Christmas time means cuddling up in front of a roaring fire with a cup of hot cocoa while watching snowflakes gently fall outside. If you’re looking for something different this year, and want to start new holiday traditions, maybe you should head south for Christmas.
While many southern states offer different Christmas traditions, there may be no place with as many different activities as Florida. Whether you choose to visit the Gulf Coast, the Florida Keys, or the entire South Florida region, you’ll find your happy Christmas place in a fantastic (and warm) Florida Christmas town. Here are some of our favorites.
The 9 Best Christmas Towns And Events In Florida
1. Key West
Who doesn’t love Key West? It’s the ultimate Christmas town; visiting here during the holidays is kitschy joy sprinkled with a lot of fun. The Key West Holiday Fest focuses on a tropically fun holiday complete with beaches and sunshine. This Christmas, do something unique and embark on an incredible day on the water! Spend Christmas on board the ultimate catamaran where you’ll enjoy all sorts of watersports and a complete holiday meal. If you’re looking for Christmas Day excitement, look no further than the Ultimate Christmas Adventure from Fury Water Adventures.
Lighted Boat Parade
Another cool Key West tradition is the incredible Lighted Boat Parade, held this year on Saturday, December 10. The boaters in the Keys take their watercraft very seriously and preparations for this annual event take place for weeks leading up to the parade. Watch the illuminated and bedazzled boats float along the waters of the Keys and be amazed at their creative craftsmanship. These watercraft don’t just have a string or two of lights; they are completely decked out with thousands of sparkly goodies from stem to stern. This unique Key West parade is one of the most iconic and loved holiday traditions in town and a Key West holiday tradition not to miss.
Pet Pictures With Santa
For off-the-water festivities, let your four-legged furry friends join in the fun. On December 1, professional Pet Pictures with Santa take place at the 16-foot Nautical Christmas Tree on the Harbor Walk of Lights on William Street.
Key West is known for live performances, and this year, The Nutcracker takes place in Key West from December 7–11. The largest stage performance in the Florida Keys, this giant undertaking takes so much to get produced that it happens only once every 2 years. This is your year to enjoy the holiday performance!
Holiday Sights And Festive Nights Train Tour
A grand Key West train tour awaits as you hop on the Conch Train for one of the most popular and fun traditions of the Christmas season. The Holiday Sights and Festive Nights Train Tour makes the night come alive. Revel in the splendor of countless lights illuminating the streets and homes of Key West during this 60-minute train tour. The Conch Train weaves in and out of residential and business neighborhoods while you take in the glowing lights and feel the holiday cheer. Check out the illuminated historic homes in all their glory. Complimentary cookies and warm cider are included in your ticket price.
If you’re looking to get in a last-minute list to the big man, you’ll find Santa in Key West, maybe even at the beach (rumor has it he’s quite the beach bum). We know he loves the Key West sun and he’s a bit of a shopper, so look for him at the Shops at Mallory Square and chat with Santa and crew. This event is held on December 10 and 17.
2. Boca Raton
Beautiful Boca Raton sits on the Atlantic Coast of Florida in Palm Beach County. Enjoy the natural beauty of Boca while enjoying festive holiday activities. The Holiday Street Parade will feature holiday-movie-themed floats for your viewing pleasure.
Boca Holiday Festival
More fun is in store at the Boca Holiday Festival, a weekend-long holiday celebration at Mizner Park Amphitheater on December 9 and 10. The whole family will have a blast at the ice rink while taking a spin around with sunglasses and shorts on. The stage lineup will include the beloved Frozen Variety Show along with Christmas Carolers, a Holiday Magic Show, and an Elves Science Show. For even more excitement, jump on the Ferris wheel or carousel. Top off all the family-friendly merriment with delicious food and drink options.
Merry In Mizner
Boca Raton also hosts Merry in Mizner, a holiday pop-up event that takes place over several weekends in December. Featuring live music, crafts, and even a visit from the Grinch, the whole clan will love the events at Mizner Park this holiday season. Enjoy live music by local performers on Friday nights beginning December 8. Young crafters will enjoy creating a winter plush toy to cuddle, and on December 12, the Grinch himself will make an appearance. Make sure to grab a photo with him!
3. Delray Beach
New York City isn’t the only place you’ll find an enormous Christmas tree! One of my favorite Florida towns, Delray Beach has its own 100-foot Christmas tree. The annual tree lighting takes place on November 29 at the Old School Square on Atlantic Avenue. Join the fun and help Delray celebrate 30 years of this family-friendly tradition. Delray Beach also hosts the Yuletide Street Festival, where you can enjoy Victorian carolers, live music, and a silent disco.
