Orlando comes alive with the spirit of the holidays. And as far as we locals are concerned, there’s no place more magical. From theme parks, festivals and celebrations to ice skating, scoping out the best in holiday décor and more, the merry-making never ends during the holiday season in Central Florida. We’re sharing our insider tips on when the busy time is, the holiday happenings, and steals and deals to keep your wallet happy.
When to Visit: Orlando Busy Season v. Slow Season
The playground for all ages known as Orlando is action-packed year-round. However, there are better times to visit and enjoy all it has to offer – while still being crowd-manageable. Truth be told, if school is in session and the kiddos are in class, Orlando is slightly less busy. Aside from pulling your children out of school, check out these optimal times to visit Orlando theme parks during the holiday season.
• October: Weekdays should be crowd-free
• November: Weekdays outside of Thanksgiving week
• December: Weekdays outside of Christmas week through New Year’s Day
• January: Following New Year’s Day, most of January into early February can be ideal for Orlando visitors
Year after year, the best time to visit Orlando’s theme parks is in September – just after the new school year begins and kids have returned to school.
Holiday Theme Park Festivities in Orlando
• Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party: From November 9 through December 22, Disney World’s Magic Kingdom celebrates all ages with this very special Mickey event. From Cinderella’s Castle sparkling in white lights and magical snowfall on Main Street to a celebration with Disney characters, a Frozen show and Holiday Treats and Specialty Eats, there is something for everyone. Enjoy live entertainment, fireworks and a holiday parade. This event requires an entry ticket.
• Epcot International Festival of the Holidays: From November 19 through December 30, join in a spirited celebration of joyful traditions as Epcot features 15 Holiday Kitchens serving seasonal sweets. Surround yourself in the wondrous sights, sounds and flavors of the season as celebrated by cultures near and far. The seasonal festivities include the Candlelight Processional, the IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth fireworks show and live musical performances.
• Holidays at Universal Orlando: This resort-wide celebration of the season will have you experiencing Christmas at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. See Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley in all their holiday spirit. Enjoy Universal’s Holiday Parade and catch the live retelling of Dr. Seuss’s classic holiday tale starring The Grinch in the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular.
• SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration and Dinner with Rudolph: From November 24 through December 31, take in the magical Sea of Trees with special performances. Children can have dinner with Rudolph and meet Santa Claus.
Orlando Holiday Festivities
• Nutcracker Orlando: Join Clara on her holiday journey as the Orlando Ballet adds a touch of magic to the holiday season in Orlando. Ask about the VIP Experience! (December 7–9 & 13–16, 2018)
• Light UP UCF: From November 16 through January 1, Light Up UCF presents Snowy Nights and Sparkling Lights. Known as one of the best Christmas light shows in the entire state of Florida, visitors can go ice skating and enjoy winter carnival rides.
• Jingle Eve at Ivanhoe Village: Every Tuesday until November 13, this family-friendly holiday celebration features Santa’s Village, a wine stroll, beer garden, Christmas tree lighting, food trucks, local artists, vendors, live musical performances and a firework show over Lake Ivanhoe.
• Thornton Park District Christmas Tree Decorating: Known as the Downtown for Grownups, every year this free event brings in the crowds! Both family- and pet-friendly, say hi to Santa Claus as he stops by for photos with the children! Enjoy cookies, hot cocoa, mimosas and wine, along with a DJ playing all the favorite holiday jingles. (Date TBD but it is usually the first Friday in December)
• Deck the Downtown: From December 1 through 17, the downtown area is decked out in holiday glory. From festive lights and window decorations, visitors will walk the streets enjoying the spirited decorations of the holiday season.
• Now Snowing in Celebration: Central Florida’s premier snowing event, visitors will enjoy ice skating and special concerts throughout the season. This Winter Wonderland celebration features strolling Charles Dickens Carolers, photos with Santa, horse-drawn carriage rides, train rides, ice skating and nightly snowfall at 6, 7, 8 and 9 PM.
• ICE!® featuring A CHRISTMAS STORY™: From November 16, 2018 – January 6, 2019, ICE! is back at Gaylord Palms. This year the annual exhibit features scenes from the classic holiday movie A Christmas Story, all hand-carved from two million pounds of ice.
Orlando Holiday Promos
Celebrate the holiday season without breaking the bank. Check out these discounts to make the most of your Orlando holiday.
• Orlando Fun Tickets: From Disney World Base Tickets and Universal Orlando Base tickets to Park to Park tickets, this website has a deal for you!
• Visit Orlando Magicard: A must-have before your trip to Orlando will help you find discounts, offers and coupons to help make more of your budget while you holiday in Orlando.
• Go Orlando Card: This Orlando sightseeing pass can save you up to 55 percent off regular pricing. Choose 2-, 3- or 5-day passes. Deals vary throughout the year.
Book Your Vacation Home Accommodations
Come home to Encore Resort at Reunion and take your holiday to new levels while enjoying the comfort and amenities of our guard-gated community. Featuring modern, beautifully decorated 3- to 13-bedroom homes, you’ll enjoy your very own backyard pool, in-unit washer/dryer, and fully equipped kitchens, plus resort-style amenities like an AquaPark and concierge services.