Choosing which holiday events to attend can be a daunting task, especially when there are so many to choose from. To take away some of the stress of decision making, we've curated this guide to the best holiday events in Orlando to fuel your holiday date nights.
Check out our bucket list of must-do experiences, view some holiday lights, find our picks for FREE events, watch a classic Christmas movie, celebrate the holidays in Orlando theme parks, or attend holiday performances. Our guide has it all!
Our holiday events guide is organized into the following sections to help you easily find the type of event you're looking for:
- Christmas Events Bucket List
- Best Christmas Lights in Orlando
- Free Holiday Events
- Where to Watch Christmas Movies
- Theme Park Christmas Events
- Holiday Performances and Entertainment
If you're up for a day trip, check out this roundup of Holiday Events in Tampa Bay from our sister publication, Tampa Bay Date Night Guide.
Christmas Events Bucket List for 2021
Looking for an overview on our top picks for celebrating the holidays in Orlando? This is your section! Below you can skim our curated list of the must-do holiday events and experiences.
Check out a Holiday Lights Display
Give Kids the World Village has again been transformed into Night of a Million Lights through January 2, 2022. More than three million lights are setting the 84-acre nonprofit resort aglow for the holidays. Also returning this year, Dazzling Lights at Leu Gardens, which runs through January 9, 2022, takes you on a 3/4-mile journey through multiple holiday lights experiences. Check out our Christmas lights section below for more ideas.
Sip Festive Libations
Conduct your own holiday cocktail crawl all around Orlando! Our favorite annual Christmas bar is Miracle on Orange. Each year, The Courtesy transforms into a magical Christmas wonderland complete with a full menu of festive cocktails served in fun themed glassware. The fun begins on Tuesday, November 23, 2021. Follow our Disney Springs holiday pub crawl for more festive fun.
Sip while you play unique activities including axe throwing, billiards, karaoke and more this holiday season! The Keg Social is offering nine exclusive holiday cocktails to get you in the spirit this season. Whether you’re looking for something sweet like their Pumpkin Creme, made with spiced rum and pumpkin simple, or crave a little more of a kick, like their Hard Apple Cider made with Fireball, they’ve got you covered this year!
Celebrate the Holidays in the Theme Parks
From the return of the EPCOT Candlelight Processional to holiday magic in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Orlando's theme parks are touched with an extra dose of magic during the holidays. We've got a guide to celebrating the holidays at Disney and also at Universal to help you plan your holiday date nights.
Snuggle Up in a Horse Drawn Carriage
See Downtown Winter Garden’s seasonal decor and holiday lights on a holiday horse drawn carriage tour. SOUL Haven Ranch offers this magical experience throughout December for $85. The carriage fits up to four adults, or two adults and three kids. Available dates are December 4, 10, 11, 17-19, 22-24, and 26-30 between 5:30 and 9:30pm. Tours begin at the Winter Garden Downtown Pavillion (104 S Lakeview Ave). Reservations are required and can be booked online.
Make a Gingerbread House
Learn from the best as you craft a gingerbread house alongside the pastry team at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes. Gingerbread School invites you to piece together gingerbread panels and adorn them with candy and edible decorations to make a one of a kind gingerbread house. The cost is $195 per family (4 guests max), so make it a double date!
Play in the Snow
We’re miles from real snow but a few creative locals have crafted a suitable substitute. Find nightly “flurries” falling hourly at Celebration Town Center from 6-9pm November 27 through December 31, 2021, and at Wekiva Island's Winter Wonderland from December 3 – 25, 2021.
Watch Classic Holiday Movies
Now's the time to watch all your favorite holiday flicks on the big screen! Upcoming movies include:
- The Santa Claus on December 3 at Ivanhoe Park Brewing Company (FREE)
- Elf on December 4 at Lake Eola Park (FREE)
- White Christmas December 8 at Enzian Theater ($10)
- It's a Wonderful Life December 11 at Enzian Theater ($9)
- A Christmas Story December 19 at Old Town Kissimmee (FREE)
- The Grinch (live action) December 19 at Wekiva Island ($2 admission fee)
Check out our holiday movie section further down for the full holiday movie lineup this year.
Snap a Christmas Couples' Selfie
Find loads of holiday vignettes at Wall Crawl (and get photos captured by pro photographers!) including photos with Santa on select dates. For outdoor photo ops, Downtown Winter Garden has a special holiday mural on the side of Doxology at 49 S Main St. Don't forget to snap a photo with the Christmas tree and visit many more photo ops around town.
