The Bay’s Top 5 Holiday Celebrations

The Bay’s Top 5 Holiday Celebrations

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

4 min read December 2019 ‘Tis the season for family fun and Tampa Bay has a myriad of holiday happenings to choose from. It comes as no surprise that the region holds such an eclectic and widespread range of options as the local economy boasts healthy and robust tourism and entertainment markets. The only challenge is deciding how to choose between all of the merry events happening throughout the Bay. Invest: explores five of the top options to spend your time during this holiday season. 

 

Enchant Christmas 

Not everyone is privileged to have the World’s Largest Christmas Light Maze and Market in their own backyard, but those in the Tampa Bay region can find this very attraction at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Embark on an adventure to find Santa’s reindeer inside an amazing, custom-designed light maze. Once you have solved the mystery, guests can enjoy the seasonal food and drinks as well as a Christmas Market featuring over 40 local and international artisans. Enchant runs until Dec. 29 and is a wonderful event for families of all ages.  

For more, visit: https://enchantchristmas.com/stpete

Busch Gardens Christmas Town

On its own merit, Busch Gardens is already a must-see attraction in the Bay, so the fact that it features a holiday event that USA Today ranked as one of it’s 10 Best Theme Park Holiday Events, only furthers this narrative. Christmas Town not only is a beautifully decorated affair with millions of holiday lights, it is also a truly fun event. Visitors are afforded the opportunity to visit with Santa and Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, holiday-themed culinary experiences, live shows and the ability to have nighttime experiences on their famous thrill rides. Christmas Town is open to the public until Jan. 6 so there is still plenty of time to enjoy. 

To read more, visit: https://buschgardens.com/tampa/events/christmas-town/

Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park

Winter Village is not the typical holiday-themed event. Winter Village features a holiday-themed cafe, appropriately deemed the Icicle Craft Kitchen, a variety of unique shopping experiences and a unique train ride called the Winter Village Express. But perhaps most significant is the last thing most people would expect to find in Florida: an outdoor ice rink. This is Downtown Tampa’s only outdoor ice rink,and quite possibly one of the only ones in Florida, which is made even more unique with the amazing views of the Tampa Riverwalk and Hillsborough River. This can’t miss opportunity is open until Jan. 5 and the perfect way to bring some holiday happiness. 

For more, visit: http://www.wintervillagetampa.com/

Downtown Tampa Holiday Lighted Boat Parade

In most of the country, a boat is the last place anyone would expect to be during the wintertime, but in Florida the winter is possibly the best time to take out a boat and enjoy the cooler temperatures. That being said, it’s only fitting that Downtown Tampa is home to the annual Holiday Lighted Boat Parade. The parade runs all the way down Tampa Riverwalk and features some of the region’s most unique watercrafts sporting their finest holiday lights. The event takes place from 6:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. on Dec. 21 in Downtown Tampa. 

For more information, visit: https://thetampariverwalk.com/events/lighted-boat-parade/

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl

This time of year all of the major holidays have one consistent thing in common: there is always a big football game on. In Tampa Bay, this stands true as the region will once again welcome the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl to town on Dec. 23 at Raymond James Stadium. Residents of the Bay can enjoy from their homes or partake in the festivities at the game as the University of Central Florida Knights take on last year’s Bowl champions the Marshall Thundering Herd. The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without some good old-fashioned football. 

To learn more, visit: https://www.gasparillabowl.com/

Top 5 Thanksgiving ‘To Do’s’ in the Bay

Top 5 Thanksgiving ‘To Do’s’ in the Bay

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

4 min read November 2019 Thanksgiving season has once again descended upon the Tampa Bay region. While the holiday is traditionally known for the three F’s, food, family and football, there are other options available to those in the Tampa Bay region who are looking to break traditions and start new ones. These options range from activities that will help work up an appetite for the big meal to options that completely change course from the normal fixings of a Thanksgiving meal. Invest: explores five of the best alternatives for those looking to shake up their Thanksgiving experience.

