Whether you’re snuggling at home (hey, the overnight lows might be in the 50s!) or roaming about town, here are some suggestions for a happy holiday weekend.
10 Things to do During Christmas Weekend in Florida
1. JACOB MARLEY’S CHRISTMAS CAROL at AMERICAN STAGE
The familiar Scrooge saga of greed and redemption as viewed through the prism of the colleague he wronged, Jacob Marley. The setup is a bit long as Marley is made to contemplate the hellish fate that awaits him for his own wrongdoings, but the payoff is funny and poignant, the ‘80s punk-inflected staging rocks hard, and the four-member cast is astonishingly versatile. Performances this weekend Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday (Christmas Eve) at 2 and 7 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Continues through Jan. 2, americanstage.org.
2. HOLIDAY CLASSICS at TAMPA THEATRE
If it’s not Christmas in your world without at least one viewing of Jimmy Stewart shouting “Hello, Bedford Falls!” or of Will Ferrell shouting “Santa! I know him!”, then Tampa Theatre has you covered with one more screening tonight, Thursday Dec. 23, at 7:30 p.m. of It’s a Wonderful Life, and a screening on Sun., Dec. 26, at 3 p.m. of Elf. tampatheatre.org.
3. WINTER VILLAGE TAMPA
Skate, sip, shop, stroll — whatever your winter pleasure, you can enjoy it at downtown Tampa’s bustling holiday attraction in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. Extended and holiday hours from 11 a.m.-11 p.m., including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Reserve ice skating tickets online in advance at wintervillagetampa.com.
4. WINTER BEACH ST. PETE
This is the inaugural year for Christmas-time festivities at the St. Pete Pier, and the lures include a 4,000-sq-ft skating rink with real ice, a holiday market, food, and a special Christmas Eve concert presented by Cavalry Church in the Family Park from 6-7:30 p.m. The ice rink’s extended holiday hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. through Dec. 30; buy tickets online at winterbeachstpete.com.
5. JONATHAN ANTOINE’S CHRISTMASLAND LIVE! at THE MAHAFFEY
The young tenor whose big, mellifluous voice won him fame on Britain’s Got Talent and led to a chart-topping solo career sings holiday favorites from his Christmasland album. Thurs. Dec. 23, 7:30 p.m., themahaffey.com.
6. MOVIES at the MULTIPLEX (or in YOUR LIVING ROOM)
It’s the most wonderful time of the year — for movies. This is when the Oscar contenders and the blockbusters (not to mention the Ghostbusters) are trotted out and the movie theaters hope you will trot out, too, to see The Matrix: Resurrections, Sing 2, Encanto, West Side Story, Ghostbusters: Afterlife and the already-a-monster-hit Spider-Man: No Way Home, all of which are in theaters this weekend. If you’d rather munch your popcorn at home, many of the films landing on this year’s 10-best lists are streaming, including The Power of the Dog with Benedict Cumberbatch and the exquisitely acted and photographed Passing on Netflix; The Green Knight, Spencer and Dune on Amazon Prime; King Richard with Will Smith on HBO Max; and top documentaries Summer of Soul and The First Wave on Hulu.
7. HOLIDAY LIGHTS in the GARDENS
Ya like holiday lights? How about a million of ‘em? They’ll all be ablaze this weekend at the Florida Botanical Gardens, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, from 5:30-9:30 p.m., and will continue to be on view through Jan. 2. Go to flbgfoundation.org/holidaylights for info on the four entrances to the event and a link to the Holiday Lights Map 2021. Musical guests, too, including saxman and clarinetist Frank Bowman on Christmas Eve. Admission is a suggested donation of $10 per person, over the age of 13. Credit cards and cash are accepted at the entrance gates, no pre-registration necessary. 12520 Ulmerton Rd., Largo.
8. CHRISTMAS EVE at UU ST. PETE
Many churches across the bay area do Christmas Eve services, often at 11 a.m. or midnight. The Unitarian Universalist Church on Mirror Lake in downtown St. Petersburg is holding theirs earlier in the evening, led by the church’s ebullient Rev. Ben Atherton-Zeman, with music overseen by One City Chorus founder Jon Arterton and his husband, James Mack. The public is invited to the indoor worship service at 5 p.m., followed by carols on the front lawn alongside those who are there to receive food from the Friday Celebrate Outreach food distribution. Masks requested indoors and outdoors. The event will be livestreamed. 100 Mirror Lake Drive N., St. Petersburg.
9. LAST-MINUTE SMALL-BIZ SHOPPING
If you’ve left your shopping till the last minute, and for some of us that’s half the fun, the wiser alternative to braving the mall is a visit to a unique boutique, where the gifts won’t be like anything you’ll find anywhere else and the welcome will be warm and personal. Along those lines, I highly recommend a stop at two of St. Pete’s best small shops, Neat Neat Neat in Historic Uptown (in the same block as the MIZE Gallery and Uptown Eats) and ZaZoo’d on the 500 block of Central. It’s just plain fun to shop at either of these spots, and the gift ideas range from zany to beautiful to “Wow, I never knew that existed but now I have to have one!” Neat Neat Neat: 689 Dr. MLK Jr St. N, St. Petersburg; ZaZoo’d: 531 Central Ave., St. Petersburg.
10. DAY-AFTER-CHRISTMAS SALES
If the Christmas rush wasn’t stressful enough for you, may we recommend bargain-hunting the day after — especially for holiday-related goods. Here are some tips from my smart-shopping colleagues at RTB. Audrey CampBell, office manager: “Most big-name retailers do 30% off on seasonal food items and 50% on holiday merchandise.” Molly duPont Schaffer, sales manager/community relations: “My first stop will be online for MacKenzie-Childs ornaments. Both on their site and Neiman Marcus. Then I will hit Target and Costco and perhaps even Michael’s to buy holiday decor at reduced prices. After that I will look at smaller, more boutique stores that are discounting gifts so I can refill my present closet! I do wonder what happens to all the liquor that is holiday-themed — might need to buy that, too!”