Holiday-themed events dot the East Hillsborough landscape

East Hillsborough residents will have three holiday-themed events to help brighten the season this year.

Christmas Lane, the long-time holiday celebration that started on an area farm, launches another season of festivities at its current spot, the Florida Strawberry Festival grounds at 2508 W Oak Ave. in Plant City. It starts Friday (Nov. 24) and runs through Christmas Eve.

Meanwhile, the Wonderland of Lights opens Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 23) at the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds, 215 Sydney Washer Road in Dover. The drive-through holiday lights experience, coupled with Santa’s Village, runs through Dec. 30.

Down in Riverview, the Big Red Barn at 10070 Fern Hill Drive, off of Gibsonton Drive, is offering a special Snow Village and Winter Wonderland replete with snow from Friday (Nov. 24) through Dec. 31.

Here’s more information on each:

Christmas Lane

The 33-year-old Christmas Lane traces its roots back to founder Lane Wetherington, who fulfilled a passion for Christmas lights by decorating his farm home and eventually expanding the seasonal display into a full-fledged family event with entertainment, small rides and chances to meet with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Now it has grown to include a variety of activities at its new home at the Strawberry Festival grounds, including displays, exciting carnival rides, an expanded menu, nightly musical performances and twice weekly Living Nativities by area churches.

First Baptist Church of Plant City presents the first of nine Living Nativities on Saturday (Nov. 25) and the service will be presented in Spanish. Subsequent Nativities will be presented every Thursday and Saturday through Dec. 23.

Organizers say it takes between 1,800 and 2,000 hours to set up the estimated 1.5 million lights adorning more than 200 Christmas Trees.

“Christmas Lane is not just a destination, it’s an experience,” Plant City mayor Rick Lott said. “You can feel how much heart the family of Christmas Lane has poured into this event and it gets better each year.”

Christmas Lane is open from 6-10 p.m. through the holidays. Tickets are $5 for adults. Children ages 4 to 12 are $3. Children 3 and under receive free entry. Free admission will also be available on Thursdays for current and former members of the military. Our Community Night will offer free admission to Teachers, First Responders and Law Enforcement on Fridays.

For more information, visit

Wonderland of Lights

This event, a presentation of North Pole Production in partnership with the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce, returns for a second season at the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds after drawing an estimated 40,000 visitors in 2016.

North Pole Productions founder/owner Tammy Peters said her team has added 25,000 new LED lights this year and enhanced Santa’s Village with more games, crafters, concessions and a new Santa.

There also will be a first-ever giant coloring mural meant to entertain kiddos while they wait their turns to go for a short jaunt on the North Pole express train, in a horse-drawn wagon, a pony and/or on Rudy, the white camel.

“It’s a great event to put folks in the holiday spirit and it’s also in an easily accessible location for people from all over the Tampa Bay community,” said Brandon Chamber chairman Tad Denham.

The presentation will run from 6-9 p.m. weekdays and 6-10 p.m. on the weekends. The exception will be during the weeks of Nov. 27 – Dec. 12, when there will be no Monday or Tuesday shows.

Prices are $20 per carload with up to eight passengers, $25 for limos and vans seating nine to 24 people, and $75 for motor coaches holding 25 to 50 eventgoers. A season’s pass entitling patrons in cars and vans to return as many times as they wish are priced at $35.

Tickets may be purchased in advance at or For more information call the chamber office at (813) 689-1221.

Red Barn Snow Village

The Big Red Barn, indoor, air-conditioned farmer’s market, has transformed its back property into a snow village, complete with tubing, sledding, snow man building, and snow showers every hour. It’ll also offer a festival of lights trail.

Tickets are limited and are on sale now. Tickets are for three hour increments so that families can enjoy all the activities. Tickets purchases through Friday (Nov. 24) are $17 for children and $20 for adults. On-site, same day tickets are $25 for children and $28 for adults, and including entry to both the holiday village and the trail of lights.

For more information, visit

Times staff writer Ernest Hooper contributed to this story. Contact Joyce McKenzie at

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