CitySurfing Orlando’s Guide To 2023 Holiday Events In Central Florida

CitySurfing Orlando's Guide to Holiday Events in Central Florida

The winter holiday season is usually full of holiday events in Central Florida celebrating Christmas and more, and the 2023 holiday season has so many options.

To save you the trouble of finding them all, I’ve picked out the best holiday events and attractions, and listed them with details on how to enjoy them.

From ongoing events to limited time events, here are my picks for holiday events to enjoy in Orlando and Central Florida this season:

ONGOING HOLIDAY EVENTS

CENTRAL FLORIDA ZOO & BOTANICAL GARDENS – ASIAN LANTERN FESTIVAL: INTO THE WILD
Through January 14, 2024
The festival features dazzling, larger-than-life handcrafted lanterns illuminated in the night by thousands of LED lights, situated around the Zoo on a 3/4-mile loop. Tickets start at $22.99, with discounts for 4-packs of tickets.

CELEBRATION TOWN CENTER, CELEBRATION – LET IT SNOW
Through December 31
Featuring strolling Charles Dickens style Carolers, photos with Santa, horse drawn carriage rides, train rides, ice skating, and nightly snowfall at 6pm, 7pm, 8pm, and 9pm. Free event. Charge for some activities.

CRANES ROOST PARK, ALTAMONTE SPRINGS – LIGHT UP THE HOLIDAYS
Through January 1, 2024.
Enjoy over 200,000 lights on more than 100 holiday displays powered by Duke Energy. The highlight in the park is the 60-foot tall Christmas tree with more than 8,000 energy-efficient LED lights, 2,600 ornaments and over one mile of garland. Plus Santa Tuesdays, and holiday characters and music on select dates. Free admission. Tree lighting Dec. 2.

DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY, DAYTONA BEACH – MAGIC LIGHTS OF DAYTONA
Through December 31, 2023.
The speedway is decorated with holiday lights and guests can enjoy it from their vehicle. Tickets start at $22.

DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS, WALT DISNEY WORLD – DISNEY JOLLYWOOD NIGHTS
December 4, 6, 16, 18, 20
This separately-ticketed Disney holiday event features live entertainment, themed food and drink, Disney character photo ops, and more. Tickets start at $150.

DISNEY SPRINGS, WALT DISNEY WORLD – CHRISTMAS TREE STROLL
Through December 30.
Enjoy a collection of elaborately decorated Disney Christmas trees spread throughout the neighborhoods of Disney Springs. There are also special treats for purchase in many of the food venues. Free admission and parking.

DOWNTOWN DISTRICT, DELAND – WINTER WONDER DELAND
December 3 – January 1, 2024
The event is a month long celebration of the holidays where residents and visitors can enjoy the holiday lighting displays and the holiday ambience in downtown DeLand and also support the city’s local merchants and restaurants. Details at link. Free event.

EPCOT, WALT DISNEY WORLD – 2023 INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THE HOLIDAYS
Through December 30.
Enjoy the Candlelight Processional, holiday food and drink, live entertainment, and more. Included with park admission; park reservation required.

GATORLAND, KISSIMMEE – HOLIDAY HO HO HO-DOWN
December 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, and 17, 2023
The Gatorland Holiday Experience features holiday displays, interactive characters, and holiday singers throughout the park, as well as the most Floridian holiday photo opportunity of the season with Gatorland’s own Gator Claus, on his very unique sleigh, with merry elves, and the Krampus Croc along with other holiday characters. Included with admission.

ICON PARK, ORLANDO – SANTA WORKSHOP EXPERIENCE
Through December 24.
Take photos with Santa with various packages available for purchase. Packages include free carousel ride, and a free ride on The Wheel for children with photo purchase (50% off for additional riders).

