While you may not be home for the holidays on your visit to Central Florida, a quick trip to St. Augustine’s Night Of Lights during the Yuletide Season can make you feel more at home during one of the most festive times on Florida’s Historic Coast.
The 26th Annual Nights of Lights runs through the end of January in the Nation’s Oldest City. While walking through the Winter Wonderland amidst an estimated 3 million sparkling white lights at night is free and an experience in itself in the historic district, there are multiple alternative options to tour St. Augustine during this special time of year.
St. Augustine is just a short drive from the theme parks in the Orlando area, but when you arrive here, you might want to hop on one of the many tour services. Most do charge a fee, but it’s worth it given the comfort and vistas you can catch through a tour service that you might not be aware of when you walk the city.
On land or by water, the choices are intriguing.
First let’s start with the water tours and these all originate out of the St. Augustine Municipal Marina, 111 Avenida Menendez:
- The Victory III boat one-hour tour cruises through Matanzas Bay capturing all sides of the Nights of Lights from the water. The sparkling reflection on the water adds to the splendor.
- Augustine Eco Tours features trips in 6-to-14-passenger boats. This is a more personal watercraft tour and meant for intimate trips featuring close friends and family members.
- The Black Raven Pirate Ship is an old-school favorite. Crafted in the shape of a colonial pirate ship, the Black Raven vessel hosts a crew of hearty pirates who take their cruises seriously and shuttle dozens of passengers on the more adventurous trip. The Black Raven offers specials for Nights of Lights cruises.
- The Schooner Freedom is a real tall ship that offers many different cruises during the Nights of Lights. Most of the excursions on this 76-foot-ship last more than an hour and hold plenty of passengers for a traditional view of the Nation’s Oldest City. Not only will you be able to view the millions of white lights in the city, Freedom is also aglow with thousands of white lights from the tops of masts and from bow to stern.
- On land, the tours get you into the middle the Nights of Lights which feature St. Augustine’s historic character like no other holiday experience. These land-lubbing tours include:
- Augustine City Tours offer a seemingly custom trip through Nights of Lights in an eight-seat golf cart. You’ll get up close to the gleaming buildings during the night for three and a half hours. While this tour begins at 54 Cuna St., this is perhaps one of the most comprehensive tours of the city. It’s also topped off with a complimentary cup of hot chocolate.
- Old Town Trolley located at 167 San Marco Ave. near the historic jail fully embraces Nights of Lights. This hits the high notes of the historic city with carolers, elves and Holly Jolly Trolley experiences. You can take a tour that lasts hours or even get on a customized tour that’s called the Fast Track Pass, which gets you on the trolleys faster and reduces wait times.
- You’re always free to walk about Florida’s Historic Coast. But a guided walking tour is especially advantageous during Nights of Lights. There are many walking tours that charge a fee in St. Augustine, but you are accompanied by guides who are not only knowledgeable of the history of the city, but can fill you in on the key elements of Nights of Lights as well.
- Florida’s Historic Coast’s biggest light, the St. Augustine Lighthouse at 100 Red Cox Road on Anastasia Island, is open usually only until 6 p.m. so catching the Nights of Lights is fleeting from this vantage point. But for one week, between Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, the lighthouse stays open an extra hour until 7 p.m. And, yes, you can climb to the top of the still-functioning lighthouse and look westward back to the city of St. Augustine and catch the Nights of Lights from a unique angle.
The tickets for each experience dramatically differ from tour or business. So, it’s best to visit the websites for each vendor before coming to St. Augustine. Also keep in mind, the Nights of Lights is among the busiest times in St. Augustine. It’s always advisable to purchase tickets ahead of time as many of the tours are sold out well in advance. Visit www.NightsofLights.com for more details.