This season, the state of Florida will shine extra bright with holiday spirit as millions of Christmas lights delicately cover the land and water, and the smell of delicious delicacies fill the air. As angels illuminate the bow of magnificently decorated boats and tiny lights decorate palm trees, locals and visitors alike will enjoy Florida’s unique and magical holiday season.
Historic Holidays – While it may not snow in St. Augustine, the Nation’s oldest city turns into a winter wonderland during the holiday season. As the Annual Nights of Lights celebration takes over the city from November 21 to January 31, 2016, the historic district will be lit with more than 3 million white lights from the ground up to the rooftops. 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-year history and illuminates the beautiful ancient city. Holiday music and the lighting of the city’s Christmas tree add to the splendour of one of the world’s greatest holiday light displays.
There are many ways to enjoy Nights of Lights, including on foot, by bicycle or pedicab, on the Old Town Holly Jolly Trolly, aboard Ripley’s Red Train or by horse and carriage. Local attractions also offer special Nights of Lights tours, in which visitors can appreciate the remarkable display from the water aboard the Schooner Freedom, the Osprey or with Ripple Effects Eco Tours, or by air with St. Augustine Bi-Plane Tours.
Santa & Sweets – Further north of St. Augustine, not quite to the North Pole, is another historic district belonging to Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island where visitors will go back in time to old Victorian Christmas traditions. With Chestnuts roasting, carolers strolling and Saint Nick arriving, an enchanted Victorian experience awaits visitors on Centre Street in downtown Fernandina Beach. Satisfy holiday cravings and catch the spirit of the season at the Annual Amelia Island Bed and Breakfast Holiday Cookie Tour on Saturday, December 12, 2015. During this delicious tour, guests will sample a signature cookie from each Inn, take home a beautifully printed recipe card and gather inspiring decorating ideas just in time for the Holidays. With so much to do and see, visitors can extend their Amelia Island Holiday experience with these great Holiday Stay Packages.
Splash, Skate, Celebrate – Spend the Holidays with your favorite sea creatures during SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration. Gather with the family to hear the classic Christmas story, as told through the eyes of animals, followed by a wondrous journey to the North Pole aboard The Polar Express to visit Santa Claus. Guests can sit back and relax as they watch Winter Wonderland on Ice, a show-stopping ice-skating extravaganza of skaters gliding across a stage of ice, jewels and light.
Guests can also take a leisurely stroll through The Christmas Village where artisans, festive entertainment and delicious culinary delights create a bustling market that lines Bayside Pathway. Guests can discover one-of-a-kind gifts, enjoy scrumptious holiday treats, encounter playful elves and holiday characters, sing-a-long with musicians, and marvel at a charming model train village.
Traditions with a Twist – The Nutcracker ballet is already a worldwide Christmas tradition on its own; however, the Sarasota Ballet is adding a new twist to the famous performance in their Circus Nutcracker. Bringing the spirit of the holidays to Sarasota, Matthew Hart’s John Ringling’s Circus Nutcracker will enchant audiences at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. Set to Tchaikovsky’s beloved score by the Sarasota Orchestra, John Ringling’s Circus Nutcracker entwines the history of John and Mable Ringling and Sarasota’s connection to the circus with Hoffman’s classical Nutcracker.
Winter Waterland – What would a Florida holiday be without water and boat parades? This season, Florida’s waterways will be festively aglow with the holiday spirit as boats twinkle with dazzling Christmas lights and displays. Boat parades can be enjoyed across the entire state, from Naples to the Palm Beaches. Along Florida’s Paradise Coast, guests can enjoy a series of boat parades throughout December on Marco Island, Naples Bay and theVillage on Venetian Bay. Moving up the Gulf Coast and across the state, there will be boat parades in Venice, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Stuart and the Palm Beaches, among many other destinations. With free admission, guests can view the parades from their favourite spots, whether it be a waterfront restaurant or hotel, a park, a bay walk or a cozy chair on the water’s edge.
Prefer to be on the water? Visitors in Punta Gorda can enjoy nightly Christmas Light Canal Cruises from December 4 – 31, 2015. A tradition for more than 30 years, these popular, family-oriented cruises tour the residential canals to view Christmas lights, displays and decorations on homes, boats, seawalls and docks. Guests can even experience the joy of a private Catamaran Christmas Canal Cruise aboard the 47’Smoke and Roses.
From historic districts and theme parks to boat parades and ballets, Florida’s festivities provide unforgettable Holiday experiences for every type of visitor.
(All images courtesy respective owners)