Enjoy the Sunshine and the Season this December in Tampa

While our neighbors to the north are huddled in bulky winter clothes scraping their car windows, everyone in Tampa is enjoying warm temperatures and lots of sunshine without the sticky heat of summer. You may not find snow skis or toboggans, but there are plenty of fun and novel ways to celebrate the season. Check out this list of the 10 best things to do this December in Tampa and find the activities perfect for you.

December is the beginning of the outdoor season in central Florida. The moderate temperatures make this the perfect time of year to take long bike rides or hikes. It is also the time of year for camping as there are few bugs in addition to the great weather. Get back to nature by reserving a camp spot at the Hillsborough River State Park and enjoy the nearby hiking and canoeing opportunities.

This is also the time of year that the farmers markets and roadside produce stands start getting inundated with fresh, local produce including the early citrus harvests including varieties of grapefruit, oranges, and tangerines. One of the areas oldest markets in the tradition of roadside stands is Parkesdale Farm Market just 15 minutes from downtown Tampa.


Tampa Bay Water Bikes is located on the public docks adjacent to the Convention Center and Sail Pavilion in downtown Tampa. The perfect sightseeing option to get a water view of the city's iconic landmarks, water biking is easy and fun. Also available are BiYaks, or kayaks with pedals. Explore the Hillsborough River, Garrison Channel, and Davis and Harbour Islands. Anyone over the age of 8 is able to operate a water bike making this a great activity for the whole family. Safety gear and instruction is provided. Reservations are recommended and can be made online or in-person.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Laugh in the face of Old Man Winter by exploring Tampa's downtown waterways on water bikes from the the Tampa Bay Water Bike Company.

Skye's expert tip: Water biking not for you? Other ways to get out on the river that are available close by include paddle boards, e-boats, a dolphin cruise and a hop-on, hop-off water taxi.

Read more about Tampa Bay Water Bike Company →

Outside the city

Clearwater Beach is a very popular and busy beach that has been voted the "Best Beach Town in Florida" by USA Today readers. In addition to meticulously groomed beaches and tons of beach amenities, Clearwater Beach offers many additional attractions. Fishing, dolphin-watching and leisure charters are available close-by. You can also visit the famous dolphin, Winter, who lives at the nearby Clearwater Aquarium. Some of the best seafood restaurants in the Tampa Bay area are found here including perennial favorite, Frenchy's. There are also a wide variety of clubs and nightlife including two-story dance club, The Wave, at Shepherd's Beach Resort. There are always events going on and every evening people gather at The Pier to take part in the sunset celebration that includes entertainment and a craft market.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: A visit to Tampa in December would not be complete without going to the beach at least once and Clearwater Beach is a popular choice.

Skye's expert tip: Parking can get tight - it's a good idea to get there early and be prepared to walk with your stuff.

Read more about Clearwater Beach →

David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

The Straz Center is Tampa's world-class center for the performing arts that hosts most of the area's major cultural performances. Here you can enjoy performances from the Florida Orchestra and Opera Tampa as well as popular music greats such as Lena Horn and the Isley Brothers. The Straz also hosts a full calendar of Broadway musicals. The facility is modern and beautiful with a variety of venues. The largest and most impressive is the 2,610 seat Carol Morsani Hall that features state-of-the-art acoustics and a 120 foot stage. In addition to another, smaller concert hall, the 268 seat Jaeb Theater can be set up cabaret style for more intimate performances.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Nothing says the holidays like a night at the theater and Tampa's Straz Center always has a full schedule of world-class performances during December.

Skye's expert tip: Before the performance enjoy a light dinner or drinks at the outdoor cafe featuring views of the Hillsborough River.

Read more about David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts →

Tampa Riverwalk
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

The Tampa Riverwalk is a scenic exploration of the downtown riverfront. A good place to start is Waterworks Park, however, you can join the walk from anywhere along the route (see their website for a map). The Riverwalk takes you past most of the popular downtown attractions including the Tampa Museum of Art, Curtis Hixon Park, the Convention Center, and the Tampa Bay History Center. Along the way you will pass interpretive exhibits highlighting Tampa's history and numerous public art exhibits. The path is almost 2.5 miles long, but there are plenty of spots to stop for a rest and grab a drink or a quick bite along the way.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Exploring Tampa's Riverwalk, a popular walkway that links the city's top attractions, is an especially pleasant activity during December.

Skye's expert tip: Explore by bike - rentals are available at various spots along the Riverwalk that can be secured via phone app.

