TAMPA BAY, FL — The holiday season is in full swing this weekend with boat parades, traditional parades, tree-lighting ceremonies, visits with Santa and holiday gift markets.
Pet Paw-rade And Other Clearwater Events
Clearwater will host a Pet Paw-rade Saturday, Dec. 18 from noon to 2 p.m. in the Downtown Clearwater District, with donations benefitting SPCA Tampa.
The event, presented by the Downtown Clearwater Merchants Association in partnership with 12 Days of Christmas Clearwater and the Clearwater Community Redevelopment Agency, will include a costume contest.
The Clearwater Holiday Pet Paw-rade will take place in the 400 to 600 blocks of Cleveland Street. Registration begins at noon and the parade kicks off at 1 p.m.
The event will include pet photos with Santa and the Grinch and prizes including:
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- Best Dressed Dog (awarded for small, medium, and large dogs)
- Best Dressed Cat
- Best Dressed Critter (non-dog or cat)
- Best in Show Pet (outfit plus accessories, vehicle, float, wagon, stroller, bike, etc.)
- Most Festive Pairing (pet and human)
- Fan Favorite.
Registration for the costume contest, for which a donation to the SPCA is encouraged, will be at noon at the Nancy and David Bilheimer Capitol Theatre, followed by the “Paw-rade” at 1 p.m. To enter the costume contest, preregister online here.
The event will also include activities, music, prizes and treats.
Participation in the parade is free but donations will be collected to help provide care for homeless animals, find homes for thousands of pets and rehabilitate sick and injured wildlife.
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“We’re thrilled to be part of this pet-loving community and can’t wait to see all the pets dressed in their holiday best,” said Carolyn Wisniewski, SPCA chief philanthropy officer.
Click here for more information.
Also on tap in Clearwater this weekend is the Movie Matinee and Breakfast with Santa Dec. 18 and 19 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the historic Nancy and David Bilheimer Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St. Breakfast sponsored by 12 Days of Christmas Clearwater will be at 9 a.m. followed by free admission to the movies at 1:30 — “The Grinch” (2018 Animated Movie) on Dec. 18 and “The Polar Express” Dec. 19.
The Clearwater Jazz Holiday presents Wanderlust continues Dec. 18 at 6 p.m. at Station Square Park where the bistro-inspired outdoor concert series will feature Jazmin Ghent and Giants of Jazz.
Also on tap Saturday is the Clearwater Sip and Stroll from 5 to 7 p.m. along the 400 and 500 blocks of Cleveland Street. The Downtown Clearwater Merchants Association invites visitors to sip and taste hors d’oeuvres, chocolates and cheeses from more than 10 restaurants and enjoy outdoor entertainment and festive holiday décor. The cost is $10. Click here.
Pour Yours, 522 Cleveland St., Clearwater, will present a Christmas Burlesque Show Sunday, Dec. 18 at 8 p.m. hosted Mister Cister and starring Mary Strawberry, Ruby Vesper and Nilla Bean. Tickets are $20 and include a glass of champagne. Food and drink will be available at an additional cost. Click here.
Join Clearwater’s Public Art Walk, a leisurely stroll past some of Downtown Clearwater’s public art on Saturday, Dec. 18 from 3:55 to 4:55 starting at Old City Hall, 112 S. Osceola Ave. The cost is $10 in advance and $15 the day of the tour. Click here.
The Clearwater Downtown District is offering 50 percent off its Sip and Stroll event, which takes place after the regularly scheduled Public Art Walk. walks. After you purchase tickets for the Art Walk, an email will be sent to you with more information.
Holiday Lights In Largo Central Park
The family-friendly Largo Central Park Christmas Lights presented by the city of Largo will continue nightly through Jan. 2 from 6 to 11 p.m.
The event features more than two million LED lights throughout the 70-acre park, a carousel and a seven-story Ferris wheel with a bird’s-eye view of all the decorations.
Park admission is free. Rides are $5 each. Click here for more information.
Indian Rocks Beach Boat Parade
Watch as Indian Rocks Beach lights up with a decorated boats parade through the waterways. The boat parade will launch Saturday, Dec 19 at 7 p.m. from the Holiday Inn Harbourside.
