10 Ways to Enjoy St. Augustine’s Light up Night {without getting lost in the crowds}

Saturday, November 18, 2017 St. Augustine closes roads, brings in live music and celebrates the beginning of the holiday season in a big way with light up night!

Our Plaza de la Constitution is home to the Nights of Lights kickoff party and everyone comes out for it. Live music, a giant real Christmas Tree and over 2.5 million lights transform historic St. Augustine into a winter wonderland- one of the 10 best light displays in the entire world according to National Geographic!

There is always a lot happening in St. Augustine. Ramp it up 1,000 times and you have St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights Festival- 2 months of 2 million Christmas lights, magical memories and a heckofalotta fun!! This year’s dates are November 22, 2014 to January 31, 2015.
There is always a lot happening in St. Augustine. Ramp it up 1,000 times and you have St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights Festival- 2 months of 2 million Christmas lights, magical memories and a heckofalotta fun!! This year’s dates are November 18, 2017 to January 31, 2018.

St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights has been a tradition with our family for as long as we’ve had kids.  But if you hope to stroll downtown at 6:20 and find a spot to watch the festivities, you’ve got another thing coming! Big crowds feel fun… but are not the best for a family of littles.  Over the years, we’ve learned some tips & tricks to enjoy this uber-busy tourist season and I love sharing them here on Simply St. Augustine. Start your holiday season off right with my {drumroll, please}…

10 ways to enjoy St. Augustine’s Light Up Night with little ones in tow:

    1. Know Your Facts: Saturday, November 18 is Light up Night. The ceremony starts at 6:30 but ARRIVE EARLY. Parking will be a challenge. The parking garage will fill up. I suggest arriving a few hours early and taking a leisurely stroll through downtown.

      Shuttles are available and are free – they run every Saturday through the end of December from 1 pm – 11:00 pm from two locations north of downtown: the St. Johns County Health Department, 200 San Sebastian View, and the San Marco Lot, 301 San Marco Ave.

    2. Pack a Picnic or Order Early: You’ll be joining thousands of other admirers in the oldest city- so be prepared!If you plan to eat out, call ahead and make reservations! If you’re picnicking, head to the plaza early with a picnic dinner and a blanket to enjoy live music and secure a little space. (I love my Monkey Mat because it folds up small enough to fit in my diaper bag & is water resistant.)
    3. Live Music Doesn’t Entertain Toddlers: Well, it may if you let them dance. Remember that your littles may get bored while waiting… so bring bubbles, chalk, glow sticks and other goodies to pass the time. No swords or balls… the Plaza is full of people, which leads me to my next point…
    4. Be a Good Neighbor: DON’T let your kid run crazy! DO make new friends! If you’re bringing candy canes, bring enough to share! This is community at its best so turn to the family next to you and share a smile.
    5. Make time for Kookaburra CoffeeThey set out their locally famous Hot Chocolate Bar on Fridays & Saturdays during Nights of Lights. Our kiddos love picking their own toppings for Kook’s creamy cocoa! Light up Night will find them PACKED since they’re the only coffee shop on the plaza. Bring cash to make the transaction quick. I let my kiddos choose as many sprinkles and candy cane chips and cocoa dustings and marshmallows as their little hearts desire- then we walk the town until they’ve worked off the sugar.  Mom of the year award!
    6. Don’t Try to Rush to the Car Afterwards: No matter how well concocted your exit strategy is, you will be dealing with crowds. Don’t be that parent who ruins a great night by trying to rush out at the end.
    7. Coordinate Outfits & Take a photo at the Beginning of the Night: Not just for cuteness. If a kid wonders off {Lord, forbid it!}, you can show the photo & can easily remember what he’s wearing. Talk safety at the beginning of the night, introduce your child to an officer as a safe person and consider writing your cell phone number on their arm. We do the buddy system in our family where an older child takes the hand of a younger sibling when we walk through crowds. I’m not a fan of baby leashes but this is one night you may consider one!
    8. Bring a Friend: The evening is more magical when you share it with buddies.
    9. Hire a PediCab: If you’ll be tuckered out after all the fun, bring cash to hop aboard a pedi-cab for a ride back to your car. $10-$20 will get you back to your car without the walking!
    10. Packrat? If you’re a saver, you just may have some glasses from last year’s trolley in a very safe place. My kids pull theirs out throughout the year and look at lights! We know exactly where ours are! Bring those to Light Up Night for double the fun!!

