free holiday events in Tampa Bay

The BEST Free and Cheap Holiday Events in Tampa Bay

The holidays are expensive, so why not save a bit with these awesome free and cheap holiday events in Tampa Bay! We’re sharing everything from beautiful holiday light displays to free community events and free photos with Santa to carry you through the season.

Related: 40+ Free Things to Do with the Kids in Tampa Bay

This guide is divided up into categories to help you locate the type of event you are looking for:

  • Our Favorite Free and Cheap Holiday Events and Lights
  • Free Holiday Parades and Lighted Holiday Boat Parades
  • Where to Take Free and Cheap Photos with Santa in Tampa Bay
  • Free Holiday Movies in the Park


Our Favorite Free and Cheap Holiday Events in Tampa Bay for Families 

When we say cheap that means we’re only including events that are $25 or less for a family of four to attend. There is the possibility of having to pay to park at some of the free holiday events, but we’ll make a notation of this on the event listing.

(Events listed in order of launch date.)

Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park

When: November 17, 2023 – January 1, 2024, various times
Where: Curtis Hixon Park in Downtown Tampa
Cost: FREE to attend | Parking may cost you 
Winter Village is free to attend, however, additional activities like ice skating will cost money. Ice skating is $17 which includes skate rental. There are other activities including street curling, shopping local boutiques in the Village, and enjoying the beautiful holiday light show at Curtis Hixon Park.


Tampa Bay’s Festival of Lights & Santa’s Village Drive-Thru Lights

When: November 23, 2023-December 31, 2023 | 6-9 pm weekdays, 6-10 pm weekends
Where: Hillsborough County Fairgrounds
Cost: $25 for a carload of up to 8 people
Tampa Bay’s Festival of Lights & Santa’s Village immerses everyone in holiday fun with family favorites and new attractions, making it bigger and better than ever! Tickets are $25 for a carload of up to 8 people and include a visit to Santa’s Village. You can expect to see the fairgrounds enveloped in 1 million lights with a 2-mile drive-thru of elaborate displays. The expanded Santa’s Village will feature an Arctic Plunge Inflatable Snow Tube, holiday-themed rides, a self-guided walking tour of Hometown Hillsborough Historical Village, visits with Santa, camel rides, holiday movies, tasty treats, and more! Purchase tickets here.


Holiday Lights & Rides at Largo Central Park 

When: November 23, 2023-December 31, 2023
Cost: Free to attend | Activities and rides are extra
The annual family-friendly tradition at Largo Central Park will feature a spectacular holiday light display of over two million dazzling LED lights. Guests can also enjoy a stunning carousel and a seven-story Ferris wheel that offers breathtaking views of the lighted park. Rides are $5 each or 5 for $20. Largo Central Park’s Christmas lights and Holiday lights will light up on evenings from 5:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. It is free to park and stroll among the sparkly Christmas lights.  


Holiday Lights in The Gardens at The Florida Botanical Gardens

When: November 24-December 31, 2023
Where: Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo: 12520 Ulmerton Road
Cost: Free to attend, but donations appreciated
The gardens sparkle with one million LED lights that twinkle in a variety of bright colors. Vibrant laser lights and lighted figures are sure to wow guests of all ages. The Children’s Candy Cane Area will provide free kids’ crafts on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. Join them on Friday, December 15 for Signing with Santa with Family Center on Deafness from 5-7 pm.


Christmas Lane in Plant City

When: November 24-December 24, 2023
Where: Florida Strawberry Festival Fairgrounds in Plant City
Cost: $8.85 per adult, $7.08 per child ages 4-12 and $44.16 for a Season Pass
The Florida Strawberry Festival fairgrounds is transformed into an enchanting winter wonderland. Take in the wonder of the 1.5 million lights that adorn 200 Christmas trees from 4 to 40 feet. They will have rides, food, live entertainment, and a kids zone. Santa, Mrs. Claus, and Rudolph will also be there to celebrate and take festive photos with guests.


Celebration of Lights in Shady Hills-Pasco County

When: Select nights November 24-December 30, 2023 from 6 pm-9 pm
Where: The Concourse in Pasco County – Pasco County Safety Town
Cost: $25 per carload of people
This falls under the cheap category at $20 per carload of people. You can walk the holiday light display or ride the mini train for an additional $3 to experience the lights of the park and Safety Town. Be on the lookout for Santa and his elves too for a special visit!


Waterfront Lights and Santa Parade in St. Petersburg

When: November 25, 2023-January 1, 2024
Where: North Straub Park and St. Pete Pier areas
Cost: Free to enjoy the lights

Kick off the holiday season with a tree lighting in North Straub Park with the Mayor and Santa on November 25, 2023, with a Santa Parade and Tree Lighting! Stand along the pedestrian walkways at North and South Straub Parks in St Petersburg for this free light show on the water. There will also be Christmas lights and displays at Pioneer Park, Vinoy Park, and the St. Pete Pier.


