Looking for family friendly outdoor activities this fall?Check out these things to do in the Tampa Bay area

Autumn is a wonderful time to enjoy outdoor festivities and events in Tampa, St. Petersburg and surrounding communities.

The weather is cooler, the air is drier and the scents of cinnamon, burning fireplaces and baked goods fill the air. There are many things to see and do in the Tampa area during the late fall, including Tampa Bay Lightning hockey and Tampa Bay Buccaneers football games and the numerous trails and parks throughout our community. 

There are also many exciting family-oriented events coming up. Here’s a rundown on fun happenings you can find in late October and November.

35th Annual John’s Pass Seafood & Music Festival
Thursday-Sunday, Oct. 27-30, 2016 
Madeira Beach

The 35th Annual John’s Pass Seafood & Music Festival, a community-wide event celebrated with feasts and fun, could bait 200,000 or more people this year. While breaking the 200,000 mark would make this Madeira Beach community shindig the largest seafood festival in the United States, it’s already the largest seafood fair in Florida. 

Attendance isn’t the only number event promoters are watching. 

“We’re going for the world record largest Bloody Mary toast,” says Suzanne King with SIK Promotions. To help bolster the size of the toast, which is slated to include at least 1,000 celebrants, free Bloody Marys will be offered at the event and former Madeira Beach Vice Mayor Pat Shontz, the 83-year-old who helped found the seafood fest in the early 1980s, will be present at the toast. 

Many folks are sure to come for the free Bloody Marys, but the party’s about the seafood! Several cook-offs include the Chef Showdown, Mobile Chef Showdown, and Junior Chef Showdown -- all of which require participants to incorporate seafood in their culinary creations. Numerous food vendors will offer everything seafood from shrimp to lobster. Guests also will find a wide array of other cuisine suitable for a wide array of appetites. 

Children will also enjoy a new Kids Zone on Madeira Beach that includes multiple activities and a bounce house. 

Meanwhile, nearby Hubbard’s Marina will unveil its new ferry service linking Madeira Beach, Treasure Island and St. Petersburg. While seafarers take to the waters on the new ferry, landlubbers will enjoy live music from more than two dozen bands lined up to the rock the event. 

“We have more pieces than ever this year,” says John’s Pass Seafood Festival President Sonny Flynn. Numbers bear this out. 

“The event has increased from 51,000 attendees in 2014 to 150,000 the next year,” she adds. The festival is also expanding in length from three days in previous years to four starting this year. 

Crowds are expected to swell the small town’s population for several days around the event, so to handle the thousands of visitors, event organizers have lined up more parking lots and partner parking areas, which will charge not more than $5. Free shuttles will take guests to and from parking lots. Water taxis are also available for a nominal charge.  

The event runs from noon to 10 p.m. on Thursday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

SPIFFS 42nd Annual International Folk Fair 
Thursday-Sunday, Oct. 27-30, 2016
Vinoy Park
701 Bay Shore Drive Northeast 
St. Petersburg 

The SPIFFS 42nd Annual International Folk Fair is hosted by the St. Petersburg International Folk Fair Society (SPIFFS) and is celebrating the diversity of the Tampa Bay area community with food, exhibits and entertainment honoring the traditions of dozens of nations. 

“We have about 40 ethnic groups represented and almost all of them will have cultural displays,” says Lotta Baumann, executive director of SPIFFS. 

“There will be two stages with entertainment throughout each day,” she says. The lineup includes Brock McGuire, an Irish Folk group that has played at venues such as the Grand Ole Opry and won multiple awards, including Instrumental Band of the Decade by the Irish American Times in 2011. 

“I hear they’re very popular,” Baumann adds. In addition to Celtic sounds, attendees will enjoy other traditional European music, reggae, African rhythms, Asian performances and Latin American entertainment. There will also be plenty of food vendors to share the exciting flavors of many different nations. 

“It’s a tour around the world of food and culture,” says Baumann. 

