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December 19, 2019

Best Winter Break Ever: Your Family Fun Bucket List in Tampa Bay

By Laura Byrne

‘Tis the season for sleigh loads worth of winter break fun in Tampa Bay!

The kids are out of school, you’ve likely got family in town for the holidays, and now everyone is looking for something to do! Lucky YOU for calling Tampa Bay home because there is no shortage of FUN family-friendly things to do!

Here are some of our favorites to help you put together the Winter Break Family Fun Bucket List!

 

Brick History at Tampa Bay History Center

LEGO fans unite and check out Brick History at Tampa Bay History Center.

This is a super cool exhibit and it’s only on display through February 16, 2020. You and the kids can walk through and see amazing LEGO creations that tell a story about a moment in history from the age of the dinosaurs, the Middle Ages to the present day.

There is even an area where kids of all ages can play with LEGO and DUPLO bricks. Admission for kids 6 and younger is free. 7 and older is $10.95. One of our favorite things to do is park at the Florida Aquarium since we’re members, pop in for a visit there and then jump on the TECO Streetcar for a free ride over to the Tampa Bay History Center where we’ll explore and then grab a bite to eat at the Columbia Cafe.

 

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens

Wander through Busch Gardens Christmas Town and check in on Santa, Rudolph and friends!

Christmas Town is a holiday must! Walk among millions of lights–there are so many that Busch Gardens starts installing the lights over the summertime! This event is held every night through January 6, 2020. It’s included with admission.

One of our favorite things to do with the kids is the Sing-A-Long Train. Sip on hot cocoa as your train conductor beautifully sings your favorite Christmas songs. The train station is right near Santa’s Cottage which is one of the sweetest ways to visit with Santa! You’ll knock at the door and be greeted by joyful elves who will lead you to where Santa is patiently waiting. It’ll take a bit of magic to make the doors open!

We also love the other character experiences with Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer and friends in Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland.

Christmas Town Village is another must do! This is where you’ll find delicious holiday bites and drinks and of course, plenty of holiday lights and music! The live shows are also a must see. You could come back several nights and still see something new each time. This is what makes an annual pass sooo worth it!

lightning game

Go to a Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Tampa Bay Lightning game.

Cheer on the home team and take advantage of Family Four pack deals from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for $100! Be sure to arrive early to experience all of the fun and entertainment at Bucs Beach outside of the stadium and some of the interactive Jr. Bucs Fan experience things to do, too! There are two home games during Winter Break. (The season is now over, but save the date for next year!)

Related: Game Day Tips: Taking Your Kids to a Bucs Game

The Tampa Bay Lightning have several home games during Winter Break. Check out the schedule here. Be sure to join the Kids Fan Clubs too with the local teams for special events and more.

 

winter village ice skating tampa

Go Ice-Skating outside at Winter Village in Downtown Tampa!

Since we just mentioned ice-skating, how about an outdoor ice-skating experience in Florida? It can happen at Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in Downtown Tampa! There is a market featuring local vendors for last minute holiday shopping and eats and treats if you get hungry. It’ll be open through January 5, 2020.

 

Gingerbread Village at Glazer Children's Museum

While you’re downtown, go check out the Gingerbread Village at Glazer Children’s Museum!

Head to the second floor to see an expanded Gingerbread Village! It’s bigger and better with sock ice-skating, a mini village where little ones can play, and of course…there is the gingerbread house making out of recycled materials! You can add your creation to the growing village which is quite the sight to see! It will be on display though January 31, 2020. Check out our INSIDE LOOK here.

 

TPA All Access

If you haven’t taken your plane loving kids to experience TPA All Access Pass on Saturdays, this winter break is perfect!

If you’ve got airplane obsessed kids, the TPA All Access Pass is pretty much a must do. If you are a local foodie, then this is a must for you too! Tampa International Airport opens up a set number of slots on Saturdays to allow those who register online to check out all that’s offered on the airside like local restaurants including the Columbia, Four Green Fields, Rum Fish Grill, Mise En Place, and more!

After you grab a bite to eat, shop the stores and pick up some awesome last minute gifts! People watch and plan your spring break or summer break vacations or just simply watch the planes come in and take off. Little ones really seem to enjoy this experience because it’s so vastly different than anything they’ll do around town. Kids must be registered too to go on the airside. You can sign up here.

