Despite our tropical climate, or maybe because of it, Tampa Bay goes all out when it comes to winter wonderlands. From neighborhood streets to botanical gardens to waterways, here are some promising places to take the family in search of dazzling displays.
If you know of a grand holiday display that should be added to our list, send information to [email protected] or tweet @TB_Times.
Holiday Lights in the Gardens
Stroll through more than 1 million twinkling lights at the Florida Botanical Gardens. It’s set to music with lasers, entertainers and visits with Santa along the pathways. This year, Mondays are "Paw Night." Put your leashed dog in a holiday-themed costume and take them for photos among the lights. Opens Friday and runs from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. nightly through Dec. 31. $4 suggested donation, 12 and younger free. 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo. (727) 582-5800. flbg.org.
Oakdale Mega Light Display
Featured on HGTV’s All About Christmas special, the annual Christmas display (also known as the Kresge house) in St. Petersburg’s Oakdale neighborhood includes 10 semitrailer truck loads of lights, an 18-train HO scale model railroad, inflatables, flying planes, water fountains, a working carnival, bubble machines, games and a pond. Opens Friday and runs from 6 to 10 p.m. nightly through Jan. 3. Free. 2719 Oakdale St. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 822-5562. christmasdisplay.org.
St. Petersburg Waterfront Display
Mayor Rick Kriseman lights St. Petersburg’s official tree at 5 p.m. Friday, setting off a nightly walk-through display in Straub Park that features thousands of snowflake lights, decorations and a display of giant greeting cards created by teens from local recreation centers. Begins Friday and starts at 5:30 p.m. nightly through Jan. 1. Free. Beach Drive and Fifth Avenue NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 893-7441. stpeteparksandrec.org.
Lights of Lake Park
For more than 20 years, a route of elaborately decorated homes has raised donations for Suncoast Hospice in memory of a neighbor who died of cancer. Motorists have dropped more than $780,000 into buckets as they cruise a 3-mile stretch through the Lake Park Estates, Wieker, Lakeside Estates, and Lake Seminole Village neighborhoods. Runs from
6 to 10 p.m. nightly from Dec.1-31. Route starts at 10742 95th St. N., Seminole. (727) 523-3420. lightsoflakepark.com.
Largo Holiday Lights
See a life-sized blue whle among more than six scenes made with 2 million LED lights. Take a ride on the Ferris wheel to see the lights from above. 5 to 11 p.m. nightly Dec. 2 through Jan. 1. Free, $5 Ferris wheel and carousel rides. Largo Central Park, 101 Central Park Drive. (727) 587-6740, ext. 5014.
Waterfront Light Display
Stroll along a pedestrian only walkway to see thousands of lights and decorations including snowflake lights and a giant greeting card display. Free. Straub Park, at Beach Drive and Fifth Avenue NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 893-7441. 5:30-10 p.m. daily.
Wonderland of Lights
This 1-mile drive-through light show at the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds has more than 100 scenes. It ends with a walk to Santa’s Village for pony and camel rides, face painting, games, the Wolves of the World educational exhibit, horse-drawn wagon rides through the lights, the Animals of Bethlehem petting farm and a magic show by Santa. It opens tonight and runs select nights through Dec. 30. Times vary by night. $20 per carload, $75 buses. Hillsborough County Fairgrounds, 215 Sydney Washer Road, Dover. Toll-free 1-800-377-4625. thewonderlandoflights.com.
A walk through woods that have been transformed into several different Christmas storybook themed scenes with thousands of twinkling lights, snow, snowball fights, giant Christmas trees, Santa, Jack Frost, face painting, music and animated characters. Free. Christmas Trail, 2837 S Frontage Road, Plant City. (863) 944-0748. 5:30-10 p.m. Friday-Sunday.
River of Lights
The Pirate Water Taxi on Tampa’s Riverwalk takes guests on a 45-minute cruise up the Hillsborough River to see festively lighted bridges and shimmering downtown skylines. Includes hot cocoa, cookies and Christmas carols. Departs hourly 6 to 10 p.m. select nights Dec. 1 through 30. $25, $15 ages 4-12, 3 and younger free. 333 S Franklin St., Tampa. (813) 223-7999. piratewatertaxi.com.
Forbes Family Holiday Light Display
The Masons in Wimauma have more than 250,000 LED lights choreographed to music with a 24-foot decorated tree, leaping arches, 21 singing mini trees and a giant light wall. 5:30 to 10 p.m. nightly Dec. 1 through Jan. 1. Free. Masonic Park and Youth Camp, 18050 U.S. 301 S. (813) 634-1220. facebook.com/forbeschristmaslights.
Chick-fil-A Christmas Lights
A Tampa branch of the fast food restaurant dazzles with its annual lights display, decorations and hourly "snow" falls. Lights come on Friday through Dec. 31 from 6 p.m. to closing Mondays through Saturdays. Free. 6299 W Waters Ave., Tampa.
Holiday Trolley Light Tour
Sit back, sip on egg nog and let the trolley take you to some of Tampa’s best light displays. $21.40, $18.20 seniors, $16.05 ages 12 and younger. OMG Trolley Company, 601 S Harbour Island Blvd., Tampa. (855) 664-8765. 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Dec. 9.
Streamside Holiday Light Display
Approximately 55,000 LED lights synchronized to music on 88.3 FM with a 17-foot tall Mickey Mouse, the Grinch and more. On through Dec. 31. Free. Tampa Holiday Display at Residence, 11048 Streamside Drive, Tampa. (813) 960-7750. 6-9 p.m. weekendays, 6-10 p.m. Friday-Sundays,
Celebration of Lights
A drive-through light show at the Concourse in Shady Hills and Safety Town, 11919 Alric Pottberg Road off of State Road 52. It’s $10 per car, open now through Dec. 23, week nights 6-9 p.m. and weekends from 6 to 10 p.m. See CelebrationOfLights.net.
Symphony in Lights
The Shops at Wiregrass’ holiday light show has been running for more than a week already, featuring snow and a 55-foot tree with more than 250,000 LED lights choreographed to holiday favorites by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Runs hourly from 6 to 9 p.m. through Dec. 31. Free. 28211 Paseo Drive, Wesley Chapel. (813) 994-2242. theshopsatwiregrass.com.
Candy Cane Acres
The annual Christmas event includes photos with Santa, cookie decorating, a Parade of Trees and holiday lights, Lego and model train display and more. Continues Fridays and Saturdays Dec. 1 to 16. $10 per carload, includes 10 free tickets. Additional tickets are 50-cents each. Hernando County Fairgrounds, 6436 Broad St., Brooksville. (352) 796-4552. 6:30-9:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
Holiday Lights Spectacular
With 18 homes at the Family Village draped in holiday lights and synced favorite holiday tunes. Opening Dec,.5 at 7 p.m. for a kickoff with cookies and hot cocoa. The light show will continue each evening in December until the end of the year. Cars will be able to tune their radios to an FM channel and listen to the music as they watch the lights dance. Lee Wetherington Family Village, 2720 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Sarasota. harvesthousecenters.org.
By Kelly A. Stefani, Times Staff Writer