Things To Do

The Eight Best Holiday Events in South Florida

Santa's Spectacular at Tamiami Park.
Santa's Spectacular at Tamiami Park. Photo by Ray Hernandez
It's the most wonderful time of the year: the end of it. The decade has gotten off to a catastrophic start, and everyone's ready to ring in what should be a less catastrophic new year. (Fingers crossed.)

But before we welcome 2021 — most of us from the safety of our own homes — there is Christmas-season fun to be had, if you're game.

Muster whatever holiday spirit you can and check out the best events of the season South Florida as to offer. While ugly Christmas sweaters and pajamas are encouraged at most of these, facemasks are mandatory at all of them.
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Historic holiday décor at the Deering Estate
Photo courtesy of Miami-Dade County

Historic Holiday Décor: Vintage Florida

The Deering Estate is turning back the clock all the way to the pioneer days of 1896 for this season's "Vintage Florida" theme. That's the year Deering's Richmond Cottage was built and technically the year of the very first Miami Christmas. Take in the estate's rustic holiday décor and catch a glimpse of how people celebrated Christmas in Miami, pre-Santa's Enchanted Forest. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through January 8, 2021, at the Deering Estate, 16701 SW 72nd Ave., Miami; 305-235-1668; Tickets cost $15 for adults and $7 for children 4 to 14 years old.
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Santa's Spectacular at Tamiami Park
Photo by Ray Hernandez

Santa’s Spectacular: A Drive-Thru Musical Extravaganza

This is one family car ride that won’t make you want to hurl yourself from the vehicle. The kids will be distracted as you drive past performers in costumes and elaborate sets — including the Gingerbread Village, Santa’s Workshop, and Rudolph’s Stable — while you look forward to the Cocktail Lodge at the end. Even if Christmas music isn’t your bag, it beats listening to "Baby Shark" on repeat, right? 5 to 10 p.m. through Friday, December 18, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, December 19, through Wednesday, December 23, at Tamiami Park, 11201 SW 24th St., Miami; 305-461-2700; Tickets cost $55 to $65 per vehicle.
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Zoo Lights Miami at Zoo Miami.
Photo courtesy of Zoo Miami

Zoo Lights Miami

The animals at the Miami Zoo take a back seat to the holiday-lights displays, said to be made up of a million lights. The popular Snowman's River Boat Ride returns (only now it's $3 per person, rather than free), and jolly ol' St. Nick will be on hand each night through December 23. New this year: A 26-foot-tall LED holiday tree. 6:30 to 10 p.m. December 18, 20, 23, 26, and 27, at Zoo Miami,12400 SW 152nd St., Miami; 305-251-0400; Tickets cost $19.95 per adult and $17.95 for children 3 to12 years old.
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Victorian holiday tours at the Stranahan House Museum
Photo by Clay Wieland Photography

Victorian Holiday Tours

Learn about Victorian-era Christmas traditions at Broward County's oldest building, which has undergone its annual makeover for the holidays. Nighttime tours at the Historic Stranahan House Museum include tour guides dressed in old-timey garb and modern-day facemasks and face shields for your safety and theirs. It should be noted that this year's edition does not include a boat tour. 7 p.m. through Wednesday, December 23, at Stranahan House Museum, 335 SE Sixth Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-524-4736; Tickets cost $25.
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Miami City Ballet's The Nutcracker in the Park at Downtown Doral Park.
Photo by Alexander Iziliaev

The Nutcracker in the Park

You've heard of Shakespeare in the Park. Well, out of necessity, Miami City Ballet has come up with The Nutcracker in the park — an outdoor performance of George Balanchine’s Christmas classic that combines live dancers and animations on an accompanying big screen. In keeping with COVID-19 measures, spectators will enjoy all the Sugar Plum Fairy action from their socially distanced pods on the lawn. 7:30 p.m. December 18, 22, 23, 29, and 30; 4 p.m. December 19, 20, 26, and 27 and 31; and 8 p.m. December 19, 20, 26, and 27 at Downtown Doral Park, 8395 NW 53rd St., Doral; 305-929-7010; Tickets cost $32 to $69.
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Santa's Village Drive-Thru Village at Miramar Regional Park.
Photo courtesy of Live 305 Entertainment

Santa’s Drive-Thru Village

Francisco Santos, the Cirque du Soleil veteran behind October's the Horrorland, is back with another drive-thru extravaganza. But rather than fill you with fear, this time around the performers and sets — including the Singing Carolers Town, the Elves' Toy Factory, and Santa's Magical Cabin — will set out to fill you with the holiday spirit. By the way, Santa isn't the only boldface name who has graced the village with his presence; reggaeton star Ozuna stopped by recently as well. 6 to 10 p.m. through December 23, at Miramar Regional Park, 16801 Miramar Pkwy., Miramar; 800-383-6119; Tickets cost $48.99 to $68.99 per vehicle.
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Nights of Lights at Pinecrest Gardens.
Photo by Maria Andujar

Nights of Lights

Tickets for the botanical garden's holiday celebration are sold out through December 27 — and with good reason. This festive light installation is an annual tradition for South Florida families — not to mention it's cheap — and capacity has been limited to keep guests socially distanced. Make your way through the holiday-themed maze in the lower gardens and, on select nights, take in a yuletide concert in the Banyan Bowl. 6 to 10 p.m. through January 3, 2021, at Pinecrest Gardens, 11000 Red Rd., Pinecrest; 305-669-6990; Tickets cost $7.
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The Grinch's Grotto at Aventura Mall.
Photo courtesy of Kilburn Live

The Grinch's Grotto

You can get a photo with the big, red fat man at just about any mall this time of year. Dr. Seuss' Grinch, on the other hand, is only appearing officially at a select few malls across the nation, including our very own Aventura Mall. Meet the Grinch at his cave and watch your heart grow three sizes that day as you walk away with a printed photo, digital pics, and two Grinch ornaments and wrapping paper. 11 a.m to 7 p.m. Friday, December 18, through Wednesday, December 23; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, December 24; at Aventura Mall, 19565 Biscayne Blvd., Aventura; Tickets cost $50 per party (up to five people).
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Luis Gomez left his life in Chicago to backpack around the world and has since dedicated himself to freelance writing, with Miami now his home base. You can read about his global adventures on his travel blog, Extra Underwear.