December is here, holidays are in the air, and the countdown to 2021 is in full swing! As we enter the final month of 2020, we hope you find this guide of local events helpful in adding a little extra cheer to you and yours. With in-person, virtual, and socially distanced events available, there is something for everyone to ensure both fun and safety for all.
Cookies with Santa by Sarasota Manatee Mom *SOLD OUT*
Stage Door Studios
4001 Cattlemen Rd, Sarasota, FL 34233
When: December 6, 2020 | 9:00AM – 2:00PM
Sarasota Manatee Mom presents our 3rd annual “Cookies with Santa” event!
Would you like a great photo with Santa for your Christmas card?
Worried about the uncertainty of where Santa will be during the holidays?
Santa will be located in his own, quiet room and ready for photos with your family. You can choose to sit 6 feet from Santa all the way to sitting on his lap. We would like you to choose what is comfortable for your family. You will purchase tickets in time slots to assure enough uninterrupted time is allotted to you and your family.
INCLUDED IN YOUR TICKET:
- Sit for a professional photo with Santa in a safe environment. You will have your own time slot and the photo will be emailed directly to you
- Make fun holiday crafts and write a letter to Santa!
- Play fun reindeer games!
- Decorate Der Dutchman Sarasota cookies for Santa! (You’ll take them home with you)
- Adults will get a bag of holiday gifts from community organizations!
- *A portion of the event proceeds will be given to Forty Carrots Family Center. Tickets are non-refundable.*
UTC Holiday Festival of Lights
When: November 21, 2020 – January 3, 2021 | 6:30PM – 9:30PM
Celebrate the holiday season in Sarasota-Bradenton at UTC! This year’s reimagined holiday experience – UTC Holiday Festival of Lights – is aimed at inspiring awe and wonder in the hearts of friends, families, and communities through millions of lights over 44 nights.
- Holiday movies under the stars: Fridays & Saturdays | 7 PM | West District, parking area across from DSW
- Fireworks: Saturdays | 9 PM
- Horse-drawn carriage rides* ($5 per passenger): Thursdays-Saturdays, 6-10 PM | Sundays 6-8:30 PM | Pick up/drop off at Mall at UTC valet area. *Rides provided on first-come, first-served basis
- Outdoor Holiday Market: Nov. 21-22 & Dec. 5-6 | 11 AM – 7 PM Saturday and 11 AM – 6 PM Sunday | Mall at UTC, parking area adjacent to Brio Tuscan Grille
- Ugly Sweater Alley: West District, between BurgerFi and Ethan Allen
- Giant holiday greeting card displays, decorated by local schools
- Plus so much more magical, memorable experiences! Help us spread cheer, not germs
Palmetto’s Christmas in the Park Visit with Santa
Palmetto Historical Park
515 10th Ave W, Palmetto, FL 34221
When: December 3, 2020 | 1:00PM – 4:00PM
OPTION 1: One ticket includes a visit with Santa for up to ten people. This ticket option DOES NOT include a tour of the decorated buildings.
Visits with Santa are by reservation only. Please bring your own camera for pictures. You may also provide your child’s mailing address when you register for your visit and Santa will mail them a letter! While in the park you may participate in a scavenger hunt on the grounds and several self-guided reindeer games, and enter a contest for a family prize package. Kona Ice will also be on-site selling delicious treats! *Each tour time can only be booked by one user who may bring up to nine guests with them. Please be advised that social distancing guidelines will be followed and masks are required for this event.
Downtown Venice Christmas Walk
Historic Downtown Venice, FL
101 W Venice Ave #23, Venice, FL 34285
When: December 3, 2020 | 5:00PM – 8:00PM
Come out to this year’s Downtown Venice Christmas Walk, a shopping promotion to support small local businesses. Enjoy extended hours at local shops, treats, live music, and the twinkle of lights on decorated trees along Miami, Tampa, and West Venice avenues. Take a stroll and delight in the warm glow of decorated holiday storefront windows. Find out who won Venice Main Street’s decorating awards for Most Creative, Most Elegant, Most Traditional, Most Creative Use of Merchandise, Most Whimsical, and Best Use of Lights.
