Do you plan on taking a self-guided walking tour of St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights? If so, you probably came to our site looking for a central downtown location to see all of the lights.
Downtown rooms book up quickly–but don’t despair if all of our rooms are full at the main inn. Staying at our Vilano Beach cottages gives you the best of both worlds–you can take a little breather from the holiday craziness (and the 2020 madness) and enjoy a peaceful walk by the ocean. But you are just a short drive away from enjoying the Nights of Lights!
There are lots of people who PREFER staying at the beach this time of year! The restaurants don’t book up as quickly as they do downtown (see our favorite Vilano restaurants here), and seriously, the sound of the ocean is a wonderfully calming factor.
If you aren’t staying downtown, you may worry about finding parking. Don’t! During the Nights of Lights, guests in our Beachcomber Cottages can park in our “sneaky” downtown lot. It’s at the Cordova Apartments, located at 154 Cordova Street. If you’ve come to St. Augustine for years, you might recognize it as the old editorial offices for the St. Augustine Record. You can still see “The Record” etched in the top of the building. But make sure you put our parking pass on your dashboard, because the building’s owner does tow. Here’s how to get tot he lot:
DIRECTIONS TO OUR DOWNTOWN PARKING LOT
From the Beachcomber Cottages, take a
LEFT on A1A
RIGHT at the light, to go over the Vilano Bridge. At the end of the bridge, you’ll get to our infamous “peanut” traffic circle. Take a RIGHT onto the peanut (it is the only way you can go), and
STAY IN THE MIDDLE LANE. At the light (San Marco Blvd) you will take a
RIGHT onto May Street. You will quickly get to another light, on Route 1.Take a
LEFT onto Route 1. It sounds confusing–but it’s not too bad!
From Route 1, you’ll drive back towards town. You can take a
LEFT onto King Street at the light (Broudy’s Liquors will be on your right). At the next light (next to the St. Augustine Winery), take a
RIGHT onto Malaga Street. Go around the curve, and at the next light, take a
RIGHT onto Riberia Street. Just past the St. Augustine Distillery, you’ll take a
LEFT onto Bridge Street.
Follow Bridge for a short period, then take a
RIGHT into the parking lot at the Cordova Apartments. It is across from an old bank (you can still see the drive through), but it is currently city offices. Park along the back wall (the west wall) in any of the spaces marked “Inn Parking Only”. There are 6 spaces there, starting underneath the tree in the far corner.
30-40 Minute Walking Tour of Nights of Lights
You’ve made it–and you are close to the center of Nights of Lights activity! Walk to the north, headed towards Flagler College and the Lightner Museum. You can take either Cordova Street, or you can walk down Granada Street–they’ll both get you to the same place!
The front of the Lightner Museum is probably the most photographed area of the city during the Nights of Lights. The building is outlined with white lights (technically, the whole city is supposed to use warm white bulbs), as are the labyrinths of shrubbery. Dotting the center of the shrubbery, you’ll see the statue of Pedro Menendez, as well as a few of our beautiful fountains.
After enjoying the walk around the Lightner, walk out to the sidewalk. This is King Street. From here, you can enjoy the lights on the Casa Monica Hotel (on your right) and Flagler College (on your left). Take some pictures there with the lights in the background, then take a RIGHT onto King Street. You’ll be headed east, towards the water and the Bridge of Lions.
But there are lots of great views before the bridge! As you walk up King, you’ll see our town’s Plaza, the Plaza de la Constitucion. Cross King to walk through this beautiful public space. The trees in the plaza are strung in a balloon fashion–so that each tree looks like a well lit piece of cotton candy. If you’re a bit of a Christmas decoration nerd (like myself), look for the interesting ‘connector boxes’ that handle all of the lights at a single point.
You will see the decorated gazebo in the plaza, as well as the town’s Christmas tree (note: the tree is removed at the end of December).
