You better watch out, Santa’s coming to Greater Fort Lauderdale on a mini-vacay, and he has a to-do list as long as his “nice” list!

The holidays are already on our radar, and we’re tracking Santa’s early arrival in Greater Fort Lauderdale. I mean, Santa truly deserves a relaxing vacay after 2020, am-I-right?

Santa Lounging at the pool being handed a tropical drink

Winterfest, known for producing the annual Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade – arguably, one of the best and brightest boat parades in the country – over-the-top galas and receptions and family fun events, knows everyone needs a huge dose of holiday spirit this year. Like many of 2020’s events during the pandemic, the festive boat parade has been postponed until Winterfest’s 50th anniversary in December 2021. But the organization just couldn’t cancel one important tradition: bringing Santa to town in grand fashion.

Every year the Winterfest organization has the privilege of hosting Santa Claus for a little vacation prior to his big night on Christmas Eve,” says Lisa Scott-Founds, President & CEO of Winterfest, Inc. “Santa rides aboard our finale-showboat every year in the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade. This year, Santa is arriving early in Fort Lauderdale to enjoy all the sights our area has to offer.

Thanks to Winterfest, there will be “Santa Sightings” all over Greater Fort Lauderdale, with the jolly fellow “popping-up” at various locations from Nov. 27 to Dec. 12., offering socially distanced waves and plenty of holiday magic. 

Track Santa, See Santa

To stalk – I mean, track Santa – locals should download the Winterfest Boat Parade app, which will offer a 10-minute notification on his whereabouts. The first Santa sightings take place at The Galleria at Fort Lauderdale on Nov. 27- 29 and Dec 3-6. Shop for good girls and boys on the “Nice List” and enjoy virtual photo opportunities.

Tracking Santa App


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Maybe you’ll spot him on Nov. 28, as he cruises the area South Florida-style, with the top down in a Ford convertible and his white hair whipping in the balmy breeze. The man in red will also make a cameo on Las Olas Boulevard on Dec. 12 for the “12 Days of Christmas”. Our video cameras already caught him making a delicious pitstop at Hoffman’s Chocolates for a steaming cup of hot chocolate (whip cream included) and those coveted chocolate-covered Oreos. And, because Santa is always watching, he recognizes Fort Lauderdale’s food scene is evolving with the new Sistrunk Marketplace, an expansive food hall with every type of cuisine you can imagine. We heard he especially likes the over-the-top shaved ice creations from Kasai & Koori – which do look like beautiful snow globes – and loaded tacos from the cute food truck of HotLime Craft Tacos.

With all the good eats in Greater Fort Lauderdale, and the sweets left for him on the big night, the big man knows the gift of self-care is the gift that keeps giving. We caught him doing yoga on the wide-open greenspace at scenic Las Olas Oceanside Park. With plenty of room to social distance and prime views of the sparkling ocean, it makes exercise feel like fun. Looking good, Santa!

A little more intel, on Dec. 11 - 12, Santa will board the Water Taxi for a holiday cruise on the Intracoastal. “Santa doesn’t need reindeer here,” reminds Scott-Founds. As part of the Water Taxi’s annual Holiday Cruises, the boats are decked out for the holiday season and offer the chance to breeze by all the glitzy mansions and houses dressed in their holiday best. Apparently, Santa likes boating our numerous waterways just as much as we do. He’s already swapped his sleigh for the tropical style of Cruisin’ Tikis, floating down the New River on the motorized tiki hut, listening to holiday tunes. He even popped in the historic Stranahan House perched on the New River, which is cloaked in Victorian Christmas decor, with glittering trees, flickering candles, garlands and more. It’s a Fort Lauderdale tradition not to be missed.

The one place anyone from a spot as bitterly cold as the North Pole must visit: our stunning beaches. Santa couldn’t wait to unfurl his towel on Fort Lauderdale Beach to catch some rays and dip in our clear, turquoise waters. We’re told you may also see him popping up at places like the historic Riverside Hotel, or zipping through the Everglades on an airboat. He should be pretty rested after vacationing at the Guitar Hotel at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, where we spied him enjoying the man-made beach with a fruity mocktail in hand, and showing off on standup paddleboards.

Virtual Experiences

If you prefer to keep your distance, you can still experience the magic of the holidays with Santa. Swap those tedious Zoom work meetings and register to have a Zoom “Storytime with Santa” on Dec. 5 at 7:00 p.m.; or simply tune in on Winterfest’s Facebook, website, or app to experience the reading. The video reading of “The Night Before Christmas” will remain on Winterfest’s social media platforms and website until Dec. 24, 2020.

Even on vacation, Santa’s still keeping tabs on his many duties, including picking up letters from his cherished believers. Look for Santa Mailboxes around town with locations such as Broward Health hospital locations, LOOP (Las Olas Oceanside Park), and Las Olas Boulevard.

All of this is leading up to Christmas Eve, where you can log on to the Winterfest app and track Santa’s big night thanks to their connection to the official NORAD Santa Tracker. Who knows, Santa may just want to fly straight back to Greater Fort Lauderdale after he’s had a taste of our good life in the winter.

For more information about Winterfest's Santa sightings, as well as how to enter their trip giveaway, please visit