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Saturday, January 28, 2023

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

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

The kids are out of school, your holiday getaway plans have probably changed and kept you here, and now everyone is looking for something to do! Lucky YOU for calling Florida home because there is no shortage of FUN family-friendly things to do in Tampa Bay!

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

Related stories to check out:


Book a Winter Break Camp 

Camp Imagination at Glazer Children’s Museum
Camp Imagination at Glazer Children’s Museum.

If you have to work or the kids want a day to play with other kids, there are several Winter Break camps available. MOSI and Glazer Children’s Museum offer some of our favorite winter break camps to not only keep kids busy and having fun, but learning too! See Our Favorite Winter Break Camps in Tampa Bay here.


Rudolph at Christmas Town Busch Gardens
Hugs are back in 2022!

Extend the Christmas Holiday with a Visit to Christmas Town at Busch Gardens!

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 9, 2023. It’s included with admission.

One of our favorite things to do with the kids is the Holly Jolly Express. Sip on hot cocoa and listen to your favorite Christmas songs as you go for a ride through the park.

We also love visiting with Santa at his cottage at the North Pole Experience. This is an indoor experience  you are guided through the cottage by Santa’s elves. Hugs are also back with Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer and Clarice!


Go play in the SNOW at Florida Aquarium!

Snow Days at Florida Aquarium Snowball Toss 1
Snow Days Snowball Toss

Snow is in the forecast at The Florida Aquarium December 26, 2022-December 30, 2022! The frosty festivities of Snow Days are included with membership or general admission. Join in on an epic battle where you’ll throw snowballs at the pollution monsters plaguing our oceans, rock out at the Winter Wonderland dance party, and participate in gloved hands-on interactives experiences. Visitors may enjoy Snow Days with extended hours at the Aquarium all week long from 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.


Go Ice-Skating outside at Winter Village in Downtown Tampa 

winter village ice skating tampa
Ice-skating on REAL at Winter Village is a memorable experience.

How about an outdoor ice-skating experience in Florida? It can happen at Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park in Downtown Tampa! There is a market featuring local vendors for last minute holiday shopping and eats and treats if you get hungry and you can even try curling which is NEW this year!

You will need to book your ice skating time in advance. It’ll be open through January 4, 2023.


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

Gingerbread Village at Glazer Children's Museum

Head to the second floor to see an expanded Gingerbread Village! Head to the kiosk to get some help from a Playologist to pick out all of the pieces you’ll need to build your gingerbread house like cardboard pieces, pom poms and more! You can add your creation to the growing village which is quite the sight to see! Gingerbread Village will be on display though January 2023. 


Experience some beatiful holiday light displays throughout Tampa Bay!

Chick-Fil-A Christmas Tampa
Grab dinner and enjoy the lights at the Chick-fil-A on Waters Ave in Tampa!

There are some other incredible light displays in Tampa Bay like the ZooTampa, Downtown Tampa and St. Pete, and the Holiday Lights at Largo Central Park. We have our complete rundown of light displays here.

Related: INSIDE LOOK: What to expect when you go to Enchant Christmas in St. Pete

One must-see is the Chick-fil-A on Waters Ave in Tampa which is pretty much magic. You can experience it as a drive-thru or go inside. And be sure to check out the front windows for some playful fun with the cows!

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!


Go Nose to Snout with Dinosaurs in Tampa Bay! 

Dino Rescue at Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Dino Rescue at Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

There are a couple of RAWRsome dinosaur exhibits to experience around Tampa Bay!

This is your last chance to see Dinosaurs Around the World at MOSI--the last day to experience the animatronic dinosaurs is on January 1, 2023.

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium has its Dino Rescue exhibit on display through April 15, 2023. The dinosaurs move and roar as they rehabilitate from various ailments that today’s animals face, like habitat loss and entanglement.

And of course, there is Dinosaur World in Plant City which is always a must-see!


Learn how to fly a drone at MOSI in Tampa

drone
Learn how to fly a drone at MOSI’s Flight Club.

MOSI’s Flight Club is included with admission and it’s a chance for you and the kids to learn how to fly a drone and challenge yourself to see if you can fly a drone through obstacles in the drone cage. The MOSI Flight Club is available daily thanks to the generous support of GTE Financial.


Explore the NEW Bonnet Springs Park in Lakeland

Mable the Mosaic Owl Bonnet Springs Park in Lakeland
Mable the Mosaic Owl play structure at Bonnet Springs Park.

When we say you have to see it to believe how incredible it really is, we mean it when it comes to Bonnet Springs Park in Lakeland. You can read: 10 Things We Love About Bonnet Springs Park here.

This brand-new privately built park sits on 168-acres on the outskirts of downtown Lakeland and we have a feeling it will quickly become one of your favorite ways to play too. It’s also home to the NEW Florida Children’s Museum which is equally as amazing!


Go on a high speed jet boat adventure on the Bay Rocket in Tampa 

Bay Rocket jet boat Tampa
The Bay Rocket jet boat is a must for the thrill seekers in your life!

The 2800 horsepower Bay Rocket jet boat is the newest addition to the Yacht Starship fleet and it’s ready to launch you and the family to heart-pounding speeds and 180-degree turns for a thrill ride on the Bay like no other.