ISLAND H2O WATER PARK, KISSIMMEE – HOLIDAY NIGHTS
Through December 31.
Hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights, themed displays, unique photo spots, live entertainment, and tantalizingly themed treats and gifts will transform Island H2O Water Park into an extravaganza for the whole family. Guests can indulge in holiday shopping as they surf through the holiday market featuring local vendors with a showcase of unique gifts and handcrafted ornaments. Sip steaming mugs of cider and hot cocoa, enjoy holiday themed bites, and toast s’mores big enough to share all while enjoying unique live entertainment each night. Holiday Nights will light up every Wednesday through Sunday from Nov. 8 – Dec. 10 and everyday Dec. 13 – 31. Regular admission ticket prices vary by date, and start at $34.99 per adult / $29.99 per child with a portion of proceeds supporting Give Kids The World Village.

LAKE EOLA PARK, ORLANDO – EOLA WONDERLAND CHRISTMAS TREE SHOW
Through January 6, 2024.
During the show, which takes place several times after dark, the Eola Wonderland Christmas Tree comes alive with synchronized light and music. Located by the Walt Disney Amphitheater. Free.

LAKE NONA TOWN CENTER, LAKE NONA – OH! WHAT FUN! A HOLIDAY FESTIVAL
Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from December 7-23
Oh, What Fun!® transforms the heart of Lake Nona into a winter wonderland complete with outdoor skating, snow, twinkling lights and dazzling decorations, festive treats, and one-of-a-kind performances guaranteed to spread some much-needed holiday cheer. Free admission and parking. Fees for some events. Full schedule at link above.

LEGOLAND FLORIDA, WINTER HAVEN – HOLIDAYS AT LEGOLAND
December 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, 22-31.
This jolly time of year features a combination of seasonal shows and treats, special LEGO characters, twinkling lights, fireworks on select nights and more. Included with admission.

LEU GARDENS – DAZZLING NIGHTS
Through January 6, 2024.
Leu Gardens is transformed into a holiday outdoor three-quarter mile interactive walking experience suitable for all ages, including a 30ft. tall Christmas tree, a 70ft long tunnel of light, and so much more. Tickets are $25 per adult, and $22 for children. Children 2 and under enter free. All tickets must be bought in advance. Sensory night is available on December 5th.

MAGIC KINGDOM, WALT DISNEY WORLD – MICKEY’S VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS PARTY
December: 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 22
This separately-ticketed Disney holiday event features a parade, a stage show, Disney character photo-ops, and more. Tickets start at $159.

PROMENADE AT SUNSET WALK, KISSIMMEE – “HOLINIGHTS” HOLIDAY CELEBRATION
Select Nights Through December 25.
Special holiday event featuring Santa Claus, The Mischievous Elves, Towering Toy Soldiers, and The Nightly Lighting of a 42′ Animated Holinights Tree, plus the new “Pearl Express” Miniature Steam engine Train Tours daily. Free event.

SEAWORLD ORLANDO – CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION
Through January 2, 2024.
Enjoy the Sea of Trees, show-stopping ice-skating extravaganza Winter Wonderland on Ice, and the Sesame Street Christmas Parade. Meet Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or head to Wild Arctic® and visit with Santa himself. It’s all included with admission.

UNIVERSAL ORLANDO – HOLIDAYS AT UNIVERSAL ORLANDO
Through December 31.
Experience Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™, enjoy the new Universal’s Holiday Experience featuring Macy’s Balloons and Universal’s Holiday Character Celebration, and celebrate the Grinchmas™ season. Included with admission.

WEKIVA ISLAND, LONGWOOD – WINTER WONDERLAND
December 1 through December 25, 2023.
Wekiva Island will be transformed into a winter wonderland with daily snow flurries, visits from Santa & Mrs. Claus, holiday movies on the lawn, a Christmas Tree Forest and so much more. Full calendar of events and activities at link above. Some fees may apply.

OTHER HOLIDAY EVENTS

NOVEMBER 24 – DECEMBER 23

“MOONSHINE & MISTLETOE: AN APPALACHIAN CHRISTMAS TALE at GARDEN THEATRE, WINTER GARDEN
Moonshine & Mistletoe is a musical valentine to a bygone era and is a wholesome holiday theatrical event for the entire family. Tickets start at $40.

