12 Reasons to Take a Trip to Jolly Creek

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It’s been a tough holiday season for many, especially Orlando’s hospitality professionals. Thankfully there are many ways the Orlando community is rallying around their own, and one of those ways includes a holiday festival that could only be experienced in Florida.

Jolly Creek has taken over Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures, giving visitors a festive Florida experience like no other. The best part of all is Jolly Creek intentionally hired Orlando hospitality professionals that had been let go from Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and other locations.

Jolly Creek Holiday Festival

Here are 12 reasons visiting Jolly Creek is worth the trip:

  1. Safety and health precautions are enforced
  2. Supporting local hospitality professionals
  3. A portion of proceeds benefit Second Harvest Food Bank
  4. Jolly Creek Society Orchestra (aka formerly the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra)
  5. Beautiful Christmas lights
  6. Santa Claus meet and greet on an airboat
  7. Festive food and drinks
  8. Jolly Creek elves
  9. Family-friendly activities
  10. So many photo opportunities
  11. Mr. Tree – the roaming Christmas tree
  12. Outdoor tiki bar
Jolly Creek Holiday Festival – Florida Frosty

Safety and health precautions are enforced

Temperatures of all guests, staff, and performers are checked before entrance is permitted. Masks are required for all guests ages 3+ and older. Proper wearing of the masks, including the nose being covered is enforced, and any guest unwilling to do so will be asked to leave. There are social distancing maskers for queues. It did become a little difficult along certain walkways and unmarked areas.

We attended early in the evening, right at 6:00 p.m. when they open for the night. This was mostly due to my toddler’s sleep schedule, but it did allow us to enjoy the festivities early as after about 7:15 p.m. it was noticeably busier. There is a limited capacity and tickets can sell out as a result. The entire experience is outdoors.

Supporting local hospitality professionals

When Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures announced its Halloween event at this venue, and the subsequent Jolly Creek festival, they were very vocal that they would intentionally hire Orlando theme park and hospitality professionals that were furloughed or laid off. Not only does this give the Orlando community an important employment opportunity, but it spreads goodwill around the community. It is also a smart business decision. Jolly Creek has received positive press, but more importantly it is staffed by people who are friendly, jovial, and used to working with the public.

A portion of proceeds benefit Second Harvest Food Bank

The needs of the Orlando community are many and great this year. Many local charities are finding the greatest demand they’ve even had to meet before. One of Central Florida’s largest non-profit organizations is the Second Harvest Food Bank. This massive food bank helps meet the hunger needs of so many in Central Florida, and works with other small food banks. A portion of proceeds from Jolly Creek benefit Second Harvest Food Bank. So you can have a jolly time, while also doing some good.

Jolly Creek Society Orchestra

For me, the best feature of this holiday festival is the performances of the Jolly Creek Society Orchestra. If that name sounds a little familiar it is because this orchestra is the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra that was unfortunately let go from Walt Disney World.

Their performance is just as impressive as their decades spent delighting guests at Disney’s Grand Floridian. They performed for close to an hour while we were there. We would have easily stayed for another performance if we hadn’t needed to get our tired toddler home.

There are chairs in the performance area and social distancing is generally easy to accomplish in this area. The Jolly Creek venue is not that large, and the orchestra can be heard and seen anywhere in the venue.

Jolly Creek Holiday Festival

Beautiful Christmas lights

As you make the drive out into the Florida wilderness to reach Jolly Creek, you’ll no doubt see the glow of lights well before arriving. There are dazzling Christmas lights practically everywhere you look at Jolly Creek. The warm, comforting glow surrounds you. Anyone who is a fan of impressive Christmas light displays will enjoy all the decorations and lights here.

Jolly Creek Holiday Festival

Santa Claus meet and greet on an airboat

It wouldn’t be a holiday festival without a Santa meet and greet. Being that Jolly Creek is put on by Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures, Santa greets guests while aboard a decorated airboat. It does not get more Florida than that. The meet and greet is distanced with a six foot space between Santa and his guests, as well as guests waiting for their turn. One disappointment was that there was not a photographer there to take family photos. Even if they were for purchase only, it would have been a nice feature and a way to raise more money for the cause.

Jolly Creek Holiday Festival

Festive food and drinks

Jolly Creek’s food is very casual, of course. Soft drinks and a small selection of alcoholic beverages are available. Egg nog, hot cocoa, and hot cider are also available.

We ordered the Gator Bites, BBQ Pork Sandwich, and the Holiday Tots. With two adult beverages the total came to just over $40. The Gator Bites were a hit. They are soaked in buttermilk overnight before being fried crispy. I’m a Florida native and eating gator is a regular thing for many of us. Their Gator Bites were some of the best I have had in recent memory.

Jolly Creek Holiday Festival – Gator Bites

The BBQ Pork Sandwich was not all that impressive, but the pulled pork itself was fantastic. It was smoky, tender, and flavorful. It was primarily for my toddler son, but all three of us stole multiple nibbles of pork because it was that good.

Jolly Creek Holiday Festival – BBQ Pork Sandwich

I went with the Holiday Tots because I am a sucker for festive food this time of year. The tots themselves were cooked perfectly, crisp, yet tender. They were topped with gravy, stuffing, sliced turkey, and dried cranberries. It could’ve used a little more of the toppings. The sliced turkey was lunchmeat quality, but all the other toppings were scrumptious.

