Dreaming of escaping somewhere warm this winter? I know I am! I asked Kalyn from All American Atlas to share her top tips for visiting Orlando in winter, and I am now dreaming of getting some winter sun in Florida! Check out her advice below….
When it comes to choosing a winter destination, there’s something to be said for somewhere warm, sunny, and with no snow forecast (or possible). In this guide to visiting Orlando in winter, we’re going to uncover why this Florida city is a great choice for couples, families, and solo travelers who don’t feel like shoveling their cars out from under snow and prefer to lay out by the pool.
Why Winter is the Best Time to Visit Florida
Here’s a secret: winter in Florida is the most pleasant time to be there. Seriously. Everyone usually considers Florida a summer destination because that’s when the kids are out of school and what could be better than some sun and sand in August?
The problem is that Florida, especially central cities like Orlando, get hot, humid, and almost unbearable during the summer months. Winter has great temperatures, and you don’t even lose any of the festive cheer.
From Christmas parties at the Magic Kingdom to stunning ice sculpture exhibits at Gaylord Palms (the one time you have to wear a parka), Orlando still has a festive feel. Just without the snow that turns to slush and having to run back inside every 10 minutes so you don’t get frostbite.
Winter Weather in Orlando
The temperature ranges from about 70 degrees to 84 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 29°C) in the winter months, and on most years, you can definitely (and should) wear shorts on Christmas day.
The humidity levels are also much lower than the summer, which makes it a really nice temperature to spend outdoors and celebrate the festive season with your family and friends.
Now, be warned that there may be some days that it may get cold, very rarely freezing temperatures, but possibly a couple of days in the 50s and 60s (10 to 20°C). For native Floridians, this is a “cold snap,” and for visitors, this feels balmy compared to most of the US and Europe!
These winter cold snaps never last for long though. The geography of Florida being a peninsula means that weather patterns shift quite quickly and so visitors are advised to check the weather right before you leave for Orlando because you can usually only tell a few days out how warm it is likely to be.
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What to Wear in Orlando in Winter
The best thing about dressing for Orlando in winter for those wanting a break from snowpants and gloves is that you can honestly usually get away with wearing shorts and a t-shirt. In the middle of January.
As mentioned above, you don’t want to just bring shorts and T-shirts to Orlando just in case you encounter a cold snap, so it’s advisable to bring layers. Have a pair of jeans, definitely, as well as a warm sweatshirt and a lighter cardigan or sweater for cooler nights.
But things like snowboots and your winter coat aren’t needed in Orlando, even when it does get cold because it will pass so quickly. This leaves more room in your suitcase for fun things like Disney autograph books and snacks!
Things to do in Orlando in Winter
As soon as Halloween ends, Orlando is transformed into a winter wonderland. Here are some of the best things to do in the winter in Orlando, including unique things to do in Orlando that only the locals know about!
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
The most talked about “extra ticketed” event at Disney’s Magic Kingdom is called Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. While you will still have holiday decorations at the Disney parks with regular entrance in the winter, this special party is held after hours so you get less crowds and plenty of entertainment.
From live shows and singers belting out Christmas tunes to gingerbread cookie bars to winter overlays to some of the major attractions, the entire park becomes extra magical during a Christmas party.
If you’re into meet and greets, you can also meet your favorite characters who dress up differently than they do during a regular park day, and plenty of other people will also be wearing Christmas attire like Christmas sweaters, antlers, and Christmas Mickey ears.
ICE! at Gaylord Palms
One of the most stunning displays in Orlando in winter is ICE! at Gaylord Palms, a magnificent ice sculpture experience. It’s truly an experience, because not only do you walk among the larger than life ice sculptures and ice sculpture landscapes, but you can also take your turn sliding down icy slides, sledding down indoor snow hills, and spending time meeting Santa and walking through Santa’s grotto.
These are some of the most popular tickets to get outside of the theme parks in Orlando in the winter months, and the theme changes each year. From the Christmas Story to Christmas around the World, a main storyline ties all of the sculptures together and makes this a must-visit.
The great thing about Gaylord Palms is also that once you’re done with the ICE! exhibit, they also have their own Christmas show in their beautiful courtyard, complete with acrobatics. The entire hotel is decked out for the winter season.
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Gatorland at Christmas
Want to experience the Florida sunshine and good weather while seeing what else Orlando has to offer? Gatorland is one of the best things to do with teenagers in Orlando who feel like they’re too cool for the theme parks, as there’s nothing that says “thrills” like zip lining over a pond of alligators or getting face to face with one of the world’s biggest gators.
Gatorland is a bit of a local secret, as many visitors don’t know about it, but it’s getting increasingly popular. They do great theming all year round, but particularly during the winter when you’ll notice the exhibits and surroundings decorated and in the winter spirit.
