There is something special about the air this time of year, when the sun-drenched tropical warmth—to which we’ve become so accustomed—takes a bit of a break to remind us of the changing of the seasons and the beginning of holiday celebrations. This is when thrilling spectacles of cheer through stringed lights and joyful decorations greet us at our normal places of leisure and business. This is also when we look back at another year of life experiences and forward to a New Year of creating new memories, welcoming new opportunities, and discovering new treasures.
While we aren’t graced with the chilly winter weather of our northern neighbors, Florida’s Gulf Coast certainly has no shortage of events for all ages and interests to help usher in the spirit of the holidays.
Here is a glimpse into the holiday happenings you’ll find throughout our area in the coming weeks. Enjoy!
November 29 – December 5
“It’s a Country Christmas” — 10am-5 pm Wednesday – Saturday (through Dec. 22). Picnicking, hayrides, live manger, farm tours and more. Dakin Dairy Farms, 30771 Betts Road, Myakka City.322-2802.
Holly Days & Mangrove Lights at Historic Spanish Point — 9am-5pm through December 31. Festive decorations and lights, costumed performers, photos with Santa, extended hours to view the Mangrove Lights, special holiday parties and more. Historic Spanish Point, 337 N. Tamiami Trail, Osprey.
The Oak Ridge Boys “Christmas Time’s a Comin’” Tour — 8pm Tuesday Dec. 4. Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota. $10-$55.
Sarasota Orchestra’s Winter Wonderland — 5:30pm, Dec. 5-8. A concert of Christmas and Hanukkah music. Holley Hall, 709 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.
December 6 – 12
Holiday Party and Toy Drive – 6-9pm, Dec. 6. Sarasota Architectural Salvage, 1093 Central Ave., Sarasota.
Simply Sinatra Christmas — 1pm, Dec. 6. Sinatra tribute artist Steve Lippia. Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater.
34th Annual Holiday Night of Lights — 6-10pm, Dec. 7.A Christmas carol sing-along, followed by the arrival of Santa in his spectacular sleigh, and a tree lighting ceremony, on St. Armands Circle.
“A Glorious Christmas” — Dec. 7 & 9. Suncoast Chorale performs a program of traditional carols and compositions by Rutter, Mendelssohn and others. A sing-along of holiday favorites will conclude the program, which will be held two nights: at 7:30pm, Dec. 7 at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 4365 State Road 776, Venice, and 3:30pm, Dec. 9 at Venice Presbyterian Church, 825 The Rialto, Venice. $17. (888) 326-8403.
“A Baroque Christmas” — Dec. 7 & 9. The Sarasota-Manatee Bach Festival will launch with this concert featuring Sarasota Orchestra violinists, organist Mary Mozelle, Sarasota Young Voices and 16-year-old violinist Natasha Snyder. Both programs begin at 8pm: Dec. 7 at Church of the Redeemer, 222 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota, and Dec. 9 at Christ Church, 4030 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton. $20 ($5 for students).
Florida Frostfest — 11am-8pm Dec. 8. On tap at Myakka River State Park: craft beer, food, a snow hill and live music. Free admission. Myakka Outpost, 13208 State Road 72, Sarasota.
Sarasota Christmas Boat Parade of Lights — 6pm, Dec. 8. Best viewing spots are Bayfront Park, Centennial Park, City Island and Marina Jack Restaurant.
Bradenton Yacht Club Holiday Boat Parade — 6:30pm, Dec. 8. Public viewing, judging and fireworks at Bradenton Yacht Club, 4307 Snead Island Road, Palmetto, and along the riverfront. Free. 722-5936.
Hot Pockets Holiday Concert — 7pm, Dec. 8. Mindy Simmons and the Hot Pockets will sing traditional secular and spiritual songs of the season in a benefit show for community radio station WSLR-LP 96.5. $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center, 525 Kumquat Court, Sarasota. Tickets are available at Fogt’s Music, Rocketman, Sarasota Guitar Company, and wslr.org, or 894-6469.
Atomic Holiday Bazaar — 10am – 4:30pm, Dec. 8 – - 10:30am – 4pm, Dec. 9. Sarasota’s original hip and modern crafting show is one of the best places to shop for holiday gifts from local independent crafters (along with artists from around the country). Sarasota Municipal Auditorium, 801 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.
A Christmas Tradition: The Ditchfield Family Singers — 2 and 7pm, Dec. 8. Sarasota Opera House. $20-$40. 923-2013.
“Christmas with the Ditchfields,” 2-4pm, Dec. 12, Manatee Players, 502 3rd Ave. W., Bradenton. $25 ($11 for 12 and under).
A Taste of Chanukah — 3-8pm, Dec. 9. Food, artists and entertainment celebrating the holiday. Phillippi Estate Park, 5500 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.
“Joy Has Dawned!” — 9:30 and 11am, Dec. 9. The Englewood United Methodist Church Music Ministry 2012-13 Concert Series presents the Christmas musical during worship services in the Sanctuary at 700 E. Dearborn St., Englewood. WSRZ 107.9 radio celebrity David Jones will narrate.
“Holiday Variations” — 2pm, Dec. 9. Showcasing 13 students from Sarasota Ballet’s new program, The Margaret Barbieri Conservatory of Dance, performing variations from several famous ballets such as Le Corsair, Don Quixote, Swan Lake, Napoli and Paquita.Glenridge Performing Arts Center, 7333 Scotland Way, Sarasota.$15. 552-5325.
Musica Sacra Cantorum Presents A Cathedral Christmas Concert of Sacred Musical Treasures— 3pm, Dec. 9. A choral chamber ensemble presents sacred Christmas music. St. Boniface Episcopal Church, 5615 Midnight Pass, Siesta Key.
