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The Best Christmas Events in Tampa Bay for Families

The holidays are nearly here and it’s safe to say that people are more than ready for some festive fun. This will be the first year since the start of the pandemic that the holidays will  feel normal. In fact, some Christmas experiences will be even 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

*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. Some events are still TBD for 2022, so check back often.

Stroll through dazzling holiday light displays in Tampa Bay

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Holiday Lights
Busch Gardens 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! Here are some of our family-favorites:

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens

Daily November 14, 2022-January 9, 2023
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.

ZooTampa Christmas in the WIld
ZooTampa Christmas in the Wild

Christmas in the Wild at ZooTampa

Select nights November 25 -December 30, 2022
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. There’s a new Lantern Lullaby area in Asia where you can walk among gorgeous Asian paper lanterns to the tunes of your favorite holiday music, a new Gingerbread Jubilee, and new Holiday Signature Animal Encounters. There are also returning favorites like visits with Santa, Cookie Decorating with Mrs. Claus, the Forest of Fantasy light show, and MORE!

Holidays at LEGOLAND

Select dates November 25, 2022- December 31, 2022
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 show .

Holiday Lights & Rides at Largo Central Park 

November 24, 2022-January 1, 2023
The annual family-friendly tradition at Largo Central Park will feature a spectacular holiday light display of over two million dazzling LED lights. Guests can also enjoy a stunning carousel and a seven-story Ferris wheel that offers breathtaking views of the lighted park. Rides are $5 each or 5 for $20. Largo Central Park’s Christmas lights and Holiday lights will light up on evenings from 5:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. It is free to park and stroll among the sparkly Christmas lights.  101 Central Park Dr, Largo, FL 33771. 

Awesome Christmas Events in Orlando–since it’s so close to Tampa Bay!

Gaylord Ice
ICE IS BACK: Elaborate sculptures, hand-carved from more than 2 million pounds of ice, will soon tell the story of “How The Grinch Stole Christmas!”.

ICE! at Gaylord Palms Resort

Through Jan. 1, 2023 
There are holiday activities here morning, noon and night. Plus, ICE! returns this holiday season. Step into a wonderland carved by expert artisans out of two million pounds of colorful ice. The story of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!™ envelops you in larger-than-life sculptures.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World

November 8-December 22, 2022, select nights
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party returns this year after a two-year hiatus. This special event will bring back old favorites like cocoa and cookies  at designated locations throughout the park, snow on Main Street, a themed parade and fireworks show, and more. The Epcot International Festival of the Holidays starts on November 25-December 30, 2022 with the sights, sounds and tastes of the season from cultures around the world.

SeaWorld Orlando’s Christmas Celebration

November 11, 2022-December 31, 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. 

Holidays at Universal Orlando

November 12, 2022- January 1, 2023
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.

Visit with Santa Claus in Tampa Bay

santa in Tampa Bay
Meet 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 and even where to have Breakfast with Santa in Tampa Bay.

Check out a drive-thru holiday lights event

Maybe you’re not quite ready to venture out or you simply enjoy a drive-thru holiday lights experience! There are some really cool drive-thru events that you can enjoy from your car!

Festival of Lights at the Florida State Fairgrounds
Festival of Lights at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

Tampa Bay’s Festival of Lights & Santa’s Village Drive-Thru Lights

Nov. 24-Jan. 1, 2023 | 6-9pm weekdays, 6-10pm weekends
Hillsborough County Fairgrounds
Tampa Bay’s Festival of Lights & Santa’s Village immerses everyone in holiday fun with family favorites and new attractions, making it bigger and better than ever! The fairgrounds are enveloped in 1 million lights with a 2-mile drive-thru of elaborate displays. The expanded Santa’s Village will feature an Arctic Plunge Inflatable Snow Tube, holiday-themed rides, a self-guided walking tour of Hometown Hillsborough Historical Village, visits with Santa, camel rides, holiday movies, tasty treats and more! Visit for details on hours and ticket prices.

Wonderland of Lights & Santa’s Village in Auburndale Drive-Thru Lights | November 25, 2022-December 25, 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 the same new location last year at Auburndale’s International Market World at 1052 US-92. The Wonderland of Lights and Santa’s Village also features out of car activities like wagon rides, a Circus Show, camel and pony rides and more.  

Holiday Lights at the Chick-fil-A on Waters Ave in Tampa | Lights and special events begin on November 18, 2022

This Chick-fil-A store is taking holiday decorating to a whole new level and they’re back at it again this year. 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.

Christmas Lane in Plant City Drive-Thru Lights | November 25-December 24, 2022

The Florida Strawberry Festival fairgrounds is transformed into an enchanting winter wonderland. Take in the wonder of the 1.5 million lights that adorn 200 Christmas trees from 4 to 40 feet. They will have rides, food, live entertainment, and a kids zone. Santa, Mrs. Claus, and Rudolph will also be there to celebrate and take festive photos with guests.

Go ice-skating or snow sledding in Tampa Bay

winter village at Curtis Hixon Park ice skating

Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park

Ice-skating returns to Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park November 18, 2022-Janaury 4, 2023!  You’ll want to book ahead to make a reservation for your family’s time on the ice to secure your spot. 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!

Winter Wonderland at R.E. Olds Park in Oldsmar

Slide down the snow slide, visit with Santa and enjoy the festivities with your neighbors on December 2, 2022 from 5pm-9pm.

