Make memories this season at local events!
By Cheryl Mandell
Santa has arrived in Southwest Florida! If you’re looking to have yourself a merry little Christmas, look no further. We’ve gathered a list of festive local events throughout December. From visits with Santa to light shows, train rides and live holiday performances, make lasting memories with friends and loved ones, and celebrate the season whenever it moves you!
Light Up Estero
Rotary Club of Estero invites the community to ring in the holiday season with the annual Light Up Estero event on Dec. 2 from 4-7 pm. This joyful evening has become an annually anticipated celebration, bringing together the citizens of Estero for family-friendly activities, live music, a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, a candlelight ceremony, tree lighting and so much more. Don’t miss out on this wonderful tradition with the continuing theme of “Unity in the Community.” Esterorotary.org
Meet Santa at Coconut Point Mall
Snap a photo with Santa on Sunday, Dec. 3, in the children’s play area! Sponsored by Toy World, create cherished memories with your camera. Santa awaits your magical moment! simon.com/mall/coconut-point
Everblades Teddy Bear Toss Night
The Everblades play the South Carolina Stingrays on Saturday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m., but the fun doesn’t stop there! Bring the whole family and a stuffed toy to toss onto the ice after the Blades’ first goal. The night includes a festive tailgate party with bounce houses and live music; during the game, enjoy a visit from Santa and the awesome teddy bear toss that has become a favorite tradition among fans; stuffed animals go to Golisano Children’s Hospital and other local children’s charities. Floridaeverblades.com
Estero Historical Society Annual Holiday Luncheon
The annual holiday turkey luncheon happens Monday, Dec. 11 at 11:30 a.m. Guest speaker Jim Weeks will present a History of the Weeks Fish Camp. The luncheon will be held at Country Creek Country Club in Estero. Register by Dec. 4 at Esterohistoricalsociety.com
Holiday in the Park
The annual city of Bonita Springs Holiday in the Park is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 5 from 4:30-8:30 p.m. The event will include a tree lighting, arrival of Santa Claus, children’s activities, musical performances and plenty of food and beverage options. Cityofbonitasprings.org
A Christmas Carol, A Live Radio Play
On Thursday, Dec. 7, at the Center for the Arts, the Charles Dickens holiday classic comes to life as a live 1940s radio broadcast, complete with vintage commercials for fruitcake and the magic of live sound effects and musical underscoring. A handful of actors bring dozens of characters to the stage, as the familiar story of Ebenezer Scrooge unfolds. Artcenterbonita.org
Movie in the Park
The city of Bonita Springs is hosting “Movie in the Park” at Riverside Park on Friday, Dec. 8. The 2009 version of “The Christmas Carol” starring Jim Carrey will start at dusk. Bring the little ones in the family, but please no furry friends. Cityofbonitasprings.org.
Christmas Under the Stars Concert
Bring a blanket or chair and enjoy a magical holiday concert at Riverside Park! On Sunday, Dec. 10 at 7 p.m., the Bonita Springs Concert Band, featuring guest soloist Mark Sanders, will perform jolly classics such as Baby It’s Cold Outside and Santa Claus is Coming to Town as well as unique arrangements like Cowboy Christmas, Festive Sounds of Hanukkah, Christmas at the Movies and much more. Bonitaspringsconcertband.org
McQuade Family Light Show
The twinkling lights of the McQuade family light show can be seen quite a distance from their home at 11619 Ranchette Road in Fort Myers. This yearly tradition, which usually begins the Saturday after Thanksgiving, not only adds dazzle to the holiday season, but it brightens up the world for a chosen family going through tough times. For David McQuade and his family, it is about more than Christmas carols and glistening lights – in past years, they’ve sponsored families with children battling cancer, and last year, proceeds benefited a family who lost their beloved father to Covid-19. To learn more, visit “McQuade Family Christmas Lightshow” on Facebook.
Festival of Trees
The 17th Annual Festival of Trees returns to the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center from Nov. 30-Dec. 3. Marvel at the beautiful trees decorated by local businesses to raise money for Goodwill of Southwest Florida and SBDAC. On Saturday, Dec. 2, join Santa in holiday festivities at Santa’s Block Party from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. It’s an opportunity for kids to perform, create holiday art, color holiday cards, decorate cookies, enjoy a train ride, and write letters to Santa and military service members! Later on Dec. 2, from 7-9 p.m., enjoy holiday songs from local school choirs at the Lee County Schools Holiday Concert Showcase. sbdac.com
Howliday Yappy Hour at Bell Tower
Bring your canine companions on Friday, Dec. 8, from 6-8 p.m. for HOWLiday Yappy Hour featuring pet photos with Santa! Please bring a minimum of $20 donation to Gulf Coast Humane Society for your pet photo with Santa. Many retailers will have special Yappy Hour surprises for you and your furry friends. Belltowerfl.com/events.