 Turkey Trots

A traditional Thanksgiving meal is known for two things: oversupply and overconsumption. There may be no better way to prepare the body for this endeavour than participating in one of the variety of “turkey trots” and “fun runs” available to the public on Thanksgiving Day. These exercise-driven events include the Goody Goody Turkey Gobble, which starts at 7 a.m. in front of the Amalie Arena and features options like a 5K, 8K or 1-mile course to be walked or ran. There is also the Clearwater-based Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot, which has become the largest running event in the Tampa Bay area with an annual average of participation from over 17,000 runners. 

 

Thanksgiving Cruises

Breaking tradition can be difficult, but a Thanksgiving dinner on a yacht may make that change a bit easier to digest. The company Yacht StarShip offers an opportunity to feast on traditional Thanksgiving foods in a completely nontraditional fashion. With options to sail in either Clearwater or Tampa, the promise of no meal preparation or cleanup, and the chance to truly relax for the holiday, a yacht cruise for the night could be a welcomed change from the norm. 

To read more, visit: https://www.yachtstarship.com/event/thanksgiving-cruises/

Wonderland Of Lights And Santa’s Village

Besides being a day to enjoy a nice meal with family, for some, Thanksgiving also signifies the official countdown to Christmas Day. In the Tampa Bay region, residents can begin this countdown with a visit to the Wonderland Of Lights And Santa’s Village. This holiday theme park becomes available to the public Thanksgiving Day and runs until Jan. 5. Theme park visitors can partake in the amusement rides, camel rides, over a mile of light displays and everything else this park has to offer. This is a great option for those looking to not completely break tradition, as the park offers the opportunity to enjoy all its amenities at night, giving time for the traditional Thanksgiving meal at home beforehand. 

For more, visit: www.thewonderlandoflights.com/

13th Annual ThanksVegan Feast

It may be a holiday best known for a feast centered around poultry, but that does not mean that there aren’t options in the region for those who prefer veggies over meat. For the last 13 years, Florida Voices for Animals has been holding their annual ThanksVegan Feast that features zero animal products or byproducts. Held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tampa, this potluck dinner encourages those attending to bring a vegan dish to contribute to the holiday feast. The event runs from 1:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. and includes a raffle with prizes. 

For more information, visit: https://www.floridavoicesforanimals.org/thanksvegan

Black Friday Shopping

While technically starting the day following Thanksgiving, some Black Friday deals become available to the public the night of the 28th. For some, it has become a tradition to go straight from their Thanksgiving meal to waiting overnight in lines that sometimes stretch multiple blocks, all with the intention of cashing in on mega savings. Thankfully for the residents of Tampa Bay, the region not only offers access to all of the big box retailers, it is also home to a variety of world-class shopping malls like International Plaza and Bay Street, Hyde Park Village and many others. 

Top 5 Haunted Happenings in Tampa Bay

Top 5 Haunted Happenings in Tampa Bay

Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas

4 min read October 2019 The month of October is known for seasonal change, pumpkin-spiced everything and the nationally celebrated horror day, Halloween. While the actual day is regarded as a time for candy, treats and Halloween scares, the weeks leading up to it have been appropriately dubbed “spooky season.” This is an exciting time for thrill seekers and Halloween enthusiasts in the Tampa Bay area as there are a variety of haunted happenings and spooky activities to experience. The following are five of the best and scariest events and places to make this Halloween a memorable one. 

 

 

Tampa Theatre

Regarded as Tampa’s most historic and most haunted movie palace, the Tampa Theatre has embraced its haunted lore for this year’s spooky season. The theater is known for haunted happenings involving former employees whose spirits seem to have never left the theater, like the theater’s old projectionist Foster “Fink” Finley whose footsteps are thought to still be heard from time to time. Not only has the theater showcased 14 nights of frightening films from Oct. 18th until Oct. 31, it is also featuring ghost tours and a special Halloween-themed happy hour event called PAUSE-O-WEEN on Oct. 31. 

