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The Best Christmas Events in Tampa Bay for Families

The holidays are officially in full swing and it’s safe to say that people are more than ready for some festive fun. Although safety measures are still in place, many locations have adjusted their Christmas experiences to make them bigger and better than last year.

Whether you want to meet Santa, take in the dazzling beauty of Christmas lights, or celebrate the season at local theme parks, we’re sharing our list of our favorite Christmas events in Tampa Bay for families!

Want to add your family-friendly event to our holiday events lists? Email us at calendar@tbparenting.com.

*Keep in mind that dates, times, and events are subject to change so be sure to check with each destination’s website or social media pages before you go.


Stroll through dazzling holiday light displays in Tampa Bay

There are so many ways and places to enjoy the splendor of Christmas lights! Busch Gardens Christmas Town boasts millions of twinkling lights. We’re put together a list of some of our favorite holiday light displays in Tampa Bay.


Enjoy the holiday family fun at theme parks and attractions

We’re pretty lucky to be within a quick drive to some world-renowned theme parks! Take advantage of it during the holidays!

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens | Daily November 13, 2021-January 2, 2022
Enjoy park-wide festive fun at this award-winning holiday event. The park becomes filled with holiday cheer and guests can enjoy holiday traditions with a twist. Ride the Holly Jolly Express train, view millions of twinkling lights from the top of a roller coaster, visit Santa in his workshop, and spend time with Rudolph and his friends from the classic holiday movie, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Guests can also enjoy festive live shows and take part in special holiday dining and shopping. buschgardens.com 

Christmas in the wild at zoo tampa
Christmas in The Wild at ZooTampa

Christmas in the Wild at ZooTampa | Select nights November 26-December 24, 2021
Enjoy one of Tampa’s largest light displays as the zoo transforms into a seasonal wonderland. This year promises to be bigger, better, and brighter than ever. Enjoy six new illuminated zones of lights, festive entertainment, delectable holiday treats, and amazing wildlife. Wander over to Twinkle Town Marketplace where you can meet Santa.  zootampa.org 

Holidays at LEGOLAND | Select dates November 26- Dec 31, 2021
Get ready to celebrate an awesome holiday season at LEGOLAND Resort! This bricktacular event features unforgettable seasonal shows, LEGO holiday character experiences, sweet treats, and special activities. Light displays will twinkle throughout the park and a giant LEGO Christmas tree is sure to mesmerize guests with its all-new 360-degree light showlegolandflorida.com 

Walt Disney World | Through December 30, 2021
Magic Kingdom has put Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party on hiatus this year, but they are still bringing home the magic with with an after-hours Very Merriest After-Hours Party. Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios are also decorated and will have character cavalcades throughout the day. The Taste of Epcot International Festival of the Holidays starts on November 26-December 30, 2021 with the sights, sounds and tastes of the season from cultures around the world.

SeaWorld Orlando’s Christmas Celebration | November 12, 2021-January 2, 2022
Head to SeaWorld Orlando to make new holiday memories with festive shopping, delicious food and dazzling live shows inspired by the natural world. Stroll the lakeside Christmas Market and pick out unique, artisan-crafted gifts. The Christmas Celebration is included with park admission.seaworldorlando.com 

Holidays at Universal Orlando | November 13, 2021- January 2, 2022
Head to Universal Orlando Resort for the biggest, loudest, awesomest holiday celebration of the season! Celebrate with seasonal shows and decorations at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Sip on hot Butterbeer in Diagon Alley in Universal Studios and Hogsmeade in Universal Islands of Adventure as they come to life with magical lights and festive events. The Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s features larger-than-life balloons, with appearances by the Minions and characters from Shrek and Madagascar. Head over to Whoville for The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular starring The Grinch himself. universalorlando.com 


Visit with Santa Claus in Tampa Bay

santa claus in Tampa Bay
Santa at Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

Santa is making his rounds in Tampa Bay before his big adventure to deliver holiday cheer to kids around the world on Christmas Eve! We’ve put together a list of where you can visit and take pictures with Santa in Tampa Bay.


Check out a drive-thru holiday event

Maybe you’re not quite ready to venture out, but still want to experience the beauty of holiday lights! There are some really cool drive-thru experiences that you can enjoy from your car!

Wonderland of Lights & Santa’s Village in Auburndale | November 25, 2021-January 2, 2022 
This is a drive-thru event to experience a mile of spectacular lights with a visit at Santa’s Village at the end, if you choose. This year will be hosted at a NEW location in Auburndale Santa’s Village features wagon rides, a Circus Show, camel and pony rides and more. Thewonderlandoflights.com  

Holiday Lights at the Chick-fil-A on Waters Ave in Tampa
This Chick-fil-A store is taking holiday decorating to a whole new level and they’re back at it again this year with a scaled back display. Add this to your family’s holiday bucket list! Visit the store at 6299 W Waters Avenue in Tampa. Follow their Facebook page here for updates.


