This year, the Season of Lights is the reason to be in Tampa Bay! Experience Florida’s Most diverse destination with special holiday flavor. From the historic brick streets of Ybor City to the modern high-rises lining the sparkling Hillsborough River, Tampa Bay twinkles with life. Treasure awaits.
Centro Ybor Holiday Tree Lighting
Ybor City, Nov. 16, 6:30 p.m. | Ring in the holidays with Tampa Bay’s first tree lighting of the season in the heart of historic Ybor City. Come ready to carol and heap marshmallows into your hot chocolate.
Tampa Theatre Holiday Classics
Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, Weekends Nov. 17 – Dec 16 | From the Technicolor tap-dancing of “White Christmas” to the slapstick of “Home Alone” and the Jimmy Stewart-filled sincerity of “It’s A Wonderful Life,” the Tampa Theatre offers a sprinkling of fun for everyone. This year the historic theater is closed for renovations, so it’s offering its holiday film series for free in the park. (By the way, a theatre membership makes the perfect holiday gift that gives back all year.)
Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, Nov. 17- Jan. 5, 2018 | Celebrate the holiday season in downtown with Winter Village. Located along the Tampa Riverwalk, the Winter Village transforms Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park with the sights, sounds and activities of the holidays for children and adults of all ages. Strap on a pair of skates and take a few turns on Tampa Bay’s only outdoor ice rink (yes, it’s real ice). You’ll also enjoy waterfront cafe, rink-side coffee bar, popsicles & themed holiday treats). A group of 15 pop-up holiday Shops featuring a variety of great gift items. Plus holiday lights, free activities & more!
Saturdays With Santa
The Florida Aquarium, Saturdays Nov. 18 – Dec. 23 | Santa and his elves visit The Florida Aquarium every Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Santa’s elves will join him and dive in the Aquarium’s Coral Reef habitat during its regularly scheduled dive presentations.
Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay, Nov. 19-Dec. 31 | Christmas Town™ beams with twinkling lights, Yuletide shows, holiday shopping and even a visit to Santa’s House. Plus, the beloved characters from the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer™ television special return with Christmas Town’s debut of Sam the Snowman. The celebration continues through January 6 for the Three Kings Celebration, marking the visit of the Magi to the cradle of the infant Jesus.
River of Lights
Pirate Water Taxi, Weekends Dec. 1-30 | Cruise through downtown aboard the iconic Pirate Water Taxi for a unique vew of the beautiful sights of the holiday season. Pass beneath the lighted bridges to enter the Hillsborough River for a one-of-a-kind tour. Enjoy an entertaining narration on the first half of the cruise and then join in with Christmas Carolers on the second half, while savoring hot chocolate and a delicious holiday cookie. There is no better way to experience the Holidays in Tampa!
Breakfast With Santa
The Florida Aquarium, Dec. 9, 8 – 9:30 a.m. | Meet Santa and his animal friends when you attend “Breakfast with Santa.” Begin your visit with a wonderful buffet breakfast. Since Santa’s elves are pretty busy this time of year, Aquarium staff will be on hand accompanied by some special animal guests for everyone to meet. Photos with Santa are also available for purchase that morning. For more information, call 813-273-4030.
The Florida Aquarium, Dec. 26 – Dec. 31 | Yes, we do have snow in Florida — and schools are already closed! Continue the holiday celebration at The Florida Aquarium during Snow Days. The Aquarium will extend its hours Dec. 26 through Dec. 31. Guests can enjoy a real snow play area for kids and all habitats will be open late.
Victorian Christmas Stroll
Henry B. Plant Museum, Dec. 1 – 23 | Step back in time to experience the extravagance and grandeur of a Victorian Christmas at the Henry B. Plant Museum (right). Daily visits to Christmas Past run 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Dec. 1 – 23. Experience an interactive sensory tree activity for visitors with sensory disabilities. In exhibit cases, visitors will find tiny antique trees as small as 1” in height. Gaze in wonder at antique ornaments and colorful nutcrackers from the Gilded Age.
Christmas in the Wild
Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, Weekends, Nov. 24 – Dec. 30 | The Zoo is brimming with holiday cheer as Christmas in the Wild returns with even more twinkling lights and jolly surprises! Experience 18 wild and wonderful nights. Enjoy seasonal treats, enchanting entertainment and a 50-foot dancing Christmas tree! Best of all, visit Santa in his Tree Top Lodge and marvel at the magic of wildlife at night.
Snow on Seventh Holiday Parade
Ybor City, Dec. 9, 6-9 p.m. | Santa Claus is comin’ to town in the heart of Tampa Bay’s historic Ybor City! Join the throngs along La Sétima to cheer on 19 marching bands and the rest of the holiday entertainment until the Big Guy makes his appearance. Afterwards, stick around for family-friendly fun and plenty of snow!
Harry Potter & the Florida Symphony Orchestra
Straz Center for the Performing Arts, Dec, 28, 29, 30 | Following its earlier successful performance of “Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone,” the Florida Symphony Orchestra will perform as the living soundtrack of “Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets” for three shows. No need to call out “alohomora!” Tickets are on sale now.
New Year’s Eve
The Florida Aquarium 9 p.m. Dec. 31 – 1 a.m. Jan. 1 | Splash in the New Year by celebrating at Aqua Eve! There will be fantastic entertainment; complimentary food, beer and wine. The location in the Channelside district gives a perfect view of the New Year’s fireworks show in Garrison Channel. Must be at least 21 years old. Tickets start at $110.
New Year’s Eve Celebration
Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay, Dec. 31- 1 a.m. Jan. 1 | Ring in 2018 at one of the world’s top theme parks! Join Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay for an awesome New Year’s Eve celebration! Enjoy Cobra’s Curse and other awesome thrill rides in the dark. Jam out to music throughout the park and ring in the new year with a park-wide countdown and spectacular fireworks show in Gwazi Park. And with the park open until 1 a.m., you can make the first hour in 2018 a thrilling one! Admission to the New Year’s Eve Celebration is included with regular paid admission to Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay.
Fort Brooke Parking Structure, 9 p.m. Dec. 31 – 2 a.m. Jan. 1| Join the party in the heart of downtown for a night of glamour, music, and fun — with a front-row seat to the enormous fireworks show that will ring in 2018. As a bonus, many of Tampa Bay’s best hotels are a short walk away when the party’s over.