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7 Holiday Festivals In The Palm Beaches, Treasure Coast And Beyond That You Don't Want To Miss

The most wonderful time of the year has arrived, bringing a sleigh full of events and experiences, magic and music, and plenty of cheer to Florida’s east coast. Take advantage of our holiday festivals preview so that your days will be merry and bright.

Santa’s Enchanted Garden Photo Set

Through Dec. 24 at The Gardens Mall

Santa Claus at The Gardens Mall
Santa Claus at The Gardens Mall

A photo with Jolly Old Saint Nick makes the perfect Christmas keepsake for the family—whether the kids have been naughty or nice. Guests can get a professional portrait made with Santa Claus in The Gardens Mall’s grand court, which during the holidays is transformed into the Enchanted Garden.

Everybody knows Kris Kringle loves cocoa and cookies, but not everybody knows he loves animals, too. Pet owners who want to pose for pictures with their dogs and cats—and even rabbits—can visit on Dec. 4 for the Pet Photos with Santa event.

The Salvation Army Angel Tree has become a mall tradition, helping those in need during a season of giving. Visit the tree set up outside of Sears, and adopt an angel from it. Paper ornaments are printed with the age and gift request of a less-fortunate child in the community. Gifts can be purchased and dropped off at the tree, or monetary donations for gifts can be made to The Salvation Army.

3101 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens / 561.775.7750 / thegardensmall.com/events

Santa’s Enchanted Garden
Denise and Matt Brestle take pet photos at Santa’s Enchanted Garden


Stuart Christmas Parade

Dec. 2 at Smithfield Plaza

First Baptist Christian School float
First Baptist Christian School float

The 56th annual event—one that Martin County residents have come to treasure—will bring floats up to 40 feet in length barreling down Monterey Road, vying for the Judges’ Choice, Illuminations and Musical awards. This year’s theme is “Christmas Under the Stars.”

School marching bands will follow along, with students belting out their best beats in order to earn the top middle and high school performance.

The Visiting Nurse Association of Florida, a non-profit home-health agency, will manage the parade for the third year, after taking over the reins from Stuart Main Street.

2400 SE Monterey Road, Stuart / 772.286.1844 / stuartchristmasparade.com


Christmas Tree Lighting

Dec. 4 at Flagler Museum

Christmas Tree Lighting Grand Hall
Christmas Tree Lighting Grand Hall

The Gilded Age glory of the Christmas season comes to life during December at Henry Flagler’s Whitehall. The main attraction is a 16-foot-tall tree in the Grand Hall festooned with ornaments from the turn-of-the-century period and encircled by beautifully wrapped vintage packages.

An afternoon of activities awaits. Visitors to the museum will delight in sweets and treats, enjoy a choral performance, hear music on a grand piano and pipe organ, and take home a box of Barnum’s Animals Crackers. Santa and Mrs. Claus will greet guests in the pavilion. The official lighting of the tree, ceremoniously done by Flagler’s youngest descendants, concludes the day.

On select evenings between Dec. 18 and 23, elegant evening tours of the national historic landmark will be offered. Those who take them will get a glimpse into the origins of the earliest Christmas traditions and see the mansion glow as it did more than a century ago. 

1 Whitehall Way, Palm Beach / 561.655.2833 / flaglermuseum.us/programs/christmas-at-whitehall


Christmas Boat Parade

Dec. 2 in Indian River County, Dec. 3 in Martin County and Dec. 10 in St. Lucie County

Christmas Boat Parade

The Treasure Coast is preparing for this year’s holiday hoopla of hulls organized by the local Marine Industries Association.

In Indian River County, a Tree Lighting Ceremony at Royal Palm Point signals the start of the trek that ends at the Vero Beach Municipal Marina. In Martin County, boats will begin at Wahoo’s Riverhouse and wind up at The Twisted Tuna. In St. Lucie County, the route runs from Taylor Creek to the Fort Pierce Inlet.

The event is free for boaters and spectators.

772.692.7599 / miatc.com


Palm Beach Holiday Boat Parade Viewing Party

Dec. 3 at Harbourside Place

Palm Beach Holiday Boat Parade

The aquatic affair attracts tens of thousands of viewers to various vantage points along the Intracoastal Waterway as a flotilla of festively lit boats motors from North Palm Beach to Jupiter. The event, put on by the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County, epitomizes the tropical holiday spirit South Florida residents anticipate every year.

The 2016 parade will feature a new grand marshal—local country-music artist and American Idol finalist Emily Brooke. Brooke will join radio personalities Mo Foster and Sally Sevareid of WOLL-FM in leading more than 50 vessels down the route.

The parade benefits the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Foundation. Those watching along the waterway who want to donate a toy can do so by waving a flashlight, and a volunteer will pick it up dockside.

200 N. U.S. Highway 1, Jupiter / 561.935.9533 / palmbeachboatparade.com

Emily Brooke
American Idol finalist Emily Brooke


Christmas at Gaylord Palms

Through Jan. 1, 2017 at Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center

Gaylord Palms Atrium
Gaylord Palms Atrium

The Orlando hotel outdoes itself every Christmas, and this year is no exception. Charlie Brown and the “Peanuts” gang join the holiday fun for the installment of ICE!, an intricate display of frozen sculptures made from 2 million pounds of hand-carved blocks. The winter wonderland is housed in a weatherproof tent kept at a chilly 9 F.

The Charles Schulz characters also star in a new event, Breakfast with Charlie Brown & Friends, an interactive experience that includes a buffet of themed dishes such as Charlie Brown’s Build-Your-Own-French-Toast Station with Snoopy’s Maple Syrup, Pig Pen’s Dirty Hash Browns, Lucy’s Flap Jacks and Woodstock’s Granola.

The spectacular centerpiece is a 60-foot-tall Christmas tree in the center of the atrium.

6000 W. Osceola Parkway, Kissimmee / 407.586.4423 / christmasatgaylordpalms.com


Sandi Land

Through Jan. 1 at West Palm Beach Waterfront

Sandi Land

Holiday tree lightings traditionally involve firs, pines and spruces, from whose boughs hang garland, ornaments and tinsel. West Palm Beach does it differently. The city’s holiday tree lighting will illuminate a 35-foot-tall sculpture made out of 600 tons of sand. Sandi is said to be the only one of its kind in the world.

Throughout the month, Sandi will be bathed in more than 5,000 colorful lights during dazzling nightly displays that include LED snowflakes that seemingly fall from the sky, simulating a rare occurrence in South Florida. Four additional 25-ton sand sculptures, each with a yuletide vibe, will dot the lawn for visitors to admire. All five are created by Team Sandtastic, which has been featured on CNN and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” for its creative work.

The free festivities kick off during the Dec. 1 Clematis by Night. Santa Claus will pay a visit, and a troupe of Rockettes-style dancers will kick out a routine. Glow FORE It Mini Golf, Holiday FantaSea and SnowieVille round out the family  friendly activities.

101 S. Flagler Drive,West Palm Beach / 561.822.1515 / wpb.org/departments/waterfront/community-events/sandi-land