Home for the Holidays – Part One: Local Love

During this time of year my heart is filled with gratitude. There is no other time that makes me more thankful to be a native Orlando-ian than the holiday season. To me, there are only three places in the world more magical than Orlando at Christmastime: Paris, New York City, and the North Pole. Now, I am sure many readers are thinking about the theme parks and all the over-the-top Christmas events they offer.

Christmas is over the top in the theme parks

Without a doubt the Christmas events in Orlando’s theme parks are the crowning jewel, the shining star at the top of the tree, if you will. However, it is these colossal events coupled with the local, homegrown festivities that make Orlando simply magical during this time of year.

Local Love

To have grown up in Central Florida and continue to live here as an adult is such a blessing. The novelty of visiting places I visited as a child never diminishes. One of the many delights of being a Native Orlando-ian is watching the “transplants” discover the world beyond the theme parks during the holidays. Here are some of my favorites:

November 9th – 18th, 2012 Festival of Trees: This week-long event at the Orlando Museum of Art is one of Orlando’s most whimsical yet most personal. Organizations from throughout Central Florida design and decorate themed Christmas trees that are works of art and donate them to the museum. The trees, displays, and specialty gingerbread houses are sold throughout the Festival, with all the proceeds benefiting the museum. Read about my frolic through this forest of beautiful Christmas trees here.

November 16th, 2012 – January 6, 2013 Light Up UCF: I am fairly certain that this event wins some sort of award or something for longest running Christmas event in Orlando every year. Seriously, a month and a half?! My alma mater becomes part winter carnival, part awesome Christmas light display, and part ice skating rink. When this event first started, (which was the last time I visited), it consisted of some fairly impressive Christmas lights and a handful of fun activities and carnival rides. It has grown tremendously and seems to attract more people every year. Check out their website for all the details.

Source: lightupucf.com
One of my favorite windows from Christmas in the Park

December 6th, 2012 Christmas in the Park: For one night only Central Park and Park Ave in Winter Park, FL become an outdoor cathedral of sorts as stunning stained glass Tiffany windows are placed throughout Central Park. The stage is set and the air is filled with the angelic sounds of the 150-voice Bach Festival Choir. Families, couples, and friends wander the park gazing upon the lighted windows depicting some of the most moving and inspirational scenes of the Christmas season.

Sadly, I will not be able to attend this year’s event, but dear Florida Lifers I encourage you to experience it for yourself. Read about here and make sure you get there early – parking can be a pain.

Throughout the holiday season the shops and cafes along Park Ave welcome patrons with open arms as beautiful Christmas decorations add sparkle and warmth all along the avenue. Some of Orlando’s most unique shops can be found here and my holiday shopping fest is not complete without spending an evening strolling along the avenue. Nothing beats an evening of finding treasures to wrap and place beneath my Christmas tree with a stop at one of the fantastic Park Ave restaurants for a marvelous meal and a glass of red wine.

Bach Festival Choir (Source: bachfestivalflorida.org)

December 1 -30th, 2012 Light Up the Holidays at Crane’s Roost Park:

Hugging the edge of Interstate 4, in Altamonte Springs, Crane’s Roost Park invites visitors to stroll around the lake, have a picnic, go for a jog, or catch a movie or concert at the amphitheater. During the month of December the walkway around the lake becomes a Floridian winter wonderland as fun, whimsical lighted structures light up the entire park. A stroll among the bright, cheery lights in Crane’s Roost Park with a cup of hot chocolate in hand has become an annual tradition for my family. Christmas would not be the same without it.

Source: uptownaltamonte.com

These are just a few of my favorites – really just the tip of the iceberg. I would love to hear about your favorite Florida and  Orlando holiday events. For a full list of all the holiday events in Orlando visit the Orlando Sentinel’s guide or Visit Orlando’s Calendar of Events.


4 thoughts on “Home for the Holidays – Part One: Local Love”

  1. I keep wanting to go see the Osborne Family lights. I HAVE to get there this week, before it gets tooooo crazy!! The little things help me feel like it’s actually Christmas. We went to Celebration on a cool night and it was amazing!!

    1. I hope you do get a chance to see them, though I think the busy attendance may already be here. Lots and lots of folks are visiting the parks earlier in the season nowadays.
      Celebration is also a wonderful place to visit during this season,great point! Hope you have a great time!

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