17 Must-Do Events for SWFL Kids this December

Create new or embrace old seasonal traditions in Southwest Florida with symphonic Nutcracker performances, holiday festivals and illuminated boat tours and parades.

BY November 27, 2023
(Courtesy Pixabay Images)

Southwest Florida is brimming with an array of joyous celebrations at the end of the year.

Expect enchanting holiday festivities with faux snow and real good food, menorah lightings each night of Hanukkah and a countdown to 2024 beginning with magical fireworks displays this December.


Nutcracker Performances

Dec. 9 and 16

The Nutcracker Gulfshore Ballet at Tribby Arts Center (9th) and (16th) Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, Fort Myers 

The professional ballet company brings a timeless holiday classic alongside Gulf Coast Symphony in a breathtaking display of artistry and imagination, captivating audiences of all ages. This performance of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece is the only one in Lee County accompanied by a full orchestra. Two former Miami City Ballet principal dancers, exquisite choreography and a live score come together.

Get Tickets 


Dec. 20-22

The Nutcracker presented by Naples Ballet at Artis—Naples

The most wonderful time of the year is back at Hayes Hall, with Naples Ballet embodying the evergreen tale to a symphonic score performed by the Naples Philharmonic. 

Get Tickets


Dec. 29 

NUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet! at Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, Fort Myers

Catch this nationally touring show in one of two performances to experience the international talents of the troupe, like Ukrainian principal artists, in this acrobatic interpretation of the European story and Russian score. Handmade costumes, 10-foot tall stage puppets, handpainted sets and 40 professional ballerinas unite to create an enchanting holiday story.

Get Tickets 



Now — Jan. 7 

Johnsonville Night Lights in the Garden at Naples Botanical Garden

A campfire-themed photo opportunity beckons guests to capture memories while the majestic bromeliad tree, adorned with more than 300 plants, makes its yearly return alongside the highly anticipated light displays all throughout the garden. Find glowing drinks and furniture around the property, and on select evenings, enjoy Dutch bites from local food truck Dutchkinz. New GLOW tickets offer guests on-theme merchandise, such as a branded bag and a light-up necklace, to commemorate the evening. The event has special holiday treats, serving up s’mores fries—sweet potato fries drizzled with marshmallows, chocolate and a sprinkling of graham cracker. Hurry and grab your tickets, this event usually sells out each year!

Find Out More


Dec. 1

Annual Bell Tower Tree Lighting & Luminary Extravaganza

At this family Christmas festival, Santa Claus, arriving in style on a South Trail Fire Department fire truck at 6:30 p.m., headlines the event with a magical tree lighting ceremony. The Grinch adds his mischievous touch, arriving in a decked-out Moke alongside recognizable princesses littles can meet and take photos with. The evening unfolds with live music by an emcee and DJ, a bounce house, face painting, balloon artists and locally rescued reptiles from Adam’s Animal Encounters. Enjoy inflatable archery, meet Misty the mini pony and capture memories at themed photo booths. 

Find Out More


Dec. 2

2023 F.I.S.H. 10k/5k and Youth Reindeer Run at the Sanibel Recreation Center 

The 15th annual race is followed by a kids-only fun run inside the recreation center’s gym. Afterward, join in on the family fun to celebrate all runners with a hot cocoa bar, pizza and barbecue from Island Pizza, photo ops with Santa, a bounce house, face painting and crafts. 

Find Out More 


Dec. 2

Holiday Festival of Lights at Cape Coral Parkway, Cape Coral

The more than 30-year-old celebration opens by welcoming jolly Saint Nick to the festivities for the official lighting of the 26-foot tree in Big John’s Plaza. The Tiny Tots Train welcomes all littles aboard for a ride around Snowcap Square and through the inflatable Candy Cane Park. Local musicians, entertainers and dance troupes keep up the holiday spirits throughout the event.

