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Winter in Florida

Despite its nickname as ‘The Sunshine State’, Florida is a great place for a winter break. With a fantastic range of activities and attractions that will appeal to both children and adults alike, Florida becomes even more magical over the festive period.

To help you plan your perfect winter escape to Florida, we’ve picked out five fantastic things to see and do during the winter season. With one of our fantastic car hire deals, you're free to explore everything Florida has to offer.

Find deals on car hire in Florida

Here are five places which we recommend that you visit during your winter break to Florida:

Walt Disney World Resort

Without doubt one of the most magical places on Earth, the Walt Disney World Resort is the perfect place to enjoy a festive, family break. 

As the sun sets during the colder months at the Walt Disney Magic Kingdom Park, the skies come alive with mesmerising firework displays, and Cinderella’s castle is illuminated with over 200,000 ‘dream lights’. Another festive highlight is ‘Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party’ — a fun parade which is sure to entertain the grown-ups as well as the children. 

At the Epcot Park, children can also learn about Christmas traditions from around the world at the ‘International Yuletide Extravaganza’. 

Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830. Opening hours depend on the time of year. A 7-day Ultimate Ticket (which includes unlimited park entry to each of the four theme parks and two water parks for seven days) costs £259 for people aged 10 years and above, and £244 for children aged between three and nine years. Children under the age of three are admitted free of charge. 

Florida’s Beaches

Florida enjoys temperatures in the mid-20s during winter, so why not unwind one of the state’s beautiful beaches? Not only will the weather still be pleasant, but the beaches will be much less crowded than they are in the summer. 

Clearwater Beach on the Gulf Coast is packed with excellent amenities, and features a lovely promenade where you can take a leisurely evening stroll. If lively nightlife is your thing, head to Miami Beach (particularly the South Beach area), which has plenty of glamorous clubs that are frequented by the rich and famous. 

People seeking a more active beach escape should head to Daytona Beach, which is popular with teenagers and young adults. Here, you can enjoy a wealth of water-sports, including parasailing, surfing and water-skiing. 

Florida’s Theme Parks

Florida’s world-class theme parks are made even more special during the festive season. At Universal Studios, you’ll be able to enjoy the Macy’s Holiday Parade, which features mesmerising floats, a marching band, clowns and even Santa! Afterwards, you can witness the beautiful tree lighting ceremony, accompanied by music and a dazzling light display. Meanwhile, at Universal Islands of Adventure, the park takes on a special Grinch theme during the countdown to Christmas. 

Over at SeaWorld, visitors can enjoy Christmas-themed killer-whale shows, take a ride on The Polar Express (where you’ll go on a journey to the ‘North Pole’ to meet Santa) or watch a spectacular ice show. 

If that wasn’t enough theme park fun, make use of your car hire and head to Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay — here, you can explore the ‘Christmas Town’, which features special entertainment, live music, holiday shopping and festive treats. 

Christmas Shopping

Home to many shopping malls and outlet villages, Florida is the perfect place to do a bit of Christmas shopping! The Mall at Millenia in Orlando has a wealth of upmarket stores like Gucci and Cartier, as well as huge Macy’s, Bloomingdales and Apple stores. 

Also located in Orlando is The Florida Mall, which is the largest mall in the entire state. Boasting 1.8 million square feet of retail space, the mall is where you’ll find several large department stores such as JCPenney and Saks Fifth Avenue.

If you’re after quirky gifts, head to Park Avenue in Winter Park, where you’ll find independent stores which sell everything from bespoke chocolates to outfits for your pets!

Bargain hunters are sure to love visiting at least a couple of Florida’s 110 brand outlet centres, which are dotted all across the state. 

Visit the Everglades National Park

Although the Everglades don’t scream ‘festive fun’, there’s never a bad time to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Home to alligators, crocodiles and many protected species, the Everglades National Park spreads across a vast 1.5 million acres. 

Take one of the famous airboat rides through the mangroves to experience a taste of the real Florida, away from the hustle and bustle of the built-up cities. During the ride, you’ll be able to see a variety of animals including turtles, herons and various species of birds. If you’re very lucky, you might also catch a glimpse of the extremely rare Florida Panther. 

If you’re travelling with young children who tire easily, a great way to see the park is by taking a 2.5-hour Shark Valley Tram Tour. 

Hints and Tips:

  • The winter is actually the peak season in Florida, as it’s not the hurricane season.
  • Orlando’s main theme parks are located within a 15 mile radius.
  • Booking theme park tickets in advance can save you money.
  • Plan what you want to do in advance to ensure you get the most out of your holiday, but at the same time try and avoid scheduling too much into each day — walking round theme parks is more exhausting than it sounds, due to their vast nature!
  • Arrive at theme parks early and always head for the big rides first, as these will have the biggest queues later on.
  • If you’re using Orlando as a base, the International Drive area is where you’ll find the main hub of hotels — along with plenty of shops, bars and restaurants.
  • Ensure your passport is up to date. To enter the USA under the Visa Waiver Programme, passports issued/renewed before October 26th 2005 must be machine readable (have letters, numbers and chevrons at the bottom of the personal information page). Passports issued/renewed between October 26th 2005 and October 25th 2006 must also contain a digital photograph (one that is printed rather than glued or laminated onto the passport). Passports issued/renewed on or after October 26th 2006 must be electronic (check for the microchip logo on the front). If you attempt to enter the USA under the Visa Waiver Programme without a compliant passport, you may be denied admission and possibly detained, pending removal.
  • Submit your ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) to be granted the right to enter the USA under the Visa Waiver Programme. 

You might also enjoy reading some of our other USA travel guides

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