5 of the Best Christmas Festivals in Southeast Florida


It may not feel like winter in southeast Florida, but that doesn’t mean residents of the Sunshine State don’t know how to celebrate Christmas in style. In fact, the temperate climate makes for laid-back takes on the season that are just what the doctor ordered. The aroma of freshly-cut Christmas trees fills the air as family and friends gather to admire the dazzling lights and festive holiday decor showcased throughout Florida’s towns. From light festivals to floatillas, sand trees to garden parties, you and your family will find plenty of ways to celebrate the season beach-style. Here are five standout Christmas festivals in southeast Florida.

Sandi, a hand-sculpted, 700-ton sand tree. Photo: City of West Palm Beach

Sandi Land’s Holiday in Paradise: West Palm Beach, FL

You may have seen some impressive Christmas trees, but have you seen a 700-ton tree sculpted from sand? Sandi, the beloved winter mascot of West Palm Beach, is back for her seventh holiday appearance. The 35-foot tree features a musical “under the sea” theme, with a weekly Thursday night concert series throughout December. Each day, the Great Lawn will be packed with fun and free things to do including a conch blowing contest, trivia night, and “Screen on the Green”—a triple-play movie extravaganza featuring Kung Fu Panda Holiday, Arthur Christmas, and Fred Claus. Guests can also check out Sandi’s dressing room to learn what it takes to get a colossal-sized tree ready for showtime, play glow-in-the-dark mini golf, or drop a letter in the mail to Sandi in hopes of getting their Christmas wishes granted.

November 29, 2018- December 31, 2018

Santa’s Enchanted Forest: Miami, FL

Miami is known for keeping the party going, and Christmas parties are no exception: this mega-sized festival goes for more than two full months. Featuring more than 100 rides, games, shows, and attractions, the festival offers fun for all ages. Acrobats, hula hoopers, jugglers, magicians, and entertainers roam the grounds and shows like the “motorcycle globe of death” wow visitors.  Dazzling Christmas light decor is on display throughout the park, and guests can sample fair food ranging from fried Oreos to funnel cakes, colossal-sized sausage dogs to corn on the cob. The star of the show, of course, is Santa himself, who visits with children nightly. Single-day, season, and Santa’s Express—which grants visitors skip-the-line access to all carnival rides—passes are available, as well as discounts for military servicemembers and groups.

November 1, 2018-January 6, 2019

Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade: Fort Lauderdale, FL

If there’s one thing Floridians know how to do well, it’s a holiday floatilla, and this one does not disappoint. While Winterfest encompasses other exciting activities including a black-tie ball, community happy hours, and even a Renaissance festival, the pièce de résistance is the annual boat parade. With more than one million viewers along the 12-mile parade route, this yearly tradition has a loyal following among Fort Lauderdale residents and tourists alike. The 2018 theme is “Best of the 80s” which is sure to inspire creativity among entrants.

December 15, 2018

Revelers can stroll through an enchanted forest bedazzled with holiday lights. Photo: Pinecrest Gardens

Pinecrest Gardens Nights of Lights: Pinecrest, FL

Stroll among thousands of tropical plants and palm trees all lit up for the holidays at Pinecrest Gardens. In addition to admiring this cultural arts park’s lush foliage (the gardens feature more than 1,000 varieties of plants), visitors can partake in other fun activities including mechanical rides, story time for kids, pony rides, and time with Santa. On select nights, a free holiday concert is also included with admission. Look for performances by the Palmetto Elementary School Jazz Band, the Greater Miami Youth Symphony, Florida International University’s chorus, and the Miami Royal Ballet.

December 14, 2018- January 1, 2018

Creativity at its best: a lobster trap Christmas tree! Photo: Key West Bight Before Christmas’

Key West Bight Before Christmas

A variety of holiday-themed events make up this six-week festival, aptly-named for the geographical term for shallow bends or curves in a coastline. Enjoy the lighted boat parade from the patio of a local restaurant, get your pet’s photo taken with Santa, check out the classic cars at the holiday car show, or stroll along the Key West Historic Seaport to view the Harbor Walk of Lights and nautical-themed trees that celebrate the island’s maritime history. For the ultimate celebration, book a private catamaran and throw your own holiday party on the water!

November 2–December 21, 2018

By Davina van Buren