Share YOUR Great Ideas in the Comments Below!!!!!

St Augustine Nights of Lights Cocoa Bar at Kookaburra
St Augustine Nights of Lights Cocoa Bar at Kookaburra

There is no place quite as magical at Christmastime as St. Augustine. Here is a list of my favorite Nights of Lights events in St. Augustine. Check it out and make room on your calendar for some fun family memories!!

Are you a local business looking to get the word out about your event this season?
Email me: Allie@SimplyStAugustine.com!


  1. Sandra Dukes says

    i beleive what you mentioned St Augustine has great all plans like that. The town itself are beautiful with all business around. I went there several times in the past. I will go back soon. Thanks for your info

  2. Patty says

    Love your posts and the great ideas! We’d like to go down to see the Regatta of Lights but wondering where the best viewing spot is and whether we can bring chairs, food, drinks, blankets, etc. Any feedback is appreciated!

    • says

      You are welcome to bring whatever you’d like- but it can get crowded so I wouldn’t lug a cooler if it were me.

      The space between the bridge & the fort is where you’ll have best visibility for the Regatta of Lights. Closer to the center is better b/c the boats come in close. 🙂 Have FUN!

  3. Yamile says

    What time do the lights turn off? I’ve never been and will be in town for a concert next Friday night so I won’t be downtown until after 11PM.

    • says

      That’s a great question Yamile! I’ve been out in the middle of the night and they’re still on… I always assumed it was early morning (5:00?) but I honestly have no idea! If you’re there when they go off, let me know! 😉 Enjoy your concert. ~Allie O

  4. Debbye says

    Does anyone know if it is setup for handicapped? I am wheelchair bound, but have never been,and have heard of it for years. I live in Ormond Beach. Thanks, Debbye

    • says

      Hi Debbye! The entire downtown is lit so there are plenty of views to enjoy!! If you’re in a manual chair, the cobbled streets may be difficult but St. George Street is smoothly paved and is car-free except 2 intersections. With your handicap plate, you can park in any metered spot or the garage for free. I suggest going this week on a weekday and arriving before 5:00 so you have time to park and get your bearings before the crowds come in. But if you can go early in the week, you may avoid most of the crowds!!

      My uncle is a quadriplegic so I’m pretty familiar with needs and challenges… feel free to email me any time for help and I’ll do what I can! Allie@SimplyStAugustine.com

  5. John Short says

    Been to St Augustine many times Starting with our Honeymoon over thirty five years ago and Love it but never for the Christmas Night of Lights. We were thinking of coming out in Jan for a three day weekend. I did not see a schedule for anything in January other than it goes through Jan 31. Is there anything special going on or is it just the lights? Regardless we love visiting and are happier when there is less of a crowd. Thanks in advance for any information you may be able to give us.

    • says

      Hi John! At that time of year, you’ll enjoy a sleepy town with beautiful lights and few crowds! We don’t have a lot of to-do’s that time of year (everyone is catching their breath after a busy December!) but you can certainly enjoy a trolley ride, carriage ride or similar way to take in the lights in addition to strolling the streets. Enjoy your stay! ~Allie O.

  6. Dana says

    Is there anything special Christmas eve/ Christmas day to enjoy?

    • says

      Hi Dana! Many churches downtown have Christmas Eve services (arrive 45 min – an hour early to secure your seat!). The trolleys and trains will also be running – check with them for which days and times. I’d suggest VIP tickets to cut down on the line.
      Merry Christmas!
      ~Allie O

  7. Maria Cervera says

    Thank you, Allie.

    Will drive from Miami to St. Augustine this week to enjoy the Nights of Lights!

    Best wishes for a healthy and happy 2017!!!

    Maria Elena

    • says

      Enjoy your visit Maria! I need to make it down to Miami soon. It’s been too long since I had a good guava pastry!! ~Allie O.

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