It’s almost the most wonderful time of the year, and you can find holiday fun all over Central Florida.
From huge events people travel to attend to community festivals, there are hundreds of family-friendly holiday events in Orlando and Central Florida. Whether the holidays to you mean donning your best for a performance or soaking up the sun at a community tree lighting, there’s something for everyone.
At the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens, we love to see all the unique events Central Florida has to offer. We have some holiday fun ourselves (see below) you don’t want to miss!
Check out some of our favorite Orlando holiday events this year.
Be dazzled at Asian Lantern Festival: Into the Wild
One of the most unique and fun cultural events of the holiday season is back for its fourth year! Asian Lantern Festival: Into the Wild, presented by Publix, runs at the Zoo from Nov. 17, 2023, to Jan. 14, 2024. You don’t want to miss the ¾-mile path and dozens of larger-than-life, hand-crafted lanterns lighting up the night. This one-of-a-kind demonstration of holiday lights in Orlando draws on light, color and sound to truly wow visitors. We have all new lanterns this year, including a pre-historic section. It’s the perfect way for the whole family to get into the holiday spirit in a unique way. You can learn more and get tickets here.
Explore a Winter Wonderland at Wekiva Island
Locals of Central Florida love to visit our pals over at Wekiva Island all year long for its natural beauty and long list of outdoor activities. Especially during the holidays, they don’t disappoint. From Dec. 1-25, Wekiva Island will host its annual Winter Wonderland event, an extravaganza of fun holiday things to do near Orlando. It kicks off when Santa and Mrs. Claus visit the Island to light the grand 24-foot-tall Christmas tree. After that, the calendar is packed with events, including Breakfast with Santa and character visits to keep kids of all ages in a jolly mood. To learn more, click here.
Take in an outdoor movie
What could be cozier than snuggling up, sipping some hot chocolate and watching a holiday classic surrounded by décor and lights? One perk about living in Florida is that we can be outside all year long. Floridians take advantage of that this time of year with several different opportunities to catch an outdoor holiday movie. Check out Wekiva Island’s Winter Wonderland, above, for a few. Or, head to Lake Eola downtown for a selection including The Polar Express. The Enzian and the City of Winter Park will also add some holiday flair to their Popcorn Flicks in the Park with The Muppet Christmas Carol on Dec. 1.
Light up the Season at Cranes Roost Park
For a more low-key holiday experience, visit Cranes Roost Park in Altamonte Springs for a fantastic display of holiday lights. The Light up the Holidays event kicks off Dec. 2 with live music, dance performances and a spectacular fireworks display. All December long the park spreads holiday cheer with dazzling Orlando holiday light displays, visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus, concerts and movies.
See The Nutcracker
It’s a holiday classic for a reason! If you’re looking for a traditional holiday celebration with a nod to the arts, catch Orlando Ballet’s The Nutcracker at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Dress up and make it a date night or a fun night with the family. The production runs Dec. 8-24. Learn more here.
Soak in the cheer in downtown Sanford
Here at the Central Florida Zoo, we are proud to call beautiful Sanford our home. Historic Downtown Sanford comes to life every year with holiday events for people of all walks of life. Head downtown and watch Sanford light up its tree on Dec. 1. Then, visit for the Parade of Lights on Dec. 9, which includes show-stopping holiday floats, music and lights. Plus, taking a stroll down the streets of Sanford is a great way to both handle some holiday shopping and get in the holiday spirit. The classic downtown and the chance to experience fun family activities are some of the main reasons why so many love to call our town home.
Orlando is a great place for events for kids this winter. Whatever you choose, there are tons of options to make some memories together that will last a lifetime.
We couldn’t be more excited to welcome families from all over to the Zoo for Asian Lantern Festival this season. We hope we can share our Sanford Zoo with you!