November, December Events
Whatever your passion, Florida has something for you. Here are just some of the major events scheduled for November and December in the Sunshine State. Please check individual websites for more details.
DOWNTON ABBEY: THE EXHIBITION – Jonesing for some more Downton Abbey? This traveling exhibit transposes you to post-Edwardian England, where the Downton characters’ fashions and iconic house come to life. You’ll be immersed in the fascinating history, culture and some of the most memorable moments from the show’s six-season run. Sorry, no cast members will be in attendance, but some 50 costumes will be on display. Rooms such as the Crawleys’ glamorous dining room, Mrs. Patmore’s hectic kitchen and Lady Mary’s bedroom, to name a few, have been painstakingly recreated. This is the second stop on the tour, after a successful run in New York City. The New York Times gave the exhibit a great review, saying: “…a cleverly immersive experience mounted with the same exacting care as the show itself.”
When: Nov. 10 through at least early April, 2019
Where: Culture Lab at City Place, West Palm Beach
MIAMI BOOK FAIR – Is there a better literary gathering anywhere in the country? Let’s start with the famous “Evenings With” (book early!): novelists Anna Quindlen, Liane Moriarty and Tayari Jones; Vanity Fair icon Tina Brown; Barack Obama presidential photographer Pete Souza, and Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright. Among the other 500 or so authors to appear this year are historian Doris Kearns Goodwin; Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor; NPR’s Peter Sagal; humorist Dave Barry; novelists Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Olen Butler, Charles Frazier and Curtis Sittenfield and a host of other well-known non-fiction writers and award winning poets. Don’t miss the Street Fair, Children’s Alley and the Porch, an all-day, all-night gathering, featuring the best of South Florida’s story-tellers and performers, from hip hop to prose.
When: Nov. 11-18
Where: Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus, Miami
FORT MYERS TIP-OFF -- Four college basketball teams from America’s top conferences will compete in the inaugural Fort Myers Tip-Off at Suncoast Credit Union Arena. The early season tournament field includes the Boston College Eagles of the ACC, the Loyola Chicago Ramblers of the Missouri Valley Conference, the Richmond Spiders of the Atlantic 10 Conference and the Wyoming Cowboys of the Mountain West Conference.
When: Fort Myers Nov. 19-21, 2018,
Where: Suncoast Credit Union Arena
AQUA CROSS FORT LAUDERDALE GRAND PRIX – Top professional and amateur personal watercraft riders will compete for championships in the final P1 AquaX event of the season. World number one Eric “The Eagle” Francis tops the field, along with Brian Baldwin and reigning series champion Chris MacClugage.
When: Nov. 17-18
Where: Offshore at Fort Lauderdale Beach
KEY WEST FILM FESTIVAL – You can count on this festival to feature films that exhibit excellence in story-telling. And, you can’t beat the setting for all the parties.
When: Nov. 14-18
Where: Various locations in Key West
AMERICAN SANDSCULPTING CHAMPIONSHIP & BEACH FESTIVAL –This 10-day event features world-class master sand sculptors, speed sculpting, demonstrations and lessons, a state championship contest and a kids activity area with bounce houses and slides.
When: Nov. 16-25
Where: Fort Myers Beach, behind the Wyndham Garden Hotel
INTERNATIONAL SAND ART COMPETITION – Sculptors from the United States and around the world, each using up to seven tons of sand, have four days to create their works of art.
When: Nov. 21-25
Where: Casa Marina Resort, Key West
THE BETSY’S A CAPPELLA FESTIVAL – This event provides attendees the opportunity to masterclass with world-class a cappella performers, sing with new voices in a mix & match workshop, participate in pop ups in public places and perform in the gathering’s feature showcase.
When: Nov. 16-18
Where: The Betsy Hotel and other various locations in South Beach
NASCAR’S FORD CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND – The best drivers in the world will burn rubber one last time this year as three NASCAR premier racing series crowns will be decided in one weekend, including the coveted Sprint Cup title. It’s a big, rowdy block party that fans of all ages will enjoy and includes a kids’ zone and top country music acts.
When: Nov. 16-18
Where: Homestead Miami Speedway, Homestead
SANTA'S ENCHANTED FOREST – Features SoFla’s tallest Christmas tree light show, millions of dazzling lights, hundreds of themed displays, delicious food, live music and carnival rides.