Gatorland is focused on conservation of alligators in Florida, which can be an issue due to the nature of alligators meaning they aren’t necessarily who people want as neighbors. At Gatorland, the alligators who would otherwise not be wanted find safe homes with caring keepers who are passionate about the protection of this natural Florida creature.
SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration
SeaWorld Orlando doesn’t miss out on the winter experiences, with plenty of winter-themed shows and decorations starting in November.
Perhaps the most spectacular thing about SeaWorld in the winter months is their lights display. This is the best place to see gorgeous Christmas lights in Orlando, with over 3 million of them making up a gorgeous backdrop to one of the most special times of the year.
*Before visiting SeaWorld please research the welfare of the animals and make sure you are comfortable supporting them*
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You don’t have to do anything specifically winter-themed to have a great time in Orlando in the winter. In fact, plenty of people choose to just enjoy the amazing weather and cooler temperatures and play lots of golf!
Golf is such an important part of Orlando culture and is a favorite pastime of visitors and locals alike. If you do want to stay near the theme parks, you can play one of the Disney golf courses, which are beautifully manicured, or you can hit some balls at other courses like Dubsdread.
Take advantage of the sunshine state and enjoy the great outdoors the Florida way.
Okay, the weather might not get to freezing, but that doesn’t mean Orlando hasn’t come up with innovative ways to let you skate on ice.
Either go ice skating on I-drive at the outdoor ice skating rink, especially set up in the winter months, or you can actually get an indoor ice skating experience at RDV Sportsplex, which has an Olympic sized ice rink and plenty of fun public skate sessions you can drop in on.
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Ride the Orlando Eye with Santa
The Orlando Eye towers high above Orlando and is a fun ferris-wheel type experience that gives you great views of the surrounding area.
But why ride it in the winter particularly? Because Santa rides too! During the winter months, the Orlando Eye transforms into a festive experience and you can choose to ride in a holiday-themed capsule while looking at the tree and Christmas lights below.
Christmas in Orlando
If you’ve ever wanted to see Santa Claus in a swimsuit, Orlando at Christmas is the time!
On Christmas day, all of the theme parks in Orlando are open and ready to help you celebrate. Universal Studios hosts a Grinchmas, centered around the famous character with a growing heart. At the Magic Kingdom, you can watch special Christmas fireworks and see the Christmas parade, which is filled with Disney characters dressed up in their holiday best.
You can even go to a Disney waterpark if the weather is nice enough, or spend time at the Grand Floridian Resort, looking at the massive gingerbread house and enjoying dinner at somewhere like the Grand Floridian Café.
If you are in Orlando on Christmas day, you should know that if you venture further than the theme parks, hotels, and theme park restaurants, you will find much more closed. The “local” Orlando is quiet on Christmas day as people are at home celebrating with their families.
If the idea of a theme park Christmas doesn’t appeal to you, it’s a great day to take a drive to a nearby beach and enjoy a very Floridian seaside Christmas day.
New Year in Orlando
When the holidays are over and it’s time to ring in the New Year, Orlando visitors will find plenty of options.
Of course, you can stick to the theme parks and see the New Year’s Eve fireworks at Disney’s Epcot, the most popular theme park on New Year’s Eve night (or see them the night before with fewer crowds!).
However, many visitors in Orlando choose to spend the evening at the bars and restaurants downtown around Lake Eola, which offer ways to party well into the night and ring in the New Year in a more adult style.
If you’ve got the little ones in tow, consider LEGOLAND on New Year’s Eve, which drops a LEGO brick at a much earlier hour and then sends everyone home to get in bed and let the parents get some sleep.
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Who Should Visit Orlando in Winter?
A winter in Orlando is a different kind of winter than you might find on postcards or holiday specials. But the weather in Florida in December, January, and February is so great that when other people head indoors for the season, Floridians head outdoors to experience all of what Orlando and the surrounding areas have to offer.
If you like sun, warmer temperatures, theme parks, and no snowdrifts in sight, you’ve found your perfect winter vacation destination! if you have visited Orlando Florida in winter, did you enjoy it? Let us know in the comments below!
About the Author
Kalyn Franke is an Orlando native and huge fan of traveling around the USA, which she documents in All-American Atlas. From the plains of Wyoming to the lakes of Florida to the small towns in Texas, she searches for the hidden gems, iconic landmarks, and All-American attractions wherever she goes. You can also find her on Facebook and Pinterest.
All photos provided by All American Atlas except the cover image.
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Just to let you know, this post may contain paid or affiliate links, which help to maintain Tales of a Backpacker and give me the chance to keep travelling, and to keep creating awesome content for you! I only recommend goods and services I believe are useful and reliable.Last updated: September 2, 2020