The parade line-up begins at 6:45 p.m. approximately 200 yards south of the southern end
of the Holiday Inn fuel dock. The parade will head north under the Walsingham/State Road 688 Bridge. The Bridge will remain closed Sail boats and any vessels needing bridge clearance will need to stage north of Walsingham Bridge and then enter into parade.
The parade will weave throughout the “fingers” finishing off at Harbor Drive North/
There will be first-, second- and third-place prizes for boats 23 feet and under, 24 to 30 feet and 31 feet and over
For more information, click here.
Holiday Lights In The Garden
The Florida Botanical Gardens Foundation will host its annual Holiday Lights in the Gardens event each evening from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. through Sunday, Jan. 2. The suggested donation is $10 per person over the age of 13.
Each year this light display is visited by more than 100,000 guests people. The nonprofit Florida Botanical Gardens at 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo, will be lit with one million, twinkling LED lights in a multitude of colors, along with laser lights and lighted figures.
New this year is the Children’s Candy Cane Area with family-focused activities. There will be live entertainment throughout the event. Click here for the schedule.
The Florida Botanical Gardens Foundation will host its annual Holiday Lights in the Gardens event each evening from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. through Sunday, Jan. 2.
Christmas In The Wild
‘Tis the season to experience what’s become a favorite holiday tradition in Tampa, Christmas in the Wild at ZooTampa Lowry Park, 1101 W. Sligh Ave., Tampa.
The family-oriented event features one of Tampa Bay’s largest light displays, holiday treats and new festive activities that will connect guests with wildlife and the spirit of the season on select nights.
The event allows families to experience the zoo animals in an atmosphere of holiday cheer, complete with special animal mingles, light displays and classic holiday music with six new illuminated zones of lights.
Entry to this event is limited; advanced purchased tickets and reservations are required.
- The Forest of Fantasy: Watch the zoo transform at sunset when the warm glow of twinkling lights fills the night sky with two new light shows across the entire manatee circle. Shows take place every 15 minutes.
- Picture perfect spots: Pose for Instagram-worthy photos in front of many photo-op areas, like the Christmas trees soaring more than 30 feet high with thousands of dancing lights and festive ornaments.
- Ice Cavern: The Africa tunnel has been transformed into a winter wonderland this holiday season.
- Wallaroo Wrap Party: Dance with Santa’s elves and join in some reindeer games with Randolph the Reindeer.
- Ticky Tacky Christmas: See the Roaring Springs transformed into Tacky Christmas, where holiday decorations get silly.
- Candy Cane Carousel: Embark on a ride with red and white lights sprinkled all around the carousel.
- Cookie Decorating with Mrs. Claus: Every night, kids will be able to decorate cookies at Mrs. Claus’ shop.
- Visit Santa at the Twinkle town marketplace: Come tell Santa what you would like for Christmas and take a photo with him.
- Kaleidoscope Tunnel: Located in the Manatee tunnel, this feature will immerse families in the holidays under the sea.
- Caribbean Christmas: Key West will transport visitors to a Caribbean Christmas with a comical Christmas improv show, “Hymn-Prov.”
- Felices Dias Festivos: Deck the halls with cheerful Latino carolers singing favorite Christmas carols in English and Spanish.
Christmas in the Wild runs through Dec. 30. Event nights are Dec. 17-23 from 4 to 10 p.m. and Dec 26-30 from 4 to 9 p.m.
General admission tickets are $29.95 and can be purchased in advance online at zootampa.org.
Ugly Christmas Sweater Party
Dress in your worst holiday sweater or outfit for burlesque, fire and comedic entertainment starring Mayven Missbehavin, Ruby Vesper, Tila Topaz and Mister Cister with DJ Nortano spinning for the Ugly Sweater Party Saturday, Dec. 18 from 7 to 10 p.m. at Mastry’s Brewing Co., 7701 Blind Pass Road, St. Pete Beach.
There is no cover charge. Prizes will be awarded for the ugliest and sexiest sweaters.
While you’re there, check out the 12 Beers of Christmas:
By popular demand, we are bringing you back the Twelve Beers of Christmas. Mastry’s is releasing a new limited beer each day up until Tuesday, Dec 21. Each beer will be a making a one-day appearance, and once it is gone, or the day is over, that’s is it.
