Ten Great Family Holiday Events in Orlando, Florida for Next to Nothing

Orlando, Florida is an amazing place any time of the year as its resorts and attractions, led by Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World, have made it a number one destination for vacationers from around the world.  And in December the theme parks go all out to create images of Christmas and winter holidays that are truly unforgettable.

Outside of the Orlando theme parks, there are many more things to do in December, but like everything else, the really spectacular stuff usually has a good price tag to go with it. Still, if your idea of seasonal entertainment is getting out with the real people and getting an on-the-ground feel of why the Christmas season in Florida is special, here are some quality activities for the whole family to enjoy that are either free or less than $10 per person to be part of.  They could turn into family traditions!

Nov. 11- Jan. 1: “Light Up UCF: 50 Nights of Music, Lights and Ice” at the University of Central Florida. Map Marker 2 (below) Free!

Light Up UCFCredit: Roks Box
UCF's fourth annual Light Up UCF, allows you to enjoy a show of nearly 150,000 lights pulsing and strobing in perfect synchronization to festive holiday music.  This year’s new and improved show was designed by the world famous Carson Williams.  Holiday light shows begin at 7 PM and continue hourly daily.  Also, for nominal admission charges you can skate on an outdoor ice rink outside of the UCF arena or enjoy carnival rides. Prices vary for these. Mon.-Thurs. 5 p.m. -11 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m. - 12 a.m. and Sun. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

Nov.14-Jan. 4: “Leu's Holiday House, Orlando” Map Marker 3. Included in Leu Gardens admission - $7.00 adult, $2.00 K-12 student, under 4 free.
The Leu House Museum is a restored 19th century home listed on the National Register of Historic Places within the City of Orlando’s Leu Gardens botanical gardens. Leu House has themed holiday decorations by designers from Seminole State College of Florida's interior design program and Ron's Miniature Shop and Museum. Thirty minute tours are given each day 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. leugardens.com

Nov. 16-Jan. 2: “Christmas at Gaylord Palms Resort – Live Stage Shows.”  Map Marker 5  Free!

Gaylord Palms Atrium at ChirstmasCredit: Gaylord Palms Resort
The Gaylord Palms resort hotel has an amazingly large indoor atrium that’s always decked out for Christmas and is an experience in itself.  As part of its holiday line-up, Gaylord Palms offers live stage entertainment in its Luminescence concert at the atrium’s Emerald Bay Plaza throughout the Christmas season.  As an option, the Gaylord Palms also offers its ICE! exhibition of truly spectacular ice carvings, this year featuring  characters from DreamWorks' Animation TV classic Merry Madagascar. There is a $22.99 non-peak adult admission charge for ICE! (Florida residents get $4.00 off) gaylordhotels.com

Nov. 26- Dec. 31: “Now Snowing Nightly” Celebration Town Center. Map Marker 7  Free!

View of Celebration Town CenterCredit: Bobak Ha'Eri from en.wikipedia.org

The Celebration community, just outside of Walt Disney World, hosts nightly snow falls at 6-9 p.m. at its TownCenter complete with strolling holiday carolers and special stage events such as the Radio Disney concert Dec. 11. TownCenter admission is free but there’s also ice skating for $10 for thirty minute skate increments with skate rental included.  Rides on the Celebration Express train and photos with Santa also available for additional charges. celebrationtowncenter.com

Dec. 2: “Holiday in the Park,” 2:00pm to 7:30pm and “Orlando Christmas Parade” 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, Lake Eola Park downtown Orlando.  Map Marker 4  Free!

Corporate tent sponsors and pet-related businesses will be set-up in the park near the Amphitheater to meet and greet guests throughout the day. A new addition to the Festival this year will be a line-up of gourmet food trucks located on Rosalind Avenue. If you have your pet with you join the Jingle Bell Dog Jog scheduled to step-off in the Downtown streets before the start of the Christmas Parade.

The Christmas Parade features high school marching bands circling LakeEola on city streets. Thousands of new white LED lights will be added to the trees in the park to create a winter wonderland for all to enjoy.

Dec 6: “Christmas in the Park,” 6:15 pm – 8:00 pm, Central Park, Park Ave., Winter Park.  Map Marker 1  Free!

Each year, on the first Thursday of December, the Morse Museum of American Art helps launch the holiday season in Winter Park when it shares pieces from its collections, lighting up Tiffany stained glass windows in Central Park and presenting the Bach Festival Choir, Youth Choir, and Brass Ensemble in concert. morsemuseum.org

Dec. 13, “Menorah Car Parade,” 6:00 pm – 6:40 pm, long Sand Lake Road and International Drive, Orlando.  Map Marker 6   Free!

Though there are many religion related events throughout Orlando during December, Chabad of South Orlando will reach out to International Drive visitors through its parade of motorized Menorahs. The parade will have an expected 30 to 50 cars with Menorahs mounted on their roofs.  The Chanukah convoy will be led by two stretch Hummers filled with children. The parade will leave the Chabad Center of South Orlando, 7504 Universal Blvd. at 5:45 p.m. It will head down Universal Boulevard, Sand Lake Road, and International Drive until it reaches the Premium Outlets, where there will be a Menorah lighting celebration at the site of the Premium Outlet’s six-foot Menorah.  The parade’s objective is to publicize the lights of Chanukah, which represents warmth, goodness and life’s miracles.

Dec. 15, “A Countdown to Christmas” beginning at 5:00 PM, Celebration Town Center.  Map Marker 7  Free!

A street festival at Celebration, just outside of Walt Disney World featuring national recording artist Teddy Geiger and special guests Jordyn Kane and Bryan Malpass.

Dec. 29, 10 am – 12 noon: Orlando Citrus Parade, Downtown Orlando.  Map Marker 4  Free!

Citrus Bowl ParadeCredit: orlandocitrusparade.com
The Citrus Parade features signature citrus floats made from more than 100,000 grapefruit, oranges and tangerines. There are more than 50 entries, including high school marching bands from throughout the nation, participating bowl game college marching bands, specialty units and other exciting performances. Upwards of 3,000 participants take part in this spectacular event. The parade attracts more than 60,000 spectators and an international audience of millions through its television syndication in 150 markets in the United States and Canada. Street curb seating is free. Admission to the grand stand viewing area is: $25 general admission, $50 VIP admission. fcsports.com

Dec. 31, evening: “Celebration’s New Year’s Eve Bash,” Celebration Town Center.  Map Marker 7  Free!

Fireworks(121425)Credit: By Brücke-Osteuropa (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Have your New Year’s Eve celebration at the CelebrationTownCenter.  Though food, drinks, riding the Celebration Express Train and horse and carriage rides are all pay as you go, this street-based spectacle is a family friendly free event with live music, a dance contest, bounce houses for kids and an incredible fireworks show at midnight!

Orlando Area Event Locations

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Central Park, 401 S Park Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789, USA
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UCF Arena, University of Central Florida, 4000 Central Florida Blvd, Alafaya, FL
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Harry P Leu Gardens, 1920 N Forest Ave, Orlando, FL 32803, USA
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Lake Eola Park, 101 N Rosalind Ave, Orlando, FL 32801, USA
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6000 W Osceola Pkwy, Kissimmee, FL 34746, USA
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Orlando, FL 32819, USA
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600 Market St, Celebration, FL 34747, USA