Just off of Interstate 75, only 18 miles from the city of Fort Myers, this award winning, open-air Mediterranean-style outlet mall's covered sidewalks are lined with over 160 designer and brand-name stores. While it's fun to shop here year round, it's extra special during the holidays with vibrant decorations, lots of entertainment, special events, and the big guy himself, Santa Claus. Amidst picturesque fountains, koi ponds and vibrant murals, you'll discover spectacular pricing at Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH, Neiman Marcus, Coach, Michael Kors, White House Black Market and more. There is an expansive lakefront dining piazza as well as additional restaurants and bars on the east entrance when you need to rest and refuel. A children's play area offers a welcomed distraction for your little ones.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This expansive designer shopping outlets not only has amazing holiday deals but all kinds of entertainment and special events for the entire family during December.
Gina's expert tip: Stop by the mall office for coupons and incentives
Captiva Cruises offers one the best ways to explore the Southwest Florida coast, from Captiva Island, Cabbage Key and Useppa to Boca Grande and Cayo Costa. The guides are extremely knowledgeable about the rich history of these sparkling waters and the islands that have hosted everyone from pirates and Native Americans, to military and millionaires. Holiday cruises also give way to boating lecture series from experts on wildlife, sharks, history and much more. Enjoy the wildlife-spotting tours, seashell-hunting tours, dolphin and sunset cruises and daylong trips to unspoiled barrier islands. This is one activity that the entire family can embrace and enjoy.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: December is a perfect time to explore Southwest Florida by boat; the sunsets are spectacular and you get to view holiday lights along the way
Gina's expert tip: Always trying new adventures, check the website for special, one time only excursions
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 some good 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 Things to Do in December 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
This gala is one of the premier holiday events in the area, raising money for the Southwest Florida Goodwill Foundation. Typically held the first Saturday of December, the elegant evening features heavy hors d'ouevres and a decadent spread of desserts. Besides live music and being entertained by the who's who of local dignitaries, attendees get to bid on dozens of beautifully decorated trees, with different themes. These are more than just decorations as many include generous gift certificates and have other items under them. Besides the live auction there is a silent one, containing luxurious gifts and lavish wreaths among other things. It's a fun and fancy evening with a mission to help those in need in the community.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: If you've ever wanted a unique, themed tree or exquisitely designed tree, including gifts under it, get one here and support a charity.
Gina's expert tip: Preview the trees the week prior to the event
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. 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 Things to Do in December 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
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 Parade 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 Things to Do in December 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
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. Claus and their elves are escorted by fire trucks and a parade of classic corvettes. Child wait in the long lines for a photo with Santa, and to whisper their holiday wishes in his ear. Entertainment covers a broad spectrum; retirement village bands, high school jazz ensembles, college bands and local church choirs. A snow slide gives some chilling fun, even if it is 70 degrees outside. Another highlight of the night is the lighting of the city's Christmas Tree. Free cider and cookies are provided along with horse and carriage rides. It is a warm, hometown celebration at Riverside Park.
Recommended for Things to Do in December 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
Boat parades are a favorite pastime for Southwest Floridians and almost any weekend throughout the month of December-- and even during the week-- you are sure to find one of these entertaining displays on one of the many waterways in the area. Cape Coral has one of the biggest. The festivities begin at Bimini Basin where food vendors, music, crafts and Santa provide entertainment before the parade begins. The parade on Fort Myers Beach takes place in the Estero Bay with numerous restaurants and bars offering great vantage points. Bonita Springs boaters get into the action as well, decorating their vessels and costuming those on board, mostly in nautical and holiday themes. The efforts can get quite elaborate with boats including inflatables, sailboats, pontoons and even yachts.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Boaters in almost every community in the Fort Myers area deck the 'bows' for holiday parades, while spectators gather on shore and in anchored vessels.
Gina's expert tip: Grab chairs and towels to sit on as seating is not always available on these parade routes
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 décor. 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 right up 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 Things to Do in December 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
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 is the only time of year 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, refreshments and an occasional visit from Santa Claus.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: The grounds come alive at night with thousands of lights and unique decorations in the buildings and gardens of the landmark estates.
Gina's expert tip: Different nights have special features and sometimes entertainment