The Best Towns To Visit At Christmastime In Florida

Seaside Post Office
Photo: Rush Jagoe

Is there anything better than December in Florida? The tens of millions of visitors who flock to the Sunshine State each year when their own states are overcast think not.

Still, while the winter weather—which seldom drops cooler than "chilly"—is flawless, one could conceivably complain that Florida is not the most festive state to visit when the most wonderful time of the year rolls around. But that's not the case in these towns, where the Christmas spirit is alive and well—even if snow never falls and reindeer sightings are rare.

01 of 09

West Palm Beach

west palm beach
Photo courtesy of City of West Palm Beach

Your town may put up a massive Christmas tree each year, but only in West Palm Beach do residents and visitors gather 'round a 35-foot, 700-ton Christmas tree made entirely of sand. Sandi Tree and her surrounds, a joyous wonderland known as "Sandi Land," hit the West Palm Beach waterfront each year with nightly light and music displays, sand sculptures, photo ops, glow-in-the-dark mini golf, and more. It's a merry place to be, albeit with a backdrop of palm trees rather than pine trees—and it's completely free and open to the public. While visiting, don't miss a stop at The Square for nightly "snowfall" and a ride on Brightline's Polar Express.

Nearby, the town of Palm Beach erects a 40-foot-tall Christmas tree in the middle of ritzy Worth Avenue and welcomes the arrival of the season with a tree lighting and parade, while the town of Jupiter celebrates with the Holiday Boat Parade, an annual procession of boats decked to the holiday nines.

02 of 09

St. Augustine

Panorama view of St. Augustine, Florida at twilight
Sean Pavone/Getty Images

Even Floridians flock to St. Augustine at Christmastime; it just doesn't get merrier than this historic, charming city in northern Florida. The weather is cool enough to bundle up but the lights—all three million of them—shine bright each night from mid-November through the end of January for Nights of Lights, St. Augustine's annual festival of twinkling Christmas lights. It's one of the top holiday light displays in the world, and best of all, it's city-wide and completely free.

03 of 09

Amelia Island

The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida
The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida

Amelia Island is a cheery place to be during the Christmas season, thanks in part to its charming downtown with Victorian-style architecture, decorated shop windows, and elaborate light displays. The lighting of the seaside Christmas tree at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island is a favorite among locals ($10 admission required for ages 10 and older, with all proceeds donated to local charities). Other annual events to get you in the island Christmas spirit are the Amelia Island Holiday Home Tour, a docent-led tour of historic family homes lavishly decorated by local florists and interior designers; Dickens on Centre, a Victorian-themed Christmas street festival; and the Parade of Paws pet parade. Stay in town for the annual New Year's Eve Shrimp Drop, a family-friendly community event near the riverfront in downtown Fernandina Beach with fireworks, pirates, live music, and more.

04 of 09


Boss Oyster in Appalachicola is a classic Florida dive, with open-air rooms on pilings above the water, specializes in baked oysters with creative toppings; 850-653-9364
Rob Culpepper

Go off the beaten path for a Christmas celebration in Apalachicola, where the historic downtown plays host to an annual holiday celebration worth writing home about. The day after Thanksgiving kicks off Apalachicola's holiday season, marked by the arrival of Santa on a shrimp boat and the lighting of the city's Christmas trees. There's shopping, lights, and even chance sightings of the Grinch.

05 of 09


christmas in Orlando
Getty Images

Magic Kingdom for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, anyone? It's one of the jolliest celebrations on Earth, jam-packed with all things Christmas: caroling, treats, fireworks, parades, costumed characters, and even "snow." Outside the parks, there's also the ICE! Experience at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Kissimmee and beautiful holiday displays around Lake Eola.

06 of 09


Ixefra/Getty Images

Miami is maybe not the most Christmassy town in Florida, but it does have Santa's Enchanted Forest, the world's largest holiday theme park. There's more than 100 rides plus shows, games, and other attractions, including Christmas karaoke and a super-tall tree. Thirty-eight years running, the park is a family tradition for many South Floridians, and there's a ton to do and see. Aside from the park, you can also catch a Miami City Ballet performance of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, check out Zoo Lights At Zoo Miami, or sign up for a Historic Holidays Evening Stroll at the Deering Estate ($15 for adults).

07 of 09


Christmas, Florida
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Looking to add a unique stamp to your holiday cards this year? Then plan a visit, as many Floridians do, to the tiny town of Christmas, Florida, where the streets are named after Santa's reindeer. It's about half an hour from Orlando and well worth the brief detour. Visit its small red-brick post office (where there's a year-round Christmas tree in the lobby, of course) to postmark your season's greetings with a festive Christmas seal and even deliver letters to Santa, no stamp required. While there, check out the town's permanent holiday displays and Santa statue, plus pay a visit to historic Fort Christmas.

08 of 09

Key West

Key West Lobster Trap Tree
Carol Tedesco/Florida Keys News Bureau

It doesn't get more kitschy-cute than a Key West Christmas, where palm trees are bedazzled with thousands of string lights and Christmas revelry kicks into high gear. This tropical getaway lights up each holiday season with events like the BeLighted Bike Ride and Holiday Village, a hometown parade, a car show, and the Harbor Walk of Lights, a series of nautical holiday displays located along the Harbor Walk plaza.

09 of 09


Seaside Post Office
Rush Jagoe

Seaside, a small beach community off of Florida's 30-A, is a charming, yet bustling vacation spot no matter the season—but when the holiday decor goes up in December, it somehow gets even more picturesque. Here, the season officially kicks off with the "Turn On the Town" celebration, a night that includes the lighting of the official Seaside Christmas tree, the arrival of Santa Claus, and a festive parade. Whether you plan a trip around the celebration of not, there is still plenty to do here, most notably the shopping for last-minute holiday gifts and treasures.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles