If part of the pleasure of the holidays for your family is attending holiday-themed public events, load up the car and the babies because event planners have laid out a buffet of treats this weekend in North Pinellas.
From boat parades to festivals with fake snow to breakfast with Santa, the weekend is packed, and most events are free or low-cost.
Let it snow
Want the kids to see "snow," even though it will be 80 degrees this weekend? You have at least two options:
• Downtown Clearwater's Cleveland Street will be dressed in white and ice Friday evening for Winter's Miracle on Cleveland Street. There will be a snow slide, outdoor skating rink, train rides and holiday crafts, and to kick off the evening's events, the ceremonial lighting of the new Capitol Theatre sign. The first 250 children ages 12 and under will receive a free Winter the dolphin plush toy. It all starts at 5:30 p.m. in the 400 block of Cleveland Street, and it's all free.
• The flakes will be falling on Tarpon Avenue in downtown Tarpon Springs for Snow Place Like Tarpon Springs, which will include vendors, music, food, hayrides, carriage rides and visits with Santa. The highlight: real reindeer! It's from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday and admission is free.
There is something calm and bright about a nighttime holiday boat parade. Dunedin and Tarpon Springs are having them this weekend.
• The Tarpon Springs Lighted Boat Parade will leave from the Tarpon Landing Marina at 21 Oscar Hill Road and head down the Anclote River. There will also be a stop in Spring Bayou. So find a good viewing spot for the parade, which lasts from 6:45 to 8:45 p.m. Friday.
• For the Dunedin Holiday Boat Parade, decorated boats will travel south down the Intracoastal Waterway to the Dunedin Marina at 51 Main St. Santa will arrive on the last boat and will light the city Christmas tree in Edgewater Park. The parade is from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, and it's free to view.
Brighten up your night
What's Christmas without Christmas lights? See millions of them this weekend at these big events:
• Largo's Holiday Stroll: More than a million lights illuminate Largo Central Park, where there will be free live entertainment, a snow slide, visits with Santa and crafts for all ages. And each shelter in the park will feature a different holiday story. Events are from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the park, 101 Central Park Drive in Largo. The official tree lighting is at 7 p.m.
• Holiday Lights in the Gardens: Stroll through the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo and view laser lights, sparkling flora and fauna displays, decorated trees and a 7-foot-tall gingerbread house with more than 600 lights. There will be entertainment and a visit from Santa each night. The display is open every night of the week from 5:30 to 9:30. Adults and children older than 12 are asked to pay a $2 donation. The gardens are at 12520 Ulmerton Road in Largo.
• Lights of Lake Park: The neighborhoods of Lake Park Estates in Largo decorate their homes and yards with 3 miles of Christmas lights and decorations, and the public is invited to drive through from 6 to 9 nightly.
Although there is no admission fee, voluntary donations for the Suncoast Hospice will be collected along the route.
Lake Park Estates is at Bryan Dairy Road and 108th Terrace N in Largo. Visit lightsoflakepark.com for a map.
Have you started decorating your home for the holidays? Do you need some inspiration?
Each year the historic homes in Heritage Village, the county's history park, are decorated to reflect the time period when the houses were built. Then they are opened to the public during the Trees and Traditions event, which includes refreshments, holiday music and children's activities. See the homes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Heritage Village, 11909 125th St., in Largo. Admission is $2 per person for anyone older than 12.
Or you could pick up more modern decorating ideas during the 44th Annual Holiday Tour of Homes and Tea in Dunedin from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Five homes will be open for the tour, which is organized by the Dunedin Youth Guild to raise money for college scholarships for Dunedin youths.
Tickets are $20 in advance — call (727) 734-0394 for tickets —or $25 the day of the tour. Purchase them at Our Lady of Lourdes school, 750 San Salvador Drive, Dunedin.)
If shopping for unusual gifts is on your to-do list this weekend, check out the free 39th Annual Arts and Crafts Festival in downtown Palm Harbor starting at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Nearly 100 artists will display their creations and there will be music, food vendors, children's activities and a wing-cooking contest.
Chow with Mr. Claus
And finally, why should children just sit on Santa's lap when they can join him for breakfast? Dunedin offers two Breakfast with Santa opportunities on Saturday:
• Kirk of Dunedin Community Church at 2686 Bayshore Blvd., where children in fifth grade or younger can have a pancake breakfast with Santa while enjoying free gifts and comedy skits from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday. Free tickets must be obtained online at kirkkids.com.
• The Dunedin Community Center, where Santa will join children for a pancake breakfast and arts and crafts from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday. Cost is $6 in advance or $10 at the door. The Community Center is at 1920 Pinehurst Road in Dunedin.
Staff writer Nova Beall contributed to this report. Diane Steinle can be reached at (727) 445-4152 or [email protected]