Feast Of The Seven Fishes
This Christmas, enjoy a night on the town with a gourmet dinner. Christmas Eve dining options include an over-the-top feast at the Feast of the Seven Fishes at the Wine Room Kitchen and Bar. Enjoy an immense multi-course seafood dinner with expertly paired wines in this intimate setting.
4. West Palm Beach
You’ve never seen a sand castle like this one. West Palm Beach pulls out all the stops with its one-of-a-kid 700-ton sand tree, Sandi, unveiled at the city’s Holiday in Paradise festival. See the tree, the music, and the light show every night in December at West Palm Beach’s Sandi Land.
Clematis By Night Holiday Tree Lighting Event
The official holiday season begins Thursday, November 30, with the Clematis By Night Holiday Tree Lighting Event. Free offerings include strolling entertainment, jolly pirates, and more. Along with Sandi, a host of creative sand sculptures will be on display. Head to the West Palm Beach waterfront to see all the sculptures and witness more than 100 tons of sand formed into magical displays.
A Muppets Double-Feature
Further celebration occurs with a kids’ movie night! Bring the kids to the waterfront to watch classic children’s movies featuring The Muppets. A Muppets double-feature will be shown Friday, December 8. The kids will love both Muppet Treasure Island and Muppet Christmas Carol.
Holidays At The Square
West Palm Beach will have a true winter wonderland with a nightly snowfall! Visit The Square each night between late November and December to witness the snowfall in sunny Florida and a terrific light show. Santa and his elves will even be on hand for photos. And on select Sundays at The Square, shop for the perfect holiday gift at the Holiday Artisan Market.
Cox Science Center And Aquarium
West Palm Beach has more fun in store for its holiday visitors at the Cox Science Center and Aquarium. The Dark Sky Party, appropriately held on Black Friday, allows guests to take a look at the universe from a different perspective.
The Science Center hosts other holiday-inspired events including Let It Snow Planet Light Holiday Shows, Frigid Science Demos, and Winter Wonderland STEM activities. On December 1, check out the fabulous Winter Wonderland Laser Lights & Bites show, an awesome outdoor laser concert.
Palm Beach Zoo
The Palm Beach Zoo offers 23 acres of illuminated fun this holiday season. Visit the animals while meandering through 1 million eco-friendly lights. Enjoy this amazing tradition from mid-November through December.
5. Palm Beach
Visit Palm Beach to experience a glitzy, upscale holiday celebration in sunny South Florida.
Holiday Tea at the incredible Breakers Hotel is an indulgent way to celebrate in style in an over-the-top glamorous environment. Arrive in your best tea-time attire and enjoy an array of teas, delightful tea sandwiches, warm buttermilk scones, delicious pastries, and more.
Holidays At The Breakers
The Breakers is one of Palm Beach’s most opulent hotels any time of year. During the holiday season, the property is decorated from top to bottom and shows off its holiday splendor in a special way. Hotel guests will enjoy visiting the spectacular hotel, taking in the magical décor, and decking the halls while drinking hot cocoa. The kids will enjoy all of this as well as activities at the Candy Cane Carnival, featuring the Gingerbread House, cookie decorating, movie nights, laser tag, and more.
Festive dining adventures await on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with special prix fixe menus. These special dining events are open to the public and include alfresco dining on the terrace or a cozy table at the onsite Flagler Steakhouse. Or select one-of-a-kind culinary delights from the fabulous brunch menu at The Circle. You’ll find champagne cocktails, bloody Marys, and custom wine blends at the venue, with a harpist playing throughout the event.
On Christmas Day, The Breakers’s Ponce De Leon Ballroom puts on an elaborate feast including a buffet of traditional Christmas dishes along with a wide assortment of holiday sweets. These special events are open to the public and require reservations.
Other onsite holiday offerings include taking in the sparkling palm trees on the grounds and the two 18-foot illuminated evergreen trees and sculptured menorah. The property is adorned with more than 150,000 twinkling lights, 12,000 feet of ribbon, and 8,000 bows, creating a lavish display of holiday delight.
Palm Beach Holiday Boat Parade
Other festive activities include the Palm Beach Holiday Boat Parade that happens on December 2. Watch the decorated boats along the Intercoastal Waterway and finish the parade at the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse. Witness creativity on the water amid a flotilla of themed illuminated boats like you’ve never seen before.
