December brings a jam-filled month, especially with holiday events and activities. For many people, the holidays truly start with car rides to see Christmas lights. If you’re wondering where to find the best lights, check out our list of places and boat parades to see those bright, glowing, twinkling lights all over the Tampa Bay region.
Remember the phrase “The more, the merrier” applies to both decorations and people, so bring family and friends to these sparkly events.
Holiday Light Events
Holiday Lights in the Gardens (Florida Botanical Gardens, Largo): Take an awe-inspiring walk through gorgeous gardens, as they sparkle with over 750,000 holiday lights. Animated figures and entertainers will delight you along the walkway. Open daily until Dec. 31, at 5:30 p.m. Admission: $4 per person; 12 and younger are free. Call 727-582-2100 for more information and for Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus special appearance dates.
The Lights of Lake Park Estates: In its 21st year, this must-see event turns Lake Park Estates into a drive-through delight with more than 3 miles of Christmas lights and displays. Residents decorate their homes and yards with a variety of bright lights, animated figures, music, and more. The event’s purpose is to raise money to fight cancer. The event has raised more than $624,000 since 1993. You can donate along the route, at the Suncoast Hospice cart, where you’ll also receive a map of the holiday route. Open nightly at 6 p.m. Mon. through Thurs. 6 to 10 p.m. Fri. and Sat. 6 to 11 p.m.
The Oakdale Christmas House: One of the area’s largest displays of holiday lights, this house features more than half a million lights, many set to flash with music. Our local Oakdale home has been featured nationally because of its amazing displays. In addition to snowflake effects from two mirrored balls, the yard also displays approximately 700 moving and animated objects, a 70-foot Christmas tree display, two outdoor television presentations, a bubble machine, a miniature train, a 150-piece manger scene, and animated figures. Open daily until Jan. 3, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. 2719 Oakdale St. S., St. Petersburg.
Lighted Boat Parades
St. Pete Beach and South Pasadena Lighted Boat Parade and Winter Festival: Starts at South Pasadena and heads south toward Pass-a-Grille. Bring family and friends for the combined decorated boat parade and event, which includes Tree Lighting, concert, children’s activities, hot chocolate and more. Dec. 5, at 6 p.m. Horan Park, 7701 Boca Ciega Dr., St. Pete Beach.
Dunedin Boat Parade and Tree Lighting: Starts at Marker 1 Marina and heads south through the Intra-Coastal waterway to Mile Marker 2. It will turn around and arrive at the Dunedin Marina around 7:30 p.m. Event activities include Santa’s arrival in the last boat, Tree Lighting Ceremony with Santa, s’mores, and holiday music. Bring lawn chairs. Dec. 6, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dunedin Marina, 51 Main St. For more information, call 727-812-4530.
Tarpon Springs Boat Parade and 3rd Annual Snow Place Like Tarpon event: Enjoy the city’s boat parade at 8 p.m. which is combined with the annual family holiday event, Snow Place Like Tarpon. Activities will include inflatables, games, Christmas movies, food, and old fashioned carriage and hay rides. You’ll even see falling snow and live reindeer. Dec. 12, from 4 to 9 p.m.
St. Petersburg Illuminated Boat Parade: Starts at Bayboro, by The Pier, to the Vinoy Basin and then floats into Tampa Bay. The festival starts at 3 p.m. and include family fun with children’s activities, entertainment, and food and drink (including beer and wine). Hosted by The Rotary Club of St. Petersburg. Dec. 13, 6 p.m. Vinoy Basin Waterfront, 501 Fifth Ave. NE, St. Petersburg.
Pass-a-Grille/Vina Del Mar Boat Parade: Starts at Pass-a-Grille at the Merry Pier with cash prizes at the end. Dec. 13, 6 p.m. 801 Pass-a-Grille Way, St. Petersburg.
Island Estates Yacht Club Boat Parade: Starts at Mandalay Channel and floats toward Coachman Park, then under the Memorial Causeway Bridge. It ends at the judging stand, Clearwater Yacht Club. The event will be held in memory of The Island Estates Yacht Club’s members who passed away in 2014. Dec. 13, 6:30 p.m. Coachman Park, 301 Drew St., Clearwater.
48th Annual Festival of Lights Boat Parade, Madeira Beach: Starts at John’s Pass and ends at the American Legion #273. Cash prizes to be awarded for boats in the following categories: Best Overall, Under 25-Ft, Over 25-Ft, and Best Old Salt Boat. Dec. 13, at 6:30 p.m. Visit website for more information, including parade route.
28th Annual Boca Ciega Yacht Club’s Light Parade: Starts at Gulfport Municipal Marina and floats through William's Pier in Gulfport and through the canals of Town Shores Condominiums, Pasadena Yacht Club Estates, and Isla Del Sol Yacht and Country Club. The event will include post-parade fun with drinks, potluck dishes, music, carols, and more at the BCYC clubhouse. Dec. 13, at 6 p.m. 4630 29th Ave. S., Gulfport.
Indian Rocks Holiday Lighted Boat Parade: Starts at Holiday Inn Harbourside and heads north beneath the Walsingham Bridge. A post-parade party and award ceremony will be held at Jimmy Guana’s (401 Second St. IRB). Dec. 20, 7 p.m.
Treasure Island Holiday Boat Parade: The parade will close the Treasure Island Causeway Bridge for 30 minutes. Last year’s event included a record number 58 boats, making it the largest boat parade in Pinellas County. Starts at The Club, prizes awarded for boats. Dec. 20, at 6:20 p.m. Treasure Island Yacht & Tennis Club, 400 Treasure Island Causeway.
Redington Beach/Indian Shores Boat Parade: Starts at Tom Stewart Causeway and ends at the Pub, Dec. 21, at 5:45 p.m.
Compiled by St. Petersburg freelance writer Jennifer Akers. She can be reached through her website, jenniferakers.com.
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