Visiting Florida in December is the perfect place for a winter getaway. Warmer temperatures and dry weather will be a breath of fresh air if you are coming from somewhere that experiences the true powers of winter.
Florida offers visitors a chance to enjoy a warm and tropical holiday season. December is filled with events, festivities, and unique things to suit any type of traveler.
Whether you are coming to visit family, ring in the new year, or take part in all of the seasonal events, we have all the information you need to have a merry and jolly holiday season.
Bonus: For more season tips, visit our guide to Florida in the winter.
The weather in December is some of the coolest and driest of the year, bringing along high fog levels and stronger winds. Nevertheless, southern Florida will always be somewhat warm and it is still a great place to escape the snow and freezing temperatures that winter brings throughout the northern part of the country.
The average high temperature in December is 64-76°F (18-24°C) in Florida. It is within the dry season, with higher winds, fog, and cooler weather. Rainfall is unlikely and rare, with an average of only 2 inches this month.
💡 There is a major difference between northern and southern Florida. In places such as Tallahassee, Pensacola, Destin, or Jacksonville, it can potentially never surpass 70 degrees in December, making it easy to forget you are even in Florida.
Average highs in December include:
- Miami: 76°F (24.4°C)
- Tampa: 73°F (23.7°C)
- Orlando: 74°F (23.3°C)
- Jacksonville: 68°F (20°C)
- Destin: 64°F (17.7°C)
December takes place during the dry season. This means that rain will be unlikely on most days. On days when rain is present, it tends to be very brief and very strong, lasting maybe 15 minutes to 1 hour.
However, weather is always unpredictable, and we know from personal experience, even thunderstorms can happen during this time of the year.
Wind: While rainfall is rare in December in Florida, the wind is not. Winds will pick up in the mornings, and after the sun sets. It’s a good idea to keep a sweatshirt or jacket available.
The average rainfall in December in Florida is 2.0 inches. Rainfall is very uncommon during this month and only averages 6-7 rainy days the entire month.
Humidity is constantly high in Florida, however, it’s not as extreme in the winter months. During summer the humidity is unbearable. December and the wintertime, in general, tend to bring a lot more winds. Having higher winds and breezy mornings, lower the effects of the humidity that is still present.
The average humidity in December is around 86% in the mornings, dropping down to 55% by the mid-afternoon and evenings.
Daily Weather Progression
December in Florida is like early fall in most other places. Sweater weather in the mornings, with hot flashes coming throughout the afternoon. Finally cooling back down with chilly and breezy evenings.
Mornings tend to be foggy, with more humidity and cool temperatures until after 9am.
Evenings: winds pick up and temperatures decrease once the sun goes down.
Here is a Daily Progression of a southern location, Miami:
- 8 AM: 67°F
- 11 AM: 73°F
- 2 PM: 75°F
- 9 PM: 69°F
Florida’s ocean waters are rather cool during December in most places. Depending on the location, it’s typically not warm enough to swim and dive without a wetsuit. As with temperature, the water will be warmer the further south you go and more suitable for swimming.
💡 In the popular southern city of Miami, many visitors still enjoy the water in December. If the ocean temperature is comfortable enough for you, depends on what you are used to and your preferences.
The Treasure Coast, such as West Palm Beach and Delray Beach, will have the warmest waters on the Atlantic side with temperatures of 80 degrees Fahrenheit, followed by Miami and The Keys, with temperatures of 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Coldest waters: In the northern part of Florida, you will find the coldest waters in December. The Atlantic side, such as Jacksonville or St. Augustine, will have water with temperatures of 66 degrees Fahrenheit, and the Panhandle region, such as Destin, with water temperatures of 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
What to Bring | What to Wear
December in Florida is the month for layering clothes. Wear long sleeves and pants during the chilly mornings and evenings. Additionally, a light jacket is practical. Some afternoons can be sunny and warm enough for shorts and t-shirts. Wear comfortable shoes when visiting theme parks.
The further south you go, the warmer it will be for more hours of the day.
