Few towns do Christmas better than Celebration, Florida. On the outskirts of Orlando, just beyond the bustle of the theme parks, Celebration was built in the 1990s. Yet the village has a throwback Americana charm, with shop-lined streets, a peaceful lake and quiet neighborhoods. It’s not for everyone. For those who thirst for more—more excitement, more frenzy, more commotion—Celebration might not fit the bill. But for those who like a slower pace, it’s perfect … especially during the holidays. With Christmas light displays, mugs of hot chocolate, carriage rides, carolers, an ice rink and a nightly snowfall, it’s difficult to find a more Christmas-focused spot in the state. For a weekend getaway during the holiday season, Celebration makes a magical choice.
Let It Snow
Beginning in late November and running through the end of the year, snow falls every night on Celebration (Sycamore Street, Celebration; celebration.fl.us). The white dusting begins each evening at 6 p.m. Though the flakes bring all the fun of the real thing, this “snow” is actually a non-toxic, biodegradable product similar to what set wizards use in films. It offers all the magic of natural snow, minus the frostbite. In-the-know locals leave their mittens at home, but they do bring a change of clothes.
It’s not just the snow that makes Celebration a prime holiday destination; the whole town turns festive for the holidays. An ice-skating rink pops up in the town center. Carolers appear on street corners. The aromas of hot chocolate and hot apple cider waft along on the breeze. Horse-drawn carriages clip-clop through the Christmas-tree-lined lanes. And main street boutiques transform into a sprawling Christmas market. For those who love yuletide, it’s a spectacular sensation. And for those who might be a little less inclined to holiday cheer—it’s impossible to maintain a bah-humbug attitude after a stint in this town.
Bright Lights, Little City
The residents of Celebration have taken the Christmas spirit into their own hands. Each year, homeowners along Jeater Bend Drive put on The Lights on Jeater Bend (Jeater Bend Drive, Celebration; facebook.com/lightsonjeaterbend) a twinkling, multicolored, many-home display of holiday cheer. The show begins Thanksgiving evening and runs nightly through Dec. 31. Visitors can drive the neighborhood and listen along to synchronized holiday music in their cars. Or skip the traffic and tour the neighborhood on foot. Thousands and thousands of lights brighten the night in a luminous display.
Away in a Manger
For a full holiday immersion, plan to stay in Celebration itself. Marriott offers an upscale escape with its Bohemian Hotel, part of the Autograph Collection (700 Bloom St., Celebration; 407.566.6000; Marriott.com). The boutique resort takes its cues from the town itself with an emphasis on understated style. Situated lakeside, the Bohemian provides miles of walking trails plus a pet-friendly stay. It’s a quieter version of the luxury hotel experience that still delivers impressive charm.