Frightfully chilly weather is coming, and so are some of the most popular outdoor holiday events.
Foremost is Saturday’s 6 p.m. kickoff of the 29th annual Nights of Lights in St. Augustine, despite some damage from recent tropical storms.
Organizers said hard work has cleaned up everything in time for the annual lights festival despite flooding by Hurricane Ian in late September followed by more from Tropical Storm Nicole last Thursday.
“With support from Heath Electric and Angels in the Architecture, city staff will have worked hundreds of man hours to rehang and rewire the Plaza in preparation for Light-Up Night and the kickoff to Nights of Lights,” St. Augustine city spokeswoman Melissa Wissel said.
Saturday is the traditional “Light-Up! Night,” when millions of lights adorning historic homes, buildings and trees will be lighted all over St. Augustine’s downtown and waterfront. To ease traffic congestion, the city’s free Park and Ride shuttle will run from 4 to 11 p.m. Saturday, with passenger pickup at Anastasia Baptist Church, 1650 State Route A1A South.
The shuttle continues during peak nights, including Friday and Saturday of Thanksgiving Weekend (Nov. 25 and 26), as well as the first three Saturdays in December and the five days following Christmas (Dec. 26 to 30.) The shuttle will operate from 1 to 11 p.m., to and from parking locations outside of the downtown Historic District: St. Johns County Health Department at 200 San Sebastian View on all November dates as well as Saturdays in December, and Broudy’s Lot at the corner of U.S. 1 and West King Street.
The shuttle will not operate on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
Details about Light-Up! Night festivities are at CityStAug.com/LightUpNight.
Winter Celebration returns to Mandarin
The Mandarin Museum and Historical Society‘s free 21st Winter Celebration at Walter Jones Historical Park returns on Dec. 3 after a two-year absence due to COVID restrictions, with live music, a miniature train ride and a visit from Santa Claus.
Set for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the city park at 11964 Mandarin Road, all of the historic buildings on the former Civil War-era farm will be open. That includes the 1875 Webb/Jones Farmhouse decorated by the Mandarin Garden Club, the restored 1898 St. Joseph’s Mission Schoolhouse for African-American Children, a 146-year-old barn and an 1892 Losco Winery building.
After two winters without the celebration due to COVID-19 constraints, it is exciting to revive it again at Jacksonville’s first historic park, Historical society board vice president Sandy Arpen said.
“I think the whole community is very excited because we missed having our winter celebration,” she said. “It is just a day of fun activities for children and adults. We will have Civil War reenactment campers, all kinds of re-enactors and things for the kids to do.”
Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at the farmhouse in the 10-acre park, with nature crafts and rock painting for children.
Admission is free, with donations for the train ride. Parking is available at the Mandarin Presbyterian Church across the street. The museum will not be open due to renovation.
Dickens on Centre Street
Fernandina Beach’s annual Dickens on Centre Street holiday festival takes over the historic downtown from Dec. 8 to 11, inspired by the British author’s classic novella, “A Christmas Carol.”
Costumed characters, themed entertainment and visits from Santa Claus will occur as vendors sell seasonal wares. It all kicks off with a Dickens Illuminated Procession at 7 p.m. Dec. 8 up Ash Street to 6th Street and back down Centre Street to the waterfront. Participants are encouraged to bring battery-operated lanterns on the stroll.
The event continues from 5 to 9 p.m. Dec. 9, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 10, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 11.
Downtown streets will be reconfigured to match Dickensian times. Oliver’s Alley will be on South 3rd Street with vendors and entertainment as well as food trucks. A Peddler’s Village will be set up on Centre Street with more street vendors, while an Enchanted Village will be on South 2nd Street with eight life-size holiday snow globes, each decorated in a holiday theme and reservable for up to six people. And an Artist Alley is set for North 2nd Street.