The month of December is a pleasant time of year to visit Fort Myers. The temperatures have finally dipped out of the 90’s, people are full of holiday spirit and the winter tourists and seasonal residents have not fully descended on the area, meaning parking is not a problem at beaches, just the shopping centers and malls.
Because of the weather, the vast amount of outdoor space, as well as indoor activities, it’s a place where people can more confidently distance and still have a great time.
Boating is a favorite pastime here and during the holidays the waterways come alive with creative mariners who decorate their vessels for parades along canals, bays and rivers.
The Edison & Ford Winter Estates is a famous tourist attraction that opens at night during December for Holiday Nights. The gardens and estate homes are decked out to fit different themes. A few miles away, you’ll find the Holiday House; two historic homes open for appropriately distanced, nightly tours and decorated in elaborate garb.
For those who like musical theater, the Broadway Palm Dinner Theater has special holiday themed shows, a children’s theater and a seasonal buffet to feed the family.
It’s especially entertaining to see palm trees strung with Christmas lights, inflatable snowmen on the beach, and the bikini clad in Santa Hats with suntans. A tropical December is one to remember.
Photo courtesy of Miromar Outlets
Just off of Interstate 75, only 18 miles from the city of Fort Myers, this award winning, open-air Mediterranean-style outlet mall’s covered sidewalks are lined with over 160 designer and brand-name stores. While it’s fun to shop here year round, it’s extra special during the holidays with vibrant decorations and lots of appropriately distanced, live entertainment. Amidst picturesque fountains, koi ponds and vibrant murals, you’ll discover spectacular pricing at Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH, Neiman Marcus, Coach, Michael Kors, White House Black Market and more. There is an expansive lakefront dining piazza as well as additional restaurants and bars on the east entrance when you need to rest and refuel. A children’s play area offers a welcomed distraction for your little ones.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This expansive designer shopping outlets not only has amazing holiday deals but all kinds of entertainment and special events for the entire family during December.
Gina’s expert tip: Stop by the mall office for shopping coupons and information on dining incentives.
Read more about Miromar Outlets →
This award-winning theater puts on world-class productions. Located in the heart of beautiful downtown Fort Myers, “The Rep” (as locals call it) offers patrons a wide variety of productions, from dramatic to comedic. Shows typically occur in the historic Arcade Theatre, built in 1908. But during the holidays, the theater troop preforms It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play at their new outdoor stage at Edwards Drive and Jackson Street in downtown Fort Myers. Even in a pandemic, the show must go on, it just looks a little different. Tickets start at $60. Recognized nationally as “One of America’s Top Repertory Companies,” this group truly sets the bar for community theaters.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This award winning theater company gets creative for its Christmas show, moving the entire production to an outdoor stage.
Local Expert tip: The Rep (as locals call it) offers discounted preview shows for each production. Check their website for date and times.
Read more about Florida Repertory Theatre →
Experience Christmas at the farm, Southwest Florida style. Embracing agritourism, Springtime Plant Farm not only sells thousands of native shrubs and trees, it’s also home to an adventure park. During the holiday season you’ll find 30 decorated trees, a Christmas maze and more. The park boasts 300 animals and visitors are able to interact with with many of them. There’s a barnyard play area, bird aviary, pedal karts, steer roping and numerous additional activities for kids, both big and little. Food trucks set up shop on the weekends. Admission is $8 weekdays and $12 on weekends. It’s place where you could spend all day and not get bored.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: A year round agritourism stop, this farm lights up in December with decorations and family activities.
Gina’s expert tip: Fill out waivers for the Adventure Park online for a faster check in.
Read more about Christmas Festival →
Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
The Festival Of The Trees is a favorite, local holiday event that leaves attendees in awe at the creativity of those participating. Trees are lavishly decorated in themes, colors and to represent different hobbies and interests found in the area. Not only will you be inspired by viewing the trees on display at the historic Sidney and Berne Davis Art Center, but you’ll also get to vote on your favorite. The friendly competition adds an extra incentive for participants to put their best foot forward. The annual event takes place the day after Thanksgiving and runs until the first Saturday of December. This is a free event, however donations are accepted at the door, to help fund the mission of the Southwest Florida Goodwill Foundation.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Each year thousands of people flock to see these ornate, creative trees, voting on their favorites in the name of charity.
Gina’s expert tip: If you find one you like, the trees are auctioned off during a gala at the end of the week.
Read more about Festival of Trees →
Photo courtesy of Michael Shapiro Photography
Ideal for those wanting a touch of culture in paradise, the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre features a good mix of drama, musical revues and children’s programs each season. During the holidays, there is always an appropriately themed feature show. The 400-plus-seat auditorium (a former grocery store) hosts lunch and dinner performances with plenty of space to distance. The Broadway Palm also has a gift shop that carries unique, theatre-related items, trinkets and even colorful, local artwork so you can knock out some of your holiday shopping too. If you want an entertaining holiday show and a substantial hot meal, this is a good value for the entire family.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This dinner theater offers great entertainment and hot meals for a cool price, all season long, with special engagements during the holidays.
