TAMPA, Fla — The Tampa Bay area is slowly shifting into the holiday season mood, especially with an outdoor ice rink now open to the public!
City leaders came together to host a ribbon-cutting ceremony that marked the opening of Winter Village, presented by the Tampa Bay Lightning, at Citrus Hixon Waterfront Park. Guests will be able to go ice skate starting from 6 p.m. Friday.
The newest addition to this yearly winter wonderland? A Lightning-themed 360-degree holiday light show with illuminated trees synchronized to music.
The 5,000 square-foot ice skating rink will be open seven days a week. Tickets need to be bought online in advance, and reservations are subject to weather and rink conditions.
"Only two things you won't see which will be wonderful for the community is the mayor on ice skates [and] the mayor trying to sing in one of the sing-alongs," Tampa Mayor Jane Castor joked at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
"So, that will make all of the events that much more enjoyable for our community."
The ice rink also gives the opportunity for first-time skaters or hockey fans to come out and practice their skills on the ice.
"For us, this is how you become a hockey player. You get out here on the rink, you skate around for three or four hours and you learn how to skate," Tampa Bay Lightning CEO Steve Griggs said.
"Those are the things that take you to the next step to then learning how to play hockey. Next thing you know, you're playing high school hockey, college hockey and who knows? [Maybe that] next NHL player started right here at Winter Village."
The Winter Village Express will also be back this year. The "family-friendly excursion" will take you from downtown's Whiting Station to Ybor and back on the TECO Line Streetcar.
The ride is a one-hour trip that features a holiday sing-along, holiday trivia, milk and cookies and "added surprises along the way." You'll only be able to catch a ride on Sunday evenings.
The Tampa Downtown Partnership says many things at the Winter Village are free. And, Santa is expected to make a few surprise appearances.
For more information and to buy tickets for the ice rink and Winter Village Express, click here.
"This is incredibly important and it shows what makes Tampa the greatest city in the nation," Castor explained. "Public, government, private and downtown partnerships...coming together to ensure that our entire community can come out and enjoy the ice."