PLEASE NOTE: Click here to view Orlando Holiday Events for 2009

Affordable Central Florida Holiday Events 2008

Holiday Coke Bottle Design

Holiday Coke Bottle Design

For those of you, who like me, don’t quite ever really get into the oh so desirable holiday mood (yes, living in sunny, never snowy, Central Florida that is a difficult task sometimes), I’ve put together a list of affordable Central Florida Holiday events that may help you feel the holiday cheer this year on a budget…

Sorry by the way for the rather unrelated picture, it’s just that that’s the pic I took that day and I am following my rules… I will post more pictures in the next days though that are better related to the Central Florida theme (i.e. event pictures etc.). So for now you will just have to be happy with the info provided. However, the little Coke bottle is kind of cute, which is why I, a reluctant Coke drinker, bought it the other day at the store.

Ongoing Events:

Leu’s Holiday House
Where: Harry P. Leu Gardens, 1920 N. Forest Ave., Orlando, FL
When: until Jan 1, closed on Christmas Day; 10am – 3:30pm
Price: $7 for adults; $2 for children (under grade K free!)
Contact: 407-246-2620
Visit the Leu House Museum that is decorated with beautiful Christmas trees and stunning ornaments in various rooms. Everything has been decorated by Ron’s Miniature Shop & Museum. Tours are offered every 30 minutes with the last tour starting at 3:30pm.

Santa’s Holly Follies Spectacular: a marionette show – until Dec 8
The Little Drummer Boy – Dec. 10 – 31, except Christmas Day

Where: Pinocchio’s Marionette Theatre, inside the Altamonte Mall (first floor next to Sears), Altamonte Springs, FL
When: Mondays – Thursdays: 11:15 am, 1:30 pm/ 5 pm (Tuesday and Wednesday shows at 11:15am are designed for kids under 4!)
Fridays: 11:15 am, 1:30 p.m., 5 p.m. & 7 p.m.
Saturdays: 11:30 am, 2:30 pm, 5:30 pm.& 7 pm
Sundays: 11:30 am, 2:30 pm., & 5:30 pm
Price: Adults $6.50/ children and seniors 55+ $5.50/ children under 2 free
Contact: 407-677-8831

This is a fun David Eaton marionette show looking at holiday traditions from around the world.  David Eaton, a former actor/puppeteer with New York’s Nicolo Marionettes, Bill Baird’s Show-Go-Round, and Sid and Marty Krofft’s Les Poupees de Paris, was a resident actor with the popular children’s theater touring company, The Prince Street Players. He also appeared on a Ohio TV station as Bozo the Clown.
Please note that reservations are encouraged so call 407-677-8831, Ext. 100 today!
Downtown Disney® Festival of the Seasons (until Dec 24)
Where: Downtown Disney, Lake Buena Vista, FL
When: Daily with Santa hours from 12pm-10pm
Price: free

Of course with Holiday events in the Central Florida area Disney just has to be present ? As opposed to all the other pricey events, this one is free and therefore made the list as affordable Central Florida Holiday Event. Be prepared though, it gets very busy here, especially during the weekends. It is a great place though to really soak in the holiday cheer and hustle & bustle we are all so used to. Enjoy live entertainment, seasonal carolers, and musical acts throughout the streets. Disney is truly trying to make this an enjoyable Winter Wonderland experience for the entire family. While you’re there you can also get some of your holiday shopping done (at least the one for your non-Orlando resident relatives…

Now Snowing in Downtown Celebration (until Dec 31)
Where: Market Street, Town of Celebration, Celebration, FL (between Highway 192 and Interstate 4 near Walt Disney World)
When: snowing at 6pm/7pm/8pm and 9pm for 10 minutes
Price: free
Contact: 407-566-2200