When: Nov. 1-Jan. 6, 2019
Where: Tropical Park, Miami
FORT LAUDERDALE FALL HOME DESIGN AND REMODELING SHOW – Looking for ideas on how to make improvements on your home or condo? This event is sure to give you some great ideas and features an impressive array of residential decorating, remodeling and home improvements and services. It’s open to industry and trade types and the general public
When: Nov. 16-18
Where: Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center, Fort Lauderdale
MIAMI HARVEST FESTIVAL – More than 250 artists and crafters are the main draw, but there’s so much more: bounce houses, yummy food, classic cars, live entertainment, a petting farm, pony and train rides, cutest baby contest, a model train village and a visit with Santa.
When: Nov. 17-18
Where: Miami-Dade Fair Expo, Miami
MORE ARTS & CRAFTS – When the weather starts to cool down a little, the arts & crafts fairs and festival scene starts to heat up. Here’s the November lineup:
- Art in the Park Fine Art & Craft Show (Nov. 24-25 in Memorial Park, Stuart. festivalnet.com)
- Big Pine & Lower Keys Island Art Festival (Nov. 24 on the grounds of the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce, Mile Marker 31, Oceanside. fla-keys.com)
- Chamber South Miami Art Festival (Nov. 17-18, between U.S. Highway 51 and SW 57th Avenue in South Miami. chambersouth.com/miami-art-festival)
- Downtown Delray Beach Thanksgiving Weekend Art Festival (Nov. 24-25. artfestival.com)
- Naples Artcrafters Fine Art & Craft Show (Nov. 10 at Cambier Park, Naples. NaplesArtCrafters.com)
- Sanibel Masters Art Festival (Nov. 23-24, along Periwinkle Way, Sanibel. boulderbrook.net)
- Thanksgiving Weekend Art & Craft Festival (Nov. 24-24 at Gulf Coast Town Center, Fort Myers. artfestival.com)
I LOVE STOCK ISLAND FESTIVAL – Stock Island is known as Key West’s laid-back neighbor. Discover why at this festival, which features history tours, art tours, live music, fresh-off-the-boat seafood, wine and beer tastings, a boat parade, kids activities, Little Mr. & Miss Stock Island contests and other elements that showcase the eclectic island and its working waterfront.
When: Dec. 7-9
Where: Stock Island
MIAMI ART WEEK – Art Basel Miami Beach is the centerpiece for what has to be the most amazing week for great art anywhere. At the main hall, about 260 galleries from around the world will show work by masters of modern and contemporary art, as well as the new generation of emerging artists. Ambitious large-scale art works, films and performances become part of the city’s outdoor landscape. Art Basel is a whirlwind of non-stop revelry with great parties hosted by luxury retailers in the Design District or on rooftops of chic South Beach boutiques. Nightclubs host celebrity-splashed soirees and “pop-up” club events abound, from South Beach to Wynwood. Don’t miss the 20 smaller but wildly eclectic satellite art fairs, too.
When: Dec. 6-9 for Art Basel Miami Beach. The satellite fairs run concurrently with Art Basel, although some of them start a few days earlier.
Where: Miami Beach Convention Center and Collins Park for Art Basel. Various Miami Beach and mainland Miami locations for the satellite fairs.
Web: For Art Basel: miamiandbeaches.com/art-basel ; for the satellite fairs: miamiandbeaches.com/art-basel/fairs
NIGHT LIGHTS IN THE NAPLES BOTANICAL GARDEN – For 25 nights discover (or rediscover) the natural beauty of plants from the tropics and subtropics as thousands of lights illuminate the garden. Enjoy gourmet treats and music by local performers. On select nights, your stroll will include making a wish on a Wishing Tree and special holiday performances by Opera Naples and Naples Ballet.
When: Dec. 7-23, Dec. 26-30 and Jan. 1-3
Where: Naples Botanical Garden, Naples
ANNUAL LUMINARY HOLIDAY STROLL – Beautifully lighted paths will lead the way throughout two of Florida’s most famous islands. Strollers will enjoy assorted holiday activities, snacks and refreshments.
When: Dec. 7-8
Where: Dec. 7 on Sanibel Island and Dec. 8 on Captiva Island
LET THERE BE (MORE) LIGHTS! – Tis the season and millions of lights will brighten the South Florida holiday skies. Here’s where to see some of the best and the brightest: Santa’s Enchanted Forest at Tropical Park in Miami; Holiday Nights at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers; Festival of Lights at Fisherman’s Village in Punta Gorda, and Symphony of Lights at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale. But you’ll see much more than pretty lights. Some examples: Santa’s Enchanted Forest features a 92-foot Christmas tree, 100 carnival rides (from scary to tame), pony rides and a petting zoo. Holiday Nights will feature historic decorations, nightly entertainment and river cruises.
When: Now through Jan. 6 for Santa’s Enchanted Forest; Nov. 23-Dec.
