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What’s Hot for the Holidays in Greater Fort Lauderdale

By Angela Caraway-Carlton

The holiday glow has descended upon Greater Fort Lauderdale. Our warm winter weather, coveted beaches, and waterways always make spirits brighter, and this year is no exception. While celebrations will look different this season, with safety as the highest priority, holiday cheer is already stretching across Broward County. Christmas trees and menorahs are glistening, boats are cruising our waterways for holiday light tours, live events are pivoting to drive-ins and drive-thrus, and the big man himself (Santa Claus!) is making special appearances. Below, places that are on the “nice list” with holiday merriment for all.

Get Lit


winterfest boat parade

The beloved Christmas on Las Olas is reimagined this year to encourage social distancing and smaller crowds, and the good news is, that means more than one night to celebrate on the famous Boulevard. During the “12 Days of Christmas on Las Olas,” a nightly light show will come to life at 30-minute intervals from Dec. 1 – 12. Expect festive music and live entertainment, with restaurants and shops decked out for the season and offering daily specials. Forget a partridge in a pear tree—think sipping a pear martini for the first day of Christmas!

Take a leisurely and socially distanced walk down the winding, 2.5-mile Riverwalk in Downtown Fort Lauderdale to see all the glittering holiday lights and decorations that Light Up Lauderdale flipped the switch on in early November to kick off the holiday season. It’s free, lasts through early January, and also offers the chance to catch the daily boat show along the scenic New River.

water taxi

Water therapy is something we all need this year, so board the Water Taxi for their annual Holiday Lights Cruise from Dec. 4 – 30. You’ll get all the sights, sounds, and sips of the season with on-board live entertainment and holiday-themed cocktails.

In Plantation, Christmas Lights in the Acres will shine brightly again after taking a break in 2019. This is a time-honored tradition for many families who wait every year to see all the lights synchronized with songs of the season. Also, do you want to build a snowman? (I dare you to read that without singing the popular song from “Frozen.”) In an effort to spread more holiday cheer, the City of Plantation is hosting a snowman/snow scene building competition with the winning creation to be displayed at one of the public parks.

For a dazzling 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 Extravaganza. This exciting outdoor light show is timed to the classical sounds of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and other popular artists, and happens nightly at the top of every hour through Dec. 31.

Head to greenspace-rich Parkland for Light Up the Park at the Parkland Amphitheater in Pine Trails Park on Dec. 19. This outdoor event promotes physical distancing, with lots of lights, food trucks, designated places to dine along with plenty of handwashing stations, and live music on stage.

Drive Into the Holidays

This event was socially distanced before that was even a term. In Coconut Creek, hop in your car to safely explore the 26th annual Holiday Fantasy of Lights, featuring more than 3 miles of illuminated holiday lights and animated displays at Tradewinds Park. The light show lasts nightly through Jan. 2, 2021. Online tickets are available for touchless entry.

Another drivable experience can be found in Coral Springs at the city’s 2020 Holiday Drive-Thru Experience on Dec. 9 at 6 p.m. Unlike years past, the decorated floats will be stationary, and guests can drive through the experience to catch all of the festive floats lining Sportsplex Drive.

From drive-thrus to drive-ins—at Dania Pointe in Dania Beach, you can experience a drive-in movie “Come Back for the Holidays” by the Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida on Nov. 28 & 29. Decorate your car, don your favorite holiday swag, and belt out your favorite tunes for "Car-aoke Caroling" singalongs. If you’re still craving more musical festivities, you can also catch a live performance by The Prophecy, a Trans-Siberian Orchestra tribute band, on Dec. 5 and Dec 6. Tickets for both drive-in events will need to be purchased in advance.

Virtual Happenings

A holiday tradition in Wilton Manors continues virtually this year with the annual lighting of the Christmas tree, the menorah, and the kinara on Dec. 3. You can watch from the comfort (and safety) of your home by logging on to wiltonmanors.com.

Another community taking the festivities online is Oakland Park. Instead of their regular in-person event, the city will host a virtual holiday village on Dec. 4.

Santa Sightings

While the annual Winterfest Boat Parade has been postponed until 2021, Winterfest will host “Santa Sightings” all over Greater Fort Lauderdale, with the jolly fellow popping up at various locations from Nov. 27 to Dec. 12. To track Santa, 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, where Santa will make a dramatic entrance on a firetruck. Families can register to have a Zoom “Storytime with Santa” on Dec. 5 at 7 p.m.; or simply tune in on Winterfest’s Facebook, website, or app to experience the reading.

Home for the Holidays

Bonnet House

In Pompano Beach, the 58th Annual Greater Pompano Beach Holiday Boat Parade will still make a splash on Dec. 11. Join in with a decorated boat to parade down the waterway, and potentially snag an award for best boat, or bring your tissues to join the emotional salute to our first responders and essential workers. If you want to do some holiday shopping and support the local community, head to Pompano’s 18th Annual Green Market to scoop up unique handmade items, art, and culinary gifts created by locals.

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). Keep in mind, only 50 tickets will be sold for each of the evening tours to promote physical distancing. The Holiday Evening Tours take place Dec. 16, 17, and 18.

At the historic Stranahan House, book a socially distanced tour through the home cloaked in Victorian Christmas decor. The home also boasts the perfect outdoor venue to host an intimate gathering from a holiday brunch to a (small) soiree.

The holidays aren’t cancelled, they’re just reimagined for a safe season in Greater Fort Lauderdale. How will you celebrate?

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