Snowbirds come to the Sunshine State… for a good reason. However, in the holiday months locally, our temperatures are far removed from the traditional winter wonderland experienced elsewhere throughout the country. Even though it doesn’t feel like Christmas in Florida, there are still a ton of ways to celebrate the holidays. Best of all, they’re strictly inspired by our hometown. Across the state, there are Christmas activities and traditions — both festive and bizarre — that will make attendees of all ages experience the holiday cheer. Here are the Top 8 Christmas Things You Can Only Do In Florida: 

1. Surfing Santas 

Where else can you see Jolly St. Nick shredding waves? Cocoa Beach resident George Trosset came up with a way to hang loose over the holiday season. With his son, he donned Santa gear and hit the ocean on Christmas Eve. 

Now, a family tradition has turned into a major surfing event. Surfing Santas attracts thousands of costumed riders and spectators to the Central Florida shoreline. Some put on a full suit; others choose a holiday-themed tropical shirt or swimsuit. Those that are featured in the best outfit will be rewarded with a custom surfboard. Best of all, feeling all the gnarly Christmas spirit at Cocoa Beach is absolutely free. 

For those who think it’s a little too chilly for such festive beachgoer activities, keep this in mind: it’s expected to be in the ’70s this Christmas Eve. 

2. Boat Parades 

Our state has 8,000 miles of shoreline. Because of the coastal terrain, chances are there’s a good chance you’ll see a boat parade brighten the bay front. From small to big city festivities, there’s going to be a floating light show nearby. For scenic parades, check out Fort Lauderdale’s Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade, Tamp, Apollo Beach, and St. Augustine’s Regatta of Lights. 

From sailboats to trawlers, and yachts to shrimp boats, participants usually compete for the best theme, often emphasizing the maritime roots and rich nautical heritage of our state. 

Come early and find a nice place to lay out the lawn chairs. No matter where you are near the water, you’ll get a delightful (and free) view of the passing decor. 

3. Pay Respect To The Great Sand Tree

Yeah, you read that right. 

West Palm Beach waterfront hosts the world’s only 35-foot, 800-ton holiday sand tree named Sandi. At the annual Holiday In Paradise, synchronized music and light show will run nightly on the quarter hour, blasting the sand mound with varied holiday illumination. Other mainstays include a 65-foot Ferris wheel featuring gondola seating (for better views to see Sandi) and additional sand sculptures that combine 100 tons of sand.  

4. Beach Themed Decoration 

Where else do you see plastic flamingos on lawns during the holiday season? Trees are festooned with starfish and seashells. Palm strings are strung with lights. Beach-based snowmen are built, created by powder white, sugar sand that can sub as snow for making Frosty! The shore also sparkles with sparkling lights, and quirky decorations are planted into the sand. Our residents and businesses are obsessed with creating over-the-top, tropical Xmas decor, really emphasizing what Xmas in Florida really looks like!

5. Explaining Certain Things To The Kids

Here’s an uncomfortable conversation Floridians must have with their children. No homes in Florida have a fireplace, which leads to dicey discussions. Perhaps Santa comes in through the front door, which is obviously a security issue. Or, maybe he slides in through the air-conditioning ducts. There’s also the question about what an ugly sweater is — since we locals never have to wear sweaters, there’s always showing the pics of the kiddos on Google Images. Things get a little sad and unseasonable this holiday when your children inquire what hot chocolate is.

6. Key West Lighted Bike Ride

Stringing up white or colored lights on the house isn’t the only way to show our state’s holly and jolly spirit! Touring the neighborhood’s illuminated displays is a pretty common activity in all 50 states. However, in Key West, light gazing takes on a whole new vantage when doing it from two wheels. 

Each season, the Key West Lighted Bike Ride invites people to string up their beach cruisers and ride around town. The tour weaves through Truman Avenue and Duval Street. The price of admission is a single toy donation. 

7. Gingerbread Extravaganza 

Again, we’re heading to Jacksonville this Xmas for the 20th Annual Gingerbread Extravaganza Experience. There are more than 50 gingerbread structures displayed, alongside other holiday offerings available to be viewed by us locals. 

Most feature a uniquely Jacksonville theme, as well as historical gingerbread buildings of the area. This year’s cookie compilations were pasted together with frosting and creativity to commemorate the city’s 200-year bicentennial mark. 

8. Indoor Snow

Let it snow in the Sunshine State! There are very few places where you can experience freezing temperatures locally. Each year, the Gaylord Palms looks for inspiration… mainly from our frigid neighbors up North… for a frozen, Xmas spectacular. 

There are a ton of frosty-inspired activities at the annual ICE! At Gaylord Palms, highlighted by a carving exhibit crafted from two million pounds of ice. The hotel also features real snow tubing, a Sounds of the Season concert, and an hour-long Cirque du Soleil-like show.