Things to Do in Tampa This Holiday Season

If you thought the northern part of the US had it all for the holidays, you’ve obviously never been to Tampa at this most wonderful time of year. While so much of the rest of the country battles frosty conditions, Tampa Bay remains warm and sunny, making it ideal for experiencing everything you love about this holiday season without the need for snow boots or winter coats. 

During the holidays, join in all the reindeer games as the lightning capital of the world shines brighter than ever! 

Christmas Town, Busch Gardens

Nov. 11 – Jan. 7, 2024  

Immerse yourself in a magical wonderland of twinkling lights and festive entertainment at Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay’s Christmas Town. Once the sun sets, the park comes to life with thrilling rides, delectable seasonal treats, and enchanting live shows such as Christmas on Ice. Take a moment to meet beloved Sesame Street characters, indulge in holiday-inspired culinary delights, and bask in the warmth of joyful animal encounters. Embrace the spirit of the season with a colorful array of lights, sparkling fireworks, and heartwarming encounters with Santa and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Don’t miss out on Santa’s North Pole Experience, the Holly Jolly Express, and Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland. Lace up your skates and take to the ice for a truly magical experience. 

Photos with Santa 

Source: Yelp

Nov. 9 – Dec. 24 

Want a special photo opportunity with Santa? Head over to International Plaza & Bay Street’s Santa’s Flight Academy. Reservations are open and select dates will have private photo sessions for individuals with all types of special needs including a special opportunity with Santa for deaf and hard-of-hearing children. There will also be a special photo opportunity for your furry friends.   

Winter Village 

Source: Yelp

Nov. 17 – Jan. 1, 2024  

Visitors of all ages can enjoy the festive sights, sounds, and activities of the holidays at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park when the Winter Village returns. The Winter Village transforms this picturesque waterfront park into a magical wonderland, complete with outdoor ice skating – a rare treat in sunny Florida! The park shines with the spirit of the season as visitors explore seasonal shopping, take a ride on the Winter Village Express, and indulge in complimentary cookies and milk.  This year even features Silent Disco Fridays.  

Santa Fest & Tree Lighting 

Dec. 2  

Don’t miss the Santa Fest parade and the annual Tampa Tree Lighting, as Downtown Tampa comes alive with jubilation and festive cheer as the parade winds through the heart of downtown Tampa. After the parade, the park will be filled with holiday entertainment and activities as well as the annual tree lighting ceremony with Santa Claus and Tampa Mayor Jane Castor. 

Festival of Lights 

Nov. 23 – Dec. 31  

The Festival of Lights & Santa’s Village at Hillsborough County Fairgrounds is a delightful winter wonderland, featuring stunning displays of over a million lights representing Christmas, Hannukah, and Kwanzaa. In addition to the light displays, the festival has a delightful two-mile drive-thru with lively Florida-themed exhibits, including the infamous Pirates of Tampa and airboats. Santa’s Village is filled with holiday-themed rides, craft stations, live entertainment, and activities that guarantee endless fun for the whole family, including a chance to gather around firepits and make delicious s’mores. There are even camel rides!  

Christmas In The Wild 

Select Nights Nov. – Dec.  

Source: Yelp

Experience the magic of Christmas like never before with ZooTampa’s Christmas in the Wild, returning this year bigger and better than ever before. With six unique festive realms to explore, breathtaking shows, and the enchanting Twinkletown Marketplace, there’s no better place to create lasting family memories. This year’s event is filled with new and exciting surprises, including the addition of spectacular, larger-than-life illuminated animal sculptures and interactive lighted Christmas wreaths adorning the Zoo’s Ituri Pass pathway. As you stroll through the dazzling display, enjoy the sounds of rock ‘n’ roll Christmas carols, and get up close and personal with the Zoo’s exotic wildlife. This is a family-friendly Christmas experience unlike any other. 