💡 Long sleeves and pants could easily be needed in the mornings and after the sunsets in Florida during December. But be prepared to shed your jacket or sweater by midafternoon, even in the northern region of the state.
During the month of December, the clothing items in your suitcase should consist of:
- Clothes for layering
- Long-sleeved undershirt
- Shorts (if going south)
- A sweater or sweatshirt
- Bathing suits/cover-up, swim trunks
Local’s Tip: Florida is a tropical place all year long. However, unless you are in Miami or somewhere south, December is chilly and cold, especially in the mornings and after the sun goes down.
Comfortable shoes: Please don’t forget comfortable shoes. Many visitors underestimate the amount of walking, especially in Orlando’s theme parks like Disney or Universal. It’s likely that you will be walking over 10 miles. Without comfortable walking shoes, you end up with blisters and hurting feet at the end of the day. Please don’t wear flip-flops in theme parks.
Additional items to pack:
- Small backpack for day trips
- Comfy walking shoes
- Beach bag
- Water shoes (for water sports or boating)
- Water bottle for hydration
- Small portable fan
- Mickey Mouse ears for Disney.
Restaurant tip: When staying in Florida, we always keep a sweater or light jacket handy throughout the day for dining out in indoor restaurants. Since the temperature outdoors is mainly hot, the air conditioners are on full blast. If you get cold easily, this is a great tip to keep in mind.
In certain cities, rates stay higher the whole winter season due to snowbirds and seasonal residents. December increases the prices even more due to the number of holidays and celebrations happening.
December will be one of the most expensive months in Florida when it comes to accommodation and various activities entrance fees. Reservations are highly advised, months in advance if possible, as most things will fill up fast.
- 10 Best Hotels in Orlando (via booking.com)
- 10 Best Hotels in Sarasota (don’t miss this city! Read more below)
- 10 Best Tampa Hotels (via booking.com)
- 10 Best Hotels in Miami
The hotel links above are really useful to save time and money. Bookmark your preferred hotels/cities and make your reservations as far in advance as possible to save money.
Depending on your preference and budget, you can find hostels starting at around $60 a night. Staying in an Airbnb averages around $200 a night, hotels average $70-$400 a night, and full home vacation rentals can be up to $600 per night.
Christmas & New Year: Christmas and New Years’ Eve both take place during the last week of the month. But most places in the state will celebrate all month long with holidays, events, and festivities in dozens of different cities.
Florida is one of the only places in the country where you have a chance for a tropical holiday season, and escape the cold temperatures of winter.
December brings large numbers of visitors to Florida every year. Big cities and regions where snowbirds gather will be the most crowded, such as Miami and Orlando, or Sarasota and Tampa.
Crowded Christmas Week: The holiday season will always cause more crowds than usual. Plan on more events and locations to have a large number of visitors, especially the last week of the month. Don’t plan to do too much in one day, long wait lines are going to possibly cause delays.
Always remember, it is Florida, so beaches are always going to be somewhat crowded, even in December, but nothing like how they were during spring break. If relaxing on the beach is what you are most looking forward to on your vacation, May is the ideal time to visit.
Places to Visit / Things to Do in December
Most visitors think about Disney, Universal, Sea World, and the beaches across the state. However, beaches and theme parks aren’t the only way to enjoy Florida in December. There are countless options to immerse yourself in the sunshine state during this month.
Whether you are visiting family for the holidays, enjoying the beach, escaping the winter temperatures, or just simply traveling, there is always something going on in December.
Get ready for lots of events and magical experiences. Florida is a beautiful state any time of year; imagine it lit up with Christmas lights! Take in the scenery and engage in some of the following activities.
Florida is the host of various festivals during the month of December including the following:
- Orlando Festival of Trees
- St. Augustine Nights of Lights
- Ice! Gaylord Resort, Orlando
- Pensacola WinterFest
Florida also will be filled with dozens of other Christmas and New Year’s Eve events. Though technically not a festival, Miami hosts the ‘World’s Largest Holiday Theme Park.’
