My girls are at the perfect age to really appreciate the holidays. They get into the cookie decorating and tree trimming and all things Christmas. Part of the fun is all the local events that take place during the year. There are so many fun things to do in Tampa during Christmas with your family that I decided to put them all in one place. That way you can start planning your Holiday adventures without all of the hassle of searching multiple site. There are so many wonderful Christmas events in Tampa, it was hard to find them all.
Not only am I sharing my favorite Christmas events in Tampa, I am sharing little tips from our experience with hopes it can make your outings a whole lot easier.
If you are looking for things to do in Tampa over Christmas, this is your list!
Christmas Events in Tampa
- International Plaza Flight Academy – Pretty much every mall has a Santa but how many malls have an entire experience called Santa’s Flight Academy?!? We visited International Plaza last week to experience their Flight Academy and let me tell you it is so much more than a picture on Santa’s lap. You get badges, fitted for a flight suit, help Santa fill his sleigh and play in a room full of snow. My kids were having so much fun they didn’t want to leave. Then to top it all off they got to sit with Santa and tell him exactly what they wanted for Christmas (and this was one of the sweetest Santas I have ever met). We loved this experience and if you don’t want to wait in line you can head to International Plaza’s site and register for a Santa’s Express Lane to bypass the regular lines.
- Clearwater Marine Aquarium – We drove the 20 miles from our home in Tampa to Clearwater to visit our favorite dolphin Winter and her Winter Wonderland. We pet sting rays, saw Santa diving in the tank and learned all about Winter and Hope, the dolphins made famous by the movies. One of the highlights had to be our Sea of Lights boat tour. We took a boat to see the beautiful Christmas lights around the water, encountered 3 wild dolphins, and had hot cocoa and cookies. It was such a special time and we totally underestimated how much our daughters would love the experience. This event will run until January 6th (closed on Christmas Day)
- ZooTampa Christmas in the Wild – I don’t know if I can fit everything we experienced at Christmas in the Wild in just one post. It was so much fun! Our favorite had to be Santa’s Village which had snow falling and elves dancing and hot cocoa and cookies and the cutest areas to take pictures. The best part is there is no waiting to see the big man in red because when you arrive at the park you register and Santa’s elves send you a text when Santa is ready to see you. That way you can enjoy all the fun this event has to offer without waiting in line. We also went to story time with Mrs. Claus, had a dance party with the Candy Cane Girls, and got up close and personal with tortoises and orangutans (animal encounters do have an extra fee and can be done anytime not just at Christmas in the wild). Make sure you come hungry because the food was drool worthy. I drank a Blue Christmas which had pineapple and coconut flavors, it was very light and refreshing adult beverage. If you go for dinner be sure to try the Holiday Burger at Garden Grill. It had bacon, feta cheese, cranberry sauce and BRUSSEL SPROUTS! I was shocked with how much I loved this burger, I even went in for seconds. I am always impressed with the events at ZooTampa and once again they did not disappoint. The entire park was decorated so beautifully and the family enjoyed our night and left with some of the best holiday memories. This might be one of our favorite Holiday events in Tampa Bay.photos courtesy of ZooTampa
- Downtown Tampa Winter Village – Would you believe me if I told you that you could ice skate outside in Florida? Well at Winter Village you can. On the edge if the riverwalk you will find an ice skating ring, little shops with some of Tampa’s favs, and of course some hot cocoa. We have been going to Downtown Tampa’s Winter Village for years and it is a must for us during the holiday season. Of all the things to do in Tampa during Christmas, this might be the one my girls look forward to the most.
- Florida Aquarium – We love visiting the Florida aquarium but during the holidays it is that much more special. Two important tips. First, on Saturdays until Christmas you can go and take pictures with Santa. There usually isn’t a long wait which is perfect for those little ones. Second, be sure to check out The Polar Express playing in the 4D theatre. This viewing is amazing! I don’t want to give it all away but it had me on the edge of my seat (no worries still ok for the little ones) and you might get a little snow flurry too ;)
- Snow On 7th Parade – We do this every year and the girls love it. The parade is on December 8th and begins at 7pm and there is snow that falls from the tops of the buildings in Ybor. I am pretty sure I remember free cookies and hot cocoa too. This is free but you will more than likely have to pay for parking. I suggest getting there early and snagging a spot in the garage.
Christmas Lights in Tampa
Looking to see the best Christmas lights in Tampa? Here is where we have seen the best show.
- Christmas lights at Chick-Fil-a – Just when I thought I couldn’t love Chick-Fil-A anymore they make the biggest and coolest light display ever! Guys this place is pretty spectacular and best yet its free. The Chick-Fil-A is located at 6299 W Waters Avenue, Tampa and runs from 6 pm to close.
- Oakdale Christmas House – we haven’t been to this house yet but it’s definitely a must. The gentleman who lives at this house in St. Pete has one of the largest light displays in the country. It is said that his electric bill is close to $5K. This is another free event and you can find the house at 2719 Oakdale Street S., St. Petersburg
What is your favorite thing to do in Tampa during the holidays? I would love to hear about your favorite Christmas events in Tampa in the comments below.
Want to read more of our Christmas adventures? CLICK HERE