NOVEMBER 29 – DECEMBER 24

ORLANDO SHAKES PRESENTS “A CHRISTMAS CAROL” at LOWNDES SHAKESPEARE THEATER, ORLANDO
Back by popular demand, the story of the ghosts of Christmas, Tiny Tim, and Scrooge’s redemption graces the Margeson Theater again at Orlando Shakes! Enjoy fresh hot cocoa and chocolate chip cookies at intermission and hear gorgeous carols. Tickets start at $27.30.

NOVEMBER 30

44TH ANNUAL CHRISTMAS IN THE PARK at CENTRAL PARK, WINTER PARK
The Morse Museum helps launch the holiday season in Winter Park when it lights up Tiffany windows in Central Park and presents the Bach Festival Choir and Brass Ensemble in concert starting a 6:15pm. Free event.

CITY OF OVIEDO’S 2023 TREE LIGHTING at OVIEDO AMPHITHEATER, OVIEDO
There will be FREE photos with Santa, live reindeer, carolers, food trucks and more. From 5-9pm. Free event.

TREE LIGHTING at CENTRAL PARK, WINTER HAVEN
Enjoy the sounds of Hunter Smith singing Christmas carols and Holiday hits, until the tree is officially lit for the season at 7pm. First 100 children will enjoy free hot cocoa from Richard’s Fine Coffee and cookie decorating courtesy of Gourmet Goodies. Free event.

TREE LIGHTING AND HOLIDAY JAZZ CONCERT at REITER PARK, LONGWOOD
Longwood City Commissioners will light the new 22 ft Christmas tree at Reiter Park followed by a concert by Lyman High School Jazz Band starting at 6:30pm. Free event.

DECEMBER 1

CITY OF ORLANDO TREE LIGHTING at LAKE EOLA PARK, ORLANDO
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer invites Central Florida residents and visitors to ring in the holiday season and help countdown to the lighting of the City of Orlando’s Christmas tree at Lake Eola Park’s Washington Plaza. The event will include holiday performances at the Walt Disney Amphitheater, food trucks and a holiday market. Free event.

CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTING at KIT LAND NELSON PARK, APOPKA
The official tree lighting event will take place from 6-8pm. Enjoy holiday music, photos with Santa, kids activities and more. Free event.

CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTING at CENTENNIAL PARK, ST. CLOUD
There will be student musical performances, lighting of the tree and visits with Santa from 6-8pm. Free event.

42ND ANNUAL LAKELAND CHRISTMAS PARADE at DOWNTOWN DISTRICT, LAKELAND
A fireworks display over Lake Mirror at 7pm will start the festivities. Then the parade will leave the RP Funding Center and make its way down Lemon Street twisting and turning through Downtown Lakeland. Free event.

HOLIDAY IN THE PARK at CENTRAL PARK, LAKE MARY
Enjoy food, vendors, entertainment, the kids activity zone, and a skating rink with light shows every 30 minutes. The first light show and tree lighting will begin after opening ceremony at 6:30pm. Free event.

I-DRIVE DISTRICT HOLIDAY TREE LIGHTING at ICON PARK, ORLANDO
Watch the official lighting ceremony of the 50-ft Holiday Tree sponsored by the I-Drive District at 6pm. Free event.

K92 JINGLE JAM at APOPKA AMPHITHEATER, APOPKA
Enjoy the country music station’s annual holiday show featuring Brantley Gilbert and more. Tickets start at $30.

LIGHT UP CLERMONT at CITY HALL, CLERMONT
This tree lighting event will take place starting at 5:30pm, and include music, food, and more. Free event.

LIGHT UP SANFORD at MAGNOLIA SQUARE FOUNTAIN, SANFORD
Enjoy a tree lighting ceremony, a visit with Santa, and more starting at 6:30pm. Free event.

LIGHT UP WINTER GARDEN at CITY HALL, WINTER GARDEN
The lighting will take place at 6:15 pm at City Hall (300 W. Plant St.), followed by various activities for all to enjoy starting at 6pm. Free event.

