Christmas lights are twinkling along the streets, homes are filled with holiday décor, festive music has taken over, Christmas trees are popping up everywhere, the shopping craze has begun, and holiday events are happening daily. Yes, the holidays are in full swing in Sarasota!
It may not feel like the holiday season for many northerners who are used to snow and freezing temperatures, or even southerners and locals who hope to experience the magic of waking up on Christmas day to a snowy winter wonderland. But, the benefit is you can celebrate the holidays outdoors with a slew of Sarasota events — and without bundling up or freezing. And hey, how lucky are we that we can put on lightweight clothes and build “sandmen” at the beach instead of snowmen?
Sarasota and surrounding communities do a great job at making the season fun and special, with lots of holiday events, festivals and activities for the whole family — some even with “snow” to make it more magical. Below we have listed some of our top choices, plus (further down) other weekly/monthly Sarasota events for the month of December.
*Click on each Sarasota event name for more details*
Dec. 1-Jan. 15: Holidays on the Green
Visit the outdoor area at the Mall at University Town Center for ice skating, train rides, live music, Christmas tree displays, movies and more. Check website for hours, costs and varying activities. Movies: Dec. 2 – Elf; Dec. 8 – A Christmas Story; Dec. 9 – Beauty and the Beast (at Nathan Benderson Park); Dec. 15 – National Lampoon Christmas Vacation; Dec. 16 – Polar Express; Dec. 22 – It’s a Wonderful Life; Dec. 23 – Miracle on 34th Street. Additionally, through Dec. 24, step inside the UTC Mall to meet Santa, get photos taken, and participate in activities during Santa’s Flight Academy (check website for varying dates and times).
The gnomes, fairies and elves are hiding lots of candy canes high and low in the garden for you to find. The garden will have a holiday inspired coloring station for the kids and a bake sale with fresh coffee and hot chocolate available for sale. Come kick off the holiday season and get out in nature! This special candy cane hunt is free for garden members and included in your admission for non-members.
Dec. 2: Annual Sarasota Holiday Parade
Join thousands of spectators along Main Street in downtown Sarasota to celebrate Sarasota’s circus heritage. The parade route is from 301/Washington Blvd to Gulfstream Ave. High school marching bands, area churches and nonprofits, local businesses, and the big finale – the arrival of Santa Claus – make this a beloved kick-off of the holiday season. Come early and bring the whole family to this treasured community tradition. Parking recommended at the Palm Avenue or State Street Garages.
Celebrate the sights and sounds of the holiday season and help support the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots, serving Sarasota and Manatee counties. Free admission with an unwrapped toy! Visit The Ringling during extended evening hours and enjoy holiday music and performances by local schools throughout the grounds. All Museum venues will be open for self-touring including the Ca’ d’Zan, Museum of Art, Tibbals Learning Center and the Circus Museum. Food and beverages will be available for purchase. 5-8pm.
Dec. 8: Holidays Around the Ranch
Holidays Around the Ranch is an annual holiday sensation of magical charm for all to enjoy and is free to attend. Children and adults alike will enjoy the sight of Santa Claus as he makes his grand entry in his beautiful horse drawn carriage. Enjoy food and drink from the many street vendors while enjoying stage performances by local entertainers. The season is made for sharing and this event, like no other, will bring us together to enchant in the ambiance of the season.
Dec. 8: Southside Village Holiday Stroll
Enjoy the exciting snow slide, snow machines, a climbing wall, trampoline and more. The Music Compound will host a Holiday Concert, and Santa will greet the little ones. Face painting, nail stickers, temporary tattoos and Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s Civility Squad. Get your photos taken for your holiday cards. A festival for all ages, benefitting Girls, Inc. Sarasota. 5-9pm.
The 32nd Annual Sarasota Holiday Boat Parade of Lights will begin at 6pm. The best areas for viewing are Marina Jack Restaurant, Bayfront Park, City Island and Centennial Park. The SNN 6 local news staff will be covering the event throughout the evening, so you can also watch it on TV. Cash prizes, awards and trophies will be awarded at a ceremony at Marina Jack’s fuel dock at 8:30pm following the parade. All Proceeds Benefit Suncoast Charities for Children, Inc.
