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Now that you've had time to recover from all of the fun fall events in October, it's time to start marking your calendar with all of the exciting holiday events that are just around the corner! From gazing at light displays to seeing Santa, there are so many festive must-dos! Fun4GatorKids has been busy researching and compiling a list of all the holiday events happening in Alachua County.
Below you'll find some of our top holiday picks. To see ALL the holiday events happening in November and December, including ice skating rinks, Christmas tree farms, snow events, holiday shopping events, holiday religious events and more, visit our "What's Happening" section on the Fun4GatorKids website!
1. Visit with Santa
The holiday season isn't complete without paying a visit to Santa Claus! You can find the big man in red all over Alachua County, from the mall, to events, to one-on-one photo sessions! To see a complete list of 'Santa Sightings,' visit the Fun4GatorKids website!
Operation Santa Delivery - LifeSouth Community Blood Center is hosting its annual Operation Santa Delivery on Dec. 17 at the north fields of Santa Fe College. Come out to see Santa Claus arrive by helicopter! Plus there will be free children's activities, music, food and more! Be sure to stop by the Fun4GatorKids tent to make reindeer food to put on your lawn Christmas Eve!
The Santa Experience with Step317 Photography – Step317 Photography offers families magical private sessions with Santa! No malls, no crowds, no lines! Your kids get one-on-one attention with Santa, while their special moments are captured in photos you'll cherish forever! Sessions are filling fast, so you'll want to book your time slot asap!
Chick-fil-A Breakfast with Santa – Chick-fil-A Oaks Mall is hosting 'Breakfast with Santa' Dec. 3 from 8:30-10:30 am! For only $8/ticket ($10 at the door), you can join Santa, the Chick-fil-A cow and elves for breakfast, crafts, surprise visits and more! Tickets sales begin Nov. 21.
2. See the Lights
Looking at lights is a holiday tradition. Here are a handful of local light displays you won't want to miss. For a complete list of all the light displays in the area – including information about Light Up Ocala, the High Springs and Alachua Tree Lightings, and Light the Village in Haile - visit the "Holiday Lights" section on the Fun4GatorKids website
Annual Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration at the Thomas Center – The Holiday Tree Lighting at The Historic Thomas Center is Dec. 3! The event is a tradition for my family. Enjoy caroling, a horse drawn carriage ride, meet Santa, and watch as the incredibly tall REAL Christmas tree is lit for the season! (Just a little tip: This event has an amazing Santa, so come ready for pictures!)
Festival of Lights at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center – This event, located in White Springs, is worth the drive! More than 5 million lights are strung through the park. It's an amazing sight! You'll see a gingerbread village, a candy cane forest, and massive majestic oak trees covered in lights! Complimentary hot cocoa and popcorn are served nightly, plus you see snow flurries and visit Santa!
Lights at the North Florida Regional Medical Center Pond – The official Pond Lighting at North Florida is Dec. 2, but you can take a stroll around the park any evening through Jan. 1 to see the 80,000 lights set to music and beautiful holiday inflatables! On opening night, there will be live holiday music, free cookies and hot cocoa, a real snow sledding hill, horse-drawn carriage rides, and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus.
3. Enjoy a Holiday Show
The holidays wouldn't be complete without catching at least one (or all) of the annual holiday shows! Below are three classics you won't want to miss. To see a list of even more Holiday Shows – including information about 'Let it Snow' at the Planetarium, Sleeping Beauty by Doxa, Little Women by Gainesville Community Playhouse and more – visit the "Holiday Shows and Concerts" page!
A Children's Holiday at Santa Fe - A Children's Holiday at Santa Feis Dec. 3! Bring your children to enjoy a fun-filled day at the Fine Arts Hall with kid-friendly crafts and refreshments in the lobby, holiday music in the theatre, and a chance to meet Santa Claus after a bit of winter wonderland magic!
A Christmas Carol at Hippodrome Theater – Watching 'A Christmas Carol' at The Hipp is a tradition for Gainesville families. This holiday classic will be performed Dec. 3-22 at various times and days. Don't miss the 39th season of the family favorite!
Cinderella by Danscompany – On Dec. 3, at both 1:30 pm and 7 pm, the talented dancers of Danscompany of Gainesville will take to the stage for their annual performance of 'Cinderella' on the Phillip's Center stage. You won't want to miss this magic full-length ballet full of laughs and romance. Plus, you can take pictures with Cinderella, the prince and the other dancers after the show!
The Nutcracker by Dance Alive National Ballet – 'The Nutcracker' is a holiday must! During this classic ballet, you'll become entranced by the beauty of the Sugar Plum Fairy and swirling snowflakes, and you'll cheer for the tiny toy soldiers and their leader, the Nutcracker Prince. There are three show times to choose from: Dec. 16 at 7:30 pm, Dec. 17 at 2 pm, and Dec. 18 at 2 pm.
4. Enjoy Holiday Arts and Crafts
The holidays wouldn't be complete without festive arts and crafts! There are tons of fun holiday crafts to be made all season long! To see even more Holiday Arts and Crafts – like the free crafts kids can make at Bass Pro Shops – visit "Holiday Arts and Crafts Section" the Fun4GatorKids website.
Holiday Keepsake Plates at Corks and Colors – Looking for the perfect gift idea or want a special keepsake of your own? Take your little one to Corks and Colors where you can make a beautiful holiday keepsake plate! All you'll have to do is provide the tiny hands or feet for the prints, and then the artists at Corks and Colors will transform your little one's prints into festive pieces of art! We did this with my girls last year, and it turned out simply beautiful! The grandparents loved it!
Holiday Crafts at Alachua County Library Branches – The Alachua County Library Branches around the county are hosting holiday-themed events through December! From holiday ornaments and luminaries to interactive holiday story times, there is no shortage of fun and free events at your local library!
Michaels Kids Club Holiday Crafts – Children 3 years and older can visit Michaels for Kids Club to make adorable holiday crafts for only $2 per child! Make a felt gingerbread man on Nov. 19, a felt stocking project on Dec. 3, and an elf on Dec. 10!
5. Watch a Holiday Parade
There are five hometown holiday parades happening this year in Alachua County. For information about the Holiday Parades in Williston, Alachua, Hawthorne, High Springs, Keystone Heights, Lake Butler, Melrose and Newberry, visit the "Holiday Parades" section on the Fun4GatorKids website. We have all of the details about each parade, including the location and start time.
Hawthorne's Christmas Festival and Parade – Head to Hawthorne on Dec. 10 for a day full of fun! The event runs from 11 am to 7 pm and includes live entertainment, a kid's carnival, arts and crafts, food booths and more! The parade will begin at 3 pm, followed by free photos with Santa! The special Tree Lighting Ceremony at dusk.