0 for Holiday Nights at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates; Nov. 20-Dec. 31 for the Festival of Lights at Fisherman’s Village and now through Jan. 1 for Symphony of Lights at Gulfstream Park.
Web: santasenchantedforest.com, fortmyersbeach.org/edison-ford-holiday-nights, fishville.com/festival-of-lights and gulfstreampark.com
SEMINOLE HARD ROCK WINTERFEST BOAT PARADE -- It’s the gold standard of holiday boat parades with the well-deserved nickname of “The Greatest Show on H20.” This year’s Grand Marshal is Huey Lewis. Other Winterfest events include the Free Family Fun Day (featuring a real ice skating rink) and the Black Tie Ball.
When & Where: Dec. 15 along the Intracoastal Waterway from Fort Lauderdale to Pompano Beach for the Boat Parade; Nov. 25 at Huizenga Plaza in downtown Fort Lauderdale for the Free Family Fun Day and Dec. 8 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood for the Black Tie Ball.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Speaking of boat parades, you can’t swing a strand of holiday lights in SoFla without hitting a boat parade in December. Some of the other cities, just to name a few: Fort Myers, Key West, Naples, West Palm Beach, Pompano Beach, Punta Gorda, Boynton Beach and Boca Raton. Use Google for dates and times.)
KEY WEST NEW YEAR’S EVE – Ball drop, schmall drop. Anybody can drop a glitter ball and call it a year. Not Key West – no way. Nobody does New Year’s Eve like Key West. This year’s highlights: Conch Shell Drop and Drag Queen/Red Shoe Drop.
When: Dec. 31
Where: Key West
Web: sloppyjoes.com for the Conch Shell Drop; bourbonstpub.com for the Drag Queen/Red Shoe Drop
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: CRYSTAL – Cirque du Soleil returns to SoFla with its coolest show yet, CRYSTAL, the group’s first ever on-ice production. Watch world-class skaters and acrobats explore their new frozen playground with speed and fluidity as they challenge the laws of gravity with never-before-seen acrobatics.
When: Seven shows from Dec. 13-16
Where: American Airlines Arena, Miami
RIPTIDE MUSIC FESTIVAL – Another amazing lineup! This year’s fest includes The Jacksons, The Sugarhill Band, Lisa Lisa, Sheila E., Panic at the Disco, Sublime with Rome, Young the Giant, 311, +Live+, Collective Soul, Third Eye Blind, Everclear, Sugar Ray and many, many more bands. At the Underground Village, you can win free backstage meet & greet passes. Enjoy great wine and spirits at the festival Wine Garden.
When: Nov. 30-Dec. 2
Where: Fort Lauderdale Beach across from Bahia Mar
COLLIER COUNTY CELEBRATES WINTER! – Who cares if it’s 80 degrees outside? Don’t miss these cool tons-of-snow centric events:
· SNOWFEST – They’re trucking in about 100 tons of snow for this one. You can climb up a snow mountain or toboggan and ski down snow hills. Also includes an ice skating rink, a carnival, arts and crafts, a petting zoo, pony rides, Mrs. Claus’s Kitchen and Santa’s South Pole.
When: Dec. 1
Where: Golden Gate Community Center in Naples.
· CHRISTMAS AROUND THE WORLD PARADE & GALA – Featured will be: a lighted Christmas parade, snow mountains (with 40 tons of snow, double last year’s event), a toboggan slide, Santa’s workshop (with arts & crafts for the kids), live entertainment, a bounce house and ethnic and American food.
When: Dec. 8 for both
Where: The parade is in downtown Immokalee and the gala is at the Immokalee Sports Complex.
EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY – Save some holiday calories for some SoFla food & drink events this month, including:
· PALM BEACH FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL -- From specialty Chef Talk panels to gourmet five-course dinners with premium wine pairings, to evening karaoke cocktail gatherings, this gastronomic gala offers an unprecedented collection of talent for this four-day fest.
When: Dec. 13-16
Where: Various locations Palm Beach and Palm Beach County
· SIZZLE SWFL RESTAURANT WEEK – It’s actually two weeks long and features specially-curated two course lunches ($16 to $21) and three-course dinners ($26 and $36). Eat your way happy across SW Florida.
When: Nov. 29-Dec. 12
Where: Outstanding restaurants in Bonita Springs, Cape Coral, Estero, Fort Myers, Marco Island and Naples.
· The SOUTH FLORIDA VEGFEST celebrates plant-based living, with free food samples, 125 food vendors, chef demos, fitness and yoga classes, kids’ activities.
When: Dec. 1
Where: War Memorial Auditorium, Fort Lauderdale.