Dec. 13-15: Night of Wonder at Bayside Church
Step back in time and journey through Bethlehem. Hear the Christmas story told like never before with immersive sets, actors, and live animals. Enjoy Christmas cookies, hot chocolate, and even get a free photo with Santa and Mrs. Claus. This is a free community event for all at Bayside’s Bradenton campus.
Dec. 14, 21, 28, Jan. 4: Deck the Halls at Ca’ d’Zan
The mansion at the Ringling Museum will be decked out in glamorous holiday decorations, including multiple Christmas trees with a variety of elegant themes. Explore the beautiful grounds and festive mansion during extended hours in the evening, when the lights truly twinkle. 5-8pm.
Join us in the Museum of Art Courtyard for an interactive holiday movie night! Featuring live music by Josh Walther and the Phase5 Band, family friendly arts activities, holiday lights, and photo ops with Buddy and Jovie provided by Manatee Performing Arts Center. The evening culminates with a screening of the holiday favorite, “Elf,” starring Will Farrell and James Caan. Hot chocolate, coffee and candy canes are included with your ticket ($10-$15) Concessions, including popcorn, candy, and beverages will be available for purchase, including a cash bar featuring a yuletide cocktail. Holiday attire is encouraged but not required.
Dec. 15-17: 9th Annual Gingerbread House Festival
Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida is hosting its annual display of festive creativity at the Westfield Sarasota Square Mall Dec. 15-17. Come marvel at this holiday wonderland featuring gingerbread houses crafted by more than 150 local schools, youth groups, businesses, and nonprofit organizations. Enjoy a break during your holiday shopping. Vote for your favorite in the People’s Choice Award and reserve the house of your choice for purchase.
Dec. 17: A Taste of Chanukah
Celebrate Chanukah at Phillippi Estate Park with super clown and daredevil Bello Nock, live performance by BMX Trick stars, a large balloon menorah, catered kosher food, a snow slide, face painting, magicians and more. 3-6pm
Dec. 17: Chanukah Klezmer Festival in Venice
Come watch the lighting of a 12-foot Menorah and enjoy a huge interactive dreidel house, a Moon Bounce, photo-op at the “Kotel” Western Wall Replica, Hebrew School performances, food, refreshments and more. At Centennial Park in downtown Venice, from 4:30-6:30pm. Free admission. Also in Englewood, Dec. 12, and in North Port, Dec. 14.
Dec. 21-30 (closed Dec. 24-5): Selby Garden’s Lights In Bloom
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens lights up the holiday season with Lights In Bloom. Over one million lights will illuminate the garden and walkways will be transformed into sensory light tunnels. Visitors will have the opportunity to stroll through magical gardens filled with beautifully lit flowers, radiant rainforest butterflies, dragonflies and more. The tropical holiday paradise includes nightly visits from Santa and his elves (before Christmas Eve), children’s arts and crafts, activities and games, plus live entertainment with SoulRCoaster each evening. Grilled foods will be available for purchase from the Michael’s on East grill including a cash bar. The Selby House Cafe will also be open with its full menu. (Event closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day)
Dec. 22: Kids Christmas Fest
Drop off the kids to have some holiday fun, while you complete your last minute shopping! The MOVEment Dance Company in Bradenton will entertain your kids with games, holiday crafts, Christmas movies, dance lessons, a life-size gingerbread house, special guest appearances by Mr. and Mrs. Gingerbread, a parent dance performance the last 15 minutes of each session, once you get back from shopping (or from whatever you needed some kid-free time). Session one is 9am-1pm and session 2 is 5pm-9pm. Register by 12/15 to reserve your space. Call 941-348-6938 to register. Minimum of 10 students required.
Dec. 22-24: Live Nativity at Big Cat Habitat
Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary is hosting a live nativity with its own live animals, including camels, donkeys, goats and more.
