Need a reason to enjoy the season? Get in your car and drive, my little Elf.

Winter Park Xmas-2

Do you love beautifully decorated homes? Winter Park has what you're looking for.

 WINTER PARK – Is there anything better around the holidays than getting in your car and going for a drive?

I know what you’re thinking – Dude, are you crazy? With so many tourists flocking into Central Florida between now and the first week of January, the highways areconstantly packed, and so are those mall parking lots. In fact, Interstate 4, the Florida Turnpike and U.S. 192 feel like a parking lot at night.  Honey have we gone a quarter of a mile yet is a familiar hourly refrain among drivers.

But that’s not what I’m referring to. What I love around this festive time of year isn’t the crowds, but something I can all by myself or with my closest friends and family members, something that’s simple and wonderful: driving around local neighborhoods, looking for those streets where a surprisingly large number of homeowners got inspired to drag out the Christmas lights – sometimes so brightly that you have to marvel at their creativity … and question how they finance their electric bill.

Osceola Heritage Park picked up on the concept this year. Earlier his year, while trying to think of a holiday event that would draw in crowds, OHP came up with the idea of a light show.

Wonderland of Lights runs nightly through Jan. 9, and gives families an opportunity to pack into their car and through for about a mile across the park property, looking out their window at the array of more than 100 brightly colored, larger-than-life holiday scenes images, while tuning in their car radio to a station broadcasting Christmas music.

At $20 a carload, it’s a great idea, nicely done, because in addition to driving around in the pitch darkness and seeing the sky lit up by brilliant lighting, guests end their ride at a Santa’s Village created inside the park building — where Santa himself awaits the kids for some photos. The park’s general manager, Robb Larson,  has already promised to make this an annual event at the 120-acre entertainment complex that includes the Silver Spurs Arena.  I hope it does well enough that they stick with that plan.

But …

It’s also worth keeping in mind that if you don’t live particularly close to Kissimmee, you have another option. Have you checked out your own back yard in recent years?

It might be easier than you think. Try going outside with a warm cup of coffee in your hand, getting in your car, starting up the engine … and then just cruising along through those plentiful neighborhoods all around you. What do you think you’ll find? 

Is your yard a Winter Wonderland? This home in the Garden Grove Circle subdivision in Winter Park fits the bill.

If you’re lucky and live in one of the more creative areas, you might find a Winter Wonderland of Lights all on your own.

Here’s a prime example: Garden Grove Circle, a subdivision in Winter Park that’s a little bit east of State Road 436. Home after home – and there were probably more than 50 on the street – was brightly lit up, at least 15 or so decorated to the max. There was a garage filled with a nostalgia-inducing electric train set for the kid in all of us, and oneother  home – wow. Front, back, both sides, the entire home seemed covered by lights and shining brightly. Remember what I was saying about the electric bill ….?

Do you love beautifully decorated homes? Winter Park has what you're looking for.

What’s going on in this particular neighborhood? Too much hot chocolate and Christmas cookies being consumed there? It’s hard to say, but here’s one thing we can all relate to: it sure is fun to drive past.

Get outside this holiday season. Take a drive. If you’re interested in Wonderland of Lights at Osceola Heritage Park, log on to www.OHPARK.com to learn more.

Otherwise, explore! Find the hot spots around you where your neighbors have a genuine passion for extravagant Christmas decorating. You know what — it’s a glorious time to do just that.

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