Gala Holiday Concert — 7:30pm Dec. 10. Featuring Dianne and Steve Dawson, Jim Cox (on piano), with favorite songs of the season. St. Andrew Church, 6908 Beneva Road, Sarasota. $15 (students $10). 922-7595, 484-1755.
Loveland Center’s 4th annual Christmas Barbecue – 6-10pm, Dec. 11. A fundraiser to support the Loveland Center featuring the Loveland Follies. Venice Community Center, 326 Nokomis Ave., Venice.
A Doo Wop Christmas Celebration — 7pm Dec. 11. The Reflections, of “Just Like Romeo & Juliet” fame, will performs hits of the ’60s and Christmas classics at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County, 2280 Aaron St., Port Charlotte. $14. 625-4175, Ext. 221.
The Holiday Concert — 8pm, Dec. 12. The Holiday Concert will be conducted by Roxane Solowey, a violinist with the Sarasota Orchestra and founder of the Musicians Out of the Box String Quartet. Glenridge Performing Arts Center, 7333 Scotland Way, Sarasota. 552-5325.
December 13 – 19
Holiday Splendor — 5pm, Dec. 13. Support the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots program during extended evening hours, with shows by local schools. Food and beverages will be available for purchase. Admission: One unwrapped toy per guest; or without toy adult $10, children (6-17) $5. John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota. 359-5700.
“Christmas With The Celts” — 7pm, Dec. 13. 13th annual concert featuring Celtic music and dance group Marcille Wallis & Friends performing a mix of Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Cornish and Appalachian song and dance. Congregational United Church of Christ, 1201 AquiEsta Drive, Punta Gorda. $10. 625-8544.
Snow Fest Sarasota — Dec. 14-23. 10 days of snow-related events at Sarasota Fairgrounds, including tubing, slides and bounce houses. Plus caroling, skating, Santa and more. Free ($5 parking). Hours 5-10pm Mon.-Fri., noon-10pm Sat.-Sun.
Downtown Holiday Art and Craft Show — 10am-4:30pm, Dec. 14-15. Selby Five Points Park, 1331 First St., Sarasota.
Southside Village Holiday Stroll — 5-9pm, Dec. 14. Santa, a mountain of snow and slide, specials at area stores and restaurants. Southside Village, 1852 Hillview St., Sarasota.
“It’s A Wonderful Life” — 6pm, Dec. 14. See the classic holiday film at South Florida Museum, 201 10th St. W., Bradenton.
Venice Symphony Holiday Concert — 8pm Dec. 14; 4pm Dec. 15. Church of the Nazarene, 1535 E. Venice Ave.
Gingerbread Festival — 11am – 9pm, Dec. 14-15; 11am-5pm Dec. 16. More than 150 houses will be on display, created by school classrooms, youth groups and local business and organizations, along with chef battles and more. Sarasota Fairgrounds, 3000 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota.
Sarasota Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” — 8pm, Dec. 14-15. A performance of “The Nutcracker” with a local spin. The ballet will be accompanied by the Sarasota Orchestra. Van Wezel, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.
Burns Court 2nd Friday Night Holiday Walk — 5-9pm, Dec. 14. Entertainment, shops open with special holiday deals. South Pineapple Street and Ringling Boulevard, Sarasota. 955-5133.
The Sounds of Christmas — 8pm, Dec. 15 and 22. An evening of holiday tunes by Venice Theatre’s vocalists. Venice Theatre, 140 W. Tampa Ave., Venice.
Cortez Yacht Club 9th annual Holiday Lighted Boat Parade — 6pm, Dec. 15. The parade begins at the north end of Longboat Key near Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant and proceeds north along the Intracoastal Waterway finishing at the Seafood Shack Marina.
Holiday Harmonies — 2pm Dec. 16. The Chorus of the Keys sings holiday standards. Glenridge Performing Arts Center, 7333 Scotland Way, Sarasota. 552-5325.
23rd annual Peace River Lighted Boat Parade — 6pm, Dec. 16. Viewing spots at Edgewater Lake in Charlotte Harbor, Fishermen’s Village, the U.S. 41 bridges and Laishley Park Marina. 639-3720.
Holiday of Song (Sarasota Folk Club Concert) — 7pm Dec. 17. Sarasota Sailing Squadron, 1717 Ken Thompson Pkwy., Sarasota.
St. Petersburg Opera — “Seasonal Sparkle,” 7:30pm, Dec. 18-19. $21.50-$64.50. Palladium Theater. (727) 822-3590.
December 20 – 31
Jazz Juvenocracy Presents Ellington’s “Nutcracker Suite” — 8pm, Dec. 21-22; 2pm, Dec. 22-23. Jazz Juvenocracy, in collaboration with Imaginique Contemporary Ballet Company, presents a truly unique version of a beloved holiday tradition. Glenridge Performing Arts Center, 7333 Scotland Way, Sarasota.
Home for the Holidays Artist Series Concert — 7:30pm, Dec. 21-22. Live performances for the whole family to enjoy, featuring tenor Marc Schreiner, soprano Mara Bonde, and a host of musical friends. Historic Asolo Theatre, 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota.
Wynonna’s Rockin’ Christmas — Wynonna Judd featuring The Big Noise. 8pm, Dec. 22. Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota. $60-$80. Also 8pm, Dec. 21 at Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg.
“A Christmas Carol” — 7pm, Dec. 23. Van Wezel, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.
Sailor Circus’ 2012 Holiday Spectacular — The Polar Express — 7pm, Dec. 27-30; 2pm, Dec. 29-30. Sailor Circus kicks off its 64th season with the 2012 Holiday Spectacular — The Polar Express. Sailor Circus, 2075 Bahia Vista St., Sarasota.