By Mary Flynn
The weather outside may not be frightful, but a Florida vacation over the holidays can be so delightful …
Orlando is a popular Florida vacation destination year ’round, and the holidays are no exception. You can visit ICE! at the Gaylord Palms Hotel (voted one of Orbitz’ top 10 best decked-out hotels). This holiday attraction, hand-carved from nearly two million pounds of ice, creates a winter experience like no other in Florida. The enormous structure used to house ICE! — dubbed “The Florida Fridge” — is cooled to a chilly nine degrees, so the resort provides winter coats for visitors to wear. The popular family experience gives guests a chance to visit a whimsical winter wonderland of interactive environments and larger-than-life, three-dimensional ice monuments and sculptures. There is even an ice skating rink on the premises! It’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience for the whole family.
During the holidays you can still find the ground to be white in Miami, but instead of being a cold wintry white snow, you’ll find a warm, white sandy beach. Santa’s Enchanted Forest: The world’s largest Christmas theme park and free carnival offers endless excitement and fun for your Florida vacation, with over 100 rides, shows, games and attractions for the family to enjoy. There’s also a 92-foot-tall Christmas tree, hundreds of themed displays, pony rides, a petting zoo and over three million lights. Visitors can even visit Santa and tell him what they want for Christmas.
Fort Lauderdale hosts many family-friendly Christmas, New Year’s and holiday events for the 2009 season. Each year the city of Fort Lauderdale welcomes Santa to the beach, and he brings a giant bag of candy for the traditional candy giveaway a few days before Christmas. You can find Santa and his elves on Fort Lauderdale Beach. If you’re looking for a fun New Year’s Eve event for the family during your Florida vacation, ring in the New Year at the Downtown Countdown in downtown Fort Lauderdale. The family-friendly event kicks off at 5 p.m. with an early countdown just for kids at 7 p.m. You can enjoy live music and entertainment for the entire family.
Thousands of white lights turn the quaint little town of St. Augustine into a wonderland of yesteryear. Visitors arriving into the downtown area are greeted with a spectacular site: the large oaks in the plaza are draped with strand after strand of twinkling white lights, the streets are lined with carolers, and the town square offers nightly plays. Experience a winter wonderland on your Florida vacation at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre, with its outdoor ice skating rink, exhilarating ice slide, nighttime horse-drawn carriage rides through an enchanted forest, s’mores on the fire pit, a magical elf village, “Elf Express” train, Santa Claus, and SNOW!!
During Wild Wonderland, the Tampa Zoo is illuminated with holiday lights, sights and sounds on select nights in December. Millions of twinkling lights and glimmering holiday displays light up the night. Thousands of LEDs bring new technology to animated displays. Shooting stars and lasers produce more “oohs and ahhs” than ever before. A new Visions of Sugarplums display features a forest with giant trees, holiday fairies, magical scenes and sounds of music boxes. Visitors can meet Santa and his real reindeer, see a dazzling Frozen Forest with crystal animals, trees and dancing fountains set to the sounds of festive music, and hear the jingle bells ring on a special holiday horse-drawn carriage ride.
Mary Flynn is an Orlando native with 4 children, ages 21, 19 and 9-year-old twins. She also has two grandsons who are 19- and 6-months old. She travels all the time with some — if not all — the kids.