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Kissimmee’s Winter Wonderland

Popular holiday events bring out the best of the season

There's something so magical about snow, isn't there? Not sure if it's the way it makes the world sparkle or the way it transforms a space into an instant playground, but my kids think snow is awesome. Trouble is, we live in Florida so flurries are, well, scarce to say the least. But funny enough, we manage to find some frosty experiences in Kissimmee, thanks to some savvy snowmakers who create the thrill of a wintery wonderland.

Now Snowing The fun starts in Celebration Town Center where, for the entire month of December, this charming all-American town becomes a hub of winter merriment. Now Snowing, as the event is dubbed, features a giant lit Christmas tree, festive carolers, visits with Santa, rides on the Celebration Express and horse drawn carriage rides nightly through the month. But my kids will tell you that the best part is when snow falls from the sky each night on the hour at 6, 7, 8 and 9pm. Sure, it's machine-made snow but when the tiny, twinkling flakes begin to float through the sky and land on our noses, my girls squeal with delight. That this lovely experience is possible even on 70-degree nights makes me happy, too. Snow without cold is genius.

ICE! at Gaylord Palms Only a few miles away, we head to Gaylord Palms Resort for what's become an annual tradition we never miss. ICE! just keeps getting better and better, and this year is no different. From mid-November though the holidays, this sprawling resort gleams with a holiday glow strewn throughout its 4.5-acre atrium and convention space. More than two million lights and a 54-foot Christmas tree set the tone for a dazzling series of free concerts and hot chocolate toasts, but the real treat is wandering through the legendary frosty wonderland crafted annually from two million pounds of hand-carved ice.

We bundle into our parkas, slide on our mittens and marvel at the awe-inspiring ice sculptures, this year modeling The Nutcracker theme. We're greeted by a kaleidoscope of color-including deep Christmas holly reds and vibrant greens-splashed across each wintery scene and exuding such a special holiday feel that we can't help but bubble over with glee.

Then it's off to Alpine Rush Snow Tubing, the new 18' eight-lane snow hill created with 1.5 million pounds of snow. We whiz down the hills, each in our own lanes, for a hilarious race we repeat again and again. Being Florida girls, this feels to them like a once-in-a-lifetime treat made up of really special moments we remember all year long. Even in July, the girls will wonder aloud when we're going back to Gaylord and honestly, I'm counting the days, too. We feel so connected here and for us, it's as though the spirit of the holidays starts to take hold and stays with us through the entire month.

Once Upon A Christmastime Of course, it's no surprise that Walt Disney World also jumps on the holiday bandwagon in full force, with a slew of festively themed attractions and events popping up across the theme parks. But our favorite is Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party because, once again, we get to enjoy a Florida snowfall.

Hosted at Magic Kingdom on select nights through December 19, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party is a spectacular holiday event for families. We ooh and awe at the sight of Cinderella's Castle, now bedazzled with millions of twinkling white lights. We giggle, sing and dance through Mickey's Once Upon A Christmastime Parade. We snap pics with our favorite characters, sip cocoa and eat cookies, but best of all, we shriek with glee when the snow flurry starts to descend on Main Street, U.S.A. each night. Kissimmee is such a perfect place to anchor all of these experiences because the best of the holidays is just a short drive away from the area's vacation rentals and hotels.

Events with Holiday Cheer Beyond the parks and mega attractions, Kissimmee has a slew of holiday events scheduled outdoors throughout the area. That's one of the best parts of celebrating the holidays here: being outside because the weather could not be more perfect. With just a sweater to keep us warm, we can enjoy the cool night air for hours before retuning back to our vacation home rental, of which there are so many to choose from.

One of our favorite holiday events, the Festival of Lights Parade, is always a hit with our kids. Beginning at 7pm on Saturday, December 13, Historic Downtown Kissimmee is set aglow with holiday cheer as dozens of carolers, strolling entertainers and marching bands take to the streets. This free event wouldn't be complete without a visit from Santa, who makes his grand appearance near the parade's end.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg: everywhere you look there are amazing holiday events happening. That list includes Harmony Winter Festival on December 19, which features 30 tons of snow and snow slides. There is the Macy's Holiday Parade at Universal Studios, Christmas Bricktacular at LEGOLAND Florida, Epcot's Holidays Around the World & Candlelight Processional and the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

I know in the north they have their snow but they also have their cold, and plenty of it. It's perfect here in Kissimmee and there's no better time to embrace the spirit of the holidays and let heartwarming cheer light up our days and nights.

To discover the magic of the holidays in Kissimmee, book your stay now!

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