FORT LAUDERDALE CHRISTMAS PAGEANT – This celebrated event has been thrilling audiences for decades. It features a festive opening scene with traditional carols, inspirational contemporary songs and a musical drama of the Nativity and life of Christ. Tip: Book as soon as you see this, because the run sells out quickly.
When: Nov. 30-Dec. 16
Where: First Baptist Church, downtown Fort Lauderdale
ANNUAL FESTIVAL OF THE TREES – Christmas trees will be designed and decorated by local businesses, organizations and individuals. Then, they are auctioned and raffled, so attendees could win a beautifully decorated tree. Naturally, there’s a host of other holiday activities, too, including Santa’s Block party and bingo parties.
When: Nov. 27-Dec. 2
Where: Sydney & Berne Davis Art Center, Fort Myers
HOLLYWOOD BEACH CANDY CANE PARADE -- Join the fun on the famous Hollywood Broadwalk. The 63rd annual event features marching bands, dozens of floats and more.
When: Dec. 8
Where: Hollywood Beach Broadwalk, Hollywood
SANDI LAND: HOLIDAY IN PARADISE – A 35-foot Christmas tree sculpted from 600 tons of sand is the centerpiece of this annual month-long event. She has come to be known as “Sandi” and she is strung with real lights. There are dazzling nightly musical light shows and spectators can “sync with Sandi” using LED snowflakes that bring the audience into the show. Other highlights: Snowie-Ville, where kids and adults can create their own life-size tropical snowmen; Holiday FantaSEA, a giant diorama aquarium with a tropical holiday theme, and concerts.
When: Nov. 29-Dec. 31
Where: On the waterfront in West Palm Beach
ISLAMORADA HOLIDAY FESTIVAL – The 14th edition’s centerpiece is a 35-foot Christmas tree with “magical snow” blowing from its branches. Also: a 30-ton snow mountain, Santa Paws Pet Parade (prizes for best costume and best trick) and contests to choose the Best Baked Goodie, Little Miss Sugar Plum Fairy and Mr. Gingerbread Man.
When: Dec. 7
Where: Founders Park in Islamorada, Mile Marker 87
KING MANGO STRUT – The 37th Strut parade will bring off-beat, off-the-wall mango mania to a new generation of Mango Heads. Warning: No one and nothing is safe from parody and satire. Nutty characters welcome! After the parade, the King Mango Music Massacre begins with many top local bands participating.
When: Dec. 30
Where: Downtown Coconut Grove
OAKLAND PARK HOLIDAY VILLAGE – A relative newcomer to the holiday scene (this is year number three), it will feature a children’s activity corner, arts & crafts vendors, live entertainment, health & wellness seminars, cooking demonstrations, interactive games, visits from Santa and a food court supplied by city restaurants.
When: Nov. 30-Dec. 2
Where: Jaco Pastorius Park, Oakland Park
MICCOSUKEE INDIAN ARTS & CRAFTS FESTIVAL – Experience the color and pageantry of costumed Native Americans from all over the country. Featured at the 44th edition: nonstop entertainment, arts, crafts, music, native goods and more.
When: Dec. 26-Jan. 1
Where: Miccosukee Indian Village, Mile Marker 70, U.S. Highway 41, Miami
JUNIOR ORANGE BOWL PARADE -- The 70th annual parade is once again the flagship parade of the Junior Orange Bowl Festival season, which consists of some 20 athletic, academic and cultural events that are held throughout SoFla. The whole family will enjoy the colorful and creative floats and the marching bands.
When: Dec. 2
Where: Downtown Coral Gables
"CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR!" HOLIDAY HOME TOUR - Elaborate, elegant, over-the-top designer Christmas decorations in one of Florida's most historic mansions. The 1886 "Gilded Age" Victorian Stetson Mansion has been recently been listed as one of the "Top 10 Things to do in Florida" by Tripadvisor. Reservations required.
When: Nov. 15 to Jan. 15.
Where: Stetson Mansion, 1031 Camphor Ln, DeLand, FL 32720
OCALA JOCKEY CLUB INTERNATIONAL THREE-DAY EVENT – Set in Marion County, known as the “horse capital of the world,” the beautiful 950-acre Ocala Jockey Club hosts a family- and spectator-friendly equestrian triathlon that draws top-level riders and horse enthusiasts from all over the world. There’s also an educational horse and pony area for kids, as well as face painting, arts and crafts and other activities to keep the little ones entertained.
