Plan your holiday season: Christmas and holiday events around Ocala

Staff Report
Ocala Electric Utility lineman Clinton Bishop ties together a connection from a cherry picker while hanging Christmas lights in the oak trees on the Ocala downtown square Thursday, getting it ready for the holiday season.

Here are some holiday highlights for Ocala and Marion County so you can begin to plan.

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'It's A Wonderful Life'

A live radio play adapted from the Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” is onstage through Dec. 19 at the Ocala Civic Theatre, 4337 E. Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala. Visit ocalacivictheatre.com or call 236-2274 for tickets and details.

Ocala Christmas Lights Spectacular

The Florida Horse Park hosts the only drive-through holiday light spectacle in North Central Florida, a 1.8-mile Christmas light event featuring dozens of larger-than-life holiday-themed displays.

The show, which opened Nov. 26 at the horse park, 11008 County Road 475, Ocala, continues through Dec. 31. Buy tickets online at ocalachristmas.com or at the gate. 

The event is presented by St. John Lutheran Church and School, with proceeds benefiting the school campus, programs and missions.

For more information, email Tracy.williams@stjohnocala.org.

Winter Wonderland at World Equestrian Center

Up through Dec. 25, this spectacular features Christmas trees and decorations, carolers, jump roping toy soldiers, acrobatic elves, stilt walkers, face painting and more.

The Wonderland is open 5 to 8 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 6 to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. $20 a vehicle, $100 for buses starting at 4 p.m. VIP parking and monthly passes available. 1750 NW 80th Ave., Ocala. Full details at wecwinterwonderland.com 

Symphony Under the Lights

Enjoy the sounds of the season, free, at 7 p.m. Dec. 3 with the Ocala Symphony Orchestra and the Ocala Youth Symphony at Tuscawilla Park at the Reilly’s outdoor stage, the Jenkins Open Air Theatre, 500 NE Ninth St., Ocala. Bring chairs and blankets for seating. Details at reillyartscenter.com. 

Light Up Lake Lillian

The annual event will be held at Lake Lillian from 3-8 p.m. Dec. 4. Crafts, food, music and a visit with Santa (4–6 p.m.) "The festival will end at dark with the 'Lighting Up' of Lake Lillian, followed by a double feature with two free 30-minute movies. Citizens that would like to enjoy the movies, should bring a chair or blankets for their families," organizers said in a news release.

Pops! Goes the Holidays!

The Ocala Symphony Orchestra will showcase one of its popular signature events at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4 and 3 p.m. Dec. 5 at the Reilly Arts Center, 500 NE Ninth St., Ocala. The event will bring to life Howard Blake’s score to the animated film, “The Snowman,” and more. Tickets and details at reillyartscenter.com or 351-1606.

Kingdom of the Sun Concert Band

 "A Christmas Prelude" concert will be performed at 2 p.m. Dec. 4 and 3 p.m. Dec. 5 at the Marion Technical Institute, 1614 SE Fort King St., Ocala. Free, but donations are accepted. Call 390-0491 or visit http://kingdomofthesunband.org. 

Christmas Worship at the Marion Theatre

Presented by Christopher Dolan Music, all are invited to an evening of worship and prayer from 6-8 p.m. Dec. 8 at the Marion Theatre, 50 S. Magnolia Ave., Ocala. Free admission, free popcorn and free soft drinks. Visit reillyartscenter.com for details.

'The Polar Express'

At 6 p.m. Dec. 8, enjoy a magical reading of Chris Van Allsburg’s “The Polar Express” presented under the night sky at the Jenkins Open Air Theatre in Tuscawilla Park, 500 NE Ninth St., Ocala. Bring chairs and blankets and enjoy a night of stories, musical entertainment by Shana Banana and more. Call 671-8551 for more information.

This was the scene at last year's reading/performance of "The Polar Express."

'The Man Who Invented Christmas'

This holiday movie starts at 7 p.m. Dec. 10 at Tuscawilla Park Oak Grove, 500 NE Sanchez Ave, Ocala. Free. Bring blankets and chairs for seating.

These Nutcrackers are part of "A Dickens Christmas: The Urban Family Holiday Exhibition," an annual staple at the Appleton Museum of Art in Ocala.

The Urban Family Community Day

Enjoy free admission Dec. 11 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Appleton Museum of Art, 4333 E. Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala, on this annual community day event celebrating "A Dickens Christmas: The Urban Family Holiday Exhibition." Visit appletonmuseum.org or call 291-4455 for details. The exhibit itself is up Nov. 16-Jan. 9.

Ocala Christmas Parade

Matt Manatee, the Ocala Star-Banner mascot, rides with Junior Parade Marshal Naz McHellon during the Ocala Christmas Parade in  2018.

The parade will step off at 5:30 p.m., Dec. 11. The theme is "A Heroes' Christmas," and the grand marshal will be Ben Marciano. The parade begins on Southeast 25th Avenue then goes west on Silver Springs Boulevard to Northeast Eighth Avenue. More details at https://www.facebook.com/OcalaChristmasParade

Scenes from the Mommy and Me dress rehearsal of the Dance Alive National Ballet's performance of "The Nutcracker" at the Phillips Center in Gainesville on Dec. 13, 2017.

'The Nutcracker'

It just isn’t the holidays without "The Nutcracker," the all-time family favorite with beautiful dancing, sets and costumes presented by Dace Alive at the Reilly Art Center.

Clara saves the Nutcracker prince, and to thank her, he brings her on a magical journey to the Kingdom of the Sweets, where the exquisite Sugar Plum Fairy puts on a regal show for her. Tradition, beauty, grace, and a terrific story – what more can you ask for?

Performances are scheduled for 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14. Tickets are $15 to $35, with students $10, on sale now at reillyartscenter.com.