Holiday Attractions, Cheer and Reindeer in Fort Myers

The holiday season in Fort Myers is different from what you might be used to. There is no snow (barely a chill in the air) and to ski, you don’t need boots; a bikini will do just fine.

One of the most anticipated holiday events each year takes place at the historic Edison and Ford Winter Estates. The sprawling grounds are decorated by businesses and civic organizations, with lots of lights--in honor of the inventor of the light bulb-- and all manner of holiday displays. This is the only time of the year that visitors can tour the grounds at night.

Celebrating the season tropical style, there are numerous, humorous events that involve golf carts and boats. Almost every community has a holiday parade that features outboards and paddles, one of the biggest being the Cape Coral Boat Parade. Residents decorate their watercraft, big and small, with hundreds of lights. Many follow a theme and are full of Santa’s helpers: some naughty, some nice.

You'll find out that Santa often leaves his heavy trousers behind when visiting the Fort Myers area, opting for red shorts and sunglasses instead. It's always great fun to pose with one of these fellows, or in front of a Christmas tree on the beach, and then send photos to friends who are bundled up, shivering the season away in northern parts of the US or abroad. 


Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

Ideal for those wanting a touch of culture in paradise, the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre features a good mix of drama, musical revues and children's programs each season. And during the holidays, there is always something special from the recreation of A Christmas Carol to musical spectaculars. There is even a holiday themed children's theater during the day. The 400-plus-seat auditorium (a former grocery store) hosts lunch and dinner performances. Meanwhile, the cozy, 90-seat Off-Broadway Palm features fun cabaret shows. The Broadway Palm also has a gift shop that carries unique, theatre-related gift items, trinkets and even local artwork so you can knock out some gift buying too. If you want a fun holiday show and a substantial hot meal, this is a good value for the entire family.

Recommended for Holiday Attractions because: This dinner theater offers great entertainment and hot meals for a cool price, all season long, with special engagements during the holidays.

Gina's expert tip: There is a cozy bar in the lobby, open to the public, regardless of ticket purchase

Read more about Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre →

Christmas Boat Parade, Fort Myers Beach
Photo courtesy of Gina Birch

This boat parade sails along the so-called "back bay" or Estero Bay, not on the Gulf of Mexico. Because of the location, many restaurants and bars facing the bay have parties and offer great vantage points from which to watch the spectacle. Try Parrot Key, Nervous Nellies, Dixie Fish Company, and Matanzas on the Bay to name a few. Typically held the first week in December, most locals make an effort to do something unique with their boats, from special themes and props, to elaborate lighting. There are the odd few who need help in the creativity department but what they lack in decorations, they make up for in entertainment and fun.

Recommended for Holiday Attractions because: This is a hometown holiday festival with colorful boat displays and wacky fun on the back waters of the beach.

Gina's expert tip: Reserve a table at a waterfront restaurant well in advance

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Captiva Holiday Village
Photo courtesy of Gina Birch

This quirky, tropical holiday celebration kicks off Thanksgiving weekend and lasts for three weeks, with events taking place at various locations on the small island. The party typically begins with fireworks and a tree lighting at Tween Waters Inn, followed the next night by a tree lighting at South Seas resort. Sunset Arias on the beach can be quite moving and beach bonfires quite fun. This small community offers a Luminary Stroll where merchants give out free goodies, and parades that include golf carts, boats and a Marching Mullet Band from Jensen's Twin Palm Resort and Marina. You'll dance down the street, ending up on the beach at sunset! Other Holiday Village activities include a fishing and Mullet Festival, an outdoor film night and lots more.

Recommended for Holiday Attractions because: This three-week holiday celebration on Captiva Island includes boat and golf cart parades, marching bands, Santa and lots of lights.

Gina's expert tip: Check the calendar of events, as there is something different every weekend

Read more about Captiva Holiday Village →

Bonita Springs
Holiday In The Park
Photo courtesy of Gina Birch

Holiday in the Park occurs the first week of December with a menagerie of local talent, events for the kids, and fun for the entire family. Kicking off late afternoon, Santa, Mrs. Clause and their elves are escorted by fire trucks and a parade of classic corvettes. Entertainment covers a broad spectrum that includes retirement village bands, high school jazz ensembles, and college bands. A snow slide gives some chilling fun, even if it is 70 degrees outside. And when the lighting of the city's Christmas Tree happens, it magically snows in the park. Free cider and cookies are provided along with horse and carriage and train rides. It is a warm, hometown celebration at Riverside Park.

Recommended for Holiday Attractions because: This hometown celebration has it all, Santa Clause, cider and cookies, local choirs and the lighting of the city's Christmas Tree.

Gina's expert tip: Pack lawn chairs and blankets

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It takes about five weeks for Neal Monkman to set up his elaborate light display on the lawn of his Cape Coral neighborhood. Hours are spent on sequencing the music with the more than 150,000 lights. They are strewn around palm trees, fences, and all kinds of holiday decorations. This display has grown and changed over the past ten plus years and always draws a crowd along this otherwise quiet street. Santa Claus makes nightly appearances at the massive display that begins Thanksgiving weekend and lasts through the end of December. The light show is free to view, however, Monkman takes donations to help purchase bullet proof vests for K9 officers.

