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9 holiday traditions and happenings in Tampa Bay, FL

We’ve rounded up nine holiday traditions in Tampa Bay, FL that people love, including the Lighted Boat Parade and Santa Fest.

Santa-123 Andrea Alava.jpg

Imagine the Tampa Riverwalk lit up with festive boats. | Photo by @piratetikis

Photo by Andrea Alava

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The holidays are upon us and Tampa Bay has an incredible lineup of festive happenings, community events, and seasonal festivals that make us feel very merry and bright.

Check out these holiday traditions and happenings around town:

Must-do community events 🎄

Santa Fest | Sat., Dec. 3 | 1 p.m. | Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park | Free | The Santa fest kicks off with a parade through downtown before the festivities begin at the park. Meet Santa Claus and Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, then enjoy the annual tree lighting ceremony.

Lighted Boat Parade | Sat., Dec. 17 | 6 p.m. | Tampa Riverwalk | Free | Stroll the 2.6-mile-long riverside and enjoy Tampa’s largest lighted boat parade as it takes the festivities to the water.

Snow Days is back at The Florida Aquarium | Dec. 26-30 | 10 a.m.-8 p.m. | The Florida Aquarium, 701 Channelside Dr. | Included with price of admission | Enjoy activities like snow maze, snowball toss, and a Winter Wonderland Dance Party.

Get active

Ice Skating at Winter Village | Fri., Nov. 18-Wed., Jan. 4 | Times vary | Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park | $17 | Skate at the rink then grab a festive drink from the café and go gift shopping at boutiques from local makers.

Winter Village Curling League | Wed., Nov. 30-Wed., Dec. 28 | 6-8 p.m. or 7-9 p.m. | 600 N. Ashley Dr. | $200 per team | Get together 4-6 of your friends to compete in Winter Village’s inaugural curling league.

Winter Wonder Ride | Sun., Dec. 11 | 2-10:30 p.m. | Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park | $55+ | Take this holiday-themed bike ride through Downtown Tampa and the beautiful Bayshore Boulevard, then join the celebration at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park for food, drinks, and an outdoor pajama party.

Holiday festivals, shows, and concerts 🎶

Holiday Classic Showings | Multiple dates | Various hours | Tampa Theatre, 711 N. Franklin St. | $10+ | This historic theater will show holiday classics like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Eight Crazy Nights,” plus a “Frozen” sing-along.

Next Generation Ballet’s “Nutcracker” | Dec. 16-18 | 2 and 7 p.m. | Carol Morsani Hall, 1010 N. Macinnes Pl. | $30+ | Enjoy this family-friendly favorite featuring principal dancers from New York City Ballet alongside NGB’s young dancers.

Busch Gardens Christmas Town | Mon., Nov. 14-Mon., Jan. 9 | Park hours | Busch Gardens | Included with park admission | Get in the holiday spirit with animal encounters, holiday treats, appearances by Santa, and festive shows.

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