Citrus County is a gorgeous place steeped in the vibe of old-world Florida, where the people cultivate a slower pace of life and aren’t in a hurry to ‘get there first’. Crossing the county line, you almost physically feel the exhale, the unconscious relaxing of your shoulders as the plain opens up. You can almost convince yourself that you can feel the breeze off the waters of the Gulf, with its curling, leisurely estuaries and wetlands.

The holidays here are celebrated with an enthusiastic simplicity, focused on the community and its rich traditions. This place has a long history that is kept alive through the character of the people and the places where they’ve gathered for decades, staying in touch with the past even as they pace themselves into the future. Light and music shows dance in the sky, and tradition goes hand-in-hand with the contemporary.

If you’re looking for a bit of the old-fashioned next to the modern, the cities of Crystal River, Inverness, Floral City and Homosassa are bound to have just the right thing.

Crystal River

Christmas Tree Lighting Festival

On the first Friday of December, one of this community’s most popular holiday events literally brightens the entire town as the big tree in the Square is ceremonially lit for the holidays. It’s a vivacious kickoff to the season, with tons of shopping at the vendor booth, activities for the kids, food, beer, and wine, and the annual visit from Santa (even the adults love Santa). To top it off, there’s live music to enjoy and get in the spirit. It’s no wonder everyone in Crystal River looks forward to this every year!

Crystal River Tree Lighting Festival
Crystal River Town Square
555 N. Citrus Avenue
December 1, 2023 at 5pm
Free Admission

Christmas Show – Regal Railways Toy Train Shows and Sale

Crystal River is a delight any time of year, with its innate charm and its stature as a haven for manatees. The holidays bring out the old-world, small town feel of intimate, uncomplicated celebration with things everyone looks forward to each year. Like little toy trains. Who doesn’t love those? A miniature steam engine chugging through a snow-covered Christmas village, lights twinkling and choo-chooing its horn – really, who can resist that?

The Toy Train Show usually has a few train layouts on display so the kids can watch and enjoy inspecting the details, and while they’re doing that, the adults can shop for gifts at the vendor tables. Everything from train and hobby items for model-building, toys, handmade crafts, and entire train set models are available for purchase, plus plenty of food and drink. It’s a popular local staple that draws a big crowd, so get there quickly for the Early Bird parking!

Regal Railways Toy Train and Sale 

Florida National Guard Armory
8551 West Venable Street, Crystal River
December 2 at 9:00 am
Adults $6.00 children under 12 free; Early Bird $8.00 reservation 8am to 9am

2023 Crystal River Christmas Parade

A parade is always a favorite in any city, town, or hamlet, and this one is no exception. Crystal River chose “Lights, Camera, Christmas Magic” as the theme this year, where float creators are encouraged to feature cartoons and characters from Christmas movies. From classics like Charlie Brown to modern favorites like Home Alone, spectators will enjoy a captivating show of nostalgia and holiday staples. Make sure to visit the website for parade route and spectator information as well as to check for traffic detours!

“Lights, Camera, Christmas Magic!” Christmas Parade

Intersection of HWY 44 at NW 3rd Street, Crystal River
December 2 at 6pm Free Admission

Inverness

Movie in the Park – “The Polar Express”

Pack up your lawn chairs, cozy blankets, thermos and coolers for an outdoor screening of the Christmas classic film under a blanket of stars – which, by the way, we can do here in Florida this time of year. You can imagine the chill of the North Pole as you watch the 1950’s-era tale of a young boy who travels with other children on a magical train with its mysterious conductor, heading to visit Santa as he gets ready for the holidays. The journey is packed with lots of adventures and mishaps involving ghostly hobos, caribou, runaway train cars, and a magical bell.

The Polar Express

Liberty Park, 286 N. Apopka Ave, Inverness
December 1 from 6pm – 8pm
Free Admission

Christmas Crafternoon for Kids

The Old Courthouse Heritage Museum is transformed into a holiday workshop all afternoon for kids ages 3 and up to design and create their own ornaments. Parent and/or accompanying adult required to supervise. Who doesn’t have a cherished Christmas or Hanukkah ornament they made as kids, and has been carefully preserved to bring out each year? This is a great way for your kids to make a lasting memory that can be enjoyed for years to come, use their imaginations, and have fun with friends.

Christmas Crafternoon

Old Courthouse Heritage Museum, 1 Courthouse Square, Inverness
December 2 from 1pm to 3pm
Limited Space, Please Register/RSVPFree Admission

Olde Fashioned Christmas

Carolers strolling along singing seasonal tunes, musicians playing and sending notes into the winter air, and the delectable smells of hot food and scrumptious holiday treats everywhere – sounds good, doesn’t it? The inaugural event was such a success that the Rotary Club of Inverness is pulling out all the stops for the 2nd Annual Olde Fashioned Christmas celebration, and there’s something for everyone at this party. Your kids can get pictures with Santa Claus – who seems to really like Citrus County a lot, since he’s popping up everywhere – while you shop for stockings stuffers at the vendor booths, and enjoy the atmosphere at this free event.