Go ice-skating or snow sledding in Tampa Bay

winter village at Curtis Hixon Park ice skating

Ice-skating is back at Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park!  You’ll need to make a reservation for your family’s time on the ice. While you’re there, stay and explore the village. Shop local businesses in the market, grab a snack and hot cocoa, take plenty of Instaworthy photos, and board the trackless choo choo for a train ride around the park. The Winter Village Express is also returning this year!

NEW in 2021 is Winter Beach at the St. Pete Pier. You’ll also get a chance to experience outdoor ice-skating on real ice here! There will be festive music, food, snow days, local shopping and even pop-up appearances by the jolly old elf himself. It is free to attend, but you will need to pay for ice-skating time. winterbeachstpete.com

Snow Fest at North Straub Park in St Pete returns on December 18, 2021 from 9:00 am-2:00 pm. This is also a chance to stroll along the waterfront to view the holiday lights along all of the parks in that area including Vinoy Park and the St. Pete Pier. Learn more here.

Snow Days at The Florida Aquarium Snow is in the forecast at The Florida Aquarium for Sunday, December 26, 2021 through January 2, 2022! Join in on all the frosty festivities of Snow Days free with membership or general admission. From an epic battle where you’ll throw snowballs at the pollution monsters plaguing our oceans to a Winter Wonderland dance party and many more gloved hands-on interactives experiences, it’s fun for the whole family! Visitors may enjoy Snow Days with extended hours at the Aquarium all week long from 9:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

If you’re looking for a thrill, head to Snow Cat Ridge in Dade City to go sledding on real ice and pop inside the igloo to play with real snow!


Experience Enchant Christmas in St. Pete at the Trop

Enchant Christmas St Pete

The beautiful lights of Enchant Christmas is back in person this year from November 26, 2021-January 2, 2022 and we can’t be more excited! This year’s theme is the Mischievous Elf. In addition to the millions of beautiful lights and light maze, you can shop the local businesses inside the marketplace, go ice-skating, and even meet Santa! Keep your eyes to the top of the Trop for a beautiful light display too! Enchantchristmas.com 


Celebrate the holidays on a real pirate ship! 

best Christmas events for families lost pearl pirate ship

Christmas magic has take over Tampa’s pirate ship, The Lost Pearl! A Pirate’s Christmas Cruise is an outdoor, family-friendly adventure on the high-seas (okay, the bay, but close enough)! The ship departs from Sparkman Wharf. From there, your cruise will be full of holiday pirate music, games, temporary tattoos and even a chance to write a letter to Santa which you can drop off in Tampa’s only mailbox on the water. It’s about as Tampa as you can get! Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for kids ages 2-12. There is also a $2 marine fee. tampapirateship.com


Explore holidays of Christmas past

Get inspired at the Henry B Plant Museum’s Victorian Christmas Stroll in Tampa. Each room has been beautifully decorated with a different theme. You just might leave with a list as long as Santa’s full of decorating ideas! The event is held daily from 10:00 am-5:00 pm December 1-23, 2021 (except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day). Face masks are required. Tickets start at $16 for adults, $14 for seniors and $10 for kids. There are discount days, too. Learn more here.

The Old Fashioned Christmas at Manatee Village is back in person on December 11, 2021 from 11 am-4 pm. There will be crafts, shopping, holiday fun and food. Check it out here.


All aboard! Experience the coolest holiday themed train rides in Tampa Bay

The North Pole Express at the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish is a family-favorite in Tampa Bay. You and the kids can board the open air train for a ride to the North Pole where there are themed activities and a visit with Santa. Tickets tend to sell out fast, but a few dates and times are still available.

North Pole Express

You can also board a mini train at the Concourse in Shady Hills as part of their annual holiday event, the Celebration of Lights. The Holiday Train runs on select nights November 26-December 21, 2021 rom 6:00 pm-9:00 pm.

Largo Central Railroad is offering Jingle All the Way mini train rides on December 10-12, 2021. The mini train will take you and the kids on a beautiful ride through the park that is lit and decorated for the holidays. Tickets are $10 per rider and selling fast, so act now if this piques your interest.

The Holly Jolly Express at Christmas Town at Busch Gardens is a must experience when you attend! You can sing along to holiday music as you take a ride around the park and take in all of the beautiful lights!