For more on Tampa Theatre visit: https://tampatheatre.org/

 

Howl-O-Scream

Carrying the title as Tampa Bay’s No.1 haunted attraction, Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay has been a staple of the community for 20 years. Not only does the event offer horror-heads the opportunity to walk through terrifying “scare zones,” it also features multiple haunted houses, access to many other twisted terrors and some of Busch Gardens most iconic rides. This weekend event runs from Sept. 20 to Nov, 2, and promises to “twist daydreams into nightmares.” 

To read more about Howl-O-Scream visit: https://buschgardens.com/tampa/events/howl-o-scream/

Undead in the Water

Undead in the Water is an annual haunted house with a twist. It is the only authentic nautical haunted attraction in the region and takes place on the historically famous 1945 WWII vessel the American Victory Ship. Thrill seekers will rejoice in the challenge of venturing through the multiple decks of this historic vessel as they avoid consumption by an infected zombie hoard onboard the ship. Undead in the Water is infamous for being one of the scariest annual attractions that the region has to offer. This event runs every weekend from the beginning of October until Nov. 2. 

For more on Undead in the Water visit: https://www.undeadinthewater.com/

Ybor City Ghost Tour

While it is known for being a National Historical Landmark District in Tampa Bay and one of the preeminent spots for tourists and residents to frequent, Ybor City is also known as one of the top destinations for hauntings. With a deep rooted history in the development and emergence of the Tampa Bay region, Ybor City has seen its fair share of diverse demographics settling in the region and calling it home. According to urban legend some of these souls just decided to never leave, which is why Ybor City is home to the critically acclaimed Ybor City Ghost Tour. Rated as the No. 1 haunted tour in the United States by US City Traveler and rated in USA Today’s 10 best lists, this tour promises an informative and scary walk through the ghostly history of Ybor City. 

For more information on the Ybor City Ghost Tour visit: http://www.yborghosttour.com

Cuban Club

Located in Ybor City, the historic Cuban Club has a history that spans over a century and includes shows by world-renowned entertainers, weddings, parties and the occasional haunting. The club itself is a wonderful multipurpose rental facility with amenities like a grand ballroom, theater and courtyard. With numerous reports of ghostly sightings and paranormal activity, it is not a surprise that this location was named by The Travel Channel as one of its Top 10 most haunted places. The Club leaves it up to guests to decide whether they believe it to be haunted or not as stated in the FAQ on its website: “We are reputed to be haunted, but we will let you make up your own mind on this subject…”

To see more on the Cuban Club visit: http://cubanclubybor.com/

Top 5 Family-Friendly Destinations in the Tampa Bay Region

Top 5 Family-Friendly Destinations in the Tampa Bay Region

Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas

4 min read October 2019 With almost 1,000 people moving into Florida every day, the appeal of the state is quite apparent. From our favorable tax climate to ideal weather and everything in between, Florida is the hotspot in the southeast. The Tampa Bay region has been a beneficiary of this population boom, as represented in the more than 51,000 people that moved into the region last year. One of the major appeals for Florida, and more specifically the Tampa Bay MSA, is the welcoming, family-friendly environment that has been cultivated throughout the state. Supporting this are the multitude of family-friendly activities and destinations available throughout the region. With so much choice, Invest: thought it would be fun to narrow it down. Here are five of the best family-friendly destinations in the Tampa Bay region.

Florida State Fairgrounds

Known for their title event, the Florida State Fair, the Fairgrounds are also a destination for festivals, trade shows, conventions and outdoor shows. The 12-day Florida State Fair is the premier family-oriented event in the Tampa Bay region. The emphasis on family fun is cultivated in the Fair’s various offerings like rides, animal interactions, fair food, and activities and shows for children. Cheryl Flood, executive director for the Florida State Fair, spoke to Invest: about just how significant this family-friendly event is to the region. “We are known for our 12 days of family fun during the annual state fair festivities, when families from across the state gather to celebrate agriculture, education and community. Annually, we boast 500,000 visitors who generate over $152 million dollars in sales throughout the state of Florida. The Florida State Fair is the first state fair of the year throughout the entire country. As a result, we set the trends of what the fair industry and fairgoers can expect nationally. We think of ourselves as a catalyst for innovation within this niche industry.”

