Where to Find Christmas Lights Spectaculars

Where to Find Christmas Lights Spectaculars

By Kai Rambow


Nights of Lights in St. Augustine

From mid-November to the end of January, St. Augustine celebrates its heritage and Christmas.  It started with white candles being lit; today over three million white lights continue a 250-year-old tradition.

A huge part of the historic district is bathed in white lights.  An enjoyable way to catch most of it is by taking the Holly Jolly Holiday Trolley (Old Town Trolley) special lights tours. Be sure to get your “magic” glasses for a special lights bonus. They play Christmas favorites and plenty of people sing along. At the end, there is hot cider waiting.

To absorb the whole experience more, take your time after the trolley ride and walk around.  If you walk from the water, inland along Cathedral Place, then bear slightly left to reach the Lightner Museum you’ll catch some of the most impressive lighting displays.

Update:  St. Augustine did get hit by Hurricane Matthew, however, the city managed to get cleaned up within a few days.


Christmas in Mount Dora

Magical in its own way, the Christmas lights celebration in Mount Dora has over two million lights and plenty of color.  Like St. Augustine, there are lights everywhere, however, the two key spots are the lights at the Marina (past the Lakeview Inn) and Donnelly Park.

The lights at the Marina extend some distance, so don’t assume you’re looking at everything. The lights at Donnelly Park are a part of downtown Mt. Dora, so they are easy to access.  Be sure to walk all the way around the park.

Monday to Thursday (and avoiding Christmas holidays) will be your best time to avoid crowds and just enjoy the lights. The lights here are usually displayed from the end of November to the beginning of January. Details for visiting Mt. Dora were outlined in the October issue, which can be accessed online at “www.newsofsuncitycenter.com”. Just scroll down and search “Mount Dora”.


Christmas in the Park – Winter Park

This unique event is only held one night every year. It is so special, really good planning is required.  Street sections are blocked and there is plenty of traffic.  If you’re not there by early afternoon, you may miss out.

The Morse Museum sets out nine century-old Tiffany windows in the park.  Each Christmas themed window is lit and each has a docent to explain unique aspects.  This is the only time one can see the windows; they are stored the rest of the year.  This is a rich, visual feast and worth the trip.


Tips for a Great Trip

St. Augustine:  Given the distance, consider spending at least one or more nights there.  Monday to Thursday are optimal times.  St. Augustine offers special mid-week rates for accommodation “www.floridashistoriccoast.com/midweek”.

There will be fewer tourists (except right around Christmas) and you should be able to get dinner reservations at one of many good restaurants.  This can also be a memorable getaway to celebrate the season.

Trolley tips:  To save time buy your tickets in advance online.  You can park for free or a reduced rate at a few locations.  Upon arrival you many want to check in to get your trolley passes (stickers) and magical glasses.

Two ways to plan: (1) Arrive a little before the first trolley leaves. Check out coupons on magical glasses and use those after tour. (2) Go for dinner, then take the trolley tour. As long as you’re in the line before 9 p.m., you’ll get on a trolley. For more information, visit “www.trolleytours.com”.

Mount Dora: Given the distance, you might want to consider staying at least one night here.  You might also consider combining: St. Augustine first, then Mt. Dora as a Christmas lights trip.

For accommodations, go to “www.mountdora.com”. Click on the “Play” link near top, then look under Lodging.

Winter Park:  This is doable as a day trip, however, if you’re not here early you will have trouble finding a parking spot.

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