‘Twas the month before Christmas and all through Tampa Bay, the citizens were stirring, getting ready for the big day! The twinkle lights were hung from Busch Gardens to Lowry Park Zoo, and everyone wished Santa would skate in downtown too! If you are looking for fun Christmas events, Tampa is the place to be. Here is our guide to the action.
The Florida stone crab season opens today. which means fresh claws will soon show up on dinner tables and specialty fish markets.
This crab looks like pop eye, with pumped up, beefy claws folded out in front of its body. The Florida delicacy can cost two times the price of Alaskan snow crab legs. About 2 million pounds of sweet crab meat was harvested last year fueled a $31 million industry.
I love JB’s Seafood in Gulfport, FL. You can order online. Stone Crab season ends May 1.
Florida in winter has always been an amazing place to take a vacation – and while the weather can be variable, it’s usually gorgeous. Christmas in Florida is extra special in Tampa Bay, starting with the boat parade on the Hillsborough River from early December, right throughout the month.
Between December and late February, holidaymakers from around the world come, in essence, for our weather. There’s sunbathing and swimming in freshwater springs that are 72 degrees all year. In fact, once Labor Day is over, savvy travelers book winter breaks to get the perfect vacation rental – because by Thanksgiving availability lessens. For overseas visitors, remember the Snowbirds who visit Florida for the entire winter and who book between May and August. Beginning September 30, night rentals begin, and by late November generally only weekly rentals and short stays are left.
Tampa – a relaxed winter destination
Tampa is easygoing over Xmas – of course there are wonderful events taking place but they are more laid back. This gives vacation rental visitors time to relax and take Christmas in Florida at their own pace. A Florida Yuletide contains wonderful weather, good old-fashioned Christmas cheer and a peaceful vacation.
What to expect?
Busch Gardens is a wonderland of wintery delights, lit with thousands of tiny lights. You’ll also find live music, holiday shopping and seasonal entertainment.
The Henry B Plant Museum hosts a Victorian Christmas stroll every year, comprising fourteen gloriously decorated rooms, antique artefacts, games and activities. Finally, spiced cider and cookies on the veranda make this a delicious sensory experience.
Bok Towers brings the noise with popular seasonal music at Bok Sanctuary where there’s daily carillon music. All concerts are free with Sanctuary admission. We love the Candlelight Tour of Homes in Old Northeast, undoubtedly one of St. Petersburg’s most historic neighborhoods.
December – February Vacation Rental in Florida
Top tips for a perfect vacation rental indoors:
No need to pack your stockings – at Erehwon Retreat we’ll hang them ready for your arrival. If you’re staying in the bungalow, they’ll be over the fireplace mantel. Lucky guests spending Christmas in the bungalow also have an oven, so they won’t need the recipe in tip 4!
Want to cook your own turkey, but staying in the Erehwon Retreat cottage so you don’t have a stove? No worries, we have a recipe for you. Buy a turkey of less 12lb or less, and thaw it thoroughly. Heat some vegetable oil in a Dutch oven or pot big enough to hold it. Fry some onion, carrot and celery just until the onion is translucent and then put the turkey on top of the vegetables. Add around two inches of stock, white wine or water or mixture of all three. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Check every thirty minutes to ensure the liquid level doesn’t drop below an inch, if it does, top it up. After two hours, check with a meat thermometer – the thickest part of the thigh should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Continue to cook for at least another hour, carefully basting the turkey with the liquid every 15 minutes. Remove to a carving board, and cover with tinfoil to relax for 20 minutes before carving. While you wait you can reduce that delicious stock to make gravy!
Top Tips for a perfect Christmas in Florida outdoors:
Take a stroll, because there is something truly special about wandering through Florida’s lush landscapes in winter. Our wonderful overhead canopy of tree growth is a century’s worth of verdant greenery. One fantastic way to start your day is to take a cup of coffee outdoors and enjoy this beautiful scenery.
Remember to pack a range of clothing, some warm socks and a lightweight fleece alongside your shorts and sandals ensures you have everything you need to enjoy every minute of your stay.
If you’ve been sea-shelling, remember many Floridians make their holiday decor unique by showcasing shells from the beach. Why not add yours to a string of lights or use them as decorations on your holiday tree? You’re only limited by your imagination.
Many grocery stores don’t open on Christmas day, meaning you must buy groceries in advance or book a table at one of the many hotels providing festive fare over Christmas. If you’re lucky enough to be spending New Year’s in Tampa, you can enjoy dinner at The Refinery, Rooster and the Till, or Ella’s American Café.
