Get Festive At Miami's 10 Best Holiday Attractions

While the rest of the country enjoys (or laments) their white christmas, Miami (as usual) marches to the beat of a different holiday drum. Locals here have a certain set of traditions they follow, and the snowbirds who land here to escape the frigid cold of the north are more than welcome to join in.


Holidays in Miami mean three things: surviving marathon shopping at places like the Dolphin Mall or Dadeland, attending various Noche Buena parties (at which you will surely either enjoy a glass of coquito or some lechon and congri), and a trip to Santa’s.


This list won’t include much about the former two (you’ll have to read our 10best list for holiday shopping in Miami), but we can tell you a thing or two about Santa’s, which is short for Santa’s Enchanted Forest. This long-standing Miami tradition is almost like a rite of passage. Thousands of twinkling lights and festive displays followed by carnival rides and games in the only Christmas-themed carnival in Florida make this a must-attend event.


And then there are other, family-friendly events to choose from, like the storytelling events and a holiday cruise at the Deering Estate. Don't forget about the Miami City Ballet’s The Nutcracker or Zoo Miami’s Zoo Lights spectacular as well, that are sure to please children of all ages. Use this list as a guide, nay, a check list of all the things you must do this holiday season!


Bayside Marketplace

Overlooking the magnificent Biscayne Bay in downtown Miami, this vast shopping complex offers a wealth of boutiques for men, women, and children of all ages. More than 150 shops are conveniently housed in an upscale, attractive shopping environment. Favorites include Gap, Guess, and Brookstone. When your shopping is complete, entertainment, nightlife, and dining choices abound, with options such as Miami's Hard Rock Cafe, Los Ranchos, and Chilis, and a spacious international food court. Performers often take the stage in the numerous plazas built into the marketplace especially in the evenings on weekends, and you can even take a boat tour for great views of the bay.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Holiday gift shop while enjoying the festive ambiance and giant Christmas tree, then walk down to the ice rink at the adjacent Intercontinental Hotel.

Priscilla's expert tip: Visit on weekends, especially in the evenings, if you really want to get the full effect of holiday lights and live entertainment. Also, feel free to use public transportation to avoid hefty parking fees and traffic.

Read more about Bayside Marketplace →

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
Photo courtesy of used in book.

Lush and meticulously maintained, this garden showcases a wide range of tropical plants. Within its 83 acres, palms and cycads flourish, and a 16,000-square-foot conservatory shelters rare specimens. The Fairchild also offers a butterfly garden, an arboretum and a rainforest, and it also houses a world-renowned research facility. Leisurely strolls through the grounds are sure to provoke plenty of "oohs and aahs," and you may gain inspiration for your own little patch of paradise back home. There are also often art installations by world-renowned artists like Dale Chihuly, plus moonlight tours and movie nights. A small museum, gift shop and cafe take care of practical needs. Free tram tours run on the hour.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Attending this year's holiday concert at the Fairchild happens on December 17th, and features seasonal faves and ample room for a classy, festive picnic.

Priscilla's expert tip: The Fairchild hosts free admission days in the summer, which are worth looking. They also host daily butterfly releases in their Wings of the Tropics exhibit, which kids will especially love.

Read more about Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden →


HistoryMiami doesn't sound like the name of a historical museum, which is exactly what its board members had in mind. The less-bulky name signified a new direction for what was previously called the Historical Museum of Southern Florida. Today, the museum, which actually began as a historical association in 1940 continues to offer the exhibits that were developed throughout the previous decades, as well as incorporating new ones. Now a a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate, the facility has a newfound ability to launch its own collections and publications, as well as lend and borrow traveling exhibits. In addition, the famed Miami Circle site, unearthed downtown when a new building was being planned, has been incorporated as part of the museum. Ciity tours of the Circle are offered, as well as eco-history bus, boat and walking tours of external attractions ranging from Calle Ocho to the Everglades.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Every Saturday in December, Hands-On-History: Holidays Around The World will feature storytime and crafts related to various celebrations, from Chanukah to Kwanzaa.

Priscilla's expert tip: Check out their website for schedule of tours around town. Their Stiltsville Cruise is not to be missed.

Read more about HistoryMiami →

New World Symphony at the New World Center
Photo courtesy of NWS

The New World Center is the home and performance space of the renowned New World Symphony, a post-grad orchestral academy directed by the accomplished Grammy-award winner Michael Tilson Thomas. The center itself resemble a gigantic geode from the inside, with impressive convex panels overhead, perhaps there to assist with the incredible acoustics of the building. The exterior has latticed glass windows and a huge projection wall, where free outdoor movies and concerts are frequented by SoBe locals and tourists alike. On nights the symphony plays (it season runs September through May) concerts can also be heard outside via sound speakers and video projections.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Between the "Sounds of the Season" free outdoor concert and the Children & Youth Orchestra's Winter Holiday Showcase, you'll find plenty of festive fun here.

Priscilla's expert tip: The New World Symphony and its WALLCAST initiative are among Miami's premier cultural gems, so arrive early to find a preferred lawn spot. Also, bring an umbrella in the event of a few sprinkles.