This is an event I attended last year and I might go back this year again. Even though it obviously is kind of weird to enjoy and play in “fake snow” (careful, that soap really sticks, especially on black boots…), it is a nice way to get us Florida residents into the classic holiday mood. Since the chances of snow are pretty slim again this year (who would have guessed…even though, it is kind of cold this year, isn’t it?) this may be our only chance to see a little Central Florida town covered in white. And you must admit, the fake snow goes kind of well with a, often called, fake/kitsch town. The excitement about the snow is contagious though: I was waiting along with my sister (who actually already had gotten her “serving” of snow for the year living in cold Germany…) for the white magic to start. Makes you feel like a child again, and, if you, like me, grew up with snow in the winter, you might actually also appreciate this holiday event. While in Celebration, check out one of their exquisite restaurants. In case you go on the weekend, make reservations since you might not be the only one thinking about combining your visit with a romantic holiday dinner! Talking about romantic, horse drawn carriage rides are available too (of course those aren’t free).
While you’re down in Celebration, don’t be shy and drive around the residential district to see some beautifully decorated homes and Christmas lights.

The Best of Florida Christmas
Where: Gaylord Palms Resort , Kissimmee, FL
When: until January 4, 2009
Price: free (but charge for parking)

For those of you who don’t want to spend the $20+ for ICE, the popular ice exhibition at the Gaylord Palms, there is also a free version of Winter Wonderland. The 4.5 acre atrium of the Gaylord Palms Resort is transformed into a magical Christmas wonderland. A majestic 54-foot Christmas tree adds to the elegant and whimsical decor.  Chances are though that once you are at the Gaylord Palms Resort you might end up paying for ICE anyway… I think I would.

Santa at the Mall at Millenia (until Dec 24): see my post on day 62

Christmas in the Park
Where: Central Park, 445 North Park Avenue, Winter Park, FL
When: 6:15pm-8:15pm on December 4, 2008 (in the event of rain the concert will be held at the same time on December 5, 2008)
Price: free
Contact: 407-645-5311

Join in as Winter Park celebrates the holiday season at Central Park. Installed by the well known Morse Museum 9 leaded Christmas themed Tiffany glass windows in the park set the stage for a festive outdoor concert by the famous Back Festival Choir.

About the Tiffany Windows:

Eight of the windows are memorials with religious themes that were produced by Tiffany Studios for the chapel constructed in 1908 for the Association for the Relief of Respectable Aged Indigent Females in New York.

The Association was founded in 1814 by a group of wealthy New Yorkers as a genteel private charity for elderly, indigent women, including widows of soldiers who fought in the War of 1812 and the Revolution. The first residence, constructed in 1838, was an alternative to the common almshouse. An expanded building was designed 30 years later by Richard Morris Hunt, architect to the rich and famous of the late-19th century.

When the residence was threatened with demolition in 1974, Hugh and Jeannette McKean bought its Tiffany chapel windows at the request of the Association board. The windows are memorials to prominent women who it is believed supported the Association in some way. The Association residence is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Tiffany Studios’ Christmas Eve window, c. 1902, in which a figure resembling Father Christmas holds the Christ child, is also on view at the event and in the Morse Museum following Christmas in the Park. The window was designed by Thomas Nast Jr. — son of the famous political cartoonist — for his sister’s home in New Rochelle, New York.

Christmas in the Park was first introduced in 1979 to share a part of this rare Tiffany collection with the public in an informal setting.

Holiday Movie at Leu Gardens – White Christmas
Where: Harry P. Leu Gardens, 1920 N. Forest Ave., Orlando, FL
When: December 5, 2008, garden opens at 6pm, movie starts at 8:30pm
Price: Adults $7+tax/Children $2+tax

Enjoy an outdoor holiday movie on the largest outdoor screen of Central Florida while picnicking in the beautiful and romantic Harry P. Leu botanical gardens, sponsored by Women in Film & Television Florida.  So be sure to fill up those picnic baskets and remember to bring blankets and dress in warm clothes – it does get chilly in Central Florida during the wintertime…

17th Annual Christmas Walk
Where: Downtown Mount Dora
When: December 05, 2008; 6-9pm
Price: free
Contact: 352-735-1191

This is Mount Dora’s own holiday street party! Mount Dora is especially beautiful during Christmas time. We actually went there last year to take some Christmas pictures in the park and around the quaint little downtown area. It truly is an ocean of lights and worth the drive!
BTW, the next day, on December 6, Mount Dora is having their 49th Annual Christmas Parade.


