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Best Things to Do in December in Orlando

Cool, But Not Too Cool: Top December To-Dos In Orlando


Stellar weather and seasonal spirit combine to make December an incredible time of year to enjoy Orlando - especially outside. Although the holiday festivities may be a little different this year with social distancing and all, there are still ways to celebrate and keep some normalcy. If you choose to visit the theme parks – Disney, SeaWorld and the like – you’ll have plenty to keep you entertained, although they’ve adjusted some of their activities to keep everyone safe. Disney Springs even gets in the spirit with a Christmas Tree Stroll of 20 Disney-inspired trees. If the theme parks aren’t your thing, you can enjoy the more than 3 million lights on display at Give Kids the World Village, an incredible organization that benefits critically ill children and their families. And if you want to complete keep your distance, at least from people, stay in your car and do the drive-thru safari at Wild Florida.   


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Oh What Fun! A Holiday Festival

Lake Nona Town Center will transform into the festive Peppermint Square. The festivities run from Nov. 26 through Jan. 2 and even spill over to the adjacent Boxi Park. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be on hand for photos and the festival also will include plenty of Instagrammable holiday décor that will make the perfect holiday photo backdrop. The centerpiece is the 24-foot Christmas tree, but this is also the place to go if you're looking for a tree to take home. Peppermint Forest Christmas tree lot is on site ready for your to find your perfect tree. Come hungry. There will be plenty of holiday treats available for purchase.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: What gets you more in the holiday spirit than Santa, sweets and some "snow?"

Michelle's expert tip: Check the times before you go as they change depending on the day.

Read more about Oh What Fun! A Holiday Festival →




There are more than 100 decorated trees with the centerpiece being a 70 feet giant sparkling tree above the water. Each night ends with the Fireworks and Fountains Finale, all choreographed to holiday music. Sesame Street fans will love the Christmas parade including Elmo, Cookie Monster, Bert, Ernie and more. New this year is Elmo's Christmas Wish Show where friends from Sesame Street help Elmo find his Christmas wish. Another returning favorite is Rudolph's ChristmasTown where guests can immerse themselves in the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Guests can even take a spin around the outdoor ice skating rink.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: SeaWorld's Christmas Celebration runs through Jan. 2 and is included in the park's admission.

Michelle's expert tip: The park will have celebrations for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. There will be a menorah lighting Nov. 28 - Dec. 6 and Kwanzaa celebrations Dec. 26 - Jan. 1.

Read more about SeaWorld's Christmas Celebration →


Disney Very Merriest After Hours

Walt Disney World's first parade since March 2020 is hitting Magic Kingdom's Main Street just in time for the holidays. Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade kicks off with Mickey and Minnie in their holiday décor and ends with a visit from Santa Claus. The only way to see this parade is with a ticket to Disney's Very Merriest After Hours, which runs select nights through Dec. 21. The special holiday event is limited in capacity so guests get to enjoy a less crowded park and shorter ride lines at more than 20 attractions. Also included in the ticket price is unlimited ice cream novelties, popcorn, select beverages and seasonal treats. Other festivities include a special fireworks show, holiday-themed stage performances and dance parties. Aside from the holiday decorations throughout the park, guests may even get to experience a little snowfall in Florida.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: The Ho Ho Ho-Down is select days in December and included in the regular price of admission. It features holiday entertainment, festive food and more.

Michelle's expert tip: The event technically begins at 9 p.m., but if you have a ticket for the event, you can enter the park a few hours earlier.

Read more about Disney Very Merriest After Hours →


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More unforgettable experiences in Orlando

 

Mission: Save Christmas featuring Elf is a brand-new experience at Gaylord Palms. The immersive attraction, inspired by the classic Christmas film Elf, includes plenty of interactive experiences. Guests follow Buddy the Elf's from the North Pole to New York City and try to muster enough Christmas cheer to power the Kringle 3000 and help Santa's sleigh fly again. Be prepared for lots of surprises and photo opps along the way. Guests will even have a chance to recreate the iconic snowball fight scene from the movie. The experience also includes 100 Christmas trees, musical performances and acrobatic routines. It begins Nov. 19 and runs through Jan. 2.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Who doesn't love Buddy the Elf? This is a fun way to step inside the beloved movie.

Michelle's expert tip: The experience is open to non-hotel guests, but bundle it with a room stay for the ultimate package.

Read more about Christmas at the Gaylord Palms →


Epcot International Festival of the Holidays


Families from all over the world make this event a holiday tradition. Holiday Kitchens located throughout the 11 countries in Epcot's World Showcase show off how the holidays are celebrated around the globe. You'll easily get your steps in exploring the different cultures during the celebratory time of the year. You can spend an entire day strolling between the pavilions doing some holiday shopping and enjoying costumed performers entertaining in the different countries. Back to EPCOT this year is the beloved Candlelight Processional. Starting Nov. 26 and running through Dec. 30, each night a celebrity will tell the story of Christmas accompanied by an orchestra and choir. Guest readers include Ana Gasteyer, Blair Underwood and Pat Sajak.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Festive food, drinks and entertainment, this is a place to for the entire family. Don't forget your mask!

