Where to Celebrate the Holidays in Greater Fort Lauderdale
By Angela Caraway-Carlton
You don’t need cold weather or snow to feel like it’s the holidays—the holiday glow in Greater Fort Lauderdale is real thanks to balmy weather and swaying palm trees strung with colorful lights. From a rockin’ boat parade to historic homes and museums dressed in their holiday best to treasured seasonal performances and magical train rides, here’s where to celebrate the holidays in Greater Fort Lauderdale. Who knows, you might even see a snowman on a paddleboard.
For floats that rock and a one-of-a-kind experience, you’ll want to claim your spot along the 12-mile parade route for the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade on Saturday, December 14. Now in its 48th year, expect to see a procession of giant showboats, corporate mega-yachts, and private boats adorned with thousands of lights and decorations to match this year’s theme, “Lights, Camera, Action - Movies on Parade.” This year, rock superstar Bret Michaels will serve as the Grand Marshal, and as the boats go by, you’ll hear live entertainment, along with smiles and waves from celebrities, beauty queens, and more.
If trains are more your speed, grab the family and slip on your matching holiday jammies to board the Brightline for The Polar Express train rides on select days from November 16 through December 29. During the one-hour trip, characters will sing and dance to the motion picture soundtrack, while serving hot chocolate and cookies. Your child’s eyes will light up when Santa and his helpers board the train to greet passengers, and each guest is given the first gift of Christmas.
Decked Out Homes
With its lush gardens, coral rock walkways, nature trails, and lily-pad lake, the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens is beautiful at any time of year, but the sparkle really amps up in December. Along with celebrating its epic 100th anniversary, Bonnet House is kicking off the holidays with its annual Holiday Magic event that takes place December 6-13. The house will be lit up with trees, wreaths, and centerpieces decorated by a team of designers, and all the decor is for sale. (Who doesn’t want someone else to do all the work during this busy time?) The festivities begin with a soiree on December 6, where holiday music will fill the air and Champagne will be flowing. Guests can also stroll through the decked-out home on the evenings of December 7-8 and 11-13, where they’ll be serenaded by carolers, meet Santa and his elves, and gather around for a reading of Christmas stories.
Experience the splendor of a Victorian Christmas at the Historic Stranahan House Museum where docents dressed in period costumes will transport you back in time from December 16 to 23. Situated on the New River, the home’s rooms will be decked out with holiday trees and tablescapes, and you can take evening tours while enjoying live music and plenty of Instagram-worthy photo opportunities. When you’re done, take a cruise down the New River to see the waterfront homes glowing with holiday lights. Reservations are required.
Save room on your busy calendar to take in a festive concert. At the Parker Playhouse, expect to hear your favorite holiday tunes belted out by Australian music group, The Ten Tenors, at their “Home for the Holidays” concert on December 19; or watch the sugar plum fairies glide across the stage when Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida showcases “The Nutcracker” on December 13-15.
Head to the BB&T Center for a heart-pounding concert, as the iconic rock group, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, offers their rockin’ renditions of Christmas classics on December 13; or snag tickets to another local favorite, the Y100 Jingle Ball, on December 22 with standout performances by the Jonas Brothers, Khalid, and more.
Impressive acrobatics and mind-boggling illusions may sound untraditional, but you’ll want to take the whole family to The Center/Coral Springs Center for the Arts on December 8 for a new holiday production, “A Magical Cirque Christmas.” You’ll watch in amazement as dazzling performers and breathtaking cirque artists from all over the world perform to your favorite holiday music.
Merry and Bright - SOLD OUT
Las Olas Boulevard will come alive with holiday magic on December 3 for the 57th annual Christmas on Las Olas. From giant tree lightings to a two-story ice-covered slope for sledding and stages where choirs sing holiday favorites, the whole family will enjoy this long-standing tradition. Many of the shops stay open late and there are plenty of places to dine.
In Greater Fort Lauderdale, everything revolves around the water, even holiday lights. Ditch the car and travel the waterways by Water Taxi for a Holiday Lights Cruise to see all the waterfront mansions dressed up in lights from November 30 to December 23. The cruise features on-board entertainment, a cash bar with holiday cocktails for adults and holiday drinks for kids, and rare picture-taking opportunities.
We promise you’ll leave Greater Fort Lauderdale with a holiday glow, and maybe a tan that you won’t want to hide under a sweater.