I'm Beginning to See the Light
What comes after Part B? Part-Ayyy! I rarely say no to a good shindig, so I'm participating in the Nights of Lights Blog Party with some of my favorite Saint Augustine writers. Get all the part-ayyy deets here: Part-Ayyy Info
Since Orlando is located in Central Florida, it would be safe to say it's pretty much, well, in the center of the state. And yes this sucks because no one has a beach in their back yard, but it's also really awesome, because it means we Orlandoans can drive one to two hours in any direction and be somewhere really really cool. Clearwater, St. Pete, Tampa, Daytona, New Smyrna, and, my personal favorite … dun dun dun duuunnnnn, Saint Augustine!
I love history, and where in Florida can you find more history than the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement in the continental United States, home to the nation's oldest fort and oldest wooden schoolhouse?! Nowhere! Exactly!
From downtown Orlando to Saint Augustine is about 100 miles and less than two hours by car. It's perfect for a day or weekend trip, because there's so much to do — gorgeous beaches, historical landmarks, one-of-a-kind shops, guided tours, and so many unique events and festivals. The historical structures and stories alone are enough to make you cry with wonderment. (Don’t judge; I cry easily.)
If you're looking for the perfect weekend to make the quick drive, you are soooo in luck. Because next weekend is the start of Saint Augustine’s 20th annual Nights of Lights, which was selected by National Geographic in 2011 and 2012 as one of the 10 best holiday lighting displays in the world! There's a plethora of things to do during Nights of Lights, but for Central Florida residents enjoying a semi-local Saint Augustine staycation, the best day to go is Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, for the kickoff event.
Light-Up Night festivities start in the afternoon with live musical performances, followed by the main event — the official "flipping of the switch" in Saint Augustine's Plaza de la Constitucion at 6:30 p.m. There's Christmas music, the city's ginormous Christmas tree, and the turning-on of almost three million white lights that illuminate the 448-year-old city!
Saint Augustine's Nights of Lights illuminates the historical city with almost three million white lights!
Everything from the gorgeous historical structures to light poles to landscaping to rooftops will be covered in tiny white lights. (ALL the lights are recycled! Win-win!) And guess what?! There's historical significance to this gorgeous holiday extravaganza. It traces its origins back to the Spanish tradition of displaying white candles in windows during the Christmas holidays. So. Cool.
If you decide to make the quick trip into a weekend trip, there’s plenty of things to do after the city is lit-up in all her glorious splendor. You can tour the entire display aboard a horse-drawn carriage as you sip a boutique wine, or embark on a boat tour and see the beauty from the water. Starting Sunday, Nov. 24, you can take bus tours, train tours, trolley tours and, for something even more unique, tours in an electric vintage car replica.
The 20th annual Nights of Lights continues through Jan. 31. 2014, with more tours, live music performances, Christmas events, holiday plays, the 48th annual Art & Craft Festival, 39th annual British Night Watch (Historical! Eeek!), 59th annual St. Augustine Christmas Parade, and on and on and on!
I’m not saying my favorite day-trip getaway has to be your favorite day-trip getaway. But in the spirit of A Christmas Story, I dare you to visit for the weekend and not fall in love. No — I triple-dog-dare ya!