Where to see Christmas lights in Orlando, Florida
By Helen Wright
Orlando in December is one of my favourite times to visit. If you saw my post on heading to Florida in the lead up to Christmas, you’ll have seen there are some great flight deals and why the weather during December is arguably the best all year. christmas lights in orlando
It’s fair to say Orlando is jam-packed with joyful attractions year-round, but throw in some colourful Christmas cheer and this destination becomes an even bigger celebration. From the major theme parks to smaller communities, you are spoilt for choice with holiday-themed attractions and elaborate decorations. Find out where to find the best festive events and Christmas lights in Orlando to illuminate your trip.
Cover image: Visit Kissimmee. This page contains affiliate links
Celebration, FL (Now Snowing)
Celebration, Florida has become a must-visit place in Orlando, with picture-perfect streets and a calendar of fun events including Halloween and Christmas. This manicured town is in Kissimmee, less than 10-minutes from Walt Disney World. In fact, Celebration was actually developed by the Walt Disney Company itself (could you tell by the name?), so you can imagine how picturesque it is.
It may come as no surprise then, that some of the best Christmas lights in Orlando can be found here along the rows of affluent residential houses. Plus the town hosts a yearly Christmas event called ‘Now Snowing’ during which ‘snow’ falls over its main high street. It’s completely free to enter Celebration and you will find shops and restaurants, Christmas music playing, carollers and the option to go Ice Skating or Horse-Drawn Carriage riding for an extra cost. This year, Now Snowing at Celebration runs between November 25th and December 31st.
For a stunning display of Christmas lights in Orlando, head downtown to Dazzling Nights
The 50-acre Harry P. Leu Gardens is an outdoor space close to Downtown Orlando with over 40 diverse plant collections from around the world, including a tropical rainforest and Florida’s largest rose garden (which smells incredible). But from mid-November, the beautiful space literally does ‘dazzle’ as the gardens are decorated with a million dazzling lights, glowing forests, magical laser displays, festive music and twinkling sculptures. There is even a play area with 8ft tall rolling ornaments that also light up, so it’s a lot of fun for families.
Dazzling Nights is definitely one of the less touristy, local favourite events for Christmas in Orlando and runs from November 17th to January 6th 2024 on selected nights. Adult entry starts from $22 and children 3+ start from $19. Children under 3 are FREE and onsite parking at Dazzling Nights is $15. Book in advance at dazzlingorlando.com
The largest collection of Christmas lights in Orlando can be found at Walt Disney World Resort
Disney does everything with panache and Christmas is when the theme parks at Walt Disney World really go to town with decorations, special parades, ride overhauls, themed foods and some of the best Christmas lights in Orlando. December really is a special time to go and guests visiting the Disney parks at this time can use general entry tickets, such as the 14-day Magic Ticket, and benefit from all the extra festive embellishments in the park for free.
Disney at Christmas is even more magical for families because each park has extra decorations and lights, Characters in Christmas costumes and special events. One of EPCOT’s festivals, the International Festival of the Holidays, runs through December. Here you can sample Christmas traditions and foods from around the world as well as special light instalations.
However, December in Orlando is one of the busiest and most popular times to visit Walt Disney World, so expect extra crowds the closer it gets to Christmas. In fact, on Christmas Day, Magic Kingdom Park usually reaches capacity.
There are ways to avoid the crowds and get a bit of extra Disney magic during Christmas in Orlando by booking tickets to one of the separately ticketed Walt Disney World Christmas parties. These include Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom, which along with the brilliant Christmas lights along Main Street USA, you will be treated to a special festive parade, dedicated shows and the ultimate display of Christmas lights in Orlando – the Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks Show which lights up Cinderella castle and the sky to the sound of your favourite yuletide tunes.
New for this year at Disney Hollywood Studios is another Christmas event called Jollywood Nights. While Magic Kingdom, goes extra with a traditional take on Chrimbo, Disney Jollywood Nights goes Old School Hollywood with dance parties, sing-a-longs, dramatic lighting and an original night time show.
Universal Orlando Resort Christmas in Orlando
The holiday celebration at Universal Orlando this year is called You Do Yule (great name!). Here, a festive makeover is given to Universal Studios and Universal Islands of Adventure, including themed decorations and lights at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Suess Landing. There is also a special Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s, along with giant balloons, Father Christmas and the Grinch.
By night, Hogwarts is lit up festive style with the Christmas Lights over Hogwarts, which is my favourite of all the light shows at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. All the holiday extras at Universal Orlando are included with your regular park admission, including the 3-Park Explorer Ticket
Disney and Orlando Resort Hotels
Did you know? There is a way to enjoy the Christmas lights in Orlando at Disney and Universal for FREE. The resort hotels at Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World all put up spectacular decorations in the public areas from late November and you can enter all the resorts for free and check them out. All the Universal Orlando Resort hotels have a different colour or design tree and the Walt Disney World Resort hotels have Christmas trees and decorations that match the theme of each hotel.
One of my favourite hotels to visit during Christmas at Disney World is Disney Wilderness Lodge because it has a 60ft nature-inspired Christmas tree, which is beautiful. But, don’t miss the Grand Floridian Resort, which has the famous life-sized, edible gingerbread house in the lobby. It is made with 700 pounds of chocolate!
