You can get your mitten-worthy fix of outdoor activities during your early-winter Orlando visit whether temps are balmy or crisp. This is a town that excels in creating fantasy, after all. ‘Tis the season for visitors to toss snowballs, hear carolers croon and gawk at creatively adorned holiday trees.
Ice Is Nice
Orlando may have the world’s best collection of theme parks, but actual snow? Not so much. The hotel Gaylord Palms is the antidote, producing chilly white powder despite the subtropical clime. Visitors can hurl snowballs at interactive targets via Santa’s Snow Throw. And, zoom! They can swoosh down an eight-lane hill via snow tube without heading to out-of-state mountaintops. The main attraction, ICE!, involves rooms filled with elaborate ice carvings. This year’s theme is Christmas Around the World. It’ll be cold, but parkas are provided. Nov. 21-Jan. 7. Prices vary.
It Takes a Village
A gingerbread village, that is. At the Orlando Science Center, Gingerbread Lane will bring dozens of fancifully adorned mini homes to the educational family-focused museum. Each cookie-based residence is made by Chef Jon Lovitch, who spends the entire year creating each season’s collection. While the littlest visitors will be entranced by the aromas and tempting candy decorations, older children will be invited to learn about the engineering aspects: sturdiness, durability and anti-cracking characteristics. Nov. 24-Jan. 7. Museum admission $20.95./$14.95.
Good Clean Fun
You’ll smile at the Charles Dickens Carolers. You’ll snap photos by the horse-drawn carriages. You may even hop aboard the Express Train for a spin. Yet you will most enjoy the town of Celebration’s event Now Snowing Nightly, part of its Winter Wonderland Spectacular. Four times every night for a month, on the hour starting at 6 p.m., a blistery snow descends upon the Market Street area. Only that blistery snow isn’t icy at all; it’s gentle drops of soapy flakes, ideal for Florida’s temperate December weather. Free. Nov. 25-Dec. 31.
If a family member has a bona fide Elsa obsession, you’ve no choice but to head to Epcot’s Norway pavilion, home of the Frozen Ever After ride. There, the Scandinavian celebrity will sprinkle wintry pixie dust on your vacation. Enjoy her magical touch during a sail aboard the Arendelle, where Olaf provides a burst of chilly air on your way to the ice palace. Elsa and Anna are ready to snap pics with you at the Royal Sommerhus cabin. Free with theme park admission. 365 days/year.
Wait, is this Vermont? In fact, it’s the pretty little Orlando-area city of Winter Park, where Winter in the Park is the place to lace up and start ice skating. The tented outdoor rink, in Central Park West Meadow, is as wholesome as any you’ll find in New England, with seasonal music playing, games and more. Nov.-18-Jan. 7. Weekdays from 3 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun noon-8 p.m. $13.
Hop aboard the cheerful green Jingle Bell Express at The Great Christmas Light Adventure & Train, a multiday event at Kissimmee’s Green Meadows Petting Farm. Displays around the farm will teach about Santas from part of world. St. Nick himself, festive lights, spirited music and of course that choo-choo are all part of the fun. That, and hot chocolate and warm cider. Select dates in December. 6pm-8:15pm. $15 per person over two; $2 for two-year olds; under two are free.
Toyland in Legoland
If you build it, they will come. And so Legoland Florida builds the Christmas Bricktacular, and families arrive to marvel at Lego and Duplo holiday trees. Even Santa is made of plastic brick here, as is a Toy Soldier. Scavenger hunts, fireworks choreographed to seasonal music, and snow (it’s bubbly and oh-so-fun) are all part of the festivities. Select dates in December. Included in park admission.
Holidays with Harry and Hermione
With Hogsmeade’s permanently snow-capped roofs, Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter brings cold weather to mind even in July. This holiday season, both Hogsmeade and its sister Wizarding community, Diagon Alley, will embrace Christmas head-on with garlands, lights, adornments and even special foods including, warm butterbeer. The Frog Choir and others will provide seasonal music. After dark, relevant Harry Potter moments will be projected onto Hogwarts castle. Included in park admission. Nov. 18-Jan. 6.
‘Tis the Season – of Trees
A sea of trees, that is. A 70-foot tree above the water will draw you to SeaWorld Orlando’s Sea of Trees, a collection of 115 elegantly decorated, sparkling towers set within the park’s 14-foot-deep center lake. You can stroll among them along a boardwalk as joyous songs play. Take time for Winter Wonderland on Ice, too, an entertaining ice-skating extravaganza with a Noel theme. Included in park admission. Nov. 24-Dec. 31.
Kennedy Space Center is all about experiences beyond Earth, so its winter celebration, Holidays in Space, has an inviting other-worldly quality. The dance troupe Fighting Gravity will perform almost every night. A Holidays in Space village will sell gifts and treats with a beyond-the-stars twist. A 35-foot tree will be a space-age mosaic. Included with park admission. Select nights Dec. 20-Dec. 31. Nightly (except Christmas).