The coastline of Florida is a vacation hotspot all year round because of the gorgeous beaches. December tends to bring more winds and cooler weather. While ocean water temperatures may be too cold for most, the beach still offers great sunsets and opportunities to relax on the coastline.
The Treasure Coast (West Palm Beach, Boca Rotan) has some of the warmest waters on the Atlantic coast at 76 degrees Fahrenheit. This is also a big shopping spot in Florida, and a great chance to finish any last-minute Christmas shopping.
There are also various golf courses in the area, a popular hobby this time of year, and one of the only places on the East Coast that is still warm enough to enjoy it.
The Florida Keys has the best weather in December compared to other beaches. There are waters of 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and offers some of the best diving spots in the country.
Miami Beach/South Beach will be the busiest due to its popularity, warm waters, and of course the holiday season. The waters here will be on average 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, even Miami Beach can be sort of empty when it’s not beach weather on a windy and cooler day in December.
Crowded Beaches: Beaches such as Naples and Fort Myers, or St. Pete and Clearwater are going to have extremely high crowds. Not only are these places most popular for snowbirds to reside, but it is also Christmas time, so there will be double the visitors during this month.
The average high temperatures in Orlando hover around 75°F (23.8°C). There is a very low chance of precipitation and has lower humidity.
Crowds: Orlando tends to be pretty crowded in December. Not only is it home to popular theme parks, but there are also various holiday festivities going on at these theme parks. Staying in the Disneys’ Orlando town of ‘Celebration’ is popular this time of year because of the abundance of Christmas decorations.
💡 Check out our detailed guide about Orlando in December.
Good to know: The first week of December is usually slightly less crowded, while Christmas week is jam-packed. Always remember that there is no quiet time anymore in Orlando’s theme parks.
Universal Studios | Orlando
Universal Studios is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Florida. It is known for movies themed rides and attractions, for kids and adults. During December, the Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort are filled with Christmas lights, special shows, and various other bonuses for visitors to enjoy.
- Tip: Hotels in Universal Studio Resort (stay there to save time)
Is the park-to-park ticket worth it? The park-to-park ticket allows you to roam between the three parks (see below) on the same day. You definitely should get it if you are a Harry Potter fan, as you can only ride the Hogwarts Express with this ticket.
Additionally, some visitors always get the park-to-park ticket as they love to move around, particularly if it’s too busy in one park (very likely due to Christmas events). It just gives you more flexibility.
Skip-the-line-ticket: The crowds in December are going to be higher for various reasons. It may be best to do Universal Studios with the express/skip-the-line ticket in December.
Three parks: Universal Studios is not just one park. There are a total of three Universal parks, each with its own theme and unique attractions:
- Universal Studios Florida
- Islands of Adventure
- Volcano Bay Water Park
Walt Disney World | Orlando (Nearby)
Disney World is Florida’s most prominent attraction and perfect for celebrating the holidays. Disney is a magical experience, even more so during the Christmas season. There are various events in multiple parks including Festival of the Holidays at Epcot, Flurry of Fun in Hollywood Studios, and most popular, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. While visiting the parks, indulge in rides, restaurants, shops, and other attractions.
Disney Springs, formally known as ‘Downtown Disney,’ is filled with decorations and is known for the various stores and gift shops. A great way to do any shopping that may need to be done before Christmas.
While Disney World features multiple attractions, including water parks and golf courses, its main attractions are the four theme parks:
- Magic Kingdom
- Animal Kingdom
- Hollywood Studios
Tickets Tip: For a hassle-free experience, get the base tickets in advance: Walt Disney World Orlando – Admission Base Tickets 2-7 days (mobile voucher or printed voucher)
How many days? 5-7 days are recommended for the best Disney World experience. If you only have two or three days, visit Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom or Epcot. Magic Kingdom is the best park as its rides and attractions have more magic than anything else.
In general, plan 1-2 days for each of the four parks in Disney World Orlando. Park experts recommend two days for each park, except Animal Kingdom, which can be easily done within a day.