Jolly Creek elves

As you stroll around Jolly Creek you will encounter friendly elves who hop and skip around, greeting guests and helping with questions. It is clear that many of them came from Orlando’s theme parks with their friendly demeanors and ability to stay in character. During our evening my husband and I found a cozy table near the large Christmas tree. While we sat, taking in the festive atmosphere, one of the elves came over and chatted with our son. We had three whole minutes without interruption to just sit together. A lovely holiday present for any parent.

Jolly Creek Holiday Festival

Family-friendly activities

Speaking of keeping kids entertained and engaged, Jolly Creek has lots of craft kits for purchase and a station where kids can put together their crafts. These kits are a great way to make a precious gift or decoration that grandmom is sure to love. And it is a fun way to enjoy the season and make some memories. Jolly Creek elves are nearby to help and make the craft-making even more fun.

Jolly Creek Holiday Festival

There are s’more kits and a small fire pit, which is very popular on brisk nights. They even have specialty flavor s’mores, like light peppermint bark. And if you really want the full Jolly Creek experience you can book a night time airboat ride! This is Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures, after all. There is a discount for purchasing festival tickets and the airboat ride together online.

There are also vendors just outside of Jolly Creek’s entrance. We stopped at the booth for Machado Family Farm Foundation before entering Jolly Creek, to purchase a few Christmas gifts and to support a small local business. Joe and Alexa Machado held our purchase at their booth so we could enjoy the festival without having to carry around the bag – nice touch!

So many photo opportunities

From painted murals, to cut-outs for posing as a gator, there are so many photo opportunities at Jolly Creek. Physically distancing can be a little tricky in certain spots, so just be aware and be proactive. Be sure to dress festively so you can snap countless family photos.

Mr. Tree – the roaming Christmas tree

For Disney fans that miss Push the Trash Can at Tomorrowland, you’ll love Mr. Tree at Jolly Creek. Although he does not talk, Mr. Tree is a roaming Christmas tree on wheels made of LED light panels. The non-verbal communication is impressive and fun to see  as little kids, and kids at heart, interact with this colorful character.

Jolly Creek Holiday Festival – Mr. Tree

Outdoor tiki bar

Take a moment to relax at the outdoor tiki bar. This small, casual bar only serves beer and wine, as well as soft drinks. There are some cocktails available, but they are made with wine-based whiskey and wine-based vodka, and with single mixers like soda or juice. You can also order from the full food menu here and you’ll receive a pager to pick up your food just steps away at the restaurant. There is seating at the bar, as well as high top tables nearby.

Jolly Creek Holiday Festival – Tiki Bar

Other information about Jolly Creek

Heading to Jolly Creek is a bit of a journey. But the country, small town feeling is worth the trip. Where else can you experience the holidays with a definitively Florida feel? It is about a 45-minute drive from Walt Disney World.

Tickets start at $14.99 and kids under 13 years old are free. During peak periods, like the week of Christmas, ticket prices increase, and select nights sell out. Parking is free.

Jolly Creek / Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures
​2001 E Southport Road
Kissimmee, FL 34746

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Dani

Born and raised in the land of sunshine and dreams come true, Dani is a proud Orlando Native who loves sharing her hometown with others. She's worked in nearly all of Orlando's theme parks, on board Disney Cruise Line, and in hotel management. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @thisfloridalife

One thought on “12 Reasons to Take a Trip to Jolly Creek

  • December 30, 2020 at 4:45 pm
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    Don’t go to Jolly Creek Holiday Festival – I pre-purchased for my family of 6 paid $139.62 for absolutely nothing. Your website is extremely misleading. The entertainment was awful, more like bar room karaoke. The Santa was tucked away in the back surrounded by absolutely nothing. The Santa was about the only thing that was “Jolly”. We saw a bear decoration with a missing ear. For the money I paid Jolly Creek finished 2020 with more lies and fraud. I am not working due to the pandemic and living on my social security. I pre-purchased the 6 tickets for me and my family as a Christmas present being on a fixed income and in the end your experience left we with giving them absolutely nothing but a BAD memory, plus I am out $139.62 which could have been applied to my groceries or rent. Thank you for making this the worst Christmas memory ever for me and my family. To matters worst I was refused a full refund or even half my money. In regard to what you advertised and what your event truly had to offer are on 2 different spectrums. You asked for a review and here it is, like it or not. Based on my family’s horrible experience lasting not even 15 minutes Jolly Creek is getting off easy ripping people off during the holidays and during a pandemic, shame on you. You guys are Criminal!!!! I will be passing this information along to others. I pre-purchased for my family of 6 paid $139.62 for absolutely nothing. Your website is extremely misleading. The entertainment was awful, more like bar room karaoke. The Santa was tucked away in the back surrounded by absolutely nothing. The Santa was about the only thing that was “Jolly”. We saw a bear decoration with a missing ear. For the money I paid Jolly Creek finished 2020 with more lies and fraud. I am not working due to the pandemic and living on my social security. I pre-purchased the 6 tickets for me and my family as a Christmas present being on a fixed income and in the end your experience left we with giving them absolutely nothing but a BAD memory, plus I am out $139.62 which could have been applied to my groceries or rent. Thank you for making this the worst Christmas memory ever for me and my family. To matters worst I was refused a full refund or even half my money. In regard to what you advertised and what your event truly had to offer are on 2 different spectrums. You asked for a review and here it is, like it or not. Based on my family’s horrible experience lasting not even 15 minutes Jolly Creek is getting off easy ripping people off during the holidays and during a pandemic, shame on you. You guys are Criminal!!!! I will be passing this information along to others.

    Reply

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