Historic Spanish Point will host a family party at the White Cottage on New Year’s Eve from 6-10pm. Enjoy bonfires, marshmallow roasting, crafts, popcorn, hot cider, and more! The weather forecast also shows a 100% chance of SNOW at the White Cottage. Music provided by Hess Events & Entertainment.
Weekly and Monthly Activities
Admission to the art museum is free every Monday. The outdoor grounds, though, are free every day from 10am-5pm. There you can have fun in the playground, which has a water/sand area; search for hidden outdoor sculptures; explore the many scenic nooks and gardens; have a picnic along the bayfront; and take photos of your children in the beautiful grounds.
Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays: Toddler Time at Sky Zone
The Toddler Time program offers kids ages 5 and under free run of all open trampoline courts in the park. Toddler Time at Sky Zone is a special time, just for the little ones, where they can explore exciting new ways to be active. One parent can assist for free. Additionally, check out the Glow and Character Toddler Time events held select Toddler Time days.
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays: Baby Boot Camp
Baby Boot Camp is a stroller-based fitness group where moms can bring their babies in jogging strollers and exercise in a group setting. After the workouts, children get to play at the park while the moms socialize. The aim is to provide a supportive environment for all mothers to get in shape while developing a sense of community. The group also has monthly playdates and parents night out. Classes start at 9:30am. First class is free.
Tuesdays: Freedom Playgroup
Age appropriate activities for infants through age 4, along with games and group singing. Parents an caregivers can play with their kids, mingle with other adults, and enjoy complementary coffee and snacks. Held at Freedom Christian Church, from 9:15am-11am.
Tuesdays: Woodland Community Church Playgroup
Visit the church’s kid space for a free weekly playgroup from 9am to noon. A large gymnasium is filled with toys and activities, a separate room with a new treehouse-style play area, and there is story time as well. The playgroup follows the Manatee County Schools calendar, and is closed when school is not in session.
Each week, kids (ages 5 and under) will create a pottery piece (to be picked up later) or canvas project as well as a pre-k appropriate craft that they may take home the same day. After the arts and crafts are complete, a story will be read. Cost is $12 unless otherwise stated. Space is limited and reservations receive priority. Begins at 10am at Arts A Blaze Studio in Lakewood Ranch.
Wednesdays: Tunnels of Fun at Colonial Oaks Park Gym
Toys and open, unstructured play time for babies to preschoolers, along with their caregivers, inside the gym, 9:15-11:45am. Cost is $2/child. Additionally, there is an outdoor playground and shaded picnic tables that are free to use.
Wednesdays and Saturdays: Children’s Yoga at Pineapple Yoga Studio.
Every Saturday at 1:45-2:30 and every Wednesday at 4-4:45, $10 per child. Also, each month, on the first Sunday of the month there will be a 2-hour workshop at Pineapple Yoga Studio for $30 per child or $50 for 2. This is based on Chakras, crystals and yoga. Additionally, a monthly yoga and essential oils workshop will take place at Colonial Oaks Park, with this month’s being Sept. 10, from 4-5pm. Kids yoga will also be held at Circusoul yoga studio from 1:30-2:30 every Monday.
A free family-friendly concert series and block party for the public hosted from 6-9pm on the first Friday of each month. The street is lined with food vendors, beer trucks, and sponsor booths, as well as rides and activities for the kids presented by Grace Community Church. Kettle of Fish Band will fill the air with Blues, Funk, Soul and R&B music and the deejay will keep you dancing with today’s Top 100 hits. The event will benefit the Wobbly Feet Foundation.
Dec 7-9: Little Sprouts Club at Selby Gardens
The Little Sprouts Program is a family-friendly way to enjoy the beauty of the Gardens. Meet monthly in the Children’s Rainforest Garden as preschool-aged children and families explore rainforest plants and animals through sensory centers, themed art and science activities, stories and free play. Select Saturdays include puppet shows by Starlite Puppets. Sessions run from 10:30-11:30am, with a snack and story at 11am. Also held Jan. 4-6.
Want to be featured in our next month’s guide? Submit your event here: https://sarasota.citymomsblog.com/calendar-submission/
Our Monthly Sarasota Events Guide is Sponsored by State27Homes.com.
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