Check out a holiday boat parade

Tampa Riverwalk Lighted Boat Parade Holiday Spectacular
Tampa Riverwalk Holiday Boat Parade -Holiday Spectacular

It’s always fun to see boats decorated with festive lights, holiday inflatables and more. While several parades have been canceled for 2020, you can still find many free holiday boat parades taking place around Tampa Bay. A few of our favorites include the Tampa Riverwalk Holiday Lighted Boat Parade  (December 18), 32nd Annual Tarpon Springs Holiday Boat Parade (December 3) and the 36th Annual Treasure Island Holiday Lighted Boat Parade (December 4).

A unique way to view Tampa’s Boat Parade is on the Pirate Water Taxi!


Celebrate Christmas on the farm in Tampa Bay

There are so many fun events at local farms in Tampa Bay that not only showcase pretty lights, but also give you and the kids a chance to get up close with farm animals! We’re sharing our top picks here.

Christmas On The Farm at HorsePower for Kids | December 10-11, 6:00-9:00 pm
Celebrate a country style Christmas with a horse-drawn hayride, pony rides, petting zoo, and bonfire. Visit the animals on the facility, from farm animals to unique species like the Zorse (a zebra/horse!). Proceeds go toward the rescue and rehab of all the animals on the farm. Santa may even make an appearance! $10 per person. Babies 12 months and under are free. horsepowerforkids.com

It may not be set up for the holidays, but a visit to a local citrus grove for an afternoon U-Pick is a perfect day outside for families seeking some natural Vitamin D and Vitamin C! We checked out Dooley Groves in Ruskin for their December u-pick of sugarbelles which was a great experience. . Learn more here.


Cozy up for holiday movies

The Tampa Theatre is bringing back Holiday Classics with screenings of ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ (November 28, 2021), Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (December 12), Elf (December 26) and more! Learn more here.

They’re also bringing back outdoor parkCinema at a Curtis Hixon Park in conjunction with Winter Village. On November 20, they’ll screen ‘The Polar Express’ at 7pm and on November 27 they’ll screen ‘A Christmas Story’ also at 7pm.

Tarpon Springs is hosting its Holiday Movie in the Park on December 18, 2021 at 4:30 pm. Put your pj’s on and snuggle up to enjoy an outdoor holiday movie. There will be crafts and even a visit from Santa!

There are other outdoor movie experiences too, like The Shops at Wiregrass, downtown Clearwater, and other locations in Tampa Bay. You’ll likely see more of these events popping up around town as we get closer to the holiday.


Go experience the Nutcracker 

The St Petersburg Ballet Company will perform The Nutcracker on December 3rd at 7:30pm at the Palladium Theater in St. Pete. Tickets start at $25. academyofballetarts.com

The Next Generation Ballet is back on stage at The Straz this December to perform the beloved ‘The Nutcracker’. The event will be held on select nights from December 17-December 19, 2021. Tickets start at $30. www.strazcenter.org 

The Dance Theatre of Tampa will perform ‘The Nutcracker’ at the USF College of the Arts Theater 1 on December 18 at 2pm and 7pm and December 19 at 2pm. They’ll feature guest and local dancers. Learn more at newtampadancetheatre.com.


Write a letter to Santa

Did you know your child can get a letter from Santa? The United States Postal Service’s “Greetings from the North Pole” program makes this possible, real postmark from the North Pole and all! You’ll want to get your child’s letter in the mail no later than December 10, 2021 to be safe. We’re sharing the details on what you need to know here.


Attend a holiday performance in Tampa Bay

In addition to the re-imagined ways to see the Nutcracker in Tampa Bay, there are other holiday performances on schedule. Keep in mind that many safety modifications in place, so be sure to do check with each venue before you go for the rules.

Cirque Dreams  Holidaze  at The Mahaffey  | November 30, 2021 at 7:30 p.m. 
Bring in the holiday season with a bang! With colorful new acts, cool holiday scenes, uniqueperformances and special appearances from Santa himself this isa holiday extravaganza you won’t want to miss!

A Christmas Carol at Ruth Eckerd Hall | November 30, 2021 at 7:00 pm
The holiday classic comes to life on the stage in this all-new stage production with 26 holiday songs incorporated into the show. Tickets range from $29 to $75.