This yearly international fair was founded during our nation’s Bicentennial in 1976. 

“The folk festival was so successful, we kept on doing it.” 

The event will also help welcome brand new Americans. On October 29, after a multiethnic parade at 2 p.m., there will be a swearing-in ceremony for new American citizens. 

The event is open only to school students on October 27 and 28 and welcomes the public on October 29 and 30. General admission is $10, with student admission priced at $6. Children 6 years of age and under are admitted free. Hours on student days run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; general admission hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. 

Symphony In Lights & Fireworks Premiere
Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016
Shops at Wiregrass
28211 Paseo Drive 
Wesley Chapel 

It may be only a couple weeks past Halloween, but Christmas will already be in the air at one popular Tampa Bay area mall by mid November. The Shops at Wiregrass will host its Christmas tree lighting on November 12 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. The gala event includes the Symphony in Lights dancing lights, performance choreographed to the music of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Santa’s arrival, and the lighting of a majestic Christmas tree on display in the central courtyard. 

“There’s free entertainment for the entire family,” says Shops at Wiregrass Marketing Director Deborah Detweiler. The event also includes music by Late Night Brass, strolling characters, a balloon artist, and face painting, among other highlights. Shows will be staged on the hour from 6 p.m. through 9 p.m. “Fireworks will follow the 6 p.m. show only,” adds Detweiler. 

While the fireworks, strolling entertainers, performances and fireworks can be seen only on the evening of November 12, the Symphony in Lights Christmas tree and grand promenade will be ongoing from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. from November 12 through December 31. 

Santa, meanwhile, will be vacationing at the mall until December 24, when he returns to the North Pole to make his worldwide trek. On December 27, the mall will also host a Chanukah celebration from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Dillard’s Courtyard.  

Best of the Best Car Show
Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016
Bright House Field 601 Old Coachman Road 

Those who soak in the nostalgic fun at the Best of the Best Car Show at Bright House Field in Clearwater can see hundreds of classic and collectible vehicles all while supporting a great cause. Proceeds from vehicle registrations and donations at the event benefit Mason Dixon’s Christmas Wish Fund, a charity started by Q-105 radio host and longtime Tampa Bay Area personality Mason Dixon. 

“It costs nothing to come and look,” says Dixon. “We do have our tent set up for donations, same with the parking.” The donations help families in need, with many of the recipients often dealing with unexpected medical catastrophes, job losses and other devastating personal events. Families are usually nominated by friends and don’t know they’re receiving the funds until Dixon personally calls the family with the good news. Financial contributions often range from $500 to $1,000 to assist with providing Christmas gifts, dinners, or other expenses that usually come with the holidays -- just at the time when many families are finding it difficult to stretch their dollars. 

In addition to roaming a sea of beautiful classic cars, Best of the Best attendees can enjoy delicious snacks and drinks available from on-site food vendors, a lively trophy ceremony hosted by Mason Dixon himself, and free Q-105 swag. There’s also an exciting raffle with winners receiving prizes such as automobile accessories and free car care services. 

The Best of the Best Car Show runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

Fall Fair at the Shops at Wiregrass
Nov. 16-20, 2016
Shops at Wiregrass
28211 Paseo Drive 
Wesley Chapel 

Those who stop by the Shops at Wiregrass on November 12 to enjoy the lighting of the performances, Christmas tree, Santa’s arrival, and fireworks will want to return to the shopping destination again from November 16 through 20 for the mall’s Fall Fair. The event will include carnival rides, midway games, and traditional fair food. 

Individual ride tickets are $1.25 each, and most rides require three to four tickets per rider. Armbands are $20 per person. 

On the morning of November 19 from 10 a.m. to Noon is the Macy’s Family Day Parade, a holiday-themed extravaganza that includes floats, bands, dance groups, balloon animals, costumed characters, and an appearance by good ol’ Saint Nick.  

The Fall Fair runs from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. from Wednesday to Friday and 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. 

Read more articles by Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez.

 Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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