Community

Best Places to Get in the Holiday Spirit in Central Florida

15 festive events that will provide some cheer before the New Year.

By Jenna Marina Lee |
December 6, 2018

A group of people ice skate while holding hands

Ice skating at Light Up UCF. (Photo by Nick Leyva '15)

The holiday season is already in full swing, and no matter what kind of merriment you’re looking for, odds are Central Florida has it — yes, even snow.

While Orlando’s theme parks get an A+ for their effort in going all out for the holidays, we rounded up 15 other events that deserve a shoutout, too.

If you’re a UCF student, faculty or staff member who is planning to visit the parks, you would be wise to stop at the SGA Ticket Center at the Student Union before you go to score a discount on your park admission ticket.

Happy Holidays.

Ferris wheel spins at night with red white and blue colors and CFE Arena in the back ground

Light Up UCF

Light Up UCF

Knights Plaza outside of CFE Arena (12777 Gemini Blvd.)

Now in its 11th year on UCF’s campus, Light Up UCF provides the perfect setting for holiday cheer, featuring outdoor films, an outdoor skating rink, rides and free nightly light shows. This year, Light Up UCF will also host two holiday markets on Dec. 15 and 21 from 6–10 p.m.

Dates: Now through Jan. 1, 2019
Time: Hours vary
Price: Free to attend but there is a cost to use most of the attractions. (Note: On Tuesdays, you can score a two-for-one discount on ice skating tickets)
More information: lightupucf.com

Colorful tall christmas tree in daylight with other non-decorated Christmas trees surrounding it

Muppets-themed tree at Disney Springs. (Photo credit: wdwmagic.com)

Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail

1486 Buena Vista Drive

Get a taste of Disney at the holidays without having to pay theme park admission prices. This Christmas tree trail features 27 holiday trees each inspired by a Disney character or theme — and they’re all equally picture perfect for an Instagram selfie. Plus, while you’re at Disney Springs, you can check out the shops, restaurants and musical performances.

Dates: Now through Jan. 6, 2019
Time: 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. (Times are subject to change without notice)
Price: Free
More information: disneyworld.disney.go.com/entertainment/disney-springs/christmas-tree-trail

Square building lit up at night in gold color

(Photo Credit: Dr. Phillips Center)

The Holidays at Dr. Phillips Center

445 S. Magnolia Ave.

For the first time since opening in 2014, the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts has curated four weeks of holiday-themed fare. In addition to 30 holiday performances ranging from hit Broadway musicals to concerts to a variety show, the center is also adding some seasonal cheer to its offerings. A peppermint-infused specialty cocktail and adult versions of hot chocolate will be available for purchase for those 21 and older.

More information: drphillipscenter.org

A hand and arm sticks out of a passenger window in a car with blurred colorful lights that make a tunnel

Space Coast Lightfest. (Photo credit: Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism)

Space Coast Lightfest

Wickham Park (2785 Leisure Way, Melbourne)

This holiday themed, 1-mile car ride features 3 million twinkling lights and draws more than 15,000 vehicles annually.

Dates: Now through Jan. 1, 2019 (including Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day)

Time: 6:30 p.m. until 10 p.m.
Price: $15 per car (maximum of 10 people)
More information: spacecoastlightfest.com

A green Christmas tree with a yellow star on top is surrounded by colorful presents, all made out of ice blocks

ICE! At Gaylord Palms Resort. (Photo credit: Gaylord Palms)

ICE! At Gaylord Palms Resort

6000 W Osceola Parkway, Kissimmee

This annual display at Gaylord Palms Resort features more than two million pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures, and this year’s theme is based on the 1983 film A Christmas Story. In order to keep the ice from melting, the resort keeps the room temperature at 9 degrees, but don’t worry, all guests are provided calf-length, hooded winter coats to keep them warm. The resort also offers opportunities for snow tubing, gingerbread decorating and even a Jack Frost-themed escape room.

Dates: Now through Jan. 6, 2019
Time: 10 a.m. until 8:30 p.m.
Price: $29 when purchased online
More information: christmasatgaylordpalms.com

T-Rex fossils lit up in green lights

Dino Digs. (Photo credit: Orlando Science Center)

Dinos in Lights

Orlando Science Center (777 E. Princeton St.)

A light show involving dinosaur fossils? Sign us up. In addition to the Dinos in Lights show, the Science Center has cooked up special winter-themed activities such as gingerbread engineering workshops and holiday experiments.

Dates: Now through Jan. 6, 2019
Time: Shows begin every 30 minutes between 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Price: Included with general admission ($20.95 for adults)
More information: osc.org/holidays

Two white horses pull a carriage of people down a paved road

Holiday on the Drive. (Photo credit: College Park Main Street Facebook)

Holiday on the Drive

Edgewater Drive, between Smith and Clayton streets

This section of Edgewater drive will be shut down to vehicular traffic and transformed into a winter wonderland. All shops, restaurants and businesses will be open to help you get a jump start on holiday shopping.