 

TECO Manatee Viewing Center

Say hello to the manatees at TECO’s Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach!

This FREE activity is fun for kids and adults of all ages! You’ll usually find dozens of manatees…if not more…along with some tarpon and other sea creatures gathering around the TECO energy plant. Don’t worry–the warm salt water coming out of the TECO Big Bend Power Stations is clean. In fact, the manatees love it to stay cozy and warm when the temperatures drop.

There is an awesome trail to walk along, tower to climb, and even a touch tank sponsored by the Florida Aquarium. The Manatee Viewing Center is open November 1-April 15 from 10:00 am-5:00 pm and closed on Christmas Day.

More family-friendly ways to explore Tampa Bay:

Seven Ways to Enjoy the Tampa Riverwalk

Seven Museums Your Kids Will Love in Tampa Bay

Let’s Play! Our Favorite Parks and Playgrounds in Tampa Bay

 

Chick-Fil-A Christmas Tampa

Experience some beatiful holiday light displays throughout Tampa Bay!

The Chick-fil-A on Waters Ave in Tampa is pretty much magic. There are daily live performances and the light display is one that you’ve never seen before on a local restaurant. The Pirate Water Taxi’s River of Lights tour is another unique way to celebrate the holidays as you take in all of the beautiful lights in Downtown Tampa from the water!

There are some other incredible light displays we love like the Wonderland of Lights in Plant City, Holiday Lights at Largo Central Park and Holiday Lights at Florida Botanical Garden. We have our complete rundown of light displays here.


For Christmas in 2020:

*These events have ended for this holiday season.

Christmas in the Wild ZooTampa

Head to ZooTampa for Christmas in the Wild

It’s the final weekend to check out ‘Christmas in the Wild’ at ZooTampa-the final nights are December 20, 21, 22 and 23. This is a great event for little ones because it starts early at 4pm. The Zoo is beautifully lit and we love the kid-friendly activities like Storytime with Mrs. Claus and the new Melitta Christmas Market where the kids can make their very own holiday ornament. There are yummy treats and drinks for purchase in this area too!

There are plenty of animal encounters during the event too, so plan to arrive when it starts at 4pm so you don’t miss out!

Also-be sure to book your visit with Santa when you first arrive at the Zoo since it’s by appointment only. Reservations for Zoo members start at 3pm and at 4pm for all other guests. Trust us…this is a good thing because it prevents you from having to wait in line. The tree at the entrance of the park is one of our favorite things to see–it’s breathtaking!

Christmas Town
Christmas Town at Busch Gardens

Go SEE Santa in Tampa Bay!

Visit him as he pops over to International Plaza, ZooTampa, or Busch Gardens! We’re sharing our 15 Favorite Places to Take Pictures with Santa in Tampa Bay! He’s a busy guy this time of year, but somehow manages to make stops at all of our favorite places.

OR, if you really want to up the ante this year, you can even invite him to come for a visit! Yup-we’re showing you how here.

 

MOSI Santa's Workshop

Since we’re talking about making things, create something AHH-mazing at Santa’s Workshop at MOSI

There are some super cool model train displays you can play with and create! While you’re at MOSI, check out the new Space Walk- Experience the History of Space Travel exhibit right near the popular MoonBase exhibit. There are so many recent additions in the last year including the Dinovations Lab.

 

Snow Days at Florida Aquarium

Go play in the SNOW at Florida Aquarium!

This popular annual event is back at the Florida Aquarium and Florida kids totally dig it! The snow returns for Snow Days December 26-30. The snow play area will be open from 12 pm-5 pm. It’s included with admission. Learn more here.

 

new year's eve events in tampa bay

Celebrate NOON Year in Tampa Bay at some of these awesome events! 

If you haven’t made plans for December 31, don’t fret! Our growing list of Noon Year’s and New Year’s Eve event is jam packed! There are so many family-friendly ways to ring in 2020.

 

Enchant Christmas St Pete

Speaking of lights, go experience Enchant Christmas at Tropicana Field!

Tropicana Field has been transformed into a winter wonderland like no other in Tampa Bay! The holiday light trail is one the world’s largest holiday light mazes where you are on a quest to find Santa’s reindeer. There are plenty of surprises along the way and so many photo opps, so keep the camera ready! You can also visit with Santa here and go ice-skating! Check out our INSIDE LOOK here.

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