Story Contributed by the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & the Beaches Visitors & Conventions Bureau
It may not snow in St. Augustine, but the Nation’s Oldest City is a winter wonderland during the holiday season. The 25th Annual Nights of Lights celebration begins November 17 and continues through February 3, 2019.
During Nights of Lights, the city’s historic district is lit by more than 3 million white lights from the ground to the rooftops. Historic buildings, museums, local businesses, the Bridge of Lions, the city’s bayfront walkway, hotels, bed & breakfasts and private residences all take part in the sparkly tradition.
The festival starts with a countdown November 17 at 6:30 p.m., when the lights are officially lit from the Plaza de la Constitucion. Holiday music and the lighting of the city’s Christmas tree add to the splendor of one of the world’s greatest holiday light displays.
Tracing its origins to the Spanish tradition of displaying a white candle in the window during the Christmas holidays, the spectacular lighting display reflects the city’s 450 plus year history and illuminates the beautiful ancient city.
Visiting St. Augustine during Nights of Lights has become a holiday tradition for locals and visitors alike. Tens of thousands of people take in the city-wide holiday display each year. National Geographic has even listed it as one of the 10 best holiday lighting displays in the world.
The best way to enjoy Nights of Lights is to park in the Historic Parking Facility located off Castillo Drive and enjoy the sights in one of many different ways – on foot, by bicycle or pedicab, on the Old Town Trolley’s Famous Nights of Lights Tour, aboard Ripley’s Red Train or by horse and carriage.
Many local attractions offer special Nights of Lights tours. See the remarkable display from the water with tours aboard the Schooner Freedom, the Osprey or with St. Augustine Eco Tours. Grab your friends and take an after-dark wine and carriage ride with Tasting Tours. Take a walk with the guides from Tour Saint Augustine through the brick-lined streets and learn more about history along the way.
Don’t miss Luminary Night at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum on December 5, a special event at one of the most popular landmarks aglow with white lights, and Villa Zorayda’s candlelight tours are high on visitors’ must-see lists. The Holiday Tour of Homes and the Tour of Bed and Breakfast Inns also attract hundreds of merrymakers.
St. Augustine and Palm Valley have a holiday boat parades. Sailboats, shrimp trawlers, schooners and private vessels large and small decorated with lights and other holiday décor float past a sea of onlookers that line the bayfront and bridge after dark. This year’s regatta is December 8.