A forest of beautiful Christmas trees can be found in Orlando, every year. During the two weeks before Thanksgiving the Orlando Museum of Art becomes a glittering winter wonderland. The Festival of Trees is one of my favorite holiday traditions in Orlando and I had the pleasure of being invited to attend the event’s opening weekend.
The festival is a major fundraiser for the museum. Different organizations throughout Central Florida decorate their own Christmas tree in their own unique style. The creativity is astounding. Multiple exhibit rooms are filled with these marvelous trees and they are sold throughout the event to raise money for the museum. Every year there is a new theme for the event, this year’s is “All that Glitters.” A visit to the festival is always started in grand style with a towering tree in the atrium. The ornaments on this year’s atrium tree are hand painted!
As if the spectacle of hundreds of over-the-top decorated Christmas trees was not enough, there is also a room full of gingerbread houses. I have attended the Festival of Trees almost every year since its inception. I always start with the gingerbread room. Maybe it’s the intoxicating smell of real gingerbread or the adorable details, but whatever the reason, I love starting here. The imagination is easily pleased with so many fun themes and creative concepts. It is difficult to resist snagging a little treat from the displays. Thankfully, gingerbread men are available for purchase.
After teasing my sweet tooth, I strolled into the first room full of trees. The sparkling assembly is definitely dazzling. I love to stand back and see the forest for the trees. Each time I enter a different room I take a few moments and enjoy the scene. Once I have taken in the big picture I then join the procession of fellow admirers.
Not every tree fits the theme of the festival and there are certainly some trees more impressive than others. However, each tree offers some detail, decoration, or ornament to enjoy. I recommend taking your time and paying attention to the details. Stand back and take it all in, then move in closer to focus on the little treasures. Some years the creativity bursts at the seams, inspiring visitors with new ideas for their own decorating pleasure.
This year there were a number of lovely vignettes. Going beyond the tree, some organizations create a whole scene. My favorite this year is a spinning tree themed around Cinderella. The first half of the tree is decorated with wood and kitchen themed ornaments and topped with a fireplace. As the tree continues to spin the magic spell is cast and the second half of the tree is revealed, themed with pumpkins, glass slippers, and topped with the bodice of Cinderella’s sparkling blue dress. It was bippidi-boppidi-beautiful! (Corny, I know)
As a child, my mother would bring me to the festival. From a child’s eyes the festival is simply astonishing. I remember thinking “this must be what Santa’s workshop is like.” And speaking of the big guy, he has his own room at the festival, ready to meet children of all ages. This a great opportunity for pictures without the craziness of the mall.
There are also two shops set up just for the festival full of unique Christmas decorations while local businesses come in and set up shop too, offering great gift ideas. Every year I always buy at least one ornament. It’s tradition and after all, what better way to adorn your tree than with an ornament from the Festival of Trees!
The rest of the museum is also open during the festival, so take advantage of the entire space. Most of the attendees focus on the holiday cheer so if you become overwhelmed by the crowds, take a few moments to enjoy the serenity of art exhibits. I recommend taking your time and enjoying it all. Plus, the Orlando Museum of Art is located in my absolute favorite part of town, right by Winter Park. Whether you are a local or visiting Orlando, you must visit the Festival of Trees. As a native it feels like home to me and it always puts me in the holiday spirit. And since it is part of Loch Haven Park getting there is half the fun.
Open Daily 10am – 5pm
Tickets are $15 Adult, $6 child – Parking is $5 (cash only)
The Festival runs through November 19th, so start your holiday season off right!