Holiday happenings in Tampa Bay

Busch Gardens Christmas Town spreads festive cheer throughout the park

Photo courtesy of Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens Christmas Town spreads festive cheer throughout the park

Kenzie Hatton, Staff Writer

In the Tampa Bay area, there are more than enough holiday activities to keep Christmas enthusiasts entertained. If you love to look at Christmas decorations and lights or meet Santa Claus, read this list to prepare for a very merry December.

Tampa’s Winter Village At Curtis Hixon Park: Perfect for getting in the winter spirit with outdoor rink ice skating, holiday shopping and sightseeing. Only $13 for 90 minute skate sessions which includes skate rentals. This event is from November 17th until January 5th from 10am-10pm. 600 N. Ashley Dr., Tampa, FL 33602. The Winter Village is also the host for the holiday movie classics that the Tampa Theatre normally shows (they’re undergoing renovations). This weekend they’re showing Elf on Friday and It’s a Wonderful Life on Saturday. Both films start at 7:30 p.m. and it’s free to attend. For more information, visit

Holiday Boat Parades: If you’re looking for a very Florida way to celebrate the Christmas season, these are the parades for you. The Indian Shores boat parade will kick off  December 17 at 6 p.m. The parade will feature many festively lit, decorated boats that sail from the Tom Stuart Causeway to the Pub restaurant in Indian Shores. It is free and family friendly! 20025 Gulf Blvd., Indian Rocks Beach, FL 33785

There will also be a boat parade hosted by the Tampa Riverwalk next weekend, December 23. The boats will start downtown by Rick’s on the River and travel towards Davis Island past Marjorie Park Marina and then turn around and end by Jacksons and American Social. There are multiple free public viewing areas around the route. The small crafts start at 6:30 and the sailboats and large boats start at 7:15 and 7:30, respectively.

Polar Express 4D Experience: There is nothing better than watching Christmas movies and cute animals, so why not both? The Florida Aquarium is hosting a limited time 13-minute theater showing of The Polar Express which includes the 3D movie and 4D sensory effects. It is from now until January 11th from 10am-4:30 pm. The price is included in the general admission ticket. 701 Channelside Dr., Tampa, FL 33602

Florida Botanical Gardens: Lights and decorations are a big part of Christmas and the Botanical Gardens is a perfect place to go and see a huge display of them.  There are over 750,000 lights and the event is all free, but you can donate to the cause. It is from now until December 31st from 5:30pm-9:30pm daily. 12520 Ulmerton Rd., Largo, FL 33774

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens:  If you’re looking for a combination of thrill and holiday spirit, Christmas Town is the perfect place. On select dates from November 19th until December 31st, Busch Gardens will host a holiday extravaganza that includes lights, shows and meet and greets. You can meet Santa starting at 2pm and all of the lights and shopping begins at 6pm. Price is included with park admission and all roller coasters will still be operating. 10165 N. McKinley Dr., Tampa, FL 33612