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Christmas lights
Photograph: Unsplash/Toni Cuenca

Your guide to spotting dazzling Christmas lights, Miami

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

By Virginia Gil
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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 things to do in Miami over the holidays.

 

Best places to see Christmas lights in Miami

Christmas lights
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Christmas tree lighting party at Little Haiti Cultural Complex

Things to do Performances

Little Haiti turns its Christmas tree lighting ceremony into a full-fledged holiday party with performances, music and kid-friendly activities. The evening begins with a brief presentation in the center’s theater, followed by roller skating in the courtyard and a special appearance from Santa Claus.

Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade
Photograph: Darryl Nobles

2. The Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade

Things to do Festivals

Vessels ranging from LED-adorned paddleboards to corporate megayachts and privately owned seacrafts are decked out with lights, music, live entertainment, decorations and revelers as they travel east 12 miles through the Intracoastal Waterway and north to Lake Santa Barbara in Pompano Beach. This 48-year-old tradition celebrates 15 years at the Seminole Hard Rock—they don’t call it the “greatest show on H2O” for nothing. Events get underway at 6:30pm, but eager attendees are encouraged to show up early for the best views.

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NightGarden
Photograph: Sharon Sipple

3. NightGarden

Things to do Exhibitions

One of the best things to come out of Art Basel 2018 was a video of Kanye West talking to a tree. It wasn’t another psychotic break, thankfully. The rapper was spitting it back to Archimedes, the creepily captivating talking tree at NightGarden, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s psychedelic neon playground. The pop-up exhibit returns for its second year, taking over a portion of the 80-acre property and turning it into an illuminated wonderland. Think technicolor mazes, scavenger hunts led by virtual fairies, an enchanting snowfall experience, glowing dandelion fields and, yes, the infamous talking tree. Sounds fun, huh? We agree. 

Luminosa
Photograph: Courtesy Jungle Island

4. Luminosa! Festival of Lights

Things to do Festivals

Jungle Island’s grand reimagining of an ancient Zen Buddhist tradition weaves enormous, beautifully handcrafted silk lanterns throughout its lush 18 acres, illuminating the story of Miami and its habitats in the process.

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Zoo Lights at Zoo Miami
Photograph: Courtesy Zoo Miami

5. 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. 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 13 and 14’s ugly sweater event and Santa and elf look-a-like nights on December 27 through 29.

Christmas tree at Shops at Merrick Park
Photograph: Orlando Garcia

6. Holiday tree lighting at Shops at Merrick Park

Things to do Performances

With more than 55,000 twinkling bulbs to adorn its 50-foot tree, Merrick Park’s 16th annual lighting ceremony is one of the highlights of the season. This year’s spectacle includes a performance by the Miami Royal Ballet, a Santa Clause sighting (he'll appear dramatically on the Coral Gables Fire Department’s fire truck alongside Master of Ceremonies Belkys Nerey) and plenty of pop-up shopping opportunities and giveaways. The official tree lighting occurs on November 21st but the tree remains lit through January. 

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Coconut Grove tree lighting
Photograph: Courtesy Coconut Grove BID

7. Coconut Grove tree lighting

Things to do Performances

Coconut Grove’s annual tree lighting ceremony takes over Commodore Plaza, turning the street into a winter wonderland for pedestrians. Snap a photo with Santa, get your face painted with Frozen’s Olaf the Snowman and explore the pop-up holiday village. It all leads up to the main event—the tree lighting, of course—happening just before 7pm on December 8. Commodore Plaza between Main Hwy and Grand Ave.

Deering Estate Christmas Tree
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jon S

8. Festival of Trees

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 first spark of the season during the annual lighting festival on December 1, featuring hot chocolate, holiday music and a letter drop-off for Santa. The holiday decorations stick around through January and in between, visitors are invited to partake in Mistletoe & Martinis (Dec 13), storytime with Santa (Dec 14) and more.

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

9. City of Coral Gables Tree Lighting

Things to do Performances

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. Stay for the food, rides, face painting and entertainment.

Christmas Lights stock
Photograph: Unsplash/Marina Khrapova

10. Tree lighting ceremony at CityPlace Doral

Things to do Performances

CityPlace Doral isn’t holding back for its big holiday celebration. A fountain show synchronized to holiday tunes like “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and “Feliz Navidad” leads up to the lighting of the 30-foot Christmas tree. Stick around for a rousing performance of scenes from the Nutcracker by South Florida Dance Studio. 

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Bayfront Park Christmas tree
Photograph: Shutterstock/Alexey Rotanov

11. Holiday tree lighting at Bayfront Park

Things to do Performances

Miami’s most recognizable Christmas tree comes to life at 7pm just after Thanksgiving. The 50-foot stunner overlooking Biscayne Bay, which is an artificial tree designed to look like a Rocky Mountain pine, is decked in thousands of bulbs. A slew of notable locals host the big event—City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, Commissioner Joe Carollo, radio DJ Enrique Santos—which kicks off Downtown’s adorable Bayfront Holiday Village. 

Christmas at Gulfstream
Photograph: Courtesy Gulfstream Park

12. Gulfstream Park’s Symphony of Lights

Things to do Games and hobbies

Every day brings a new, magical display at Gulfstream Park’s Symphony of Lights. The nightly, synchronized illuminations begin at 6pm, plus take advantage of photo ops before the center’s breathtaking, 50-foot Christmas tree. Santa Clause visits on select dates, including November 29, November 29, December 14 and 21–23. 

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600 Brickell
Photograph: Courtesy 600 Brickell

13. 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.

Plan dinner and make it a festive night out

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