This week's 5 under $5 list takes a side trip down a holiday path, and you should, too. We have made the tough call of picking five of our favorite places to see holiday lights. Michelle and Katie have more displays in their Play Tampa Bay video, plus there's a list at tampabay.com/things-to-do. For more holiday happenings, many of them free or cheap, see Page 23.
1 The Oakdale Christmas House: Also known as the Kresge house in what's usually a quiet neighborhood south of downtown St. Petersburg, this is a place everyone should see at least once. But be warned, it's just so ... much. Minister Ted Kresge, who once distributed fliers citywide warning that the world would end in 1981, first began his mega holiday display in 1977 with lots of emphasis on the "reason for the season." Now he papers the region with fliers for his Christmas display that takes 12 people more than three months to install. Some of the displays seem to be there just to make your jaw drop. There's a "teddy bear parade" of 73 white bears, a zoo of animated dolls, a fiber-optic forest with some 60 lifelike dogs and cats in the trees, inflatables, games, bubble machines, a 70-foot tree and more than 600,000 lights. It has been featured on HGTV and NBC's Today Show, and it's open nightly from 6 to 10 through Jan. 3 at 2719 Oakdale St. S in St. Petersburg. Free.
2 Symphony in Lights: Chances are good you will be out shopping anyway, so you might as well catch a free light show at the Wesley Chapel mall, the Shops at Wiregrass. More than 250,000 lights are choreographed to the music of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. There's also a 55-foot tree, 10 tons of holiday decorations and a 2,000-watt sound system. The shows start at 6, 7, 8 and 9 o'clock nightly through Dec. 31 at the mall at 28211 Paseo Drive, Wesley Chapel.
3 Candy Cane Acres: This Christmas festival at the Hernando County Fairgrounds was a drive-through event in 2012, but this year it's a park and walk-through holiday fair, with Mrs. Claus' kitchen, a parade of trees, a play area and children's games, Santa's workshop and a Florida-style sleigh ride. Hot chocolate, hot cider, eggnog and soda will be available, as well as cookies, fudge and cupcakes. Admission is $10 per carload (Yes, I know that busts the $5 limit for this list, but that's per carload and includes 10 tickets to be used for food, drinks and games; additional tickets are 50 cents each). It runs from 6 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 21 at the Hernando County Fairgrounds, 6436 Broad St., Brooksville. (352) 796-4552.
4 Hyaleah Road: A uniquely cooperative and festive neighborhood on Hyaleah Road in Tampa puts on a spectacular light show between Serena Drive and Poinsettia Avenue E near Busch Gardens. Residents take advantage of the stately trees that line the block to light up the avenue, even running lights across the street from house to house to create a canopy. Many visitors — and there are many — turn their headlights off as they slowly cruise the street. On Christmas Eve, neighborhood kids hand out candy canes to the long line of cars.
5 Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo: The much-loved Pinellas County tradition of lighting up the gardens gets bigger every year, but the entry fee is just $2 for age 13 and older. It's a pleasant walk through gardens accented by 750,000 lights throughout the 30-acre property. Treetops are adorned in red, green and gold. All around the park, dozens of artistic displays twinkle, including a flock of flamingos dipping their beaks into a fountain and an alligator with glowing red eyes. It is open daily from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. through Jan. 1. Santa Claus will be present on Friday and Saturday nights at 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo.
Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Times staff writer