*This post has been updated for 2018*
When we first moved to Orlando in 2014, Christmas was really weird for me.
After growing up in Erie, PA and spending ten years in Indiana, I am used to snow ….lots of snow.
But, when we started spending Christmas in Orlando, ‘Let it Snow’ just wasn’t packing the same holiday punch it used to when I was celebrating up north.
The first Christmas I was down here, I remember asking some of my students what they do for Christmas. Several mentioned the festivities in Celebration, Florida. They said ” They make their own snow.” I remember teasing ” Where I come from, God makes our snow…” but I digress.
This year will now be my 4th Christmas in Florida, and I have to admit…Christmas in the sand can still be pretty festive and amazing.
You don’t have to put on layers of insulation to walk outside or spend a fortune, to get into the Christmas spirit.
There are some pretty amazing holiday happenings in the area that won’t break your budget!
If you happen to be celebrating down here in the Sunshine State, here are some fun, affordable,family-friendly things to do in Orlando for Christmas!
The University of Central Florida is the country’s largest ( by population) State University. And they do Christmas in a big way!
Every year, the CFE arena is adorned with thousands of lights! Guests can enjoy carriage rides, ice skating and amusement rides.
Though some of the attractions do cost money, it is free to walk around and enjoy the lights, as well as partake in the free holiday film festival.
The attractions do have discount days, such as two-for-one Tuesdays. Mr. L and I went ice skating last year when it was BOGO. The fun we had was well worth the $12 spent! Traditions in the making! Check the website for prices and discounts.
Bass Pro Shops Santa’s Wonderland
I was pleasantly surprised at how great Bass Pro Shops did Christmas!
Trust me, even if you are not into hunting or fishing, this place is cool. The husband will love ogling over large boats and the kids will have a blast checking out the amazing (and huge) aquarium.
At Christmas, they do it up! Plus, it is ALL FREE!
Kids can ride a free carousel, have fun with a shooting arcade, lincoln log center and play archery range.
Santa has a mailbox there for kids to write letters, plus they can visit the big man himself and get a FREE 4X6 photo ( notwithstanding the free ones you can take on your phone).
Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail
There is no doubt that Disney is just magical at Christmas.
Sure, there is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and Holidays around the World at Epcot.
But, honestly, some of the best Disney Holiday Magic doesn’t cost a dime!
Disney Springs is once again offering their Christmas Tree Trail, where visitors can view over twenty Disney-themed trees while they wait to meet Santa ( also free, but make sure you have plenty of time to wait…though it’s a pager system so you don’t have to stand in line).
Just head on over by the Earl of Sandwich and you won’t miss it! It runs through January 7, so you will still have time to catch this cool display even if you wait until after the Christmas rush.
Here are some of my faves this year:
After hitting the Christmas Tree Trail ( and maybe picking up a couple of souvenirs while at Disney Springs), do some resort hopping for more free fun.
I suggest hitting the monorail and heading towards the Grand Floridian to check out the AMAZING Gingerbread House in the lobby, or pop over to the Beach Club for the Gingerbread carousel. ( P.S. I think Gingerbread is Mickey’s favorite cookie.)
Every Friday evening year-round, the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum in Winter Park is free to the public. During the holidays, however, they amp it up with some extra special events and entertainment by offering free live-music entertainment in their stunning daffodil terrace.
The Morse Museum is renowned for offering one of the largest collections of pieces by American artist and designer Louis Comfort Tiffany. Tiffany’s works are ample around the museum, including the stunning chapel he designed for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.
Pair a visit to this museum with a stroll down Winter Park’s Park Avenue and you will have the perfect romantic holiday date night.
Not too far from #WDW, the town of Celebration ( aka the Town which Disney built) transforms into a Norman Rockwell-esque site with carriage rides, ice skating, carolers, thousands of lights….and, yes…snow. The event is free in the town center and you should schedule your visit around the timed snowfall at 6,7,8 and 9 p.m. nightly. ( only in Florida does that sentence make sense.)
These are a few of my favorite things to do in Orlando during Christmas with my family and I hope you enjoy them, too! What are your favorite holiday spots to check out every year? Leave me a note in the comments!