You feel it as soon as you step inside the entrance of lighted twin towers – a holiday spirit in the air, a tangible warmth imbuing children with laughter and parents with nodding smiles.
In its 29th year, Winter Wonderland in downtown Clearwater is an alpine village decorated with tens of thousands of twinkling lights with lots of family activities. Plenty of parking is available in adjacent parking lots to the north, south and east of this scenic site.
Winter Wonderland is a two to three-week long charity drive in downtown Clearwater whose proceeds benefit the children of Pinellas County.
The complete Christmas village contains an entertainment stage,
photos with Santa,
cookie decorating with Mrs. Claus,
a hot chocolate shop,
and Holiday Express Train.
Entrance to Winter Wonderland is free but visitors are asked to bring a non-perishable food item and/or an unwrapped toy. The toys and canned goods are donated to local area charities, such as the Homeless Emergency Project sponsored by Everybody’s Tabernacle.
Many activities at Winter Wonderland are also free: stage performances presenting musicals,
fake snow to frolic in,
and cookie decorating.
Children can also sit on Santa Claus’s lap for free and parents are welcome to take their own photos or purchase them.
Other activities cost a small fee. Priced activities include a train,
Another cottage will sell refreshments such as hot dogs, drinks and snacks.
Games with prizes of free toys will also be available.
This year, due to COVID concerns, there will not be a playground, giant slide or petting zoo.
Winter Wonderland is open from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays. The Grand Opening will be held on Saturday, December 3rd, and Closing Night on Friday, December 23rd. Winter Wonderland is closed for the first two weeks on Monday and Tuesday but open every day on the third week.
Construction of the village begins each year in early November and takes five weeks to put together.
One hundred pine trees are brought in, set in buckets of sand, covered with chicken wire and covered with white felt to emulate snow, then decorated with strings of white lights. Lighted alpine cottages are erected
and a large pile of wrapped presents surround a towering Christmas tree.
People from all over the world have visited Winter Wonderland, gazing in awe at the thousands of lights that adorn the real pine trees and enjoying the wonderful entertainment that is on the stage all the time that Winter Wonderland is open.
The event is put on by the Clearwater Community Volunteers (CCV), established in 1993 by members of the Church of Scientology, and which has grown over the years to include members of all faiths to raise funds to help children and families in need within the community. Each year volunteers across Pinellas come together in an effort that contributes thousands of hours.
Be sure to come out and enjoy beautiful sights, and be happy at night, as you walk in a Winter Wonderland!
201 N Fort Harrison Ave, Clearwater, FL 33755
Feature photo courtesy of Winter Wonderland