Holiday Lights at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

When: December 1-2, 2023 from 6 pm-9 pm
Cost: $5 | Children 5 and younger are free
The Friends of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park invite you to experience their holiday light display at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. There will even be a chance to snap a photo with Santa’s Mermaid elves!


Winter Wonderland in Oldsmar

When: December 1, 2023, from 5 pm-9 pm
Where: R.E. Olds Park in Oldsmar

Cost: Free to attend
Annual free event featuring a giant snow slope, pictures with Santa, concessions, and lots of family fun! Arrive by 5 pm to catch Miss Suda’s Dancers year-end Holiday Recital.


There’s Snow Place Like Tarpon Springs

When: December 1, 2023, 5-10 pm
Where: 100 E. Tarpon Ave. Tarpon Springs, Florida
Cost: Free to attend
Enjoy vendors, live performances, crafts, carriage and train rides, visits with Santa, a snow slide, and more!


Snowfest at North Straub Park in St. Pete

When: December 2, 2023, from 9 am-2 pm
Where: 400 Bayshore Dr. NE, St. Petersburg
Cost: FREE to attend | Parking may cost you 
While this is not a free event, a family of 4 can participate for about $20 with wristbands to participate in activities going for $5 each. Kids and adults can enjoy a toboggan slide! There will also be inflatables, arts and crafts, and more!


Winter Wonder Wharf in Tampa

When: December 2, 9, and 16, 2023, from 6 pm-9 pm
Where: Sparkman Wharf in Tampa
Cost: FREE to attend | Parking may cost you
Sparkman Wharf will be transformed into Winter Wonder Wharf! Visitors of all ages can enjoy the magic of the season with photo-ops at themed areas, which include a colorful tree forest where guests can find Santa and holiday-themed performances at the Sparkman Wharf stage.


Light Up the Lake in Inverness

When: December 2, 2023
Where: Liberty Park in Inverness
Cost: Free to attend
Kids will love this Christmas celebration in Inverness, featuring train rides, live music, and light displays at Liberty Park, a boat parade, and a visit from Santa himself. Visitors can enjoy the local competition for Lamp Post Decorations, too.


12 Days of Christmas on Clearwater Beach

When: December 9-16, 2023
Where: Pier 60 Park
Cost: Free to attend
Local Clearwater businesses are hosting this holiday celebration including a Christmas tree lighting, caroling, parade, a Christmas market and more. Free admission.


Jingle Bell Bazaar At Centennial Park

When: December 10, 2023, 12 pm-6 pm
Where: Centennial Park, Ybor City
Cost: Free to attend
The Annual Jingle Bell Bazaar is a fun, festive holiday event in Historic Ybor City. There will be live music, entertainment, food, craft vendors, and more!


Winter Nights Under the Lights at Palma Sola Botanical Gardens in Bradenton

When: December 13-17, 2023 from 6 pm-9 pm
Where: 9800 17th Avenue NW, Bradenton
Cost: Free to attend, donation encouraged
The Palma Sola Botanical Gardens is hosting families for these free holiday lights even in the gardens. There will be donation boxes throughout the park if you feel inclined to make a donation to help support the community gardens.


Harbor Holiday Nights at Folly Farm

When: December 14, 15, and 16, 2023 from 6 pm-9 pm
Where: Folly Farm Nature Preserve, Safety Harbor

Four nights of Holiday fun for the whole family! Event includes holiday lights, campfire, children’s activities, and more. The Trolley Light Tour is $5 each.


Clearwater’s Polar Express Experience  at Coachman Park

When: Friday, December 15, 2023 at 5 pm
Where: Coachman Park in Clearwater
Cost: FREE to attend
Ruth Eckerd Hall this is a FREE event at Coachman Park that will feature a snowfall, a magical ride around The Sound on a Polar Express train, pictures with Santa, and a Gingerbread mini putt-putt. Tel-an-Elf where kids can video chat with Santa’s elves at the North Pole, games, and more. There will also be a screening of the film The Polar Express at 7 pm.


Holiday Hunt on the Riverwalk

When: Late November 2023 through January 2024
Where: Tampa Riverwalk
Cost: FREE to participate | Parking may cost you 
The Riverwalk Holiday Hunt is a mobile-based scavenger hunt along the Tampa Riverwalk. Individuals and/or teams will compete to be the Holiday Hunt winner as they make their way through the Holiday Hunt by solving puzzles, completing holiday challenges, and answering historical Tampa trivia.  This event is free to the public. You must download the mobile app Mobile Adventures to participate.


