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Light displays brighten holiday season

This is sure to start an argument, picking your favorite holiday lights display. Sure, there's the famously unrefined Oakdale Street S (Kresge house) in St. Petersburg or the over-the-top Chik-fil-A on Waters Avenue in Tampa. 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:

Straub Park in downtown St. Petersburg 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. The rink and Santa are open for visitors 6 to 9 p.m. nightly. Skating is $5 for 30 minutes.

• 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 an interactive, illuminated Christmas garden made from repurposed 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.

• 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. Proceeds from donations benefit 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 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.

• Symphony in Lights, the choreographed show at the Shops at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel, has 250,000 lights, 47 miles of wire, 2,000 watts of sound and 10 tons of holiday decor, 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 Shops at Wiregrass is at the intersection of State Road 56 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

Light displays brighten holiday season 12/13/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 5:21pm]

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