November 27, 2013
Visit Where the Holiday Spirit Shines Brightest: Light Shows
By Ali Renckens
Nights of Shimmering Lights
For the third consecutive year, Nights of Shimmering Lights will illuminate the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds, located at 215 Sydney Washer Rd., in Dover (by S.R. 60). Nights of Shimmering Lights features a leisurely 35-40 minute drive through a fantasyland of dazzling lights. New themes, such as the Storybook, Rays vs. Sox baseball areas and other surprises have been added to this spectacular display, so even regular attendees will find it new and exciting. The event features 11 themed areas and over 1,000 lighted frames, arches, trees and decorations.
After admiring the light display, stop in the Holiday Village to take a picture with Santa, browse the arts-and-crafts vendors, watch the animated tree show, ride the Light Express and settle down for a Christmas movie with popcorn and hot chocolate from the food court. Guests can also share the spirit of the season by leaving a donation for Toys for Tots. This event is open through Sunday, December 29 from 6-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 6-10 p.m. Friday – Saturday. A carload is $15 weekdays and $20 weekends.
This well-loved spot on Wooten Rd., just off of Dover Rd., (two miles north of S.R. 60) has become a popular holiday tradition. Guests can stroll through a magical Christmas town with a cup of hot chocolate and popcorn and listen to musical entertainment, while children take a train ride and visit Santa. Though unconfirmed, Christmas Lane is expected to open through the month of December.
Since 2006, the DeBrocke family has created a magnificent presentation of Christmas lights, synchronized with seasonal songs and upbeat tunes, broadcasted on 101.1 FM. Throughout the month of December, be sure to visit their radiant home, located at 11720 Stonewood Gate Dr. in Riverview. However, visitors are requested to respect the neighbors’ property, not to walk into the yard (for safety reasons) and leave room on the road for cars to pass through. For more information, visit www.debrockelights.com.
In the spirit of Christmas, this neighborhood opens its gates to exhibit 51 homes decorated with dazzling light displays and comical Christmas characters. Though dates have not been decided, visitors can typically wander through this glittering wonderland off of Lumsden Rd. between John Moore and Bryan Rd. in Brandon starting at 6 p.m. each night.
Symphony Isles in Apollo Beach
Luminaries glow softly in the cool night against a backdrop of homes clad in Christmas cheer. Outside the clubhouse by the road, Santa and Mrs. Claus wait to receive children. “It’s lovely,” said Mary Luce, a devoted participant. “It’s not a grand show, it’s just down-home fun.” This is open for visitors on Sunday, December 15 from 6-8 p.m.
Oakdale Christmas Light Display
Located at 2719 Oakdale St. in St. Petersburg, the half-acre Oakdale Christmas House is worth the drive. It is among the largest and longest running displays in the country complete with carnival rides and a zoo. Admission is free and it is open Friday, November 29 through Friday, January 3 nightly from 6-10 p.m.Visit christ masdisplay.org for more information.
Florida Botanical Gardens Holiday Lights
In addition to the stunning variety of flowers and wildlife that thrive year-round at the Florida Botanical Gardens, through Wednesday, January 1, visitors can be dazzled by a magnificent display of Christmas lights. After wandering through the glittering display, guests can visit Santa Claus or enjoy family-friendly entertainment. Children 12 and under are free; 13 and older are requested to give a $2 donation. Florida Botanical Gardens is located at 12520 Ulmerton Rd. in Largo.