Florida Travel: It’s Always Christmas in Christmas

There’s a town in Central Florida called Christmas. Located in Central Florida between Orlando and the Space Coast, the locals say, it’s always Christmas in Christmas.

Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area, Christmas, Fla., Dec. 7, 2019
Christmas Wreath Lichen in the Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area

Walking the St. Nicholas Interpretive Trail in the Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area

Because it is Christmastime, I recently set out to see what Christmas in Florida is like. Walking the St. Nicholas Interpretive Trail, I spied Christmas wreaths on a tree branch. The wreaths are round blotches of green surrounded by red, about the size of a half-dollar. Specifically, I was looking at a form of lichen (Cryptothecia rubrocincta).

Rather than tinsel and ornaments, some trees dripped with Spanish moss while others were adorned with pinecones and insects. Resurrection fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides), okay, wrong holiday, crawled across the branch of another tree. A choir of birds sang as a starburst of light shined through a stand of trees. This sights and senses during this late afternoon hike were a beautiful Christmas gift and I found it in the Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area in Christmas.

Savage Christmas Creek Preserve in Christmas, Fla., Dec. 2019
Walking Stick Insect at Savage Christmas Creek Preserve

Ambling Through Savage Christmas Creek Preserve

Walking some of the Savage Christmas Creek Preserve, I could tell the trail is suited not for reindeer, but for horses. Watching my step over the rugged trail, I spotted something I have yet to see in Florida. A walking stick insect. I observed as it navigated over the bumpy trail and appreciated this unexpected natural gift.

The Permament Christmas Display in Christmas, Fla.
The Permanent Christmas Display in Christmas, Fla.

Welcome to Christmas, Florida

After living in the Sunshine State for more than two decades, I finally decided it was time to explore Christmas. On a recent Saturday morning, I hopped in my car and after nearly three hours over interstate and rivers, and through the concrete jungle of Orlando, I rolled into Christmas, Fla.
There is a gateway sign stating “Welcome to Christmas” at the intersection of State Road 50 and Fort Christmas Road. I pulled over to snap a photo and another visitor pulled over for a photo, too. After offering to take his photo in front of the sign, he said to me, “I’m glad to see we’re kindred spirts over Christmas.”

Across the road is a permanent Christmas tree, a painted concrete Santa Claus statue, red wood sleigh, nativity scene, and sign that reads, “The permanent Christmas tree at Christmas Florida is the symbol of love and good will; the Christmas Spirit every day in the year.” Not visible from the road and on back of the sign is a mosaic of a landscape and the words of the Christian hymn, “Gloria in excelsis Deo,” at the top.

Community of Christmas, Fla., Dec. 2019
Mosaic of “Gloria in excelsis Deo” in Christmas, Fla.

Fort Christmas, the Story Behind the Name

Located about 20 miles east of Orlando in unincorporated Orange County towards Titusville is a slice of old Florida. According to the 2010 census, the population of Christmas is just over 1,100 residents. The community was originally called Fort Christmas when on Dec. 25, 1837, which was during the Second Seminole War, also called the Florida War (1835-1842), U.S. Army soldiers and Alabama volunteers constructed a fort and named it for the holiday. The community’s first post office opened in 1892 and “fort” was dropped from the name.

Fort Christmas was one of more than 200 forts constructed during that war and today, a full-size replica welcomes visitors to learn about the war and Florida Cracker life between the 1870s and 1930s. Within the 25 acres are several pioneer homes from that period help tell the historical story of yesteryear including cattle, citrus, and homesteading.

Swampy - Jungle Adventures, Christmas, Fla., Dec. 7, 2019
Swampy at Jungle Adventures is the World’s Largest Alligator-Shaped Building in Christmas, Fla.

Swampy, the World’s Largest Alligator-Shaped Building

While I did not see eight tiny reindeer, I did see the intersection of Cupid Avenue and Comet Street and down the road, I saw at least eight giant American alligators in Christmas. Heck, I think I saw at least 100. Contrasting the natural beauty and real Florida of the Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area is Jungle Adventures. It is notable for Swampy, the world’s largest alligator-shaped building at 200 feet long. I was told it’s really 188 feet long, but either way, it is quite impressive and selfie-worthy. Swampy serves as a popular photo opportunity especially when standing in his jaws.

DSC05858 (2)
A Ball Python at Jungle Adventures in Christmas, Fla.

Find Old Florida at Jungle Adventures

The roadside attraction is one of Central Florida’s oldest and home to animals as black bear, Florida panther, exotic birds, a Nile crocodile, wolf hybrids, tortoises, and about 200 American alligators. The visit begins with a two-hour guided tour. Afterwards, feel free to walk the jungle at your own pace. During the tour, get up close to meet, pet, and sometimes hold some of the residents during the wildlife show. I held a two-year-old alligator and ball python. The snake was once someone’s pet who overfed it live rats. The snake was disinterested in a rat placed in its habitat and the rodent was so hungry, it nibbled off the end of the ball python’s tail. Or at least, that is how the tale about his stubby tail goes.