See the Lake Eola Christmas Tree
It just wouldn’t be the holidays without a walk around Lake Eola Park culminating in a visit to the iconic Christmas tree. Animated lights bring the tree to life during a synchronized light and music show each night. The city's official tree lighting ceremony will take place on December 3, 2021.
Ring in the New Year
Close out the holiday season by waving goodbye to 2021 and hello to 2022! Refer to our NYE guide for the best parties, dinners, and celebrations. We'll be updating our guide soon, but here's a sneak peek at a few NYE events in Orlando to check out:
Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach Hard Rockers & High Rollers NYE
8pm – 1am
A Casino Royale themed event featuring live entertainment, casino games, party favors, and a midnight Champagne toast. Upgrade your New Year's Eve experience and purchase tickets to the VIP Sky Lounge on the Wave Terrace. The VIP Sky Lounge will give you guaranteed seating all night, access to the Avalon Ballroom & Terrace entertainment, VIP Buffet, Premium open Bar until 11:30 pm, and champagne toast @ midnight!
$175 – $300
Enzian Theater's James Bond New Year's Eve Party
8pm – 1am
Come in your most impressive Bond fit and you could win a prize. Enjoy some bubbly, light hors d’oeuvres and special NYE cocktails while dancing your way into the new year!
$99 general admission; $330 VIP table for two; $660 VIP table for four
ICEBAR Orlando: 2022 Hollywood New Year’s Eve Bash
8pm – 2am
The Hollywood themed evening features casino games, live DJ entertainment, ice sculptures, free digital souvenir photos, raffle giveaways and a special surprise “celebrity” guest Britney Spears impersonator.
$50 – $125+
The Courtesy NYE 2022 Open Bar Party
8:30pm – 12:30am
Full Open Bar with specialty NYE menu, hors d' oeuvres/ snacks (not full dinner). DJ, ball drop on TV, and toast with bubbles at midnight.
Alfond Inn's 8th Annual New Year’s Eve Gala
8pm – 12:15am
NYE gala with live music from the BuzzCatz, Chef-served food stations, Premium Open Bar and a Champagne Toast. A live stream of the Times Square Ball Drop will ring in 2022.
Best Christmas Lights in Orlando
Nothing says Christmas quite like strolling around hand in hand to “oooh” and “ahhhh” at holiday lights. Below are a few of our favorite Christmas lights displays in Orlando.
November 12, 20221 – January 2, 2022
Head to Give Kids the World Village to stroll the 84-acre nonprofit resort, aglow with more than three million lights. Guests will experience a 360-degree dancing lights show, sparkling tree trail, 100 decorated villas, larger-than-life holiday-themed displays and more. Tickets are $25 – $40. (Pictured in feature image.)
November 19, 2021 – January 9, 2022
Embark on a 3/4 mile journey of awe-inspiring light experiences throughout Leu Gardens. Highlights include a forest lit with the flickering of hundreds of hand-made Moroccan lanterns, a 7,000 square foot light maze, the Leu Gardens Rose Garden comes to life with 150 colored balls of light, a forest of neon trees, a 65’ long tunnel of 12’ tall stars, enhanced finale show, new entertainment and food offerings, and so much more. Tickets are $22 – $25.
November 19, 2021 – January 2, 2022
Explore festive decor throughout the resort including 2 million twinkling lights and the 60ft Christmas tree, which comes alive during the nightly light show. Other festivities include snow tubing, Cirque: Spirit of Christmas holiday show, a Christmas tree trail and so much more. NEW this year is Mission: Save Christmas, an interactive experience featuring Elf. Some activities require tickets, and you'll need to pay for parking.
November 25 – December 31, 2021, 6-9:30pm
Now in its 12th year, Jeater Bend (located in Celebration) features 11 homes synchronized to lights, music, projection, water & fire. There is free street parking along Celebration Avenue; park your car and walk over to stroll the streets and see the lights.
November 25, 2021 – January 2, 2021
Enjoy over 200,000 lights on more than 100 holiday displays at Cranes Roost Park in Altamonte Springs. The lights are turned on each night at dusk. There is also a fountain show nightly at 6, 7, 8 and 9pm. A crowd favorite, the Plaza fountain features special shows with dancing water and dazzling lights choreographed to classic holiday tunes.
December 4, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19, 23 2021, 6-9pm
Enjoy a very merry light show at Winter Garden’s City Hall. Plus, there will be a Winter Wonderland area for children at City Hall on the nights of the light show. The entire downtown Winter Garden area will be festive and decorated.