Snow Fest at North Straub Park

Snow Fest returns on December 3, 2022 from 9am-2pm. This is a chance to experience real snow in Tampa Bay and then stay and play til evening so you can 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.

Snow Days at The Florida Aquarium in Tampa

Snow Days returns to the The Florida Aquarium December 26-30, 2022 from 10 am to 8 pm. Grab your gloves and join the Aquarium for a week full of winter festivities and hands-on snow experiences! Dash your way through a snow-flurried “Snow Daze Snow Maze,” battle monsters at the Sno-Fly Zone and dance to your heart’s content at a Winter Wonderland Dance Party! Snow Days is free for Aquarium members and included with general admission.

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, 2022 to be safe. We’re sharing the details on what you need to know here.

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, 2022 (except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day). Face masks are required. Tickets start at $18 for adults, $16 for seniors and $12 for kids. There are discount days, too.

Christmas in the Country at Cracker Country at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa will be hosted on December 10, 2022 from 10 am-4 pm. This is where you and the kids can experience an old-fashioned Christmas through holiday traditions from the 19th century. There will be carols, historical interpretations, and more. You’ll also be able to churn butter and make salt dough ornaments. Tickets must be purchased in advance and are $12 for adults and $10 for kids ages 6-11. Kids 5 and younger get in for free.

The Old Fashioned Christmas at Manatee Village is back in person on December 10, 2022 from 10 am-3 pm. There will be crafts, shopping, holiday fun and food. Admission is free.

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 25-December 23, 2022.

Largo Central Railroad is offering its themed North Pole Express mini train rides on December 10-11, 2022. 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 $25 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. A few of our favorites include the Tampa Riverwalk Holiday Lighted Boat Parade  (December 17, 2022), 33rd Annual Tarpon Springs Holiday Boat Parade (December 2, 2022) and the 36th Annual Treasure Island Holiday Lighted Boat Parade (December 17, 2022).

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.

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.

Go experience the Nutcracker in Tampa Bay

The Nutcracker! Magical Christmas Tradition at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Pete is welcoming the 30th Anniversary celebration of the Nutcracker on November 25, 2022 at 3pm and 7pm and November 26, 2022 at 12 pm. The live show features stars of the Ukraine ballet.

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 16-December 18, 2022. Tickets start at $30. 

The Dance Theatre of Tampa will perform ‘The Nutcracker’ at the USF College of the Arts Theater 1 on December 17, 2022 at 2pm and 7pm and December 18, 2022 at 2pm. They’ll feature guest and local dancers.

The St Petersburg Ballet Company will perform The Nutcracker on December 2, 3, and 4th at the Palladium Theater in St. Pete. Tickets start at $27.

Attend a holiday performance in Tampa Bay

These are a few of our favorite kid-friendly holiday shows in Tampa Bay!

Christmas Show at the Straz Center for Performing Arts!
December 10, 7:30pm
Christmas Delivered! From New York with gifts is a special holiday production with live music, humor and entertainment. Great American Christmas covers and world renowned talents.Haley Reinhart, Bill Evans, Benny Benack III, Lumina Youth Choir from Tampa conducted by Judy Williams, Ashley Pezzotti, Tommy Campbell, Yaacov Mayman, Special guest from Cuba, Jorge Luis Pacheco. Hosted by Barry Rothbart.

Patel Conservatory’s Holiday Music Concert | December 6, 2022 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!

The Florida Orchestra Holiday Pops | December 9 – 11, 2022, multiple times and locations
December 9: The Straz Center in Tampa a 8 pm
December 10: Mahaffey Theater in St. Pete at 2 pm and 8 pm
December 11: Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater at 2 pm and 7:30 pm
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 9 – 18, 2022, 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. 

Rockapella Christmas | December 16, 2022, 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.

Trans-Siberia Orchestra | December 18, 2022 at 2:00 pm and 7:00 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 $29.

Cirque Dreams  Holidaze  at The Mahaffey  | December 27, 2022 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 is  a holiday extravaganza you won’t want to miss!

Cozy up for holiday movies

The Tampa Theatre is bringing back Holiday Classics with screenings of ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ (November 27, 2022), Sing-A-Long White Christmas (December 4, 2022), Elf (December 11), It’s a Wonderful Life (December 16-22) and more! Learn more about the Tampa Theatre’s Holiday Classics here.

The Tampa Theatre is also teaming up with Winter Village in Downtown Tampa’s Curtis Curtis Hixon Park for two select nights: Saturday, November 19 at 7 pm: Arthur Christmas and Saturday, December 16 at 7 pm: A Christmas Carol (2009).

Tarpon Springs is hosting its Holiday Movie in the Park at Craig Park on December 17, 2022 at 5:30 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 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.

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 2, 2022-January 9, 2023.

Make the St. Petersburg Museum of History your family’s new Holiday tradition! Located on the St. Pete Pier, the Museum shares the City’s past through flight, baseball, tourism and more—featuring a real mummy. “Building the Sunshine City” is also now on display where you can experience St. Pete’s dramatic growth from a swampy pine forest to a vibrant, bustling destination! So come on over and explore your city’s history with those who matter most.  |  Kids 6 & under are free, with discounts for students, teachers, seniors and military. Open Mon-Sat 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sun Noon-5 p.m.; Closed at 3 p.m. Christmas Eve and Closed Christmas Day.

Noon Year’s Eve events in Tampa Bay for kids

**2022 Dates TBA**

Related: The BEST New Year’s Eve Events in Tampa Bay

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. 

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.

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.  

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. 

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!

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
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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