When: Nov. 15-18
Where: Ocala Jockey Club, Reddick
SIESTA KEY CRYSTAL CLASSIC INTERNATIONAL SAND SCULPTING CONTEST – Professional sculptors from all over the world take sandcastle building to new heights at this dazzling spectacle of masterpieces along one of Florida’s top beaches. Check out the science and craft activity center for kids, enter the amateur competition and vote on your favorite in the People’s Choice Awards.
When: Nov. 9-12
Where: Siesta Key Beach
TAMPA BAY TIMES FESTIVAL OF READING – Held at and around the University of South Florida St. Pete campus each year, the Festival of Reading caters to those with a love of literature with this day-long event filled with renowned authors from around the country, representing every genre from children’s books to science fiction. This year’s guests writers include C. Morgan Babst, author of “The Floating World,” New York Times’ best-selling author David Small and magazine and memoir writer Joyce Maynard.
When: Nov. 17
Where: St. Petersburg
THANKSGIVING BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL – A fun Florida outdoors tradition since 1980, this youth ranch fundraiser combines a potluck-style Thanksgiving feast with some of the state’s best bluegrass and folk bands playing under an 8,000-square-foot pavilion. Bring your RVs, campers and tents and relax under the stars on the sprawling, gorgeous grounds.
When: Nov. 22-24
Where: Sertoma Youth Ranch, Brooksville
VARIOUS TAMPA BAY AREA HOLIDAY EVENTS – Sometimes it takes a little work to make Florida feel Christmas-y. Tampa Bay area towns are up for the challenge. Throughout the month, visit some of the pretty boat parades or festively lit botanical gardens and parks, or take the little ones to see “snow” at Clearwater’s Cleveland Street or There’s Snow Place Like Tarpon Springs. St. Petersburg’s Williams Park is even showing Christmas movies to put everyone in the holiday spirit.
When: Throughout December
Where: St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Largo and other Tampa Bay area cities
SIESTA BEACH SEAFOOD & MUSIC FESTIVAL – Taste some of the area’s freshest seafood, prepared by local chefs and restauranteurs, while taking in some of Florida’s most lively and talented R&B, blues, jazz, rock and Caribbean bands on stage. There’s something for everyone, including the kids, at this fest highlighting various dishes, desserts, beer and wine, arts and crafts and a mobile pet adoption center.
When: Nov. 30-Dec. 2
Where: Siesta Key Pavillion, Siesta Key
ATOMIC HOLIDAY BAZAAR – For 13 years, this edgy and fun holiday arts and crafts bazaar has been going strong, delighting shoppers and artsy types with one-of-a-kind jewelry, dishes, toys, trinkets, baubles, stationary, T-shirts and other punk rock gifts for the free souls in your life. This year’s event is spread among three venues – the Main Room, the Bay Front Room and the Street Fair.
When: Dec. 8-9
Where: Municipal Auditorium, Sarasota
OKEECHOBEE MAIN STREET CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL – The quaint Okeechobee Main Street rings in the holiday season with its annual Christmas Festival held in the beautiful Flagler Park, followed by a lively lighted night parade. Enjoy a variety of food, winter-themed kids’ activities and music while shopping for locally made gifts and artwork.
When: Dec. 8
Where: Flagler Park, Okeechobee
CRACKER STORYTELLING FESTIVAL – Celebrating its 30th year, this popular Florida folk festival aims to preserve the state’s rich pioneer “cracker” history through stories, poems, song, puppetry and music. Well-known Florida storytellers from all cultures and backgrounds tell fascinating stories, often encouraging audience participation, in the rustic Homeland Heritage Park.
When: Dec. 5-7
COUNTRY CHRISTMAS AND VINTAGE MARKET – Experience a piece of Florida history while getting into the Christmas spirit at this Pioneer Florida Museum market and festival. Get photos with Santa, decorate cookies and enjoy live holiday and folk music. Visit some of the unique vendors selling alpaca fur items, homemade soaps and more.
When: Dec. 8
Where: Pioneer Florida Museum & Village, Dade City
DOWNTOWN TAMPA HOLIDAY LIGHTED BOAT PARADE – Tampa’s many boat owners never disappoint at this spectacular parade along the Hillsborough River, where spectators can pull up a lawn chair and watch a sailing celebration filled with Santas, elves, lit trees and other dazzling displays of holiday cheer.
When: Dec. 22
Where: Downtown Tampa
DOWNTOWN ST. PETE HOLIDAY EVENTS – Holidays in the Sunshine City are a joy, bringing Santa, snow, ice skating and gorgeous holiday lights to some of St. Petersburg’s prettiest parks. The littlest Floridians love the one-day Snowfest, which features a toboggan slide, an art tent and a kids’ area designed especially for preschoolers with inflatable train and more. Or bring your blankets and enjoy holiday family classics such as The Christmas Story in Vinoy Park.
