It’s that time of year when the holidays are back in Tampa! The twinkling lights, decorated trees, and plenty of holly jolly cheer brings festive fun to our favorite place in the Sunshine State. It’s winter with a chance of warm weather; there’s a ton to do in December in a place that maintains agreeable temperatures all year round.
The Holidays In Florida
Most bay area Christmas weather sees temperatures between the 70s to 80s. The coldest Christmas in Tampa Bay history was on December 25th, 1983, when the high was a brisk 38 degrees.
Because of the agreeable climate, Florida hosts unique holiday traditions that aren’t exactly commonplace. In true Sunshine State fashion, holiday revelers build sandcastle trees, decorate in beach-influenced styles, and attend boat parades hosted across more than 8,000 miles of shoreline.
Tis The Tampa Season
Here Are The Top 8 Christmas Events In Tampa Bay
There are a lot of great events to partake in during the holiday season in the Tampa, Florida area. Here are some of the best events that you should consider to add some cheer to your winter.
Busch Gardens Christmas Town
Our favorite hometown theme park is also the place to be for the holiday season. From November through January, park-wide festivities spark the award-winning winter tradition. The Holly Jolly Express navigates guests through millions of twinkling lights hung throughout the entire park. Children can introduce themselves to Santa in his workshop and meet their favorite characters from the classic holiday movie, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” A merry visit through Christmas town is included with park admission, so enjoy the lights while riding your favorite roller coaster!
Dates: November 14 – January 3
Christmas In The Wild
The family-favorite holiday tradition roars its way into the imagination of the kiddos with six new illuminated light zones, delectable holiday treats, and a Twinkle Town Marketplace. The Forest of Fantasy allows guests to experience ZooTampa’s transformation at sunset, where numerous Christmas lights twinkle to life across the park. Two brand new light shows will be hosted across the entire manatee circle. Those that want memory keepsakes have the opportunity to capture the moment at numerous photo-op areas, including 30-feet high Christmas trees dressed in thousands of dining lights and festive ornaments.
Dates: November 26 – December 30
Tampa Bay Festival O Lights
The Hillsborough County fairgrounds stages a path of one million lights that dot a 2-mile-long drive. The contemporary displays feature LED technology that syncs with Mix 100.7, our favorite local Christmas channel. The 150 elaborate light displays include elves wrestling gators, Santa riding an airboat, and a giant gingerbread house composed of candy and cakes. The drive-thru trek of lights concludes in Santa’s Village — an area of festive activities, holiday cuisine, and even a visit from St. Nick himself!
Dates: November 25 – December 26
Holiday Lighted Boat Parade
It’s not a celebration without a Tampa boat parade! Our city’s largest lighted procession will transpire the Saturday before Christmas. Thousands of boats begin at the southern tip of Davis Islands, and navigate through the Convention Center basin, before concluding at Sparkman Wharf. Those decorated sea-bound participants will be judged for their holiday decor. Additionally, sailboats and motorboat competitors will receive a trophy. There are several ideal viewing spots along the Riverwalk, including Sail Pavilion, Sparkman Wharf, and Armature Works.
Date: December 18 (December 19 if rain)
Winter Village Express
Curtis Hixon park sparkles with lights and festive holiday decorations to celebrate the year’s end. Since bodies of water don’t freeze here, Tampa’s only built outdoor ice rink gives skaters an open view of the River Walk. The Shops of Winter Village host seven local market boutiques to find those treasured stocking stuffers. Those looking for some winter delicacies can head to the Icicle Craft Kitchen, which serves up traditional holiday tastes. If you want to see our downtown from a new vantage, climb aboard the Winter Village Express. This interactive train experience shuttles guests from Whiting Station toward the historic city of Ybor. Enjoy cookies and milk onboard for no additional charge.
Date: November 19 – January 2
Victorian Christmas Stroll
Our absolute favorite holiday tradition returns for its 40th anniversary. Located at the Plant Museum, this 23-day event allows visitors to travel through time to experience the magic of Christmas past, showcasing various vintage delights. Complimentary cider and cookie are served while visitors view seasonally-themed museum artifacts. Beautifully decorated rooms each highlight their own unique theme. Don’t miss a display of 40 vintage Santas in honor of the four-decade anniversary. A 14’ tree is decorated in antique ornaments, with some featured at the 1893 Chicago World’s fair. Live carolers create an elegant ambiance for those interested in our unique and festive past.
Date: December 1 – December 23
Of course, this list couldn’t be complete without our annual Riverwalk festivities. The tradition kicks off with an official tree lighting cruise, where pirates invade the harbor. The Lost Pearl cruises around downtown Tampa before flipping the switch on this year’s floating 35-foot tall Christmas tree. Then navigate 2.6 miles of decked-out festive holiday lights and floating displays across the Hillsborough River. Those that want to participate in holiday games can compete in the Riverwalk Holiday Hunt — a mobile-based scavenger contest that includes solving puzzles, completing winter-themed challenges, and answering historical Tampa trivia.
Date: November 20 – January 2
For those that crave traditional holiday performances, the Straz Center is the marquee holiday ticket in town! The holiday spirit will come alive in the Holiday Music Concert, where the Patel Conservatory’s Chamber Ensemble will recite both classic and contemporary holiday favorites. This year, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” will be played in its entirety.
Later this month, award-winning dancers from the Next Generation Ballet will bring the memorable holiday classic “The Nutcracker” to the stage. Though not scheduled for the holiday season, pre-sale tickets are available for the new holiday classic “Frozen”, now translated to a touring Broadway musical. The Disney favorite would make the perfect Christmas gift!
Date: December 14, December 17- December 19
Looking to do something a bit more relaxing this winter? CLICK HERE to see the best beaches in Florida and take a little winter weekend trip to enjoy Christmas on the beach and make a sand snowman.
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