The VIP Experience later in the evening is a slightly swankier party with adult beverages, hors d’oeuvres, music, silent auction, and more dessert treats (you might as well enjoy them; we’re all going to gain weight over the holidays). All ticket proceeds go to benefit the Rotary Club’s Charitable Foundation.

2nd Annual Inverness Olde Fashioned Christmas

The Valerie Theatre, 207 Courthouse Square, Inverness
December 12 from 5:30 to 9:30 pm
Free Admission to Main Event VIP
Experience Tickets can be purchased at Eventbrite

Valerie Players Holiday Express

Getting in on all the fun are the Valerie Players, who keep a busy schedule of live theatre performances throughout the year. They offer the citizens of Inverness the fantastic opportunity of seeing great dramas, comedies, and musicals with a live audience and the thrill of a real theatre experience. For the holidays, they’re mounting an original performance of music and short plays at the historic Valerie Theatre. The old playhouse has been a staple of Inverness since it was built in 1927, and it’s seen a lot of Christmas and holiday celebrations over the past 97 years. Soak up some Art Deco nostalgia and enjoy an evening of entertainment and fun that’s perfect for the whole family.

Holiday Express

207 Courthouse Square, Inverness
December 15-16 at 7pm
December 17 at 2pm
Tickets can be purchased HERE 

Floral City

Floral City Heritage Days

In Floral City, you’re always going to feel the vibe and energy of old-world Florida whatever time of year it is. Pastoral and rural, it’s dotted with roadside produce and craft stands, quaint shops, and people who love the quiet small-town life. During the holidays, the uncomplicated simplicity of Floral City sparkles with the Heritage Days Celebration. Horse-drawn carriages, quilts and crafts, vendor booths bursting with handmade artwork, toys, and wares are everywhere, and there’s plenty of music, games, activities, food, and drink to fill you with holiday joy. The Story Walk with Santa and Candles, Carriages and Carols are particular favorites of locals, and at the Duval-Metz house, tours will take visitors back through time with the Antique & Vintage Quilt Exhibit. Multiple authors will also be appearing to sign copies of their novels, including Muriel Eden-Paul, Gerry Mulligan, Tom Ritchie, and Sally Settle. If you’re in the mood for a slower pace and want to steep unhurriedly in the ambiance, this absolutely charming hamlet might be where you find it.

Floral City Heritage Days 

Downtown Floral City and the Duval-Metz House
December 1 and 2
Free Admission

Homosassa

Pet Pics with Santa

The Homosassa River tributary winds its way through town on its way through the Gulf in a serene, relaxed course that is reflected in the character of Homosassa itself. People here just aren’t in a hurry, preferring to enjoy the easy joy of watching the water over a glass of wine, or taking a boat out for a quiet day fishing – but they know how to have a good time, too. Christmas is a celebration of lights and music on the water, and you can stop anywhere along the shoreline for a cup of convivial fun during the holiday season and feel like you’re one of the locals.

If you have kids and are looking for a chance for them to meet Santa, you can bring your pets down to the Tractor Supply on December 9 to take photos with the guy in the red suit. Not only is it a fun day out with people and their pets – it also benefits the Tampa Bay Retired Police K-9 Foundation. The nonprofit works to raise awareness and medical funds for retired K-9 officers, whose human partners shoulder the financial burden of their health and long-term care.

Pet Pics with Santa

Tractor Supply, 3826 N. Suncoast Blvd, Homosassa
December 9 from 10 am to 2 pm
Photos $10 per person

Celebration of Lights

This unique, synchronized light and sound spectacular turns the Garden of the Springs into a wonderland of light and music, drawing people from all over Citrus County for this beloved holiday tradition. Sebastian Hawes designs an amazing display of glittering lights and decorations to accompany festive music and entertainment to create a breathtaking and lasting memory for everyone.  Transportation to the Garden will be provided by tram at the Visitor Center on US 19; pets are not permitted for their safety. If you haven’t been to visit this absolutely beautiful community, we’d say this is an ideal first time to go.

Celebration of Lights  Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

4150 S. Suncoast Blvd, Homosassa
December 16 from 5:30 pm to 9 pm
Tickets from $5 to $10

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Happy Winter Solstice!

All of us at Showcase wish you and yours a wonderful and safe holiday season, and the very best in the new year to come.