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ORLANDO, Fla. - Ranked as the best winter family vacation spot among destinations across the globe by U.S. News & World Report as well as the top warm-weather destination for winter travel by Wallethub, Orlando transforms into a winter wonderland this season – with a little extra sunshine.
Visitors can discover the very first Wizarding Christmas (open to all muggles), as well as dazzling holiday-themed firework displays, incredible parades and even a pyrotechnic-enhanced Nutcracker performance. Orlando pulls out all the stops for the most magical yuletide possible, including cheerful hotel packages and unforgettable holiday events to warm the soul, starting Nov. 9 through New Year’s Day.
Travelers can check out VisitOrlando.com/Christmas for more details and to start planning their perfect winter getaway.
New This Holiday Season
Disney’s Hollywood Studios debuts the brand new Sunset Seasons Greetings, a projection light show, on Nov. 9. The Hollywood Tower Hotel and billboards lining the theme park’s Sunset Boulevard come to life to display holiday stories, with real falling snow and holiday music enhancing the spirit of the celebration.
Universal Orlando will transform Hogwarts into a magical holiday extravaganza with Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, starting Nov. 18. Wizards and Muggles alike can watch in awe as Hogwarts Castle is illuminated with dazzling projections, savoring seasonal treats and drinks while listening to the famed Frog Choir and the wizarding world’s famous “Singing Sorceress” Celestina Warbeck.
SeaWorld Orlando has two new holiday experiences starting Nov. 23. Dine with Rudolph gives guests an opportunity to enjoy the telling of his classic tale during a delicious feast featuring a menu filled with traditional holiday favorites served family-style. Santa Claus at Wild Arctic invites guests to take a ride to the top of the world to meet the Arctic’s most famous resident, Santa Claus, where they can take photos with the jolly old man himself.
Theme Park Holiday Events
Walt Disney World Resort: Select nights Nov. 9- Dec. 31
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party presents a winter fairytale, as Queen Elsa covers Cinderella’s Castle in glittering ice. Lively stage shows feature Disney characters in their holiday finery and a festive holiday parade sends toy soldiers and snow flurries dancing on Main Street U.S.A. Guests can enjoy complimentary cookies and hot cocoa around the park.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios hosts Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!. The event features spectacular fireworks, special effects and holiday music classics every night, beginning Nov. 9.
The Candlelight Processional at Epcot is a beloved Disney tradition, beginning Nov. 24. This joyous retelling of the biblical story of the origins of Christmas features a celebrity narrator, 50-piece orchestra and several magnificent choirs. The special line-up of narrators this year includes Neil Patrick Harris, Whoopi Goldberg, Trace Adkins and Laurie Hernandez.
Universal Orlando Resort: Select nights Nov. 18 – Jan.6
At Universal Studios Florida, the Macy’s Holiday Parade fills the streets every evening with the larger-than-life balloons from Macy’s famous Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Elaborate floats, dancers and live entertainment dazzle and delight guests.
At Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Grinchmas descends on Seuss Landing with a live retelling of Dr. Seuss’s beloved holiday tale during, Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular, featuring the Whos from Who-ville and an original musical score by Mannheim Steamroller.
SeaWorld Orlando: Select nights Nov. 24 – Dec. 31
Waves of holiday spirit splash in during SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration. Here in a wintry, watery wonderland, live shows inspired by the natural world light up the park with majesty and cheer, including a charming nativity show with live animals and meet-and-greet with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and friends.
LEGOLAND Florida Resort: Select weekends Dec. 2-25
At Christmas Bricktacular, families can block time to marvel at the more than 30-foot-tall LEGO Christmas tree – made with 270,000 LEGO and DUPLO bricks – and pose for a perfect holiday picture with a life-size LEGO Santa, reindeer and sleigh.
Holiday Events In and Around Orlando
The City of Orlando’s annual Tree Lighting Ceremony takes place on Dec. 1 at Lake Eola Park featuring a 72-foot Christmas tree, live entertainment and a food truck bazaar.
