🎶It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go🎶…oh hey there! It’s me again, Sparkle, just putting some of the finishing touches on all of the great toys Santa will be delivered in just a few short weeks. It’s hard to believe that Christmas 2021 is right around the corner! Besides the joy I get from making all of the presents, one of my most favorite things about this time of year is enjoying all of the beautiful Christmas light decorations in the area. Of course, the team at Twinkle Nights does an epic job every year lighting up North Florida homes with breathtaking Christmas light displays!
There are also some incredible Christmas light drive-thrus in the area too. Some communities put together light shows that will blow your mind while others are smaller yet equally impressive. Today, I wanted to let you know what I think the best places to see Christmas lights in Gainesville, Ocala, and Jacksonville Florida are and some tips to get the most out of holiday light displays in North Florida!
First, my top 3 tips
Before I tell you where the best places to see Christmas lights are, I thought it would be a good idea to give you my top 3 tips to make the most out of your trip. Holiday light displays in North Florida are special: they’re fun, entertaining, and a sight to behold.
So number one, be sure to start your journey just after dark. You don’t want to start too early, as the light shows aren’t as impressed with any hint of sun still in the sky. Of course, you also don’t want to tour the area too late at night as many places start shutting their displays down around 10 pm. As the sun sets earlier and earlier, you can safely grab a quick dinner with your family and then head out around 6 to 7 pm — getting a full 3-4 hours worth of Christmas light displays in before it’s time to head home.
Next, if you’re checking out Christmas light drive-thrus, dress a bit cooler than you might normally. When you and your family are all in your car, truck, or van together, it might get a little warm. Leave anything remotely hot at home and in your closet.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, have a plan. If you’re going to try and hit a lot of Christmas light displays this year, it’s better to hit them in groups. Visit Gainesville one night, Jacksonville the next night, Ocala on another evening, and so forth.
Now that you know how to enjoy these amazing displays, let’s look at 10 events you don’t want to miss this year!
While this isn’t a drive-thru (otherwise, it could be kinda wet for you and your family!), it’s still something you’ll want to check out. The Jacksonville Light Boat Parade will be held on November 27th this year at Riverfront Plaza. With fireworks and tons of amazing displays planned, be sure to set aside some time during your Thanksgiving weekend to fit this in. The festivities begin at 6 pm.
This event starts on November 20th and runs until the end of the year. Near the Seawalk Pavilion, you can see all of the great displays along the Atlantic Ocean, taking in the sounds while enjoying the show. They turn the displays on early each night at 5 pm, and run them until almost 1 am!
Blackhawk Bluff, a local community in Jacksonville, has a great light show planned that you can drive-thru this year. Just off of Atlantic Blvd is Girvin Road and from what I’ve been reading, this is one of the locals’ favorite Christmas lights displays in Jacksonville! Just be prepared for some heavy traffic because they’re expecting this year’s displays to be beautiful!
In case you were wondering about the famous Jax Illuminations, I just wanted to let you know that they’ve been canceled for this year. While everyone is sad (it’s really one of North Florida’s best places for Christmas lights drive-thrus), they’re promising to be back in 2022 with a new location. Stay tuned!
There’s another boat parade that starts in December and runs all month at Lake Weir. If you’re going to be in Ocklawaha, be sure to swing by and check this one out!
A great drive-thru Christmas light display you don’t want to miss is at the Horse Park in Ocala. While checking out all of the amazing sights, be sure to turn on your radio to 88.1 FM to hear some great holiday tunes. The fun starts at 6 pm each night and runs from November 26th to the end of the year!
The organizers at Cedar Lakes transform the botanical gardens every year into a truly remarkable Christmas lights display experience. For adults, the cost is just $10 with kids 6-13 only $5 (under 6 are free). You won’t want to miss this one for sure!
This brand-new venue is bursting with Christmas joy! Bring the whole family to enjoy a magical Christmas light walk-through set to music, photo ops, cookies with Mrs. Clause, photos with Santa and so much more! It’s located in the heart of Gainesville at the North Central Florida YMCA. The fun starts at 5:30pm every Friday and Saturday, November 17th – December 31st.
If you’re looking for something crazy fun to do with your kiddos, don’t miss the annual tree lighting festival in Newberry. With games, pony and train rides, and of course, epic Christmas lights displays, North Florida has a true treasure with this event! The fun happens on November 28th — don’t miss it!
Trains and Christmas: what a perfect match, right? The annual Christmas Express is pulling into the station this year with a rumored visit from Santa Claus himself! With a petting zoo, Ferris wheel, tractor ride, and an Elf-ran shop (say hi to my friends for me!), this is always a great night of fun. It runs from November 26th to December 26th in Williston!
Running just from December 2 to 5, the Gainesville Women’s Club will host its annual Festival of Trees event. Complete with a kickoff party, holiday shop, and special fun for the kids, mark this one on your calendar today!
A real quick note that High Springs will have their annual tree lighting with visits from both Santa and Mrs. Claus on November 26th starting at 6 pm!
One more thought about the best places to see Christmas light displays
Before the holidays get crazy busy, I hope you and your family have a chance to get out and enjoy the sights and sounds of the season. I know I sure will.
Do you know those three tips I gave you about enjoying holiday light displays in North Florida? Well, I have one more tip: remember to make time for your family this year. As you get ready for the most wonderful time of the year, remember that you’re out having fun with the people who matter most — your family!
And with that, it’s back to work for me! See you again soon!
Here are some other resources to help light up your holiday season!