Christmas in Orlando begins early, with some holiday events starting the second week of November. Christmas vacation festivities often last into the first week of January. An extended season allows visitors to enjoy Christmas celebrations in Orlando whenever it is most convenient.
Light Up UCF!, one of the best early season family holiday events, is held at the University of Central Florida. It has free admission, free parking, free nightly light show and free Christmas-themed movies several times a week. It also features Orlando’s largest outdoor ice skating rink and several carnival-style rides with holiday themes.
New in 2017, The Polar Express Train Ride departs most days from the city of Tavares. The 60-minute excursion recreates the Polar Express story with passengers served hot cocoa by dancing waiters — and all the other details that make the book so unforgettable. Like characters in the book, children (and their parents) are welcome to dress in their pajamas. The train soon arrives at the North Pole where Santa boards the train to give everyone a bell from his sleigh.
Avid Star Wars fans may consider an early trip to Orlando to attend the December 16 one-night only presentation of “Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular fireworks” and the “Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away” stage show.
Visitors staying more than five days often want to see as many events as possible. The following are the best bets for your Christmas celebrations in Orlando:
Ice! Featuring Christmas Around the World at the Gaylord Palms resort near Kissimmee features scores of hand-carved ice statues inside a 20,000 square-foot exhibit. It’s kept at a chilly 9 degrees F; coats are provided but no open toe shoes allowed.
At Universal’s Islands of Adventure, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is decked out with its first Christmas decorations. A nighttime giant projection show morphs Hogwarts Castle into a very festive decoration.
At Universal Studios, Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley also shines with Christmas decorations. The nightly Macy’s holiday parade includes 30 new giant balloons. And more than 100 performers, including Santa, join the parade.
At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, billboards and the Tower of Terror are transformed into the holiday decorations by giant projections. Large ornaments and a big Christmas tree decorate Echo Lake. And a new character joins For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration.
Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays showcases diverse tastes, sounds and sights in Holidays Around the World. Sample sweets and desserts from festival kitchens and standout offerings at the Canada Pavilion. Enjoy these traditional favorites: Candlelight Processional and Illuminations fireworks show.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom glows at night with colorful holiday light shows.
At Disney Springs, the Christmas Tree Trail has been extended with Disney-themed trees.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration are not to be missed.
LEGOLAND Florida’s Christmas Bricktacular celebration is held on special days before Christmas. On December 26, the Kid’s New Year’s Party joins the Bricktacular festivities with more activities.
At Universal’s Islands of Adventure, a live presentation of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” signals the start of Grinchmas, a celebration of all things Grinchy.
SeaWorld Orlando offers dinner with Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and a chance to visit Santa at his home above the Arctic Circle. From January 1-6, SeaWorld celebrates the Three Kings Day, a popular Hispanic religious and gift-giving observance on January 6.
Christmas celebrations in Orlando are so varied that many visitors return year after year to see what is new and enjoy their old favorites.