|The weather won’t be frightful, it will be so delightful, and there’ll be boat parades, Santa sky dives, light displays, fireworks and lots more. It’s time to do Christmas Florida
Jingle all the way to Pensacola this Christmas for lots of family-friendly festivities at the Pensacola Winterfest. See a Surfing Santa Parade and a Santa sky dive drop from the famous Flora-Bama beach bar, plus falling snow (fake, of course), hot chocolate, and trolley rides all the way through to January 1 when, if you’re brave enough, you can join locals at the beach for the traditional Polar Bear Dip.
Delve into the world of Dickens when historic downtown Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island hosts the fourth annual Dickens on Centre festival devoted to the Victorian author on 7-9 December. Inspired by Charles Dickens’ novel ‘A Christmas Carol’, this free event sees the centre transformed into a classic English village, with roasting chestnuts, stalls selling seasonal gifts, costumed characters, carol singing, readings of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ and a visit from Saint Nick.
Fort Myers and Sanibel
Christmas takes to the water on the beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel with a sparkling parade on 1 December. This year is the 30th annual Christmas Boat Parade, when you might even catch Santa enjoying the Christmas cheer from the deck of one of the yachts. On 7 December Sanibel and Captiva will host its 34th annual Luminary festival taking visitors on a trail across the islands with live nativity scenes, music, activities and visits to Santa’s Grotto.
Daytona International Speedway
After a hugely successful debut last year, the Magic of Lights drive-through experience returns to Daytona International Speedway this year. From 16 November to 31 December you can enjoy spectacular displays, using the latest LED technology and digital animations, all from the comfort of your hire car. New for this year is a Reindeer Crossing where Santa’s sled team will jump over your vehicle, plus a 200-foot Candy Cane Lane and a Snowflake Forest.
Go back in time at the opulent 1886 palace of famed hat maker John B. Stetson to admire designer Christmas decorations from around the world. The Stetson Mansion, built in 1886, each year holds a Christmas Spectacular Holiday Home Tour, (15 November-15 January), when visitors are invited to explore this beautiful, grand, three-storey High Victorian style mansion in all its festive glory.
Emerald Coast CVB
Combine your Christmas shopping with some fantastic festive entertainment at Destin’s HarborWalk Village on 9 December. Head on down for the annual Boat Parade, now in its 32nd year, and the chance to see the big man in red. Later that day there’ll be a special performance on the Main Stage of the Nutcracker from the Ballet Conservatory of the Destin School of Music & Dance, followed by a colourful parade and spectacular fireworks over the harbour.
Delve into a magical, winter wonderland of twinkling lights and festive entertainment at the Holiday Lights in the Gardens on 23 November-30 December. More than one million lights will shine throughout the Florida Botanical Gardens where there’ll also be nightly performances from community entertainers and, of course, visits from Santa Claus. On 8 December grab a picnic and find a spot along the canals to watch the annual Clearwater Holiday Lighted Boat Parade, cruising from the Clearwater Marina to Clearwater Point.
Pack your wooly hats and scarves for the 33rd Annual Snowfest celebration on 1 December in Naples’ Golden Gate neighbourhood. Yes, it will be a White Christmas along Third Street South during the evenings of Thanksgiving week and every Thursday night in December when 100 tons of snow, created from 1,200 blocks of chipped ice, will fall amidst the lighted palm trees. On selected nights in December boats covered in fairy lights and bedecked with Santa, reindeer, and snowmen will join parades in Naples shopping districts.
New Smyrna Beach
Toyland is the theme for this year’s popular Christmas Parade along the streets of New Smyrna Beach. On 1 December, streets will come alive with carol singers, marching bands, lavishly decorated floats and other Christmas trimmings. On 7 December, the Light Up Flagler! event will see Flagler Avenue aglow with more seasonal entertainment, while on 15 December the party continues with the Holiday Boat Parade.
Be amazed at the 30-foot-tall LEGO Christmas tree, which will be lit several times each evening in a dazzling display of twinkling lights and classic yuletide music, festive decorations at LEGOLAND Florida. The parks’ Christmas Bricktacular will also bring a giant LEGO wreath, a life-size LEGO Santa, reindeer and sleigh, scavenger hunts with cool LEGO prizes and the chance to meet a LEGO Santa and LEGO Toy Soldier during daily park appearances.
Stay connected when navigating around the Sunshine State this festive season with the recently launched Hertz Connect. The free portable and secure wi-fi device is available to Hertz Gold Plus Rewards customers, with a minimum prepaid booking total of £350, or $500 if paying at location. Providing unlimited data and 4G hotspot, plus many other roaming benefits, this service is available when collecting from major locations including Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Fort Myers. Need some inspiration for road tripping around Florida? See the Full On Florida route on Hertz Road Trip Planner which includes 14 iconic and off-the-beaten track stops in the Sunshine State, with downloadable maps and insider guides.