3 Ways To Get In The Holiday Spirit in Northeast Florida

Posted by: Cathy Eng in Local Events, News, WGV Events

Each year, we spend so much time shopping, wrapping, cooking, entertaining and managing seasonal hullabaloo that it can be difficult to actually enjoy this most festive time of year. Relax! We’ve nailed down the best ways to infuse you and your family’s holiday season with the most cheer (and the least stress). Here are three ways to get in the spirit:

1. Check out the local light displays. If there is one thing Northeast Floridians love, it’s a good holiday light display. Here are a few of the best through the area.

St. Augustine Nights of Lights (November 21-January 31) With millions of twinkling lights dancing around the historic district of St. Augustine, this is one of the best displays around. In fact, National Geographic selected Nights of Lights as one of the 10 best holiday lighting displays in the world in 2011 and 2012. The best part of St. Augustine’s display is it is enjoyable from foot, trolley tour, bicycle or car! (And don’t miss the 2015 Regatta of Lights on December 12 at 6 p.m. along with St. Augustine bay front!)
Jacksonville ZOOLights (December 11-13 & 18-January 2) Along with other seasonal zoo attractions (marshmallow roasting and ice skating!), the light display at the 3rd Annual ZOOLights at Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens is among the best. Visitors will enjoy thousands of LED-lighted moving sculptures, forests and animal silhouettes. ZOOLights runs Monday through Thursday 6-9:30 p.m. and Friday through Sunday 6-10 p.m.
Atlantic Beach Christmas (December 1 – throughout the season) – Located in the Ocean Walk community, this residential light show (complete with music) has grown to become a must-see attraction. It is recommended to park on Ocean Walk Drive West and take the short walk to the display.

2. Get Your Festival On. Festivals in Northeast Florida are a magnet for fun-seeking partiers and families alike. Luckily, there is no shortage of holiday celebrations that will delight and entertain this year.

Chanukah Wonderland (December 7, 4:30 – 6 p.m.) Presented by Chabad at the Beaches at the Ponte Vedra Cultural Center, this annual celebration will include face painting, games, crafts, music, raffles, free latkes, photos with Judah Maccabee and dinner packages (available via RSVP). The event culminates with the lighting of the Beaches’ largest menorah.
Hemming Park Food Truck Rally/ Kids Winterfest (December 19, 12-5 p.m.) Hemming Park will come to life on December 19 when food and desert trucks line the streets, table vendors sell their wares, and visitors take part in bingo, face painting, and other activities, including an appearance by Santa Claus at 1:30 p.m.
Hometown Holiday in the Park (December 11-12, 6-9pm) – Orange Park welcomes the holidays with Hometown Holiday in the Park located at Clarke Park. The free event includes a shopping village, magical snow rides, live entertainment, Clarke House tours and classic holiday films projected on the big screen – and they may even have snow! Tip: Park at First Baptist Church of Orange Park.
Hollidazzle (December 12, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.) Make the trip to Riverside Arts Market for its extended-hours event that includes vendor shopping, holiday lights and short-format Christmas classics played on a 32’ big screen on the riverfront stage. Enjoy winter brews, wine and holiday cocktails, as well as hot chocolate for the kiddos.

3. Jingle all the way… to the finish line. Another great thing about the First Coast is our abundance of road races to benefit a multitude of charitable organizations. Here are just a few of the local road races this holiday season.

Heritage Landing Gingerbread Man 10K/5K (December 5, 2015, 8 a.m.) The 5th Annual Gingerbread Man 5k Dash takes place at the Heritage Landing Sports Complex. A real gingerbread man will be out with the runners causing a stir, and participants are challenged to catch him if they can! Holiday attire – Santa hats, elf socks, etc. – is encouraged! At the finish, enjoy a Gingerbread Man cookie from Amaretti Desserts along with other great eats and drinks.
Santa Suits on the Loose 5K (December 12, 8 a.m.) A fun race benefiting St. Augustine Youth Services (SAYS), the annual Santa Suits on the Loose event invites participants to run, walk or jog in a Santa suit! The race follows a flat 3.1-mile course through St. Augustine Beach neighborhoods and starts and finishes at St. Augustine Beach Pier Park. Best of all, proceeds go to benefit the kids at SAYS.
Jungle Bell Run/Walk (December 19, 6 p.m.) The Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis is a great way to ring in the season while helping a great cause. Participants are encouraged to wear a holiday themed costume and tie jingle bells to their shoelaces. The race raises funds to help find a cure for arthritis, the nation’s leading cause of disability. Run or walk the 5K route, jingling all the way!

Have a great holiday season!


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