Holiday Splendor Drive-Thru for Toys for Tots
5401 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota, FL 34243
When: December 3, 2020 | 6:00PM – 8:00PM
Visit The Ringling for a Holiday Splendor drive-through experience and help support the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots, serving Sarasota and Manatee counties. Bring an unwrapped toy to donate during your festive drive through the holiday decorations! Free cocoa and cookies will be served by Metz Catering.
** Due to COVID-19, this year’s Holiday Splendor event will be held as a drive-through version and will not include the traditional performances. Cars will drive through Central Campus Gate and complete the loop around the Museum of Art and exit via the South Gate. In exchange for unwrapped new toys, guests driving through will receive a $5 off coupon to return to the museum!
St. Armands Circle Holiday Night of Lights
St. Armands Circle
300 Madison Drive, Sarasota, FL 34236
When: Friday, December 4, 2020 | 6:00PM – 9:00PM
Celebrate a magical evening on St. Armands Circle with Christmas Carols and the lighting of their spectacular 55 ft. tree (the largest on the Golf Coast of Florida)! The lighting takes place at 6:00 pm and you may run into Santa, Mrs. Claus, and their elves. Enjoy the beauty of St. Armands Circle as well as merchants’ “Holiday Open House Welcome.” All businesses will continue to adhere to state and city guidelines encouraging masks and operating below capacity.
Outdoor Family Movie Night: “The Star” at Ascension
Ascension Lutheran Church
800 McIntosh Rd, Sarasota, FL 34232
When: December 4, 2020 | 6:00PM – 9:00PM
Bring your kids and family, friends, and chairs/blankets for this animated Christmas film experience! “The Star” will be featured outdoors at the Ascension Lutheran Church field (on McIntosh Road in Sarasota) for an evening of family-friendly fun. Admission is FREE, the event is outdoors, and treats (hot cocoa and popcorn) will be provided at no cost! Space and parking is limited, so arrive early to find a good spot. *Social distancing and masks are strongly encouraged.
Kris Kringle Market 2020
2100 US-301, Palmetto, FL 34221
When: December 5, 2020 | 9:00AM – 5:00PM
The Kris Kringle Market was inspired by the 700-year old tradition of the open-air Christmas markets throughout Europe. The event will feature one-of-a-kind shopping, art, wreaths and handcrafted gifts for the holiday season. All items are locally made and one of a kind. There will also be multiple food trucks at this event, including Smokin’ Momma Lora’s BBQ Truck and Q&S Ice Water Kool Cups. There may even be a visit from the man himself!
Bradenton Blues Festival
1611 9th St W, Bradenton, FL 34205
When: December 4 – 6, 2020
The Bradenton Blues Festival brings three days of events and acclaimed blues musicians to Bradenton the first weekend of December. In addition to amazing music, you can purchase local craft beer, domestics, imports, and wine, delicious food, and cool festival merchandise.
Jingle & Jog 5K Virtual Race
Virtual Race Sponsored by The Haven
When: December 4 – 6, 2020 | Anytime
The Haven’s 23rd Jingle & Jog 5K Run/Walk is going virtual this year, which means participants can run the race anywhere! Join anytime from Dec. 4th-Dec. 6th for a Sarasota holiday tradition. Stay tuned for an announcement of when and where participants can pick up their race shirts and medals.
Holiday Workshop – Laser Etch an Ornament
Suncoast Science Center
4452 S Beneva Rd, Sarasota, FL 34233
When: December 5, 2020 | 2:00PM – 7:00PM (by reservation only)
Join Suncoast Science Center for some FAB festive fun as they laser etch your custom design on a traditional holiday ornament OR make your own out of wood. Hourly sessions are available from 2-7pm, with limited participants per hour for COVID-19 safety. $40 registration includes admission for up to 3 participants. Registration includes ornament.
Southside Christmas Town
Southside Christian Baptist
2035 Magnolia St, Sarasota, FL 34239
When: December 5, 2020 | 4:00PM
Southside Baptist Church is holding its third annual Christmas town! Some things will look a little different in order to ensure everyone stays safe during this pandemic, but Southside cannot wait to serve your family this Christmas! Tickets are not required but will help with crowd control and also help you to remember not to miss this totally free, totally amazing event!