Read more about New World Symphony at the New World Center →

South Dade

Pinto's Farm is a Redland-area attraction that's become extremely popular with local families over the years. That's probably because the farm always does it up right when it comes to holidays. In April, kiddos of all ages love to come here and hunt for easter eggs during their Easter at the Farm event. Come Fall, the farm is transformed into an epic pumpkin patch, complete with spooky decor and pumpkin-related crafts. And during the Winterland at the Farm event all December long, the farm undergoes yet another transformation, including photos and hot chocolate with Nix the Snowman, Sprinkle the Gingerbread Cookie, and of course, Santa! But even when there aren't particular days to celebrate, a trip to Pinto's is always fun thanks to their petting zoo, pony rides, paddle boats, and hay rides.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Jungle Island's annual "Wild Holidays" event arrives on Saturday, December 24th, includes a candy cane jungle, holiday parades, visits from Santa, scavenger hunts, and more.

Priscilla's expert tip: Check their website for discounts on admission to the Winterland event!

Read more about Pinto's Farm →

Long-time Miami locals remember this 20-acre strip of land in the heart of Pinecrest as the original location of Parrot Jungle. The old parrot-themed park has since moved away by the Port of Miami, and what remains has been transformed into a gorgeous botanical gardens with enough shade to keep visitors cool year-round. For younger visitors who might not be too enthralled with gazing on exotic plants, flowers, and trees, there is also a butterfly exhibit, petting zoo, children's playground, and a splash-n-play area in which to cool off. The park frequently hosts community events all year long, including a farmer's market every Sunday, concerts and movie nights, and more.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Kids will delight in twinkle lights, rides, story telling, ballet performances, meeting Santa, holiday concerts, and more during the Garden's Nights of Lights.

Priscilla's expert tip: Check their online calendar for a full run-down of all the events, as some have an admission fee.

Read more about Pinecrest Gardens →

Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
Photo courtesy of Arsht Center

The luxurious Adrienne Arsht Center is the place to go to catch the Florida Grand Opera, jazz concerts, flamenco festivals, the Miami City Ballet, experimental theatre, traveling Broadway shows, Teatro Avante, quality comedy, and shows and other programming for children and families. Located between Downtown and Midtown, the Center features two separate performance areas: the Ziff Ballet Opera House and the Knight Concert Hall, meaning that multiple, simultaneous shows will be going on at all times. The Arsht is accessible by public transit via the MetroMover, but there's also a large lot right across the street and valet parking available.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: The Center's 2017 holiday programming includes the Hip Hop Nutcracker, the Winter Shorts play festival, and the Miami City Ballet's Nutcracker--all perfect for the season!

Priscilla's expert tip: Guests who wish to skip the line may request an early access pass online or at the box office prior to the event.

Read more about Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts →

Santa's Enchanted Forest
Photo courtesy of Santa's Echanted Forest Facebook

Santa's Enchanted Forest, the world's largest holiday theme park, pops up annually in Miami's backyard. Situated in Tropical Park, the amusement park-meets-Christmas extravaganza welcomes the masses every year from late October to early January. This South Floridian cultural institution has been in play for over three decades and features over 100 thrill and kid-friendly rides, interactive animal shows, and all the carnival food one's heart could desire. Santa's is home to South Florida's tallest Christmas tree, as well as a popular holiday light show spectacular. Adrenaline lovers can also head over to the property's bungee jump, high-flying ejector seat, rock climbing wall, or slingshot.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Everyone from Miami HAS to go to Santa's at least once. This place is fully dedicated to all things Christmas, 305-style.

Priscilla's expert tip: Go on a week night, and preferably before public school winter break, or risk waiting in giant lines for everything from corndogs to the tilt-o-whirl.

Read more about Santa's Enchanted Forest →

South Dade

As the only US zoo set in a subtropical climate, Zoo Miami mesmerizes visitors with remarkable exhibits and creatures from around the world. Favorite animals include clouded leopards, Komodo dragons, and tree kangaroos. They get ample competition from exotic standards like giraffes, lions, meerkats, koalas, gorillas and colorful birds. When the heat starts to take its toll, Dr. Wilde's World provides a rainforest-themed, air-conditioned refuge for hands-on fun. A petting zoo and wildlife shows also keep kids engaged. Zoo Miami is also home to various conservation and outreach endeavors, hosting hands-on and volunteer initiatives for Everglades preservation and The Florida Panther Recovery Program.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Visit the zoo on or after December 16 to see large-scale sculptures of animals all lit up in the holiday spirit.

Priscilla's expert tip: Check out the packages they have for sale that include things like hot cocoa and cookies, a photo with Santa, and more.

Read more about Zoo Miami →

South Dade
Deering Estate
Photo courtesy of used in book.

Teeming with natural, archeological and historical appeal, the Deering Estate proves endlessly engaging. Excavations at the bayfront compound originally owned by Charles Deering (whose brother James built Vizcaya) have uncovered the remains of prehistoric animals, and evidence suggests that Paleo-Indians were here more than 10,000 years ago. Historic buildings also distinguish the 420-acre property � the 1922 Stone House, Richmond Cottage and 19th-century Richmond Hall. For an altogether different perspective of the estate, reserve a spot on the weekend canoe tour. The Deering Estate's monthly events calendars hosts everything from moonlit concerts to nighttime kayaking to community-driven classes and seminars.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This year's holiday programming includes story time and photos with Santa, a festive wreath-making workshop, Holiday Bay Cruise, the Mistletoe and Martinis benefit, and more!

Priscilla's expert tip: Check their online calendar for more info on all special events. And don't forget your camera--their classic, holiday decor is second to none.

Read more about Deering Estate →


Meet Priscilla Blossom

Pris Blossom is a freelance writer and feminist mama with a love for travel, writing, music, film, craft beer, yoga, museums, cultural anthropology, and her awesome kid.

She spent the bulk...  More About Priscilla