Tampa Festival of the Lights Returns to Hillsborough County

Meghan Reyes, Features Editor

 The Hillsborough County Fairgrounds invites guests to experience their all-new family holiday light spectacular. The Tampa Bay Festival of Lights opened Thursday, Nov. 25, and will run till Sunday, Dec. 26. Tampa Bay’s Festival of the Lights will transport guests into a beautiful winter wonderland with custom light displays and an enchanting Santa’s Village.

   “We hired Brandano Displays, Inc., nationally-known for community displays, as the lighting designer for the event.” Lisa Taylor, Festival of the Lights media contact, says, “The company uses LED technology to create bright and contemporary displays.”

   This year’s 2-mile drive will host a continuous trail of Christmas light displays with nearly one million lights. Designed to appeal to all ages and backgrounds, the elaborate light displays themed to Florida and traditional winter holidays are complemented by individual presentations representing Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. From hilarious elves wrestling alligators to a giant gingerbread house with candy and cakes to a beautiful Feliz Navidad presentation, each area flows seamlessly along the driving route,and there is sure to be an area of the trail to pique everyone’s excitement. In addition, guests are encouraged to tune their radios to Mix 100.7, Tampa Bay’s Christmas Station, and the Festival of Lights and Santa’s Village’s official radio station to fully immerse themselves in the holiday spirit during their drive-thru of the Festival of Lights. 

   “Santa’s Village is a festive walking experience where guests can enjoy treats, holiday movies & shorts, crafts, Santa’s critters and, of course, pictures with Santa,” Taylor says.

   Santa’s Village marks the trail’s end, where guests can take a festive stroll and experience activities and treats to tempt the young and young-at-heart. In Santa’s Village, guests can visit and take pictures with Santa on Santa’s Porch. Santa’s Interactive Barnyard and Camel Pen will allow guests to pet and feed Santa’s animals as well as go for a camel ride. Holiday movies, shorts, goodies and treats will be available along Main Street and Town Square. In addition, the Holiday Plaza will be filled with picnic tables and a fire pit to gather around and bask in the holiday cheer.

   The Hillsborough County Fairgrounds will also offer a few unique opportunities for guests during the Festival of the Lights. Wednesday, Dec. 15, will mark this year’s Hero’s Night. Members of the Military and First Responders and their families will get exclusive access to Tampa Bay’s Festival of Lights and Santa’s Village throughout the night. They will receive $10 off each ticket for that night with valid identification. Additionally, members of the Military and First Responders will receive $5 off tickets for any night of the event. 

   “We will be following the recommended protocol from the Florida Department of Health and the CDC,” Taylor says.

   The Festival of the Lights anticipates anywhere from 300 to 500 cars per night of the event. Guests must stay in their cars during the drive-thru experience but can walk around Santa’s Village. Masks and Face Coverings or proof of vaccine will not be required for admission to the event. Hand sanitizer Stations will be placed throughout the grounds and maintained regularly. Frequent handwashing is essential and is the responsibility of all employees, guests and volunteers. The Festival of the Lights and Santa’s Village will communicate reminders of the importance of washing hands and the use of hand sanitizer stations. Hand sanitizer used will be alcohol-based and will be on industry standards. For the safety of everyone, outside food and beverages are not permitted. Food, beverages and toys will be available to purchase from all vendors available.

 Tickets to Tampa Bay’s Festival of the Lights are available for purchase now and cost $25 per car for up to eight people. Tickets are only valid for one admission. Visit https://hillsboroughcountyfair.com/  for more information or to buy tickets.