SeaWorld | Orlando
When visiting SeaWorld in Orlando, you get the fantastic chance to see penguins, otters, dolphins, and other amazing sea creatures up close. The park won’t be as crowded as some of the other theme parks such as Universal or Disney, but still has an average number of visitors. SeaWorld Christmas Celebration is going on throughout the whole month with live entertainment and festive treats and lights.
5 tips for a perfect SeaWorld visit in December:
- Make reservations in advance: December brings crowds to Florida, especially the second half. It’s not fun waiting in a long line. Save time and money by purchasing (mobile or printed voucher) tickets in advance: Park Admission Ticket Reservation
- Pack a light sweater: While December still offers mostly comfortable temperatures in Orlando, the animal exhibits and aquariums which are not outside can get quite chilly, especially in later hours. A sweater helps if you get cold easily.
- Arrive early at the shows: As the number of daily shows is limited, they often fill up quickly. In particular, the dolphin show, Dolphin Adventures, and Shamu’s close-up, Orca Encounter. Try to arrive 20 to 30 minutes before showtime.
- Check the weather forecast: Check the forecast in the morning and prepare for your visit. Since December is the dry season, rains are less likely and shouldn’t be an issue.
- Bring your holiday spirit: It’s Christmas time and it shows throughout the park. Be ready to partake in various holiday-themed attractions and events.
Kennedy Space Center | Orlando (Nearby)
The Kennedy Space Center is worth visiting in December and is only a 50-minute-drive from Orlando. You can either buy the admission ticket (mobile or printed voucher) solo or one where you don’t have to worry about driving as it includes transport from and to Orlando (via GetYourGuide – safe booking)
- Watch a rocket launch
- See a real space shuttle
- Go behind the gates (NASA restricted areas)
- Take the bus tour to the Apollo/Saturn V Center
Guided tour: You can explore everything on your own, but a guided tour is highly recommended since the area is overwhelming in its size and scope.
In December, the average high temperature in Tampa is 73°F (22.7°C). It gets noticeably colder in the evening and morning hours, with fog likely in the mornings.
Tampa Bay’s Sun Coast offers some of Florida’s best beaches, including Clearwater Beach and St. Pete Beach. These are some of the busiest beaches in Florida this time of year due to the high numbers of snowbird residents.
Besides hitting the beaches, Tampa has some great activities to offer for the whole family. Our tips:
Busch Gardens: Tampa’s huge theme park features intriguing wildlife with more than 2000 animals from around the world, huge roller coasters, live shows, restaurants, and games. Spend a full day at Busch Gardens. Ticket reservations (mobile voucher or printed): Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Ticket & Multi-Park Options
Florida Aquarium: The Florida Aquarium is located on the southeastern edge of downtown Tampa. It’s truly fascinating and has a huge collection of marine life, with 14,000 animals, including stingrays, moray eels, and turtles. Consider 2-3 hours for your visit. If you plan to visit when it’s busier on a weekend or during Christmas week, get a skip-the-line ticket: The Florida Aquarium Skip-the-Line Entrance
Sarasota is a city on Florida’s Gulf Coast south of Tampa that was originally the winter home of the Ringling Brothers Circus.
Average temperature progression during December in Sarasota:
- Early May: 76°F (24.4°C)
- Mid-May: 74°F (23.3°C)
- Late May: 71°F (21.6°C)
Early Morning: It tends to be foggy and chilly in the morning hours in December. Chilly enough to need a jacket or sweater on most days.
Sarasota is a vibrant place with plenty of great things to do. From the white sandy beaches to golfing and shopping or nightlife activities.
The Mote Marine Laboratory, which is ideal for small children, and the historical Marie Selby Botanical Gardens are two of Sarasota’s main attractions.
Tours by bike or bus are a fantastic way to experience the city, but you can also do it on your own.