Date: Dec. 6
Time: 5 p.m. until 9 p.m.
Price: Free
More information: collegeparkmainstreet.com

A young boy wearing a blue shirt and green shoes rides a snow tube

Snow mountain. (Photo credit: Oviedo Photo Club)

Winter Fest and Snow Mountain

Central Lake Park (299 Center Lake Lane, Oviedo)

A free parade along Oviedo Boulevard kicks off this annual event, which features 70 tons of white snow just begging for a sled ride. There’s also a 30-foot snowman bounce house, a 31-foot slide, holiday train, swan boats and more. And for those 21 and older, candy cane martinis will be available for purchase.

Date: Dec. 8
Time: 2 p.m. until 8 p.m.
Price: Presale tickets are $20. Tickets on site are $25.
More information: cityofoviedo.net/654/Winter-Fest-Snow-Mountain-Holiday-Parade

black and white photo of cast of It's A Wonderful Life, man wearing a jacket and tie hugs woman wearing a black and white top and a young girl wearing a white dress

It’s A Wonderful Life

Watch It’s A Wonderful Life

Is it really the holidays if you don’t watch the 1946 classic film It’s A Wonderful Life? Amazon Prime members can stream this at home, but if you want the full experience, some local theaters are showing it on the big screen.

Enzian Theater
1300 Orlando Ave., Maitland

Date: Dec. 8
Time: Noon
Price: $9 with a student ID, $11 regular admission
enzian.org

Epic Theaters at Lee Visa
5901 Hazeltine National Dr.

Dates: Dec. 23 and Dec. 26
Time: Three showings each day
Price: $12.50
epictheatres.com/location/lee-vista

Two people look at lights shaped like a Menorah and Star of David on a grassy lot

Central Park in Winter Park (Photo credit: Orlando Sentinel)

Chanukah on the Park

Central Park (intersection of Park Avenue and Garfield Avenue in Winter Park)

Chabad of Greater Orlando will present Chanukah on the Park. The event will include singing performances, live music, dancers, face painting, jugglers, food and grand menorah lighting.

Date: Dec. 9
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Price: Free
More information: cityofwinterpark.org/event/chanukah-on-the-park-3

A man and a woman hold hands while wearing ugly holiday sweaters

Ugly sweaters are encouraged at the Wacky, Tacky Holiday Party.

Wacky, Tacky Holiday Party

Orange County Regional History Center (65 E. Central Blvd.)

This event will take you back to 1980s Orlando with a screening of Ernest Saves Christmas, which was filmed almost entirely in The City Beautiful at the then-unfinished Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Show up in your favorite tacky sweater or holiday pajamas to enjoy the movie, a trivia contest, holiday crafts and refreshments.

Date: Dec. 16
Time: 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.
Price: Regular museum admission ($8 adults, $7 for students with valid ID, $6 children); free for members of the museum
More information: thehistorycenter.org/event/wacky-tacky-holiday-party

Three people shopping under a tailgate tent with a multi-colored banner hanging from the roof that reads Grandma

(Photo credit: Grandma Party Bazaar Facebook)

Grandma Party Bazaar

Stardust Video and Coffee (1842 Winter Park Rd.)

If you enjoy the weird and eclectic, then the 16th annual Grandma Party Bazaar is for you. The event will feature vendors, interactive booths and live bands.

Dates: Dec. 16
Time: 10 a.m. until sundown
Price: Free
More information: facebook.com/grandmaparty

Three women wearing red costumes split midair while hanging from ropes

Cirque Musica Holiday. (Photo credit: cirquemusica.com)

Cirque Musica Holiday presents Wonderland

Amway Center (400 W Church St.)

Cirque Musica Holiday presents Wonderland is a fun-filled and high-flying concert experience for the entire family. The show blends the athleticism and grace of circus performers with a full sensory showcase of a live symphony orchestra performing all-time favorite holiday classics.

Dates: Dec. 18
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Price: Tickets start at $35
More information: cirquemusica.com/holiday-wonderland

A giant Christmas tree is at the end of a path lined with red and green Nutcracker statues

(Photo credit: Lake Eola Park Facebook)

Holiday Movies at Lake Eola Park

Walt Disney Amphitheater (195 N. Rosalind Ave.)

Every week during the holiday season, a free movie will be played at Lake Eola Park. Check the Lake Eola Park Facebook page for updated information about the event, including cancellations.

While you’re there, make sure you time it right to watch the Eola Wonderland Christmas Tree’s synchronized light and music show on its 72-foot tree, which runs daily at 5:45 p.m., 6:45 p.m., 7:45 p.m., 8:45 p.m. and 9:45 p.m.

Dates: The Polar Express (Dec. 7); The Santa Clause (Dec. 15); National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (Dec. 21)
Time: 7 p.m.
Price: Free
More information: cityoforlando.net/holiday

Theater stage with a man dressed like an elf in yellow pants and green jacket in the center standing and singing

Elf the Musical. (Photo credit: Orlando Repertory Theatre)

Elf the Musical

Orlando Repertory Theater (1001 E. Princeton Ave.)

The modern holiday classic film featuring Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf is now a musical, and you won’t be able to resist its charm. Hurry, tickets are going fast.

Dates: Various throughout December
Time: 1:30 p.m. or 6 p.m.
Price: $30
More information: orlandorep.com/show/elf-the-musical