Guide to Christmas in Tampa Bay: Festivals, Events, Things to Do

Palm Holiday Lights in Tampa
Daniel Wright / Getty Images

It might not snow in the Tampa Bay area on Christmas, but that doesn't put a damper on the holiday spirit around town. December is packed with lighted boat parades, Christmas markets, and holiday fun. Here's a list of some of the best annual events to mark the holiday season in the Tampa Bay area.

01 of 10

Tampa Riverwalk Lighted Boat Parade

Parade of Lighted Boats
Google Images

The Hillsborough River lights up yearly with hundreds of holiday boats during Tampa's Lighted Boat Parade. View the brightly lit spectacle from venues along the Riverwalk as boats, small and large in holiday dress, sail by. It's a sparkling celebration that combines Christmas with the Tampa Bay lifestyle, taking place on Dec. 17, 2022.

Be sure to look out for Tampa Bay's 35-foot LED Christmas tree that floats along the harbor beginning with the lighting ceremony on Nov. 28, 2022, through New Year's. The Christmas tree can be viewed in the harbor in front of the Tampa Convention Center and around South Harbour Island Boulevard. Businesses along the Riverwalk also have lighted displays making the Tampa Riverwalk a magical place during the holiday season.

02 of 10

Christmas in the Wild at Lowry Park Zoo

Lowry Park Zoo
TampAGS/Wikimedia Commons

Santa's reindeer fly in for Christmas in the Wild at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, and guests can see the reindeer along with more than a million twinkling lights, a walk-through illuminated kaleidoscope, an animated Christmas tree, and of course, get photos with the big guy himself in Santa's Village. As a bonus, you'll get to see some of the zoo animals at night.

Christmas in the Wild is open on select nights from Nov. 25 to Dec. 30, 2022. Advanced tickets are necessary to enter, and guests are assigned a time window to arrive at the park.

03 of 10

Let It Snow: A Walk Through Largo's Central Park

Largo Central Park
Courtesy of

Largo Central Park is a beautiful 70-acre park located in the heart of Largo, about a half-hour's drive from Tampa. Its rolling grounds and fountains have set it apart as one of the finest parks in the area, made all the more beautiful during December by the more than one million LED lights that hang above the walkways. The massive display creates an atmosphere perfect for a stroll with family, friends, and loved ones to get you in the holiday spirit.

The event runs through Jan. 1, 2023. It's free to enter the park and walk among the lights, and you can also pay to go on the carnival rides.

04 of 10

Victorian Christmas Stroll

Henry B. Plant Museum
 Wikimedia Commons

Every year the Henry B. Plant Museum takes you back in time for the annual Victorian Christmas Stroll. The building is completely transformed from a museum dedicated to the life and work of Henry Bradley Plant to an exhibit of what a Victorian Christmas in 1891 would look like. Fourteen rooms are decorated authentically with greenery, Christmas trees, antique toys, and ornaments. The event runs daily from Dec. 1 to Dec. 23, 2022, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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05 of 10

Ybor City Tree Lighting Ceremony

Ybor city, Tampa Tree lighting.

Wiki Commons / Richard McNeil

Get into the holiday spirit early at the Ybor City Tree Lighting at Centro Ybor. This free event is open to the public and takes place on Nov. 16, 2022. A holiday market is set up throughout the evening for Christmas shopping, with live entertainment and carolers to get everyone in the spirit (along with hot chocolate and cookies). At 7 p.m., the flip is switched to turn on the lights of the Ybor Christmas tree.

06 of 10

Tarpon Springs Boat Parade

In Tarpon Springs, which is 45 minutes from the Tampa area, you can watch lighted boats sailing down the Anclote River and into the bayous where Santa gives out treats during the Boat Parade. To view the holiday-decorated vessels, find a place along Craig Park/Spring Bayou. The event is free, and boats take off from Spring Bayou at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 2, 2022.

07 of 10

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens of Tampa Bay

Busch Gardens Christmas Town
Courtesy of Busch Gardens

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens is a holiday extravaganza. One million lights, shopping, shows, Santa, and characters from the TV special "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" are brought to life during this festive event, providing excellent holiday fun for kids of all ages. Christmas Town takes place every night from Nov. 14, 2022, through Jan. 9, 2023.

08 of 10

St. Petersburg Holiday of the Arts Show

At Holiday of the Arts, artists set up in Williams Park to create an outdoor gallery of original and handmade art. You can shop for paintings, sculptures, jewelry, glass, ceramics, fiber and wearable art, photography, digital art, mixed media, metalwork, woodworking, and more. Consider handmade art items for those on your Christmas list for a truly unique and special gift.

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09 of 10

SantaFest: The Downtown Tampa Christmas Parade

Bring your friends and family to the annual Downtown Tampa Parade. Every year, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park is transformed into a holiday wonderland. Enjoy holiday activities like Christmas crafts, free photos with Santa, and live entertainment at the park. Then, watch the parade as it marches down Morgan Street and Madison Street. 

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Holiday Lights in the Gardens

Florida Botanical Gardens
Walter/Wikimedia Commons

The Florida Botanical Gardens are lit to perfection for the annual Holiday Lights in the Gardens display. Walk along the illuminated paths highlighting all types of unique flowers and plants. Over 1 million LED lights are used to set the gardens aglow. Live nightly entertainment and a visit from Santa make this the perfect family-friendly event. Refreshments and holiday-themed gifts are available at the Gardens' gift shop.