Florida resorts deck their halls for yuletide travelers

Special correspondent

In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas at Florida resorts. If this year you are planning a getaway for the holidays, Florida properties are ready for the holiday season with majestic Christmas trees, special decorations and themed activities and attractions.

Here are some you may wish to check out:

Captiva – The Sixth Annual Captiva Holiday Village gets into spirit of the season with various events on specially-themed weekends in November and December. The hoteliers, merchants, attraction owners and restaurateurs of Captiva Island get into the act beginning the weekend after Thanksgiving. Events typically include fireworks, tree lightings, holiday readings, musical performances, lighted boat parade, decorated golf cart parade and more.Visit www.CaptivaHolidayVillage.com.

Florida Keys – Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys puts a Florida Keys twist on treasured seasonal activities – think Santa on a Jet Ski rather than a sleigh. Those who would like to escape to the Florida Keys for a December getaway may wish to check out the Hawks Cay Christmas Package. The package includes hotel accommodations or one of the property’s two- and three-bedroom villa lodgings as well as these features (a $300 dollar value): savings of 15 percent off accommodations on a stay or two nights or more; 15 percent off Main Marina accommodations on a stay of two nights or more (including nightly and weekly live-aboard boat slips); Fridays at 6 p.m. (Resort Lobby): Story Time and Hot Chocolate with Mrs. Claus; Christmas “Spirit” Card: A punch card allows guest to receive a sample of a designated Christmas cocktail at each of 4 outlets (Bar at Alma, Beach Grill Bar, Tiki Bar and Island Time –Island Time would be non-alcoholic) during business hours; Saturdays 10 – 11 a.m. - Meet Santa Claus himself; Saturdays at 4 p.m.: Decorate Christmas cookies with a special Christmas helper; and other features. The package is valid on bookings Nov. 29-Dec. 25. For rate details, inclusions, and terms, visit www.hawkscaychristmas.com.

Kissimmee – The magic of the holiday season comes to Gaylord Palms Resort from Nov. 24 to Jan. 3. The resort is dressed to the nines with two million lights, poinsettias galore, a 54-foot-tall Christmas tree and other decorations. ICE! is a huge highlight with hand-carved ice sculptures made from nearly two million pounds of ice, ice slides, an ICE! Bar for adults, and live ice carving stations. The theme for ICE! this year is the beloved classic poem “’Twas The Night Before Christmas.”

Another activity at Gaylord Palms is the new The Elf on the Shelf® Scavenger Hunt that takes guests on a journey throughout the holiday-clad hotel. Participants follow clues and scan the hotel to spot the 10 scout elves that have landed at Gaylord Palms. By solving puzzles and finding all of the elves, guests will reveal the elves’ names so they can report back to Santa. All families that complete the scavenger hunt will win a prize.

Other attractions and activities include the Alpine Rush Snow Tubing on an 18-foot, eight-lane tubing hill covered with snow in the resort’s Alpine Village, character dining and meet and greets; Brunch with Mrs. Claus; gingerbread decorating; and entertainment including a new live stage show, Cirque Dreams Unwrapped. Visit www.ChristmasAtGaylordPalms.com.

Lake Buena Vista/Orlando – The resorts at Walt Disney World go all out for the holiday season with spectacular trees, lights, poinsettias and other decorations, including gingerbread houses. Disney’s Victorian-inspired Grand Floridian Resort & Spa features an amazing, Victorian-style 16-foot-high gingerbread house in the resort’s lobby. It requires 800 pounds of flour, 600 pounds of sugar and 1,050 pounds of honey to build, and it sports a chimney. If you look closely, periodically you will see puffs of smoke. And since the sight of all that sweet concoction may tempt you, there is a Bake Shop behind it. The Grand Floridian is a monorail ride away from Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park, which is decorated with festive Christmas trees, miles of garlands, millions of lights and thousands of poinsettias. A highlight of the Magic Kingdom’s holiday decorations is the Castle Dreamlights, with more than 300,000 white lights giving Cinderella Castle the aspect of an ice palace. Special events at Disney World for the holiday season include Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom, a separate ticket event with a special holiday-themed parade, snow flurries on Main Street, and Christmas-themed entertainment on select evenings in November and December; the Candlelight Processional at Epcot featuring an orchestra, massed choir and celebrity narrators telling the Christmas story (included in theme park admission); and the Osborne Family Spectacle Of Dancing Lights, with millions of lights “dancing” to music and snow flurries, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (included in park admission). Visit www.disneyworld.com.

Another option in Lake Buena Vista/Orlando is the Holiday Happenings at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin at the Epcot resort area. This resort offers a variety of festive events and activities beginning in December with two special guest hosts, Santa and Mrs. Claus. Activities include mingling with a tropically-clad Santa who’s brought along his favorite elf, Kandy Kane; lighting of the 45-foot Christmas tree with Mrs. Claus in the Dolphin lobby on select nights; and the option for children to be tucked in by one of Santa’s elves in costume on Christmas Eve. Santa and Mrs. Claus Meet ‘n Greets occur on select nights in Santa’s customized Tiki hut. The hut features reindeer, palm trees and flamingos. Other highlights include a chocolate holiday sculpture weighing approximately 2,000 pounds featuring a life-sized Santa, fireplace, Christmas tree, toy train and seven-foot-tall nutcracker displayed in the lobby of the Swan during December. Visit www.santasfavoriteresort.com.

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