Recommended for Holiday Attractions because: People drive from all over to see this neighborhood light show featuring music, Santa Claus, hundreds of holiday displays, and more than 150,000 lights.

Gina's expert tip: Be careful not to block traffic or the show will shut down

Read more about Planet Monkman Light Display →

This community wide event has been a special project of the Chamber of Commerce for more than thirty years. The fun stroll along Periwinkle Way offers residents and visitors alike a celebratory way to discover the island's many treasures. Shops and restaurants are decorated and come up with special offerings every year for all who walk through their doors. Great food and unique shopping is not all you'll find, but also a lot of music, nativity scenes, and Santa Clause, among other special guests. An event that is good for the entire family, it supports the efforts of small businesses in hopes visitors will come back year round. Typically held the first Friday night of December, a similar stroll is found on Captiva the following night (Saturday).

Recommended for Holiday Attractions because: An event that dates back more than three decades, the stroll is a festive way to discover the islands shops and restaurants.

Gina's expert tip: Make hotel reservations early and celebrate all weekend.

Read more about Sanibel Luminary Holiday Stroll →

Christmas Boat Parade, Cape Coral
Photo courtesy of Gina Birch

A tradition for more than thirty-five years in Cape Coral, this holiday boat-a-long often features 100 boats of every shape and size. Thousands of people spread blankets and chairs on the grass, in view of the water at Four Freedoms Park, and wait all afternoon for the big event. One never knows how many boats will participate as pre-registration is not required. The boats line up at Bimini Basin by 6pm, ready to have some fun. The event is not limited to the water by any means, as the park hosts entertainment by local groups and even invites Santa for photos with the kids. If you don't pack snacks, there are food vendors to keep your belly satisfied and a family friendly movie, on an inflatable screen, once the parade ends.

Recommended for Holiday Attractions because: A longstanding tradition in Cape Coral, this boat parade also includes day long festivities at Four Freedoms Park.

Gina's expert tip: Rent kayaks and watch the parade from the water.

Read more about Christmas Boat Parade, Cape Coral →

Festival of Trees
Photo courtesy of Gina Birch

The Festival Of The Trees is a favorite, local holiday event that leaves attendees in awe at the creativity of those participating. Trees are lavishly decorated in themes, colors, and to represent different hobbies and interests found in the area. Not only will you be inspired by viewing the trees on display at the historic Sidney and Berne Davis Art Center, but you'll also get to vote on your favorite. The friendly competition adds an extra incentive for participants to put their best foot forward. The annual event takes place the day after Thanksgiving and runs until the first Saturday of December but it's always good to check the calendar every year. This is a free event, however donations are accepted at the door, to help fund the mission of the Southwest Florida Goodwill Foundation.

Recommended for Holiday Attractions because: Each year thousands of people flock to see these ornate, creative trees, to vote on their favorite and help a local charity.

Gina's expert tip: If you see a tree you want, you can buy it during a gala at the end of the week

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Burroughs Home & Gardens
Photo courtesy of Vandy Major/Burroughs Home

For more than fifty years, the Fort Myers Woman's Community Club has taken over historic sites in Fort Myers during the holidays. Currently located at the Burroughs Home, the group adorns this well preserved property with elegance and in period d├ęcor. The club doesn't stop here, but also includes the neighboring Langford-Kinston home to make this event a two-stop tour. The Holiday House, with it's twinkling lights, usually opens the first week in December and runs until Christmas, with doors opening at 5pm and closing again at 9pm. Besides the evening tours, there are events with Santa on site, including a breakfast for the kids. A good stop for the entire family.

Recommended for Holiday Attractions because: Step back in time and tour these festively decorated, turn of the century homes, set along the Caloosahatchee River.

Gina's expert tip: The streets in this area are one way so check your GPS

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Edison & Ford Winter Estates
Photo courtesy of Gina BIrch

The Edison & Ford Winter Estates is one of the most popular attractions in the Fort Myers area. Visitors come here year round but get an extra special treat during the holiday season. The historic buildings, labs, and gardens are decorated with thousands of lights and traditional trimmings. Holiday Nights are one of the only times of year that the grounds are open past sunset; an educational and beautiful way for the entire family to spend an evening. This event has earned national recognition, in fact being selected by the editors of 10Best as one of the top Historic Homes to visit for the Holidays. During Holiday Nights, guests are also treated to live music and an occasional visit from Santa Clause. In addition, there are refreshments for purchase and the museum and gift stores stay open late.

Recommended for Holiday Attractions because: The grounds come alive at night with thousands of lights and unique decorations in the buildings and gardens of this landmark estates.

Gina's expert tip: Check the website for discounted nights

Read more about Edison & Ford Winter Estates →


Meet Gina Birch

Gina carries the rare title of "Native Floridian". Living in Southwest Florida for more than 20 years, she is a well known, award winning radio and TV personality. She also writes for a number...  More About Gina