Best Things to Do in Tampa Bay for the Holidays

December 14, 2022

The holidays are such a wonderful time of year, especially if you live in a big city like Tampa Bay. Between the festive decorations that line the street tops to the endless holiday date ideas you go on with a loved one, I absolutely love the feeling of joy I get from being in a city on the holidays. 

Tampa Bay has always been a great place to explore, and there are so many Tampa Bay date night ideas, but the holidays are really the perfect time to visit. While you might think New York or somewhere in the northeast this holiday season, Tampa Bay is a very underrated and amazing city to see under the bright LED lights. 

So if you’re just visiting Tampa Bay or live in the city or nearby, here are some of the best things to do in Tampa Bay during the holiday season. 


Enjoy Holiday Lights at Several Locations

Holiday light shows are one of my favorite Christmas pastimes, and there are endless places with their own light show displays, from small neighborhoods to fully decorated theme parks. Plus, since Tampa Bay is fairly warm during the winter, it’s a great place to walk around and enjoy the lights instead of sticking in your car. 

Since there are so many holiday light shows, I listed a few top-rated locations based on what I’ve seen and feedback from people in the area. 

  • Tampa’s Festival of Lights and Santa’s Village at Hillsborough County Fairgrounds
  • The Holiday Spectacular on the Tampa RiverWalk
  • Christmas in the Wild at ZooTampa
  • The River of Christmas Lights and Pirate Water Taxi
  • Raprager Family Farms 12 Days of Christmas Winter Festival 

However, there are several other magical places to see lights, including the next two spots on this list of things to do. 


Go to Busch Gardens Christmas Town

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens is the perfect all-ages place to visit, whether you’re parents, a couple, or just want something to do with some friends. Of course, you can still check out Busch Gardens’ famous rides under a full holiday LED light display.

Busch Gardens also provides several activities for kids, such as a meet and greet with Santa, Christmas plays, such as Elmo’s Christmas Wish show, and the oh so cute Holly Jolly Express that rides across the theme park. 


Tour the Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park

If you’ve been to Busch Gardens or it’s too pricey, check out the Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park for a truly festive holiday-themed experience. There are holiday-themed lights all across the park, cute Christmas shops, fun activities like ice skating, and an amazing holiday-themed express that drives through the heart of downtown Tampa Bay to check out the city’s lights. 


Check Out the Holiday Boat Parade

If there is one event that makes Tampa Bay truly stand out from every other city I’ve been to on Christmas, it’s the holiday boat parade. This fun and festive lighted-up parade features boats from all across Tampa’s River Walkway lit up with Christmas-themed LED lights that make the harbor come to life at night. 

Between the serenity of the river walk and the majesty of the green and red lights that light up the pier, it’s truly a magical place to be during Christmas. 


Check Out a Christmas Themed Bar

Attending a fun Christmas-themed bar, such as Miracle at Mezzo, bars inside Ybor City and along the river are a great way to have adult-themed fun and get into the Christmas spirit. 


Other Ideas

There are endless holiday-themed activities to do in Tampa Bay during November and December that it’s impossible to count. For example, I always love attending The Nutcracker, a show with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, or Santa Fest if I’m looking for a fun night out. 

Families can take their kids to the Zoo, Legoland, and the Winter Wharf at Sparkman Wharf, all decorated with fun Christmas-themed lights.