Christmas in Tampa Bay: Snow, Holiday Boat Parades, Tree Lightings & More!
The Shops of Wiregrass Symphony of Lights & Ice skating
Location: Wesley Chapel, Florida
2014 Dates: November 15th-December 31st from 6:00-9:00pm.
The Shops of Wiregrass, an upscale open air shopping center, is one of the nicest malls in the Tampa Bay area. The holiday season is an especially fantastic time to plan a visit. During the season, the shopping center is beautifully decorated, along with month long festivities filling up the calendar.
The grand 55 foot tall tree dances along to the music of Trans Siberia Orchestra in a wonderful choreographed show. Add in fake snow, and you have a great little holiday activity. An outdoor synthetic ice rink and photos with Santa add to this mini winter wonderland. Plan a holiday shopping date at Shops of Wiregrass. It’s as festive a holiday shopping experience as you can get in the Tampa area.
Check out a video of the show featuring fake snow and the music of Trans Siberian Orchestra!
Oakdale Christmas House
Location: St. Petersburg, Florida
2014 Dates: November 28th-January 3rd from 6:00-10:00pm
With over half a million lights, the Oakdale house in St. Petersburg, is easily the most decorated house in the Tampa Bay area. It has been featured on various TV specials over the years including HGTV’s All Out Christmas special and on the Today Show as one of the top 3 decorated houses in the US.
The house is quite a sight to see, and a striking contrast in comparison to the barren blocks with no lights around it. If you are looking for a house with a lot of lights, you have found it at Oakdale. Be prepared for a unique display (emphasizing quantity over quality for sure) of crazy, over the top strangeness.
Very cheesy and over the top (I have never seen so many stuffed animals and random decorations), however, worth it for a fun Christmas themed activity if you are already doing something else in the area.
Safety Harbor Holiday Parade & Tree Lighting Ceremony
Location: Safety Harbor, Florida
2014 Date: December 5th
Each year John Wilson Park in Safety Harbor (a small Gulf coast community about 20 minutes from Clearwater), is home to the city’s Christmas tree. A holiday lighting ceremony, complete with live music and visits from Santa, kicks off the season. Later in the month, a festive parade down historic Main Street, gives you a much needed break from holiday shopping.
Downtown Main Street is home to many shops, restaurants, and bars. It is also home to the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, said to be the location of the Fountain of Youth. Safety Harbor’s holiday events have more of a quaint feeling as they tend to get much less crowded than surrounding town events, so plan a visit if you are seeking a more laid-back atmosphere.
Holiday Movies at CineBistro
Location: Tampa, Florida (Hyde Park neighborhood)
Cost: $5 per movie, plus food costs
2014 Dates: “A Christmas Story” on December 9th & White Christmas on December 15th & 16th.
Each December, CineBistro in Hyde Park Village offers several holiday movies as part of their Tuesday night classic movies series. For 2014, “A Christmas Story” and “White Christmas” are on the lineup. At this popular dinner and a movie theater, you will be able to enjoy a full meal (a full menu including options such as: Pan Seared Salmon, Blue Crab Cakes, Orange Roasted Chicken, and dinner sized salads are available) while watching your favorite holiday classics. Before or after your movie, you can take in the beautiful lights around Hyde Park Village. Plenty of shops and bars in the area too if you feel like making it a full night.
Holiday Classics at the Tampa Theater
Location: Tampa, Florida
Cost: $10 per movie
2014 Dates: “It’s a Wonderful Life” on December 19th (7:30pm) and “Christmas Vacation” on December 28th (3:00pm)
Each year, Tampa’s historic theater screens a few holiday classics. This gorgeous theater is a prefect place to see a holiday classic like “White Christmas.” This year, the theater let the audience choose one movie and the winner was “National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.”
A few more seasonal events & activities to check out
*Wild Wonderland at Lowry Park Zoo. This festive seasonal event features more than a million lights, visits from Santa, and special treats. 2014 dates are as follows: December 6, 12-14, 18-23, and the 26th-30, from 6:30pm-10:00pm. I have not visited this event myself as I have heard mixed reviews. The zoo itself is not bad, a bit small, but clean and well-maintained.
*Christmas Town at Busch Gardens. If theme parks are your thing, then you will love the festive holiday lights and activities at Tampa’s famous theme park. Dates for 2014 are as follows: November 28th-December 31st.
*Tampa Holiday Boat Parade. There are no shortage of holiday boat parades in Hillsborough and surrounding counties. A Florida boat parade is definitely a unique activity to get yourself into the holiday spirit. This particular parade takes place in Tampa’s Channelside District. The 2014 event will take place December 20th at 6:30pm.
*Ice skating at the Tampa Bay Skating Center. Nothing says the holidays quite like ice skating. Although there are many outdoor rinks around the area this time of year, skating inside in the cold just feels more wintry and festive. Grab your coat, hat, and scarf and enjoy a night skating at this fantastic indoor rink. If you want to combine some holiday shopping head over to Clearwater’s Countryside Mall for an afternoon of shopping and skating (Tampa Bay Skating Center has 2 locations, one in Oldsmar and one inside Countryside Mall in Clearwater). Check the Tampa Bay Skating Center website for public session times.
*Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker. The Christmas classic comes to St. Petersburg’s Mahaffey Theater on December 28th.
*Nights of Shimmering Lights. This event at the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds features a drive thru light show. Admission is $20 per vehicle.
*Downtown Tampa Christmas Tree & Ice skating rink. Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park is home to the city’s Christmas tree. Tampa’s Downtown on Ice is the only outdoor city rink in the area. Enjoy the unique experience of skating alongside palm trees! The rink is open from November 20th-January 4th.
*Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park Celebration of Lights. This holiday event includes a synchronized light and sound show. 2014 dates are as follows: December 19-24 and December 26th from 5:30-9:00pm.
I hope you have enjoyed browsing through my list of seasonal holiday activities. There is still time to visit many of these great events (Festival of Lights, Largo Central Park Lights, The Shops of Wiregrass, and the Oakdale Christmas house). For those events that have already taken place, there is always next year!