The Best Holiday Activities in Miami This Week

Santa's Enchanted Forest has remained a tried-and-true tradition over the years.
Santa's Enchanted Forest has remained a tried-and-true tradition over the years.
Photo by Ricardo Serpa / Courtesy of Santa's Enchanted Forest

Winter may not be coming for Miami, but that doesn't mean this town has no holiday spirit. We just do things a bit differently. We trade eggnog for coquito, a major upgrade. Our most festive tunes are nontraditional carols such as "El Burrito Sabanero" and "12 Ratchet Days of Christmas" with Otto von Schirach and Juleisy y Karla. And the real celebration begins Christmas Eve — or Nochebuena, the Hispanic tradition of watching your dad and uncles get drunk on whiskey and/or rum, trade laughs, and smoke cigars while the lechón cooks in the backyard caja china. And you wait, with a bellyful of anticipation, to be at the front of the line when the pork is ready so you can snag a piece of the coveted crisp skin.

Of course there will be no shortage of ugly-sweater parties and family dinners to attend, but if you're looking to have a truly 305 Christmas, we've got you covered. Some of our favorite local haunts are breaking out the tinsel and making sure you have a fun escape from political debates, family shade, and the inevitable "¿Y tu novio?"

Nothing says Christmas in Miami like an evening outdoors. While your cousin in New York is shoveling snow and racking up a massive heating bill, you can celebrate the season in shorts and chancletas while reclining on a grassy lawn watching a Christmas classic. At Margaret Pace Park this Thursday, the kind folks from Christ Fellowship will show the classic comedy Elf. Yes, popcorn is included. And though it's not necessarily a holiday film, Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book reboot is bound to look extraspectacular on the big screen at SoundScape Park when it screens Wednesday.

But when it comes to Miami holiday festivities, one spot stands above the rest: Santa's Enchanted Forest. This place — part carnival, part staging ground for the world's creepiest collection of Santa dummies — is a classic. Whether you love it or hate it, chances are you have at least one childhood recollection of climbing into a van with your cousins and heading to what seemed like the most magical place in the world. As a rebellious teenager, this was the place for hand-holding and make-out sessions with your crush, along with illicit drug use. There was something so romantic about the gaudy lights, the rigged games, and the perilous rides. In adulthood, the amusement park loses a little of its shine. (Why hadn't you noticed the sad state of that petting zoo?) But Santa's Enchanted Forest has remained a tried-and-true tradition over the years. There's a strange comfort in knowing that the decor hasn't changed much since 1988 and that your kids can scarf down fried dough beneath the same twinkling lights you once did.

If you're in search of last-minute gifts but dare not brave the mall, head to Blackbird Ordinary. The Market Before Christmas offers a chill shopping scene, and you'll feel good about spending your hard-earned dough on some dope goods made in Miami. 'Tis the season of giving, so if you're gonna rack up credit card debt, at least you can #supportlocal while you do it. It will make you feel better, and if it doesn't, there are drink specials.

The holiday season is also football season, and no one is bribing Santa more this year than Miami Dolphin fans. The Fins are spending their Christmas Eve in the frigid North to play an away game against the Buffalo Bills. But you can still get in the spirit (without getting frostbite) by cheering on the home team at Batch Gastropub's Jingle Bowl. Will the Dolphins go home with a victory or a lump of coal? The brunch and beer will taste good either way.

In most parts of the world, December festivities are primarily a family affair. But in the party capital of the Southeast, at least half the fun of the holidays is leaving your little cousins snug in their beds and hitting up the bars and clubs. At Churchill's Pub, the monthly Cut-a-Rug party is taking on Christmas Eve with an experimental dance party led by DJ Woozles. Special guests DJs Mixx Piggy and Dalton Saffe, performer Jupiter Velvet, and acts including MIC, Rubi Ronin, and Vice City Slacker will keep partygoers entertained until it's time to open presents. It's the perfect place to dance away your worries about money spent and weight gained.

Not a goy? Not a problem. Basement's Disco Dreidel party is making sure Hanukkah stays lit. You'll get nonstop beats from Derek Wallin, Eran Hersh, and Coco Hara. "We started the Disco Dreidel party as an alternative to the MatzoBall party, with the intention of catering more to Miami locals," says Brandon Kessler, one of the event's organizers. "It caters to the person who doesn't celebrate Christmas and is looking for something to do on Christmas Eve when more clubs, bars, etc. are typically closed." That means this party is for everyone, especially the locals, Jewish or otherwise.

The Market Before Christmas. 6 to 11 p.m. Thursday, December 22, at Blackbird Ordinary, 729 SW First Ave., Miami. Visit themarket.miami.

Elf. 6:30 p.m. Thursday, December 22, at Margaret Pace Park, 1745 N. Bayshore Dr., Miami. Admission is free. Visit cfmiami.org.

Miami Dolphins Jingle Bowl. Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, December 24, at Batch Gastropub, 30 SW 12th St., Miami. Visit jinglebowlatbatch.eventbrite.com.

Upcoming Events

Cut-a-Rug. 10 p.m. Saturday, December 24, at Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami; churchillspub.com. $5 under 21; otherwise, no cover.

Disco Dreidel. 10 p.m. Saturday, December 24, at Basement at the Miami Beach Edition, 2901 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; basementmiami.com. Admission costs $25 to $30. 21 and over.

The Jungle Book. 8 p.m. Wednesday, December 28, at SoundScape Park, 400 17th St., Miami Beach. Visit mbculture.com.

Santa's Enchanted Forest. 5 p.m. to midnight daily through January 8, 2017, at Tropical Park, 7900 Bird Rd., Miami. Admission costs $31.78 for adults and $22.43 for children. Visit santasenchantedforest.com.

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