Jazz Holiday Concert
Where: Mall at Millenia
When: December 05, 2008, 5:30pm-8:30pm
Price: free
Contact: 407-363-3555

This is a great holiday Jazz concert featuring Chris Standring right at the entrance of the Mall at Millenia and it’s free! Very relaxing sounds, just at the right time in this busy holiday season. And before you join, you might actually get some Christmas shopping done…

Christmas in the Square
Where: Magnolia Square & First Street in Sanford, FL
When: December 5, 2008; 6pm-8pm – SANTA arrives at 6pm!
Price: free
Contact: 407.688.5120

Wonderful, live holiday music with the city’s official tree lighting ceremony, face painters and balloon artists. This promises to be fun for the whole family so check it out!

Sanford Tour of Homes

Where: Tour starts at Historic Sanford Welcome Center on 230 E. First St., Sanford, FL
When: Friday Night December 5th, 6:00 – 9:30pm (Night Tour) and Saturday, December 6, 2008, 11am – 4pm (Day Tour)
Price: Night Tour is $25 in advance, $30 at the door – Day Tour is $15
Contact: 407-263-4488

Over the years I have missed this tour every single time, and I have to sadly admit, I will miss it again this year… I have heard from friends though that it is a wonderful tour for anyone interested in the beautiful historic district of Sanford.  Here’s what the flyer says:

Stroll through historic homes on Magnolia & Palmetto Avenues at 9th & 10th streets.
Festivities include reception, music, carolers, carriage rides, decorating ideas and holiday cheer.

Sanford’s 3rd Annual Illuminated Christmas Parade
Where: Sanford Downtown, First Street, Sanford, FL
When: Saturday, December 6th at 6PM
Price: free
Contact: A.C. Parrish at 407.688.5107 or Barbi Bauman at 407.688.5004

This is a fun filled holiday parade (theme this year: Christmas ~ Florida Style, curious to see what that means…) through historic Sanford and you won’t want to miss it! There will be local school marching bands, dancing and music, The Perseverance Brass Band, over 40 illuminated floats, Santa and Mrs. Claus and even some surprise guests from Disney! Also, over 20 merchants of Sanford are competing in a storefront window decorating contest, so I am curious to see what they have come up with this year!
Be there early to secure a good spot and to enjoy the pre-parade entertainment beginning at 5:30 PM with the Hometown Hero’s. Right after the parade you can keep enjoying their sounds at Magnolia Square. This is of course also a great evening to check out some local restaurants in downtown Sanford to warm up a bit and have some holiday fun.

The Gateway Orchestra
Where: Magnolia Square, Sanford, FL (downtown Sanford)
When: Saturday, December 13th; 6pm-8pm
Price: free

The Gateway Orchestra is comprised of volunteer musicians who love music and
love performing. They share a common bond of a passion for music and a
willingness to share their passion with the community.
This concert is presented by the City of Sanford Economic Development Department
and sponsored by Lake Shore Software of Sanford.

Clock at Magnolia Square

Clock at Magnolia Square

Alive After Five Holiday Street Party – Cheers to the Holidaze!
Where: First Street, Magnolia Square & Palmetto Street in Downtown Sanford
When: December 11, 2008; 5pm-9pm
Price: free; pay only $5 for food and drink samples by merchants
Contact: 407-302-2586

Like every second Thursday of the month Sanford invites you to mix and mingle at this fun street party with food, drinks, music and entertainment, this month obviously all related to the holidays. This month local merchants will actually be able to sell some of their products and art, so bring cash in case you’re planning to do some Christmas shopping.

Breakfast with Santa
Where: Central Florida Zoo, Sanford, FL
When: December 13 2008, – 12:00pm
Price: call for info
Contact: (407) 323-4450

Santa at the Zoo! This promises to be a fun holiday event for the little ones, but there will be activities for the whole family! After a delicious breakfast you’re invited to join the zookeepers as they give to the animals their own special holiday gifts.