Legoland Florida Resort 

Nov. 24 – Dec. 31  

Source: Yelp

Make your family vacation unforgettable by adding some LEGO® magic to it. Join the jolliest event of the year at LEGOLAND® Florida Resort and immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere of the Holiday Village Postal Service, where you can send letters to LEGO Santa. Delight in the musical rhythms of holiday tunes as you rock around the giant LEGO tree and snap “elfies” with your favorite holiday LEGO characters. Make sure to celebrate the new year with colorful bursts of LEGO bricks fireworks over Lake Eloise. And experience the thrill of plenty of family-friendly rides and attractions. It’s going to be a brick-tacular celebration. 

Snow Days 

Dec. 26-30 

Snow Days are back at the Florida Aquarium! Get ready for a variety of exciting winter activities including a snow maze, snowball toss, and even snow painting. Members can enjoy the festivities for free, while general admission includes access to all the winter fun. Don’t miss out on the Winter Wonderland Dance Party and live performances happening throughout the week. And that’s not all – test your skills at snowball cornhole and street curling. You can even get your picture taken with Santa, including pet photos!  

On December 21st, the Aquarium hosts a sensory-friendly Snow Day, adapting lights and sounds to accommodate those with sensory differences.  

Enchant Christmas 

Nov. 24 – Dec. 31 

Source: Yelp

Experience a magical holiday wonderland filled with illuminated landscapes, dazzling tunnels, and ice skating, all complemented by a breathtaking 100-foot Christmas tree that exudes the festive spirit. Explore an all-new story-themed light maze and get enchanted by Santa’s magical timepiece. This extraordinary experience is brought to you by Enchant Christmas, the world’s largest Christmas light maze and village, now dazzling 7 different locations across the globe, including St. Petersburg, Florida. With the Hallmark Channel as its proud presenter, Enchant Christmas has turned Tropicana Field into a mesmerizing winter wonderland fit for a Hallmark holiday movie. 

The Shops at Wiregrass Tree Lighting and Symphony in Lights 

Nov. 11 – Dec. 31 

Source: Yelp

Immerse yourself in the holiday spirit with the Shops at Wiregrass Tree Lighting and Symphony in Lights. Experience the splendor of sparkling fireworks, browse the creations of talented local artisans in the enchanting Christmas village, and bask in the radiance of dazzling twinkling trees, all while enjoying the heartwarming harmonies of the season. This free event is suitable for all ages. 

Holiday Lighted Boat Parade 

Dec. 23  

On December 23, the Tampa Riverwalk will shimmer with the sparkle of Tampa Bay’s largest lighted boat parade. Stroll the 2.6-mile-long riverside pathway and watch as a parade of everything from sailboats to motorboats cruise by, decked out in lights and décor and competing for the first-place title.  

Holiday Spectacular & Tree Lighting 

Nov. – Jan. 2024  

Source: Yelp

Make your way to the iconic Tampa Riverwalk for the start of the Holiday Spectacular as a 35-foot-tall floating Christmas tree is ceremonially illuminated for the first time of the season! The festivities continue through January 2024 with engaging activities, floating light displays, and even a floating gingerbread display for all to enjoy.   

Holiday Cocktail Pop-Up Bar at Miracle at Mezzo 

Nov. 24 – Dec. 31 

Source: Yelp

Get spruced up and join the festivities this holiday season in style at Miracle at Mezzo, a beloved holiday pop-up bar where you can indulge in nostalgic cheer and revel in some good old-fashioned fun amidst the quirky and colorful festive décor. Be prepared to bring your best ugly sweater A-game. Events are ongoing from November 24th through New Year’s Eve.  

Florida Botanical Gardens Holiday Lights 

Nov. 23 – Dec. 31 

Source: Yelp

With 1 million LED colorful lights, all is certain to be bright at the Florida Botanical Gardens for this year’s annual winter fundraiser. The event coincides with the opening their new Majeed Discovery Garden, making it even more special and vibrant than ever before. Expect a vibrant laser light show and lighted figures to wow guests of all ages. There is free parking, 12 and under are free, and leashed pets are welcome! 

