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The holiday season is in full swing, and even during a pandemic we still want to enjoy and share the best parts of Christmas.
That includes driving around to look at Christmas lights and decking our own halls with festive displays.
The best places to see lights around Tampa Bay include decked-out historic homes, boat parades and millions of lights at the local theme park.
Note: Some beloved holiday lights and events have been canceled or changed this year due to the pandemic. For example, The Shops at Wiregrass' Symphony in Lights hourly shows are canceled this year. A previous version of this article incorrectly included that display.
Oakdale Christmas House
Ask any native of St. Petersburg for their favorite light display, and they'll say the Oakdale Christmas House. It's been dazzling locals and visitors alike for more than 40 years with half a million lights and hundreds of displays covering the property. The Christmas House also has projection shows, animated holiday characters and dozens of Christmas trees. This year, the owners promise "major additions, upgrades and changes in both lights and displays."
It's free to visit the house, but donations are accepted. More information and directions here.
Busch Gardens Christmas Town
The Tampa theme park brings back its popular holiday event this year through Jan. 3. The parkwide Christmas Town includes millions of lights and displays around the 335-acre park. Also, holiday shows, themed food and drinks and meet and greets with Santa and characters from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Christmas Town is included with park admission and runs nightly through Jan. 3.
Holiday Boat Parade
The Downtown Tampa Holiday Boat Parade is at 6:15 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, and it's free to watch all along the Riverwalk. One of the largest on Florida's west coast, the parade has about 100 boats decked out and lit up for the holidays. The parade cruises down the Hillsborough River from around Harbour Island and parts of Davis Island, ending at Sparkman Wharf. Some of the best public viewing places include the Tampa Convention Center, Curtis Hixon Park, Armature Works, Davis Island, Channel Drive, Sparkman Wharf and the American Victory Ship.
Find a parade map here.
Wonderland of Lights & Santa's Village
2020 will be the fifth year for this holiday extravaganza at the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds. Though there are changes this year to comply with CDC guidance for COVID-19, the Wonderland of Lights & Santa's Village is essentially a holiday-themed fair. There's a mile-long holiday light display that's contact-free and drive-thru only (Monday-Wednesday), along with shows, holiday treats, wagon rides, camel rides, holiday-themed fair rides and photos with Santa at Santa's Village.
Hours and ticket prices vary by date. You can find more information here.
Streamside Drive Christmas Lights
For the last 18 years, one Tampa home has been lit with thousands of lights ready to put anyone in the holiday spirit. The 55,000 Christmas light display is synced to your favorite holiday songs. The display comes alive to music every night, pending rain. You can check the lights out between 6-9 p.m. (Monday-Thursday) or 6-10 p.m. (Friday-Sunday.)
Lights of Lake Park
This holiday display powered by Suncoast Hospice volunteers will once again spread holiday cheer in Pinellas County. But with the coronavirus pandemic continuing, things will look a little different this year. The organization says it will not be handing out candy canes and dog treats and all visitors will be asked to stay in their cars to drive through the display. It's free to attend, donations are welcome, and runs 6-9:30 p.m. every night through Dec. 31.
St. Petersburg Waterfront Display
Bringing a new meaning to "Walking in a Winter Wonderland," minus the seasonal chill, St. Petersburg Parks & Recreations waterfront display is back this year. From now until January 3, the public can stroll along the waterfront, taking in the dazzling holiday lights.
Decorations are spread across North Straub Park, South Straub Park, Pioneer Park, Vinoy Park and the St. Pete Pier. You can catch the displays nightly.
Holiday Lights in Largo Central Park
The holiday lights in Largo Central Park will shine bright for the 25-year, welcoming family and friends to share in the annual tradition. Guests can stroll through the display, or enjoy a variety of crafts, activities, rides and food.
The more than two million lights will engulf the park until January 1. It's free to attend, unless you are looking to hop on the rides, and runs 6-11 p.m. nightly.
River of Lights
What about a holiday experience with a Florida twist? You can hop on one of Tampa's water taxi's for a tour of holiday lights this season. Once aboard guests will single Christmas songs, see snow flurries and even get a visit from a "jolly pirate elf." Kids can also write a letter to Santa and drop it off in a floating mailbox.
Capacity is limited and guests will be required to wear masks due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Tours are scheduled on select dates and times. You can find more information and ticket pricing here.
Night of Shimmering Lights
Journey through interactive lights and displays celebrating the different aspects of the holiday season! $7 per person 3+years old.
This walk-through light experience in Dover has a quarter-mile walking trail lit with more than a million lights. It also has more than 1,500 displays plus a light maze, outdoor movies, crafts, games and the best hot mini donuts you've ever eaten.
More information can be found here.
Celebration of Lights
This year's display is back and brighter than ever, according to organizers who have shifted this year's celebration to be a socially distant drive-thru event.
On select nights you can tour the light display and wave to Santa on the way to a festive miniature Holiday Train.
You can find the event schedule and ticket pricing here.
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