-site, without compromising on quality and kashrut standards.” Meanwhile, for Christmas, there's a decadent Christmas buffet serving everything from prime rib and the Plaza’s renowned seafood salad to Christmas cookies. Located on International Drive, Rosen Plaza Hotel is in the middle of the action, near many Orlando attractions, and connects to the Orange County Convention Center.Book Now
Universal Orlando and Universal's Islands of Adventure™
From November to early January, Universal Studios Islands of Adventure and the Universal Orlando Resort go all out for the holiday season, offering a wealth of festive activities and experiences. You can be a part of the magic of Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and enjoy the spectacle of Universal's Holiday Parade among other festivities. For a one-of-a-kind experience, consider celebrating "Grinchmas" at whimsical Seuss Landing™, where the Dr. Seuss classic, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” comes to life — and might inspire your heart to “grow.”Read More
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Sherry is an experienced #AAAEditor and former journalist who enjoys writing informative travel articles and reviews. Her commitment to making meaningful connections with people and places fuels her work for AAA. Sherry's favorite activities range from skiing to backpacking abroad and taking ghost tours.