Bell Tower Shops Rockin’ Around the Bell Tower 5K Race
Be a part of the inaugural Rockin’ Around the Bell Tower 5K on Dec. 9 at 7:30 a.m. at the Bell Tower shopping center! Runners, walkers and strollers are all welcome at this family-friendly, Christmas-themed event featuring beautiful holiday decorations around the Bell Tower property. There will be two events – a chip-timed 5K and a one-mile event for those wanting a shorter race (or stroll). All participants will receive a Rockin’ Around the Bell Tower coffee mug, a commemorative finisher’s medal/ornament and post-race refreshments including free cotton candy and popcorn. For details, search “Rockin’ Around the Bell Tower 5k” at runsignup.com.
Edison Ford Winter Estates Holiday Lights
The 48th annual Holiday Nights runs nightly through Dec. 31. This year’s theme is “Holidays on Wheels” and will incorporate many different types of wheels. Guided Holiday Tradition Tours will be offered at 6 and 7 p.m. every night, or visitors can stroll at their own pace on a self-guided tour. On Sunday evenings, Santa and Mrs. Claus will visitEnjoy strolling musicians on certain nights. On Market Mondays, multiple craft and holiday vendors will have booths around the Banyan tree from 4-9 p.m. EdisonFord.org.
Calusa Nature Center Holiday Lights
Beginning Dec. 8, celebrate the most wonderful time of the year in a winter wonderland trail brimming with holiday cheer at Calusa Nature Center! After walking the illuminated 1/3-mile trail, cozy up to the fire and enjoy roasting a marshmallow with hot chocolate. Guests may also enjoy a holiday light laser show at the planetarium for an additional fee. Calusanature.org/holidaylights
Lakes Park Train
Starting in mid-December, the train village route comes alive with holiday decorations and lighting for nighttime rides! Park volunteers spend hundreds of hours decorating the entire route with tens of thousands of lights and decorations, including the famous “dancing lights” synchronized to music, creating a truly spectacular display unique to Southwest Florida. rrmsf.org/train-ride
Collier Fairgrounds Magic of Lights
Collier Fairgrounds is transformed into a vibrant, holiday-themed drive-through light display from Nov. 17 through Dec. 31. The “Magic of Lights” features dozens of displays, festive favorites and digital animations, all constructed with over a million individual LED lights to create a memorable holiday experience for the whole family. Collierfair.com/event/magic-of-lights
The North Pole on Third
Feel the Christmas joy this December with live Christmas music and snowfall every Thursday and Friday evening from 5-8 p.m. Thirdstreetsouth.com/christmas-on-third
Johnsonville Night Lights in the Garden
Marvel at the natural beauty of tropical plants as thousands of spectacular holiday lights illuminate Naples Botanical Garden all month long. Enjoy live musical performances, a special seasonal menu and drink offerings. Naplesgarden.org/events
Naples 5th Ave Christmas Walk and Tree Lighting Ceremony
5th Avenue South will be hosting the 50th annual Christmas Walk and Tree Lighting Ceremony on Friday, December 8 and Saturday, Dec. 9! This signature holiday event will feature live music and art performances, festive food offerings, a market and activities for all ages. There will be a living nativity, skating rink, table dining on 5th and a special appearance by Santa Claus! Fifthavenuesouth.com/christmas
2023 Gingerbread House Experience
Executive Pastry Chef Lerome Campbell and the Ritz-Carlton chefs proudly present the 2023 Gingerbread House Experience. Running Dec. 8-24, resort guests and local residents with advance tickets are invited to tour this year’s creation, enjoy preferred parking, hot cocoa, holiday cookies, and a keepsake holiday photo, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. naplesfestive.com/holidayevents
Collier Museum Homemade Holidays
The Collier Museum is getting crafty for the holidays! Stop by and make all sorts of holiday decorations inspired by Florida, nature and old-fashioned holiday traditions. All ages welcome, but best for ages 5-12. Drop in from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9 — no reservations necessary. Search the events at www.Colliermuseums.com for more details.
Naples Christmas Boat Parade
The 34th Annual Marine Industries Christmas Boat Parade on Naples Bay will be held on Saturday, Dec. 9, from 6-9 p.m. This year’s parade theme is “Let it Glow.” Decorate your boat and invite your friends and family aboard for a fun and festive evening. It’s also tons of fun to watch! Tickets to view the parade from the Naples city dock can be purchased at MIACC.org.
Candlelight Christmas Carols at Cambier Park
The 6th Annual Candlelight Christmas Carols at Cambier Park will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 15. Last year, there were over 900 carolers illuminating the park with candles and singing popular Christmas carols led by local musicians. The joyful event is free and open to all who wish to participate, regardless of religious affiliation. Lyric sheets and electric candles will be provided. Carolsatcambier.com