18800 South, W Villages Pkwy, Venice, FL 34293
When: December 5 – 6, 2020 | 10:00AM – 8:00PM
The 2nd Annual Jingle Jam at CoolToday Park will be held on December 5 & 6th! Highlights of the 2020 Jingle Jam include:
1. A non-profit Christmas Tree Decorating Contest
2. Caddy Carts Golf Cart Parade of lights
3. Virtual Tomahawk 5K
4. Virtual Symphony Benefit Concert
4. Appearances by Santa & Mrs. Claus
5. Holiday Market
6. Paint & Sip Class with Felicia DeSanio
6. Festive Food & Drink Specials
7. Holiday Activities
Holiday Markets at University Town Center
When: December 5 – 6, 2020 | 11:00AM – 7:00PM
Come shop local this holiday! This event will be located in the parking lot of The Mall at University Town Center on December 5th-6th during mall hours, 11am to 7pm. Find 80+ local crafters & businesses with unique gifts for your friends & family. Find items such as holiday decor, toys, treats, clothing, accessories, art, handmade gifts & more!
Santa Paw Pictures
The Sudsy Pup – Paw Spa
5045 Fruitville Rd #135, Sarasota, FL 34232
When: December 5 – 6, 2020 | Varied times (by reservation only)
Ring in the holiday season by bringing your pet in to get a paw-fect picture with Santa Claus! Important Information:
~ $15 with an extra $5 per additional pet
~ You will receive digital copies of your paw-fect pictures
~ Book a 15 minute “Christmas Santa Portrait” appointment by calling (941) 374-1135
Sarasota Christmas – “The Wonder of Christmas”
Sarasota Baptist Church
7091 Proctor Rd, Sarasota, FL 34241
When: December 5 – 12, 2020 | 7:00PM
The Sarasota Christmas production team, including adults, students, and children, are joining together to create an enjoyable and meaningful start to the Christmas season! This production is free and lasts about 25 minutes. Come early and enjoy some live Christmas music, and stay after the performance to take photos in front of the tree or manger scene.
Breakfast with Santa
The Woods Barn
4730 17th St E, Palmetto, FL 34221
When: December 12, 2020 | 8:00AM – 10:00AM
Major Productions Studio Of Dance and the Major Productions Booster Club are hosting their 5th annual Breakfast with Santa at a new location: The Wood Barn.
*Mr. And Mrs. Claus will have arrived from the North Pole to greet every boy and girl
*A visit from Rudolph and Clarice
*Rustic wood backdrop with Christmas tree and presents for photos
*FREE 4×6 professional photo of your family
*Write Letters to Santa, 50/50 Raffle, Raffle Baskets, Coloring Pages & MORE!
A Night Before Christmas
GT Bray Park
5502 33rd Ave Dr W, Bradenton, FL 34209
When: December 12, 2020 | 6:00PM – 9:00PM
Get ready for an evening of family fun at the annual A Night Before Christmas event at GT Bray! Santa will make an appearance at the park to greet all who wish to see him. The event will include inflatables, a snow slide, hayrides, photos with Santa, letters to Santa, food vendors, and local businesses with giveaways and resources. This awesome event is great for kids of all ages. A suggested donation per child of a new, unwrapped toy for Toys For Tots is kindly requested for entry to the event.
2020 COVID’s Not Ruining Everything Boat Parade
New Pass Cove: Sarasota Salty Dog
1601 Ken Thompson Pkwy, Sarasota, FL 34236
When: December 12, 2020 | 6:00PM – 9:00PM
If you have a boat in or near Sarasota, join in on this fun parade! Get your boat all rigged up with lights and Christmas decor and meet in front of Sarasota Salty Dog restaurant. This is a public event privately held so there will not be any entry fees, entry forms, boat numbers, awards, judges, etc. Just get your crew together, load the cooler, decorate your boat, and meet in New Pass just inside the bridge. Try to get there between 5:30pm and 6:00pm. Use VHF channel 71 to communicate with fellow participants.
A Taste of Chanukah 2020
Phillippi Estate Park
5500 S Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34231
When: December 13, 2020 | 4:00PM – 6:00PM
The 10th annual Taste of Chanukah Celebration hosted by Chabad of Sarasota, will feature the BMX Trick Stars show, a helicopter Chanukah Gelt drop, a 3-ton snow slide, live Jewish music, a trackless train, Kona ice, arts and crafts, and more. In addition, there be Latkes by Sam, and Glatt Kosher catered food available for purchase by Michael’s on East. Cost $5 per person; children under 13 free; free parking.
