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Guide For Thanksgiving Weekend Visitors To Tampa Bay

Above all, Thanksgiving represents a time to spend with family and give thanks for everything we've gained and learned over the last year. Many people travel far and wide to be reunited with their loved ones who live here. For locals in Tampa Bay, we're lucky enough to live in a place that feels like an endless vacation, with our famous beaches, emblematic palm trees and relatively warm weather year round. Perhaps because we're used to the sunshine, we don't appreciate it as much as an outsider would. For the family members who traversed the US to join us, a weekend in Florida only comes once a year, if that. Here we've gathered five great ideas to take advantage of your time in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and the surrounding area during Thanksgiving weekend 2013.

Christmas Town
Busch Gardens Tampa
10165 N. Malcolm McKinley Drive
Tampa, FL 33612
(888) 800-5447

Tampa's most famous theme park continues its tradition of decking the halls during the holiday season with a touch from the North Pole. This will be perhaps the only occasion where you can find giraffes, lions, tigers, zebras and snow -- the park boasts "three times more snow" this year than in years past -- all in one place. Admission at the gate will cost adults $60 and children ages three to nine $20, but you can save between $10 and $20 dollars off each price by buying your tickets in advance, depending on when you plan to visit and if it falls within the "peak price" dates. For an additional fee ($22 for adults, $16 for children ages three to nine and free for children under three, reservations required), Mrs. Claus will welcome families to Santa's house between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. for a festive family feast. A fun-loving set of elves will share stories, songs and surprises for all ages. This year, the Christmas Town celebration starts the day after Thanksgiving, November 29, and will last through December 23, 2013. The park remains open until 11 p.m. during these days, so you can really maximize your time there.

Arabian Horse Association Thanksgiving Show
Florida State Fairgrounds
4800 U.S. Highway 301
Tampa, FL 33610
(813) 621-7821

Passionate about horses? Then you're in luck! Here you can find perhaps the largest collection of the much adored Arabian variety in Florida at the Arabian Horse Association's 43rd annual show, from November 27 through the 30th. The AHA was originally founded back in the early 1950s by a group of Arabian horse fanatics who sought to promote this type of horse in the state. With over 400 AHA members in Florida and just as many entries in the show last year, there's no doubt there will be plenty to see. Exhibitors come from all over the Southeast, in addition to far away places such as Ohio and Michigan. There will be competitions between horse owners to determine the best groomed, most well behaved and most physically fit horse among the lot. If riding, or even just seeing horses, happens to interest you, don't miss AHA's Tampa show.

Related: Best Activities To Do With Dad In Tampa Bay

Enchanted Tree Lighting & Holiday Street Party
Saturday, Nov 23 From 5 - 10 PM
Hyde Park Village
1602 W Snow Cir.
Tampa, FL 33606
(813) 251-3500 |

Celebrate the beginning of the holiday season at the Enchanted Tree Lighting Ceremony & Holiday Street Party at Hyde Park Village on Saturday, November 23 from 5 to 9 PM. The fun begins with Santa's Arrival at 7:50 PM followed by the 8 PM lighting of the 30-foot Christmas tree and even a musical light show programmed to favorite holiday classics. The little ones can visit with Santa in his Cottage from 5 to 7:30 PM & 8:30 to 9 PM.  Professional photos will be available for purchase.

Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot
Tampa Bay Times
490 First Ave. S.
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 562-4700

After eating such a copious meal, perhaps you'll just want to relax. Or, perhaps you'll feel the need to start burning off those calories. This idea is destined for the latter group. The popular Turkey Trot race, hosted by the Tampa Bay Times, returns once again this year for a morning-long celebration of good health. Composed of four separate races, each one begins at Keene Road close to Gulf to Bay Boulevard (with the exception of the 5k Fun Run), and finish around Clearwater High School's Jack White Stadium. Entry fees vary but are not too expensive, at about $20 each, with slight reductions if you register online in advance. Proceeds from the Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot will go to support a variety of local charities, including the West Florida Y Runners Club Scholarship Programs. In addition, race organizers will collect perishables and cans to benefit the Food Pantry Program at Religious Community Services, Inc. Events will run all week long, with an evening celebration and free food to kick off the races on Wednesday. The race itself is on Thanksgiving day.

Tampa ThanksVegan Feast
Unitarian Universalist Church of Tampa
11400 Morris Bridge Road
Tampa, FL 33637
(727) 656-8368

While most people usually think of turkey when it comes to Thanksgiving, the organization Florida Voices for Animals seeks to change that perception with its annual tradition, the Tampa ThanksVegan Feast. Now in its 8th year, the celebration takes place on Thanksgiving Day, which will be Thursday, November 28 this year. From 1:30 p.m. to 2 pm, people will gather to socialize, and then the real fun began at 2 p.m. and lasts until 5:30 pm, with a massive potluck dinner. Admission is $6 per adult if they bring a vegan dish (to feed at least six people, or 12 per couple), or $16 without a dish to share. On the other hand, children, students (with a student ID) and seniors are asked simply to make a donation. The group only accepts cash or checks, no credit cards, and you can save $1 off each price if you come with your own plate, silverware and cup from home. Also, for those who have never tried vegan food, the FVA wants to clarify that "vegan = no animal products, no eggs, no dairy, no honey," and asks of those who bring food include a serving utensil and a list of ingredients or recipe. FVA is also looking for volunteers to help with setup and food preparations.

Kanye West Concert - The Yeezus Tour
Tampa Bay Times Forum
401 Channelside Drive
Tampa, FL 33602
(813) 301-6500

Love him or hate him (and his music), there's no denying the influential role Kanye West has played on rap and pop music over the past decade. This fall, he announced he would begin his first solo tour in five years, the Yeezus Tour. Accompanied by the much buzzed-about Kendrick Lamar as the opening act for most dates, Tampa is an exception to this rule, for which Kanye plans to announce other special guests. The Tampa Bay Lightning normally call the Times Forum home, which recently received some $40 million of improvements, including a substantial upgrade of its lighting system. The new installation called Tesla Coils promises to mimic actual lightning, which should add a special touch to Kanye's appearance in Tampa. The concert is November 30, 2013.

Related: Best Autumn Desserts In Tampa Bay

Aaron Phillips has experience in marketing and journalism. Recently back to his hometown, he's excited to discover and share what Tampa has to offer. His work can be found at

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