And when we say ‘like no other’, we mean it. The Bay Rocket is one of only five speed boats like it in the country. Similar jet boats can be found in waterfront cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, and San Diego…and now Tampa.

Kids must be able to sit, buckled in their own seat in order to ride.


Head to a U-Pick Farm

Dooley Groves Citrus U-Pick Farms
Dooley Groves in Ruskin – Citrus U-Pick

It’s not quite u-pick season in Tampa Bay, but a few place are offering u-pick opportunities like Dooley Groves in Ruskin. They have citrus available–check with their website to see what they have before you go. They open the day after Christmas.

Florida Sweeties in Dade City is another local farm offering u-pick citrus. Stay up-to-date on what they have available and their u-pick hours by visiting their Facebook page here.

We’ve got a full list of Winter U-Pick events in Tampa Bay here.

You can also visit some local farms for a different type of Christmas experience! We’ve got our list of favorite special events on the farm in Tampa Bay here!


Try a new restaurant with the kids

st Pete Pier

We’re sharing some of our favorite family-friendly places to eat with the kids and BONUS…many of these spots have outdoor space to eat like Sparkman Wharf and Armature Works. The St. Pete Pier has some pretty cool offerings too!


Explore Tampa’s Riverwalk

Ulele riverwalk

Tampa Bay Parenting Contributor Maggie Rodriguez shared some of her favorite ways to explore and dine along the Riverwalk–even though the story was written pre-pandemic, almost everything on her list is something you can still do now, you just want to keep the face mask handy! Check out her adventures here.


Swim with the Manatees

swim with manatees

Yes, you CAN swim with the manatees and this is prime time to do it! The only place in North America where you can legally swim with the manatees is in Crystal River and Homosassa. We’ve done the manatee tour with the Adventure Center on Plantation on Crystal River which was great! They supply the sanitized wetsuits, snorkel gear, and even hot chocolate and coffee on the boat. While manatees gather in the springs year round, the prime season is November through March as hundreds of manatees head for the warmer waters of the springs to thermoregulate. Learn more here.


Explore TECO Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach

TECO Manatee Viewing Center
TECO Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach. Photo by Laura Byrne.

This is a wonderful outdoor adventure for the entire family! You can walk the stroller friendly boardwalks to view the manatees as they seek the warmth of the clean water coming from the Big Bend Power Station. There is also an observation tower along the trail and plenty of spaces to enjoy an outdoor picnic and it’s FREE. We’re sharing more details here about what to expect when you go.


Experience Art at Fairgrounds St. Pete 

Fairgrounds St Pete Lampscape
Fairgrounds St. Pete is a unique way to experience art in Tampa Bay!

A new immersive art experience has made its mark in Tampa Bay! Fairgrounds St. Pete recently opened its doors with a exhibit like you’ve never seen, heard or even smelled before! More than 60 artists were commissioned during the pandemic to bring it together. You can go and simply enjoy the whimsical art that celebrates weird, wacky, wonderful Florida or choose a different adventure and try to crack the codes and mysteries you’ll find throughout. Learn more about what it’s like here!


Outdoor Adventures in Tampa Bay with the Outdoorsy Diva

Explore the great outdoors in Tampa Bay

Lauren Gay of the OutdoorsyDiva.com shares her favorite outdoor adventures in Tampa Bay from trips to the beach like Shell Key Preserve to the Treetop Canopy at Myakka River State Park…she’s got it all on her list!


disney christmas

Celebrate the Holidays with a quick trip to Orlando

Our team is sharing a TON of holiday fun in Orlando from holiday events at Disney World, Sea World and Universal! Check out their stories here! 


new year's eve events in tampa bay

Celebrate NOON Year in Tampa Bay! 

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 2023.

Our media partners at TampaBayDateNightGuide.com are sharing their TOP PICKS of nighttime New Year’s Eve events in Tampa Bay!


Gasparilla Children's Parade

Plan Ahead for GASPARILLA!

Take advantage of the early bird deals which end on December 31, 2021 if you want to upgrade your day with First Mate seats or even bleacher seats! This is a great way to view the Ashley Children’s Gasparilla presented by Chick-fil-A on January 21, 2023 and the adult geared Pirate Fest the following weekend. We’ve got all the details on the Gasparilla 2023 parades here.


 

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

Head to ZooTampa for Christmas in the Wild

‘Christmas in the Wild’ at ZooTampa-the final nights of this beloved event run through December 30, 2022. 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 Cookie Decorating with Mrs. Claus,Santa meet and greets, and more! You will need to make a reservation to attend this event as capacity is limited, this includes members too who will pay $5 per person, but you get that back in a voucher. There are yummy treats and drinks for purchase in this area too!

If you go to the Zoo after the event date, consider upgrading your day at ZooTampa with a unique animal encounter or backstage tour. The kids love experiences like this and so will you!

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!


Host a kid-friendly Kwanzaa celebration!

Kwanzaa Celebration
Karimah Henry’s boys celebrating Kwanzaa!

TBPM contributors and local influencers Kiva Willams and Karimah Henry teamed up to share some fun ideas and ways you can host a Kwanzaa party.  Kwanzaa is a non-religious holiday held in the United States to celebrate unity and ancestry. It was founded in 1966 to help African-Americans reconnect with their African culture and heritage. However, anyone can celebrate this holiday and learn about the importance of the seven principles. See their story 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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