Light Up the Holidays
Where: Eddie Rose Amphitheater, Cranes Roost Park, Altamonte Springs, FL
When: December 6 , 2008; 5pm – 9pm
Price: free

This is the exciting traditional lighting of Cranes Roost Park sponsored by Progress Energy. Of course, there will be music, entertainment, fireworks, and Santa and Mrs. Claus.  BTW, you will see the region’s largest Christmas tree and enjoy the fun Holiday Fountain show. Good to know: no pets or coolers allowed.
Scheduled to perform during the event are: Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra, Orlando Youth Theater & Broadway Bound, Resurrection Children’s Choir, The Pop Shop Kids, Showtime Dance Studio, Arthur Murray Dance School, Heartbeat Boys, Focus Performing Arts Studio and The Altamonte Baptist Church.

Holiday Movie Night

Where: Cranes Roost Plaza, Altamonte Springs, FL
When: Monday, December 8 – (also Monday, December 15); 7 pm – 9 pm and Wednesday, December 10 (also Wednesday, December 17
Price: free

Enjoy a fun holiday movie (“Home Alone” on December 8, “The Grinch” on December 10) on the lawn of the Cranes Roost plaza. Bring your blankets and chairs and watch a family holiday classic with a warm beverage on the lawn in front of the tower. The event is sponsored by the Florida Hospital Altamonte.

Santa Tuesday’s
Where: Cranes Roost Plaza, Altamonte Springs, FL
When: Tuesday, December 9 (also Tuesday Dec 16 and Dec 23); 6pm – 8pm
Price: free

Bring your wish list and join the fun with Santa and his helpers under the tower.  Enjoy beautiful lights, holiday fountain performances and the Robert Harris Duo in the Plaza. Seastride Photography will be onsite for professional photos for purchase during this event. Food and beverages will also be available for purchase.  Sponsored in part by Gold’s Gym Altamonte.

Friday Night Live
Where: Eddie Rose Amphitheater, Cranes Roost Park, Altamonte Springs, FL
When: December 12 and 19, 7 pm – 9 pm
Price: free

Bring your chair or blanket and enjoy great live entertainment in a beautiful outdoor setting. The top local artists perform Jazz, Pop, Big Band, Classic Rock and Contemporary music on a weekly basis. Continuing the holiday tradition, the Ed Self Holiday Spectacular will perform pop, rock and a variety of holiday musical favorites. Come out and enjoy the beautiful lights and fantastic music from one of the regions most accomplished musicians.
(on Dec 19 it’s Robert Harris Holiday Jazz Show performing)

Lake Monroe’s Illuminated Christmas Boat Parade
Where: Sanford Marina, Sanford, FL
When: December 13, 2008, starting at 5 pm
Price: free
Contact: 407-330-0633

Both Veteran’s Memorial Park and Wolfy’s Waterfront Bar & Grill will provide up-close and exciting views of the boats, both power and sail in all their holiday spirit.

Kissimmee Holiday Extravaganza
Where: Kissimmee Lakefront Park, Kissimmee, FL
When: December 13, 2008
Price: free
Contact: 407-93EVENT

Annual event at Kissimmee Lakefront Park includes a 20 ton snow pile, strolling street performers, live entertainment and plenty of activities, including Frosty’s Playground, ice carving demonstrations. Nighttime events include a “Festival of Lights” and a fireworks display.

Cinema in the Park
Where: Centennial Park in Sanford, FL
When: December 19, 2008; 7:30pm
Price: free
Contact: 407-688-5004

Like every third Friday of the month there will be a free outdoor movie playing at the Centennial Park in Sanford. Bring your blankets and chairs for a night of family fun. I suspect this month’s showing will be holiday related?

I hope you find this list helpful and can use it for your holiday planning in Central Florida! Stay tuned for more holiday events (those that are a bit more expensive) on one of my future posts!