Free Holiday Parades and Boat Parades in Tampa Bay

A boat parade is probably one of the most “Florida” ways to celebrate the holidays other than building a sand snowman on the beach. And here in Tampa Bay with our wonderful waterways, we’ve got quite a few of them. During December, fill your calendar with these holiday boat parades around the Bay. All events are free to watch, however, you might have to pay for parking.

Holiday Lighted Boat Parade in Tampa
The Holiday Lighted Boat Parade in Tampa is on December 23, 2023.

Santa Parade and Tree Lighting at North Straub Park in St. Pete 

When: Saturday, November 25 at 4:30 pm- parade starts at 6:30 pm
Where: Albert Whitted Park to 5th Ave NE, St. Pete
The Santa Parade and Tree Lighting is the perfect way to kick off the holidays in St. Pete. The Santa Parade begins at Albert Whitted Park and then runs along Bayshore Drive to 5th Avenue NE. The tree lighting will follow.


Old Fashioned Christmas and Holiday Parade in Dunedin

When: December 1, 2023, from 6 pm-9 pm
Where: Downtown Dunedin 
Downtown Dunedin is hosting its annual Old Fashioned Christmas and Holiday Parade which kicks off at Douglas Avenue and Beltrees Street and will continue north to Skinner Blvd/580. The free festivities will include snow, horse-drawn carriage rides, visits with Santa, caroling, and more!


Annual Tarpon Springs Holiday Boat Parade

When: December 1, 2023, 8 pm-10 pm
Where: Craig Park, Tarpon Springs, FL
Vessels will begin at the sponge docks and conclude at Spring Bayou. Public viewing areas include Sponge Docks, Whitcomb Bayou, Craig Park & Spring Bayou.


Holiday Parade at Safety Harbor

When: December 2,  2023, from 10:00 am-11:30 am
Where: Main Street of Safety Harbor
Cost: Free to attend
Floats, old fashion cars, Shriners, and Santa are just a few of the highlights.


City of Tampa Santa Fest Parade and Festivities

When: December 2, 2023 at 1 pm
Where: Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park
Cost: FREE to attend | Parking may cost you 
The parade steps off at 1:00 p.m. at Morgan Street and Madison Street and then travels west on Madison Street to Ashley Drive before turning north and ending at Ashley Drive and Cass Street. The best viewing is along Madison Street. After the parade, head to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park for Santa Fest entertainment and activities from 1 pm-4 pm which will be followed by the Tree Lighting Ceremony at 6 pm with Mayor Castor and Santa Claus.


Palm Harbor Annual Holiday Parade

When: December 9, 2023, from 11:30 am-12:30 pm
Where: The parade starts at Delaware and 12th Street
This FREE family fun tradition starts at Delaware & 12th Street and ends at 11th and Michigan Ave. If you want to continue the festivities where will be a Gift Market in the Harbor Hall parking lot.


Downtown St. Pete Lighted Boat Parade

When: December 9, 2023, at 6:15 pm
Where: Downtown St Pete and St. Pete Pier
Head to the St. Pete Pier for the holiday-lighted boat parade and other activities.


57th Annual Festival of Lights Boat Parade in Madiera Beach

December 9, 2023, from 6:30 pm-10 pm
Where: Best public viewing at ROC Park – Madiera Beach
This annual boat parade kicks off at ROC Park and ends at John’s Pass Village.


38th Annual Lighted Christmas Boat Parade in Gulfport

When: December 9, 2023, 6 pm
Where: Begins at Gulfport Municipal Marina
See the parade from Osgood Point, Gulfport Municipal Marina, Williams Pier, Gulfport Beach and Casino, Town Shores, Pasadena Yacht & Country Club, Pasadena Golf Club Estates and Isla del Sol. Routes are subject to change.


38th Annual Treasure Island Holiday Lighted Boat Parade and Celebration

When: December 16, 2023, 5 pm
Where: Treasure Bay Recreation Facility
The Holiday Celebration begins at 5 p.m. with the Boat Parade leaving at 6:20 p.m.
Watch the parade from a spectacular vantage point and participate in the events at Treasure Bay. A DJ, a visit by Santa and Mrs. Claus, interactive entertainers, and food/beverage concessions will be available.


Indian Rocks Beach Holiday Boat Parade

When: December 16, 2023, 7 pm
Where: Parade lineup at Holiday Inn Harbor Side
Parade will begin at the Walsingham Bridge, winding through the fingers and ending at Harbor Drive North.


Tampa Riverwalk Holiday Lighted Boat Parade

When: December 23, 2023
Where: Tampa Riverwalk
Cost: FREE to attend | Parking may cost you 
The parade begins in the Convention Center basin, travels to the Heights, and ends at Sparkman Wharf.


