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 firstname.lastname@example.org. This list will be updated when we know more!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pet photos with Santa will run on Dec. 20 from 4-8 p.m.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
14. 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.
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.
Location: 701 Channelside Dr, Tampa
Santa will be available for socially-distanced photos with kids and families visiting the Florida Aquarium every Saturday and Sunday this month.
Guests can see Santa in his “snow globe” and snap photos from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.
Location: 400 Alt Keene Rd, Largo
Santa’s sleigh pulls in to the Largo Community Center on Dec. 18 at 9:30 a.m. to have breakfast with kids ages 8 and under. Kids will also enjoy crafts, games, a story from Mrs. Claus and a selfie with Santa.
The cost is $10 per child and $8 per adult. Tickets can be purchased at any recreation facility.
Location: Newtown Blvd., Sarasota & 509 Collins Road, Nokomis
Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources is inviting kids ages 12 and under and families to a free breakfast with Santa event from 10 a.m. to noon on Dec. 18.
The Laurel Park event will be in person and guests will enjoy breakfast, holiday music and a visit from Santa. The Newtown Estates Park event is a drive-through.
Location: 400 Cleveland Street, Clearwater
Free registration for the paw-rade begins at 12 p.m. and the parade itself begins at 1 p.m.
The event also includes pet photos with Santa and the Grinch, as well as costume contests (with a suggested donation), prizes, treats and more.
All proceeds will benefit SPCA Tampa Bay.
Location: 6300 Gulf Blvd, St Pete Beach
Guests are invited to ice skate by the ocean at Post Inn beginning Dec. 28 through Jan. 3.
The hotel’s garden courtyard will be transformed into a 2,000-square foot synthetic ice skating rink, along with snow machines, lighting and “surprises for all ages.”
The hotel says guests will be able to warm up by the fire pit with holiday treats, cocktails and hot cocoa.