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

Festive Yachts, Classic Ballets, and Santa

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 October 31, 2019, through January 5, 2020, this venue has been a south Florida holiday tradition for 37 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 14, 2019. The theme for this year's event is "Lights, Camera, Action—Movies on Parade." The 2.5-hour maritime procession 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. Throughout December, this landmark home is decorated for the holidays by award-winning designers. Visitors can experience the holiday magic, enjoy hot chocolate and cookies, and listen to carolers on the premises beginning December 1, 2019, through January 5, 2020.

Visitors can take part in other holiday activities as well. For the kids, 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. This year, Santa will be on the premises on December 14, 2019.

For the adults, there is the Mistletoe and Martinis event on December 13, 2019. Wander around the decorated estate while enjoying catered snacks and cocktails.

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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 13-29, 2019, the Miami City Ballet company brings Geroge Balanchine's ballet, "The Nutcracker," to southern Florida. Don't miss this classic tale complete with sugar plum fairies and life-size dancing toys, with performances at the Miami Arsht Center and the Kravis Center.

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. You can visit the show this year on December 13 or 14, 2019, or volunteer to be a part of this living nativity.

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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 select nights between November 29 and December 29, 2019. There are also special themed nights, which include:

  • November 29-30, 2019: PJs and Onesies Nights
  • December 6-7, 2019: Galactic Nights
  • December 13-14, 2019: Ugly Sweater Nights
  • December 20-22, 2019: Superhero Nights
  • December 27-29, 2019: Santa and Elf Look-a-Like Nights
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