Don’t let the lack of flurries and crackling fireplaces fool you — Miami is absolutely where you want to be for the holidays. With its pulsating nightlife scene and vibrant locals, the Magic City knows a thing or two about putting on an unforgettable event; and the months of November and December are no exception.
From a parade of fully decked-out yachts sailing down the Intracoastal Waterway to a rowdy band of Santas bar-hopping their way through the city’s best drinking establishments, there’s a celebration that suits just about everyone’s style and budget. And at a balmy 75 degrees, the weather is a large part of the allure. The dress code? Refreshingly sans thermal underwear.
If you’re looking for a festive fete whilst you’re in town, these 11 annual South Florida events are a great place to start.
WINTERFEST BOAT PARADE
Known as the “Greatest Show on H2O,” The Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade has been captivating audiences for years. Over one million people gather in the grandstand viewing area, the Riverside Hotel or The Historic Downtowner to watch the parade of brightly embellished boats, yachts and barges wind their way through the 12-mile route with celebrities, musical groups and beauty queens in tow. For an additional cost, you can opt to view the entire waterborne spectacle from the Santa Showboat in the company of a cash bar. December 9, 6:30 p.m., winterfestparade.com
KIWANIS CHRISTMAS GALA
When it comes to Christmas parties, the city of Little Havana not only goes big, but they add a dash of Latin flavour to the holiday spirit around town. Now in its 41st year, the Kiwanis Christmas Gala brings together hundreds of spirited revellers for a night of salsa dancing under the stars with previous performances from the likes of Willy Chirino, Albita and the Celia Cruz All Stars. Food stations and open bars fuel the action on the dance floor — and all for a good cause — proceeds benefit various Kiwanis of Little Havana community service projects that help more than 220,000 underserved children and families in South Florida. December 9, 8 p.m., kiwanislittlehavana.org
If it’s December 24, you can count on a comely crowd of Jewish singles dancing late into the night inside one of Miami Beach’s glitzy nightclubs thanks to the MatzoBall. A nationwide night of raucous revelry, the event is heading into its 31st year of celebration with no end in sight. What started as a way for young Jewish people on vacation to get together on a night where everything was traditionally closed has evolved into one of the most successful annual parties to be carried out across the country. In Miami, you can count on the likes of Story to play host as DJs spin into the wee hours of the morning. December 24, 9 p.m., matzoball.org
JACK FROST HAPPY HOUR AT CONRAD MIAMI
Snow in Miami? Well… sort of. For a festive winter twist on holiday celebrating, head to the Conrad Miami hotel in Downtown Miami, where faux snowflakes fall from the ceiling of their 25th-floor bar every 30 minutes during the Jack Frost happy hour. Guests are given umbrellas to block the flakes from their reduced-priced glasses of Champagne, whilst massive igloos allow bar patrons to mix and mingle under cover amidst music and expertly made bar bites. Feel free to leave the wool coat behind, though. Through the month of December, 6:30–9 p.m., conradhotels3.hilton.com
Everything you need to know about this annual Hanukkah throwdown is in the name: vodka and latkes. Hosted by The Tribe, a local organisation that builds local leadership whilst cultivating professional and personal Jewish connections, this late-night party brings together Jewish young professionals for four hours of an open Ketel One vodka bar (complete with ice luges), popular local DJs, photo booths and, yes, latkes. Attendees decked out in their best nightlife gear head out for a night of dancing, mingling and swapping numbers between bites of their latke. December 14, 8 p.m., thetribe.org
Y100 JINGLE BALL
With enough star power to light up the holiday skies, Y100’s annual Jingle Ball puts a tropical spin on “rocking around the Christmas tree.” The Jingle Ball Village opens in the late afternoon, where an initial concert sets the mood for the night ahead along with coloured lights, trees, food and drinks. Once inside, the stage plays host to a rotating roster of some of the year’s biggest musical acts. Last year’s lineup included Diplo, The Chainsmokers, Fifth Harmony, Nicky Jam, Alessia Cara, Charlie Puth, Tove Lo, Lukas Graham and Hailee Steinfeld. Additional info to come.
