Episode 20 - A Very Special Christmas Special

The best places to go to see and experience the holidays!


Show Notes

In this episode, we share listener and reader suggestions for all the great things to go and see during the holiday season.  Christmas Light Displays galore!

Transcript at the bottom of this page!

Holiday Events and Things To Do

Straub Park, St Petersburg

Ulysses S Grant

Nearly destitute towards the end of his life, Grant was saved by Mark Twain when he purchased the rights to his memoirs on the condition that Grant gets to keep all of the royalties.


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Great Things Tampa Bay is hosted and produced by Kyle Sasser.

There was no paid advertising in this episode.  All recommendations are given based on personal experiences.



Welcome to “Great Things Tampa Bay,” the podcast about great eats, great places and great people in the greater Tampa Bay area. I’m your host Kyle Sasser, a Tampa Bay native and realtor. This is the great places feed of the “Great Things Tampa Bay” podcast, where you will only hear episodes related to parks, stores, events, shows, and things to do about town. In our main podcast which you’ll find under Great Things Tampa Bay, in addition to these chats about entertainment and events, we also cover great eateries and delicious grub, as well as interviews from the great people, movers and shakers in the area.

You can find our main feed at greatthingstb.com, that’s greatthingstb.com, or you can subscribe to us on iTunes or Google Play just by doing a search for “Great Things Tampa Bay.” Thank you and enjoy.

This is Episode 20 and gonna bring you a little holiday cheer this episode. Basically, I just wanna cover a bunch of the great holiday things to do around the Tampa Bay area. We’re gonna be covering from St. Petersburg all the way over to Plant City, so stay tuned. You will probably find something that you didn’t know about and you can take the folks, the families, or the loved one out there, bring a little holiday cheer in your life. I did actually put this question out to the public, so all of these things were recommended by either listeners, or people in the Facebook group, or on the Tampa or St. Petersburg subreddits, so I would like to thank all of you all for your submissions.

I definitely couldn’t have done this episode without you. There’s just way too much stuff out there to know about. So without further ado, I figure we’ll start in my current hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida. Just wanna start off with the Illuminated Bike Parade, which caught us out on the way downtown yesterday. We were sitting there waiting for 10 minutes, while this massive procession of bikes just continue to go past us. They had lights on the handlebars, and, you know, in the wheels, those were the cool ones.

I didn’t see any of the big, old, like 1920s bikes that stand, like, 10 feet tall off the ground, but, you know, maybe next year. Maybe next year. So, yes, it’s the Illuminated Bike Parade. That was kinda new, but as I saw yesterday, it’s very popular. The Illuminated Boat Parade, which is also over here in St. Petersburg had a lot of recommendations. The Jingle Bell Run, people really like that one as well. There’s also a Santa Parade and lots of botanical gardens and things like that that set up Christmas light displays.

MetLamb13, he loves the Florida Botanical Gardens up off of Walsigham up in Largo. Had quite a few recommendations for that one. I see that one’s supposed to be beautiful. Personally, I’ve never been up there to see it, but I did hear from a few people saying that it was a pretty good thing to go check out. Very cool.

[Inaudible 00:03:15], another Reddit user, he likes to go to the Christmas tree lighting in downtown St. Petersburg with his family. He says that it’s a little hokey. There’s a school kids who sing horribly on the stage, and, you know, the old mayor gets up there and makes a speech. But for him that really rings in Christmas season for him. He also says that the American Stage does a great…It’s a wonderful live radio play. American Stage is kind of a local theater troupe. They have a space downtown St. Petersburg here across from the bus stop where the old bus depot used to be.

Also another user, they love walking around Largo Central Park. Says they have crazy good light displays. Also leads into the lights of Lake Park States, which, yes, I had multiple people tell me about that. It’s also featured in the newspaper. Apparently, a sight to behold, so Abbie and I are definitely gonna be making it up there to check that out this year. Christmasdisplay.org, it goes by quite a few names. If you’ve dined at any of the local spots over here in St. Petersburg, you might have seen this little flyer. I’m gonna loop around onto that one a little bit later, but it’s pretty bananas.

That kind of covers Pinellas County stuff. Moving over to Tampa. [Inaudible 00:04:26] Mall has a pretty big display, a synchronized light show that a user on the Tama subreddit likes to go to. He likes get a drink from the Starbucks there, and people watch with the families, wait for the show to start, and then, you know, grab some food from Noble Crust. Always a good time. I’m definitely a fan of Noble Crust. Tampa Theater is also currently closed for restoration, but they are doing free holiday movies in Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa. So maybe cool just to, kind of, hang out there and, you know, catch a holiday movie.

