What’s Hot for the Holidays in Greater Fort Lauderdale
By Ivonne MacMillan
Holiday season is officially in full swing in this tropical paradise! From boat parades to synchronized light shows and from drive thru holiday trails to winter wonderlands, Greater Fort Lauderdale has all the events to get you in the festive spirit.
Light Up the Beach takes center stage with the illumination of more than 50,000 holiday lights along the picturesque Fort Lauderdale beach and the return of "Olas," the popular larger than-than-life 20-foot beach snowman at A1A and Las Olas Boulevard. It's Christmas in November as the lighting ceremony kicks off on Nov. 23 with Santa, Yuletide Carolers, jazz saxophonist Randy Corinthian, the Fort Lauderdale Symphonic Winds, plus a kids zone, slides, inflatables, pony rides and more at Las Olas Oceanside Park.
Experience a winter wonderland at the 59th Annual Christmas on Las Olas Nov. 30. Expect festive music and live entertainment, with restaurants and shops decked out for the season and offering daily specials.
For a unique holiday lights tour experience, hop on the Water Taxi for their annual Holiday Lights Cruise from Dec. 2-30. You’ll get all the sights, sounds, and sips of the season with on-board live entertainment and holiday-themed cocktails as you ride through the "Venice of America." Boats depart from Stop #1, between the Stranahan House and Riverside Hotel right off of Las Olas Boulevard.
For a spectacular display of more than 250,000 LED lights swathing trees and buildings, make a stop at the open-air Gulfstream Park Village in Hallandale Beach for the annual Symphony in Lights Holiday Celebration. This exciting outdoor light show is timed to the classical sounds of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and other popular artists, and happens nightly from 6-11 p.m. through Dec. 31. Santa is also making a special appearance on Dec. 4, 11, 18, 22 and 23 from 6-9 p.m.
The beautiful Flamingo Gardens in Davie hosts its annual Garden of Lights in mid-December, featuring an after-hours, self-guided walk through the botanical garden adorned with thousands of lights and decorations. Enjoy visits with Santa and his friends and nightly musical performances.
The 59th Annual Greater Pompano Beach Holiday Boat Parade, the longest boat parade in the nation, sets sail on Dec. 10. Wave to Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus and watch more than 50 boats glowing with colorful lights, holiday decorations and music. If you want to do some holiday shopping and support the local community, head to Pompano’s 19th Annual Green Market on Nov. 27 or Dec. 11 to scoop up unique handmade items, art, and culinary gifts created by locals.
Greater Fort Lauderdale is the “Yachting Capital of the World,” so it’s only fitting to have an epic boat parade to celebrate the holiday season. Gather with friends and family along the 12-mile parade route for the 50th Annual Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade on Dec. 11 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Emmy award-winning TV host, actor, iHeart radio host and author Mario Lopez will serve as the Grand Marshal, leading 100 boats adorned with brilliant lights and holiday décor along the New River and Intracoastal Waterway. Lopez is best known from his early days on “Saved by the Bell” and competing on” Dancing With the Stars.” This milestone year’s theme is “50 Years of Hard Rockin’ Fun,” so expect lots of great music coming from aboard the boats in this parade where the floats really float.
Holiday Wonderlands, Villages & Markets
'Tis the sea-sun! Las Olas Oceanside Park transforms into a holiday wonderland filled with exciting experiences, as larger-than-life dreamlike holiday vignettes unfold, Nov. 23-Dec. 31. "WONDERLAND" themes include The Grinch Who Rocked Christmas (Dec. 2-5), Nutcrackers & Sweets (Dec. 9-12) and Let's Jingle & Flamingle (Dec. 16-19). The six-week series of events include holiday markets, strolling characters, children’s activities, live music, dance performances, contests and games, selfie stations, holiday movies and more. Then on Nov. 29, the City of Fort Lauderdale will host its Menorah Lighting in celebration of Chanukah. Guests can experience the wonder of “WONDERLAND” with Santa appearances every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Over Christmas weekend, the LOOP presents two special free holiday concerts, starting with A Night of Sinatra featuring Jeff Grainger and The Hoboken 11 Big Band.
For a weekend of family fun, head to Oakland Park for the annual Oakland Park Holiday Village from Dec. 3-4. Watch Santa Claus light Oakland Park's 40-feet tall Christmas tree at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 3 at the park's Grand Fountain Plaza. The Holiday Village features artisan and craft vendors, live entertainment, a Christmas tree decorating competition and visits from Santa each day. Other attractions include the Holiday Village Carousel and the Oakland Park Holiday Village Snow Slide.
The Plantation Historical Museum brings holiday cheer with its 36th Annual Winter Wonderland on display from Nov. 20 through December 30 (Tuesdays-Saturdays). Step inside this local gem and marvel at more than 45 different themed Christmas trees, a train village and displays for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
The Coral Springs Museum of Art hosts its inaugural Pine & Palm Holiday Market on Dec. 10-11. Looking for the perfect Secret Santa gift, stocking stuffer or unique items for friends and family? This market features curated art, home décor, clothing, jewelry, accessories and more from local artisans. In addition to shopping, you will find mini work shops such as contemporary wreath making, ornament decorating, gift wrapping and more.
Drive Into the Holidays
In Coconut Creek, hop in your car for a drive-through light extravaganza at the 27th annual Holiday Fantasy of Lights, featuring more than 3 miles of illuminated holiday lights and animated displays at Tradewinds Park. The light show runs nightly from Nov. 19, 2021, through Jan. 2, 2022. Online tickets are available for touchless entry.
Another drivable experience can be found in Tamarac at the city’s free Tinsel Town Holiday Drive Thru on Dec. 10 at from 6-8 p.m. Bring your letters for Santa and drop them in his mailbox.
Home for the Holidays
The holiday magic continues when the sun goes down at the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens in Fort Lauderdale where guests can take a self-guided tour of the historic home dressed in its holiday best. During the Holiday Evening Tours guests will enjoy beautifully decorated trees, wreaths, and centerpieces throughout the home (with some décor available for purchase). Dec. 3 features a catered affair, a live performance by The Rockettes and holiday music.
From Dec. 18-23, let costumed docents take you back in time to the Victorian era in the beautifully decorated Historic Stranahan House Museum. Tour the oldest surviving structure in the county and learn how many holiday traditions started and how the pioneers celebrated Christmas in the early days of Fort Lauderdale.