When: Throughout December
Where: Albert Whitted, North Straub and Vinoy parks
OLD FASHIONED CHRISTMAS & HOLIDAY PARADE – Dunedin Parks & Recreation presents its annual holiday event along the streets of the shop- and restaurant-lined downtown Dunedin. See Santa arrive during the early evening holiday street parade, then stay downtown for horse-drawn carriage rides, train rides, a snow slide, kids’ crafts, old fashioned games, s'mores, live bands and Santa visits as the "snow flurries" fall on Main Street.
When: Dec. 8
Where: Downtown Dunedin
HUNSADER FARMS COUNTRY CHRISTMAS – Visit a real Florida farm and soak in the holiday country fun of train rides, hayrides, campfires, a Christmas village with Santa, pony rides, a petty zoo and live bands. Stay for dinner by stopping at any of the food vendors selling turkey legs, pizza, burgers, warm pretzels, hot chocolate and other festival fare, or shop at the antique and crafts store.
When: Dec. 14, 15, 16 & 21, 22, 23
Where: Hunsader Farms, Bradenton
SNOW & GLOW CHRISTMAS SHOW – Chances are, you’ve never seen a hot air balloon holiday display quite like this one, and New Smyrna Beach is the perfect place for such a spectacle. The show features special shaped hot air balloons resembling your favorite classic cartoon characters, and more than a hundred craft, food and retail vendors will keep you fed and entertained on land as well. See Santa, watch an exciting “snowfall” at 7 p.m. followed by a 9 p.m. hot air balloon “moon glow” where the balloons light up like Christmas lights and ornaments.
When: Dec. 7-8
Where: New Smyrna Beach
ORLANDO CITRUS PARADE – As a prelude to the college football bowl game matchup, the Orlando Citrus Parade has become one of the better known sports-affiliated parades in the U.S., featuring signature floats made of citrus fruit, spirited high school marching bands from throughout the nation, participating bowl game college marching bands, specialty military units and other exciting performances by nationally known singers and bands.
When: Dec. 29
Where: Downtown Orlando
JACKSONVILLE LIGHT BOAT PARADE — Boats of all sizes, and with no shortage of decoration, will cruise along the banks of the St. Johns River in downtown Jacksonville. The night culminates in the First Coast’s best fireworks display of the year featuring “waterfalls” of light off the Main Street and Acosta Bridges.
When: Nov. 24
Where: downtown Jacksonville
FRANK BROWN INTERNATIONAL SONGWRITERS FESTIVAL — The songwriter’s festival named after Frank Brown, the legendary night watchman for 28 years at the Flora-Bama, enters its 34th year with more than 200 performers at more than two dozen venues. From award winners to up-and-coming songwriters, you’ll be able to pick and choose your personalized lineup from 11 days of great music. Also includes a Youth Showcase, which gives some of the most promising new talent (under the age of 18) a “guest songwriter” pass to the festival. One lucky artist/songwriter will receive an invitation to perform as a paid, featured songwriter at the 2019 festival.
When: Nov. 8-18
Where: various venues, Perdido Key to Gulf Shores, Ala.
TINY HOUSE MUSIC FESTIVAL — Americans have a current obsession with all things twee. And not one to miss jumping on the bandwagon, HGTV started airing series like “Tiny House Big Living” and “Tiny House Hunting” (like regular “House Hunters” isn’t enough). But how easy it to really live small? Tens of thousands of people go to these tiny home festivals each year to get an idea of what a less cluttered life might look like. Formerly known as the Florida Tiny Home Festival, the third annual event has been renamed and recast with live music and children’s activities, as well as, many micro homes to explore.
When: Nov. 16-18
Where: St. Johns County Fairgrounds, Elkton
NEWBERRY FALL FESTIVAL — While many cities are prepping for the annual Christmas festivities, Newberry is quite ready to turn the page. The 12th annual event is a great way to gather the family for Saturday of fun before all the Thanksgiving stress/cooking/fun. Kids will enjoy the bounce house, face painting, pony rides and petting zoo. Adults will set their sights on the arts and crafts vendors, food, live music and dancing.
When: Nov. 17
LIGHT UP OCALA — With no snow or cold weather, Floridians overcompensate with holiday lights to make merry during the most wonderful time of the year. Yes, in addition to our homes and communities, we deck our boats, lawnmowers and golf carts with hundreds (or thousands) of twinkling lights. For as much as Newberry is trying to hold onto fall (see previous listing), Ocala wants to get a head start celebrating Christmas before other local communities. The annual holiday kickoff party includes a parade, live music, dancer, visits with Santa, food and more. And unlike Chevy Chase in National “Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” all the lights will illuminate the community on the first try the switch is thrown.