Me, personally, over in Tampa I know when I was a kid, I’m not sure if they still do this, but on Swinger Road there at U.S. 19 and a [inaudible 00:05:06] kind of between Mackintosh and Bransford Road, they used to have a pretty big light display. I’m not sure if they do that still, you know, so please don’t make the drive out there solely on my word. And also, I’m gonna be putting all of this in the show notes, so don’t fret. You know, if you wanna link for any of these or just, kind of, a reminder, just go to the website, www.greatthingstb.com, episode 20. We will have all of the links.

The Christmas display down in Driftwood over here, it’s kinda St. Petersburg, but a little bit south of St. Pete. So this place has been featured on “HTTV,” the “Today Show.” “Today Show” actually named it as one of the top three Christmas lights displays in the U.S.A., and this is all from their website too, by the way. They’ve been featured on basically every, you know, TV channel here in the area, all sorts of magazines. And the “St. Pete Times” described it as, “A mega display. Look. Be amazed. Defies belief and description.”

So I haven’t actually seen this during the holidays, but real estate, I’m kinda all over the place and I have been by this place during the day. And, you know, you kinda look at it and you’re like… ou know, “Somebody there really likes Christmas.” But I’ve only seen a YouTube video. We’re actually gonna head down there here this week to check out the actual display when it’s all lit. I did watch a YouTube video and it’s bananas. They do have a few statistics here. The tallest Christmas tree array is 70 feet. There are four giant Christmas trees on the roof of the house. Total number of lights, including fiber optics are over 609,000. Over 700 moving and animated objects.

They have something ridiculous, like 18 trains, so to see this thing…And it has like its own section. Watching the YouTube, it had like, you know, the stuffed animal section and then like, you know, like, the 18 trains running around. Looks absolutely bonkers. The address for this place is 2709 Oakdale Street South, in St. Petersburg, Florida. Website is christmasdisplay.org. Go there, take a look. Yeah, I feel like this is definitely something that needs to be seen in person to believe. Check out the YouTube video that we will post on our shownotes. It’s bananas.

Continuing on here and wrapping up, now that christmasdisplay.org, which is on Oakdale South, St. Petersburg, I’ve also seen it listed as the Kresge Mega Light Display, I believe. “Tampa Bay Times” has it at over 10 trailer truck loads of lights. Might wanna put that one on your GPS and head down there. So they’re open the day after Thanksgiving through Tuesday, January 3rd, 2018 between 6:00 and 10:00 p.m.

Also, the Bella Garden Lane light show, which is out in Plant City, so a feel about that direction. And if you’re not aware, this features more than 35,000 lights and, you know, synchronized music and all this good stuff. Good times, so that’s 3212 Bella Garden Lane. And they have some lights from the old Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, and they also have some decorations previously used at Disney World. And again, that’s at 3212 Bella Garden Lane. It begins at sundown December 31st according to this.

And the next one is the Wilderness Wonderland, which is up in the Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park, so that’s up north in New Port Richey out there. And that’s one where you drive through and you tune the radio there, listen to some music, drive through, look at the lights, lots of good times. If there is something here that I have missed, please let me know because I’m pretty much gonna do one of these every year.

So if you have someplace that you go every Christmas or some event that you go to, you know, maybe it’s ice skating. I know St. Pete, here they put the fake ice skating rink downtown so you can go out there and skate. They also do, you know, one for the kids where the put the snow slide up and, you know, kids can slide down. If there’s something like that that you do and you do it every year and it just kinda rings the holiday in for you, please drop me a note on the website, greatthingstb.com, and I would love to feature that next year on the 2018 Christmas Special.

Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant was nearly broke and he was in very ill health, and he was worried about leaving his wife, you know, with not enough to live on. So what he did, he wrote a memoir and, unfortunately, the only contracts he could get were only offering a 10% royalty. But luckily, S. Grant’s friend, one Mark Twain, knew how bad Grant’s financial situation was and made him an offer for his memoirs which paid an unheard of 75% royalty. And this very generous offer from Mark Twain allowed Ulysses S. Grant’s family to continue on being provided for and all that good stuff. So hats off Mark Twain. You were a pretty cool dude over all.

So I wanna thank you for sharing “Great Things Tampa Bay” with your friends and family. You can share us by going to our website, greatthingstb.com. There you’ll find a share button on nearly every page you share us on Twitter, Facebook, all that good stuff. If you’re looking for your own great place in Tampa Bay, I am also a licensed realtor specializing in deep knowledge of Hillsborough and Pinellas County. So if you wanna talk real estate, you can give me a call at 727-300-2111, or you can send me an email at kyle@sassergroup.com, that’s kyle@sassergroup.com, and I’d be more than happy to help you find your next home here in Tampa Bay.

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