The owner surrendered the snake to Jungle Adventures who rehabilitated it. The ball python and other animals are part of the program educating visitors about responsible exotic pet ownership and discouraging owning exotic animals.

Jungle Adventures, Christmas, Fla., Dec. 7, 2019
Walk on Water at Jungle Adventures When Walking the Boardwalks

The tour also includes an overview of the Native Americans who lived in Central and East Florida including tools, weapons, and training tools they used; how they survived; and what happened when the Spanish arrived. Replicas of tools made from seashells and animal bones are on display along with a contraption used to lure alligators in for harvesting. The Jungle Swamp Cruise is part of the tour, too. Hop in the pontoon boat for about a 10-minute cruise around the facility and count the gators around you.

Most wildlife is contained in their clean habitats while the alligators seem to have the largest area to roam. A boardwalk trail is like walking on water. It weaves through a swampy habitat with gators galore. Light snacks and beverages are available for purchase but feel free to bring your own picnic lunch to enjoy in the jungle.

Christmas, FL Postmark Stamps at the Christmas, Fla., Post Office.

Other Things to do in Christmas, Florida

Rather than dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh, jump in an airboat. Christmas has several operators offering zippy tours on the St. Johns River.

The Christmas post office is an attraction, too. Letters and cards can be postmarked with “Christmas, FL.” There is also a mail drop for letters to Santa.

Dining is limited and I grabbed a bite at the convenience store Christmas Grocery. They serve casual fare as chicken sandwiches, hamburgers, and pizza, and receive rave reviews. Santa Claus does not call Christmas home, but there are plenty of jolly folks eager to share the yuletide spirit.

Find the yuletide spirt sprinkled throughout Christmas. As I heard many times during my visit, it’s always Christmas in Christmas, Florida.

Christmas, Fla.

Nuts & Bolts About Visiting Christmas, Florida

Christmas is about a three-hour drive from Charlotte County. Lodging options are in the Orlando and Titusville areas. Primitive camping is available at the Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area by reservation only. For those with recreational vehicles there is the Christmas RV Park.

Airboat Rides at Midway

28501 East Colonial Dr.
Christmas, Fla. 32709
Tel: 407-568-6790
www.airboatridesatmidway.com
Open 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily.
Dash over the St. Johns River with an opportunity to view alligators, birds, and other Florida wildlife. Before or after the ride, say hello to Porkchop, the resident pet pig. He has his own Instagram, too.

Christmas Grocery

25002 E Colonial Dr.
Christmas, Fla. 32709
Tel: 407-568-5668
www.facebook.com/ChristmasGroceryJeff
Convenience store serving casual fare as pizza, hamburgers, and chicken sandwiches.

Christmas RV Park

25525 East Colonial Dr.
Christmas, Fla. 32709
Tel: 407-568-5207
www.christmasrvpark.com

Fort Christmas Historical Park

1300 North Fort Christmas Rd. (C.R. 420)
Christmas, Fla. 32709
Tel: 407-254-9312
www.nbbd.com/godo/FortChristmas
Open
Summer: 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Winter: 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Hours change when the clock changes.
Closed December 24 & 25.
Entrance is free but there is a fee for large groups. Call for details.

Jungle Adventures

26205 E Colonial Dr.
Christmas, Fla. 32709
Tel: 407-568-2885
www.jungleadventures.com
Open daily, 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., last admittance is 4 p.m. 2-hour tour then roam freely. Call ahead for Thanksgiving and Christmas openings.
Admission:
Adult (ages 12 – 59): $25.95 plus tax.
Seniors 60 and older: $22.95 plus tax.
Children 3 – 11: $17.95 plus tax.
Children under 3: Free
Other discounts available, such as AAA and military. Purchase online in advance for a discount.

Savage Christmas Creek Preserve

11046 NW Christmas Rd.
Christmas, Fla. 32709
Tel: 407-836-1400
www.ocfl.net/CultureParks
Open sunrise to sunset daily.
No entrance fee.
More than 200 acres of wilderness and 7.3 miles of hiking and equestrian trails.

Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area

3365 Taylor Creek Rd.
Christmas, Fla. 32709
Tel:407-568-5893
myfwc.com/recreation/lead/tosohatchee
Open 8 a.m. to dusk daily.
Entrance fee: $3 per vehicle.
Some of the activities to do in this 30,700-acre recreational area include ore than 60 miles of trails, fishing spots, hunting, wildlife watching, and primitive camping.

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Author: Solo Travel Girl

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led Jennifer Huber, aka: Solo Travel Girl, to a career path in tourism. She has worked in the tourism industry for more than 20 years including 10 years with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley and Everglades National Park. She currently lives in Southwest Florida, and maintains this travel blog with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely.

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