Lovely Jupiter is staging the holiday favorite, A Christmas Carol, from late November until mid-December at the Maltz Jupiter Theater. The whole family will enjoy this Christmas classic as Ebenezer Scrooge transforms amid ghostly visits, incredible special effects, and traditional holiday music. Join in the fun of the season and bring the besties as you make your holiday memories!
Charlie And Joe’s At Love Street
Another way to spend the holidays in Jupiter is to indulge in Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinner specials and decadent desserts. Charlie and Joe’s at Love Street offers an array of holiday dining specials from late November to mid-December. Start the evening with the Griswold cocktail — a nod to Christmas Vacation and a yummy combo of vodka, rumchata, and baileys along with heavy cream and ginger, all served in a moose mug. Other drink favorites include the Hot Buttered Rum, Merry Margarita, and classic White Christmas. Enjoy decadent special entrées like prime rib and the cowboy ribeye. For a sweet ending, try the red velvet cake.
7. Anna Maria Island
On the gulf side of Florida near Sarasota lies Anna Maria Island, home to some of the most beautiful turquoise waters in all of Florida. During Christmas time, the island comes alive with various holiday-themed events. These are the types of events that you simply can’t experience up north during December!
Chamber Of Commerce Tree Lighting
The Chamber of Commerce Tree Lighting happens on Saturday, December 10, and includes holiday crafts, music, food, and local vendors selling handmade goods. The kids will enjoy different options to create their seasonal craft masterpieces.
Anna Maria Island Boat Parades
Anna Maria Island and surrounding communities will hold several boat parades in the area. Catch one or all of these parades and watch the ships glide through the waters decked out in spectacular holiday lights. On December 2, Bradenton Beach will be holding its 5th annual Holiday Boat Parade starting near Longboat Pass Bridge and floating up the Intercoastal Waterway. Good viewing spots include the Longboat Pass Bridge and the Bradenton Beach City Pier.
On December 9, experience the Manatee River Holiday Boat Parade. Watch the magic as illuminated boats make their way through the river. You’ll see nautical holiday creativity at its best. And on the following day, the exciting Bradenton Beach Holiday Boat Parade is an event the entire family will love.
Anna Maria Island Land Parade
Also on December 9, landlubbers can take in the annual land parade. It begins at Coquina Beach and winds its way through Holmes Beach, ending on Pine Avenue in Anna Maria. The festivities include a tropical after-party at Holmes Beach City Field.
8. St. Augustine
History lovers feel right at home in St. Augustine any time of year. As the oldest city in the U.S., this town is rich in history and tradition. At Christmas time, St. Augustine’s charm is on full display.
St. Augustine Night Of Lights
The city’s premier holiday event, the Night of Lights festival, combines over 3 million lights and is one of the top holiday light displays in the world! Running from mid-November through January, this free, city-wide light show will put the merry in your holidays.
See the fantastic display all over town, from the downtown sidewalks to the rooftops, including all the lights adorning the unique architectural buildings of the city. Meander through more than 20 blocks of the historic district where you’ll see fantastic unique old homes decked out in true holiday splendor. Grab a spot at the Plaza de la Constitucion or on the Bridge of Lions for spectacular viewing opportunities.
Christmas exists year round just 20 miles east of Orlando in quaint Christmas, Florida. On Christmas Day way back in the 1830s, U.S. soldiers defending the area in the Second Seminole Indian War built a fort here as part of its defense. In honor of the Christian holiday, they named the area Christmas. Christmas, Florida, is home to around 1,100 people year round. Visitors today can visit Fort Christmas Historical Park, a 25-acre replica of the fort, along with historical structures that date back more than 100 years.
Christmas Post Office
While in town, make sure you get your holiday cards and mail postmarked with the iconic Christmas stamp at the Christmas post office. Santa himself may even be there! He’s been known to pop in the Christmas post office from time to time during the holidays. The kids can drop off their letters to Santa and maybe even get a personal reply from one of his helpers.
Florida offers so many fun things to do and different ways to celebrate the holidays. Various Florida towns put their own spin on Christmas, so it’s hard to choose which location to spend your holiday in. You may find that you want to experience more than one! All of these towns are perfect in their own way and you’re sure to discover your own favorites.
After you’ve explored all the excitement these fantastic Florida towns have to offer, you’ll likely need a rest. You might find the best way to spend the holidays is like a Floridian: Grab your Santa trunks, put a cold one on ice, and hit the beach. What’s better on Christmas than sand between your toes?