For more information on the next Florida State Fair & the Fairgrounds visit: https://www.floridastatefair.com/

Museum of Science and Industry

Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) is not the typical museum destination that some may be accustomed to. Instead of taking a more traditional approach to teaching principles of STEM and STEAM, this museum prides itself on being a scientific playground that offers more than 100 different hands-on activities for parents and children alike. The museum was not always known for its innovative approach, but after a restructuring and renovation in November 2017, they have been working to change that narrative. Julian Mackenzie, president and CEO of MOSI, elaborated on this deliberate effort, “In our second year of ‘new MOSI,’ after the completion of our restructuring and renovation in November of 2017, our reputation in the community was re-established. Prior to our reopening, the venue had a reputation for outdated exhibits that in some cases just simply didn’t work as they should. Our main focus for MOSI since then has been to re-engage the community with expanded participation in popular public events. In this fashion, it put our No. 1 asset in full view, that being our staff and the passion they have for making science real for all ages and demographics. Also, it has been about the exhibit path experience. Guests can now count on a dynamic experience at MOSI with hands-on activities and exhibits that not only function as they should, they also entertain, educate and inspire.”

To see all of MOSI’s offerings visit: https://www.mosi.org/

Glazer Children’s Museum 

The Glazer Children’s Museum is a prime example of a family-friendly destination that is using innovation and inclusivity to rise above the variety of options in the region. The museum, which saw its third-busiest year on record in 2018, understands the importance of being a viable option for all different types of families and children. Sarah Cole, the president and CEO of Glazer Children’s Museum, expounded upon this to Invest:. “At the Glazer Children’s Museum, we believe that all children deserve the opportunity to play with purpose. We strive to provide accessible and inclusive programs, events, and exhibits to serve the diverse needs of our guests. For families with special needs, we offer programs like our monthly Sensory-Friendly Sunshine Sundays and Autism-Friendly Camps. When families visit the museum, they have access tools, from an experience book to plan their visit to sound-blocking headphones, sensory kits, accessibility chairs, and more. We are proud to be designated an Autism-Friendly business for eight years running through the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities and we were recently named Employer of the Year by the Mayor’s Alliance for People With Disabilities.”

For more on Glazer Children’s Museum visit: https://glazermuseum.org/

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

In the case of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, being a family-fun destination is only part of who they are. The Aquarium, which was the backdrop for the films Dolphin Tale 1 & 2, serves as both a family-friendly destination to observe marine life in an interactive and educational manner as well as a marine research and rehabilitation sanctuary. They are currently under major construction as they work to not only improve their facilities for guests but also for their marine rescue and rehabilitation efforts. Frank Dame, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Clearwater Marine Aquarium, spoke to Invest: about what could be expected from the new facilities, “When we open the doors to our new facility, sometime next year, we are going to have almost four times the guest space we have now. We are also building five new dolphin pools. Currently, between all our facilities we have about 985,000 gallons of water, and these five new dolphin pools will add another million and a half gallons. We are really ramping up our ability to rescue more animals and provide a better living environment for our dolphins, as well as drastically improve the guest experience.”

To read more about Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s aquatic initiatives visit: https://www.seewinter.com/

Clearwater Beach

To be named the No. 1 beach in the country is no small accomplishment, so the significance of Clearwater Beach being dubbed this title two years in a row by TripAdvisor cannot be understated. From in-water activities to fun festivals to simply sunbathing on the white sands, this family-friendly destination has something for everyone to enjoy. Sights are now set on retaining this title for the foreseeable future, and Frank Dame of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium weighed in on how to best accomplish this. “We need to focus on maintaining our recognition as the No. 1 beach in the nation, and we can’t accomplish this by just promoting ourselves as No. 1. The mission now is to make us the No. 1 beach because we are ocean-friendly. We can do this by eliminating trash and doing things like stopping the use of single-use plastics,” he told Invest:. 

For more on the #1 Beach in the nation visit: https://www.visitstpeteclearwater.com/communities/clearwater-beach