It’s the last week of fall and here in Central Florida we’re experiencing temperatures 10 degrees higher than average. What’s an Orlandoan to do when they’d like a taste of a Winter Wonderland? Here are my top five:
1) Ice Skating
I remember skating on a pond outside our house in Michigan as a child. It was a tiny little thing, and you couldn’t really get up enough speed to do even an arabesque, much less any kind of twirls. Luckily we have rinks here in Orlando like RDV Sportsplex that has public skating hours, and in Kissimmee there’s The Ice Factory where they also have open skating AND you can skate with Santa this Friday night (December 18, 2015)! Light Up UCF has an outdoor (albeit warm) rink plus lots of other holiday activities including a film festival and light show. Other synthetic ice rinks include and I-Drive 360 and the Orlando Science Center both warm yet (pardon the pun) COOL!
If watching ice skating gives you a shiver, SeaWorld Orlando’s Winter Wonderland on Ice is a show-stopping, ice skating extravaganza. Though far from making one think of ice, “Hot Chocolate” is my favorite production number. Check it out! (♫ Oh We Got It! ♫) Best of all, all #SeaWorldChristmas events are included with admission.
2) Ice Bars
Ice Bar on International Drive is one “hot” spot (pun intended) where you can “taste the cold” along with your drink! Visit during happy hour every Sunday through Thursday from 7–9p for discounted admission (drinks extra).
At Minus5 Ice Bar at Pointe Orlando everything is made of 100% ice including the bar, tables, benches, walls and even the glasses guests drink from. Check their calendar for events and specials.
Though both bars are marketed to the tourists, locals can have a night of cold fun if to just imagine what it would be like to live in a cold clime, or to remember the days when they “used to” live up north.
Another option is On The Block, a “pop up” VIP ice bar inside ICE! at Gaylord Palms (read more about ICE! below). This add-on experience is for guests 21 and over.
3) Frozen Treats
Can’t get TO the snow? How about a snow… cone?! Or ice cream? Orlando is home to great restaurants and shops with delicious frozen treats. Vivoli Gelateria in Disney Springs offers a variety of Italian frozen creations including seasonal flavors. Also at Disney Springs, Downtown Snow Company (near Fulton’s Crab House and across from Portobello), offers shaved ice and a multitude of festive flavors. Thinking French instead? Check out L’artisan des Glaces at Epcot’s France Pavilion. Kona Ice serves up shaved ice at multiple locations and you can’t go wrong with a Concrete from Shake Shack (not very “holiday”, but I LOVE the Key Lime!) or Freddy’s Frozen Custard (they have a Pumpkin Pie one seasonally that’s OH so good).
Want to make a frozen drink at home that tastes like the holidays? Emily Ellyn created some of my all-time favorites. (Her Eggnog Martini is my go-to holiday drink with spirit!)
4) Snow and Ice IN Florida
You’d be hard pressed to find anywhere in Florida colder than ICE! at Gaylord Palms. It’s a chilly 9 degrees inside! Enjoy ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas carved out of over two million pounds of ice. After your chilly stroll through a true Winter Wonderland, add to the fun with Alpine Rush! Who knew you could snow sled in the Sunshine State?! My son has been down the slides at least 50 times (conservatively). This is by far my favorite Florida cold spot, though remember to bring your touch-pad gloves for the walk-through if you intend to take pictures or Instagram your #CAGP15 trip. My phone froze up before I made it to the last room, the Nativity.
ProTip: Keep your phone or camera as close to your body as you can between shots and by all means wear closed-toed shoes. (I did not during one of my walk-throughs this year and I found myself doing a Prancer imitation as I went from room to room.) ICE! featuring ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas runs through January 3, 2016. Season passes are available, too, so you can enjoy the Frozen Fabulousness over and over. It’ll be like you live in snow country. But without the tire chains.
This Friday (Dec. 18), guests age 21 and older can visit Gaylord Palms Resort to zoom down the Alpine Rush Snow Tubing hills and jaunt through the 9-degree ICE! attraction wearing only a bikini or board shorts (shorts and a T-shirt can also be worn)! Their one-night-only Polar Bear Plunge 2015 is $50 plus tax and processing fees and include access to Alpine Rush Snow Tubing and ICE!, appetizers and two drink tickets to be redeemed during the event. A portion of all ticket proceeds from the Polar Bear Plunge will be donated to Special Olympics Florida.
The City of Winter Haven is holding “Snow Central.“ Play in 70 tons of snow and go down 3 lanes of the Snow Slide, meet Santa and more, all for free, Thurs. Dec. 17 from 6–9pm.
5) Fake It ‘Till You Make It
While there are no places to build snowmen (though you can sing along to the Disney Frozen soundtrack…), you can close your eyes and imagine the attraction industry’s soap-bubble concoction or tissue paper cutouts are snow. Theme parks have snow nightly now through the end of the year (Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld all have Florida-friendly “snow” nightly; check park maps for details), and it’s “Now Snowing” at Celebration Florida, too!
I only lived in Michigan for a couple of years. The rest of the time I lived in my birth place of Central Florida. It did snow here one year when I was a kid. I hadn’t seen snow prior to then and it seemed other-worldly. I think we managed to scoop up enough for a single snowball, but in that moment it was winter here in Orlando. There are no forecasts for flurries this year, but I can “feel” winter just a little more though fun frozen activities and treats all around town.