Map out your holiday season

Graphic by Amilynn Soto

The swaying palm trees, bright sun and cool breezes might make you think otherwise, but the holiday season is already here. Christmas lights are up, and Hanukkah is just around the corner. Considering Miami’s warm weather and crowded beaches, it can be difficult to get into the holiday spirit. But South Florida offers some great activities that will get you in the mood to celebrate.

Holiday Tree Lighting at Merrick Park

For many, the holiday season kicks off once the Christmas tree is put up. And Merrick Park is no exception. The mall, famous for its ritzy shops and high-class restaurants, will be holding its annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday. It will feature appearances by beloved holiday characters, like Santa and Rudolph, festive street performers and children’s activities. Plus, the event is free. Visitors are encouraged to bring an unwrapped toy to donate to the Toys for Tots Drive.

Village of Merrick Park is located at 358 San Lorenzo Ave., Coral Gables. 

Santa’s Enchanted Forest

A holiday favorite, Santa’s Enchanted Forest has been a main attraction during the holidays for years. Billing itself as the world’s largest holiday amusement park, Santa’s Enchanted Forest offers a festive carnival, dazzling lights, Florida’s tallest Christmas tree, rides, games, musical performances, acrobats and even exotic animals.

While it’s certainly not the most highbrow attraction, it’s impossible to turn down the carnival’s sweet funnel cakes.

Santa’s Enchanted Forest is located at 7900 SW 40th St., Miami.

Tea at the Biltmore

If you’re looking for a relaxing activity, stop by the Biltmore and check out its decorations while enjoying a hot cup of tea and a plate of delicate sweets. The hotel is decorated to the nines, showcasing elegant holiday adornments. Reasonably priced at $15, the tea is a perfect weekend escape from the bustle of campus or South Beach, and an ideal romantic spot to celebrate the holidays in style.

The Biltmore Hotel is located at 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables.

Christmas and Hanukkah at the Gusman Concert Hall

If music is what you’re looking for, you won’t even have to leave campus because Gusman Concert Hall will showcase holiday tunes on Dec. 18. This annual concert will feature the 85-member Greater Miami Symphonic Band, who will play a selection of holiday tunes that are sure to put a smile on anyone’s face. Tickets are $15 for general admission, but only $5 for children and students.

“A Christmas Carol” at the Actors’ Playhouse

Coral Gables Actors’ Playhouse, known for its delightful local productions, will feature its annual production of “A Christmas Carol” this holiday season, from Nov. 27 to Dec. 23. The famous tale is considered one of Charles Dickens’ best. Although often mocked for its corniness, those who have seen the show can attest to it being genuine and sweet, and a perfect heart warmer this time of year. Tickets cost $22.50, but student tickets are available in limited quantities for $15. Fifteen minutes before curtain, unfilled seats will be sold for $10.

Actors’ Playhouse is located at 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables.