Local artist Josh Garrick gives his top five recommendations for upcoming arts and culture events in Central Florida.
This week we take a look at some unique holiday events, a few of which include “Day Trips” from Central Florida. Once again, we celebrate the variety of experiences to be had in our varied — and always interesting — state.
Through Dec. 23. Everybody’s favorite redhead is delighting Central Florida audiences this holiday season at the Garden Theatre in Winter Garden. First premiered on Broadway in 1977 and revived in 2013, this family-friendly, Tony Award-winning Best Musical is based on the Harold Gray comic strip “Little Orphan Annie.” In the musical, little orphan Annie is taken from the orphanage to stay at a Billionaire’s mansion in New York City for the holidays. Along the way, she is kidnapped by bungling crooks, befriended by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (to whom she gives advice in the form of the Broadway anthem, “Tomorrow”) and finds a home with billionaire Oliver Warbucks for herself and her lovable mutt Sandy. You’ll want to bring the entire family to this classic holiday musical, so book your tickets today, before they sell out tomorrow. Call (407) 877-4736 or visit gardentheatre.org
2. The Polar Express in Tavares
Through Dec. 30. Based on the children’s book (and movie), the Polar Express rolls into Tavares in Lake County offering a magical theatrical experience that takes you and your children to the “North Pole” aboard an actual train. Re-creating 1950s scenes and décor from the movie, with impeccably dressed conductors, porters and characters costumed for the period, the singing and dancing ride to the “North Pole” (actually travels to) the neighboring town of Eustis. With Christmas garlands draped through the train cars, you’ll have your golden ticket punched by the conductor and enjoy a reading of the classic story. Dancing chefs offer cocoa and cookies to wide-eyed passengers — until Santa appears to give each child a bell that only rings for those “who believe.” The train is so popular that some extra runs have been added through Dec. 30. Visit orlandothepolarexpressride.com.
3. Snowfall at Celebration Town Center
Through Dec. 31. The Disney-inspired Town of Celebration, Florida has a traditional business district modeled after those found in small-town America. Shops, restaurants, the town hall and a post office are among the buildings found along a promenade circling a lake where snow falls every night (including New Year’s Eve) at 6, 7, 8 and 9 p.m. The nightly fun includes photos with Santa, strolling carolers, an ice-staking rink, horse-drawn-carriage rides and the Celebration Express Train for the young ones. Family fun for everyone is the rule at Celebration – particularly at Christmastime. “Now Snowing” is an original “snow” event, considered the finest in all of Florida. In addition, a special “Countdown to Christmas” Concert is scheduled for Dec. 16. Parking and admission are free. Visit celebrationtowncenter.com.
4. Downton Abbey in Saint Augustine
Through Jan 7, 2018. “Downton Abbey” is one of the most honored series on television, having received 12 Emmys, three Golden Globes, three Screen Actors Guild Awards and a 2015 BAFTA Special Award in recognition of the series’ outstanding global success. Now, a unique exhibit of 36 costumes and accessories from the TV show are posed in vignettes among turn-of-the-century fine art and furniture at the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine. The TV series was based on the lives of its aristocratic inhabitants and their servants, dressed in the latest fashions, and because the series took place during the period surrounding World War I, the series’ costumes reflect the changing fashions from 1912 to the mid-1920s. Call (904) 824-2874 or visit lightnermuseum.org/dressing-downton.
5. Big Cat Rescue in Tampa
Ongoing. One of the world’s largest sanctuaries for exotic cats, Big Cat Rescue, north of Tampa, is a leading advocate for ending the abuse of captive big cats while saving wild cats from extinction. The rescue is home to lions, tigers, bobcats, cougars and other species. The sanctuary, launched in 1992, is situated on 67 acres in Citrus Park. The sanctuary offers 90-minute “Guided Walking Tours” for ages 10 and older. For families with children younger than 10, there are children’s tours available Saturdays and Sundays. Big Cat Rescue is at 12802 Easy St., Tampa. Call (813) 920-4130 or visit BigCatRescue.org.