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Holly, Jolly Events Around The First Coast

Rob Bixby

The Christmas season seems to start earlier every year, and 2015 is no exception. The Avenues Mall and the St. Johns Town Center kicked things off with Santa's Arrival and the Holiday Spectacular, and St. Augustine Night of Lights and Jax Illuminations begin this weekend. Here is WJCT’s list of holiday events happening in Northeast Florida.

Tree Lightings & Light Displays

St. Augustine Nights of Lights

Nov. 21 - Jan. 31

Nights of Lights begins with Light UP! on Nov. 21 at 4 p.m. Watch the city flip the switch to begin the magical Nights of Lights holiday celebration for this year.

The free event will kick off with a concert and a countdown, followed by more live music after the ceremony.

There is no designated parking. Meter parking is free after 5:00 p.m. Pay-to-park lots are available downtown.

29th Annual Christmas On The River Tree Lighting Ceremony

Nov. 27 - Dec. 31 , The Jacksonville Landing, 7 p.m. - 10 p.m.

Kickoff the holiday season the day after Thanksgiving. The 56-foot-tall tree features over 78,000 lights with more than 100 ornaments. Enjoy a 10 minute synchronized light show set to various selections of holiday music. This event is complimentary.

Annual Christmas Tree Lighting At The Ritz Carlton Amelia Island

Nov. 25, 5:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Thousands of sparkling lights beautifully decorate the resort for the annual Christmas Tree Lighting. Enjoy refreshments, entertainment by local community groups and The Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival Brass Quintet. Raffle tickets will be available to support the local YMCA Foundation. Festivities conclude with Santa’s arrival and fireworks.

Deck The Chairs

Nov. 27 - Jan. 2, Latham Plaza

Deck The Chairs (DTC) is an annual lighted sculptural exhibit using the iconic red chairs of The American Red Cross Life Saving Corps.

Free and open to the public.

Beaches Town Center Holiday Celebrations

Dec. 5, Activities start at 3 p.m.

Activities include hayrides, arts and crafts for kids, cookie decorating at Joseph’s Pizza, Face Painting at Shoreline’s Gift Shop, and a lot more fun and games.

Santa and Mrs. Claus arrives at 6 p.m. for the tree lighting ceremony!

Jacksonville ZOOLights

Dec. 11-13, and Dec. 18-2, Closed on Christmas Day

Mon. - Thurs. 6 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.

Fri. - Sun. 6 p.m. - 10 p.m.

Thousands of lights will transform the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens into a luminous wonderland. Enjoy entertainment, train rides, marshmallow roasting, ice skating, and more!

Admission is $10 for nonmembers, and $8 for members.

Atlantic Beach Christmas

Dec. 1 - Throughout The Season, Starts at dusk

Atlantic Beach Christmas is located in the Ocean Walk neighborhood. If you take Seminole all the way down to the end and enter the neighborhood at the second entrance you will run right into Snapping Turtle Drive. Take a left here and you won’t be able to miss this vibrant display.

The event is free and open to the public.

Jax Illuminations

Nov. 20 - Jan. 3, Morocco Shrine Center

$20.00 per Car, Truck, or Van (7 passenger maximum)

When you arrive, they will ask that you change your car station to the one their lights dance to, as you drive thru their lights display.

There are family treats, such as candy canes and hot cocoa available on site. There will also be fun family competitions and chances to win a prize!

Luminary Night At The St. Augustine Lighthouse

Dec. 2, 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Admission is free for the opening of the lighthouse grounds for this evening of celebration. This event will be offering children’s activities and holiday crafts, live music, plenty of yuletide refreshments, and a string quartet!

Santa Claus will also be attending this event!

Riverside Avondale Luminaria

Dec. 20, Riverside House

Event starts at 5 p.m.

This traditional lighting of the lanterns at sundown is one of the neighborhood’s biggest fundraiser, and is a wonderful communtiy-building event that celebrates the holidays.

Kits will be sold at the Buckland House (2623 Herschel Street).

Light The Park - Town Of Orange Park

Dec. 1, Town Hall Park

Event starts at 6 p.m.

Come out and join as Town Hall Park lights up for the holidays, and listen to the reading of “It Was A Night Before Christmas”

Pictures With Santa/Dining With Santa

Pictures With Santa At The Avenues Mall

Nov. 6 - Dec. 24

This event will include fireworks, musical entertainment, food trucks, giveaways, and more! Santa will be arriving in style in a helicopter too!

This event is complimentary.

Pictures With Santa At St. John’s Town Center

Nov. 14 - Dec. 24

Santa will be available for pictures right in front of Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Price vary depending on number of photocopies. Times vary. 

Science With Santa

Dec. 5, Museum Of Science And History, 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Kids will have a chance to tell Santa what they want for Christmas, and enjoy holiday-themed educational games and activities. Doors will open at 9:30 a.m. for MOSH members to see Santa first!

Santa’s Storybook Tea

Dec. 8, 15, and 22, The Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island, 12 p.m.

A Ritz-Carlton tradition with a fireside holiday storybook read with Santa plus an afternoon tea, with a selection of finger food.

$49 per adults and children 6 and up, $10 per children ages five and under.

Boat Parades

Community First Jacksonville Light Boat Parade

Nov. 28, Downtown Jacksonville Riverfront, 7 p.m.

This annual event transforms the St. John’s River into a dazzling winter wonderland as boats adorned with lights and holiday decorations pass by. Both sides of the riverbank will be open for residents and visitors who would like to enjoy this free event, so pack your chairs and blankets!