The Florida Orchestra Holiday Pops | December 10 – 12, 2021, multiple times and locations
December 10: The Straz Center
December 11: Mahaffey Theater
December 12: Ruth Eckerd Hall
The Florida Orchestra returns for a special Holiday Pops concert series featuring all of Santa’s favorite songs conducted by Bob Bernhardt. $18 – $48

St. Petersburg City Theater presents A Christmas Carol  | December 3 – 12, 2021, multiple times
St. Petersburg City Theatre’s MainStage
In one night, Ebenezer Scrooge sees his past, present & future come to haunt him & discovers the true meaning of Christmas. A host of beloved characters come to life on stage in this spectacular annual production. $23, students are $15 and under 10 are $10

Patel Conservatory’s Holiday Music Concert | December 14, 2021 at 7pm
The Straz Center in Tampa’s Ferguson Hall 
Celebrate the season with holiday classics, contemporary interpretations, and more! Join the Patel Conservatory Chamber Strings ensembles, Vocal Arts choirs and Suzuki Strings as we ring in the holidays, including a performance of the Hallelujah Chorus!

Rockapella Christmas | December 18, 2021, 8pm
Bilheimer Capitol Theatre
Rockapella brings it’s exciting, internationally acclaimed, a cappella sound back to the Bilheimer Capitol Theatre with a night of holiday classics! For their new Christmas show, the a capella superstars will perform holiday classics like “Silver Bells,” “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” and “White Christmas” with their original holiday hits “The Hope We Hold,” “Christmas Without You,” and more. $30 – $59

Trans-Siberia Orchestra | December 19, 2021 at 3pm and 7:30 pm
Amalie Arena
The Trans-Siberia Orchestra is back at Amalie Arena in Tampa, celebrating 25 years of its multi-sensory show, Christmas Eve and Other Stories. Tickets start at $39.95.


Head to the Museum for Pint-Sized Fun!

Gingerbread Village at Glazer Children's Museum
Gingerbread Village at Glazer Children’s Museum–recycled gingerbread house display. You can make your own and add to the village as you explore and play!

Glazer Children’s Museum is getting into the holiday spirit with a gingerbread-inspired wonderland, sponsored by Macy’s, Gingerbread Village. Located on Level 2 of the museum, children can step into a sweet winter wonderland to build a gingerbread house made from recycled materials like cardboard, pipe cleaners, bottle caps and more. You can experience Gingerbread Village November 20, 2021-January 3, 2022.


Noon Year’s Eve events in Tampa Bay for kids

Downtown Countdown at Glazer Children’s Museum | Dec 31, 2021 from 10:00 am-3:00 pm
Ring in the New Year at the Glazer Children’s Museum with countdowns, family play projects, and socially-distant celebrations throughout the day. You can celebrate as a family by day and still have time for evening festivities. Downtown Countdown is included with museum admission. Glazermuseum.org 

Celebrate the New Year at ZooTampa | Dec 31, 2021 from 11:00 am-7:00 pm
Kids don’t have to miss out on the big countdown just because of bedtime! The family can ring in 2021 (early) with a celebration every hour from 11am-7pm in the new Saunder’s Pavilion. You will need a reservation and space is limited. Details and reservation info is coming soon. ZooTampa.org

Pint-sized Noon Year’s Eve at Largo Central Park Performing Arts Center | Dec 31, 2021 at 10:30 am
This daytime event is designed just for kids featuring music, crafts and more! Only one parent per child is allowed to attend. The center will provide party blowers for tots to celebrate. Cost is $6 per child before December 26 and $8 after December 26. Playlargo.com  

LEGOLAND Florida: Kids’ New Year’s Eve | Dec 31, 2021 during park hours
This celebration isn’t at noon, but early enough for the kiddos to celebrate with a fireworks display at 8:00 p.m. LEGOLANDflorida.com 

Noon Year’s Eve at The Grove at Wesley Chapel | Dec 31, 2021 10:00 am-3:00 pm
This daytime event will feature a gem and beauty workshop, bubble and magic shows, kids games, activities, daytime fireworks, a confetti blast, dance party and more. And of course, a countdown to noon! thegrovenye.com

More events coming soon as they’re announced!


Want more holiday fun in Tampa Bay?

Our media partners at Tampa Bay Date Night Guide have a comprehensive list of holiday events around Tampa Bay! Check it out here!


Laura Byrne
Laura Byrne is an award-winning former television news journalist who spent 15+ years in newsrooms across the state of Florida including Sarasota, Tallahassee, Fort Myers and right here in Tampa Bay where she still freelances on occasion. She covered the political beat, crime beat and every day breaking news during her time in Florida newsrooms, but is now focused on sharing positive news stories and events with families in Tampa Bay. She is a proud mommy of two little boys who keep her on her toes and laughing every day. Her goal is to inspire families just like yours to get out and play and experience all that Tampa Bay and our great state of Florida have to offer! She encourages you to share your stories and upcoming events so we can spread the good news.

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