Find Out More 


Dec. 5

Mini Chef Cooking Class at Lake Kennedy Center, Cape Coral

A hands-on learning experience for little chefs ages 3 to 6, where chef Cameron provides all of the tools, ingredients and instructions to make one of the iconic dishes from Peppa Pig—Muddy Puddle Cookie Pies.

Find Out More 


Dec. 6-24

Christmas Village at Cape Christian, Cape Coral

The church’s field transforms into an enchanting wonderland with seasonal treats like hot cocoa and s’mores, cookie decorating, a wishlist and letters for Santa station, and crafts with Mrs. Claus inside an interactive gingerbread house. Faux snow flurries fall all around while the festival offers ice skating, snowball fights, holiday hayrides, a 20-foot slide, games and evening screenings of classic holiday movies on a 40-foot screen each night.

Find Out More


Dec. 7-15

Chanukah Celebration throughout Charlotte County

Each night of Hanukkah, a menorah lighting kicks off the festival with traditional Jewish food, such as sufganiyah (an Israeli donut) and latkes, live music and entertainment in different parts of the county. Keep the celebrations going, from a menorah lighting at Port Charlotte Town Center, to a night of live music and crafts at Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda.

Find Out More 


Dec. 10

6th Annual Paradise Christmas Fair at Laishley Park, Punta Gorda

More than 100 vendors of crafts, art and food attend this annual event while Santa snaps photos with guests the Southwest Florida way—with the glimmering water in the background. Live music sets the scene while themed children’s reindeer games dot the grounds.

Find Out More 


Dec. 11

Community Wide Chanukah Celebration at Mercato on the Lawn, Naples

Local musical groups Naples Klezmer Revival Band and the choir from Temple Shalom sing Hanukkah songs as the festivities kick off the fifth night of Hanukkah right before the menorah lighting. Taste traditional foods, such as latkes and sufganiyot, that are made fresh onsite by Chef Dalia. Bring the kids by Melody the Clown’s station for balloon art.

Find Out More


Dec. 13 and 14, 20 and 21

Introduction to Code Camp at Edison and Ford Winter Estates, Fort Myers

Part of the Homeschool Series, this interactive class teaches the basics of computer science and coding to kids in elementary school. Aspects like coding variables and the rudimentary elements of video games are explored while campers are encouraged to make their own code to create games and stories in each of the two-hour sessions.

Find Out More 


Dec. 14-31

ELF The Musical at Fort Myers Theatre

The classic holiday movie hits the stage in this musical performance following the story of Buddy, an orphaned human who is raised by Santa’s elves. Once grown up, Buddy sets out on a mission to discover his father’s identity and, in doing so, brings Christmas magic to New York City.

Find Out More


Dec. 16

Polar Express Family Party at Four Freedoms Park, Cape Coral

Families are encouraged to turn this holiday celebration into a pajama party and visit each station for arts and crafts, hot chocolate and yummy treats. Get settled on the lawn before the illuminated boat parade begins with a slew of vessels decked with thousands of holiday lights floating in a precession past the waterfront park. At the end of the night, families snuggle in for a viewing of a classic season film, The Polar Express.

Find Out More 


Dec. 1-31

Lighted Canal Cruises and New Year’s Eve Celebration & Fireworks Display Fishermen’s Village, Punta Gorda

Throughout the month, admire Christmas lights the Southwest Florida way by chartering a private, hour-long cruise for the family on a double-decker tour boat that sails through illuminated residential canals. On New Year’s Eve, a DJ sets the holiday mood until country group Shane Duncan Band performs later in the evening. Onsite vendors host activities for kiddies, such as face painting. To view the fantastical fireworks display, stay near the docks or board a cruise to see the show from Charlotte Harbor.

Find Out More


Dec. 20 and 27

Holidays of SWFL at Collier Museum at Government Center, Naples

Bring your preschoolers, ages 3 to 5, to learn through interactive lessons how people from different cultural backgrounds celebrate the holiday season across the country. American, Mexican, Guatemalan and Haitian holiday traditions are explored and celebrated through storytelling, arts and crafts, sing-alongs and food. 

Find Out More


Related Images: