When temperatures drop below 80 degrees, Floridians know the holidays are close. Many of us start decorating for the holidays right after Halloween and start planning holiday-themed activities. We start working on our family Christmas cards, make holiday travel plans, and look up the best places to see holiday lights. We may not get a White Christmas (unless, of course, you visit Celebration) but there are plenty of places in Central Florida to see holiday lights and get in the Christmas spirit.
We’ve put together a list of our top 10 favorite places to see holiday lights in Central Florida, and suggest adding all of them to your Christmas time to-do list.
Who says Floridians can’t experience a White Christmas? During the holidays, the charming town of Celebration turns into a snowy, winter wonderland. Every hour on the hour, “snow” falls from the sky on Main Street, accompanied by twinkling lights and your favorite Christmas tunes. After the snowfall, walk the sidewalks of Celebration, browse the boutiques, stop into one of the many waterfront restaurants, or schedule a romantic ride on a horse-drawn carriage. The small town of Celebration comes alive during the holidays, as residents decorate their homes in thousands of twinkling lights and Christmas decor.
While Celebration is considered one of the more affluent areas in Central Florida, there are many free and affordable holiday activities for the whole family to try.
Downtown Lake Mary is home to many charming boutiques, coffee shops, and restaurants, and hosts events all year designed to bring the community together. The Central Park Holiday Event happens every year in December and gives locals a chance to stroll the quiet streets of Downtown and enjoy millions of twinkling lights. Storefronts are decorated for the holidays, and strings of lights hang from shade trees and drape between light posts. Families can take pictures in front of the giant Christmas tree or stay for the innovative dancing lights show.
Experience the snowfall in Central Park, and keep an eye out for Mr. and Mrs. Clause. As you stroll the streets and admire the lights, you can also pop into the many different sidewalk shops and restaurants downtown. This free, family-friendly event is a great way to get into the holiday spirit.
Lake Nona is quickly becoming one of the hottest new places to live and work in Central Florida. A central hub for technology, art, culture, music, and food, it makes sense that Lake Nona would be one of the best places to see holiday lights in Central Florida. The Christmas festivities reach all across the suburb, but most of the family-friendly events happen in Boxi Park. Here, families can stroll by sparkling Christmas trees, listen to Christmas carolers, decorate gingerbread men and taste holiday goodies like hot chocolate and cookies. Downtown Lake Nona is an extremely walkable part of the city, and parking is free, so you can spend the entire evening walking beneath the lights.
During the day, locals and tourists stroll the wide sidewalks browsing art galleries, popping into gourmet dessert shops, and perusing through locally owned sidewalk boutiques. At night, 100,000 Christmas lights light up the night sky, transforming the quiet district into a holiday wonderland. A giant tree in Sunset Park is lit up each night, and families can find a spot along the docks to watch the Christmas boat parade. With free sledding, live entertainment, food, and activities for kids, Mount Dora should make it on your list of places to see holiday lights during the Christmas season
Downtown Orlando is the heart of Central Florida. It combines a bustling financial district with a diverse community and vibrant art and culture center. All year long, Lake Eola hosts parades, art festivals, wine walks, dog shows, and live music events. During the holidays, the one-mile loop around the lake is lit up with sparkling lights, wreaths, Christmas trees, and holiday music playing in the background. Stay after sunset to watch the lighting of the giant Christmas tree, and then stop by one of the locally owned shops or breweries before heading home.
The country’s second-largest college campus is right in Central Florida, and comes alive during the holidays with Light Up UCF! This highly anticipated holiday event includes lights, attractions, and holiday experiences. During the Christmas season, you can head over to UCF for ice skating, visits with Santa, and even sledding. Christmas lights wrap around tall Florida palm trees, and the contemporary college campus transforms into a winter wonderland. Light Up UCF also offers outdoor family movie nights!
Winter Park is known for its high-end shops, impressive real estate, and gorgeous natural landscapes. The Winter Park Christmas Boat Parade takes your typical Christmas light viewing experience to a new level. Starting near Rollins College, hundreds of boats, jet skis, pontoons, and kayaks sail through the waters of Lake Virginia and show off their most festive boat designs. This popular holiday event is a truly spectacular show on the water.
If you’re in the St. Cloud area during the holidays, you should swing by the Johnson Family home, located at 5119 Moore St in St. Cloud. Every year, this impressive residential home is decked out in over 50,000 lights, and they offer fun extras like hot chocolate, a fire pit, and sometimes have holiday movies (or college football) playing on their giant projector screen outside. They accept donations and donate all proceeds to Nemours Children’s Hospital. The combination of music, lights, inflatables, and holiday decorations makes it a hidden gem in the Central Florida area.
There are holiday lights, and then there are Disney’s holiday lights. Whether you’re planning to visit the Happiest Place on Earth for the first time during the holidays or have annual passes, Disney is a magical place during the Christmas season. Christmas shows and parades, tree lighting ceremonies, live music, holiday-themed treats, and visits from Santa are just a few things to expect from a holiday visit to Disney. If you want to take your visit up a notch, look into Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party for more lights and more fun!
Historic Downtown Sanford is a beautiful lakefront district with shops, restaurants, waterfront dining, coffee shops, community parks, and popular food and wine tours. During December, Downtown Sanford is a great place to grab dinner, stroll the brightly lit streets, listen to Christmas music, and take family photos in the Square. There are Christmas parades, street parties, and visits from Santa! First Street is lined with thousands of sparkling Christmas lights, and storefronts and residential homes get in on the action by decorating their front doorways with holiday decor.
This holiday season, make some hot chocolate, get everyone in the car, turn up the Christmas tunes, and head out to some of these impressive holiday light shows this Christmas season. Checking out all of Central Florida’s holiday light displays is a great way to explore the area and make family memories.