WINTER ON THE AVENUE at CENTRAL PARK, WINTER PARK
Come out for the annual tree-lighting, strolling carolers, Chanukah menorah lighting ceremony, s’mores, snow slides, and more. Free event.

DECEMBER 1 – 2

CFC ARTS PRESENTS “A CHRISTMAS CAROL THE MUSICAL” at DR PHILLIPS CENTER, ORLANDO
Ebenezer Scrooge is a prosperous curmudgeon who believes that personal wealth is far more valuable than the happiness and comfort of others. With an infuriated “Bah! Humbug!” Scrooge summates his feelings of Christmas tidings and charitable giving, but he’s forced to face his selfish ways when three ghosts on Christmas Eve lead him through his Past, Present and Future. Thanks to their guidance, Scrooge recognizes his faults and greets Christmas morning with a cheerful “Happy Christmas” before spending the day reconnecting and sharing love with those that mean the most to him. Tickets start at $20.

DECEMBER 1 – 17

OSCEOLA ARTS PRESENTS “THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER: THE MUSICAL” at OSCEOLA ARTS, KISSIMMEE
It’s everyone’s favorite time of year and the annual Christmas pageant! This year the town’s most mischievous kids, the Herdmans, all want starring roles…but not without a few script changes first. In this jolly and heart-warming musical, witness the spirit of Christmas truly come to life in their small town! Tickets start at $28.

DECEMBER 2

34TH ANNUAL CAROLS IN THE PARK at CENTRAL PARK, WINTER HAVEN
Carols in the Park will keep the holiday tradition alive with local school choirs performing holiday carols. Plus there will be photos with Santa, and a new attraction – an Artificial Ice Skating Rink. Free event.

CHRISTMAS PARADE at DOWNTOWN DISTRICT, MOUNT DORA
Bring a lawn chair or blanket and head to your favorite viewing spot for this long-standing holiday tradition. Christmas parade through the streets of downtown Mount Dora. Free event.

CHRISTMAS PARADE at DOWNTOWN DISTRICT, WINTER GARDEN
Bring a lawn chair or blanket and head to your favorite viewing spot for this long-standing Winter Garden holiday tradition. The Parade kicks off at 10am on Dillard Street at the Palmetto Street intersection (by Wells Fargo) proceeds north on Dillard Street, then heads west/left on Plant Street through historic downtown and concludes at Park Avenue. Free event.

HOLIDAY SYMPHONY at DONNELLY PARK, MOUNT DORA
Get into the Christmas spirit as the Stetson University Symphony Orchestra plays holiday favorites starting at 4:30pm. Bring an unwrapped toy to support Toys for Tots. Free parking shuttle service available from the First Baptist Church (1000 E. 1st Avenue) from 3:30pm – 7:30pm. Free event.

HOMETOWN PARADE at CITY HALL, CLERMONT
The Clermont Hometown Parade is a parade that will go through Downtown Clermont! It starts at 10am from Waterfront Park and winds it way through downtown Clermont making a loop.

LIGHTED BOAT PARADE at ELIZABETH EVANS PARK, MOUNT DORA
Best places to view include Grantham Point (311 S Tremain Street) and Elizabeth Evans Park (100 N Donnelly Street). Free event.

LONGWOOD CHRISTMAS PARADE at RONALD REAGAN BLVD,LONGWOOD
Featuring stunning cars, seasonal characters, bands, and much more, from noon to 5pm. Free event.

WONDERLAND AT ONE DAYTONA, DAYTONA BEACH
This family-friendly event will feature live holiday music, holiday themed characters, Santa letter writing station and more, plus a tribute to “Frozen.” Free event.

DECEMBER 3

8TH ANNUAL LIGHT UP SODO at TARGET STORE ORLANDO-SODO
Get ready to experience Santa and Mrs. Claus, a holiday maker’s market, food trucks, food vendors, appearances from local SoDo businesses, the Bubble Bus, bounce houses, face painting, stilt walkers, beer and wine garden, live performances and more. Family and pet-friendly. Free event.