Florida vacations – start yours at Tampa International Airport
For those who think all airports are the same, think again! Tampa International Airport (TIA) has been voted one of the top five layover airports in the world by Huffington Post, because of its simple hub and spoke design, pay per use lounges, free Wi-Fi, 24-hour food options and friendly staff. That’s not the only reason that a Florida vacation that begins at TIA starts well – the airport is committed to providing a great experience for all travelers, today and into the future.
Tampa International Airport – the future of vacation travel
TIA is located at 4100 George J Bean Pkwy, Tampa, FL 33607, USA, a vast airport site that gives the city many imaginative options when planning how to meet the needs of its millions of vacation travelers.
Back in 2011, the airport team began to update the master plan that manages the use of the 3,300-acre site. Three phases of expansion have been planned to accommodate a further 17 million passengers every year, bringing the total vacation rental and holiday trade to over 35 million annually.
What makes the TIA process fascinating is that the airport has chosen a ‘build as required’ approach, so that minimum disruption to current passengers is balanced by the needs of this ever-growing tourist center. So, for example, Tampa International Airport car rental is being made easier by creating a 2.6 million square foot purpose built rental center at the airport entrance, alongside new airport parking.
Historical Tampa – from the air
In 1928 Tampa City built Drew Field, six miles west of downtown Tampa. Beginning in 1938 Drew was a military airfield, used as a training center for 120,000 combat air crews in the European and Pacific theaters. In addition, locally based antisubmarine patrols flew from the field until that duty was taken over by US Navy and Coastguard. Aircraft flying out of Tampa included the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, Douglas C-47 Skytrain, North American AT-6 and North American B-25 Mitchell. Tampa reverted to commercial flights after the war ended becoming a popular destination for travelers from around the world.
Traveling through Tampa International Airport
For those who are fascinated by air travel, there is an excellent master plan to the airport alterations that gives every detail that an airport buff could require. For less enthusiastic visitors, a simple Tampa International Airport map shows why this airport is beloved by the jet-lagged – the wheel shaped layout makes it so easy to find your way around, no matter how long your flight has taken.
Cigar City Brewing, as mentioned in our Top Ten post, Colombia Restaurant – the oldest continually owned restaurant in the hands of the same family – and Goody Goody, a ‘50s themed hamburger restaurant which is a local favorite, can also be found on the airport site.
TIA recently became the first airport in Florida to receive the StormReady designation, certifying that they have met an extensive list of criteria set by the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) in ensuring the airport is prepared and ready to respond quickly to any severe weather heading our way.
Just six miles from downtown Tampa, this international airport has one other great benefit for long-haul passengers – it’s a hop and a skip from the city center and onward travel to vacation rentals like ErehwonRetreat. With five stars for cleanliness, and four stars for seating and queuing times on the Kytra site, Tampa is highly considered as a friendly, clean and swift to navigate airport, great marks, particularly given its international status.
Florida vacations begin here
A record-breaking 60.7 million tourists visited Florida in the first half of 2017 – a 4.1% increase on travelers over the same six months the previous year. The breakdown is 53.2 million domestic visitors, alongside 2.2 million Canadians and 5.3 million other overseas vacation travelers.
Tampa International Airport parking just got easier too … alongside the new parking center, there are three rideshare companies now authorized to pick up fares: Uber, Lyft and Wingz. These three alternatives to the classic airport taxi will help reduce congestion around the airport and give visitors more choice on how to get to their vacation destination outside the airport. Whether you’re flying from within the USA, or traveling long-haul from the other side of the world, there can’t be a better way to start your Florida break than at Tampa International Airport.
On this day—October 15—in 1926, Tampa Theatre opened its doors for the first time. The architect of this national historic landmark, John Eberson, has been quoted saying:
I want my theatres to create the feeling that one wants to come back and enjoy the restfulness of its surroundings.
Back in the day, movie theaters were marvels of gilded opulence, evoking romantic palaces and faraway exotic temples. Over time, many of these landmarks fell into disuse or were demolished. But you can still enjoy a new or classic film on the big screen at Tampa’s historic movie theater.
The Tampa Theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The ornate auditorium, with its Spanish, Italian, Babylonian, and Persian influences, was designed to resemble an airy courtyard with arched balconies and a constellation of twinkling illuminated “stars” in the ceiling.
87 years later, so many of our guests comment that Eberson certainly achieved that.