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Gulfstream Park’s Symphony of Lights
Photograph: Courtesy Gulfstream Park Village/Alex Kay

The best places to spot dazzling Christmas lights in Miami

Experience the wonder of Christmas lights, Miami, with our picks of festive seasonal displays and tree-lighting events

By Virginia Gil

The calendar is filling up with drive-thru 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 decorations and Christmas lights. Miami malls and suburbs are usually the best places to see dazzling holiday displays, but 2020 has introduced an entirely new way to experience the holiday magic: the drive-thru. Gone is the season of driving aimlessly in pursuit of intermittent icicle lights and the occasional blow-up Santa in South Beach. This year, get behind the wheel with purpose and 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 things to do in Miami over the holidays.

Best places to see Christmas lights in Miami

Enchanted Place
Photograph: Courtesy Enchanted Place/Ken DiGenova

1. The Enchanted Place of North Miami

Known by many as South Florida’s best-kept holiday secret, the Enchanted Place has been shining bright every holiday season since 1988. It’s a community effort spearheaded by neighbors who every year decorate their street in North Miami with thousands twinkling lights. Everyone is welcome to drive by and pose for photos among illuminated Santas, Christmas trees, snowmen and Menorahs. 1800 NE 137th Ter, North Miami

Zoo Lights 2019
Photograph: Zoo Miami/Louis Cruz

2. Zoo Lights

Things to do Quirky events

Get in the holiday spirit by surrounding yourself with nearly a million bright, animal-shaped lights draped throughout Zoo Miami. Families can stroll through the park and enjoy carousel rides and nightly carollers, and glimpse the all-new 26-foot LED tree. Santa will be around for photos, plus milk and cookies will be served (for an additional fee). Be sure to check the Zoo’s website for information on themed nights, like December 4’s ugly sweater event and Santa and elf look-a-like nights on December 18 and 19. A tree lighting ceremony is scheduled for November 27 at 6:30pm.

Deering Estate Christmas Lights 2020
Photograph: Courtesy Deering Estate

3. Historic Holiday Decor at Deering Estate

Things to do Festivals

Charles Deering’s waterfront home is even more beautiful during the holidays, when it transforms into an illuminated wonderland. Witness the rustic decór inspired by the Christmas celebrations local pioneers held at the turn of the 20th century, including the vintage nautical accents in sparkling blue hues designed as a tribute to Deering as his lifelong love of the sea. The holiday decorations stick around through January and in between, visitors are invited to partake in storytime with Santa (Dec 12), a festive bay cruise (Dec 13) and more.

Christmas tree at Shops at Merrick Park
Photograph: Orlando Garcia

4. Holiday lights at the Shops at Merrick Park

Shopping Shopping centers Coral Gables

With more than 55,000 twinkling bulbs to adorn its 50-foot tree, Merrick Park’s holiday display is one of the highlights of the season. There won’t a tree lighting ceremony but in lieu of a spectacle, Merrick Park is hosting a drive-thru celebration and holiday toy drive. There will be games, giveaways and live entertainment, and folks are encouraged to bring an unwrapped toy to the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. Dec 6–8pm

Santa's Spectacular
Photograph: Courtesy Swarm

5. Santa’s Spectacular: A Drive-Thru Musical Extravaganza

Things to do

Forget the Polar Express and Santa Claus’s sleigh—all you’ll need to get to the North Pole this year is your very own car. Take a ride to Santa’s Spectacular, Miami’s first-ever Christmas drive-thru experience where you’ll cruise through holiday vignettes and sparkling light displays. From Santa and Mrs. Claus to North Pole elves and Rudolph with his reindeers, the season’s most important cast of characters will all make appearances, singing carols and spreading holiday cheer.

Gulfstream Park’s Symphony of Lights
Photograph: Courtesy Gulfstream Park Village/Alex Kay

6. Gulfstream Park’s Symphony of Lights

Every day brings a new, magical display at Gulfstream Park’s Symphony of Lights. The nightly, synchronized illuminations begin at the top of the hour from 6pm to 11pm and are set to the classical sounds of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Plus, take advantage of photo ops before the center’s breathtaking, 50-foot Christmas tree. Through Dec 31 6–11pm.

Lincoln Road Christmas tree
Photograph: Courtesy Lincoln Road BID

7. Lincoln Road Mall

Shopping Shopping centers Mid-Beach

Lincoln Road’s iconic Christmas tree lights up the night sky on November 27 at 7pm and will remain illuminated through the holiday season. Beginning December 10, one candle from the beautiful menorah will be lit each night at 6pm to commemorate Hannukah. 