Where to take FREE and cheap pictures with Santa

You will need to bring your camera to these photo ops, so be sure everything is fully charged before you go!

Santa at Bass Pro Shops
Meet Santa at Bass Pro Shops in Tampa!

Santa at Bass Pro Shops

10501 Palm River Rd in Tampa
November 4-December 24, 2023

  • FREE reservations are strongly suggested at all locations to secure your spot. Reservations may be made within a 7-day timeframe. Reserve your Santa visit time slot.
  • Santa is back at Bass Pro Shop’s FREE Santa’s Wonderland experience! There will also be games and events for the whole family, carousel rides, and holiday craft gift bags to take home


Gallagher’s Pumpkins and Christmas Trees in St. Petersburg  

Now open. Follow on social for Santa dates.
Head to the Insta-worthy Gallagher’s in St. Pete to pick up your Christmas Tree and experience more holiday fun like the snow machine, free visits with Santa on select dates and times, apple cider with donuts, poinsettias, and more! We recently chatted with Ciera Gallagher who owns the tree lot with her husband to learn more about their family business, Gallagher’s Pumpkins and Christmas Trees.


Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park in Downtown Tampa

November 17, 2023-January 4, 2024
FREE to attend | Parking may cost you 
Celebrate the magic of the holiday season at Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa with festive lights, ice skating, and more. Keep an eye out for Santa – he’ll be making a few surprise visits at Winter Village! Be sure to stay off the naughty list and stay tuned to the @WinterVillageTampa Facebook and Instagram pages for clues as to when you might be able to catch a glimpse of the man in red yourself. Bring your camera and prepare for a Santa experience like no other.


Christmas Lights at Chick-Fil-A on Waters Avenue

November 17-December 30, 2023, Monday-Saturday
Visit the most festive Chick-Fil-A in Tampa Bay and check out their annual Christmas lights display! Santa will also be there on select dates so be sure to stop by and say hello.


Santa at Hyde Park Village in South Tampa 

Weekends in December beginning December 3 at select times and locations
Santa will be popping in at Hyde Park Village for visits and photos at various shops throughout the village. Each shop will host Santa on their designated day, so check here for updates: 


Santa and Mrs. Claus at Armature Works 

December 2 from 5 pm-9 pm, 9, and 16 from 1 pm-4 pm, 2023
FREE to attend | Parking may cost you 
Kids can visit with Santa in the South Lawn near the Armature Works Christmas Tree. Don’t forget to bring an unwrapped toy to donate for the Toys for Tots toy drive.


Santa in the Park at North Straub Park in St Pete

December 9-10 15-13, 2023 6-9 pm
FREE to attend | Parking may cost you 
This year’s event will feature Santa in a rocking chair with a designated area for participants to chat and take photos with Santa. Be sure to bring your own camera.


Cookies with Santa at Pinellas Pioneer Settlement-Boyd Hill Nature Park

December 15 and 16, 2023, 5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Decorate gingerbread cookies, meet Santa and his elves, and purchase small gifts (all items $5 and under) for friends and family! Free gift wrapping is provided. $5 per person. Space is limited so be sure to reserve your spot here.


Free Holiday Movies in the Park


Movie in the Park after Santa Fest in Downtown Tampa

When: December 2, 2023 at 6:30 pm
Where: Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, Tampa
Cost: Free to attend

Bring your own blankets for a movie on the lawn of Curtis Hixon Park after enjoying a full day of festive fun during Santa Fest! The movie will start at 6:30 pm after the tree-lighting ceremony.


Holiday Movie in the Park at Crescent Lake Park in St. Pete

When: December 9, 2023 at 6 pm
Cost: Free to attend
TASCO and the Crescent Lake Neighborhood Association are hosting a free movie in the park with a showing of “Home Alone 2”. There will be other fun activities including a Santa Photo Booth –printed photos are $5.


Holiday Movie in the Park in Tarpon Springs

When: December 16, 2023 at 5 pm
Where: Craig Park: 100 Library Lane, Tarpon Springs
Cost: Free to attend
Grab your lawn chairs and blankets for a fun & free night out! Families can pick a special viewing spot in the park for the movie.


Tampa Theatre Holiday Movies at Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park

When: December 16 at 7 pm
Where: Curtis Hixon Park in Downtown Tampa
Cost: FREE to attend | Parking may cost you 
Enjoy a night out at Winter Village with a stroll to view the holiday lights and maybe participate in a game of curling before the movie. There are two free holiday movie nights in partnership with the Tampa Theatre: Saturday, December 16 at 7 pm: Elf.