Local’s Guide: Where to see lights

Tiffany Butler

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Stock Photo

There’s nothing quite like a good light display to put us in the Christmas spirit. Some of my favorite memories from growing up are of mom loading us kids into the car with hot chocolate and driving through our neighborhood to look at lights.

As I’ve grown up, this has remained a favorite holiday pastime, but where we go has changed as different, better light displays have been discovered. Here’s a breakdown of the best light displays around town:  

Lights, festivals, & outings:

Deck the Chairs — A Jax Beach tradition, Deck the Chairs kicked off Sunday, Nov. 27 at 4:30 p.m. The display continues to be illuminated starting at 6 p.m. every night, through December, with food trucks and festival style events on the weekends.

Zoo Lights — Starting Dec. 9, the Jacksonville Zoo re-opens to display lighted trees, sculptures and animal silhouettes. According to the website, guests will have the opportunity to view sculptures and performances by local artists and UNF students. Tickets are $10, and the display ends on Jan. 9.

Nights of Lights — If you’re willing to make a bit of a drive, the St. Augustine Nights of Lights is arguably the most iconic Christmas light display on the First Coast. The display kicked off Saturday, Nov. 19 and continues through Jan. 31. With thousands of lights, the Nights of Lights turn the historic city into a glimmering wonderland.

Neighborhood light displays:

Lights on Girvin — These have become a not-so-well kept secret around here, and are a local favorite amongst Christmas light displays. The whole Blackhawk Bluff neighborhood, located along both sides of Girvin Road, decorates their homes in an elaborate display that seems to get bigger and better each year. It usually goes up around Dec. 1.

Atlantic Beach Christmas — Located on 402 Snapping Turtle Ct. E., this synchronized light display is between two homes. Park your car safely, turn your car lights off and your radio to 94.5 FM, and enjoy the show.

Jax Illuminations — From Nov. 18 to Jan. 1, the Morocco Shrine Center lights up with half a million lights set to popular holiday tunes in a half-mile long set up that you can drive through at your own pace. It’s a spectacular sight that’s easily visible from St. Johns Bluff, but be warned, it’s $20 a vehicle.

Boat Parades:

Regatta of Lights — If you’re planning a visit to the Nights of Lights, try going on Dec. 10. That’s when the St. Augustine Yacht Club takes the light display to the water in the annual Regatta of Lights. Last year, I stumbled upon it, and it was the best boat parade I’ve seen around here.

Jacksonville Light Parade — Traditionally, this parade is the weekend after thanksgiving, however this year it will be Dec. 30, at 7 p.m. as part of the TaxSlayer Bowl. Personally, I try to avoid going downtown for these kinds of events (I witnessed multiple fights in the Landing last New Year’s Eve), but it’s usually a beautiful display, complete with fireworks. Just try to get there early, and be aware of your surroundings.

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