You’ll want to rustle up your finest Santa hat for this annual raucous bar crawl through the streets of Miami. This annual adults-only gathering asks that participants dress up in their interpretation of good ol’ St. Nick and bounce from one drinking establishment to the next spreading boozy cheer. Most bars will offer SantaCon participants drink specials created especially for the event. Popular with most of the area’s young professionals, you’ll find a lively crowd here that follows a list of important guidelines, including “address your fellow Santa as ‘Santa’” and “have fun.” Additional info to come, santacon.info/Miami-FL/?0
LIGHT UP WYNWOOD! BY CHABAD AT MIDTOWN
Back for its second year, Chabad at Midtown celebrates the Jewish Festival of Lights with an al fresco happy hour in the middle of Miami’s popular street art hub — Wynwood. The Wynwood Yard, an outdoor entrepreneurial hub filled with cutting-edge food and drink concepts, plays host to this returning event; and it’s always a festive scene: twinkling lights, the moon and the happy buzz of revellers celebrating the season along with a three-foot-tall menorah, live music, drink specials and plenty of food to fuel the night ahead. December 14, thewynwoodyard.com
HOLIDAY EVENING AT VIZCAYA
For a nostalgic seasonal fete, the historic Vizcaya Museum and Gardens hosts an annual holiday celebration that hearkens back to when its former owner, James Deering, used the property as his winter home in 1916. With Old World décor and holiday music from Deering’s collection playing on Vizcaya’s pipe organ, guests mill about the enchanting grounds of the Vizcaya Village whilst drinking hot chocolate and making holiday decorations using local materials. Additional info to come, vizcaya.org
THE NEW WORLD SYMPHONY’S WALLCAST: SOUNDS OF THE SEASON
Every year, the New World Symphony invites locals and visitors alike to gather on the lawn of SoundScape Park and watch a live performance of holiday favourites from a variety of cultural heritages. The concert is projected onto a massive wall within the park, which sits on 2.5 acres of land adjacent to the New World Center. Groups of friends are known to pack a blanket, chairs and a picnic basket to soak up the balmy Miami weather along with music from the city’s resident symphony. Additional info to come, nws.edu
ORNAMENT DECORATING HAPPY HOUR AT J. WAKEFIELD BREWING
Nothing spreads holiday cheer like getting crafty… with some craft beer, that is. Luckily, Wynwood’s J. Wakefield Brewing has that in spades. And come December, the beloved brewery throws up a tree and invites the city’s beer aficionados to stop by; decorate a few ornaments with paint, pens and markers; and hang them up with help of a glass or two of reduced-price brew. Expect festive music, some inventive DIY ornaments and merry revellers enjoying a delicious pint of some of the city’s finest craft beer. Additional info to come, jwakefieldbrewing.com
HOLIDAYS ON ICE AT INTERCONTINENTAL MIAMI
Downtown Miami turns into a mini Winter Wonderland in December thanks to the InterContinental. Each year, the bay-front hotel turns its plaza into an ice skating rink and creates a Holiday Village surrounding it, complete with seasonal cocktails, roaring outdoor fire pits and DIY s’mores kits. After 8 p.m., it’s an adults-only affair as the rink transforms into a late-night skate party with live DJs spinning on the ice. Additional info to come, icmiamihotel.com.
Help a good cause this holiday season by donating your unused miles to the Miles Ahead Programme through Cayman Airways. Island charities, nonprofits, churches and schools registered with the programme benefit from your generous donation by turning miles into tickets that can be used for a variety of purposes. Show your Caymankindness at caymanairways.com.
Cayman Airways makes getting to Miami a breeze. Multiple flights depart from Grand Cayman to Miami daily.
Author: By Jackie Gutierrez-Jones