This year seems to be flying by at lightning speed. Summer is practically a distant memory, kids are back in school, the holiday season is just around the corner, and for most places in America, that means so is Old Man Winter. Brrrr! Thinking about swapping your snow boots for flip flops and warming up your winter with a little sea, sun and fun in South Florida this holiday season? Here are 11 budget-friendly activities to plan your trip around during the month of December in and near Fort Lauderdale:

1. Holiday Fantasy of Lights

The wow factor of this 3-mile drive-thru exhibit of lighted trees and giant animated lighted displays at the 626.7 acre Tradewinds Park in nearby Coconut Creek is off the charts, and it’s guaranteed to get you and yours into the Christmas spirit! Before you go, download this free coloring book for your kids featuring actual displays at the park.

When: Friday, November 22, 2013–Saturday, January 4, 2014 from 6–10 p.m.
Cost: $13 per car ($10 per car on Mondays and Tuesdays through December 18th)

2. Skate Las Olas

The entire family will have loads of fun under the Florida sun ice skating—yes, ice skating!—on this state-of-the-art outdoor artificial ice rink in the heart of Fort Lauderdale's famed Las Olas Boulevard.

When: Beginning on November 29th and open daily throughout the month of December
Cost: $10 admission includes a one-hour skate and skate rental

3. Water Taxi–Winterfestival of Lights

The jaw-dropping mega mansions along the Intracoastal Waterway and Millionaire's Row are quite a sight to behold at any time of the year, but throughout the month of December they're decorated to the hilt for the holidays. Take a ride on the famous Water Taxi for a front row seat to the ultimate Christmas lights extravaganza!

When: Nightly from 5 p.m.
Cost: $13

4. Winterfest Family Fun Day

Whether you've been naughty or nice, everyone can get a photo with Santa at the Family Fun Day!  Additional attractions include face painting, bounce houses, games, Miami Marlins prize wheel, Animal Planet's world-famous alligator-wrestling Gator Boys and other live entertainment. And it all takes place on the lush green lawns of the historic Riverside Hotel on Las Olas Boulevard.

When: Sunday, December 1, 2013 from 12–4:00 p.m.
Cost: Free!

5. 51st Annual Christmas on Las Olas

Fun-filled activities await you and your family yet again on none other than picturesque Las Olas Boulevard. This annual event, which kicks off the start of the winter season, treats you to a dazzling array of tasty treats, Christmas lights, caroling choirs, ice skating and a rare sight in South Florida—snow!

When: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 from 5–10 p.m.
Cost: Free!

6. Cookies with Santa

Your little angels will love hanging out with Santa and Mrs. Claus at historic Stranahan House Museum on the New River in downtown. Cookies with Santa is part of the Children's Story Hour series that takes place here one Saturday per month. Interestingly, the house was built in 1901 by Fort Lauderdale founding father Frank Stranahan and is the oldest standing structure in Broward County.

When: Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 10 a.m.
Cost: $10 per child, with one parent free with two children. Additional adults are $10. Please call 954-524-4736 or email to RSVP. $5 all-day parking is available next door at the Riverside Hotel parking garage. Bring your parking ticket to the museum for validation.

7. 58th Annual Candy Cane Parade

Sing along to your favorite Christmas music and satisfy your sweet tooth as costumed performers on decorated floats toss candy canes into the crowd on nearby Hollywood Beach Broadwalk. This annual crowd pleaser, which begins at Scott Street and travels 1.8 miles south to Harrison Street, also features local marching bands and dance troupes, the Hollywood Police Honor Guard and, of course, Santa Claus!

When: Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 7 p.m.
Cost: Free!

8. Winterfest Boat Parade

Watercraft ranging from small private boats to gigantic mega-yachts will be lit up like Christmas trees, and most of the corporate-sponsored yachts feature plenty of lively music and entertainment, sports stars and other celebrities. Keep your eyes peeled for the Galleria Mall Reindeer Barge and the Baptist Health Santa Showboat! Starting on the New River, the boat parade travels east past Stranahan House and Millionaire's Row then heads north up the Intracoastal Waterway.

When: Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 6:30 p.m.
Cost: Tickets for the Grandstand viewing area located inside Hugh Taylor Birch State Park are $25 for adults and $20 for children and include access to an array of interactive games and activities. There are also several free viewing areas along the parade route:

  • Anywhere along the one-mile Riverwalk from Esplanade Park located next to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts all the way down to Stranahan House. Click here for a map of area parking lots.
  • Merle Fogg Park/Idlewyld Park located at 2600 E. Las Olas Boulevard adjacent to the Las Olas Boulevard Bridge
  • Las Olas Intracoastal and South Side public parking lots on this map

9. 7th Annual Christmas Near the Beach

You'd better be on your best behavior because Santa Claus is coming to town again at Hollywood Beach's annual Christmas celebration at the revolutionary Arts Park at Young's Circle. This popular family event includes a Christmas ballet as well as excerpts from The Nutcracker, live music, craft and merchandise vendors and much more!

When: Saturday, December 14, 2013 from 4–9 p.m.
Cost: Free!

10. The Nutcracker Ballet

No holiday season is complete without Clara, the Nutcracker Prince, the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Land of Sweets and Tchaikovsky's magical music score! Don't miss this reduced-price matinee performance presented by the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and performed at the 1,167 seat Parker Playhouse.

When: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 10 a.m.
Cost: $7

11. The beach

Yes you can go to the beach in December in Fort Lauderdale! You won't want to miss the opportunity to brag to your friends and family back home as you are working on your tan, digging your toes into the sugary sand and taking a dip in the turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

When: All year long
Cost: Free!

Fort Lauderdale 2013 Holiday Events for Families on a Budget