Holiday Movie in the Park 

Dec. 16 

Experience the Grinch like never before when the Clearwater Historical Society Museum and Cultural Center presents the film on a massive 80ft inflatable screen for their outdoor movie night. Bring your favorite blanket and pillows, stock up on popcorn, and enjoy the night under the stars. You’ll even have a chance to snap a photo with the Grinch himself. 

Winter Wonder Wharf 

Saturdays in December 

Source: Yelp

Head to Sparkman Wharf this holiday season for the Winter Wonder Wharf extravaganza, complete with festive lights, music, and decorations. Visitors can marvel at the 35-foot Christmas Tree and colorful tree forest on the lawn, snap photos throughout the area, and enjoy holiday-themed entertainment.  

December 2: Mistletones and Beatboxers 
December 9: Rapping Carolers 
December 16: LaRon Hearst Violinist and Family 

River of Lights Tour 

Nov. 26. – Dec. 24  

Source: Yelp

Step aboard the Tampa Pirate Water Taxi and experience the holiday magic of Tampa Bay’s stunning waterfront lights as you cruise down the Hillsborough River. Take in the enchanting sight of floating holiday displays like “Elf on the Barge” and join the resident Christmas Caroler in singing your favorite holiday tunes. You can even write a letter to Santa and drop it off in Tampa’s only floating mail buoy. With surprises at every turn, including Florida snow flurries and stockings for all the good kids, this is one magical adventure you won’t want to miss! 

Victorian Christmas Stroll 

Dec. 1 – 23  

Source: Yelp

Come and celebrate the magic of Christmas at Tampa’s most iconic building and experience one of our community’s favorite holiday events. For 42 years, Tampa Bay’s Victorian Christmas Stroll at the Henry B. Plant Museum has been a beloved holiday tradition that provides a glimpse into the enchanting Christmas celebrations of the past. This once small three-evening event is now a month-long extravaganza of grandeur. The main attraction is a magnificent 14-foot tree adorned with antique ornaments standing amid rooms and halls bursting with holiday cheer. Complimentary cider and cookies add a bit of sweetness to the holiday cheer.  

Annual Winter Wonder Ride  

Dec. 9  

Experience the magic of downtown Tampa and the scenic Bayshore Boulevard with the festive Onbikes Winter Wonder Ride. This year, the Winter Wonder Ride is all about the 80s and 90s retro vibe with a “Let it Glow” theme. LOCASH will once again take the stage, ensuring another unforgettable night of music and merriment. Following the ride, the celebration continues at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park where food, drinks, and Tampa Bay’s biggest outdoor pajama party await. Brace yourself for an epic neon-lit adventure.  

Next Generation Ballet’s Nutcracker  

Dec. 21-23  

Head down to the Straz Center for the Performing Arts for The Nutcracker ballet, presented by Next Generation Ballet®. This family-friendly event has become a beloved holiday tradition in the Tampa Bay area and features performances by principal dancers from powerhouse companies alongside NGB’s award-winning young dancers. Be transported into the magical world of dancing sweets and sword-fighting rodents set to some of the most timeless and beautiful melodies  

The Ghost of Christmas Eve 

Dec. 23  

Source: Yelp

Experience the ultimate winter extravaganza when The Trans-Siberian Orchestra brings their highly anticipated Winter Tour of their classic show, “The Ghost of Christmas Eve,” to Tampa. Blending the magic of seasonal classics with the grandeur of rock music, the show awes audiences with its stunning visuals, complete with lasers and pyrotechnics. There are two shows available – 2:30 pm and 7:30 pm. Don’t miss the chance to be part of this unforgettable event.  

Holiday Cruises 

Select Dates in December 

Source: Yelp

Cruise around Tampa Bay on one of Yacht Starship’s many themed holiday cruises. Choose from Ugly Sweater Brunch Cruises, Santa Brunch Cruises, Christmas Eve Cruises, and a New Year’s Eve Cruise and get ready to ring in the holidays as you make your way around the bay.