After the boat parade, fireworks will be set off from two river barges in front of The Jacksonville Landing and Hyatt Regency. The signature “waterfall” fireworks will be set off from both sides of Main Street Bridge.

Regatta Of Lights

Dec. 12, St. Augustine Bayfront, 6 p.m.

The annual Regatta of Lights takes St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights onto the water as an amazing variety of vessels show off their lighting displays while they parade along Matanzas Bay between the Bridge of Lions and the Castillo de San Marcos.

Admission is free.

Palm Valley Light & Boat Parade

Dec. 12, Begins South of Palm Valley Bridge, 7 p.m.

Often referred to as the Mardi Gras of lighted boat parades, the Palm Valley Light and Boat Parade is set apart by widespread community involvement and the large number of dock parties that accompany the event.

Admission is free.

Holiday Shows

First Coast Nutcracker

Times Union Center

Dec. 18, 8 p.m., Dec. 19, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Dec. 20, 2 p.m

The Jacksonville Symphony plays Tchaikovsky’s music for The Nutcracker Ballet.

Ticket prices vary.

Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra

Dec. 7, Times Union Center, 7 p.m.

Get into the holiday spirit and enjoy a free concert brought to you by the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra

Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical

Dec. 1 - 6, Times Union Center

FSCJ Artist Series proudly presents the Jacksonville premiere of Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical. Hailed by The New york Times as “100 times better than any bedside story,” this holiday classic will be a sure hit!

Ticket prices vary.

The Community Nutcracker

Dec. 11, Florida Theatre, 8 p.m.

Every year, The Community Nutcracker delights audiences of all ages with this holiday classic.

Ticket prices vary.

St. Augustine Winter Spectacular

Dec. 5, Lewis Auditorium at Flagler, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

St. Augustine Winter Spectacular! is a family-friendly, entertaining holiday production that follows a young girl’s journey home for the holidays. Lots of local organizations participate in this event, making it one of the largest parades in Northeast Florida.

Celebration Church Presents The Grinch

Dec. 18 - 22, Celebration Arena Southside Campus

Free admission, but tickets are required. Tickets are available for download soon on their website.


Gingerbread Man 5k Dash

Dec. 5, World Golf Village, 8 a.m.

The real Gingerbread Man will be out running around the course, so catch him if you can! Holiday socks, hats, and general candy cane striped attire are encouraged. Pets are also welcome!

Festival Of Lights 5K

Dec. 5, San Marco Square

5K at 6 p.m., 1 mile at 5:30 p.m, and 5K Strollers & Walkers at 6:10 p.m.

Santa Suits On The Loose 5k Walk/Run

Dec. 12, St. Augustine Beach pier, 8:00 a.m.

Early registration fee is $25, after Nov. 1 is $30, and the fee on the day of the race is $35.

Children in strollers do not have to register.

Jingle Bell Walk/Run

Dec. 19, Riverside Park, 4 p.m.

Adult registration is $35, and youth registration is $20.

Reindeer Run Half Marathon & 5K

Dec. 6, Main Beach Park

Adult registration for the half-marathon is $75 in advance, $90 day of the race. Adult registration for the 5K is $25 in advance, $35 day of the race. Youth registration is $5.

Special Holiday Events

Santa Express Train Rides

Nov. 28, Dec. 5 and 12, Theatre by the Trax, St. Mary’s, Georgia

10 a.m, noon, 2 p.m., and 4 p.m.

Each ride lasts through an hour and a half and takes guests through scenic woodlands and marshlands to Santa Village where it makes a turnaround.

Tickets are $23 for adults, and $17 for children.

Beaches Polar Express

Dec. 5, The Beaches Museum & History Center, 10 a.m - 5:00 p.m.

Come visit the Beaches Polar Express and Santa! You can write a letter to Santa, color pictures, enjoy some cookies and drinks, and see a model of the Polar Express as well as the big train!

Admission is free.

Adventure Landing WinterFEST

Nov. 20 - Jan. 10

Enjoy outdoor ice skating, nightly snowfalls, The Alpine Racer 130-foot Ice Slide, s’mores roasting, and more fun holiday activities!

Winter Discovery Camp

Dec. 21 - 30, Museum of Science and History, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Kindergartners through fifth graders are welcome for this week of scientific fun. Daily camp themes tailored to age groups include Frozen Fun, Winter Galazy, Wild Weather, and The Nutcracker! Campers will also to get to explore museum exhibits, including Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters.

Admission is $60 per day. Extended care is available for an additional charge.


Dec. 12, Riverside Arts Market, 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Kickoff your christmas shopping at RAM. Enjoy extended shopping hours during this special holiday experience with the entire family. This nighttime RAM experience will include holiday lights and Christmas classics on a 32’ big screen. There will also be lots of holiday-themed activities for the whole family to enjoy.

Admission is free.

Christmas In Avondale

Dec. 5, The Shoppes of Avondale, 4 p.m.

Stroll around Avondale, and enjoy this family fun event with tons of activities at no cost!

Photo credit: LightParade_11-30-13-2082 by Rob Bixby is used under CC BY 2.0.

Beatrice Sanchez is a senior at the University of North Florida. She will graduate this year with a bachelor's degree in communication with a concentration on media production. Originally from Manila, Philippines, she moved to Jacksonville four years ago to finish school. She spends most of her time at school or work, and if she ever does get free time, she enjoys watching re-runs of "Grey's Anatomy" or taking pictures of surfers out at the beach.