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Celebrate the Season: 7 Central Florida Holiday Traditions | Mullinax Ford FL Blog

Celebrate the Season: 7 Central Florida Holiday Traditions | Mullinax Ford FL Blog

Posted at Wed, Dec 13, 2023 9:15 AM

Add These 7 Central Florida Holiday Traditions to Your Winter Calendar

Traditions. Not to go all Tevye on you, but they’re kind of a big deal. 

That’s especially true during the holidays — the time of year when families come together to eat good food, exchange gifts and (mostly) avoid squabbling in the name of December goodwill.

A lot of those traditions happen under your roof. Decorating the tree. Watching “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Baking cookies shaped like bells and angels.

Add to your home-y habits by visiting our list of annual holiday events in the Central Florida area. You’ll have to hop into the car to get to some of them, but the wintertime spirit is well worth the mileage. 

After all, we at Mullinax Ford of Central Florida, Mullinax Ford of New Smyrna Beach and Mullinax Ford of Kissimmee might dare to say the time spent with family on the way to these Yuletide spots is as much a holiday tradition as the memories you’ll make upon arrival. (And if you pass by one of our dealerships on your travels, be sure to stop by and visit our elves — sorry, friendly sales representatives.)

Blast some carols through the car speakers and find your family’s new favorite holiday tradition. There’s no time like the “present.”

Audubon Christmas Bird Count

We hope you’re holding onto your binoculars, because this Christmastime opportunity will shake you in your winter boots.

From mid-December to early January, bird lovers of all ages and birding experience levels across the country can try their hand as counters in the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count.

In true season-of-giving spirit, participation is both easy and free. Just take a look at the site map to find bird-counting circles in your area — there are several in Central Florida, including in Mount Dora, Clermont and Daytona. Then, reach out to your circle’s “compiler,” an expert birder who will train you in how to collect data and schedule you for a bird-watching day.

On your scheduled day, you’ll head out to your circle with binoculars and boots to wind a specific route through a 15-mile radius, counting all the birds you see or hear. 

And the partridge on top of the Audubon pear tree? The data you collect could be used in wildlife publications and even government reports. We’ll flap to that.

Deck the Chairs Light Display

Who said Santa can’t hit the waves every once in a while?

Every year, beach and Christmas-light enthusiasts deck out Jacksonville’s Seawalk Pavilion with lifeguard chairs-turned-holiday light shows for the city’s Deck the Chairs Light Display.

The exhibit lasts for six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years, and it’s totally free — unless you can’t resist buying a hot chocolate or other treat from the onsite holiday concession stands (and who could blame you if you can’t?).

The best part: it’s all for a good cause. Each chair is sponsored by a business or non-profit in Jacksonville, and money raised by chair sponsorship goes back to community art education efforts. 

Check out the Jacksonville schedule of events to see additional activities — like a moonlight showing of The Polar Express and dance performances from local groups — that happen at Seawalk Pavilion in addition to the traditional chair-decking display.

Central Florida Zoo Asian Lantern Festival

When we think holidays, we think larger-than-life illuminated dragon sculpture. Visit the Central Florida Zoo’s Asian Lantern Festival and you’ll feel the same.

From mid-November to mid-January, visit the zoo after hours, when the sun is down and many of the animals are sleeping. After 6 pm, the area lights up with themed lantern displays that wind in a three-quarter-mile walking path you and your family can spend hours exploring.

The annual  event celebrates the culture, art and beauty of centuries-old Asian lantern festivals. (And in true Central Florida fashion, the display is presented by Publix.)

Plus, festival tickets are sold separately from zoo admission tickets, so you and your family can stop by to admire the dazzling nighttime displays without having to spend the entire day at the zoo.

Orlando Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”

Sugar-plum-waltzing and peppermint-bon-bon-ing their way through “The Nutcracker” at downtown Orlando’s Dr. Phillip’s Center is a tradition for the Orlando Ballet Company.

It has also been a treasured event for generations of Central Floridians for half a century, and for hundreds of other families around the world since the ballet’s debut in 1940s. Kids as young as 5 will adore the sparkly outfits and nail-biting clash between the Nutcracker and the Rat King, and older crowds will appreciate an evening of classical music and choreography.

Tickets are available through the holiday season. Plus, as a Certified Autism Center, Dr. Philips Center ensures an accessible holiday event with selected sensory-friendly shows, which use adjusted sound and lighting and designated quiet spaces to create a friendly, festive environment.

It’s a sweet — or should we say suite? — event the whole family will love.

Mount Dora Christmas Boat Parade

Sugar-plum-spice up your holidays by getting in your holiday parade fix, aquatic-style. 

For 33 years, Mount Dora has held an annual Christmas Boat Parade that winds from Simpson Cove toward Tavares. Grab a spot on Lake Dora’s shoreline to watch a festive group of decked-out decks parade through the waterways. 

Stick around until after the parade to watch the first, second, third and most creative boats receive awards.

If you have aspirations to be a seafaring Santa yourself, you don’t have to watch from the shorelines. For a small entry fee, apply to float your own boat in the parade. Just make sure to adhere to the theme — which varies from year to year and can be found on the parade website — while rigging up your vessel with holiday decor galore.

Lake Nona Chanukah Celebration

Looking to kick off Chanukah with some good old donut-and-latke fun?

Search no further than the Lake Nona Town Center, which marks the first night of the winter holiday with an annual Chanukah Celebration event.

A Grand Menorah will be lit. Chanukah songs will be spun by a holiday DJ. Acrobatics will be performed by the Cirque Bishop. Rabbis will dance, face painters will face-paint, and you’ll be there to enjoy it all, jelly donut in hand.

The event is part of Lake Nona’s annual “Oh, What Fun” holiday festival, so even if you miss the night-one Chanukah celebration, you can still check out the festival schedule for upcoming holiday cheer. 

Or, just visit the town center anytime in December to munch on chilly-weather treats from pop-up vendors and stroll through the holiday market.

Milk Mart Holiday Market

If you’ve ever driven through Orlando and seen a 20-foot inflatable cow blocking the road by Etoile Boutique, you’ve stumbled across Milk Mart.

Parking Lot Party — Orlando’s favorite food truck rally and event-planning company — puts on the vintage market-farmer’s market- shopping extravaganza in Orlando’s Milk District four times per year.

But nothing holds a peppermint-scented candle to the December market, held on a Sunday midway through December. The holiday-themed fair features over 200 local makers, businesses, artists and food trucks, all eager to sell you unique and locally made gifts to fill the space under your loved ones’ trees. 

(And do a little shopping for yourself while you’re at it. You are your own best Santa, after all.)

The market lasts six hours, so bring your family, friends and furry friends and make a day of your holiday-shopping palooza. In the words of the Milk Market website itself: Yeehaw, y’all.

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