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10 Best Things to Do in December in Tampa, FL

10 Best Things to Do in December in Tampa, FL


While our neighbors to the north are huddled indoors to escape the cold, Tampa residents and visitors are enjoying warm temperatures and lots of sunshine. While you may not find snow skis or toboggans, there are plenty of fun and novel ways to celebrate the season. In 2020, that includes outdoor events and activities that you and your family can enjoy while staying safe and social distancing. Check out this list of the 10 best things to do this December in Tampa and find the activities perfect for you.

Tampa is a beautiful city all year long, but in December she dons her holiday finery! To get the best view, try an evening stroll along the Riverwalk. From Armatureworks in the north, to Sparkman Wharf in the south, and Curtis Hixon Park in the middle, there are inspiring displays of festive lights and decorations.

Busch Gardens Tampa provides families a festive way to rekindle that holiday feeling with their top-rated annual Christmas Town event. As the sun goes down, the lights go on, and you’re immersed in a holiday wonderland full of the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas. Even better, Christmas Town is included in the price of admission.



TPC of Tampa Bay

Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

If you took a poll of golfers in Tampa, chances are they will name TPC of Tampa Bay as the toughest public access golf course in the region. This award-winning course is part of the PGA Tour’s Tournament Players Club network and was designed by Bobby Weed with PGA professional, Chi Chi Rodriguez. The 6,800 yards from the TPC tees doesn’t quite tell the tale of a course that weaves in and out of wetlands, woodlands, and lakes. Although a relatively flat course, many of the greens have considerable drop-offs so a missed shot will have you chipping back on. Bring your “A” game if you want to tee it up like the pros.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: A round of golf at the award-wining TPC of Tampa Bay is the perfect way for golfers to celebrate December’s mild temperatures while social distancing.

Skye’s expert tip: Because of its pedigree, a round of golf here is on the expensive side, especially during the winter months.

Read more about TPC of Tampa Bay →


Clearwater Beach

Photo courtesy of Valeria Hernandez

Clearwater Beach is a very popular and busy beach that has been voted the “Best Beach Town in Florida” by USA Today readers. In addition to meticulously groomed beaches and tons of beach amenities, Clearwater Beach offers many additional attractions. Fishing, dolphin-watching and leisure charters are available close-by. You can also visit the famous dolphin, Winter, who lives at the nearby Clearwater Aquarium. Some of the best seafood restaurants in the Tampa Bay area are found here including perennial favorite, Frenchy’s. There are also a wide variety of clubs and nightlife including two-story dance club, The Wave, at Shepherd’s Beach Resort. There are always events going on and every evening people gather at The Pier to take part in the sunset celebration that includes entertainment and a craft market.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: A visit to Tampa in December would not be complete without going to the beach at least once and Clearwater Beach is a popular choice.

Skye’s expert tip: Parking can get tight – it’s a good idea to get there early and be prepared to walk with your stuff.

Read more about Clearwater Beach →


David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts

Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

The Straz Center is Tampa’s world-class center for the performing arts that hosts most of the area’s major cultural performances. Here you can enjoy performances from the Florida Orchestra and Opera Tampa as well as popular music greats such as Lena Horn and the Isley Brothers. The Straz also hosts a full calendar of Broadway musicals. The facility is modern and beautiful with a variety of venues. The largest and most impressive is the 2,610 seat Carol Morsani Hall that features state-of-the-art acoustics and a 120 foot stage. In addition to another, smaller concert hall, the 268 seat Jaeb Theater can be set up cabaret style for more intimate performances.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Nothing says the holidays like a night at the theater and Tampa’s Straz Center is hosting a variety of indoor and outdoor holiday performances this December.

Skye’s expert tip: Stay safe and enjoy great performances at outdoor events including the Holiday Music Stroll on December 8 and the unique Nutcracker Outdoor Wonderland, December 11-23. Indoor performances are subject to strict safety measures.

Read more about David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts →



Pirate Water Taxi

Tampa’s Pirate Water Taxi travels the city’s downtown waterways and offers visitors and residents an easy and convenient way to visit downtown parks, museums, restaurants, and other attractions. The large, comfortable vessels offer indoor and outdoor seating and restroom facilities. There is also a limited beverage menu available on board including beer and wine. There are currently 17 stops and guests are able to hop on and hop off all day for one low price. Check their website for maps of the stops and a handy guide to the nearby attractions. Tickets can be bought at any stop, just look for their distinctive yellow and black sign on the docks along the route.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: A fun and flexible way to explore the sights and attractions of downtown Tampa is by hopping on and off the Pirate Water Taxi.

Skye’s expert tip: During December, book an after-dark River of Lights Holiday Cruise, a family-friendly event with a jolly pirate elf, Christmas sing-a-longs, and snow flurries.

Read more about Pirate Water Taxi →


Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park

Tampa’s great weather can sometimes make it difficult to get into the holiday spirit for those used to the snow and cold. Inject a cheerful chill into your holiday celebrations at Winter Village located downtown along the beautiful riverfront. Consisting of an outdoor ice rink, cafe, and pop-up market, this event brings the sights, sounds, and tastes of the season. Enjoy some family ice time with a 75 minute skate costing $15 and includes skate rentals. The Cafe offers seasonal snacks and kid-friendly beverages to enjoy, and the pop-up market features local vendors and artisans with gift ideas including decorations, apparel, handmade toys, jewelry, dog accessories, and more! This event takes place from November 20 through January 4.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: The Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park hosts an outdoor skating rink with real ice as well as seasonal shopping and refreshments throughout December.

