Tampa is a wonderful place to visit during the holiday season. There are plenty of magical festivities to engage the whole family while also enjoying the warm weather and sunshine. Tampa gets in on the holiday spirit with ice skating (really!), dancing lights, festivals, parades and special events that are guaranteed to please even the most hum-bug visitors. Below are just a few of the holiday happenings visitors have to choose from.
Meet Santa at Busch Gardens' over-the-top Christmas Town celebration — Photo courtesy of Busch Gardens
Christmas Town is Busch Garden’s annual Christmas celebration. On select dates from November 28th through December 31st, this world-class theme park is transformed into a winter wonderland with over one million twinkling lights, seasonal entertainment, music, festive food and treats.
Check out Santa in his study at Welcome to Santa’s House; enjoy an evening of food and entertainment at Mrs. Claus’ Family Feast; or marvel at the dancing lights on the 50-foot tree in Christmas Time Terrace. Cap off your visit with the Christmas on Ice show at the Moroccan Palace, which is a show in itself brilliantly wrapped in shimmering white garland.
Santa Fest & Holiday Parade
On Saturday, December 6th, young and old alike will enjoy the festivities of Santa Fest when Curtis Hixon Park comes alive with holiday activities including a Christmas Market, seasonal entertainment, pictures with Santa, festive games and crafts.
Santa Fest starts at 11 am with the Rough Rider’s Holiday Parade featuring floats and marching bands. The parade is best viewed along Madison Street.
For those who just can’t handle the winter holidays without a little ice and cold, visit Tampa’s Downtown on Ice. Located downtown in Curtis Hixon Park, Downtown on Ice is a real outdoor ice rink that offers everyone a chance to go skating under the palm trees.
Downtown on Ice costs $5 during Santa Fest (regular $10) for 90 minutes of ice time and includes skate rental. Can’t make it during Santa Fest? This amazing outdoor rink opens November 20th and operates daily (except Thanksgiving) through January 5th.Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa is the location of many festive events during the holiday season — Photo courtesy of Pedro Castellano / Visit Tampa Bay
Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown
Celebrate a Peanuts Christmas with a visit to the Tampa Bay History Center. This temporary exhibition runs through January 11th and celebrates Charlie Brown’s unique connection to Christmas through the animated special, A Charlie Brown Christmas. Peruse behind-the-scenes history and artifacts from this well-loved television program.
On December 6th, 13th and 27th, the Center is hosting Kids, Cocoa and Crafts. This special kids program will have the little tykes exploring the galleries on a scavenger hunt, creating Peanuts-themed holiday art and enjoying a hot cup of cocoa.
Outback Bowl & New Year’s Eve Parade
Ring in the New Year with the Outback Bowl, one of Tampa’s most anticipated sporting events. Every January 1st at 12 noon, two top teams from college football meet head-to-head at Raymond James Stadium.
Begin celebrating the day before by attending the New Year’s Eve Parade and Pep Rally in Ybor City. The parade features marching bands and seasonal floats, including the marching bands and cheerleaders from the participating colleges. The parade starts at 5:30 pm and runs along 7th Avenue. The perfect way to begin your New Year's celebrations before heading downtown for the fireworks.