12/08/2014 09:26 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Holidays, Florida Style! 5 Tropical Traditions

By Dalia Colon for the Orbitz Travel Blog

When the weather outside is frightful, Northerners flock to Florida to escape the cold. But with no white Christmas to mark the holiday season, you'll have to learn to celebrate like the locals.

1. Key West: Wet Christmas

Boaters compete for prizes during the Schooner Wharf Bar & Galley Lighted Boat Parade. Photo courtesy of the the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.

The country's Southernmost city certainly knows how to get down during the holidays, with events ranging from "Snorkeling with Santa" to a performance of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker with a tropical twist. But it wouldn't be December in Florida without a lighted boat parade. Arrive early for a good spot to watch the Schooner Wharf Bar & Galley Lighted Boat Parade, which takes place Dec. 13, 2014. A children's steel drum concert gets the party started at 6 p.m., followed by the parade at 8 p.m.

2. St. Augustine: All Is Bright

St. Augustine's citywide Nights of Lights display. Photo courtesy of the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & the Beaches CVB.

Decorating an entire town with more than three million Christmas lights may sound over the top, but America's oldest city pulls it off with class. During Nights of Lights, St. Augustine's historic landmarks glisten in what National Geographic calls one of the top 10 places in the world to see holiday lights. The display, which lasts from Nov. 22, 2014, to Feb. 1, 2015, also coincides with special events and vacation deals.

3. Christmas: Do They Know It's Christmas?

Sending mail from the Christmas post office is a longstanding tradition. Photo courtesy of the Florida Photographic Collection at

Yes, Virginia, there is a town called Christmas, Florida. And while there isn't much for tourists in this hamlet, its proximity to Orlando -- about 25 miles to the east -- makes for a fun errand to the post office. Every winter, thousands of folks drive out of their way to get their holiday cards, letters and packages stamped with the coveted Christmas, Fla. postmark. While you're in the area, visit Fort Christmas Historical Park, which features replicas of 19th-century Florida homes, picnic pavilions, a playground and more.

4. Miami Beach: Menorahs and More

The menorah-lighting ceremony is only the beginning of the festivities during Chanukah Under the Stars. Photo by Chris Waits at Flickr Creative Commons.

Don't try this in the frigid North: Beth Torah Benny Rok Campus hosts Chanukkah Under the Stars. The alfresco event includes a candle lighting ceremony, waterslide, DJ music, cookie decorating, a foam pit and more. The event takes place Dec. 17 from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and it's open to the community for a cost.

5. St. Petersburg: Run Run Rudolph

The Jingle Bell Run raises money for the nonprofit Boley Centers. Photo from

Winter is racing season in Florida, with mild temperatures making for a comfortable workout. One of the most festive 5ks of the year is downtown St. Pete's Jingle Bell Run. Wear your most outrageous holiday get-up, or just festoon your shoes with bells (included in each registration packet, along with a T-shirt) so you'll jingle as you walk or run the waterfront course. The race takes place after sundown on a trail that's lined with luminaries and dotted with bands playing holiday music. Dogs and strollers are welcome. This year's event is Dec. 10, 2014 at 7:30 p.m.

More from the Orbitz blog:

5 Stunning Island Wedding Destinations
15 Things Never to Say to a Chicagoan
The 10 Most Traveled For Beers in America