Holly Jolly Tampa Bay: Holiday events, tree lightings beginning across area


Tampa Parks & Recreation

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Theme park events in the Tampa Bay area are highly attended around the holidays, but there are other events – without the large price tag – that you and your family can attend to celebrate the fun of the holiday season moving in to Christmas.

From events in downtown Tampa, to visits with Santa Claus with your children or fur children, there is more than enough to do every day this holiday season here in beautiful Florida.

The list below is not in any particular order. Don’t see your favorite on this list? Let us know what you’re up to by emailing online@wfla.comThis list will be updated when we know more!

1. Tampa Downtown Partnership’s Winter Village

Location: 600 N Ashley Dr, Tampa

Ice skating and shopping will return to Curtis Hixon Park as of Nov. 19 through Jan. 2.

The rink will be open seven days a week, but hours are subject to rink and weather conditions. Individual tickets are $17 for all ages. Skate rentals can be purchased online in advance on the Winter Village’s website.

This year, the festivities will expand to Lykes Gaslight Square Park, where there will be a “Sweet Street at The Square” market featuring Sweet Mama’s Ice Cream shop and other local vendors.

2. Holiday Lighted Boat Parade

Location: Hillsborough River/Tampa Riverwalk

Tampa’s lighted boat parade along the Hillsborough River will occur the Saturday before Christmas, on Dec. 18th.

The parade begins at the southern tip of Davis Islands and will travel up to the Heights, where participating boats will turn around and head to Sparkman Wharf. Judges, pairs from Big Brothers and Big Sisters, will be on hand at Sparkman to determine the first, second and third place winners of the sailboat and motorboat categories.

3. Riverwalk Holiday Hunt

Location: Tampa Riverwalk

This event is a free, mobile-based scavenger hunt along the Riverwalk. Those interested can participate personally, or in a team.

There will be puzzles, holiday challenges and historical Tampa trivia.

The “Mobile Adventures” app is needed to participate in this event, which begins Dec. 17 and runs through Jan. 2.

4. River of Lights Holiday Cruises

Location: Pirate Water Taxi Home Dock: Stop #7 at the Tampa Convention Center, 333 S Franklin St, Tampa

Guests can experience the River of Lights on board the Pirate Water Taxi on the Hillsborough River, as captains will take folks on a tour of lighted bridges and downtown, alongside a sing-along of Christmas carols. Kids can write a letter to Santa and will receive a special gift.

Cruises depart at 6:15 p.m,. 7:15 p.m., 8:15 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. and ticket prices start at $25 for adults and $20 for children.

5. City of Tampa Christmas Parade, Santa Fest & Tree Lighting

Location: Curtis Hixon Park, 600 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa

The parade kicks off at Morgan and Madison streets in downtown Tampa beginning at 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 4, traveling wrest to Ashley Drive, ending on Ashley Drive and Cass Street.

The tree lightning ceremony will take place at 6:20 p.m., followed by a showing of the latest rendition of “The Grinch” at 6:35 p.m.

Activities for the entire family include crafts, photos with Santa, a “candy cane scavenger hunt,” a rock wall, bounce house and more.

6. St. Petersburg Tree Lighting

Location: 400 Bayshore Dr NE, St. Petersburg

The tree lighting festivities in St. Petersburg will take place at North Straub Park on Nov. 27 at 6 p.m. with holiday entertainment.

“At 7 p.m., Mayor Rick Kriseman will light up the downtown waterfront,” the event’s website says.

7. Santa Meet-and-Greets at Westfield Brandon

Location: 459 Brandon Town Center Drive, Brandon

Santa will arrive to Westfield Brandon on Thursday for meet and greets and photos opportunities through Christmas Eve.

Walk-up visits with Santa are permitted, but pre-booking is encouraged.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Thunderbug will join Santa on Nov. 22.

Pet photos with Santa begin on Nov. 29 and run on Dec. 6, 13 and 20 from 4-8 p.m. “Sensory Santa” visits will take place on Dec. 5 and 12. and reservations are required for every child for those dates through Event Brite.

8. Straz Center presents “The Nutcracker”

Location: Morsani Hall, 1010 N Macinnes Pl, Tampa

Next Generation Ballet’s performance of the “Nutcracker” will take place Dec. 17 through Dec. 19 in Morsani Hall.

The performance will feature dancers from the American Ballet Theatre, Skylar Brandt and Herman Cornejo.

Tickets start at $30 and can be purchased by calling 813-955-1045, in person at the Straz Center ticket sales office or online.

9. Bradenton Holiday Boat Parade

Location: 402 Church Ave., Bradenton Beach

The third annual event will be held on Dec. 4 beginning at 6 p.m.

According to a Facebook event, “boat owners are invited to show off their holiday spirit and their beautifully lit vessels in a parade along the Intracoastal Waterway.”

10. Victorian Christmas Stroll

Location: 401 W Kennedy Blvd, Tampa

The 40th annual Victorian Christmas Stroll will return to the Plant Museum in Tampa this holiday season.

The event allows “visitors a glimpse into the magic of Christmas past, [and] this holiday experience is a safe and family-friendly way to celebrate all the season has to offer,” the event’s website reads.

There are a variety of themes and displays in each exhibit room of the museum.

“Don’t miss a display of 40 vintage Santas in honor of 40 years of the Stroll!” the website says.

The stroll will feature timed tickets in limited numbers and should be purchased in advance between Nov. 20 through Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 through Dec. 23 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, aside from holidays.

