When you think of the Holiday season and where to celebrate, you might be thinking of the winter wonderlands up North. Chances are you’re not thinking about the Sunshine State as the place to be to see jolly St. Nick. This needs to change, because the Tampa Bay area has a lot of exciting events taking place from November to January for the entire family. So put on your flip flops, grab your tank top and get ready for fun in the Christmas sun.
If you’re looking for something extravagant to do this Christmas then head over to Busch Gardens from November 27 to December 31 and experience Christmastown. Open until 10 p.m. daily, you and your family can experience the magic of the holidays in this Bay area theme park. Decorated with sparkling lights, you can walk through the town as you listen to live music, partake in holiday-themed arts/crafts and smell the sweet scent of cookies and hot cocoa. You can also see live performances from We Three Kings and the Sesame Street gang. Tickets to Christmastown are included in general admission tickets to Busch Gardens.
You don’t need to head up North to ice skate. Starting on November 20, you can go ice skating to get into the holiday spirit right in downtown Tampa. Here 90 minutes of skating will run you about $12. With special holiday hours during the week of Thanksgiving and Christmas, ice skating under the palm trees is an experience not to be missed.
Snowfall is a rarity here in the Sunshine State, but on December 5 in St Petersburg’s North Straub Park, snow is coming to Florida. Snowfest, allows you to race down sixty-five tons of artificial snowy slopes on adult and kid-sized toboggan slides. Admission is $5 and also includes moonwalk bouncing, cookie baking, and holiday karaoke. Tickets are available beginning November 23, but act quick, as this is only a one day event.
From December 1 – 23, take a step back in time and explore what Christmas would have been like in Old Tampa. Beginning at the Henry B. Plant Museum on the University of Tampa’s campus, venture into the Victorian palace which features original Moorish revival architecture, classic European furniture and original pieces of art. See 14 rooms each uniquely decorated for Christmas, with decor that dates back to the 19th Century.
What could be better than the lighting of a Christmas tree amongst fellow Florida residents? Hosted at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, Tampa’s annual tree lighting ceremony takes place on December 4, with activities starting at 6 p.m. Relax and listen to the Late Night Brass as they play your favorite Christmas tunes while the radio station Magic 94.9 gives away free prizes. Admission is free, but event organizers request that attendees bring a teddy bear, which will be donated to children at local area hospitals. Blankets, lawn chairs, drinks and dogs on leashes are encouraged.
See Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park transform into a winter wonderland at Santa Fest Rough Rider Holiday Parade. Festivities kick off on Saturday, December 5 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and attendees are invited to experience live entertainment as unique holiday floats pass by. Other activities include holiday-themed crafts and games, ice skating and complimentary photos with St. Nick himself. Remember to get there early as the parade starts on Morgan Street. (Tip for the photographers: Best place to capture the moment is on Madison.)
If you’re daydreaming about snow but still love the Florida weather, then you must head over to Ybor City on December 12 for the 4th Annual Snow on 7th Holiday Parade. This very young holiday tradition allows you to experience snow fall as you get to watch this nighttime parade come to life. Experience floats, marching bands, and live music. Plus, you can’t have a holiday parade without an appearance from Santa himself. Pre-parade entertainment begins at 6 p.m., so make sure you plan accordingly and arrive as early as possible.
One of the best parts of this festive season is the music and one band in particular has become well known for their unique take on holiday classics. For one night only, Trans-Siberian Orchestra will be at the Amalie Arena performing songs that we all know and love. This concert is an experience like no other, a mix of haunting yet inspiring songs accompanied by dazzling laser displays. Tickets are available now and with the show expecting open on December 13.
See the beloved 1964 classic hit the stage in this live musical performance for the entire family. Experience Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer like you never have before as these characters come to life to teach us the importance of friendship, respect and the meaning of the holidays. For one day only, see this one-a-kind musical at The Straz Center on December 12.
Attention all runners! If you’re in the search for a fun, wild and endorphin-inducing run to burn off all those holiday treats, consider signing up for the Jingle Bell 5K Run/Walk on December 18. This event starts at the Hillsborough Community College campus across from Raymond James, with proceeds going to the Arthritis Foundation. Run in your most festive holiday outfit and lace up with jingle bells for a fun run. After the race, be sure to stick around to enjoy a holiday-themed costume contest, silent auction and more.
Do you plan to visit these attractions during the holiday season? Do you know any other festivities taking place around Tampa this time of year? Share your thoughts in the comment section.
About the Author
Ron Goldberg enjoys blogging about life in the Tampa area. He is the owner and operator of Tampa Lockmaster and in his spare time, he enjoys time with his wife, children and two dogs.