Spending Christmas in Miami? Brace for a different kind of holiday celebration, one where swimwear is totally acceptable to wear to Christmas events. While much of the country looks forward to snow and sleigh bells, yuletide in the 305 promises sunshine, frolicking in South Beach and parties at every turn—from Key Biscayne to Coral Gables to Brickell. Don’t be surprised if you’re invited to a pool party in December or if your work holiday party takes place at a crazy and totally fun Christmas bar where Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” comes on every hour. Overwhelmed by the number of things to do in Miami? Relax, put on some Christmas tunes and peruse our list of the best Christmas events in Miami.
RECOMMENDED: Guide to Christmas in Miami
Best Christmas events in Miami
The world’s largest holiday theme park (at least according to the website) returns for its 37th season with more shimmering lights, bigger carnival rides and only-in-Miami experiences. The county-fair-meets-winter-wonderland is chock-full of roller coasters, amusement rides, carnival games, photo ops with Santa and his helpers and an assortment of fair food—think fresh doughnuts, funnel cakes and more.
Countdown to Christmas with a cocktail in hand at Miracle in Miami. The international holiday-themed pop-up bar makes its way to Wynwood this yuletide season for a month of festive drinks and naughty fun. For its second year taking over the backroom at Gramps, Miracle promises more (fake) snow, more holidays hits on repeat (these guys must be beating some kind of record for the most consecutive plays of Mariah Carey’s "All I Want for Christmas") and more surprises á la last year’s midnight cookie drop Night Owl Cookies.
Marvel at vibrant, candy-colored costumes and snow falling across the stage as the company dances to its reinvented version of the Nutcracker. The purists, meanwhile, can put down the pitchforks: It’s still Balanchine and it’s still Tchaikovsky.
Similar to the festive holiday marketplaces enjoyed by cities with actual seasons, Bayfront Holiday Village aims to be Miami’s new one-stop-shop for family fun throughout the season. Browse gifts from a selection of local artisans, glide through a winter wonderland at the Bayskate area, and enjoy your spiked eggnog with a view of the lights sparkling over Biscayne Bay at the food court and entertainment area. Of course, it all wouldn’t be complete without a massive, 50-foot Christmas tree at the park’s center—that comes to life every hour for a flashy, Miami-style light show. Bayfront Park, 301 Biscayne Blvd (bayfrontholidayvillage.com); Nov 29–Dec 25 11am–10pm; free.
Hip Miami Beach hostel Generator Miami kicks off its themed movie nights this December with a month of festive holiday classics. Guests and locals are invited to cozy up in the viewing room with complimentary popcorn and cocktail specials—or go big with something off of the Jim and Neesie’s menu. (We like the shareable charcuterie board, which pairs nicely with a bottle of wine.) Screenings happen every Thursday during December starting at 9pm. Dec 5: Uncle Buck, Dec 12: Bad Santa, Dec 19: Fred Claus, Dec 26: Elf
The Wharf is treating Miami to a sprawling holiday village on the river for two weeks in December. Expect a waterfront winter wonderland with live music starting at 1pm on Saturdays and Sundays, oversized holiday decorations and more than 500,00 twinkling lights icing out the popular outdoor lounge. The crown jewel of the affair is a special themed pop-up bar featuring over 30 festive craft cocktails.
Break out the coquito. It’s time to celebrate the holidays Boricua-style. Miami’s beloved, five-time James Beard Award semifinalist chef José Mendín is teaming up with Goya’s chef Fernando Desa to prepare festive Puerto Rican classics as delicious as abuela’s. For one night, enjoy a prix-fixe menu paired with cocktails, domino tournaments and parranderos (the Puerto Rican version of Christmas caroling).
Miami where the forecast calls for 100 percent chance of snow this holiday. Visit the winter wonderland and experience the fun of cascading flurries nightly at 7pm, with an encore snowfall every weekend (except for Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day) at 9pm.
Downtown Coral Gables transforms into a winter wonderland for one Saturday, with enough holiday cheer packed into McBride Plaza to make you and the kiddos feel like you’ve been transported to the North Pole. Throughout the day, enjoy a magician performance, free trolley rides, storytime with Mrs. Claus, an ugly sweater contest, caroler performances and more. At 8pm, catch a free outdoor screening of Elf. 150 Miracle Mile
Fort Lauderdale was finally blessed with its own riverside Wharf earlier this year, and similar to its Miami sister, she’s keeping things festive and fun. From December 5 through 22, the sprawling waterfront lounge and food court will be decked out in full holiday decor, with oversized inflatables and thousands of twinkling lights, plus live activations like a toy drive and Santa photo ops for your doggo going down throughout the month. Now open on Thursdays, you can score $1 Wharf Lager pints and $3 wine by the glass from 4 to 7pm before the weekend kicks off.