Tree lighting December 4, 2021
Lights and decorations through December 26, 2021, beginning at dusk
Stroll through Lake Concord Park to enjoy charming vignettes of holiday displays and brilliant lights. This small community park is perfect for a simple evening of enjoying light displays and a lakeside park.
Read our guide to Where to Find Orlando's Best Holiday Lights for even MORE ideas!
FREE Holiday Events
A holiday date night doesn't have to cost a dime. Partake in free festive celebrations throughout Orlando including tree lightings, festive parades, and so much more.
November 26, 2021 – January 2, 2022
Enjoy this winter wonderland in Lake Nona Town Center featuring outdoor skating, snow, twinkling lights and dazzling decorations, festive treats, and one-of-a-kind performances that are guaranteed to spread some much-needed holiday cheer. Snow fall happens hourly. Some activities, like ice skating, are available to enjoy for a fee.
November 27, 2021 – December 31, 2021, snowfall hourly from 6- 9pm
Celebration Town Center offers this family-friendly holiday experience with some of the best “snow” you can find in Central Florida. Festive music, decorations, and adorable shops make this a great holiday tradition.
Tree lighting: December 1, 2021, 6pm
Holiday tree on display through January 1, 2022
Kick of the holiday season with the I-Drive District at ICON Park! Check out how I-Drive Dazzles with a glittering lighting ceremony of the 50-ft Holiday Tree. Special performances by the I-Ride Trolley Chords, Dr. Phillips High School Dance In Motion Company & Orlando Ballet. Make a reservation at The Santa Workshop Experience to meet and take holiday photos with Santa and the Jolly old elf! Children participating in The Santa Workshop Experience will receive a FREE ticket to ride the the Wheel at ICON Park. The Holiday Tree will be present for viewing at ICON Park through New Year’s Day.
December 3, 2021, 5-9pm
Ring in the holiday season with Mayor Buddy Dyer at the City of Orlando’s Tree Lighting Celebration. The event will include holiday performances at the Walt Disney Amphitheater, food trucks and a holiday market, and an opportunity to meet Santa until 9pm at the Eola House.
December 3, 2021, 6-9pm
Enjoy this family-friendly street party in downtown Mount Dora featuring music, food vendors, toy vendors, shopping (shops open until 9pm), and free pictures in Sunset Park with Santa! Entertainment includes Mount Dora High School jazz band, carolers, stilt walkers, jugglers, and more.
December 3 – December 25, 2021
Nightly snow flurries plus extra entertainment and activities are offered on select days and evenings, including outdoor movies and visits from Santa Claus. New for 2021 is a 20 feet tall Christmas tree that has been added to the Christmas Tree Forest. Be sure to check out Wekiva Island’s website for more details. *Note: a nominal $2 admission fee applies.
December 4, 2021, starts at 9am
This festive event along Park Avenue in Winter Park has been held each December for more than 60 years, making it the oldest continuous holiday parade in Central Florida.
December 5, 2021, 2-6pm
This event is family-friendly and pet-friendly so grab the kids and your furry friends and head on down to the SoDo Shopping Center for a night full of holiday fun!
December 11, 2021, 6-7:30pm
A favorite annual tradition in historic downtown Sanford returns! This parade is special since it is held at night and most parade floats are illuminated. Grab an early dinner at one of the many wonderful restaurants or head to one of the breweries for a cup of Christmas cheer after the parade.
December 11, 2021, 5:30-8:30pm
Organized by the Winter Park Notary Club, head to Dinky Dock Park to see the impressive boat and dock holiday decorations created by residents and local business sponsors. Parking is extremely limited, so use a ride share service if possible.
Through January 2, 2022
This year the Christmas Tree Trail is now a Stroll, with each tree at its own individual location to make social distancing possible. Maps for the Stroll can be obtained at House of Blues, 12 Days of Christmas Store, The Marketplace Co-Op, and The Welcome Center. Each tree is inspired by a Disney character or theme.
Check out our guide to 50+ Festive and Free Holiday Events in Orlando for the full scoop on the best free holiday events to attend.
Where to Watch Christmas Movies
It doesn't get more classic than cuddling up to watch holiday films together! From free outdoor movies to Christmas classics returning to the big screen, here's where to see holiday movies in Orlando this season.
Friday nights November 26 – December 17, 6pm (movie begins at 7:15pm)
Ivanhoe Park Brewing Co.
Enjoy free outdoor screenings of Christmas classics plus onsite vendors.
- Elf – November 26
- The Santa Clause – December 3
- The Grinch – December 17
Saturday, November 27, 7:10pm (pre-show activities begin at 5:30pm)
Downtown Pavilion, 104 S. Lakeview Avenue
Grab blankets and chairs (holiday pajamas welcome too) and get cozy to watch a Holiday Moonlight Movie under the stars!
