For many, the Florida holiday season is incomplete without Christmas music at Publix, spiked eggnog, light-adorned palm trees, Pillsbury snowman cookies (you know the ones) and the opportunity to sweat mid-day in the jacket and jeans you threw on that 60-degree morning.
If you miss associating cold weather with Santa Claus and Hanukkah Harry, you will be happy to know that Gainesville has a cold front coming this week. Unfortunately, any true Floridian knows those never last.
To make December feel like it did before climate change brought 80-degree weather to New York City last Christmas, take advantage of the following activities Gainesville has to offer before the proverbial snow melts in the New Year.
Festival of Lights
For those looking for a nearby light display, the North Florida Regional Medical Center lit its duck pond for the 28th year in a row on Dec. 1, and the pond will remain lit after dark every day until January.
Another popular light show is located one hour away at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs where guests can pay $3 Friday to Sunday or $2 Monday to Thursday to enter a lighted winter wonderland that features free hot cocoa, popcorn, marshmallow roasting, craft activities, snow flurries and the big man himself — Santa Claus.
“The Play’s the Thing”
While the Hippodrome State Theatre is presenting its 40th annual rendition of “A Christmas Carol” until Dec. 22, High Springs Playhouse is dedicating three weekends to its unique iteration of the classic Christmas film “It’s A Wonderful Life,” until Dec. 17. The venue where the radio play will take place is only 30 minutes away, and tickets range from $11 to $16.
Dance Alive National Ballet will perform the “Nutcracker,” at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 15 and 16 and Dec. 16 and 17 at 2 p.m at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets to see the Sugar Plum Fairy and the rest of the cast range from $15 to $45.
The Phillips Center will also be home to Danscompany on Dec. 9 at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. for two ballet performances of “Cinderella.” Though tickets are $15, children under 10 will be admitted free with a donation of a new unwrapped toy or book. The show will be interpreted in American Sign Language, and playgoers can meet the cast after the show.
Engaging the Senses
Perhaps the most modern holiday experience will take place every Saturday until Dec. 16 at Kika Silva Pla Planetarium, where the creators of “Music 360: Let It Snow,” have created a full-dome show featuring computer-generated scenery and animation set to the music of the season. The 3 p.m. spectacle costs $5 for adults and seniors and $4 for children.
Season of Giving
Nothing conjures the holiday spirit more than giving back. Local domestic violence shelter Peaceful Paths has fulfilled all of its adopt-a-family and individual holiday wish lists this season, but its general holiday needs list is always in need of fulfillment. Go to peacefulpaths.org to see what items you can donate to victims who enter their emergency shelters.
In the same vein, Toys R Us is partnering with Toys for Tots until Dec. 15, where anyone can donate a new unwrapped toy to any Toys R Us or Babies R Us location that will go to a child whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts for Christmas.
Lastly, Mattress Firm is accepting unwrapped children’s gift donations to give to foster children, for whom the holidays is an especially difficult and lonely time. You can donate gifts to the Mattress Firm on Archer Road until Dec. 17.