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Need Elf on the Shelf ideas? Here are some with Tampa Bay themes

The Tampa Bay Times collected local ideas so that the elves can teach children something about their home area.
 
The city of Clearwater's Elf on the Shelf relaxes on a beach.
The city of Clearwater's Elf on the Shelf relaxes on a beach. [ Courtesy of the city of Clearwater ]
Published Dec. 1, 2023

It’s that time of year: The Elf on the Shelf is back.

You don’t know the lore? The Elf on the Shelf is a magical being who moves into a home after Thanksgiving and stays through Christmas Eve. Each night, the elf flies back to the North Pole to inform Jolly Old St. Nicholas whether the kids are behaving and then returns. Shenanigans ensue.

The elf does not actually stay on a shelf. Instead, they find a new spot in the home each day and are typically involved in some sort of hijinks. By week two, even the most magical elf can run short on ideas.

The Tampa Bay Times is here to save Christmas!

We collected Tampa Bay-themed ideas so that the elves can teach children something about their home area.

The Times asked local governments and organizations and took to Facebook for ideas. Some are fun and easy, some are difficult and, well, a little scary. (We’re looking at you, Facebook.)

Here are some suggestions to whisper to your elf:

The city of Clearwater's Elf on the Shelf hanging out at Pier 60.
The city of Clearwater's Elf on the Shelf hanging out at Pier 60. [ Courtesy of the city of Clearwater ]

Food

Elf with a devil crab: Lynn Meinhardt said that the elf should sit on a tiny bike next to a crab cake because, in the early through mid-1900s, street salesmen pedaled around Tampa Bay with boxes of the croquettes stuffed with crab meat.

Elf with a banana split in the freezer: To make this scream Tampa, Dana Thompson Johnson said, it must come from Bo’s Ice Cream, which has been providing sugar highs since 1954.

Elf in a Cuban sandwich: Too many provided this idea to give credit to just one person. The elf can hide inside Tampa Bay’s answer to the Philly cheesesteak.

Ruben in a Cuban: The elf can use this bizarre suggestion from Clark Brooks, a standup comedian and editor for the Tampa News Force satire website, to let the kids know that their behavior is suspect. It centers around a second and evil elf named Ruben who punishes bad children by putting lettuce and tomato on their Cuban sandwich. Neither ingredient is part of the Tampa version, and few things seem to anger Tampa Bay more than an incorrectly made Cuban sandwich. “And if they’re really naughty, he’ll add sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing.”

Elf with an orange: This was sort of proposed by Sara Eikman. She recommended an elf “hiding and looking creepy” in an orange orchard. The less nightmare-induced version could be an elf with an orange. This not only represents the state’s official fruit but the fun-loving tradition of neighbors allowing neighbors to pick oranges from their front yard tree.

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium's Elf on the Shelf makes friends with a Nicholas the Dolphin stuffed animal.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium's Elf on the Shelf makes friends with a Nicholas the Dolphin stuffed animal. [ Courtesy of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium ]

Animals

Elf with a flamingo: Submitted by many because the pink birds have returned to the Tampa Bay area thanks to Hurricane Idalia’s winds pushing them north from the Florida Keys and Caribbean islands.

Elf with chickens: Jason Faust proposed an elf dressing like a rooster to symbolize Ybor’s iconic chickens. Others recommended that the elf sit on a tiny bench surrounded by toy chickens and birdseed, but that would be against the law in real life. It’s illegal to feed the Ybor fowl.

Elf on a bull statue: The University of South Florida provided this option. But the Times advises that the elf makes sure that the bull does not look like the one that symbolizes brokerage firm Merrill Lynch. History shows that USF alumni would not appreciate that.

Elf with a sea creature: “Find a marine life plushie for Elf on the Shelf to be friends with,” said a spokesperson for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which saves dolphins, turtles and manatees. But make sure the plushie is next to the elf and not under it. “We don’t want them riding the animals because that wouldn’t be legal.” Uh-oh ... then it looks like the elf at Tampa’s Florida Aquarium has broken the law. Their elf has donned scuba gear and taken a ride on a tiny stuffed seahorse.

