The choices for celebrating the holiday seasons in Orlando are an embarrassment of riches, at the theme parks and beyond.
Each of the four major resorts — Walt Disney World, Universal, SeaWorld and Legoland — go all-out for the holidays, maintaining beloved traditions and introducing new ones. But the city of Orlando and its neighboring communities also rise to the challenge, offering an endless feast of festivities, many of which largely draw the hometown crowd. Indulge in the parks or try something new. There may not be snow in Central Florida, but it is steeped in holiday magic.
Top new events at the theme parks worth noting are Sunset Boulevard at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal.
Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios is celebrating with Sunset Seasons Greetings on Sunset Boulevard with a nightly extravaganza.
Two years ago, Hollywood Studios pulled the plug on its signature holiday event, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. Replacing it in 2016 was Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam, a musical, pyrotechnoc and special effects extravaganza held nightly through New Year's Eve. This year, a transformation on Sunset Boulevard starts at sunset and continues until the park closes each night. Snow falls, billboards come to life and Mickey, Minnie and other beloved Disney characters share their favorite Christmas stories via larger-than-life projections on the Hollywood Tower Hotel (aka, Tower of Terror).
Harry Potter fans will flock to Universal Orlando where, for the first time, both Diagon Alley at Universal Studios and Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure become magical settings for festivities from Nov. 18 to Jan. 6. Features include performances of new holiday songs by Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees at Diagon Alley and the Frog Choir at Hogsmeade. Seasonal treats and drinks are available, and a stunning holiday wrap is projected onto Hogwarts Castle. Agents can book their clients' holiday vacation at www.universaltravelagents.com/en/us/.
Visit Orlando has assembled a full lineup of holiday events at the theme parks.
For those looking to immerse their family in holiday magic beyond the parks, Orlando does not disappoint, either. From the Winter Park Parade, this year celebrating its 65th anniversary on Dec. 2 at 9 a.m., to the Singing Christmas Tree extravaganza at First Baptist Church with performances on select dates from Dec. 8 to 17, there is so much to do in Orlando. Here are recommendations from a longtime local.
Send your clients to visit Santa at the Mall at Millenia for a visit so perfect, they may just call that one and done and never again try to top it. Guests can take their own photos (or buy a package) and can be assured that Santa takes his time talking with each child.
The Orlando Ballet will perform at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center in downtown Orlando Dec. 21 to 24.
Seeing a performance of "The Nutcracker" is a time-honored tradition for families during the holidays. Orlando Ballet's production is among the best (and this writer has seen dozens of different companies perform it); attending the show at Orlando's crown jewel, the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center, heightens the experience. Pre- or post-show dinner, drinks or dessert at the nearby Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando completes a perfect outing (another downtown favorite is Artisan's Table). Orlando Ballet performances run Dec. 21 to 24.
For a terrific roundup of holiday ideas beyond the theme parks, visit here.
Need a leg up on New Year's Eve travel planning? Visit here for ideas to serve your clients, from families to adults who want to ring in a sparkly new year.