The calendar is filling up with Christmas events in Miami and all the stores are a-jingle with Christmas songs. But the festive season isn’t complete without gawking at over-the-top Christmas lights and decorations. Unless you’re trolling suburbia, however, you’re more likely to see intermittent icicle lights and the occasional blow-up Santa in South Beach. To avoid driving aimlessly in pursuit of places to see Christmas lights in Miami, head for these spots guaranteed to sparkle bright this Christmas. While you’ll pay admission for some displays, light peeping in some of the more extravagant enclaves can be one of the best free things to do in Miami over the holidays.
Best places to see Christmas lights in Miami
An awe-inspiring spectacle of vivid lights synchronized to popular holiday songs, the Christmas Castle is bound to get even the Scroogiest of Scrooges in the Christmas spirit. The 40-foot-tall structure is programmed to pulsate nightly to everything from the sounds of Walt Disney World’s Christmas parade to Michael Bublé’s “Cold December Night.” Admission is free but there will be donation boxes for the Dan Marino Autism Foundation. 12331 SW 109th Terrace, Miami. Dec 9–30; closed Dec 12, 13. Sun–Fri, Sun 6–10pm; Sat 6–11pm; free.
In addition to the usual primates, pachyderms, big cats and tropical birds (not to mention the wild animals you’ll likely encounter at your company’s holiday party), Zoo Miami brings us a bright new menagerie of creatures. You’ll find giraffes, zebras and more made up of thousands of lights, as well as carousel rides, Santa meet-and-greets and hot chocolate and cookies (available for purchase). Dec 18–30 (closed Dec 24, 25). Daily 7–10pm; $7.
Kick off the holiday season Florida-style with a gleaming procession of merry mega-yachts draped in thousands of twinkling bulbs. For its 45th edition, themed “Comics & Cartoons Rockin’ the Night Away,” the Winterfest Parade welcomes Miami’s own Pitbull as grand marshal, as well as reindeer, Santa and all of your favorite characters-turned-floats meandering along Fort Lauderdale’s Intracoastal Waterway for 12 miles. Events get underway at 6:30pm, but eager attendees are encouraged to show up early for the best views. Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, 3109 E Sunrise Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL. Sat Dec 10 at 3:30pm; grandstand viewing-area tickets $25, along the parade route free.Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Bob B. Brown
Deering Estate is one of Miami’s most stunning waterfront attractions, which makes celebrating the holidays there not just festive but also fitting given the city’s typically warm winters. Join for an evening stroll of the property and discover all of the beautiful Christmastime decorations inside the home and surrounding the large estate, including festooned palm trees. After the guided tour, stick around to shop wares and special decorations from local vendors. 16701 SW 72 Ave. Dec 14 6:30pm–9pm. $12, children $7, children under 4 free.
It’s nothing but manses for miles the moment you enter the Village of Pinecrest (celebrities who’ve called the neighborhood home include Timbaland, Romero Britto and Pitbull) so expect light displays as grand as the homes. The brightest lights tend to be on main arteries SW 104th Street and Ludlam Road (67th Avenue). In Coral Gables, the Merrick Park in front of City Hall (405 Biltmore Way) and surrounding areas are festooned with impressive illuminations and a giant mailbox where children can drop off letters for Santa. Downtown, not all skyscrapers lining Brickell Avenue will be in the holiday spirit, but areas near 5th Street will. Stroll through the plaza at 600 Brickell—which is typically decked out with an oversized wreath and palm trees lit by green, red and white lights—and up the Brickell Avenue Bridge for the best views.