North Florida Decembers don’t fall into the snowy white Christmas category sung about in most traditional holiday songs. Usually Floridians can rock flip-flops during most of the winter. For one month of the year electric bills are sacrificed so that the collective twinkle from millions of tiny little lights can shine the spirit of the season all around town. Grab a hot chocolate to go, use your car’s AC to fake some freezing temperatures and go bask in the glow of the area’s best holiday light displays.
Nights of Lights
For the past two years, St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights has been praised by National Geographic as one of the world’s 10 best holiday light displays. The Sunday before Thanksgiving the city illuminates all at once with the flip of a switch from the Plaza de la Constitucion at St. George and King streets.
This holiday season marks the 20th year this 3-million light display has illuminated the nation’s oldest city. Buildings, palm trees, light posts, the Bridge of Lions and even the trolleys are shining with bright white lights. The white lights represent an old Spanish tradition of keeping a lit candle in the window during the Christmas holiday.
Have a glass of holiday cheer at the Tini Martini Bar on the bay front porch of the Casablanca Inn before walking around downtown.
Downtown St. Augustine
Nightly Nov. 23 through Jan. 31, free
MOSH Laser Holiday Cosmic Concert
A dome 60 feet in diameter with 360-degrees of high definition projection pairs nicely with a 35,000-watt digital sound system. We’re not talking icicle lights and inflatable snow globes folks, the Museum of Science & History (MOSH) doesn’t have your typical holiday light display. MOSH boasts the largest single-lens planetarium in the world, with resolution four times that of the most advanced HDTVs.
Make a night of it
Go on a Friday night and pair the laser show with a Cosmic Concert. Kick things off at 7 p.m. with Laser Holiday, then stay to hear albums from bands like Pink Floyd and U2 paired with a laser light show. Splurge on the 3-D glasses for an extra dollar, it’s worth it.
Afterward, take a walk around Friendship Fountain Park. You’ll hear holiday tunes over the outdoor speaker system and enjoy the seasonal light and water show in the fountain.
Museum of Science & History (MOSH)
Southbank Downtown Jacksonville
Varied schedule, $5 per show
Luminaria – Riverside/Avondale
This neighborhood has its fair share of historic homeowners who’ve decked the halls. Drive southwest on Park Street, just past McDuff, and you’ll see a red house with lime green trim on your left. In December, you won’t be able to miss it, thanks to a yard filled to capacity with every holiday inflatable you could ever imagine.
Lawn ornaments and colorful lights are just a sideshow to what you’ll see in this neighborhood during the holidays. Annually on a Sunday in December, the Riverside Avondale Preservation Society sponsors Luminaria. Paper bags weighted with sand and illuminated by a tea light candle line every cross street, cul-de-sac, public park and private driveway for miles. Neighbors host walk-up holiday movie screenings in their front yards and local bands set up on street corners.
Get on your bikes and ride
Get a battery powered string of lights, put some jingle bells on your spokes and pedal through the neighborhood. Meet at Park and King streets before 6 p.m. and ride through Luminaria as a part of the informal holiday bike parade put on by local bike shop, City Cycle.
Sunday, Dec. 15, free