Family visit for the holidays? Here are some fun things to do in Tampa Bay.
Do you have some relatives in town for the holidays? Are they driving you crazy yet? We’ve got you covered.
If your relatives or just your children are home during the school holidays, you may need some transfers. Here are some of our favorites. We’ve paid special attention to free or cheap destinations to get people out of your home and enjoy the local sights.
Nothing impresses these northern relatives more than a herd of dugongs hangs out. They’ve had a very tough couple of years in Florida. Thousands of manatees have starved to death on the East Coast due to the loss of seaweed, their main food. Boats continue to invade their West Coast habitat, killing young and old manatees in their wake.
This time of year, gentle lugs love the warm water coming from TECO’s Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach. The company’s Manatee Exhibition Center is open to the public, with picnic areas, educational displays and a boardwalk, making for a nice outing. Note: The center is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, but is otherwise open from 10am to 5pm daily. Best of all, it’s free at 6990 Dickman Road in Apollo Beach. See tampaelectric.com/manatee for live webcams.
Sanding Ovations is the annual sand sculpture exhibition on Treasure Island. While the big event with fireworks and music has already ended, the artworks remain on the sand for several weeks afterward, making for a fun outing. Visit the mile-long Treasure Island Beach Trail, which features built-in benches, lit at night with turtle-friendly LED lights. It’s a good place for shellfishing. Treasure Island Gulffront Park, 10424 Gulf Blvd.
Thanksgiving weekend kicks off the shopping season and there is a great desire this year among shoppers to support local businesses. Small Business Saturday is a big deal, with credit card companies offering deals if you shop local. American Express offers points and miles or cash back on their site at shopmall.com.
According to studies, for every $100 you spend at a locally owned small business, $68 stays in the community in employee wages, local services, local supplies, charities and team sponsorships.
Shopapalooza It turned the Black Friday weekend after Thanksgiving into a way to support local businesses in St. Petersburg’s Fenway Park. They will have nearly 300 vendors, artists and businesses offering specials, food and entertainment for kids. 10am-5pm Saturday and Sunday (November 25-26). Fenway Park, 501 Fifth Avenue NE, St. Petersburg.
In the Indie Noir Market: Big Festival, You can shop among over 100 black-owned small businesses while learning about the rich culture and history of “The Scrub” neighborhood. Noon-6pm Saturday (November 25) at Perry Harvey Sr. Park, 1201 N. Orange St., Tampa.
in Hyde Park VillageYou can easily spend a day among the restaurants as well as the stores that are a mix of local and brand name retailers. As a premier Tampa shopping destination, it offers an outdoor lifestyle concept with an open-air design, where you can stroll from one outlet to another – with plenty of relaxing spaces, including a garden and fountain area that often hosts public events. 1602 W. Snow Ave., Tampa.
Downtown Tampa Partnership Winter village He returns to Curtis Hixon Park through January 1. The annual event features an ice rink, dozens of small local businesses in-store at Winter Village, theme nights, street curling, movie nights and a light show at the top of every hour from 7-10 p.m., visit wintervillagetampa.com for a schedule. 600 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa.
If you’re out shopping anyway, you can also take part in the annual show A symphony of lights at The Shops at Wiregrass In Wesley Chapel. A choreographed dancing light show plays at the top of every hour in the mall. The 12-minute performance is set to music by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and includes falling “snow”. free. 6-9pm daily until December 31st. 28211 Paseo Drive, Wesley Chapel.
the Florida Botanical Gardens In Largo, what is already a picturesque stroll on the boardwalk is decorated with nearly a million LED lights. It runs nightly until December 31. They are asking for a suggested donation of $10. You’ll find illuminated forms throughout the gardens next to large walkways that easily accommodate wheelchairs and strollers. Leashed pets welcome. There is free parking at the parks located at 12520 Ulmerton Road and also at 12211 Walsingham Road, Largo. It works from 5:30 to 9:30 at night. flbgfoundation.org.
Sarasota Mary Selby Botanical Gardens Celebrating its 50th anniversary season on its 45-acre bayfront retreat. It has a 15-acre downtown Sarasota campus and a 30-acre historic Spanish Point Campus in the Osprey area of Sarasota County. The downtown Sarasota campus on Sarasota Bay is the only botanical garden in the world dedicated to the display and study of epiphytic orchids, bromeliads, gesneria, ferns and other tropical plants. Dubbed the “living museum,” exhibitions and events are planned for both the downtown campus at 1534 Mound St. and the Historic Spanish Point site at 401 N. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota. Of particular note at Historic Spanish Point are large-scale aluminum prints of Clyde Butcher’s celebrated photography currently on display of Florida’s flora, fauna and habitats among the landscape of the 30-acre waterfront property. It includes photographs of regional areas, including Myakka River State Park and Casey Key. Admission is $26, $11 for ages 5-17. See selby.org. Open daily from 10am to 5pm
For cyclists, visit Pinellas Trail, an urban route that runs from Tarpon Springs to Saint Petersburg. The trail has rest stops and parking lots along the trail, and the county’s trail guide, located at pinellascounty.org/trailgd, has maps and even a list of bike and ski rental shops located near the trail.
Play in the snow in Florida Aquarium Saturday and Sunday, November 25 – December. January 24, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Bring your gloves for a variety of hands-on winter festivities. The “Snow Fly Zone” will feature a snowball toss and the popular snowball slingshot. There is also snow painting, where the snow becomes the canvas. Other frost-free activities include street curling and snowball. It is included with admission, with tickets required to be purchased in advance. The aquarium will host a sensory-friendly snow days event on Thursday, December 21, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa. See flaquarium.org.
Snowcat Ridge A virtual “blizzard” that hits central Florida with an avalanche, sledding, and snow battles at an igloo, Christmas Lane, an igloo outpost, and an alpine village. General admission includes two hours of skating. Upgrades are available for unlimited skating and additional activities. Starting at $26.95 (varies by date and time). 27839 St. Joe Road, Dade City. 813-576-1450.
Rent a canoe, bike, or even a golf cart to explore the area Hillsboro River State ParkA wilderness park with birds, turtles, alligators, and 7 miles of nature trails. The park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset at 15402 US 301 N., Thonotosassa. Admission is $6 per vehicle for up to eight people. For questions, call the ranger station at 813-987-6771.
the Dali Museum It holds the largest art collection outside of Spain by surrealist Salvador Dali, but also has a current exhibition called “Dali and the Impressionists.” It explores Salvador Dali’s deep connection with the Impressionist movement, which played a pivotal role in his early artistic journey. You can also check out the new dome called “Dalí Alive 360°” – where animations of the Spanish surrealist’s works are displayed from floor to ceiling. Melting clocks, fantastical animals and double images swirl in a symphony of light and music. Tickets are an additional $15 experience to the $29 museum admission ticket. Dali Museum, 1 Dali Blvd. (Bayshore Drive and Fifth Avenue SE), St. Petersburg. 727-823-3767. thedali.org.
Annual Pinellas Creative Arts Exhibition Featuring over 75 local artists in multiple media participating in this exhibition through December 31. Best of all: It’s free at The Gallery at Creative Pinellas at 12211 Walsingham Road, Largo. Head to artsannual.org for details. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m