- Ringling Museum: Perfect for a windy afternoon in December
Tip: To discover the main attractions as well as the hidden neighborhoods, book a Sarasota sightseeing tour. It covers the historic downtown neighborhoods of Gillespie Park, Burns Court, Laurel Park, St. Armands Circle, and the Rosemary Design District.
In December, the Everglades is a warm region, with an average high of 78°F (26°C) and an average low of 65°F (18°C). This is one of the driest months of the year, and humidity levels rarely rise about 71%.
Please read our complete Everglades guide and find out why December is an excellent month to visit.
Mosquitoes are very uncommon in December, making your visit a lot more pleasant. There is a higher chance to see wildlife this time of year, due to low waters and less rainfall.
December offers various tours and experiences related to the Everglades. However, there are higher crowds during this time. Too many people at once cause wildlife to hide, so try and go in the mornings if possible when it is less crowded.
Crystal River | Manatees
If you haven’t been to Three Sisters Springs in Florida (Google Maps Location) to either swim with manatees or just watch them, you’re missing out! It’s fascinating to observe these gentle and playful giants in the water.
December is a peak month and one of the best times to swim with manatees in Florida. A massive number of these creatures are present now in the natural springs of Crystal River.
In December, the average temperature in Miami is 76°F (24.4°C). This is a great month to visit as it’s one of the warmest cities in the state in December, perfect for visitors wanting to escape the winter weather.
Make sure to read our complete guide to Miami in December [Weather, What to Wear, Activities].
Crowds: Due to popularity, warm temperatures/waters, snowbirds, and holidays expect to see high crowds in Miami. Especially during Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Visit our Miami in December guide for helpful tips during this month.
Activities: Keep in mind that there is more to experience than Miami Beach and South Beach. Our tips:
- Everglades National Park: Airboat Tour and Wildlife Show (starts in Gator Park)
- Miami: 45-Minute Sightseeing Speedboat Tour (mobile tickets): A thrilling ride through Miami with the best sights
- Miami: South Beach 30-Minute Plane Tour: Experience amazing views of South Miami with a terrific pilot
Miami: City Cruise to Millionaire’s Homes & Venetian Islands (our tip!)
The Florida Keys is hands down one of the best places to visit when exploring Florida. Especially during December, as it is host to the Harbor Walk of Lights, and the Key West Holiday Fest.
In December the average water temperature for the Keys is 75°F (23.8°C), and it is Florida’s warmest beach with the best beach temperatures in the month of December.
The Florida Keys cater to various types of travelers and there is something for everyone. This area is great for sportsmen, beach lovers, foodies, and history buffs of all ages.
Activities around the Keys
- Key West: The best ‘all around’ beach in December and one of our favorites in all of Florida. It’s warm and ideal for living the island life at its best!
- Key Largo: Famous for being the Dive Capital of the world and being the site for the biggest artificial reef. Make sure to visit John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park during your visit.
- Dry Tortugas National Park: The most southern National Park in the country, is the perfect place to learn about history. Take a tour to the island and learn about legends of sunken treasures, pirates, and ghostly civil war stories. Divers will also love this place because it has some of the least disturbed reefs in the whole country.
- Snorkeling: There are countless world-class snorkeling spots all over the Florida Keys. You can take boat tours to various locations, or just walk right in the water and explore at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park.
- Seven Mile Bridge: This is amongst the longest bridges in the world, connecting the Florida Keys islands. It was also featured in various television dramas such as Burn Notice. Drive down over the water for some of the most spectacular views of a lifetime!
- Bahia Honda State Park: Bahia Honda State Park offers visitors an award-winning beach, a historic bridge, snorkeling tours, kayak adventures, and the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary. Keep in mind, this park will close if it gets too crowded, to protect the environment and assure visitors enjoy their time. The park is open daily from 8:00 am until sunset.
Spending the holiday season in Florida can be a magical and unforgettable experience. Seeing a palm tree covered in Christmas lights is a great sight after experiencing cold northern winters. There is a never-ending list of things to do in Florida in December and a perfect place to ring in the New year.