When: Nov. 17
ELF PARADE AND FIRST CITY LIGHTS— You, too, can be a star during Pensacola’s kick off to the holiday season during the Elf Parade. Marchers of all ages can win prizes for being decked out with the best “ears” or costume, or best decorated stroller or wagon. The parade’s grand marshal will lead the festive group of merrymakers for six blocks while being accompanied by a brass band, Santa and characters from the city’s Winterfest. Immediately following the Parade, Augustus Maywho, the mythical mayor of Whoville, will flip the switch to light up downtown and officially launch the First City Lights Festival, a diverse, season-long lineup of downtown holiday events, including live street performances, caroling, Santa posing for photos and Winterfest Trolley Tours.
When: Nov. 23
Web: www.elfparade.com and pensacolawinterfest.org
VILLA ZORAYDA’S CANDELIGHT TOUR — St. Augustine’s Villa Zorayda, built in 1883 as a personal residence, is a 1/10th-scale model of a section of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain, and kicked off the city’s love affair with the Moorish Spanish Revival architecture seen throughout the historic downtown. More than 100 candles illuminate its stunning interior during the 9th annual tour of the home-turned-museum, giving visitors a rare glimpse into the past complete with holiday decorations and a Christmas tree decked out in the museum’s red and gold colors. Reservations are required.
When: Nov. 23, 28; Dec. 1, 19, 27; Jan. 5
Where: Villa Zorayda, St. Augustine
WINTER FESTIVAL — With most days in Florida sun drenched, locals will do anything to make December feel as winter-like as possible. Cue the theme for this year’s Winter Festival in Tallahassee: Candy Cane Dreams and Holiday Scenes. The daylong schedule will keep attendees hopping with loads of activities. You can take a leisurely stroll surrounded by the sights and sounds of the season on “Candy Cane Lane” in McCarty Park or kick it into a higher gear by competing in the Jingle Bell Run. Also includes a children’s activity area, nighttime holiday parade, live music, snowmobile and lighting ceremony.
When: Dec. 1
RAILS TO TRAILS FESTIVAL — Celebrate the conversion of the Sunshine State’s former railroad tracks to biking and hiking trails by hitting the road. Explore the trail on a guided bike ride. Festival goers will also get a chance to explore a small piece of the larger Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, which extends from Florida through North Carolina, as well as enjoy live music, a farmer’s market and home cooking.
When: Dec. 1-2
Where: Armstrong Park, Elkton (St Johns)
DOWNTOWN FESTIVAL & ART SHOW — Surprise your loved ones with one-of-kind, handmade holiday gifts from Gainesville’s 37th annual art show. More than 240 local and national artisans will be showcasing their creativity in many different mediums including watercolor, jewelry, ceramics and photography. Includes live music, performing arts show and food. Kids will have a chance to create their own artistic remembrance from the day at the Imagination Station.
When: Dec. 1-2
CHIPLEY CHRISTMAS FEST — Lights! Camera! Santa! The annual Christmas parade will light up Chipley’s Main Street with all the downtown merchants offering holiday discounts and treats to window shoppers. Meanwhile, and arts and crafts market will take over the Farmer’s Market Complex and kids can get a free photo taken with Santa and take part in holiday-inspired games and activities.
When: Dec. 7
ZOO LIGHTS — Thousands of LED lights will transform the Jacksonville Zoo with moving sculptures, animal silhouettes, a lighted train ride, marshmallow roasting and carousel rides. For once the usual stars of the show, the zoo’s innovative exhibit’s Range of the Jaguar and Land of the Tiger, take a back seat to the tree-lined forest of fairy lights.
When: Dec. 7-9, Dec. 14-Jan. 5
Where: Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
DICKENS ON CENTRE — The Charles Dicken’s classic “A Christmas Carol” has become as synonymous with the most wonderful time of the year as the modern classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which makes it a win-win for historic Fernandina Beach when it stages the Victorian-inspired holiday festival. Guests will be able to interact with costumed characters, enjoyed themed entertainment, take the kids to visit with Saint Nick and engage in a little bit of holiday shopping. New this year is the event’s adult-themed entertainment, Dickens After Dark, with three different experiences: Ghost Club (a holiday hauntings tour), Tinker-Seeker-StoryWeaver Society (learn how to write your own magical story) and Gothic Alley (theatrical experience that “visits” the grave of Ebenezer Scrooge with holiday libations).