Christmas lights in Orlando at Winter Park
Around half an hour from Walt Disney World you will find Christmas Lights at Winter Park. This cheerful city is home to one of Orlando’s oldest festive events, hosting a Christmas celebration here for 70 years. In fact, the Winter Park Christmas Parade is the longest-running in Florida. There are friendly events in Winter Park throughout November and December where locals come to celebrate the festive period, but tourists are warmly welcomed.
For some of the most beautiful Christmas lights in Orlando, head to the charming tree lighting at Winter on the Avenue (usually on 1st December) featuring carol singers, a Chanukah menorah lighting ceremony, s’mores, local children’s choirs, The Bubble Bus (a colourful bus full of bubbles that kids love), Popcorn Flicks in the Park, and a chance to meet Santa and Mrs Claus.
Christmas lights in Orlando’s Ivanhoe Village
Orlando’s Ivanhoe Village Main Street district is a historic neighbourhood near downtown with fab Art Deco buildings and vintage stores. Whatever time of year you are going to be in Orlando, I recommend heading down there to check it out. There are beer gardens serving local craft beers, often with live music, food trucks and a sweet setting overlooking Lake Ivanhoe.
The village kicks off Christmas with a ‘Jingle Eve’ (usually in late November) and a ‘12 Wines of Christmas’ walk to sample some of the festive tipple and see the new lights and decorations. At the end of the night, there is a free firework display over the lake. This year, Jingle Eve is on November 18th, so is good for anyone heading to Orlando before December who wants to get into the Christmas spirit. ivanhoevillage.org
Icon Park at I-Drive
When you’re looking for Christmas lights in Orlando, ICON Park can be seen from all over the city. As well as a 50-foot Christmas tree, The Wheel at ICON Park is getting a holiday glow up, with a festive light show featuring 64,000 LED lights. Set to a seasonal soundtrack, the free 10-minute show runs from mid-December at 8pm (8pm and 10pm on Friday nights). You can buy tickets to The Wheel at any time and ICON Park also runs a special Santa workshop that includes a ride on The Wheel and a photo with the big guy. Find out more about tickets for The Wheel at ICON Park
Old Town Golf Cart Street Parade and Christmas Lights in Orlando
This one is really fun! Old Town Kissimmee is an entertainment complex that is designed like an old Western town and is one of my favourite places to go in Orlando. They do a weekly automobile show with a parade of classic cars throughout the year, but at Christmas, things get silly with the annual Holiday Golf Cart Parade. Over 20 eccentrically decorated golf buggies decked out with Christmas lights and decorations take part in a cruise through the town and the best-designed cart wins a prize. It’s a lot of fun and you can stick around for dinner and drinks with a choice of fun bars and restaurants.
For Christmas lights in Orlando, don’t miss the Sea of Trees at SeaWorld
SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration is included with your park entry ticket and guests visiting between mid-November and January are treated to a winter wonderland with more than three million lights. The Sea of Trees is pretty spectacular, with floating light installations that dance to the music and illuminate the lagoon. Extra holiday shows, seasonal entertainment and festive snacks are also available during regular park hours, with the grand finale being a lively holiday firework show.
We recently stayed at the Margaritaville Cottages in Orlando and at the edge of the resort is the Promenade at Sunset Walk. Similar to Disney Springs, this is lovely place to go in the evening in Orlando, with restuarants, shops and bars. In December, they throw a festive party called Holinights Celebration. There is a nightly lighting of the 42-foot Christmas tree, so no one misses out on the ceremony, plus mischievous elves, Santa Claus and live music. Admission and parking are free. sunsetwalk.com/holinights-celebration/
Holiday Nights at Island H2O Live!
Did you know there is a fun water park at the Margaritaville Resort and they have their own take on jazzy Christmas lights in Orlando? For something different, enjoy the Holiday Nights illuminations from a lazy river as the water glows in different colours and festive lanterns hang from the tree. There is also nightly entertainment and family activities included with your entry. Holiday Nights at Island H2O Live! is on from November 8th to December 31st 2023, tickets start from $29.99 (guests aged 10+) and $23.99 (children 3-10).
Find out more about day tickets to Island H20 Live
Christmas at Disney Springs
As we said earlier in this post, Walt Disney World Resort is bursting with Christmas spirit and this, of course, extends to its dining and entertainment hub, Disney Springs. There is always something going on here, from street performers to live music, busy bars and iconic restaurants. Plus, the biggest Disney Store in the world. At Christmas, beautiful decorations go up and many restaurants add a seasonal menu. In fact, Paddlefish do special Thanksgiving and Christmas menus, but be sure to book in advance.
Christmas lights in Orlando at Lake Eola
As well as being the most popular tourist destination in the world, Orlando is also a major city and Lake Eola Park sits in the middle of Orlando’s financial district. If you want to check out this part of town, Mayor Buddy Dyer and surprise guests will be lighting the City of Orlando’s Christmas tree at Lake Eola Park on Friday 1st December.
The event will include festive performances at the Walt Disney Amphitheater, food trucks and a holiday market on International Plaza (within Lake Eola Park). If you can’t make the opening event, you can still check out the Merry Market, each weekend until December 23rd you can shop for gifts and souvinners from local traders and get a chance to see the Orlando Christmas lights then. downtownorlando.com
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