Getting into the holiday spirit isn’t always easy in Florida. With temperatures averaging over 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the Tampa area, December in Florida can seem strange to someone who lives up north. This year, enjoying holiday events will be even more challenging with COVID-19. Which has caused postponing significant local events such as Holidays on The Farm at Keel Farms and Enchant Christmas in St. Petersburg. There’s still plenty to do though, so here’s our 2020 list of holiday events near Tampa.
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Florida Botanical Gardens (Largo)
The ‘Holiday Lights in the Garden’ event at the Florida Botanical Gardens has been cancelled for 2020. The gardens will still be decorated. You can see the displays during normal botanical garden hours during the day.
Christmas Town at Busch Gardens (Tampa)
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Christmas Town was choosen by USA Today as one of its 10 Best Theme Park Holiday Events. With millions of lights decorating the park, they have a Sing-Along Train, Christmas on Ice, the Three Kings Journey, and social distanced meet and greets with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa. There’s also the Christmas Village that features food and drink selections created just for this event.
Christmas Town is included with admission to Busch Gardens and is open from November 20, 2020 through January 3, 2021.
If you haven’t lived in Florida long or are visitors to the area during December, experiencing a boat parade is a must. Boats adorned with lights and decorations travel the waterways as spectators line the bridges and walkways next to the water. Cities located on waterways host boat parades in December.
Admission is free but be sure to scope out the area in advance for the perfect viewing spot. Also, check websites to see when road closures are taking place that day.
Cities hosting boat parades in 2020 in the Tampa Bay area:
- Indian Rocks Beach
- Gulfport/Boca Ciega
- Maderia Beach
- Redington Beaches/Indian Shores
- Tarpon Springs
- Treasure Island
Note: Some boat parades, such as Clearwater, haven’t been scheduled and some been cancelled for 2020 due to COVID. We’ll update as information becomes available.
Gingerbread House Decorating on Zoom (Clearwater)
Hesitant to go out too much because of COVID? Don’t let that stop you from having some holiday fun! The city of Clearwater will be holding a gingerbread house decorating holiday event on Zoom on December 16, 2020. For children and adults, this event lets you have holiday fun in your own home! Registration starts on November 25 – everyone will be placed in a lottery to be selected. Those selected can pick up their kits at an allotted time at the Clearwater Library downtown. Then everyone gathers on Zoom for the perfect self-distancing holiday event!
Henry B. Plant Museum (Tampa)
Located on the University of Tampa’s campus, the Henry B. Plant Museum is a flashback to when the university used to be a hotel in the late 1800’s/early 1900s. Showcasing the Gilded Age and turn of the century lifestyles of the rich, the museum is a great visit any time of year.
At the end of each year, the museum turns into a Christmas extravaganza. Called the Victorian Christmas Stroll, you’ll see vintage clothing, antique toys and ornaments galore. They even serve cookies and cider on the veranda to enjoy after visiting.
The Victorian Christmas Stroll runs November 21 through December 31, 2020 and is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Advanced tickets are required and purchased on the museum’s website. The museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm. Tickets are $16 for ages 13 and up, seniors and students with ID are $14 and children ages 4 to 12 are $10.
All visitors are required to wear masks.
Holidays at Bok Tower Gardens (Winter Gardens)
Located a little farther than some of the other attractions, Bok Towers is located up I-4 towards Orlando but worth the trip. Home to a 60 bell carillon tower, Bok Tower Gardens has been open since 1929 and designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. Located on 50 acres, it’s home to many animals and over 120 bird species.
Holidays at Bok Tower Gardens is a little different in 2020. Organizers canceled the house tour of Pinewood Estates for safety reasons. This year’s activities require advanced registration, and attendees must wear a mask at any of the educational programs.
Don’t let that stop you – there’s still plenty to see and do, including a family scavenger hunt, a ring the holiday’s concert, a Hanukkah carillon concert, beer and wine concerts and a gourmet holiday dinner in the gardens outdoor kitchen. Some events have ticket prices on top of the general entrance fee. Check prices and dates for specific events. Holiday events take place through January 5, 2020.
Bok Towers is open from 8 am to 6 pm every day of the year. Admission to Bok Towers Gardens is $15 for adults and $5 for children ages 5 to 12. Active duty military members receive free general admission.
Winter Village (Tampa)
Are you looking to ice skate this holiday season? Head to Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa and visit Winter Village. With an outdoor skating rink, small temporary restaurants and a shopping area, it’ll let Floridians feel a piece of winter. Don’t own skates – they have children’s and adult sizes to rent.
The Winter Village recommends purchasing tickets in advance. The number of skaters allowed on the ice is limited and face masks are required.
Winter Village is open from November 20, 2020 through January 3, 2021. Hours vary based on date.
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