It's Christmas in Miami, which means yet another year of fried dough and crushed dreams at Santa's Enchanted Forest. But if you're looking for something -- anything -- else to do that doesn't involve flying into a snowstorm, there's always Orlando.
Our easy-to-access neighbor to the north offers tons of holiday festivities, and with the four-degree temperature drop, hell, it almost feels like the North Pole. Here are ten reasons to visit Orlando this Christmas season. ¡Feliz Navidad!
10. Christmas fireworks
Disney has the best fireworks. Maybe ever. And their Christmas display at the Magic Kingdomis nothing short of spectacular. While people in the northeast are suffering through snow and ice, you can watch the balmy tropical sky light up instead.
9. The Holy Land Experience
Only in Orlando is there a Jesus theme park. And as you can imagine, they go all out for the dude's birthday. They've got shows! Music! Lights! Even comedy. Seriously. Christian or militant atheist, this is one of those once-in-a-lifetime places you've got to experience. Jesus would want it that way. Oh, and it's even free to walk through during the Christmas season - free parking, too. How charitable! How Christ-like!
8. Grinchy witticisms at Islands of Adventure
Before there was Bad Santa, there was the Grinch -- the ultimate Christmas critic and witty sourpuss. His Christmas Wholiday Spectacular is everything you'd hope: sly adult references, creepy noses and plenty of snark included. Plus, a cute dog.
7. Hot cocoa and cookies at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party
During this annual X-mas celebration, the park sets up stands all over the Magic Kingdom to dole out cookies and hot cocoa - all you can eat. Sure, it'll mean a serious sugar crash for the kiddos later, but at least you'll know how Santa feels.
6. The frozen nativity at ICE!
The nativity is a little played out. We've seen it in everything from clay to Lego to Walmart plastic over the years. But ice? Now that's a tribute Jesus would be into. At the Gaylord Resort's annual ICE! show, hundreds of expert sculptors from China come to Orlando to craft their insanely elaborate sculptures. This year's is Frosty the Snowman-themed, but they've also got an entire nativity (animals and angel included) in the frozen stuff. Impressive, indeed. There's also an ice slide, if you're brave enough. (But beware, in addition to the hefty admission price, the resort charges a whopping $18 for parking. Scrooges.)
Sure, it's fake, and not really cold, and it doesn't stick, but it's still SNOW. Despite its dubious appearance in 80 degree weather, it still brings a Christmas cheer like nothing else can. It rains down at Universal Studios, Citywalk and at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (Magic Kingdom) nightly.
4. Twinkly lights at Citywalk
Citywalk is already a spectacle of neon glow, but it's even more impressive this time of year. Their towering tree has over 100,000 twinkly lights, and the entire plaza (an ode to commercialization if there ever was one) is aglow with glitzy decorations. We shudder to imagine their electric bill.
3. Epcot's Candlelight Procession
Every night, a narrator takes the stage to regale folks with the story of Christmas, all while an orchestra and choir amp up the holiday tunes. Dramatic, for realz. The narrators range from Neil Patrick Harris (sorry, he was up to bat earlier this month) to Amy Grant, so you can hear the classic tale told by your fave celeb. Plus, plenty of pretty lights, awe-inspiring decorations and adult beverages.
2. Mannheim Steamroller
Nothing says Christmas like this legendary orchestra belting out holiday tunes. And the whole troupe is performing at Universal Studios a few more times before Christmas. Their show is like a Rockefeller Center-style explosion of Christmas lights, trees, colors and sounds.
1. The mini-Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade at Universal Studios
If you'd rather not fly to NYC, pay $400 a night for a hotel room, and battle millions of sleep-deprived New Yorkers for a glimpse of the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, you're in luck. Universal Studios has a mini-version, happening daily through Christmas. This epic procession features some real balloons from the NYC parade (including Happy the Hippo, an adorable new addition this year), Macy's organizers and, of course, Santa as happy ending. Best of all, you can watch it in shorts and flip flops. Take that, Manhattan.
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