The holidays are fast approaching and there’s plenty of incredible holiday events in Gainesville and Ocala to enjoy with the whole family. Whether you’re new to the area or visiting to decide whether Alachua or Marion Counties could be your new home, we’re here to give you the rundown on the best things to do in Ocala and Gainesville this holiday season.

Alachua County

Tree Lighting

Throughout late November and early December

Is there anything more festive than a tree lighting? There are plenty to choose from when you’re looking for holiday events in Ocala and Gainesville. Light Up Tioga is one of Alachua County’s most popular events of the year, with photo opportunities with Santa, live performances, food trucks, face painting, pony rides, and of course, the tree lighting. The Haile Homestead Holiday Decorations are also open to tours on Saturdays and Sundays throughout December, giving you a glimpse of Victorian Christmas at this 1856 home.

Festival of Trees

December 2, 2021

The Festival of Trees Kickoff Party is an annual holiday cocktail party, organized by the Gainesville Woman’s Club and Keith Watson Events. From 6-9pm, guests can enjoy live holiday music and a special visit from Santa, with food and drinks provided all evening. There’s also a chance to view some beautifully decorated Christmas trees and enter a raffle to win one of your own, along with a few holiday photo opportunities to capture the memories forever.

Holiday Market

November 27, 2021, and December 18, 2021

If you’re looking for things to do in Gainesville, look no further than the Holiday Market. Find gifts for your loved ones and support local makers and artists, all while enjoying food and coffee from Curia on the Drag, holiday specials from Dad’s Bar, or snacks from the various food trucks in attendance.

Children’s Holiday Breakfast

December 4, 2021

Enjoy a free holiday breakfast for children under 12 and an accompanying adult at the Historic Gainesville Woman’s Club. Make an ornament or decorate a cookie to take home with you and help support local nonprofits in our community.

Girlfriend’s Holiday Brunch

December 5, 2021

Grab your girlfriends for a holiday brunch experience from 10 am to 1 pm at the Historic Gainesville Woman’s Club. Take a few photos, enjoy some food and drinks, and buy raffle tickets to win a fully-decorated Christmas tree to be delivered to your home or business the next day.

The Nutcracker Play

December 19, 2021

Indulge in a holiday classic with Gainesville’s Dance Alive at their performance of The Nutcracker. The whole family will be captivated by the Sugar Plum Fairy, dancing amidst the snowflakes with her toy soldiers and the Nutcracker Prince.

Trees and Treats

December 11, 2021

Get ahead of the game and start planning for next year’s festive season by planting a pine tree at Prairie Creek Preserve. There’s even holiday cookie decorating that all ages can enjoy, so bring your whole family along, get your hands a little messy, and spend some time giving back to nature this Christmas.

North Pole Nights

December 3, 10, 17, and 24, 2021

Snow? In Florida? Yes, you did hear that right! Come down to the Newberry Community Hall & Memorial Park for faux snow, crafts, and a Christmas story told by Mrs. Claus. Don’t forget to bring your letters to Santa to put in the mailbox in time for Christmas!

Marion County

Holiday Golf Cart Parade

December 18, 2021

Grab your tinsel, glitter, and every ornament you can think of to get ready for the 3rd Annual Downtown Ocala Golf Cart Parade! Put your holiday decorating skills to the test to impress the judges with the most unique carts and costumes to win a special prize.

Ocala Christmas Parade

December 11, 2021

Enjoy a 65-year tradition and visit the Ocala Christmas Parade this year. Following a 2-mile stretch down East Silver Springs Boulevard, the parade will feature decorated vehicles and floats to honor first responders and military members under the theme “A Heroes’ Christmas.”

Christmas Lights Spectacular

From November 26, 2021

Take a trip through the Florida Horse Park and witness over a mile of stunning Christmas lights. It’s the only drive-through light spectacular for residents of North Central Florida, so bundle up the family and throw a few of your favorite festive snacks (or Thanksgiving leftovers!) in the car so that you’re all set for an evening driving through the most eye-catching holiday displays in Marion County.

Trains At The Holidays

Daily from December 18, 2021 through Jan 2, 2022

Catch the 25th annual Trains at the Holidays exhibit from the College of Central Florida through the New Year. Presented by the College and the Ocala Model Railroaders’ Historic Preservation Society, take a look at beautiful historic model train layouts and railroad memorabilia. You may even spot a few familiar landmarks, like the Six-Gun Territory theme park from right here in Ocala!

Cut Down Your Own Christmas Tree

Daily until Christmas Eve

Start a new family tradition this year with an adventure in Ocala National Forest to cut down your very own Christmas tree. Pull on those hiking boots, explore the wilderness, and chop down a Sand Pine tree to bring home for the holidays.

There’s so much on offer in Alachua and Marion Counties. From Thanksgiving feasts, to festive Christmas light shows, you’re sure to find an event or two that will help you to end the year on a high. Happy holidays!