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Holiday events return to Tampa Bay

Some were canceled, others scaled back in 2020
Posted at 4:45 PM, Nov 26, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. — Bringing back holiday cheer! Many Tampa Bay events are making a comeback or expanding to welcome more families.

From lights to trees to Santa, the holiday season is back in all its magical glory.

Some events are all new like the Tampa Bay Festival of Lights and Santa’s Village at the Hillsborough County Fairground in Dover.

“The Festival of Lights is nearly a two-mile-long drive-through filled with over 150 lighted displays,” said event manager Ryan Henning.

At ZooTampa, Christmas in The Wild is set to be the most festive event the zoo has ever hosted.


“We’ve added more lights than ever, so much entertainment going on, photo ops, Christmas carols, there’s just something for everybody this year,” said Alex Crow, the Director of Entertainment Productions.

Enchant Christmas is once again taking over St. Pete’s Tropicana Field.

“It took us almost 65 trailer trucks worth of lights, trees, and decorations to make this come to life,” elaborated Enchant General Manager Nancy Hutson.

There are ice skating opportunities in Tampa and St. Pete and Busch Gardens and Largo’s Florida Botanical Gardens are decked in millions of twinkling lights.

This holiday season, local events are sure to dazzle and are also expected to be busy since so many events were canceled or scaled back for the pandemic in 2020. Organizers are advising everyone to plan ahead and buy tickets online before they sell out.


“We’re really strongly recommending everybody gets reservations otherwise you might be waiting out front until the capacity drops a bit,” Crow explained regarding ZooTampa’s event. With the holiday spirit in full swing, there are plenty of opportunities to once again relish in the hap, happiest season of all in Tampa Bay.

“The opportunity to be with our families, make new memories, get new photos, and really celebrate 2021 getting back to normal life,” Hutson said with a smile.

List of local events:

  • Hillsborough County:
  • Holiday Harbour Tree Lighting
    • WHEN: November 29, 2021, 6 p.m.
    • WHERE: Convention Center Docks
    • WHAT: Tampa Mayor Jane Castor rides a Pirate Water Taxi to light the 35-foot floating Holiday Harbour Tree
  • Tampa Riverwalk Holiday Spectacular
    • WHEN: Nightly from November 26, through January 2, 2022
    • WHERE: Along the 2.6-mile Tampa Riverwalk and Water Works Park
    • WHAT: Lighted Lamp Poles along the Riverwalk, Lighted Holiday barges along the Hillsborough River basin, Holiday photo ops along the Riverwalk, and twinkling grand oak trees and a lighted gazebo at Water Works Park
  • Holiday Hunt
    • WHEN: December 17, 2021 – January 2, 2022
    • WHERE: Tampa Riverwalk from Armature Works to the Florida Aquarium.
    • WHAT: Free, family-friendly outdoor scavenger hunt
  • Tampa Lighted Boat Parade
    • WHEN: December 18, 2021, 6 p.m.
    • WHERE: Begins at Davis Islands and sails to Sparkman’s Wharf. Spectator viewing is available along the entire route.
    • WHAT: Festively decorated boats compete for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes in sailboat and motorboat categories with judging by Big Brothers Big Sisters.
  • Clearwater
  • City of Clearwater Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony – Nov. 30
    Join Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, Elsa, Mayor Frank Hibbard, and members of the City Council as we light the Holiday Tree in Station Square Park at 6 p.m. featuring special musical performances by Clearwater Jazz Holiday’s Jazz Trio, arts & crafts, hot cocoa, cookies, snow, and more!
  • The Market Elaine Holiday Market – December 16
    Introducing The Market Elaine, the spunky nighttime sister to Clearwater’s already popular The Market Marie, taking place outside of Station Square Park from 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. featuring a mix of 50+ local vendors and artisans from across the Tampa Bay Area perfect for holiday gift giving season.
  • The Market Marie – December 11
    The second Saturday each month from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the corner of Court and Myrtle. Join over 85+ local farmers and artisan vendors.
  • Clearwater Hispanic Farmers Market – December 18 and 19
    The third weekend of the month, on both Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. the Clearwater Hispanic Farmers invites you to the corner of Court and Myrtle for a unique market infused with Hispanic flare.
  • Thursday Night Holiday Movie Series – December 9, 16, 23, 30
    Watch a holiday movie favorite at the historic Bilheimer Capitol Theater. Showtime at 7:30 p.m. Free admission.
    • December 9 – National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
    • December 16 – Die Har
    • December 23 – The Muppet Christmas Carol
    • December 30 – Last Holiday
  • Movie Matinee and Breakfast with Santa – December 18 and 19
    Wake up this weekend to enjoy breakfast with Santa from 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. on the 400 block of Cleveland Street before seeing holiday animated favorites at the historic Bilheimer Capitol Theater. Breakfast sponsored by 12 Days of Christmas Clearwater. Showtime at 11:30 am. Free movie admission.
    • December 18 – The Grinch (2018 Animated Movie)
    • December 19 – The Polar Express