The holiday spirit can be hard to come by in South Florida. With palm trees on every corner and 80 degree temps, the 305 is more likely to be Santa's vacay spot than a Winter Wonderland. Frosty the Snowman couldn't last a day and the ringing of sleigh bells would be impossible to hear over the honking horns on the Dolphin.
But if you're looking for it, holiday cheer is out there (be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or even Festivus). Here are the 10 most festive spots in South Florida, guaranteed to leave you feeling merry and bright.
10. The Falls
As shopping malls go, the Falls is pretty pretty. And it gets even prettier around the holidays, when the walkways and gardens are aglow with a million white lights and cheery decor. They also have a whole lineup of holiday fun stuff like photos with Santa (pets, too!), gift wrapping and more.
They're open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 7 p.m. at 8888 SW 136 St., Miami, with some special holiday hours throughout the month. Admission is free
If you're into Christmas past, then head to Vizcaya. The landmark mansion is all about authentic, old-school holiday decor. They're making the landmark look as historically accurate as possible, so don't expect any dancing Santas or singing snowmen, but do expect to be immersed in charming holiday history.
Their halls will be decked through January. They're open every day (except Christmas) from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $18 for adults, $6 for children 6 through 12. They're also hosting a Holiday Evening at Vizcaya at 6 p.m. on December 17, featuring the never-before-seen dining room table set.
Check out a classy version of Christmas with the Deering Estate's seasonal decor. Decorated by local garden clubs and community groups, this is an annual tradition and elegant alternative to some of the more ostentatious options.
They're open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ticket office closes at 4 p.m.) daily through December 31. Entrance is free with Estate admission, $12 for adults & $7 for children (ages 4-14); free for members. They're also hosting a free, public exhibit on December 17 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. showcasing The Deering Holiday Wonderland, Youth Arts Exhibit and the Outdoor Bird-House Build & Design Exhibit.
This glitzy Coral Gables mall boasts a 50-foot tree with 55,000 lights. The beacon of Christmas cheer towers above everything in the area.
The mall is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday with special holiday hours throughout the month. The stores are also hosting various special events. Admission is free.
Some people love Christmas, some are Scrooges, and some people show Christmas who's boss. The Hyatt family is part of the latter set. They've been creating dazzling displays you can (probably) see from space for more than two decades, and they're back at it for the 2014 holiday season.
Their lights are on display from 6 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 6 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday through December 29 at 11201 NW 14th St. in Fort Lauderdale. Visiting is free but they ask that people bring donations for the Broward County Food Bank or The Humane Society of Broward County.
We know Santa's into the sweet stuff (all those cookies?!), so it only makes sense he'd set up shop at a chocolate factory. Hoffman's Chocolates factory gardens are transformed into a magical fairyland of (75,000+) twinkly lights and holiday dreams, from an Arctic zone with polar bears and penguins to a manger scene to a six-foot Hanukkah Menorah. They've got it all, whatever holiday you're into. Oh, and MEXICAN HOT COCOA.
They're open from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. through December 30 (closed on Christmas eve and Christmas day) at 5190 Lake Worth Rd., Greenacres. Admission is free.
Nothing says Christmas like rampant consumerism. But among the crazed shoppers seeking half-off sales, there's a glimmer of holiday spirit: Santa and his posse. The mall boasts a five-tier, 52-foot tall display complete with the big man himself, Mrs. Claus and elves, along with a tree and animated show complete with lights, music and holiday characters.
The village is open Monday through Saturday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. (with special hours of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 12 through Tuesday, Dec. 23 and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 24.) at 19501 Biscayne Blvd., Aventura. Admission is free.
Once a year, Zoo Miami turns its attention from live animals to the glow-in-the-dark variety. The place lights up with animal shaped twinkly lights, decked out trees, carolers, photos with Santa and lots of other seasonal swag.
Zoo Lights runs December 19 through 30 (closed December 24 & 25) from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at 1 Zoo Boulevard 12400 SW 152 Street, Miami. Admission is $5 per person, or a regular package is $9.50 plus tax and includes admission, hot chocolate, cookies and a carousel ride.
2. Christmas Palace
This one-stop shop for all things Christmas looks like something out of Clark Griswold's wildest dreams. Hocking seasonal gear all year long, it is a seriously committed establishment. If you can't get into the spirit here, you're Scrooge McDuck in human form.
They have two locations -- 9820 NW 77th Ave, Hialeah Gardens (Monday to Saturday - 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and 800 NE 13th St. in Ft. Lauderdale (Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.).
Sure, it's basically a carnival with Cabbage Patch dolls wearing elf outfits, but it's still the world's largest Christmas theme park, and that's something. If only for the kitsch factor (and those brilliantly bright twinkly lights) -- it's worth an annual visit. Only in Miami you guys.
They're open nightly at 7900 SW 40th Street, Miami, from 5 p.m. to midnight through January 4, 2015. A single day pass is $20.56 for children three to nine, $29.91 for adults and $20.56 for seniors 65+.
Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahgetshappy.
Send your story tips to Cultist at email@example.com.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.