Our Top 10 Holiday Things to Do in Tampa Bay
With Christmas Eve just 20 days away, we are taking a look at our favorite local holiday events. Many of these events are long held traditions in the Tampa Bay area and bring joy to locals and visitors alike.
10. See a Live Christmas Performance
With so many theater venues in the area it is easy to find a Christmas performance for all tastes. The Florida Orchestra plays at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Mahaffey Theater in St Petersburg and the Straz Center in Tampa. Christmas specials like A Charlie Brown Christmas Live and A Christmas Carol are sure to get you in the holiday spirit.
9. Walk Thru a Christmas Light Display
The Florida Botanical Gardens hosts a lighted display through out the gardens with over 1 million LED lights. The event offers nightly entertainment, refreshments and a visit from Santa. When we visited there was a small Jazz band and holiday treats for purchase like hot chocolate and funnel cakes. More information
8. Burn Off Holiday Pounds at the Jingle Bell Run
Those holiday cookies and eggnog making the scale jump? Burn off those extra holiday pounds in Christmas style. The Jingle Bell Run is a 3 mile event along the St Petersburg waterfront and is open to all runners, joggers, walkers, pets and strollers. The entire family can enjoy the 1,500 luminaries, bands, and 3 glow zones. The merriness is enhanced by glow in the dark face paint, glow necklaces and event snow. Race fees go to end homelessness. More information
7. Ice Skating on Hillsborough River (photo)
Put on your skates for a whirl around downtown Tampa’s only outdoor ice rink at the Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park. The rink is set on the festive Tampa Riverwalk along the Hillsborough River anf features 10 local boutique shops and a café. More information
6. See the Nutcracker Ballet
Nothing says ‘holiday magic’ like The Nutcracker. You can see this brilliant tale set to Tchaikovsky’s score in two different performances. The Tampa Ballet will perform at Ruth Eckerd Hall December 23. The Next Generation Ballet will perform at Straz Center December 21-23. We saw this inventive performance last year and cannot wait to see it again December 21. The performance was incredible let’s just say the air is filled with magic.
5. Watch a Christmas Movie on the Beach
Many local cities host free outdoor screenings of Christmas movies. Our favorite, Madeira Beach, is showing Elf on the beach. We love spreading out a blanket on the sand and watching a movie with our toes in the sand. St Petersburg is screening Home Alone and downtown Tampa is showing a new holiday movie every Friday and Saturday at Curtis Hixon Park.
4. Go Shopping at an Outdoor Market
St Petersburg operates one of the country’s top 20 markets every Saturday from 9-2pm. The Saturday Morning Market features about 170 vendors and about 10,000 visitors each Saturday. Farm fresh food, artisan food vendors and local retail vendors mean unique holiday gifts can be found in this charming open air market.
3. Busch Gardens Holiday
Inside Tampa’s Busch Gardens theme park is a twinkling Christmas Town where you can find Christmas lights as far as the eye can see, holiday shows, and holiday shopping. Visitors can stop by Santa’s House for a visit and meet characters from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. More information
2. Watch a Christmas Parade
Christmas parades are sure to usher in Christmas cheer. One of our favorites is the Dunedin Old Fashion Christmas and Holiday Parade. The festive parade makes it way downtown where you can watch Santa arrive! The fun continues with carriage rides, snow slide, train rides, games, live music and magical snow flurries.
1. Watch a Holiday Boat Parade
The Madeira Beach ‘Festival of Lights’ Boat Parade has been a beach community tradition going on 51 years. Boats parade around the waterways decorated with lights and deck hands sing carols. Residents who live on the intracoastal waterway can view this spectacle from their homes or from ROC Park.