Tis the season for Hallmark movies, advent calendars, shopping local, secret Santa, cookie decorating, and if you’re in St. Augustine, the most beloved celebration of Christmas in Northeast Florida – Nights of Lights. And we’re here with the best news ever – Covid won’t come close to cancelling this holiday pasttime. Hallelujah! #nottoday2020.
While we’ll still be able to marvel at the twinkling lights all around town, this year things will be a smidge different. Here’s what you need to know…
First and foremost, there won’t be any grand “light up the night” launch event this year to flip the switch on the lights. We can all agree that maintaining a bit of social distancing is working to stop the spread of Covid, so a mass party orchestrated just to watch the lights be turned on is something that our city leaders all agree we can live without. In exchange, we’ll gain an extra week of holiday spirit as the lights will turn on one week earlier this year on November 14, 2020 and stay lit through January 31, 2021.
If you’re driving in from near or afar, you’ll want to say a prayer for parking or quite frankly, plan for a weeknight. Parking will be freestyle the way it is every other day of the year and be available on streets, various parking lots and the parking garage downtown. Masks or no masks, there will be no offsite parking with shuttle service available this year.
If you like to ride in style on a trolley to view the lights, you’ll need to pre-purchase your tickets for a pre-determined time with either company – Old Town Trolley Tours, St. Augustine City Tours or Ripley’s Believe It or Not – on their website or offices ahead of time because no long lines will be permitted to board the trains.
And while we don’t have specifics yet, we’re positive businesses downtown will get creative to host you in a “socially distant safe way” during the Nights of Lights season. Stay close to StAugustineSocial.com and your favorite local Facebook groups to keep up-to-date about any specials or promotions they’ll offer during the season.
Information on St. Augustine City Tours
This year, the Nights of Lights tour with St. Augustine City Tours will be 45 minutes in durations, up from 30 minutes last year. The 8-seater, electric golf cart now has a plexiglass screen between the driver and passengers, and the cart will be disinfected between each tour. Participants are all required to bring their masks along. They will be launching at the same location as last year, 19 Cuna Street, however if they change their location they will notify you by email well in advanced of your tour date. They will be closed for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.
Tours will run 7 days a week during the following times:
6pm – 6:45pm
7pm – 7:45pm
8pm – 8:45pm
9pm – 9:45pm
10pm – 10:45pm
Ticket costs are as follows:
Over 12 years old – $20
5 – 12 years old – $10
Under 5 – free
Special Promotion: If you’re looking for a great end of the year staff appreciation tour, have guests in town or have a group of family and friends that want to view the lights, St. Augustine City Tours has a special promotion for a private 45 minute tour for 6 adult tickets at the cost of $100. If you want to make use of this special promotion, please call 904-325-3366 to ensure you get your discount.
To make your bookings for the 2020/2021 Nights of Lights visit: St. Augustine City Tours
Information on Old Town Trolley Tours
During this season’s City of St. Augustine Nights of Lights, Old Town Trolley guests riding the famous Nights of Lights Trolley can be assured of a safe and expedited tour experience during the favorite holiday event in the Nation’s Oldest City.
According to Dave Chatterton, Old Town Trolley Tours & Attractions of St. Augustine General Manager, the company will implement all current Centers for Disease Control (CDC), local, and state guidelines to ensure visitors have a safe and pleasant experience with plexiglass partitions between rows of seating and increased focus on disinfecting and sanitation. Chatterton recently visited Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World attractions in Florida to observe exceptional guest experiences with large crowds, ticket and boarding queue lines, employee and guest interactions, and cleaning of ride vehicles. He brings the updated tour practices to St. Augustine.
Chatterton explained that Old Town Trolley Tours parent company, Historic Tours of America, has approved a costly upgrade to tour vehicles which has been in place during the pandemic. Passenger distancing shields have been professionally installed and are effective without impeding views of the historic city. To assure there is no co-mingling of guests, visitors will be sold a row of seating with a maximum of four persons per row.
At the beginning of each ride which originates at the City of St. Augustine Visitor Information Center, 10 South Castillo Drive in downtown St. Augustine, the 30 to 40-minute ride will culminate at the same location and passengers will disembark on the south side of the visitor center. Reservations are required and no onsite purchases will be permitted at the departure location.
Highlights of this year’s trolley tours is having visitors vote for their favorite lighting displays in the company’s 8th Annual Light Up the Night! Contest. Each year, guests of Old Town Trolley are asked to help choose the city’s top three lighting displays through the website www.trolleytours.com/holidaylightcontest. Winners of the prestigious awards will receive cash, prizes and one of the most sought-after trophies in the city. Old Town Trolley Tours is also offering exclusive giveaways and coupons for festive walk-away treats to enjoy after the tours.
Old Town Trolley Tours booths are located throughout the city. Information and online booking is available at https://www.trolleytours.com/st-augustine/nights-of-lights. Ticket pricing this year is $59.95 for one to four-person private trolley rows to provide guests with a safe and comfortable sightseeing experience and appropriate social distancing. The elimination of long lines through the reservation-based booking system and an increased focus is on disinfecting and sanitation. For more information and details about tours, age requirements, accessible and properly equipped vehicles for those with special needs and service pets, call (904) 829-3800.
Parking is available 24 hours a day at the St. Augustine Historic Downtown Parking Facility and all city-owned pay stations and meters will clearly display the city crest. Privately owned lots are located throughout the city with pay stations and rates. For more information, visit https://www.citystaug.com/621/Parking-Garage. Discount parking for trolley guests is available at the nearby Old Town Trolley Welcome Center, 27 San Marco Ave., on a first come, first served basis.
“Celebrating 27 years of St. Augustine’s award-winning Nights of Lights is an honor for Old Town Trolley Tours and Historic Tours of America,” said Chatterton. He recommends all visitors allow advanced time to park and check in as traffic can be heavy, and to view the company’s local calendar for tour times. Reservations are required and guests must check-in 20 minutes prior to each tour time as seating is subject to cancellation. Face coverings are recommended, but not required.
For more than 19 years, Old Town Trolley Tours brings transportation and entertainment to St. Augustine by taking visitors and residents throughout the historic city, offering 22 stops with more than 100 points of interest. For more information, visit www.trolleytours.com/st-augustine or call 904-829-3800.