Getting into the holiday spirit isn’t always easy in Florida. With temperatures averaging over 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the Tampa Bay area, December in Florida can seem strange to someone who lives up north. That doesn’t make the holidays any less enjoyable. Boat parades, lots of lights and plenty of cheer show up for the holidays. And this year many events that were postponed last year have returned, and there are some new events as well. So here’s our 2021 list of Christmas events in Tampa and the surrounding areas.
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Holiday Lights in the Garden (Largo)
With over 1 million LED lights lighting up the Florida Botanical Gardens, the annual Holiday Lights in the Gardens will take place from November 26, 2021 to January 2, 2022 after being cancelled in 2020! There are also laser light, figurines, model trains and local talent performing for the holidays. There is also food and non-alcoholic drinks available for purchase. The gardens are free during the day and during Holiday Lights, which is from 5:30pm to 9:30pm, there is a requested donation of $10 per person over the age of 13.
Christmas Town at Busch Gardens (Tampa)
One of the most popular Christmas events in Tampa takes place at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Christmas Town. Choosen by USA Today as one of its 10 Best Theme Park Holiday Events, Christmas Town has millions of lights decorating the park, a Sing-Along Train, Christmas on Ice show, the Three Kings Journey, story time with Mrs. Claus, and meet and greets with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa. New this year is the Holiday in the Sky Fireworks show! 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 12, 2021 through January 2, 2020.
Enchant Christmas (St. Petersburg)
This bright Christmas event near Tampa is Enchant Christmas held the heart of downtown St Petersburg. With a 100 foot animated tree, ice skating trail, photos with Santa, Christmas market and holiday treats, it’s a one-stop-shop for holiday fun! Enchant St. Petersburg is open from November 26, 2021 to January 2, 2022 with ticket prices varying depending on which day you visit.
One can’t miss Christmas event in Tampa and the surrounding coastal towns is attending a boat parade. 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. Drawbridges may close to car and foot traffic if they need to be lifted for larger boats. And get there early and bring a chair – these parades are popular!
- Tarpon Springs Illuminated Boat Parade – December 3, 2021
- Dunedin Holiday Boat Parade – December 4, 2021
- Treasure Island Holiday Lighted Boat Parade – December 4, 2021
- Boca Ciega Yacht Club Christmas Boat Parade – December 11, 2021
- Clearwater Lighted Boat Parade – December 11, 2021
- Tampa Riverwalk Holiday Lighted Boat Parade – December 18, 2021
- Smacks Bayou (St. Petersburg) Christmas Boat Parade – December 18, 2021
- Redington Beach Holiday Lighted Boat Parade – December 19, 2021
Note: Information will continue to be updated as cities announce their plans
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 December 1-23, 2021. Advanced tickets are required and can be purchased on the museum’s website. The museum is open from 10 am to 8 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 we still consider it a Christmas event in Tampa because it’s not too far and is a beautiful location. 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 November 25, 2021 through January 2, 2022, including on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
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.
Ice Skating at Winter Village (Tampa) and Winter Beach at St. Pete Pier (St. Petersburg)
Are you looking to ice skate this holiday season? This year there are two outdoor rinks to enjoy – one on either side of the bay.
In Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa you can 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. Winter Village is open from November 19, 2021 through January 2, 2022. Hours vary based on date.
And new this year is Winter Beach at The St. Pete Pier. With an ice skating rink that gives you 360 degree views of the pier, there’s also chances to see Santa, eat and drink, enjoys concerts and shop the holiday market. Winter Beach runs from November 20, 2021 through January 17, 2022.
Where to Stay
Looking to spend the night after visiting Christmas events in Tampa, St. Petersburg or any of the other cities mentioned? There are plenty of hotels and house rentals to choose from. (Christmas lights in Tampa)
Do you have a favorite holiday event in the Tampa area? Share in the comments below!
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