Gina’s expert tip: Arrive early and enjoy a drink in the lobby bar. Open to the public, it serves guests who aren’t staying for the show as well.
Read more about Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre →
Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
This seasonal farmer’s market is one of the more popular spots to find fresh produce and local goods, thanks in part to its location. Lakes Park is large, with lots of room to explore native flora and fauna. Prior to shopping, market goers are known to walk or bicycle around the extensive paths, stopping at designated workout stations along the way. The market has a large selection of local produce and tropical fruits; some organic. You’ll find numerous food vendors selling everything from empanadas and BBQ, to crepes and croissants. It’s also a good place to stock up on gifts such as handmade soaps and jewelry, local honey and more. Live entertainers occasionally make appearances; every week is a little different. The market is seasonal, open October through April.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This farmer’s market is not only loaded with local goods, its location makes it ideal for exploring the outdoors on foot, bicycles or paddle boats.
Gina’s expert tip: Put some cash in your wallet. Some vendors take credit cards but for the majority, cash is king.
Read more about Lake’s Park Farmer’s Market →
Boat parades are a favorite pastime for Southwest Floridians and almost any weekend throughout the month of December– and even during the week– you are sure to find one of these entertaining displays on one of the many waterways in the area. Cape Coral has one of the biggest. The festivities begin at Bimini Basin with food vendors, music, and crafts for pre-parade entertainment. The parade on Fort Myers Beach takes place in the Estero Bay with numerous restaurants and bars offering great vantage points. Bonita Springs boaters get into the action as well, decorating their vessels and costuming those on board, mostly in nautical and holiday themes. The efforts can get quite elaborate with boats including inflatables, sailboats, pontoons and even yachts. Dates and times vary but the show is going on.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Boaters in almost every community in the Fort Myers area deck the ‘bows’ for holiday parades, while spectators gather on shore and in anchored vessels.
Gina’s expert tip: Grab chairs and towels to sit on, as seating is not always available on the various parade routes.
Read more about Boat Parades →
Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
Holiday in the Park has been reimagined to keep crowds smaller and respect distancing, but the show still goes on. Festivities are found in the heart of Bonita Springs at Riverside Park, with its bandshell and shady trees. Stroll the grounds to enjoy the light displays while seasonal music plays in the background. There are several photo stations to capture your Florida holiday, and a drop box for letters to Santa. Organizers even predict it will snow. Fake snow, that is, blown from strategic locations throughout the park is signature to the annual celebration. Neighboring businesses also get in the spirit, competing for best decorated. Enjoy the holiday stroll every night through January 4th.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This is one of the most anticipated hometown holiday celebrations in Bonita Springs. It’s also where you’ll find the city’s Christmas Tree.
Gina’s expert tip: Pack your lawn chairs and blankets to spread out in the park.
Read more about Holiday In The Park →
Photo courtesy of Vandy Major/Burroughs Home
For more than fifty years, the Fort Myers Woman’s Community Club has taken over historic sites in Fort Myers during the holidays. Currently located at the Burroughs Home, the group adorns this well preserved property with elegance and in period décor. The club doesn’t stop here, but also includes the neighboring Langford-Kinston home to make this event a two-stop tour. The Holiday House, with it’s twinkling lights, usually opens the first week in December and runs right up until Christmas. Small groups will be taken through the property and masks are required. This is a low key holiday stop for all ages.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Step back in time and tour these festively decorated, turn of the century homes, set along the Caloosahatchee River.
Gina’s expert tip: The streets in this area are one way and parking can be found in surrounding lots, keep your eyes open for parking attendants offering directions.
Read more about Burroughs Home & Gardens →
Photo courtesy of Gina BIrch
The Edison & Ford Winter Estates is one of the most popular attractions in the Fort Myers area and during the holidays, it lights up, literally. Holiday Nights themes rotate from year to year but the premise is the same; decorating the historic homes from top to bottom with thousands of lights and traditional trimmings. A tree at the base of the historic Mysore Fig, on the Henry Ford property, is adorned with animated lights choreographed to holiday music. A Children’s Tree Trail features handmade ornaments from local students, and Santa can be found at the Edison Caretaker’s Home; via video. Wander the grounds on your own or book a guided tour. Holiday Nights is the only time of year the grounds are open past sunset; an educational and beautiful way for the entire family to spend an evening.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: During Holiday Nights, the grounds come alive with thousands of lights and unique decorations in the buildings and gardens of the landmark estates.
Gina’s expert tip: Check the website for updated information on special entertainment during the holiday run.
Read more about Edison & Ford Winter Estates →