Here is a festive factoid according to Visit Orlando, the city ranked 5th in Travel & Leisure’s 25 Best Christmas Towns in the USA. During the holiday season, in addition to eight of Orlando’s theme parks, there are many holiday happenings from light shows and ice sculptures to bowl games across Central Florida to celebrate the season. Here are my top 5 picks for Central Florida christmas events beyond the theme parks.
1. Night of Million of Lights
As the sun sets, head over to Island H2O Water Park for a spectacular holiday lights display, Night of a Million Lights. Visitors do a good deed while enjoying this immersive holiday experience packed with plenty of photo opportunities, activities, and live entertainment.
The price of admission goes to support Give Kids The World Village. Dueling piano players, dancing lights on a 5-story water slide, and a snow globe you can step inside are among the highlights as the water park transforms into a twinkling wonderland.
The lighting display originated in 2020 at Give Kids The World Village, an 89-acre nonprofit resort that provides critically ill children and their families vacation wishes.
In just two months, our volunteers and staff members put over a million lights in this water park.
Night of a Million Lights at Island H2O Live! at Margaritaville Resort Orlando runs through Jan. 1, 2023.
2. Dazzling Nights
For more holiday lightscapes, head over to Dazzling Nights at Harry P. Leu Gardens where 50 acres are aglow with a million twinkling lights.
There are plenty of eye-popping installations to experience, a large snow down with swirling snow, a candy cane light tunnel, a walk through a lighted forest with giant neon flowers, a laser light show with live performers, and you can meet and greet characters or slide down a giant inflatable chimney in the kids play area.
Dazzling Nights runs through January 1st, 2023.
3. Nights in Lights
Christmas Nights in Lights debuted at Dezerland Park, in the International Drive Entertainment District the immersive holiday light displays dance to music. As you drive through it, you turn on your car radio to a private radio frequency to hear the popular holiday classics and watch the lights synchronized choreography to the tunes. The event runs through January 3, 2023 Ticket price is $45 however, on Instagram, you can find a coupon code for 20% percent off the price of admission.
A beloved holiday tradition for many Florida families is a visit to ICE! The iconic attraction Gaylord Palms Resort returns after a two-year hiatus. This year’s theme is “How the Grinch Stole Christmas! ™”
You do get a blue parka with the price of admission, but it doesn’t have pockets so wear gloves and a hat and, of course, closed-toe shoes, and I would suggest a jacket to layer underneath to keep warm in the 9 degrees Fahrenheit ice exhibit. Plan on 20 to 40 minutes to walk through the ice sculptures.
ICE! is famous for its colorful, intricately carved ice sculptures depicting thematic scenes. Each holiday season, Gaylord Palms Resort hires ice sculptors from Harbin, China home to China Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival.
Now it is the largest ice and snow festival in the world. These visiting ice sculptors carve more than 2 million pounds – or 1,000 tons – of ice into a winter wonderland.
More than 40 ice artisans work approximately six weeks to create the nearly 20,000-square-foot frozen attraction. If you plan on taking photos with your cell phone, keep in mind that battery life is greatly reduced due to extreme temperatures inside.
ICE! at Gaylord Palms and Convention Center runs from November 18, 2022, through January 1, 2023.
5. Game On
It’s game on in Orlando this holiday season with several NCAA football bowls. Orlando is hosting five college football bowl games, including the Cheez-It Bowl and Cheez-It Citrus Bowl at Camping World Stadium in downtown Orlando. Key bowl competitions include the Cheez-It Bowl on Dec. 29 the Florida State Seminoles will face off against the Oklahoma Sooners;
Now in its 33rd year, the 2022 Cheez-It Bowl features top teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference and Big 12. The matchup between No. 2 Florida State Seminoles and the No. 8 Oklahoma Sooners will be televised on ESPN. Kickoff is at 5:30pm on December 29th.
At the 2023 Cheez-It Citrus Bowl January 2 at 1pm, Southeastern Conference’s No. 2 LSU Tigers and the Big Ten Conference’s No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers take the field in what’s known as the seventh-oldest collegiate bowl game in the country, having started in 1947 as the Tangerine Bowl. It is also part of the NCAA Division 1 FBS football season. That game airs on ABC.
On January 14th, The Hula Bowl kicks off at noon in a matchup of top college football players at the FBC Mortgage Stadium at UCF. Players will be determined by the Hula Bowl Selection Committee.