When: Dec. 7-9
80TH ANNUAL PENSACOLA CAMELLIA CLUB SHOW — Get a chance to view more than 1,000 hybrid blooms from December’s garden star of the Southeast. Most blooms will be in varying shade of winter white, pink and crimson -- yes, a love letter of hues to the holidays without a poinsettia in sight. Growers from five gulf coast states enter blooms in the annual event and guests checking out the winner will also have a chance to purchase their own plant and test their green thumb.
When: Dec. 8
Where: University of West Florida Conference Center, Pensacola
HAVANA WINTER FESTIVAL & LAWN MOWER PARADE — Christmas comes early to Havana’s tree-line Main Street which boasts one of the more unique Christmas parades in the state. Yes, there are the traditional parade accoutrements like classic cars, local school bands and cheer squads but the everyone is waiting for a glimpse of the decked out lawn mowers. It’s a mid-morning affair, giving families plenty of time to visit with Elf on the Shelf, the Snow Queen and Santa and Mrs. Clause. Includes food and craft vendors, carriage rides and face painting … plus snow!
When: Dec. 8
SNOW DAY — Who’s ready to go dashing through the snow on a toboggan? “Yes,” says every child in Florida who doesn’t know the true joy winter brings. For this annual event, more than 30 tons of snow are dropped in Lake City creating a one-day winter wonderland for the whole family. The day includes the Dashing to the Snow 5K run/walk and includes racing on 26-foot dual-lane slides, live entertainment, food vendors, bounce houses and, of course, the opportunity for kids of all ages to play in the snow. Break out the gloves and hats!
When: Dec. 8
Where: Lake City
36TH ANNUAL PALM COAST HOLIDAY BOAT PARADE — This longtime central Florida event is getting a little more razzle-dazzle with KOOL 100.9 broadcasting holiday music for the parade all evening long. The radio station will also be making live call-ins to the captains and crew of the more than 40 sailboats, fishing boats and yachts decked out with ALL the holiday spirit. Official boats from the Flagler Sheriff’s Office, Tow Boat US, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and U.S. Coast Guard will escort the parade. Rain date is Dec. 16.
When: Dec. 15
Where: Intracoastal Waterway, Palm Coast
POSADAS OF OLD ST. AUGUSTINE — For more than 400 years, Hispanic communities around the world have re-enacted Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging, the Spanish translation is “posadas”. Living history volunteers will present this historic march in candlelight along St. Augustine’s St. George Street. The year: circa 1580. The march will end at Plaza de la Constitucion where a Tallahassee mission group will present a scene from Cristo Nuestro Bien (A Shepherds & Angel play).
When: Dec. 15
Where: St. Augustine
APALACHICOLA RIVERKEEPER’S FIELD TRIPS — This volunteer-led eco tour provides the perfect excuse to get out of the house and enjoy the gorgeous beauty of the Apalachicola River by either hiking or kayaking. Paddling trips are dependent on the weather. Reservations are required, loaner kayaks are available and the group size is limited to keep the group size more intimate.
When: Dec. 22
Where: Apalachicola River
GATSBY GIRLS SPEAKEASY BALL — If only Leonardo DiCaprio would be there to hand each guest their first martini, right? Nevertheless, look through your costume jewelry for that long strand of pearls, add your best fringe flapper dress or don a dark as midnight tux and head out for a night on the town. Where? It’s a mystery. This speakeasy-inspired is taking a clue from the Roaring 20s with the location to be revealed. Includes signature cocktails, champagne tasting room, bootlegger man cave and dancing, dancing, dancing!
When: Dec. 29
Where: TBD, Pensacola
HAPPY NEW YEAR! — Break out the bubbly, pass out the noisemakers and be ready to ring in the new year at these only-in-Florida spins on the Big Apple’s iconic ball drop.
- PENSACOLA PELICAN DROP (Dec. 31, Pensacola): Pensacola’s family-friendly, early evening New Year’s celebration is being hosted for the second year at the Blue Wahoos Stadium during Kazoo’s Rockin’ Eve. The minor league ballpark rolls out the red carpet with live music and on-field activities before fireworks and the Pelican Drop. (milb.com/pelican-drop)
- NEW YEAR’S EVE BEACH BALL DROP (Dec. 31, Panama City Beach): The streets of Pier Park are for thousands of revelers only during an evening of free live music and entertainment and includes two beach ball celebrations. The drop for wee revelers happens early in the evening when 10,000 beach balls are dropped from suspended nets. Cheers explode from the late night crowd when the 10-foot-wide, lighted beach ball begins its descent down Celebration Tower 10 seconds before the stroke of midnight and continues with fireworks. (visitpanamacitybeach.com/ ball-drop)
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