Read more about Tampa Riverwalk →

Outside the city

It's hard to think of Tampa and not think of all the fresh fruits and veggies you can find here. Located just a 20 minute drive from downtown Tampa, family-owned Parkesdale Farm Market has been growing and gifting fresh citrus, strawberries and produce since 1956. Many varieties of citrus are in season during the winter months, however there is always something in season in Florida. They also have a delicious selection of homemade preserves, pickled items, orange blossom honey, hot sauce and much more. Pick up a box of sweet, juicy navels, or have them shipped anywhere in the country. This business is closed during the first two weeks in August.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Visit Parkesdale Market to sample the wide variety of fresh fruit and produce available in Tampa during the month of December.

Skye's expert tip: If you're flying, you can have your citrus order shipped home.

Read more about Parkesdale Farm Market →

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 $14 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 16 through January 5.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: The Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park is the location of many of Tampa's most popular festive events and activities during December.

Skye's expert tip: Take a ride on the holiday-themed TECO Streetcar from downtown to Ybor City.

Read more about Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park →

The largest of all Tampa area flea markets, the Big Top is a colorful, festival-like market with over 500 vendors and more than 1,200 booths. The market is organized around a central hub with a food court that offers a variety of carnival-style concessions. Off the main hub is building after building of vendor stalls. Some of the market is inside, some is outside, so this is a good winter activity. You can find almost anything your heart desires including plants, sun glasses, toys, artwork, rugs, kitchen utensils, jewelry, clothing, fresh produce, collectibles, and even pets. Make an offer and make out like a bandit!

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Tampa's mild December temperatures make it a pleasure to spend a day or more hunting for bargains at the Big Top flea market.

Skye's expert tip: The market covers 36 acres so make sure to bring your walking shoes and remember where you parked.

Read more about Big Top Flea Market →

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

Wild animals and wilder rides await visitors to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. The 335-acre Africa-inspired theme park's six infamous roller coasters, 2,000-plus animals and entertaining live shows provide truly unforgettable thrills. There is something for kids of all age at this world-class park. Adventure lovers can brave SheiKra, a floorless dive coaster with a 200-foot, 90-degree plunge while animal enthusiasts might enjoy hand-feeding kangaroos at Walkabout Way or enjoying majestic views of free-roaming giraffes, zebras and white rhinos on the Serengeti Railway. Be prepared to walk in order to explore all areas of the park. There are several restaurants and numerous vendors throughout the park to keep you fueled on your journey.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: In December at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay you can ride roller coasters during the day and enjoy festive Christmas Town after dark.

Skye's expert tip: Admission prices vary - to get the best deals, make sure to buy your tickets in advance and online.

Read more about Busch Gardens Tampa Bay →

North Tampa
TPC of Tampa Bay
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

If you took a poll of golfers in Tampa, chances are they will name TPC of Tampa Bay as the toughest public access golf course in the region. This award-winning course is part of the PGA Tour's Tournament Players Club network and was designed by Bobby Weed with PGA professional, Chi Chi Rodriguez. The 6,800 yards from the TPC tees doesn't quite tell the tale of a course that weaves in and out of wetlands, woodlands, and lakes. Although a relatively flat course, many of the greens have considerable drop-offs so a missed shot will have you chipping back on. Bring your "A" game if you want to tee it up like the pros.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: A round of golf at the award-wining TPC of Tampa Bay is the perfect way for golfers to celebrate December's mild temperatures.

Skye's expert tip: Because of its pedigree, a round of golf here is on the expensive side, especially during the winter months.

Read more about TPC of Tampa Bay →

Hillsborough River State Park
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

To explore the natural side of Florida without having to drive very far out of town, Hillsborough River State Park is your best bet. Located upriver from downtown Tampa in northeastern Hillsborough County, this is one of Florida's oldest and most popular state parks. The list of things to do here is expansive, starting with both full-facility and primitive camping. Canoes and kayaks can be rented to explore beauty of the Hillsborough River which continues from here through the heart of Tampa before emptying into Tampa Bay. There are also numerous picnic areas, a public pool, and hiking trails where, if you're lucky, you will be able to spot some native Florida wildlife.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Camping, hiking and canoeing are popular December activities in Tampa and at the Hillsborough River State Park, you can find all three!

Skye's expert tip: To avoid disappointment, make sure to call ahead for camping reservations!

Read more about Hillsborough River State Park →


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