Coral Gables City Hall Christmas tree
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Phillip Pessar

8. City of Coral Gables holiday park and tree lighting

Kids of all ages can’t help but get in the holiday spirit when Santa makes his yearly arrival via fire truck down Miracle Mile to flip the switch on the city’s giant tree. It’s how it used to happen but this year the same enthusiasm will be transmitted digitally as the tree-lighting ceremony happens virtually on December 4 at 7pm. Holiday Park next door opens to the public as soon as the lights are turned on. 

Pinecrest Gardens Christmas Lights
Photograph: Courtesy Pinecrest Gardens

9. Pinecrest Gardens’ Nights of Lights

Things to do

If it doesn’t feel like Christmas where you live, just wait until you step foot inside Pinecrest Gardens. The botanical gardens transform into a winter wonderland draped in a blanket of sparkling lights. This year, the attraction adds a new section of twinkling lights as well as a holiday-themed maze for a merry good time. Keep your eyes peeled or surprise visits from Santa Claus, plus storytime with Mrs. Claus and holiday concerts on the Banyan Bowl stage. 

Santa’s Drive-Thru Village
Photograph: Courtesy Santa’s Drive-Thru Village

10. Santa’s Drive-Thru Village

Things to do

Hop in your car—you’re heading to the North Pole. And it won’t be a long ride either as Santa’s Village comes to Miramar for a drive-thru experience like none other. A brilliant light show welcomes you and illuminates the elves hard at work, creating the magical snow-filled world that lies ahead. You’ll encounter Santa Claus, reindeer, angels and others as you make your way through a series of villages—from the Elves’ Toy Factory and Mrs. Claus’ Village and the North Polle to Singing Carolers’ Town. Admission is $49 per car with up to seven passengers, and tickets must be purchase in advance online.

Bayfront Park Christmas tree
Photograph: Shutterstock/Alexey Rotanov

11. Bayfront Park

Things to do Downtown

Miami’s most iconic Christmas tree is up and glittering following December 7’s lighting ceremony with commissioner Joe Carollo and Mexican pop star Paulina Rubio. Christmas Designers, Inc. created the 50-foot artificial Rocky Mountain Pine adorned with thousands of twinkling lights. The park is open to the public, though folks are asked to social distance and wear masks whenever possible.

CityPlace Doral
Photograph: Courtesy CityPlace Doral

12. Light up the Night at CityPlace Doral

Shopping Shopping centers Doral

CityPlace Doral isn’t holding back for its big holiday celebration. A fountain show synchronized to holiday tunes like leads up to the lighting of the gigantic Christmas tree and surrounding palm trees. (It is Florida, after all.) Doral’s city mayor, Juan Carlos Bermudez, hosts the tree lighting ceremony on November 21, featuring a performance by Dayana Falcon alongside Pulse Band. Can’t make it over the weekend? Expect the magical displays to go on throughout the holiday season. Nov 21–Dec 31 at various times.

Deering Estate Holiday Stroll
Photograph: Courtesy Deering Estate

13. Holiday Evening Stroll at Deering Estate

Things to do

Deering Estate leans hard into the holiday season with all kinds of over-the-top decorates and festive activities that everyone is invited to experience. The waterfront mansion opens its doors on December 4 and December 16 or two nights of holiday film screenings, storytelling by Mrs. Claus and the opportunity to write and drop off your letter to Santa Claus.

600 Brickell
Photograph: Courtesy 600 Brickell

14. Neighborhood displays

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 Fifth 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.

Unsplash - Lasers
Photograph: Unsplash/Michal Czyz

15. Bright Lights Miami

Things to do

If the words rave and Key Biscayne bring back traumatic memories of your last visit to Ultra Music Festival, rest assured that this audio-visual spectacle won’t be that. Bright Lights Miami is a new immersive experience that’s taking over Historic Virginia Key Beach Park for folks to journey through safely from their cars. Running weekends, the 40-minute event lights up Key Biscayne’s idyllic palm-tree-lined beaches with a kaleidoscope of lasers, beams and illuminated art installations. It may not be the holiday-themed event you expect, but there will be plenty of lights.

Photograpg: Courtesy THesis Hotel/Jessica Seasholtz

16. Tropical Winter Wonderland at THesis Hotel Miami

Hotels Coral Gables

The Coral Gables hotel draped its corridor with lights for the season, and there won’t be a dry weekend in the house. Every Saturday and Sunday through January 3, watch the lights come up with one of several tropical cocktails inspired by the spectacle. Toasting with the family? December 20 through 23 brings a slew of kid-friendly activities and plenty of Night Owl Cookies.

Plan dinner and make it a merry night out


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