KRAMPUSFEST at THE PLAZA LIVE, ORLANDO
The event from 3-10pm will be held outdoors, and feature live music, delicious food, locally crafted beer, a full bar, Christmas vendors, costume contests, a krampuslauf parade, and plenty of punishment. While kids are welcome in the earlier hours, after dark, they recommend adults-only. Biergarten from Sideward Brewing. Free event. VIP package available.

UCF KNIGHTS SEASON OF JOY at DR PHILLIPS CENTER, ORLANDO
Experience the magic of the holiday season at UCF’s Knights Season of Joy! The UCF Choirs and members of the UCF Symphony Orchestra and music faculty are joined by vocal jazz quartet “RESOLVE” for an evening of music and merriment. Tickets start at $39.50.

DECEMBER 8

CELEBRATE THE SEASON at REITER PARK, LONGWOOD
This holiday street party will feature an array of activities including photo opportunities with Santa, music by DJ Dennis, performances by One School of the Arts, an inflatable snow maze, giant fun slides, a petting zoo, a trackless train, 10+ food trucks and a major laser light show throughout the event. Free event.

LIGHT UP THE PARK at CENTENNIAL PARK, ST. CLOUD
Hot chocolate, cookies, crafts, movies, games, bounce houses, popcorn, food trucks, music and vendors. $10 cover charge.

DECEMBER 8 – 24

ORLANDO BALLET’S “THE NUTCRACKER” at DR PHILLIPS CENTER, ORLANDO
Orlando Ballet premieres this entirely new production of The Nutcracker. Sensory-friendly nights are Dec. 9, 16 & 23. Tickets start at $29.

DECEMBER 9

47th ANNUAL CHRISTMAS PARADE at APOPKA
The route runs northbound on Park Avenue from United Methodist Church of Apopka to Votaw Road.  Free event.

CHRISTMAS IN THE CLOUD at AMAZING ANIMALS WILDLIFE PRESERVE, ST. CLOUD
Event Highlights: Petting Zoo, Memorable Animal Meet and Greets, Meet and Greet with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and more. $10 per person at door, or bring a bag of dog or cat food to donate to Osceola county animal services and get one free entry per bag.

SNOW IN THE PARK at DONNELLY PARK, MOUNT DORA
Snow sledding, music, food, activities, photos and more! Bring a toy donation to benefit the community toy drive or non-perishable food to benefit Lake Cares Food Pantry. Free event.

SNOWFEST at LAKE MIRROR COMPLEX, LAKELAND
Take a stroll in the “snow” along the Frances Langford Promenade and enjoy all kinds of Holiday cheer. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be in the snow globe for magical photos. Attendees are encouraged to bring a canned food donation to the event. Free event (donations accepted for Polk Senior Orphans).

11TH ANNUAL VIOLECTRIC HOLIDAY SHOW at WALT DISNEY AMPHITHEATER AT LAKE EOLA, ORLANDO
The 90-minute live concert, presented by the City of Orlando Department of Families, Parks and Recreation, will feature traditional holiday songs like, “O Christmas Tree,” “The First Noel” and “Hanukkah, O Hanukkah” mashed up with classic rock tunes and modern hits like “Born to Run,” “Heroes” and “Sweet Dreams,” delivering a fun-filled, energetic and highly-unique holiday show unlike anything seen and heard before. This year, special guest performers are Pianist Carol Stein, Edgewater High School Orchestra and Howard Middle School Orchestra. Concert goers can also bring a donation to support Violectric Education Programs (VEP), Violectric’s 501(c)(3) not-for-profit music education division.  Starts at 7pm. Free event.

WONDERLAND AT ONE DAYTONA, DAYTONA BEACH
This family-friendly event will feature live holiday music, holiday themed characters, Santa letter writing station and more. Free event.

DECEMBER 9 – 10

PHANTASMAGORIA PRESENTS “A MOST HAUNTED VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS” at DR. PHILLIPS CENTER, ORLANDO
Follow these evocative storytellers, dancers, and performers as they celebrate the rich centuries’ old tradition of telling Ghost Stories on Christmas Eve Tickets start at $35.

