Looking for some great holiday light displays?
This is sure to start an argument, picking your favorite holiday lights display. Sure there’s the famously unrefined Oakdale (Kresge house) in St. Petersburg or the over-the-top Chik-fil-A (at 6299 W. Waters Ave. in Tampa the lights surrounding the parking lot are synchronized to holiday music and there's often carolers and even movies on display) But here are some other picks for must-see Christmas displays during the holiday season. When you’re out of cash or have visiting relatives to entertain, consider checking one of these out:
• East Hillsborough is becoming Christmas town. There’s the famous Christmas Lane in Dover where hundreds of volunteers every year decorate over an acre of stroll-worthy displays of lights, train rides and photo ops in this seriously huge display. Around the corner and new this year in Night of Shimmering Lights at the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds. This drive-through light and sound experience has more than a half million twinkling orbs, tunnels and dancing lights at the corner of Sydney Washer Road and SR 60 near Brandon. It’s $20 per carload for this one, though, so load up the minivan.
• Symphony in Lights, the choreographed show at the Shops at Wesley Chapel mall, has 250,000 lights, 47 miles of wire, 2,000 watts of sound and 10 tons of holiday dècor all dancing in concert to the music of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Center Court transforms into a Winter Wonderland with shows and snow nightly at 6, 7, 8 and 9 p.m. through Dec. 31. The mall is at 28211 Paseo Drive in Wesley Chapel.
• Grab a bicycle to tour Straub Park in downtown St. Petersburg. The park has one of the most authentic-looking Santas, with twinkly eyes and a plush real beard, he’ll make a believer out of anyone. The park itself is gorgeously decorated and they have a “Glice skating” rink set up, which is a large sheet of plastic the kids can shoot around on in ice skates (open 6 to 9 p.m., $5 for 30 minutes). Pedal around the downtown waterfront, then ride up Beach Drive, where the shops are gorgeously decorated and the trees are wrapped in lights, and pedal through the neighborhood along Coffee Pot Bayou where the twinkly lights reflect off the water.
• For environmentalists, the trippy Safety Harbor home of local artists Todd Ramquist and Kiaralinda is a way to see recycling at its finest. Their house was featured on MTV’s Extreme Cribs for using gobs of whimsy to create a home worthy of the Mad Hatter. For Christmas they and a community of artists and friends have created Holidazzle, right, an interactive, illuminated Christmas garden made from re-purposed items. Trash never looked so good. This is one you need to see on foot, so park along the street at 1206 Third St. N, Safety Harbor, and walk up. Donations will go to the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center building fund. Or to see what you can do without jacking up the power bill, check out Jim Carson’s display near the Veterans 24 theaters off Linebaugh in Tampa. He has 55,000 LED lights, which is pretty unique these days. He started it last year and saw that his electric bill only went up $40. The display is timed to music so visitors can tune into it on their car radios. His address is 11048 Streamside Drive, Tampa.
• At Lights of Lake Park, about 200 homeowners in the Largo-Seminole neighborhoods of Lake Park Estates, Wieker, Lakeside Estates and Lake Seminole Village decorate in over-the-top style (think railroads and merry-go-rounds and Santa in a balloon). With 3 miles of Christmas lights and decorations, it’s heartwarming to realize this was all started in memory of a dearly loved neighbor and proceeds from donations benefit the Suncoast Hospice. You can find a map at Lightsoflakepark.com, but you can also find it by following the lights off Bryan Dairy Road and 108th Terrace N.
• Lights in the Gardens at the Florida Botanical Gardens is a spectacle with its multitude of flora and fauna. With the addition of 500,000 sparkling lights, lasers and dozens of artistically illuminated butterflies, alligators and other wildlife, the place becomes a very cool walk through the gardens. The Holiday Lights in the Gardens is expected to draw more than 50,000 people before it ends on Jan. 1. See it at 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo. $2 suggested donation, 11 and younger free.
So what are your must-see holiday lights?
--Sharon Kennedy Wynne
Follow us on Twitter @WhoaMomma