11. Gingerbread Village

Location: 110 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa

A gingerbread wonderland takes over the Glazer Children’s Museum beginning Nov. 20 through Jan. 3.

Guests to the museum can build a “gingerbread” house out of recycled materials and “watch the village grow.”

The Gingerbread Village is included with museum admission.

12. Visits with Santa, Mrs. Claus at Armature Works

Location: 1910 N Ola Ave, Tampa

Families can meet Ol’ Saint Nick and Mrs. Claus at Armature Works when they come to town on Saturdays in December in the “gathering space” of the location.

The event will be socially distanced and guests will be able to take their own photos. Visits are complimentary, though a $5 donation benefitting Toys for Tots Tampa is encouraged.

13. “Old Fashioned” Christmas & Holiday Parade in Dunedin

Location: The 4 p.m. parade travels along Douglas Avenue, from Beltress Street, heading north to Skinner Boulevard.

The parade begins at 4 p.m. and activities include carriage and train rides, a snow slide, crafts, “old fashioned” games, storytelling, street performers and more.

The deadline to participate in the parade is Nov. 30 and those interested can email acastricone@dunedinfl.net or call 727-298-3266.

14. Santa Claus in Lightning Gear Mall Appearances

Location: Tampa Bay area

The Tampa Bay Lightning have announced that Santa Claus, all decked out in his Lightning gear, will appear at mall locations throughout the holiday season.

Santa will be available for photos and ThunderBug and Rolling Thunder will also attend each appearance to hand out surprises to those attending.

Opportunities will be available at the following malls:

  • Westfield Brandon Mall – Nov. 22, from 5-7 p.m.
  • Tyrone Square Mall – Nov. 29, from 5-7 p.m.
  • Tampa Premium Outlets -Dec. 7, from 5-7 p.m.
  • Countryside Mall – Dec. 9, from 5-7 p.m.
  • WestShore Plaza – Dec. 15, from 6-8 p.m.

15. Venice Holiday Parade

Location: Parade begins at the corner of Park Boulevard and West Venice Avenue, full route in link

The parade officially kicks off in Venice on Nov. 27 at 6:30 p.m. and will end at the Venice Community Center.

Due to coronavirus protocols, no early setup of chairs or blankets will be allowed along the route, no pre-parade performances are planned and no food vendors will be included. Candy and other items will not be handed out to guests to those in the crowd.

16. Snowfest

Location: 400 Bayshore Dr NE, St. Petersburg

Snowfest will take place at North Straub Park in St. Pete on Dec. 18 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

According to the city’s website, there will be toboggan slides for both adults and kids, as well as arts and crafts, food trucks and more. The price for all activities is $5, which can be purchased online or at any city recreation center starting Nov. 29.

17. Festival of Lights at the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds

Location: 215 Sydney Washer Rd, Dover

The fairgrounds have been transformed into a Florida-style “winter wonderland” with elaborate LED light displays for guests to drive through.

The experience is open every day from 6-10 p.m., but tickets are required and can be ordered online.

After the drive-through, guests can stroll through Santa’s Village for pictures and visits with Santa, craft stations, holiday movies, a petting zo and more.

18. A Christmas Carol at St. Petersburg City Theatre

Location: 4025 31st St S, St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg City Theatre is putting on the classic this holiday season. Performances will take place Dec. 3-12 at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays.

Tickets are $23 for adults, students are $15 and kids 10 and younger are $10.

19. Harbor Holiday Nights

Location:1538 Dr. MLK St. N., Safety Harbor

On Dec. 18 in Safety Harbor, families and guests can enjoy holiday lights, a campfire, activities for kids, shopping, crafts and more during this free night.

A trolley light tour is available for $5 per person.

20. Brunch with Santa at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Location: 249 Windward Passage, Clearwater

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is inviting guests to wear their favorite festive sweater or pair of pajamas for brunch with Santa Claus on Dec. 18.

“A delicious, holiday style brunch will be served with warm French toast bake, biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, turkey & ham, mashed potatoes, and more!” the aquarium’s website states.

Tickets are $54.95 for adults and $44.95 for kids. Reservations are encouraged.

21. Snowed Inn

Location: 615 Channelside Dr Suite 207, Tampa

Sparkman Wharf will host “Snowed Inn” on Thursdays, beginning Dec. 1.

The lawn of Sparkman Wharf will feature oversized holiday cards, photo opportunities, “ski lift” swings,” bonfires and a log cabin stage with seasonal entertainment.

Other events including a hot toddy bar, a ski store pop-up shop, festive entertainment and roaming characters will take place throughout the month.

22. Raprager Family Farm’s Winter Wonderland & Christmas Extravaganza

Location: 16907 Boy Scout Rd, Odessa

This holiday event takes place now through the end of December and features photos with Santa, a gingerbread village, holiday hayrides, classic Christmas stories read by Mrs. Claus, a petting zoo, local food and craft vendors and much more.

The cost is $12.50 per person online and $15 at the gate. Kids 2-years-old and under get in free.

23. Snowfest

Location: Frances Langford Promenade, Lakeland

Snowfest is returning to Lake Mirror on Dec. 4 from 5-9 p.m. to celebrate the 41st anniversary of the tradition.

The event features a walk through “snow,” arts and crafts vendors, a 30-foot-tall Christmas tree, Santa’s workshop (complete with activities), a book giveaway and more, in the area of the amphitheater on the east side of Lake Mirror.

Admission is a suggested donation of one canned food item per person. Items can be dropped off at three tents throughout the event. All non-perishable food items will be donated to Senior Orphans of Polk County and Volunteers in Service to the Elderly.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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