You don’t have to spend a fortune to savor the Christmas season in Orlando. In fact, most of the best holiday events and things to do are absolutely free. Get in the spirit with these festive holiday happenings near Orlando.
FREE & CHEAP HOLIDAY EVENTS
Now Snowing in Celebration
Snow falls every night through December 31. It’s the closest to the real thing you’ll get in Central Florida and pretty magical when accompanied by holiday music, tons of lights, entertainment and holiday carolers.
Light Up UCF
UCF creates a winter wonderland during this annual event featuring an outdoor ice-skating rink, rides, holiday attractions, free holiday film festival and light shows.
Lake Mary Holiday in the Park
Close to a million lights dance to music in the park every evening in downtown Lake Mary. Shows every half hour, 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Downtown Orlando for the Holidays
Watch as the Eola Wonderland Christmas Tree comes alive with synchronized lights and music every evening. Santa Claus will make an appearance on Dec. 10, 11, 16, 17 & 18. Bring a blanket and picnic for free outdoor movies on select nights.
Cranes Roost Lights
Visit the waterfront park in Altamonte Springs any evening during December to enjoy the holiday displays, massive Christmas tree and fountain show every hour, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Wekiva Island Winter Wonderland
There’s a ton of free entertainment on tap at Wekiva Island in December. Special events on select days include free outdoor movies, carolers, Santa appearances, free gift-wrapping, live music, train rides, real snow play area and a visit from the Budweiser Clydesdales. Stop by for “snow” every night at 6 p.m.
Santa’s Winter Wonderland Village
Waterford Lakes Town Center lights up with thousands of Christmas lights, holiday displays, a Santa’s Workshop and unique European amusement rides decorated. Free entry, entertainment and parking.
Friday Nights at Morse
Morse Museum is providing free admission every Friday night from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Holidays at Disney Springs
Catch the spirit of the season without a theme park admission. Experience a waterfront light show, a nightly tree lighting ceremony, dance parties, special entertainment, meet Santa and more.
Christmas at the Leu House
Local interior designers have decked the halls in the 11-room estate with Christmas trees and amazing decorations. Entry to Leu’s Holiday House is included with garden admission ($10 for adults and $3 for kids).
Snow in Mount Dora
Dec. 10, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Kids (and kids at heart) can sled down a hill of real snow! Plus, every night in downtown Mount Dora, you can marvel at thousands of beautiful Christmas lights that drape from big trees. It’s the perfect family photo opportunity.
Lakeridge Winery Wine & Chocolate Festival
Dec. 10, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Dec. 11, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Enjoy live music on the outdoor stage, arts and crafts vendors and chocolate paired with award-winning Lakeridge wines. Entry costs $2.
Holiday Lights Bike Tour
December 10, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Take a tour of lights from the comfort of your bicycle. The ride starts at Bikes, Beans & Bordeaux Café in Orlando.
Santa’s Wonderland at Bass Pro
Now through Dec. 24, you can take a FREE 4×6 studio-quality photo with Santa, play games, fun activities, create crafts and more.
Mall at Millenia Santa Experience
You can meet the best Santa in Central Florida through Dec. 24 at Mall at Millenia. Sitting on Santa’s lap is free, or you can take photos using your own device by donating $10 to Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital. Professional photo packages are available for purchase as well.
Ice Skating at Winter Park
Skate at the park through January 8. Cost is $12 and includes skates.
Light UP UCF Ice Rink
Skate along with friends as a DJ spins classic holiday songs and Top 40 hits.
BOAT PARADES & LIGHTS
Sanford’s Annual Illuminated “Parade of Lights”
Dec. 10, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Downtown Sanford, Lake Monroe
Wekiva Island Boat Parade
Dec. 17, 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
FREE OUTDOOR HOLIDAY MOVIES
Lake Eola Park Holiday Movies
Dec. 16: Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Dec. 23: A Christmas Story
7 p.m. at Walt Disney Amphitheater at Lake Eola Park
Light Up UCF
7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at CFE Arena
Movies playing every Friday & Saturday night
Wekiva Island Winter Wonderland
Dec. 16: Elf – The Movie
Dec. 23: The Grinch
7 p.m. Wekiva Island
Cranes Roost Holiday Movie Night
Dec. 15: Home Alone
Dec. 22: A Christmas Story
7 p.m. Cranes Roost Park, Altamonte Springs
Maitland Screen on the Green
Dec. 17: Frozen & The Good Dinosaur
6 p.m. Maitland Middle School Field
ORLANDO THEME PARKS & ATTRACTIONS
If your budget allows, Orlando’s theme parks offers some of the most magical holiday events.
Gaylord Palms ICE
The attraction features elaborate, interactive hand-carved ice sculptures and displays themed by the classic cartoon, Charlie Brown. Florida Residents can save $4 per ticket when purchased in advance online. Use promo code FLR16.
Walt Disney World Resort
Select nights Nov. 7- Dec. 31
- Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party presents a winter fairytale, as Queen Elsa covers Cinderella’s castle in glittering ice. Lively stage shows feature Disney characters in their holiday best, and a festive holiday parade sends toy soldiers and snow flurries dancing on Main Street, U.S.A. Guests can even enjoy complimentary cookies and hot cocoa around the park.
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios debuts a new show this year, “Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!” The explosive event features spectacular fireworks, special effects and infectious holiday music every night, beginning Nov. 14.
- The Candlelight Processional at Epcot is a beloved Disney tradition. This joyous retelling of the Christmas story features a celebrity narrator, 50-piece orchestra and several magnificent choirs. Narrators this year include Neil Patrick Harris and Whoopi Goldberg.
Universal Orlando Resort
Select nights Dec. 3 – Jan. 1
- At Universal Studios Florida, the Macy’s Holiday Parade fills the streets every evening with the same larger-than-life balloons seen in Macy’s famous Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Elaborate floats, dancers and other entertainment will dazzle and delight as well.
- At Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Grinchmas descends on Seuss Landing with a live retelling of Dr. Seuss’s beloved holiday tale during, “Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular,” featuring the Whos from Who-ville and an original musical score by Mannheim Steamroller.
Select nights Nov. 25 – Dec. 31
Waves of holiday spirit splash in during SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration. Here in a wintry, watery wonderland, live shows inspired by the natural world light up the park with majesty and cheer, including a charming nativity show with live animals. New this year, guests can meet Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and friends, and enjoy Rudolph-themed attractions.
LEGOLAND Florida Resort
Dec. 17-18, 24-30
At Christmas Bricktacular, families can block time to marvel at the more than 30-foot-tall LEGO Christmas tree, made with 270,000 LEGO and DUPLO bricks, and pose for a perfect holiday picture with a life-size LEGO Santa, reindeer and sleigh.