After enjoying the Plaza, you will come to Avenida Menendez. Take a LEFT onto Avenida Menendez (you’ll be going north). We suggest walking down one side of the street, and then walking back the other, as the view and experience is quite different.
A Major League Competition between Businesses
Walking north, on the west side of the street, you’ll see three VERY decorated properties. The trolley holds a contest each year, and the winners are always on the trolley’s main route. The three properties are quite competitive with each other–every year, they try to outdo each other.
The winner, of course, is everyone who gets to enjoy their consuming obsession!
You’ll pass Harry’s, which would normally look like a lot of lights except for their insane neighbors. Be sure to check out their courtyard–the string lights are there all year.
Next up is the Hilton Hotel. The Hilton is several buildings, all designed to look like old Spanish Colonial architecture. It is the smallest Hilton Hotel in the world. As you walk past their buildings, duck into their courtyards and enjoy all the decoration there. This year, there is a train and candy canes lining the paths. The Hilton also built a sign this year that reads Nights of Lights. The best view of this for photos is from the seawall across Avenida Menendez–as said before, I recommend walking back that way.
From there, you’ll pass the Tini Martini Bar. Tini Martini has always gone all out, and this year is no different–there is the hanging tree in the center, and about a million lights warming the crowds who stop there for their super yummy martinis.
Last but not least–I am NOT picking a favorite out of these three!–is Meehan’s Irish Pub and Seafood House. If you’re hungry, Meehan’s is a great place to pop in for a quick pint and bite.
One Foot in Front of the Other
If you haven’t hit your 10,000 steps for the day yet, you can continue to walk down Avenida Menendez to the City Gates. As you walk along, you’ll see several decorated courtyards–you can sometimes even catch Santa there! Step through the courtyards for a European feel as you enjoy the lights.
No matter how far north you’ve walked, I recommend crossing Avenida Menendez and walking back to King Street along the bayfront. The Bridge of Lions is beautiful as its lights shimmer in the Matanzas Bay, and as I mentioned earlier, it really is a different view to look at the lights from the opposite side of the street.
At this point, you can return to King Street and head back to the car. Or, you have several options if the weather is nice and your dogs aren’t barking (translation: if your feet don’t hurt).
Walk further down the bayfront and see our new Sanchez House, our downtown inn (the address is 142 Avenida Menendez, and the photo is above), and our neighbors the Westcott House. From there, you can follow Avenida Menendez until it comes to Cordova . Take a RIGHT on Cordova, and you’ll see your parking lot on the LEFT. This adds about 15 minutes to your walk.
Take a RIGHT back onto King Street, then take a LEFT on Aviles. Aviles is the oldest street in the country, and the shops and restaurants that line it are always lit up prettily (see the photo above). Aviles will come out onto Bridge Street–just take a RIGHT on Bridge and you’ll see your parking lot on the LEFT, after Cordova. Ten minutes extra, unless you want to stop into one of the galleries on Aviles for a unique gift. Then it could take quite a bit longer!
Speaking of shopping, if you’d like to get a little something for yourself or someone else, add St. George Street to your walk. Take a RIGHT onto Cathedral Street (it’s the one way street right before the Plaza), then a RIGHT on St. George. If you walk all the way down St. George Street, you can take a LEFT at the end (or at any side street really) and then a RIGHT onto Cordova. This will take you back to the main square with the Lightner Museum. Your car is about two blocks away. This is the longest trip–especially if you happen to see something in one of the shops!
If you find that your dogs are barking before you even start, there are other ways to see the lights: a horse and carriage ride, a trolley ride through the Oldest City, a private tour by Gold Tours, or even driving around yourself.
In short (can I say ‘in short’ after 1500 words?), there is no bad way to see St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights. The only mistake is not coming to see them at all!! So check our calendar, book your room, and don’t forget to look at our beautiful, peaceful beach cottages–thanks to our free parking in the middle of town, they may be the best room choice of all!