Enjoy Tampa's Holiday Attractions for Festive Family Fun

Tampa during the holidays can be a real treat for those seeking refuge from the snow and cold of northern climates. However, sometimes the lack of snow and cold can make it difficult to get into the holiday spirit. Luckily, Tampa features a ton of fun events and activities throughout the holiday season to help you ignite your festive spark. To find the perfect opportunities for you and your loved ones, check out this list of Tampa's top 10 holiday events.

Conveniently located in downtown Tampa at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park is the Winter Village attraction that is open daily from November 18 through December 25. Featuring an improbable outdoor ice rink, cafe, and pop-up market, there are activities for the whole family to enjoy. And don't worry, skate rentals are available on-site.

If you're looking for an elegant way to bring in the New Year, check out the New Year's Eve Gala taking place at Tampa's newest gathering spot, the Armature Works. This promises to a dazzling event and a new annual tradition complete with a fireworks display projected against views of the downtown skyline . It may be pricey, but you are guaranteed an evening that you won't forget!


Snow on 7th is the holiday event where you can experience that most elusive of Florida phenomenon - you guessed it - snow! On Saturday, December 10th, Ybor City, Tampa's historic district, hosts their annual parade that turns this picturesque neighborhood into a winter wonderland. Beginning at 7pm, festive floats, marching bands, and live performers will pass by and the big, puffy, white flakes will fall along 7th Avenue between 15th and 17th streets. Of course, the parade's not over until jolly St. Nick brings up the rear. Take the chill off by grabbing a free hot chocolate and cookies from Hamburger Mary's Bar & Grille available while supplies last.

New Year's Eve Gala 2019 at Armature Works
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

Tampa's newest and most exclusive New Year's Eve gala is going to held at the recently opened Armature Works. Ring in 2019 while dancing to high-energy, top-40 dance tunes played by the Florida-based From Me To You Band. This is an all inclusive experience and the price of your ticket includes free valet parking, a top-shelf open bar, champagne bar, and delicious selection of late night hors d'oeuvres. Celebrate the New Year with a midnight toast and enjoy an extensive fireworks display out on the lawn with the lights of the downtown skyline in the background.

Tampa's largest New Year's Eve fireworks display is held at the free Light Up the Bay waterfront party. The event starts at 7 p.m. with fireworks at midnight. Enjoy live entertainment, local vendors, and a variety of food and beverages. Best viewing for the fireworks is along the waterfront. Not to worry though, the party extends along the Riverwalk with viewing areas available from the new Sparkman Wharf to the Convention Center and there are several stopping points along the way refresh your drink. Due to all the construction in this area, details may change for 2018. Stay tuned for updates.


Experience the warmth and charm of an old-fashioned Christmas at the Henry B. Plant Museum's annual Victorian Christmas Stroll event from December 1 - 23. Housed in what used to be Tampa's most luxurious hotel, the museum captures the spirit of a Victorian Christmas with 14 rooms decorated with festive trees and antique holiday accessories. There are fun games and activities to take part in, and complimentary spiced cider and savory cookies are served on the wide veranda. Check out their museum store where they offer a large selection of holiday ornaments, serving pieces and accessories as well as unique gifts. Admission is not required to visit the store, but there is a charge to explore the Museum's exhibits.

Just because we don't get snow, doesn't mean we don't know how to celebrate the holidays. Each year the city of Tampa hosts Santa Fest and the Rough Riders Holiday Parade. This year's event will be held on Saturday, December 2, 2017. The Holiday Parade starts at 11 am at Morgan & Madison street, featuring floats and bands, and of course, the jolly old elf himself. The Fest is held riverfront at Curtis Hixon Park from noon to 4 pm, and features loads of fun for the whole family including free photos with Santa Claus, lots of holiday entertainment, crafts, games, and a Christmas market.

Everyone loves a festive light show to get us in the holiday spirit and Tampa residents are no different. This year, explore the spectacular holiday light show and winter festival at the Wonderland of Lights in Brandon. Located at the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds, this event runs from November 23rd to December 31st. Visitors will gaze in wonder at the stunning animated and still light displays presented in a drive through format. If you get out of your car, there are also horse-drawn wagon rides, a North Pole train ride, amusement rides, craft vendors, and food and beverages. Entrance is $20 per vehicle with up to 8 people.

Tampa's great weather can sometimes make it difficult to get into the holiday spirit for those used to the snow and cold. Inject a cheerful chill into your holiday celebrations at Winter Village located downtown along the beautiful riverfront. Consisting of an outdoor ice rink, cafe, and pop-up market, this event brings the sights, sounds, and tastes of the season. Enjoy some family ice time with a 90 minute skate costing $13 and includes skate rentals. The Cafe offers seasonal snacks and kid-friendly beverages to enjoy, and the pop-up market features local vendors and artisans with gift ideas including decorations, apparel, handmade toys, jewelry, dog accessories, and more! This event takes place from November 17 through January 5.

Tampa kicks off the holiday season with an annual tree lighting ceremony featuring the Mayor and hosted by Friends of Tampa Recreation. The event is held downtown at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park on the first Friday in December with festivities beginning at 6pm. This free, family-friendly evening includes a countdown to light the tree and a free movie in the park. Bring your blankets and coolers, and snag a spot on the lawn to enjoy the festive lights and beautiful views of the river, the University of Tampa minarets and the downtown skyline. You can even your bring your dog. Concessions are also available.

Tampa's award winning Lowry Park Zoo hosts Christmas in the Wild, an animal-filled holiday celebration, every weekend day starting at 4 pm from November 24 through December 30. Enjoy festive lights and decorations with closing times extended to 10 pm. Special nighttime animal encounters are featured with all animal areas open except for the Florida Boardwalk. Seasonal entertainment includes Christmas carolers and live performances. Visit the Christmas Lodge for holiday treats and seasonal refreshments, and of course, make sure to visit Santa! Recognized for their family-friendly activities and amenities, this is a great place to take small children.

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Photo courtesy of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Busch Gardens Tampa has the perfect way to rekindle the holiday feeling with their annual Christmas Town event. As darkness falls on November 17, over one million lights twinkle to life and the park transforms into a festive wonderland. Christmas Town Village opens daily at 5 pm and features beautifully decorated Christmas trees, vendors selling holiday gifts and treats, and your favorite Christmas characters. Visit the North Pole to see Santa and get a photo as he takes a break from his holiday preparations. There are also several popular Christmas-themed shows including the spectacular Christmas on Ice. Christmas Town is available with regular park admission daily from November 17 - December 31, with extended closing times.


Meet Skye Rodgers

Skye is a freelance writer that adopted Tampa as her hometown over a decade ago and never looked back. As a native of Canada, Skye has happily embraced the no snow climate, and in her spare time...  More About Skye