Skye’s expert tip: Although the Winter Village is outside, safety measures are in place for the skating rink with masks required, limited capacity, and online ticketing.

Read more about Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park →


Henry B. Plant Museum

Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

Built in 1891 by railroad magnate Henry B. Plant, this history museum is located in what was originally the Tampa Bay Hotel, an extravagant resort that drew such guests as Teddy Roosevelt and Babe Ruth. Now home to the University of Tampa, Plant’s accomplishment is made all the more amazing when you realize that when it was built, the hotel was surrounded only by swampland. Now exquisitely restored, the hotel’s striking minarets architecture, lavish furnishings and vibrant gardens provide a rare glimpse into the early years of Florida tourism. Sure, it makes returning to a modern-day hotel room a bit sad, but this Moorish beauty is a definite must-see.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Throughout December, the Henry B. Plant Museum hosts a charming and festive Victorian Christmas Stroll that takes visitors on a nostalgic journey through holidays past.

Skye’s expert tip: To ensure visitor safety, tickets are timed and available for advance purchase. Masks are required and sanitization stations are located throughout the museum.

Read more about Henry B. Plant Museum →


ZooTampa at Lowry Park

Beloved by locals and visitors alike, ZooTampa at Lowry Park has been voted the #1 Family Friendly Zoo in the country by Parents Magazine and is a five-time winner of the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence. The 56-acre nonprofit zoo is home to 1,300 animals and emphasizes regionally endangered species and those in similar climates. All of your favorites are here, including African species like giraffes, rhinos, and hippos, Asian animals like lions and tigers, as well as animals native to Florida, such as various species of alligator and crocodile. Once they’ve made their way around to all of the animals, the kids can play in the Australian-themed children’s area that includes rides and other games. Going in the morning is a good idea, especially in the summer. Not only do you avoid the heat, but the animals also tend to be more lively.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Cooler temps during the day make December a great time to visit ZooTampa, or come in the evening to enjoy Christmas in the Wild.

Skye’s expert tip: Families looking for safe holiday fun will enjoy Christmas in the Wild, a reservation-only event featuring twinkling lights, holiday treats, and amazing wildlife.

Read more about ZooTampa at Lowry Park →


Snowcat Ridge

Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

Tampa’s newest winter attraction is Florida’s first Alpine Snow Park. Yes, you read that right, a snow park in Florida! The star of the park is the 60-foot tall, 400-foot long hill featuring single, tandem and family-style snow tubing. There is also an Artic Igloo play area with drifts of real snow up to 5 feet high, and a bunny slope for kids 3 and under. When you’re done with playing, peruse the Alpine Village’s local vendors selling food and beverages, as well as gifts and souvenirs. Take a load off in the large seating area and enjoy watching the tubers and relaxing by the fire. Tickets are available online. General admission tickets include a 2-hour tubing window and unlimited admission to the Igloo and Village. The attraction is currently scheduled to be open through March, however tickets are selling out fast for December visits.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Snowcat Ridge is Florida’s first and only Alpine Snow Park complete with 400-foot tubing hill, an Igloo with real snow, holiday shopping and refreshments.

Skye’s expert tip: Safety first at Snowcat Ridge! Capacity is limited and there are temperature checks at the entrance for extra safety.

Read more about Snowcat Ridge →


Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

Wild animals and wilder rides await visitors to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. The 335-acre Africa-inspired theme park’s six infamous roller coasters, 2,000-plus animals and entertaining live shows provide truly unforgettable thrills. There is something for kids of all age at this world-class park. Adventure lovers can brave SheiKra, a floorless dive coaster with a 200-foot, 90-degree plunge while animal enthusiasts might enjoy hand-feeding kangaroos at Walkabout Way or enjoying majestic views of free-roaming giraffes, zebras and white rhinos on the Serengeti Railway. Be prepared to walk in order to explore all areas of the park. There are several restaurants and numerous vendors throughout the park to keep you fueled on your journey.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is an annual, after-dark December tradition with twinkling lights, refreshments, shopping, and an outdoor ice show with fireworks.

Skye’s expert tip: Visitors must make advance reservations to limit capacity and maintain social distancing. In addition, face masks are required and there is temperature screening at the entrance.

Read more about Busch Gardens Tampa Bay →


Tampa Riverwalk

Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

The Tampa Riverwalk is a scenic exploration of the downtown waterfront and connects many of the city’s most popular attractions, parks, and restaurants. The broad paved path follows the banks of the Hillsborough River and Garrison Channel and is easily accessible to everyone including the disabled, kids, and furry friends. There are also many ways to navigate the Riverwalk which accommodates walkers, joggers, and bikers. A few of the landmarks you will pass include the Heights Public Market, Waterworks Park, Tampa Museum of Art, Curtis Hixon Park, the Convention Center, and the Tampa Bay History Center. Along the way, you can discover numerous interpretive exhibits highlighting Tampa’s history and public art exhibits. The path is almost 3 miles long, but there are plenty of spots to stop for a rest and grab a drink or a quick bite along the way.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Tampa’s Riverwalk links the city’s top attractions and is a fun way to enjoy the cooler December temperatures and Holiday Spectacular light displays.

Skye’s expert tip: Check out the first annual Holiday Hunt, a mobile-based scavenger hunt along the Tampa Riverwalk with prizes!

Read more about Tampa Riverwalk →






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