Select Sundays at 7pm
Old Town Kissimmee
This FREE outdoor movie series features holiday classics weekly beginning at 7pm.
- The Grinch (live action) – November 28
- Christmas Vacation – December 5
- Elf – December 12
- A Christmas Story – December 19
- The Polar Express – December 26
Select dates November 24 – December 29
Snuggling up and watching one of these feel-good films is the perfect way to get in the holiday spirit. And don’t forget to stop by Eden Bar to try special Holiday Cocktails.
Prices vary by film
- Home for the Holidays – November 24
- Christmas in Connecticut – December 1
- The Santa Clause – December 3
- Dr. Suess' The Grinch – December 5
- White Christmas – December 8
- It's a Wonderful Life – December 11
- National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation – December 14
- Home Alone – December 15
- Rare Exports – December 18
- A Christmas Story – December 22
- Lethal Weapon – December 28
- Scrooged – December 29
Select nights in December
Lake Eola, Downtown Orlando
Join the Downtown Development Board as they present Elf at Lake Eola Park. Don't forget your blankets, chairs, and snacks for the whole family to enjoy.
- Elf: December 4
- The Polar Express: December 10
- The Santa Clause: December 17
Sunday, December 5, 7pm
Garden Theatre – Downtown Winter Garden
Bah humbug! This Dickens classic comes to life on the big screen as Kermit, Gonzo, Fozzie, and the rest of the Muppets attempt to change the fate of grumpy Ebenezer Scrooge.
Select Sunday evenings in December, 7pm
Enjoy an outdoor movie in the winter wonderland of Wekiva Island.
- Polar Express – December 5
- The Santa Clause – December 12
- The Grinch (live action) – December 19
December 9 & 16, 2021, 7:00 p.m.
Cranes Roost Park
Bring your chair and blankets to enjoy holiday movies in the Cranes Roost Park Plaza. Admission is free. Food and beverages are available for purchase.
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas – December 9
- Elf – December 16
Theme Park Christmas Events
Celebrate in serious style by attending a holiday celebration at Tampa and Orlando attractions and theme parks.
Through December 30, 2021
Magic Kingdom has put Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party on hiatus this year, but they are still bringing home the magic with with an after-hours Very Merriest After-Hours Party. Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios are also decorated and will have character cavalcades throughout the day. The Taste of Epcot International Festival of the Holidays starts on November 26-December 30, 2021 with the sights, sounds and tastes of the season from cultures around the world.
November 12, 2021 – January 2, 2022
Head to SeaWorld Orlando to make new holiday memories with festive shopping, delicious food and dazzling live shows inspired by the natural world. Stroll the lakeside Christmas Market and pick out unique, artisan-crafted gifts. The Christmas Celebration is included with park admission
November 13, 2021 – January 2, 2022
Enjoy park-wide festive fun at this award-winning holiday event. The park becomes filled with holiday cheer and guests can enjoy holiday traditions with a twist. Ride the Holly Jolly Express train, view millions of twinkling lights from the top of a roller coaster, visit Santa in his workshop, and spend time with Rudolph and his friends from the classic holiday movie, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Guests can also enjoy festive live shows and take part in special holiday dining and shopping.
November 13, 2021 – January 2, 2022
Head to Universal Orlando Resort for the biggest, loudest, awesomest holiday celebration of the season! Celebrate with seasonal shows and decorations at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Sip on hot Butterbeer in Diagon Alley in Universal Studios and Hogsmeade in Universal Islands of Adventure as they come to life with magical lights and festive events. The Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s features larger-than-life balloons, with appearances by the Minions and characters from Shrek and Madagascar. Head over to Whoville for The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular starring The Grinch himself.
Select nights November 26 – December 24, 2021
Enjoy one of Tampa’s largest light displays as the zoo transforms into a seasonal wonderland. This year promises to be bigger, better, and brighter than ever. Enjoy six new illuminated zones of lights, festive entertainment, delectable holiday treats, and amazing wildlife. Wander over to Twinkle Town Marketplace where you can meet Santa.
Holiday Events: Performances and Entertainment
Get in the holiday spirit at these special performances including The Nutcracker, holiday concerts, and more.
Most Friday nights November 26 – December 31, 2021, 5-8pm
Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park
Receive free admission every Friday night! During the holidays, select Friday nights get a special twist with holiday performances to celebrate the season. Live music enhances the gallery experience.