- Dec 17 – Maple Bacon Porter
- Dec 18 – Prickly Pear Key Lime Sour
- Dec 19 – White Chocolate Peppermint White Stout
- Dec 20 – Coconut, Caramel, Vanilla White Stout
- Dec 21 – Candy Cane Porter
You can drink it on site or Crowler it to go. Click here.
The holiday season is well underway at Busch Gardens where the park’s award-winning holiday event, Christmas Town, runs daily through Jan. 2.
Included in park admission, park guests can enjoy holiday traditions with a twist, from millions of twinkling lights throughout the park’s 335 acres to holiday shows, the Holiday in the Sky Firework Show, Storytime with Mrs. Claus, world-class ice skaters and visits with Santa and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer along with Sesame Street characters.
- Presented by Bad Boy Mowers, the Holiday in the Sky Fireworks Show will feature classic holiday tunes along with a dazzling fireworks and laser light display. Fireworks are offered on the Festival Field every Saturday and select nights of the event.
- Located in the Coke Canopy near the Christmas Town Village, Mrs. Claus will share traditional holiday tales and a joyful song.
- Busch Gardens’ longest-running holiday show returns to the Moroccan Palace Theater. This inspiring skating production transforms the stage with feats of skating athleticism set to holiday classic songs.
- Located in Stanleyville Theater, the Three Kings Journey Show unites voices in perfect harmony, unfolding the famed journey to the humble town of Bethlehem.
- Join Cookie Monster, Rosita, Grover, and Zoe as they help Elmo find his Christmas wish in “Elmo’s Christmas Wish” at the Sunny Day Theater.
- From the front gate to Kumba, millions of dazzling of lights will captivate visitors as they journey through the light tunnel
connecting the Congo and Stanleyville areas.
Tampa’s Lighted Boat Parade
Tampa’s largest lighted boat parade will happen Saturday, Dec. 18, along the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa.
More than 100 decorated boats will parade up the Hillsborough River starting at 6 p.m. at the southern tip of Davis Islands, through the Convention Center basin and up the river to the Heights where the boats will turn around and head to Sparkman Wharf where judging will occur.
Judges are pairs from Big Brothers and Big Sisters. The first-, second- and third-place winners of the sailboat and motorboat competitions will each receive a trophy.
You can watch the parade in style aboard the American Victory Ship for the merriest place to view Tampa’s sparkling parade of boats during the annual Downtown Tampa Holiday Lighted Boat Parade. Enjoy festive DJ entertainment, food trucks, adult refreshments (and hot cocoa), a silent auction with memorabilia to bid on and other holiday festivities. Kids can meet Santa and other friends from the North Pole for photo opps.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The boat parade is expected to arrive at the American Victory at 7:45 p.m.
Tickets are $15 for adults; $13 for veterans, first responders and seniors; $10 for kids age 4-12 and free for age 3 and under.
Click here for tickets.
Afterward, head to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in downtown Tampa as the annual holiday Winter Village continues.
Hosted by The Tampa Downtown Partnership, the winter wonderland features a 5,000-square-foot ice-skating rink at Curtis Hixon Park, which is open seven days a week. Tickets for $17 must be bought online in advance, and reservations are subject to weather and rink conditions.
The three-time Stanley Cup champs, the Tampa Bay Lighting, have joined this year’s celebration with a Tampa Bay Lighting-themed 360-degree holiday light show with illuminated trees synchronized to music.
Also new this year, the festivities are expanding to Lykes Gaslight Square Park.
“Sweet Street at The Square” will feature Sweet Mama’s Ice Cream shop along with lighting displays, local shopping and other activities every Sunday.
The 5,000-square-foot ice-skating rink at Curtis Hixon Park will operate seven days a week.
Another fan favorite, the Winter Village Express has returned this year. The family-friendly excursion takes families from downtown’s Whiting Station to Ybor City and back on the TECO Line Streetcar. The one-hour trip features a holiday sing-along, holiday trivia, milk and cookies, and some surprises. The Winter Village Express has its final run on Dec. 19. Tickets are $10 with children 2 and under riding for free. Click here for tickets.
Other activities include:
Leashed dogs are welcome on the Tampa Riverwalk, downtown parks, the dog park adjacent to Winter Village and Winter Village event areas. Dogs are not allowed on the ice rink.
Winter Village is free to attend and is open to all ages. The shops and café area feature specialty goods, food and drink for purchase. The ice rink requires paid admission to skate and for ice skating rentals.