The countdown to Christmas continues as we enter December this week and organizations around North Central Florida kick off the holiday season with a number of events the next two weekends.
Here’s a rundown of family events happening soon along with ongoing activities you can visit anytime.
Light the Village in the Haile Village Center
Enjoy holiday music, train rides, face painting, snacks and a visit from Santa at the Haile Village Center from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 3.
Newberry Christmas Tree
The City of Newberry will light its Christmas tree on Friday, Dec. 3 at City Hall from 6 to 8 p.m. The event will include a Christmas Vintage Market, a letter writing station to Santa and hot cocoa.
Holiday Lights in the Thomas Center Gardens
Hosted by the City of Gainesville, the Holiday Lights in the Thomas Center Gardens will happen Saturday, Dec. 4 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Lights will shine throughout the gardens with cider and cookies provided for all along with live entertainment. The Gainesville Harmony Show Chorus, Singers of Reformation and Gypsy Guerilla Band will perform at the event.
Horse-drawn carriages will be on standby to whisk you through the surrounding neighborhood lit for the Christmas season. The rides cost $5 per person, but the rest of the event is free.
Operation Santa Delivery by LifeSouth
Watch Santa arrive by helicopter at Santa Fe College’s north field at the corner of NW 39th Avenue and NW 91st Street on Friday, Dec. 4 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The free event features more than 20 community organizations with games and fun activities. You can take photos with Santa and give blood to save lives.
Alachua tree lighting and parade
The City of Alachua will light up its Christmas tree at 6 p.m. this Friday on Main Street. The event will involve pictures with Santa, free gifts, activities and cookies baked by Mrs. Claus, according to the City of Alachua.
Next Saturday, Dec. 11, Alachua will host its annual Christmas Parade at 2 p.m. along Main Street.
Butler Plaza Christmas event
Watch performances by the Gainesville Dance Academy, Gainesville Youth Chorus, P.K. Yonge, Sun Country Sports Center Gymnastics and more from 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 10.
Santa will also make an appearance with opportunities for food and activities from different vendors at Butler Plaza.
The event will take place at Stengel Field. Find more information online.
Thornebrook Village Holiday Market and Open House
Decorated for the season, Thornebrook Village will feature music on an outdoor stage and an arts and craft show with more than 30 vendors.
The event will run from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 10 at 2441 NW 43rd Street in Gainesville.
Keystone Heights Holiday Extravaganza
From 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday Dec. 11, the City of Keystone Heights will provide a number of family events to celebrate the Christmas season.
Food trucks, a petting zoo, pet adoptions, live music and a concert at Keystone Beach will start the day right. The Lake Region KiWanis Christmas Parade begins at 6 p.m. with Christmas movies at the Keystone Beach running from 7:30 to 9 p.m.
More information available online.
Ocala Christmas Light Spectacular
Held on select dates from now until the end of the year, visitors can visit SANTALAND for a train ride, slide, live music and food available for purchase.
The drive thru light displays feature dozens of holiday-themed displays that pair with music from local radio stations.