The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts features a host of holiday shows and concerts, from “Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis presents Big Band Holidays” to the Orlando Philharmonic’s “Home for the Holidays!”
Orange County Convention Center
The Central Florida Ballet’s fire-enhanced, Cirque du Soleil-inspired take on The Nutcracker is known to many as the “pyrotechnic Nutcracker.” It returns to the Orange County Convention Center’s Linda Chapin Theater Dec. 16-17.
The city’s Winter in the Park ice skating rink opens Nov. 27 and hosts an annual tree lighting ceremony, featuring carolers and a visit from Santa on Dec. 1. On Dec. 2, enjoy the area’s Ye Old Hometown Christmas Parade, the longest-running parade in Central Florida, now in its 65th year.
Holiday Cheer at Orlando Resorts
An Orlando holiday getaway wouldn’t be complete without a holly, jolly place to stay, and the destination’s wide variety of resorts join the festivities. The holiday spirit is shared in events, dining and entertainment, creating comfort and cheer around every corner.
The Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort offers guests the opportunity to host a personal holiday party with Mickey and Minnie or Anna and Elsa from “Frozen,” upon request (for a fee). Those who stay in top suites even get a butler to help wrap holiday gifts, decorate the suite and arrange a hot cocoa and cookie decorating party.
The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel offers sweet holiday treats this year, including a Life-Size Chocolate Holiday Santa Scene in the Swan lobby, constructed with 2,000 pounds of real chocolate. The Dolphin’s newly renovated hotel lobby will offer even more holiday magic, with an indoor-snow fall and 24-fot tall Christmas tree. For the most amazing Night Before Christmas, guests can invite a fully-costumed elf to deliver milk and cookies to their room for a Christmas Eve bedtime story and tuck in.
Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center returns with an Orlando holiday classic: ICE! At Gaylord Palms, featuring an elaborate tableau of interactive hand-carved ice sculptures and displays, Nov. 21 – Jan. 7. This year, ICE! has a new theme which showcases Christmas Around the World. Guests can see incredible scenes of holiday celebrations across multiple cultures as well as travel to the North Pole to see Santa and his elves at work.
A Unique New Year’s Eve in Orlando
Ring in 2018 in a big way at one of the destination’s many New Year’s Eve events. Some of the year’s biggest firework shows light up the night as fine dining, entertainment and champagne flow below.
The Disney Countdown to Midnight at Disney’s Contemporary Resort sets a thrilling tone for the New Year, with a live DJ, dancing and libations, culminating with Magic Kingdom Park fireworks viewing and a champagne toast.
On International Drive, those in for a glamorous and exciting New Year’s will find countless options for their party needs. From Blue Martini and Tapa Toro at Pointe Orlando to Howl at the Moon, guests will be in for a night of DJs, live music, decadent food choices and of course, fireworks.
Those looking to party hard into the new year can head to Universal CityWalk for jam-packed celebrations, including unique party zones, live music, unlimited gourmet cuisine and a pulse-pumping outdoor dance floor.
Families can ring in the New Year before bedtime at Kids’ New Year’s Eve at LEGOLAND Florida Resort. Move and groove at an exclusive dance party, catch the giant LEGO brick drop at a kid-friendly hour and wind down the year with LEGO-inspired fireworks – all before midnight.
Get the entire family together for New Year’s Eve at SeaWorld Orlando to welcome in 2018 with a splash. Guests can dance the night away with interactive DJ stations, special food and drink offerings, live music and a dazzling firework display, all while surrounded by their favorite aquatic creatures.
The Orlando Destination
Home to seven of the world’s top theme parks, Orlando is the No. 1 family vacation destination, Theme Park Capital of the World®, and most visited destination in the United States. An unparalleled mix of unique experiences create cherished memories for visitors, including legendary theme parks from Disney, Universal and SeaWorld, an array of world-class water parks, entertainment venues, an award-winning food scene, shopping, sports and nightlife. And, with 450 hotels, Orlando offers more lodging options than nearly any other destination in the world, from expansive resorts to uniquely themed hotels.
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