‘Twas the month before Christmas and all through Tampa Bay, the citizens were stirring, getting ready for the big day! The twinkle lights were hung from Busch Gardens to Lowry Park Zoo, and everyone wished Santa would skate in downtown too! So with Dad in his flip flops and you in your shorts take the little ones out for a night on the town and celebrate the holiday magic going down. These top 10 holiday and Christmas events in Tampa Bay are sure to delight kids of all ages during the holiday season.
Celebrate Russian ballet and the beauty of the holidays in Moscow Ballet’s grand production of the Great Russian Nutcracker at Ruth Eckerd Hall, or experience the Patel Conservatory production at the Straz Center. This timeless ballet classic is always a holiday favorite. Turn back the clock at Tampa’s oldest theater, Tampa Theatre, and enjoy holiday classic movies during the December such as It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas or Holiday Inn.
Amusement Park Fun
Busch Gardens turns into Christmastown during the holidays! Lowry Park Zoo turns into a wild wonderland during their new Christmas in the Wild events happening for 19 days during the holiday season. The Florida Aquarium hosts Snow Days post Christmas with a real snow play area, later hours, and a holiday light show!
Holiday Parades and Festivals
Watch Santa make an entrance at the Ybor City’s Snow on 7th Annual Parade and Art Fest. Snow falls throughout the parade route as marching bands and other performers entertain the crowds. The City of Tampa also hosts it’s annual SantaFest Parade and Fest at Curtis Hixon Park in early December. This parade is the perfect start to a fun-filled weekend of holiday activities that happen throughout the day in downtown Tampa. Fire trucks, floats, old time cars, Shriners, and Santa Claus are just some of the highlights of Safety Harbor’s Annual Holiday Parade. For one night only, snow falls at the Annual Elena Tresh Foundation Snowfest in Safety Harbor and kids are invited to frolic and play in this winter wonderland. Bring mittens and snow pants. Slide down the 20-foot slide and make a snow angel!
Outdoor Ice Skating
!New to Tampa this year is The Winter Village! It will transform Curtis Hixon’s Waterfront Park into a holiday hot spot with sights, sounds and activities for the holidays for children and adults of all ages. You can shop at over 20 boutiques from local makers at the pop-up market and enjoy holiday drinks and sweets from Sono Cafe in their Riverwalk Winter Village hospitality area. Add views of the beautiful Hillsborough River and free play spaces on the great lawn with the big city lights in the background and it’s pure holiday magic. In case you have “no place to go” this season, know this is THE perfect place to go.
Historic Holiday Spirit
Take a stroll through the University of Tampa and see the Victorian Christmas Stroll at the Henry B. Plant Museum’s annual old-time Christmas event. See nineteenth century Christmas decor with rooms displayed in both old and new holiday decorations. Drive along Ybor City’s historic 7th Avenue and see old-fashioned Christmas decor or visit the 1883 Safford House in Tarpon Springs and see the beautiful Victorian holiday decorations.
Don’t miss the Enchanted Tree Lighting Ceremony and Holiday Street Party in Hyde Park Village in late November. For nearly 20 years, this family friendly traditional event offers Santa’s arrival, two main stages of holiday music, complimentary holiday treats, a light show, and classical holiday music. Tampa will light the city’s Christmas Tree with the Mayor himself, as thousands will gather at Curtis Hixon Park for holiday movies on the lawn, holiday themed entertainment, and more. Safety Harbor will also have a Tree Lightning Ceremony with singing choirs and a visit from jolly St. Nick.
Families will love hearing time-honored classics preformed by Opera Tampa during their holiday shows at the Straz Center. Let the Florida Orchestra fill your soul with the holiday spirit as they invite everyone to their Holiday Pops concerts performed at the Straz Center, the Mahaffy Theater, and Ruth Eckerd Hall. The Largo Cultural Center invites your family to experience “Cookies, Carols and Cocktails” in early December. A jolly cabaret from Eight O’Clock Theatre will have you singing along to classic tunes, nibbling on some sweet treats, and enjoying a couple surprises from their cast!
Insider Tip: The Florida Orchestra will be giving a FREE holiday concert at Westfield Citrus Park mall on Saturday, December 17th at 6:30pm! A perfect way to shop and enjoy the sounds of the season!
Santa Meet ‘N Greets
Sit on Santa’s lap and tell him how good you’ve been this year! International Plaza hosts Santa at his Ice Palace, where the snow falls as you wait to meet the jolly old man! Santa will also be in his Cottage at Piquant in Hyde Park Village throughout the season.
Christmas on the Beach
Head to St. Pete Beach and visit Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the elves taking a break before the big night. The Don CeSar Beach Resort and Spa will have opulent holiday decor throughout the hotel, live holiday music, s’mores on the beach, elves wrapping presents, and stories read by Mrs. Claus.
Boat Parades and More in St. Petersburg
The Tampa Riverwalk Holiday Boat Parade will be a fabulous addition to the already full line-up of holiday events happening along the Hillsborough River and ending up in Downtown Tampa. Or head over to Vinoy Park’s St. Petersburg Boat Parade, an annual boat parade where the illuminated boats will have everyone captivated as lights float on the water. Stop in at The Vinoy and enjoy their festive holiday decor and snack on milk and cookies while watching the St. Petersburg Santa Parade pass by on the parade route. Play in the snow at the Snowfest in North Straub Park where over 65 tons of snow will keep Florida kids busy for hours building snowmen and making snow forts for as long as they’ll last in the Tampa Bay sun!
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