November technically classifies as part of Orlando's shoulder season, but rest assured the vibe is still lively as the theme park capital of Florida kicks into high holiday gear early. There will be culinary festivals, character-led parties, magically lit wonderlands, and candlelit processions galore. What's more, the mild weather means you can enjoy holiday events and an abundance of sunshine during your November trip to Orlando.
Each year at Universal Orlando Resort's Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade become a holiday wonderland of snow-topped cottages, illuminated castles, and other magical decor. You'll taste specialty food and drinks crafted just for the season and hear the Frog Choir singing Christmas carols all over. The highlight, as usual, is Hogwarts Castle, draped in lights and garland from November 14, 2020, to January 3, 2021.
The annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival at Walt Disney World is a chance to sample the best in global cuisine while also enjoying live music, signature dinners, galas, and new marketplaces. It typically takes place at Epcot on Bay Lake and provides international fare (plus chef demonstrations and tips) from about 40 kiosks, though in 2020, the event will be more spread out. Concerts will take place on the America Gardens Theater stage. The event ends on November 22, 2020.
Christmas at Gaylord Palms
Stunning displays of more than 2 million holiday lights, snow tubing (yes, in Florida), circus acts, snowball building, storytelling with Mrs. Claus, and elf training—that's just a glimpse of the goings-on at Gaylord Palms from November 3, 2020, to January 3, 2021. Kids will enjoy the winter simulations while adults marvel at the acres of twinkling lights and decorations. According to the organizers, you could spend a whole 12 hours just exploring, feasting with the Grinch, decorating gingerbread houses, and more.
At the Orlando Museum of Art, the Festival of Trees kicks off a jam-packed holiday season—this year with the theme "Joy to the World." Here, guests can enjoy a plethora of elaborately decorated trees, wreaths, and tables, as well as gingerbread creations, live entertainment, holiday shopping, and more. The event has been taking place since the 1980s. In 2020, it will be held from November 12 to 19.
SeaWorld's Christmas Celebration
From November 14 through December 31, 2020, SeaWorld will become a wintry wonderland with the help of more than 3 million lights. The event features an outdoor ice skating rink—Winter Wonderland on Ice—photo ops with Santa in the Wild Arctic, appearances by Rudolf and fellow reindeer, holiday-inspired feasts, live music, and more.
Holidays at Bok Tower Gardens
The magical Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales is normally transformed into a homey holiday showcase in November. Reminiscent of the 1940s, its glittering decorations are a classic take on Christmas and its festive carillon concerts (at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. daily), and holiday home tours are simply brimming with charm. In the past, the gardens have also hosted daily walking tours of the estate, but in 2020, all holiday events—save a Peace on Earth carillon concert every Sunday—were canceled.
Volusia County Fair
Visitors to the Volusia County Fair enjoy rides and games, live entertainment, a talent show, animal exhibits, and more at this DeLand event, 45 minutes from Orlando. The 11-day fair gives local youth a place to showcase their livestock, musical talents, photography, horticulture, agriculture, arts, crafts, and home projects. Up to 180,000 people typically attend, but in 2020, it was canceled.
Pioneer Day is an old-timey, outdoor festival commemorating Osceola County's heritage. It comprises historic reenactments, kid-friendly craft activities, homemade baked goods from local cooks, live music, and pioneer and Seminole life demonstrations. The event is held at Pioneer Village at Shingle Creek in Kissimmee, just outside of Orlando. In 2020, the event was postponed.
Light Up UCF
One of the most popular holiday events outside of a theme park in Orlando, Light Up UCF is the University of Central Florida's light display and carnival. Attendees should expect free holiday movies, music, an outdoor ice skating rink, rides, a carousel, and more. In 2020, however, the event was canceled.
Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party
- Walt Disney World is perhaps the most festive place to be during the holiday season and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party is about as jolly as they come. This Magic Kingdom tradition features a fireworks show, a holiday parade, themed food and drink, and ample photo ops with beloved Disney characters. It's a separate-ticket event that lasts from 7 p.m. to midnight, meaning guests will also be treated to a splendid light display after dark. In 2020, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party was canceled.
Epcot World Showcase's Candlelight Processional
The Epcot World Showcase's Candlelight Processional features a stirring story of Christmas, typically narrated by a celebrity, set to a 50-piece orchestra and mass choir. Former guest narrators include Whoopi Goldberg, Marlee Matlin, and Neil Patrick Harris, but in 2020, the event was canceled.