20 Things to Do in Tampa This Christmas

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year for winter attractions, festive theater, seasonal culinary, and winter sports! This guide shares the very best things to do in Tampa at Christmas for families, couples, friends, locals, and visitors to Florida.

You may also like our guide to Tampa all year round and other Florida guides.

Christmas Activities in Tampa

Tampa Winter Village

Tampa Winter Village, located at the popular Riverwalk’s Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park (Downtown), is the main hub for festivities in the city.

Here, families can start their holiday shopping at the local craft and trader’s pop-up shops, drink craft cocktails, coffee, and kids’ drinks, and be wowed by the 360 Degree Light Show that takes place throughout the night.

Hixon Park Winter Village University Tampa Florida

Ice Skating and Curling

For those who always like to be on the move, the Winter Village is also home to the seasonal ice skating rink and curling sheet.

Skating and curling equipment can be hired at the site.

Curling Winter Village Hixon Park in Tampa

Gallery and Museum Hopping

Tampa in winter can result in downpours; escape the rain by taking advantage of the Riverwalk’s museums and galleries!

Conveniently located on the 2.6-mile-long pedestrianized path, is the Glazer Children’s Museum, Tampa Museum of Art, and Tampa Bay History Center.

Each provides its own calendar of events and the opportunity to holiday shop at the gift store or book workshops!

Tampa Museum of Art concrete building

Tampa Santa Fest & Tree Lighting at Curtis Hixon

Follow the Tampa Christmas Parade as it winds through the city, making its way to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, where it meets the Santa Fest entertainment.

Watch dancers, get your photo taken with Santa or the Grinch, and join in the countdown for the annual tree lighting.

This is a free event and one of the best things to do with kids for Christmas in Tampa.

Winter Village Express

During tinsel time, Tampa’s TECO Line Streetcar is transformed into the Polar Express.

The one-hour route starts at Downtown’s Whiting Station and ends in Ybor City, then goes back again.

Activities include sing-a-long songs, festive trivia, and some winter snacks like milk and cookies.

Holiday Lighted Boat Parade

Tampa’s Christmas events aren’t just reserved for dry land.

Over 100 boats decorate their decks in the hope of winning a prize for their efforts!

See a Show

Listen to live music, such as the Florida Orchestra belting out holiday tunes, at the historic Tampa Theater (711 N Franklin St).

Or why not give the gift of experience and spend time together laughing at a touring comedian or local stand-up at the Improv Comedy Theater (1600 E 8th Ave)?

Improv sign at Centro Ybor Tampa Florida

The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker is performed by many local groups, such as the Tampa City Ballet and Next Generation Ballet.

Based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, performances display their version of the story of a Christmas Eve party at the Stahlbaum house where a young girl called Clara receives a nutcracker doll as a gift from her godfather, Drosselmeyer.

But this is no ordinary doll – cue fights with mice, prince transformations, and an epic journey through the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets.

Catch at Holiday Movie

From classics like It’s a Wonderful Life to seasonal sing-alongs, the historic Tampa Theater puts on a series of holiday movies for all of the family.

Tampa Theater Florida framed by trees

Watch a Game

Support the local ice hockey heroes, Tampa Bay Lightning, or the American football team; the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they play at home against touring opponents.

Amalie Arena is located just off the Riverwalk and is home to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Raymond James Stadium is a multi-use stadium best known as the home of the Bucs.

Tampa in December can also mean other games, such as basketball, volleyball, and wrestling, too.

Amalie Arena in Tampa

Sparkman Wharf Events

Sparkman Wharf is a cool outdoor entertainment area with a variety of tables and chairs, sun loungers, and oversized games for public use.

Vendors sell alcoholic beverages and food under the twinkle of the fairy lights.

During winter, the beer garden hosts a number of unique performers, such as rapping carolers!

Along with Christmas trees and ornaments, you’ll also find the menorah for Hanukah.

Friendly dogs are welcome at Sparkman Wharf.

Big bauble ornaments at Sparkman Wharf Tampa

Ybor City at Christmas

Another neighborhood worth visiting is Ybor City, named after Martinez-Ybor, a cigar company businessman who transformed the area.

Here, you can bar hop between the wine bars, craft beer haunts, and coyote ugly saloons; Ybor is very lively at the weekends.

Many of the bars have sports on big TVs if you can’t make the winter games in person.

This is also where visitors can try and buy cigars for the holiday season.

Ybor Christmas tree lit up in Tampa

Seasonal Drinks

Tampa is not shy when it comes to craft beer brewing, which is ideal for hoppy Christmas nights out.

See what seasonal offerings the Cigar City Brewing, Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Coppertail Brewing, and Magnanimous Brewery have on the menu.

Go Holiday Shopping

Pick up something unique at the retailers at Sparkman Wharf or boutiques at the upmarket Hyde Park, both of which you can dine at after some retail therapy!

If you prefer stores under a roof, consider the International Plaza and Bay Street, which also has a Santa meet and greet for the wee ones.

Armature Works This Season

Armature Works (1910 N Ola Ave) is a cool place to visit all year round for its diverse events, bars, and vendors, but at Christmas, customers can take part in festive activities too.

Prioritize self-care at an art class, give back at the toy drive, or enjoy a festive movie on the lawn.

There are also a number of kid-friendly events, such as Letter to Santa and the tree lighting.

Chick-fil-A Waters Ave Christmas Light Show 

Up there as one of the most surprising Christmas activities in Tampa is the fast food restaurant Chick-fil-A’s Christmas light show (6299 W Waters Ave), which started back in 1997 and has grown each year!

Pick up a peppermint chip milkshake from the store or drive through as you explore the lights, which come in at around one million bulbs!

Kids can also enjoy a Snack with Santa while they tell him what’s on their list!

Christmas Lights Near Tampa

Christmas Lane in Plant City

Families enjoy the fairground rides, carnival games, kids’ cinema playing Christmas movies, live caroling groups, and Christmas maze at Charlie Grimes Family Agriculture Center at the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City (2508 West Oak Ave).

Reserve tickets here.

Enchant at St. Pete

The biggest Christmas lights show in The Burg boasts of over a million lights being displayed at Tropicana Fields.

Enchant is also home to an ice rink, vendors, and a Saint Nick encounter!

Find out more things to do at St. Pete during winter!

Christmas Day

While most of Tampa’s attractions are closed on Christmas Day, you can still burn off some energy at the Winter Village ice rink, which is open from late afternoon.

The Sacred Heart Catholic Church hosts Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and morning mass on Christmas Day.

There’s plenty of choice for eating out on Christmas Day, with many of the city’s restaurants opening their doors, such as Columbia Restaurant, Rusty Pelican, and Lilac.

New Year’s Eve

Sticking around Tampa for NYE? Ring in the new year during a DJ session at the cool Armature Works, a big party bash at hotels such as JW Marriot, or a night of comedy at Tampa Improv.

Head to Ybor City for the annual ReliaQuest Bowl New Year’s Eve Parade, where marching bands and floats take over 7th Avenue.

Or, travel to St. Pete’s Pier for fireworks over the marina.

Heights Public Market building with Armature Works sign in Tampa

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