The Florida Aquarium's Elf on the Shelf catches a ride on a stuffed seahorse.
The Florida Aquarium's Elf on the Shelf catches a ride on a stuffed seahorse. [ Courtesy of The Florida Aquarium ]

Places

Elf at Tampa Theatre: Submitted by Hillsborough County’s film commission, Film Tampa Bay, the elf can enjoy popcorn while sitting in front of a home movie screen adorned with Christmas ornaments sold by the 97-year-old nonprofit theater. To add more local lure, the elf can watch “Edward Scissorhands,” the dark film shot primarily in Lutz with a story occurring during the holiday season.

Elf on the beach: The elf can make an “angel in the white powdery award-winning Clearwater Beach sand,” Visit St. Pete/Clearwater recommended.

Elf trying to climb the Sulphur Springs Water Tower: Mary Aubrey Rowe Boston provided this idea, but the Times came up with the how. A paper towel roll could mimic the 96-year-old structure.

Elf on Tampa’s downtown waterfront: “An elf with a pirate eye patch and tiny beads wrapped around its neck in front of” a model pirate ship representing the Gasparilla vessel, a city of Tampa spokesperson said.

Elf out and about: Rather than a new scene at their house every day, perhaps the elf can take photographs of themselves throughout Tampa Bay to inspire children to see more of the area. The City of Clearwater’s elf has taken such pictures at Coachman Park and Pier 60 Park. St. Petersburg’s snapped a selfie — or would that be an elfie? — while enjoying the view from the St. Pete Pier. Visit Tampa Bay recommends photographs of the elf learning the sport of curling or gliding across the ice, both at Winter Village in downtown Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Park. But Visit Tampa Bay also proposed the elf rides Busch Gardens’ Iron Gwazi. Apparently, Hillsborough’s tourism bureau is unaware of the roller coaster’s 48-inch height requirement.

Elf at one of Tampa’s 25 remaining cigar factories: Ybor’s J.C. Newman Cigar Co. sells a Lego set of their factory, the only one that still produces cigars. But the company’s fourth-generation owner and general counsel Drew Newman said the elf should be joined for that setup with a bobblehead of Carlito Fuente Jr., third-generation owner of Arturo Fuente cigars. The bobbleheads are available through the Fuente website. “Carlito on the Counter?” Newman said.

Elf sitting in gridlock traffic: Provided by Tammy Guntert, this screams Tampa Bay. An elf would certainly have to deal with road rage while traversing the area. The Times suggests that the elf use toy cars from whatever home they are in.

The city of St. Petersburg's Elf on the Shelf snaps a selfie while visiting the St. Pete Pier.
The city of St. Petersburg's Elf on the Shelf snaps a selfie while visiting the St. Pete Pier. [ Courtesy of Heaven Taylor-Wynn ]

In the sky

Elf in a Benoist airboat: Offered by the St. Petersburg Museum of History, that specific plane was used for the world’s first ever commercial flight, which departed from St. Petersburg on Jan. 1, 1914. That might be hard to find, so the Times proposes that the elf can use any toy plane as long as they explain the history.

Elf getting shot out of a cannon: Ala Hugo Zacchini,” said John Belderes. For nearly seven decades, members of Tampa Bay’s Zacchini family traveled the world, donned leather suits and superhero capes and stuffed themselves into the barrel of a cannon to be launched through the air. The Times suggests that a paper towel roll could again be used, this time to mimic a cannon.

The city of Clearwater's Elf on the Shelf hanging out at Coachman Park.
The city of Clearwater's Elf on the Shelf hanging out at Coachman Park. [ Courtesy of the city of Clearwater. ]

Inappropriate?

Elf with bolita balls: Sent from Rhonda Villamia, bolita was an illegal lottery that operated throughout Tampa Bay in the first half of the 20th century. The Times thinks that numbered pingpong balls would appropriately replicate the game that used 100 ivory or wooden balls. While promoting illegal gambling might be a strange route for an elf to take, bolita is also a big part of Tampa history, so this concept can be considered educational too.

Elf in a T-back selling hot dogs on the roadside: Tom Favata offered this option as a callback to when women in such attire sold hot dogs in St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park and Largo in the early 1990s. It’s possible for an elf to sew a miniature T-back, but, well, this might scar a child.

Elf on a stripper pole: Suggested by numerous people because, well, of course.