The holidays are one of the best times to visit Walt Disney World — there are festivities every night, the resorts are intricately decorated and look magical, and it seems like the whole property got itself into the holiday spirit.
But, you can only go to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party so many times. The gingerbread house at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort is wonderful, but it’s a brief diversion. If you’re in Orlando for an extended period of time and you’re looking for some off-property holiday attractions, don’t worry — Central Florida is as Christmasy as it gets.
Here are just a few of the amazing things you can take time out of your trip to check out — and as a bonus, most are free.
ICE at Gaylord Palms
We’ll start with one that isn’t free, but is so remarkable, you’ll definitely think it’s worth the price of admission.
Located just across I-4 from Walt Disney World, the Gaylord Palms Resort is one of the biggest and best off-property hotels in the area — complete with several feature pools, shops, and restaurants. And, during the holidays, the resort gives itself a makeover with trees, lights, and tons of decorations.
The centerpiece attraction, however, is the hard-ticket exhibit called ICE — an show featuring dozens of hand-sculpted ice features, each with an overarching theme. The 2019 show is themed around Polar Express, while past years have seen classics like The Christmas Story and A Charlie Brown Christmas. There are sculptures, lighting effects, and even slides that the whole family can enjoy.
The sculptures are elaborate, and the procession through the rooms feels not dissimilar from a Disney dark ride. And, if you’re afraid of the cold, don’t worry — the resort provides bulky winter coats for you to use.
While ICE is certainly the main event, there are other attractions on-hand, making the Gaylord Palms a decent half-day stop. These include snow tubing, snowball fighting, live stage shows, and more.
Frosty’s Christmastime Lounge
While ICE at Gaylord Palms has Disney-like spectacle, Frosty’s Christmastime Lounge is far more DIY in its scope. That said, it is exactly the kind of kitschy local theme bar its name conjures to your mind.
Yes, that’s right — we’re talking about a year-round Christmas-themed quasi-dive bar.
It is, as you’d expect, not quite Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto. However, it has a kind of local’s charm that you might enjoy if you’re the type to seek out goofy bars when you travel. The walls are lined with Christmas ornaments and decorations, there’s a faux-snow machine, and the cocktails have a fun Christmasy theme to them.
Is it the greatest bar in Orlando? It is not. Can it get a bid rowdy? Absolutely. Is it a place for kids? Definitely not. But, who cares!? It’s a Christmas bar! It’s stupid fun, and check your snark at the door — you’ll have a blast.