DECEMBER 13

SARAH BRIGHTMAN “A CHRISTMAS SYMPHONY” at DR. PHILLIPS CENTER, ORLANDO
Sarah Brightman, the world’s best-selling Soprano and UNESCO Artist for Peace Ambassador, has amassed sales of more than 30 million, receiving awards in over 40 countries and garnering over 1 billion streams worldwide.  Tickets start at $49.50. VIP packages available.

DECEMBER 15

THE ILLUSIONISTS “MAGIC OF THE HOLIDAYS” at DR. PHILLIPS CENTER, ORLANDO
Celebrate the holidays with the entire family at The Illusionists – Magic of the Holidays, a mind-blowing spectacle featuring the jaw-dropping talents of the most incredible illusionists on earth. Tickets start at $30.

DECEMBER 15 – 30

HOLIDAYS IN SPACE at KENNEDY SPACE CENTER VISITORS COMPLEX
Presented by PEPSI, this year’s event will feature the popular, out-of-this-world nighttime projection mapping show – Starflake’s Holiday Voyage – on the outside of Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex®. Décor includes – a 50 foot tree illuminating the Rocket Garden and Gateway with more than 61,000 pixels of light, the all-new Rocket Tree Trail sponsored by L3HARRIS, six-foot-tall astronaut nutcrackers and more. “Holidays in Space” is included with admission.

DECEMBER 16

MARK TREMONTI SINGS FRANK SINATRA CHRISTMAS SPECIAL at DR. PHILLIPS CENTER, ORLANDO
The GRAMMY® Award-winning multiplatinum musician sounds just as at home paying homage to the catalog of Frank Sinatra as he does fronting Tremonti or shredding his soul out as the guitarist for Alter Bridge and Creed. Tremonti’s earliest memory of hearing Sinatra for the first time was as a child during Christmas. His dedication to holiday music continues with the release of his latest album, “Christmas Classics New and Old.” Tickets start at $39.75.

DECEMBER 16 – 17

THE SKYRA FOUNDATION PRESENTS “CLARA’S CHRISTMAS ADVENTURE” at DR. PHILLIPS CENTER, ORLANDO
The Skyra Foundation presents, “Clara’s Christmas Adventure,” a full-length production of the holiday classic “The Nutcracker.” Be transported to the Land of Sweets with Clara and the Nutcracker Prince as they encounter a cast of colorful characters including the enchanting Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy, set to Tchaikovsky’s original score.  Tickets start at $20.

DECEMBER 20

LEANN RIMES “JOY: THE HOLIDAY TOUR” at DR. PHILLIPS CENTER, ORLANDO
LeAnn Rimes is an international multi-platinum selling acclaimed singer and ASCAP award-winning songwriter, who will be performing her favorite holiday classics, and more.Tickets start at $49.50.

DECEMBER 22

ERICKA DUNLAP: A CHRISTMAS WITH SOUL at DR. PHILLIPS CENTER, ORLANDO
This spectacular Holiday show is curated and produced by Orlando’s own, Forever Miss America, Ericka Dunlap. “A Christmas with Soul” is more than a concert, it’s a musical extravaganza complete with masterfully soulful renditions of Holiday Classics of Christmas past, exquisite costumes, and phenomenal choreography. Tickets start at $60.

DECEMBER 23

HOLIDAY DRONE SHOW at LAKE EOLA PARK, ORLANDO
This show starts at 8pm, and will feature a dazzling display of synchronized drones flying in formation to create beautiful holiday-themed designs in the night sky. Bring your own blankets/chairs. Free event.

About Michelle Snow

Michelle is the owner and editor of CitySurfing Orlando. She also owns Zengrrl.com, is a freelance writer specializing in travel and entertainment, has authored/co-authored four guidebooks on Orlando and Florida, and is head editor/writer at TheDisneyBlog.com. She's lived in Orlando near Walt Disney World since 1995, and still finds there's so much fun to be had in Central Florida.
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