Michelle's expert tip: Take part in the Holiday Cookie Stroll. Purchase five holiday-themed cookies from different locations, get your cookie passport stamped at each one and you'll get rewarded with a specialty cookie.

Read more about Epcot International Festival of the Holidays →


Wild Florida


Stay in the comfort and safety of your car while enjoying a drive-thru safari where dozens of animals are on display and zero human interaction is required. The safari covers more than 85 acres and includes animals like zebras, giraffes, bison, alligators and more. It's about an hour to complete the safari, but driver beware, you're at the mercy of the animals. If an emu takes a rest in the roadway, you have to wait for the fella to move before hitting the gas pedal. The speed limit on the safari is just 5 mph. Have your camera ready because more than likely a goat, white-tailed deer, longhorn cattle or one of their buddies will stroll right by your vehicle. If you want to stretch your legs, Wild Florida also has air boat rides and animal encounters with some exotic friends like albino alligators.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This is a true Florida experience with air boat rides and gators, even albino gators.

Michelle's expert tip: Guests are encouraged to book tickets in advance online. They've been known to sell out.

Read more about Wild Florida →


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Disney Springs ®
Disney Springs

The Disney Springs Christmas Tree Stroll includes 20 elaborately decorated trees spread out over the 120-acre shopping and entertainment complex. You'll find trees dedicated to some of your favorite Disney attractions and characters, including Star Wars, Black Panther, Coco and many more. If you get inspired by the ornaments and décor, you're in the perfect place to pick up some decorations for your own Christmas tree. Disney Springs also is the spot to get holiday gifts for your Disney-loving aunt, Toy Story-obsessed toddler or even a trinket or two for yourself. While strolling the outdoor area, you'll be entertained by a DJ spinning holiday tunes, stilt-walking toy soldiers, skating snowflakes and you may even catch a "Disney-style" snowflake falling from the sky. When you work up an appetite from all the shopping and walking, there are plenty of places to get a festive treat, like Amorette's Patisserie and The Ganachery.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: There are so many beautiful trees to look at and you can also get some shopping done at the same time.

Michelle's expert tip: If you can, go during the week when it's less crowded.

Read more about Disney Springs →


ICON Park
Photo courtesy of Michelle Spitzer


This open-air entertainment complex is getting a visit from jolly old St. Nicholas. The Santa Workshop Experience allows families to book 5-minute private sessions with Santa through Dec. 24. After that, he's got a job to do. Each child who visits The Santa Workshop Experience gets a free ticket to ride The Wheel, a 400-foot, well wheel, where guests ride in enclosed capsules. Guests accompanying the children get 50 percent of their Wheel tickets. The Pearl Express train will also be at ICON Park giving festive rides. A 50-foot Christmas tree will be on site, giving a perfect backdrop for Christmas photos.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: A great experience to safely visit with Santa and experience other holiday fun.

Michelle's expert tip: Take advantage of all ICON Park has to offer, like Madame Tussauds and the new Museum of Illusions.

Read more about ICON Park →


Discovery Cove Orlando

You'll feel like you're on an all-inclusive island rather than the center of a city known for theme parks. Your admission ticket not only gets you access to the dolphins, it also includes a snorkel experience with thousands of tropical fish and coral reef, entrance to the aviary and much more. Breakfast, lunch, drinks and snacks also are part of the deal. In fact, you don't even need towels or sunscreen. They are provided along with wetsuits. The lazy river is designed to look like a lagoon among a rainforest with waterfalls, caves and rocky terrain. Waterproof masks are given to guests when swimming with the dolphins and masks also need to be worn when in the restaurant or gift shops. You can rent a cabana to get an ultra-exclusive, private feel. There are other add-ons, like swimming with sharks or exploring the coral reef with a dive helmet.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: How many places in the world are you able to swim with dolphins and snorkel in December?

Michelle's expert tip: There are some great deals available before the end of 2021.

Read more about Discovery Cove Orlando →


Night of a Million Lights


It's called Night of a Million Lights, but there are actually more than three million lights on display. This is a rare chance for the public to see the grounds of the Give Kids the World Village. The non-profit fulfills the wishes of critically ill children who want to visit central Florida. Usually the property is only open to families staying on the nearly 90-acre grounds and the thousands of volunteers and small staff that help run it. This is the first year they are opening to the public and the proceeds from Night of a Million Lights benefit the organization. Walt Disney World donated the majority of lights and other companies, including LEGOLAND Florida, Kennedy Space Center and SeaWorld Orlando also pitched in. Guests are required to wear masks and tickets must be purchased online in advance. Entry times are staggered and guests are asked to limit visits to two hours to keep capacity low.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: A beautiful, outdoor holiday event that benefits a charity? Win. Win.

Michelle's expert tip: Check the weather before you book your tickets. It's a better experience if you go when it's not raining.

Read more about Night of a Million Lights →


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Meet Michelle Spitzer

Michelle Spitzer grew up in South Florida taking many family vacations to the Orlando area. For the past 14 years, she's called central Florida home.

A journalist for more than two...  More About Michelle

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