There won’t be snow, but the Tampa area has a lot to do during the holiday season for residents and visitors of all ages. Active adults can find parties, parades, and theme park celebrations all over Tampa and the Bay area during the holiday and New Year, making it a great time to entertain grandkids and visitors from out of town.
Check out some of these family-friendly favorites that are sure to make anyone’s time in Tampa all the merrier.
Christmas Town at Busch Gardens
Tampa’s best-loved theme park transforms into a winter wonderland for the Christmas Town celebration at Busch Gardens. The event runs every night until January 6 and features more than a million shining lights, Santa’s summer home, and Rudolph with his crew of reindeer. Participate in caroling, enjoy holiday treats like eggnog and candy canes, and watch some of the special holiday performances.
These special nighttime festivities are included in a day pass to the amusement park and free to annual pass holders. Hours are from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Hours are extended during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Lighted Boat Parades
There’s plenty of water in the Tampa area and lots of boats willing to show off their sparkly sides. Check out one of the boat parades on the St. Petersburg side of the Bay area. The Treasure Island Boat Parade is scheduled for Friday, December 14 and Friday, December 21.
The parade starts from The Club at Treasure Island at 6:20 p.m. and concludes at John’s Pass at 8:15 p.m. On December 22, you can head to Tampa’s new Riverfront district for the Downtown Tampa Lighted Boat Parade. It runs from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and the parade route runs along the waterfront areas at Curtis Hixon Park, the University of Tampa, and Channelside Drive. Take a walk along any waterside section of Tampa during the season and you’re sure to see boats with lights whether there’s a parade or not.
Victorian Christmas Stroll
When you want a little tradition and history with your holiday celebrations, check out the Victorian Christmas Stroll at Tampa’s Henry B. Plant Museum. This museum was once a hotel, and during the holiday season, you’ll get a glimpse of Christmas past with antique toys, vintage decorations, and locally crafted ornaments and crafts.
Make one of your own Victorian Christmas cards, inspect authentic lacemaking techniques, and admire the way decorated trees looked before extension cords. Guests can finish their holiday shopping at the museum store, where jewelry, artwork, and other gifts will be available for purchase. The Christmas Stroll goes until December 23, and the hours are from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily. The Plant Museum is found on the University of Tampa campus.
Holiday Markets in St. Petersburg
The Christkindlmarket at Hofbrauhaus in St. Petersburg is designed to make visitors feel like they’re in a European city during the holidays. On December 15 and December 16, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., guests can admire arts and crafts, sample the traditional German holiday drink called Glühwein, or sip some mulled wine. The event includes local food and craft vendors, and it’s free.
While you’re in the neighborhood, visit the St. Pete waterfront. At South Straub Park, you can enjoy the St. Petersburg Holiday of the Arts, an outdoor gallery featuring the work of painters, sculptors, photographers, and artists working with glass, ceramics, and other materials. The art show runs on December 15 and December 16 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. There’s also a skating rink and a dock for the Cross Bay Ferry, which runs visitors between Tampa and St. Petersburg by boat.
Watch or Run the Jingle Bell Jog
Active adults who want to run off the calories from those holiday cookies and fruitcakes can participate in the Jingle Bell Jog, a 5K race in which participants wear a Santa suit and jingle bells. It takes place at Al Lopez Park in Tampa on December 23. There’s no need to strive for a personal record, some people run, but most participants walk. There’s also an Elf Dash and a Reindeer Romp for children, and you should bring your pet. Dogs and cats can don some antlers and dress up as reindeer. After the race, you’re rewarded with holiday cookies, fruit salad, and eggnog.