‘Tis the season for a cornucopia of holly jolly events around the Sunshine State. In our backyard, we are fortunate that King Fisher Fleet out of Fishermen’s Village offers Christmas canal cruises through some of Punta Gorda’s canals. Following are six more of my favorite ways to celebrate Christmas and holiday cheer with Florida flair.
Winter’s Wonderland at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Splash into the holidays by visiting Winter’s Wonderland, featuring the stars of Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2, Winter and Hope. These rescued dolphins are residents of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Visit the working marine animal hospital and learn how the facility rescues, rehabilitates and releases rescued marine life. The aquarium is decked out for the holidays, including holiday-themed habitats, and Santa may make an underwater appearance. Hop aboard the Sea of Lights boat to enjoy a cruise over Clearwater Bay around the islands and view holiday lights now through Jan. 6. Closed Christmas Day. (249 Windward Passage, Clearwater; 727-441-1790; http://bit.ly/2AQxU2I)
Jacksonville Beach Deck the Chairs
Forty of Jacksonville Beach’s iconic lifeguard chairs are decorated in holiday themes and twinkling lights during this evening public art display at Latham Plaza and Sea Walk Pavilion through Jan. 1. View the chairs and take in the 30-foot Christmas tree, decorated displays, children’s activities, and every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, enjoy the Create Joy Light Show at 7, 8 and 9 p.m. Admission is free. (Sea Walk Pavilion, 75 1st St. N., Jacksonville Beach; and Latham Plaza Latham Plaza, 11 Ocean Front N., Jacksonville Beach; 904-716-3853; DeckTheChairs.org)
Holidays in Space at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
NASA celebrated its 60th anniversary this year. Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing, and each day we are closer to sending humans to Mars. It is an exciting time for space exploration and the kinetic light show called “Holidays in Space” channels the thrill at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Each evening at 5 p.m. From Dec. 14 through Dec. 30 (except Christmas Day), view a festive dazzling display of colors and special effects from the Atlantis North Lawn. The show is included with KSCVC admission. (SR 405, Kennedy Space Center; 855-433-4210; KennedySpaceCenter.com).
Christmas Bricktacular at LEGOLAND Florida Resort
This seasonal celebration for kids returns with jolly entertainment, delicious holiday treats, and festive LEGO builds. The Christmas Bricktacular Countdown to Christmas takes place on select dates in December (Dec. 8-9, 15-16, and Dec. 22-25). Activities include synchronized light shows on a 30-foot-tall LEGO Christmas tree, meet-and-greets with a LEGO toy soldier and LEGO Santa, and a holiday-themed competition build where kids can create something joyfully spectacular for a chance to win a LEGO prize. Christmas Bricktacular events are included with theme park admission. (1 Legoland Way, Winter Haven; 877-350-5346; Legoland.com/florida)
Nights of Lights in St. Augustine
Millions of white, twinkling lights sparkle from sidewalks to rooftops through 20 city blocks of the nation’s oldest city during the 25th Annual Nights of Lights. On display through Feb. 3, one of the best ways to enjoy St. Augustine’s magical spectacular is through a tour either by trolley, horse-drawn carriage, or boat. Dozens of holiday-themed activities are offered during this sparkling extravaganza. (NightsofLights.com)
Surfing Santas in Cocoa Beach
Dude! Hang ten with hundreds of surfing Santas during this quirky, family-friendly event in Cocoa Beach on Christmas Eve morning. Surfers of all ages dress up as Santa Claus and ride a wave or two. Put on a hat and beard and hop on your own board, or dress up in your favorite winter-themed costume and enjoy the holiday cheer on Minuteman Causeway Beach. Santa swag sales benefit local charities. Admission is free. A costume contest begins at 9 a.m. and Santa surfs out at 10 a.m. (Minuteman Causeway Beach, S. 6th St, Cocoa Beach; 321-223-6400; SurfingSantas.org)