December 1 – 24, 2021, showtimes vary
The heartwarming Christmas classic comes to life onstage in an all-new adaptation by Artistic Director Jim Helsinger. The miserly and miserable Ebenezer Scrooge greets each Christmas with a “bah humbug,” until he is visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.
Ticket prices vary
December 2, 2021, 6:15-8:30pm
Central Park, Winter Park
The City of Winter Park and The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art continue this beloved holiday tradition. Stroll through the park and enjoy the sounds of the Bach Festival Choir.
December 3 – 4, 2021
Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
Victorian Troupe Phantasmagoria returns to the stage with its own uniquely “haunted” adaptation of the classic holiday tale written by Charles Dickens.
$30 and up
December 3 – 5 and 16-19, 2021, multiple showtimes
Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
Orlando Ballet’s enchanting annual favorite, The Nutcracker is a not-to-be-missed holiday tradition. The beloved story of a godfather’s Christmas Eve gift of a toy nutcracker that comes to life and transports Clara to a world of wonder. Patrons are carried along on a magical journey to a world of fantasy and fun complete with the Mouse King, Sugar Plum Fairy and Mother Ginger.
Ticket prices vary
December 3, 2021, 6-9pm
Come rock around the Christmas tree with Santa as he lights the way to Reunion Resort’s first ever holiday concert! After lighting the tree, and all of Reunion, Santa will lead everyone to a night of holiday magic. Enjoy an outdoor holiday concert featuring local artists and performers along with selfies with Santa, hot cocoa, s’mores, cotton candy, festive cocktails, and holiday activities! The tree lighting starts promptly at 6pm in front the of Grande Tower, the concert and other activities will continue into the night until 9pm.Entry tickets are for outside guests only. Entry tickets serve as your parking fee, so you only need one ticket per vehicle.
December 3, 10 & 17, 7-9pm
Find your groove with live holiday tunes from talented local artists. Admission is free. Food and beverages are available for purchase. The lineup includes NOLA Brass Holiday Ensemble – December 3, Townsky’s Holiday Revue – December 10, and Robert Harris Holiday Jazz – December 17.
December 5, 2021, 5pm
Winter Park’s Central Park
Bring your blanket and a picnic for a concert program of holiday favorites that will be sure to put everyone in the spirit of the season! This free concert is made possible by the Charlotte Julia Hollander Trust.
December 7, 2021, 7pm
Frontyard Festival at Dr. Phillips Center
Featuring the Bethune Cookman University Concert Chorale. This evening will feature a myriad of classic holiday tunes including soul-stirring gospel favorites, jazz, soul, spirituals and impactful music by African-American composers.
December 10 and 17, 2021, 7-9pm
Downtown Winter Garden
Enjoy the classic sounds of holidays of old as live music serenades shoppers at the plaza of downtown Winter Garden.
December 11, 2021, 7pm
Walt Disney Amphitheatre at Lake Eola Park
Rock in the holidays with the popular strings super-group Violectric. Free and open to the public, the concert features traditional holiday songs mashed up with classic rock tunes and modern hits. Donations for the Pet Alliance will be accepted during the event.
December 12, 2021, 3pm and 7pm
Frontyard Festival at Dr. Phillips Center
A Central Florida holiday tradition, this program features beloved Christmas and seasonal gems all performed by the renowned Bach Festival Choir and Orchestra with soprano Mary Wilson and Grammy Award–winning bass-baritone Dashon Burton.
$35 and up
December 16 – 18, 2021
Darden Courtyard at Orlando Shakes
Tymisha “Tush” Harris kicks off Orlando Shakes' brand new outdoor cabaret series with a sexy holiday performance, “Tushin’ Through the Snow.” Don’t miss this special weekend adults-only show that takes us through the holidays with a little bit of naughty and a whole lotta nice!
Ticket prices vary
December 18, 2021, 7:30-9pm
Lake Eola Park
The Russian Academy of Ballet presents a gift to the Orlando Community with a free performance of “The Nutcracker”.
The holidays are bubbly with a Marlow’s gift card! When you buy a $50 gift card, you’ll get a free bottle of Michelle Brut sparkling wine. When you buy a $100 gift card, you’ll get a free bottle of Michelle Brut sparkling wine plus a bonus $20 gift card. Offer valid from 11/19/21 to 12/31/21. Talk with your server or visit MarlowsTavern.com.
NEW YEAR'S EVE 2022 | DECEMBER 31
Looking for the Best New Year's Events in Orlando? Check our our guide to NYE! And we have the 411 on how to enjoy NYE fireworks too!
Feature image credit: Dani Meyering