From Christmas parades and live nativities to holiday concerts and festivals, Pasco County residents have a host of events in the weeks leading up to Christmas that are sure to get folks into the holiday spirit.
The next two weekends, however, will offer something a little different. Two holiday events lure visitors into the wildernesses of the county — the Wilderness Wonderland Celebration of Lights at Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park in New Port Richey and the Holiday Express Train to Santa's Cabin at Crews Lake Wilderness Park in Shady Hills.
Although not quite "deep" into the wilderness, these events offer festive holiday fun for all ages, including those who typically forgo such events due to physical limitations and disabilities.
The Wilderness Wonderland Celebration of Lights is a drive-through event that opens as the sun goes down. The cabin camping area at the park will be decorated and will feature a display of dancing lights that are coordinated to holiday music (the music can be heard by tuning the car radio to 89.5 FM). Visitors should also keep their eyes open for snow flurries and visitors from the North Pole.
During daylight hours, visitors can stop by the Central Pasco & Gulf Railroad at Crews Lake Park. Children and adults of all ages can take unlimited old-fashioned train rides and visit and take pictures with Santa. Food vendors will be on site.
The Wilderness Wonderland Celebration of Lights will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday through Dec. 18 at Starkey Wilderness Park, 10500 Wilderness Park Blvd., New Port Richey. Admission is $2 per vehicle. Call (727) 861-3033. The Holiday Express Train to Santa's Cabin will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 18 at Crews Lake Wilderness Park, 16739 Crews Lake Drive, Shady Hills. Admission is $6 per person. The park charges a $2 parking fee. Call (727) 639-7639.
Other upcoming holiday events include:
Symphony in Lights: Shows at 6, 7, 8 and 9 p.m. daily through Dec. 31, Shops at Wiregrass, 28211 Paseo Drive, Wesley Chapel. The holiday light show features more than 250,000 LED lights choreographed to holiday favorites chosen by mall guests. This year, it even snows. Free. (813) 994-2242.
Breakfast with Santa: 10:30 a.m. to noon Dec. 9, Land O'Lakes Library, 2818 Collier Parkway, Land O'Lakes. There will be crafts, food and stories, as well as a visit from Santa. Bring a camera. All ages welcome. Free. (813) 929-1214.
'The Gift of the Magi': 8 p.m. Dec. 9 and 10, and 3 p.m. Dec. 11, Dreamhouse Theatre, 1840 Oak Grove Blvd., Lutz. Join Della and Jim in their New York tenement flat on Christmas Eve 1905 as they teach about love and the true spirit of giving in this musical Christmas show. Purchase tickets online for $20.86 each. (813) 997-7146. dreamhousetheatre.com.
How the Grinch Saved Christmas: 7 to 11 p.m. Dec. 9, Spartan Manor, 6121 Massachusetts Ave., New Port Richey. This event, created by the West Pasco Business Association, will include music by Jule Vera as guests enjoy a variety of food, sweets and treats, along with a cash bar. Contests include Ugliest Holiday Sweater, Best Holiday Sox and Grinch/Whoville Look-Alike, and there will be auctions, raffles and other activities. $45. (727) 934-0940.
Santa Visit: 11 a.m. to noon Dec. 10, Hugh Embry Library, 14215 Fourth St., Dade City. Bring a camera and have a picture taken with Santa. Free. (352) 567-3576.
West Pasco Chamber of Commerce New Port Richey Holiday Street Parade and Holiday Festival: Dec. 10 in downtown New Port Richey. The festival will kick off with pictures with Santa from 3 to 5 p.m. at the gazebo in Sims Park, provided by the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce. Santa will have complimentary gifts and face painting for children. The parade will start at 6 p.m. (727) 842-7651. westpasco.com.
Country Christmas Open House: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 10, Pioneer Florida Museum and Village, 15602 Pioneer Museum Road, Dade City. Visit Santa and Mrs. Claus, listen to live music, see the train show in the Mable Jordan Barn, and enjoy the museum and all of its exhibits. Free admission with a new unwrapped toy. (352) 567-0262. pioneerfloridamuseum.org.
