Guide to Christmas in Miami: Festivals, Events, Things to Do

Festive Yachts, Classic Ballets, and Santa Too

Christmas Decorations, Miami, Florida, America
Joe Daniel Price / Getty Images

Unlike Orlando and Tampa, Miami may not be first to come to mind when considering Christmas getaways. It's not likely to snow in Miami during the Christmas season, but that doesn't stop the city from celebrating the holidays with a varied selection of entertaining events for the whole family. Whether you visit the zoo to watch the animals open their presents or view lavishly decorated boats cruise down the local waterways, Christmas in Miami offers fun for everyone. So for those who don't mind trading snow for sand, Miami may be the holiday place for you.

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Santa's Enchanted Forest

Lights at Santa's Enchanted Forest

 Ricardo Serpa

Christmas is in the air in Santa's Enchanted Forest, Miami's holiday theme park. Open from November 1, 2018 through January 6, 2019, this venue has been a South Florida holiday tradition for more than 30 years. The whole family will enjoy the holiday light show, Christmas karaoke, holiday displays, Mistletoe Lane, and the tallest Christmas tree in South Florida. There are also magic shows, a freestyle motocross event, an aerial performance, a circus, thrill rides for big and little kids, animal shows, and a carnival.

02 of 07

Winterfest Boat Parade

Winterfest Boat Parade

 Howie Grapek

The Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade takes place in downtown Fort Lauderdale, about 25 miles north of Miami, on December 15, 2018. The 2.5-hour event offers magical moments along the Intracoastal waterways, featuring festively decorated boats that travel a 12-mile route to Lake Santa Barbara in Pompano Beach. Sailboats, kayaks, and even corporate mega yachts are all adorned with thousands of festive lights.

03 of 07

Festivities at the Deering Estate

 Deering Estate

Kick off the holidays at the Deering Estate, a historic environmental and archeological preserve on Biscayne Bay. The festivities begin with the Festival of Trees (November 30, 2018 through January 4, 2019) that showcases the decorated grounds and historic houses. Enjoy hot chocolate and cookies, and the sounds of carolers while wandering through the estate.

Santa and his elves pay an annual visit to the Deering Estate’s Stone House Ballroom to read classic holiday stories and pose for photographs. Kids can also take part in holiday arts and crafts activities.

In the 2018-2019 season, there are also special events such as Storytime with Santa (December 8, 2018), Mistletoe and Martinis (December 14, 2018), and the Holiday Champagne Bay Cruise (December 15, 2018).

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Bayfront Park

Christmas Tree at Bayfront Park

 Bayfront Park Miami

The annual Christmas tree lighting at Bayfront Park in downtown Miami officially starts the holiday season on the day after Thanksgiving. The 50-foot tree is covered with thousands of festive lights that bring cheer to Miami’s Flagler Promenade between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. The tree-lighting ceremony is accompanied by holiday music. The event is free to attend, but limited parking requires a fee.

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05 of 07

Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker

The Nutcracker performance

 Miami City Ballet

From December 7-30, 2018, the Miami City Ballet company brings Geroge Balanchine's ballet, "The Nutcracker," to the Ziff Opera House. Don't miss this classic tale complete with sugar plum fairies and life-size dancing toys.

The Jackie Gleason Theater in Miami Beach hosts a version of this classic, "Great Russian Nutcracker," performed by a touring company of the Moscow Ballet.

06 of 07

Miami Shores Living Nativity

This live, open-air reenactment of the Christmas Story takes place every year at the Miami Shores Presbyterian Church. It features live camels, donkeys, goats, and sheep, as well as live-action characters like Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. The depiction is narrated and includes digital projections and music. The event is free, but guests are invited to bring canned goods for donation to the local food bank.

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Zoo Lights at Zoo Miami

Zoo Lights at Zoo Miami

 Ron Magill/Zoo Miami

The Miami Zoo comes alive for Zoo Lights, the annual holiday event that lights up the zoo's grounds. Dozens of animal-shaped lights line the walkways, and 3D glasses are provided for the full effect. Visitors can take camel rides, go down the hippo slide, and ride the horses on the carousel. You can even watch the animals open their Christmas presents.

Zoo Lights will be open on Fridays and Saturdays between November 23 and December 29, 2018. There are also special themed nights, which include:

  • November 23-24: PJs and Onesies Nights
  • November 30-December 1: Galactic Nights
  • December 7-8: Ugly Sweater Nights
  • December 14-15: Superhero Nights
  • December 21-22: Santa and Elf Look-a-Like Nights
  • December 28-29: Holiday Bling Out Nights
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