The Wonderland of Lights and Santa’s Village
Hillsborough County Fairgrounds
215 Sydney Washer Rd, Dover, FL 33527
The Wonderland of Lights & Santa’s Village is celebrating five years as the Tampa-area premiere, holiday-themed experience. Visitors are routed through over a mile of spectacular lights and holiday displays all from the safety of their vehicles. Make the short drive to Hillsborough County Fairgrounds, just east of Brandon located at 215 Sydney Washer Rd, Dover, FL 33527.
At the end of your journey, stop by Santa’s Village every Thursday through Sunday. Enjoy tasty fair-type foods, family-friendly entertainment, catch the wolf exhibit and camel rides and don’t forget Santa!
Lights in Bloom: An Open-Air Holiday Light Show at Selby Gardens
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
1534 Mound St, Sarasota, FL 34236
When: December 12 – 23, 26 – 31, 2020, and January 1 – 2, 2021 | 6:00PM to 9:00PM
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens brings you Lights in Bloom®: An Open-air Holiday Light Show. More than two million lights illuminate the gardens, and walkways are transformed into sensory light tunnels. Stroll through magical gardens filled with beautifully lit flowers, radiant rainforest butterflies, dragonflies, and more. Lights in Bloom®: An Open-air Light Show. has become a tradition for residents and visitors to celebrate the holiday season in Sarasota.
Santa’s Workshop Virtual Craft Series
When: Every Wednesday from November 25 – December 23, 2020 | 6:00PM
Join your favorite holiday characters as they lead you through a fun holiday craft series virtually each week from Santa’s Workshop at The Mall at UTC! Participants can pick up their craft Saturdays – Wednesdays of every week during mall hours at the Customer Service Desk. Then each Wednesday, log on to The Mall at UTC’s Facebook page at 6:00 pm to follow along with a surprise holiday character!
Photos with Santa at Santa’s Flight Academy
When: November 27, 2020 – December 24, 2020 | Varied times
The Mall at UTC, in conjunction with their photo partner, Cherry Hill Programs, have reimagined Santa’s Flight Academy into a socially distanced, non-contact holiday experience! All photo sessions are by reservation only and require pre-payment. All Santa’s Flight Academy staff will wear masks and practice social distancing. Santa will maintain a 6’ distance from guests at all times, and there will be heightened cleaning protocols and hand sanitizer provided throughout Santa’s Flight Academy. Santa’s Flight Academy is located on the lower level in Grand Court. Make your reservation today!
Ellenton Holiday Village
Ellenton Premium Outlets
5461 Factory Shops Blvd, Ellenton, FL 34222
When: December 3, 2020 – January 3, 2021 | Hours vary
This family-fun holiday event features midway rides and games for all ages, favorite fair food, community stage entertainment and socially distanced Santa visits (6-9 pm Dec. 3-23 and 1-4 pm Dec. 24). Free parking and admission. See the website for discount ride wristbands and coupon savings. Dec. 3-18 hours: 5-10 pm Monday-Thursday, 5-11 pm Friday, noon-11 pm Saturday, noon-10 pm Sunday. Dec. 19 – Jan. 3 hours: noon-11 pm daily except Dec. 25 (4-11 pm). Carnival-goers are encouraged to wear a mask, practice social distancing, and utilize the hand sanitizers and hand-washing stations on the midway.
New Year’s Eve at The Westin Sarasota
The Westin Sarasota
100 Marina View Dr, Sarasota, FL 34236
When: December 31, 2020 | 6:00PM – 1:00AM
Come aboard for a first-class four-course dining experience while tasting the finest wines throughout your travels. Dance the night away on Steerage with live music before heading up to the first class party on the upper deck for the final countdown to sink 2020.
Your ticket includes:
• 4-course wine pairing dinner at chosen time | Seatings: EVOQ Experience 6PM, Lobby Experience 7:30PM, or EVOQ Experience 8PM.
• Live music on the Terrace, drink tickets included. Open 6PM-10PM
• Rooftop open bar, DJ entertainment, hors d’oeuvres prepared to order. Open 9PM-1AM