32nd annual Christmas Stroll, 5 to 9 p.m. Dec. 10 in downtown Dade City.
Life's Treasures 'Get Ready for the Holidays': Noon to 3 p.m. Dec. 10, HPH Hospice Life's Treasures Thrift Store, 6528 Massachusetts Ave., New Port Richey. Featuring cookies with Santa, story time for children and the opportunity to win gift baskets. The store will demonstrate up-do holiday hairstyles and line dancing. Free. (727) 841-7356.
Avalon Aglow: 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 10, Avalon Park West Community Center, 5227 Autumn Ridge Drive, Wesley Chapel. Kids can meet Santa Claus and play on a slide of real snow and in a bounce house. There will be shopping with vendors and entertainment. Fireworks will begin at 8 p.m. Free. (813) 783-1515. AvalonParkWest.com.
Richey Community Orchestra 'Cool Yule' Christmas Dinner Show: Dec. 11 at Spartan Manor, 6121 Massachusetts Ave., New Port Richey. Doors open at 1 p.m., dinner at 1:30 p.m. and show at 3 p.m. The orchestra will perform with guests Michele James and David Pruyn, a husband-wife team who have performed at Disney, Busch Gardens and other venues throughout Florida. A cash bar will be available. $40. (727) 919-3866.
Tin Pan Alley Christmas Spectacular: 2 p.m. Dec. 11 and 18, King of Kings Lutheran Church, 10337 U.S. 19, Port Richey. $15; dessert and coffee included. (727) 207-8496. tinpanalleyprod.com.
Suncoast Bronze Ringers Christmas Show: 3 p.m. Dec. 11, Verizon Wireless Building, 8718 Trouble Creek Road, New Port Richey. Featuring the Genesis Elementary School Chime Choir. $10 at the door. (727) 868-6365.
Port Richey Holiday Celebration: 7 p.m. Dec. 16, Port Richey Waterfront Park, 8119 Old Post Road, Port Richey. Santa Claus and his helpers will visit the park to hand out toys and candy to Port Richey children, who can also have their pictures taken with Santa (bring a camera). Also, prior to the event, city fire trucks and police vehicles will be driving around Port Richey spreading holiday cheer and handing out candy to children. The holiday caravan will depart from the fire station on Grand Boulevard at 5:30 p.m. and will travel to various neighborhoods within the city limits. Free. (727) 835-1267. cityofportrichey.com/
'Jingle Jam': 8 p.m. Dec. 16, Dreamhouse Theatre, 1840 Oak Grove Blvd., Lutz. Presented by Nine and Numb, an improv comedy troupe based in Tampa. Tickets are $10 at the door. (813) 997-7146. dreamhousetheatre.com.
Winter Fest: 4 to 6 p.m. Dec. 17, New Port Richey Recreation and Aquatic Center, 6630 Van Buren St., New Port Richey. Youth ages 14 and younger are invited to enjoy three snow slides, crafts, carnival games and prizes. There will also be appearances by Santa and Mrs. Claus, as well as Elsa and Olaf from Disney's Frozen, provided by GEM Princess Parties. Following the festival, the movie Frozen will be shown at 6 p.m. in the gymnasium. Free. (727) 841-4560.
Holiday Movie on the Beach: 4 to 7 p.m. Dec. 17, SunWest Park, 17362 Old Dixie Highway, Hudson. There will be a photo opportunity with Santa, crafts and bingo, as well as the screening of the movie Elf. Free admission; $5 for parking. (727) 569-6472. sunwestpark.com.
Dade City Symphony's 'Home for the Holidays' Christmas concert: 7 p.m. Dec. 17, Pasco Middle School Auditorium, 13925 14th Ave., Dade City. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Admission is free.
Church Street Christmas: 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 21 to 23 in Dade City. The city's historic Church Avenue comes alive as carolers, choirs, dancers and musicians perform along luminary-lit sidewalks and decorated homes.