Holiday Festivals Christmas 2017 Header

Special events throughout the area mean you don't have to fight the theme park crowds to have a magical holiday in Orlando.

By Erin Connett

In Orlando, having a magical, holiday experience can extend beyond the theme parks. Dozens of joyful events throughout the area provide perfect holiday experiences for the entire family — and some are even free to attend. From opportunities to meet Santa Claus and experience the arts to tours of beautifully decorated historic homes, here are our picks for some of the best examples of holiday cheer that can be found beyond Orlando's theme parks in 2017.

Santa Photo Experience Christmas 2017

Santa Photo Experience at The Mall at Millenia

Starting at 6 p.m. on Nov. 3 through closing on Christmas Eve, you and your family can enjoy one of Orlando's most sought-after holiday encounters at the Santa Photo Experience at The Mall at Millenia. Professional photography sessions are available, but guests are invited to take their own photos, too. Also, grab a Line Entry Ticket to help manage your time during peak visitation hours.

Pyro Nutcracker Christmas 2017

Central Florida Ballet's "Pyrotechnic Nutcracker"

The Central Florida Ballet returns this holiday season with their one-of-a-kind rendition of The Nutcracker — known to many as the "pyrotechnic Nutcracker." Celebrating its 17th anniversary, the production mixes the classic fairytale with a touch of Cirque du Soleil-style pyrotechnics to create an unforgettable experience for the entire family. The show will be held in the Orange County Convention Center's Linda Chapin Theater on Dec. 16–17.

Singing Trees Christmas 2017

Singing Christmas Trees

Hear your favorite Christmas classics like never before at the Singing Christmas Trees extravaganza, which will take place at First Baptist Orlando on Dec. 8–10 and Dec. 14–17. Launched more than three decades ago, the event combines a full orchestra, a choir, dance, drama and 250,000 beautiful lights displayed on two 45-feet Christmas trees. Guests are encouraged to arrive well ahead of each day's start time for a stroll through the all-new Bethlehem Village, which includes a kid-friendly petting zoo.

Bok Tower Christmas 2017

Christmas at Bok Tower Gardens

Located about 30 minutes from Orlando, Bok Tower Gardens is always worth the trip, and especially so during the holidays. This year's festivities will include the 23rd annual Holiday Home Tour at Pinewood Estate, special carillon concerts, garden tours and poinsettia displays lining the River of Stone, among other features. Visit the Bok Tower Gardens website for a full listing of holiday happenings.

Stetson Christmas 2017

Stetson Mansion Christmas Tour

The Stetson Mansion, located in Deland (about 40 minutes North of Orlando), is one of Florida's most historic, beautiful homes. While tours are available at other times of year, we recommend holding out for this special holiday edition. Guests can discover the history of Christmas at the Victorian-style home — including the fact that the mansion had one of the first Christmas trees ever to be illuminated with electrical lights inspired by John B. Stetson's best friend, Thomas Edison.

Winter in the Park Christmas 2017 (2)

Winter in the Park

During select hours from Nov. 18 through Jan. 7, 2018, you and your family are invited to tony Winter Park for a day — or night — of skating at the city's holiday ice rink in Central Park's West Meadow. All-day admission is just $13 and includes skates. While you're there, make time for some shopping, wining and dining on beautiful Park Avenue.

Cranes Roost Christmas 2017

Light Up the Holidays at Cranes Roost Park

On Dec. 2, Altamonte Springs (just 15 minutes from Orlando) kicks off the holiday season in style with this annual celebration at Cranes Roost Park. Offering the chance to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus in person, the event also features train rides, holiday performances and an evening fireworks show. Starting at 5 p.m., it's a fun, free evening of Christmas cheer that the whole family can enjoy.

Gaylord Palms Christmas 2017

ICE! Featuring Christmas Around the World

This year, the Gaylord Palm Resort & Convention Center's annual holiday celebration will boast more than 2 million pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures depicting holiday scenes — not to mention two-story ice slides! Running from Nov. 21 through Jan. 7, 2018, it's a winter wonderland you won't soon forget. Also, don't miss the Frostbite Factory, where you can witness icy creations being made live by skilled artisans.

Leu House Christmas 2017

Christmas at the Leu House

Finally, come see a reflection of Christmas past at the Leu House Museum at Harry P. Leu Gardens. This year, from Nov. 10 through Jan. 3, 2018, the historic 11-room estate will be transformed into a vintage celebration of the season, thanks to local interior designers, multiple Christmas trees and beautiful holiday displays. Tours run 30 minutes and are included with garden admission.

Spend Your Holidays in Orlando

Between the theme parks and special events throughout the area, it's no wonder why so many people insist on spending the holidays in Orlando. For other upcoming holiday activities, visit our Events Page. Have a favorite Orlando holiday tradition? Tweet it to us at @VisitOrlando.

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