Last updated on January 11th, 2021 at 04:46 pm
Mount Dora, St. Augustine and Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park work to offer the best Christmas lights in Florida
Even with a pandemic, people will revel in Christmas light displays in Florida this year.
It’s a shame the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas are so full of shopping and events, because this is a terrific time to enjoy Florida’s natural beauty.
One way to squeeze in a weekend is to combine the outing with your holiday celebrations. These three spots are also excellent places to hike, kayak, bicycle and explore Florida historic sites.
Sure, every community has decorations and parades, but these three destinations go all out to have the best holiday lights in Florida in a charming non-commercial setting.
Mount Dora Christmas Lights Festival
Mount Dora is always having a weekend festival. (Here’s a good guide to Mount Dora and its special events.) But the city’s Christmas lights festival lasts for a month and includes a wide variety of events.
Mount Dora decorates with three million lights. They flip the switch in mid-November, although in 2020, there will be no event celebrating that moment. There are four holidays events, though, that are scheduled. All are outdoors where masks and social distancing are recommended.
- Friday, Dec. 4, 2020: Mount Dora Christmas Walk, an evening geared to Chirstmas shopping and dining. Shops are open until 9 p.m.
- Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020 at 10 a.m.: The 60th Annual Mount Dora Christmas Parade
- Saturday Dec. 5, 2020 at 7 p.m.: The Lighted Board Parade
- Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020 from 5 to 9 p.m.: Christmas snow in the downtown Donnelly Park.
Mount Dora keeps its lights shining through January.
More details about Christmas in Mount Dora
St. Augustine Nights of Lights
St. Augustine turned on the lights on Nov. 14 and they stay lit up all the way through Jan. 31, 2021. Like Mount Dora, the Oldest City estimates it has 3 million lights. (By city ordinance, all holiday lights in the historic and residential areas must be white.) One of its most spectacular displays is lighting up the iconic and historic Bridge of Lions.
St. Augustine’s holiday decorations have been ranked among the 10 best holiday light displays by National Geographic, and they can enjoyed by land and sea – there are boat tours, horse and carriage rides, pedicabs, trolley tours, golf cart tours and more. Old Town Trolley’s lights tour departs nightly beginning at 6 p.m. from the Visitor Information Center. You can find a variety of tours on land and water listed here.
Two favorite photo spots are the Bridge of Lions and the the Plaza de la Constitución, a central park in downtown St. Augustine, where there is a Christmas tree and live music on weekends.
Festival of Lights at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park
Mount Dora and St. Augustine are whole cities of decorations, but this state park decorates so extensively that thousands of people come to see the lights that outline the majestic oak trees and historic buildings in this park along the Suwanee River. The park museum, which looks like a mansion from “Gone With the Wind,” is decorated too.
The lights will twinkle from Dec. 4 to Dec. 24, 2020, but, of course, the pandemic has prompted modifications to the beloved traditions here.
Here’s how it will work in 2020, according to Andrea Thomas, park service specialist:
- This year, all tickets for the lights festival are being sold online and the park will limit sales to 130 cars a night for the15 nights of the event.
- Tickets will be $5 per car for up to eight passengers.
- The park will be open to view the lights Dec. 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12 and Dec. 16 to 24.
- It will primarily be a drive-through event, although families can park and walk and take photographs.
- This year, there will be no “Holiday Magic Nights” with craft demonstrations, hot cocoa, popcorn and marshmallow roasting. There will be no Santa and no buildings will be open.
- Tickets are being sold through Stephen Foster Citizen Support Organization, and the link for ticket sales will be available by the end of November.
More resources for Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park:
- Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park
- Book a campsite at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park
- Book a room near Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park