With year-round warm temps and absolutely no chance of snow, Tampa is far from the idyllic winter wonderland Christmas destination. However, the absence of a White Christmas does not stop Bay area cities from getting into the Christmas spirit. A number of festive light displays and annual holiday events can be enjoyed throughout throughout the month of December. Here’s a look at the most festive free light displays throughout the Bay area.
Holiday Lights at Largo Central Park
This 70 acre park in Largo puts on a dazzling light show each holiday season. With over 2 million lights, it’s the best display in Pinellas County. For an extra fee, you can take a ride on a carousel and enjoy the lights via a seven story Ferris Wheel. The events runs nightly from 6-11pm, from Thanksgiving weekend until New Year’s day. Be on the lookout for special holiday events including a festive holiday market.
Address: 101 Central Park Dr, Largo, FL 33771
Holiday Lights at the Florida Botanical Gardens
Every winter for the past 20 years, the Florida Botanical Gardens have transformed into a dazzling winter wonderland with over 1 million lights. Festive palm trees and tropical light displays give the event a unique Florida touch. The various nature displays fit in lovely with the garden theme. Best of all, it is free to take a lovely walk through the best organized light display in Pinellas. ($5 donation suggested). As a side note, this 182 acre garden is free all the time and worth adding to your Tampa bucket list.
Address: 12520 Ulmerton Rd, Largo, FL 33774
Lights of Lake Park Estates
This festive neighborhood light display dates back to 1993, and continues to receive much praise to this day. Three miles of continuous homes in 4 different neighborhoods all go all out with the most extravagant light displays. There’s always a house or 2 that goes totally “Clark Griswold style.” It’s a fun time for the young and young at heart. Almost every house gets in on the action. While the event is free, donations support a great cause. Since its inception over 28 years ago, this event has raised almost 1 million dollars for Suncoast Hospice.
Address: 109th Ave N, Largo, FL 33773
Symphony of Lights at The Shops of Wiregrass
This open air mall in Wesley Chapel turns into a winter wonderland every December. The grand Christmas tree goes up mid November and the entire place is decked out in pretty lights by the first week of December. The highlight is a synchronized light show featuring music from the Trans Siberian Orchestra. During this spirited show, you will experience a Florida snowstorm! While you are here, there a number of great restaurants to check out. Enjoy pizza at Woodfired 360, followed by an espresso and dessert at Le Macaron.
Address: 28211 Paseo Drive, Wesley Chapel, FL 33543
Tarpon Springs illuminated boat parade
While many cities across the country have holiday parades, Florida is pretty unique in that most every waterfront community hosts a boat parade. What a festive and creative way to get into the holiday spirit! If you are new to the area, why not enjoy a new holiday tradition? Some boat owners really go all out with crazy lights. Tarpon Springs, Dunedin, and downtown Tampa’s parades are always worth checking out. Best part of all, there is no fee to attend and you will not be freezing your butt off!
Address: 735 Dodecanese Blvd, Tarpon Springs, FL 34689
Indian Trails HOA holiday lights
This subdivision in quaint suburban Palm Harbor goes all out with holiday extravaganza. Similar to the Lights of Lake Park, this is another top knotch drive-through neighborhood light display. With so many pretty houses to see all in one place, this is a must-do for anyone who loves Christmas lights. Floridians come from all over to enjoy this spectacular event. Some residents even move specifically into the neighborhood – in part because of this festive annual celebration.
Address: Alderman Road Palm Harbor, FL 34683
Tampa riverfront holiday spectacular
The Riverfront in downtown Tampa comes alive each holiday season with a colorful light display. Highlights of this holiday spectacular include a floating LED tree on the water, pretty light displays, and an annual boat parade. Also stop by Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park for a night of ice skating (on a real outdoor rink!) as well as festive food and drink. The length of the Riverwalk trail is about 2.5 miles, so perfect for a nice night stroll.
Address: 600 N Ashley Dr, Tampa, FL 33602 (free street parking North of Kennedy Blvd. after 6/all day weekends).
St Pete waterfront parks
Every year, the waterfront parks in St. Petersburg dazzle locals and visitors alike with colorful lights. Take a stroll along Vinoy, Pioneer, South Straub, and North Straub parks to enjoy the seasonal decor and festive lights. Also be on the lookout for special events including Santa in the Park and movies in the park.
Hyde Park Village
This upscale outdoor shopping destination is a great place to shop and dine anytime of the year. Winter is the best time to take a stroll as the weather is much more tolerable, and also the plaza is decorated beautifully. Stop by Buddy Brew for a deliciously prepared espresso or hot cocoa prior to your walk. Also consider supporting Poinsettias in the Park, a local seasonal market (where 4-10″ poinsettias available) which benefits Make a Wish.
Downtown Dunedin is another great destination during the holiday season. This quaint Main Street is loaded with great local restaurants and shops. So many great places to pick up a unique Christmas gift. The town looks beautiful with a unique Christmas tree in the park. Also, there are numerous festive events on the lineup including a holiday boat parade, an old fashioned Christmas celebration, and a holiday parade.
Downtown Tarpon Springs
It’s worth taking a trip over to Tarpon Springs to indulge in authentic Greek food. The small Gulf coast community, known for its’ sea sponges, is home to the highest percentage of Greeks in the US. Food aside, the city puts on a whole lineup of festive holiday activities. There’s Snow Place in Tarpon Springs, the signature event, features horse drawn carriage rides and real snow. Other free events include a festive boat and Christmas parade.
McDonald’s on Hwy 19 Palm Harbor
The most festive McDonalds you will ever see lies on Hwy 19 in Palm Harbor. The entire exterior is decked out in thousands of lights. Seriously, the lights are so bright they can be seen from blocks away. If you happen to be heading out to any event in Palm Harbor, Dunedin, or nearby communities, it’s definitely worth a quick drive by.
Address: 33817 US Hwy 19 N, Palm Harbor, FL 34684