Planning a trip to enjoy the 2020 Nights of Lights in St. Augustine? Read this first!
We love Nights of Lights in St. Augustine. Walking around town holding hands, seeing the warm glow of the lights on the bay, looking up at the trees draped with lights in Constitution Plaza–it’s PERFECT!
This year’s celebration will be perfect too, even with Covid-19 and the 2020-style challenges. In fact, the City and our city attractions have made some simple changes that allow visitors to still enjoy the lights, while staying safe on their St. Augustine vacations.
But the changes do require a little planning! Read on to get our insider tips:
We’re Starting Early in 2020
Nights of Lights starts a week early this year—November 14—and runs through January 31. The city wanted to extend the celebration to allow people to “spread out” a little bit more through the season. The great news is, that means an extra week to love the lights!
To minimize crowds, the town won’t be doing the annual Lighting in the Park on the first night. But you can enjoy a “light up night” every night around 5:30, when all of the lights around town come on.
PLAN to Ride the Trolleys
The biggest changes are to the holiday trolleys. If you plan to take a trolley to see the lights, you will have to plan in advance. To avoid the long lines, all trolley tickets will be advanced purchase ONLY. We met with the trolley operators recently, and they expect weekend tickets to sell out in advance…so if you’re joining us on a weekend, make your reservations sooner rather than later! You can purchase tickets online at the following sites:
Old Town Trolley: https://www.trolleytours.com/st-augustine/nights-of-lights?phta=augustine?ref=VisitStAugustine.com&type=event-profile
Ripley’s Red Train: https://www.visitstaugustine.com/event/ripleys-red-trains-nights-lights-tours
Both trolleys have installed plexiglass between rows, and each row will only accommodate people in a single group (up to four people—if you have more than that, you will need multiple rows). If you purchase trolley tickets at the links above, you are not buying a “seat”—you are buying an entire row.
The nice thing about this change is that you’ll have a row all to yourself!
The downside is that there are now a lot less seats available. But it won’t be a problem if you get your tickets early–and now you know! 🙂
You can read more about each trolley’s particular Covid precautions at the sites above. (Note: If the sites do not work, just Google “Nights of Lights Trolley Tours St. Augustine”. I also recommend checking the sites closer to your stay for the most current information about their rides. The last few months have taught us all how quickly things can change!)
Christmas and Thanksgiving Holiday Tips
If you are staying with us for either Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, or the week between Christmas and New Year’s, we always recommend making a dinner reservation at least three weeks in advance. Restaurants book up very quickly!!! If you go to www.visitstaugustine.com, you can search for “Thanksgiving” or “Christmas” and you’ll find a list of open restaurants, as well as information about their menus for the holidays. All restaurants are open during Christmas week.
Note: It’s always smart to make reservations early for the holidays, but it seems like each year more and more restaurants are closing on the holidays to allow their staff to spend time with their families. So plan accordingly!
Just a note: we like to spend holidays with our families too! We close our office early on both Christmas and Thanksgiving–usually at 6:30pm. But Sandy and Mike live just a few blocks away, and we always carry our cell phones–even on the holidays!
Holiday Shopping in St. Augustine
Other considerations: most retail stores are open on Thanksgiving, so if you like to get your shopping done early, St. Augustine is a great place to do it! On the other hand, most stores are closed on Christmas Day, so if you don’t get everything you want from Santa, you may want to make a list so that shopping is easier on December 26 in St. Augustine.
Speaking of December 26, the week between Christmas and New Year’s is The Busiest Week of the Year in St. Augustine. We’re usually at full capacity at the inn throughout the year, so what does that mean for us? It means a mile long waiting list. It means a couple hundred phone calls that week from desperate people looking for a room–any room. Take our advice: if you would like to come that week, make your reservations NOW!
Always make your reservations directly on the property’s website. Third party sites like Expedia and Booking.com may be a quick way to see a lot of properties at once, but their information is not reliable. For instance, a few years ago, we had a couple reviewers who referred to our in-room jetted bathtubs as ‘hot tubs’. When the site’s algorithm recognized those multiple comments, they CHANGED OUR AMENITIES to say we had a hot tub!!! We didn’t make the change, so we didn’t know that it was on the site until people complained after check in that they didn’t see the hot tub. We have had the sites say we have a hotel pool–our direct website makes it very clear that we have a pool reserved for one specific room. So please–always book direct!
I know it’s a lot of planning, but look at it this way–so many things could NOT be planned in 2020, we should all look forward to planning fun things on our vacations! Plus, while you’re planning, it gives you a chance to look forward to the trip. As the pandemic has continued, I’ve come to realize how much I enjoy looking forward to things, whether it’s a getaway or even just an evening out–it’s like little mini vacations! So do a little planning, talk to your traveling partner about what they’d like to do, and look forward to a wonderful vacation in St. Augustine!
What’s your favorite part of the Nights of Lights? What are your insider tips? Let us know in the comments!
Note: We will update this blog as we learn more, but we can’t guarantee any of the information about other businesses. (We’re happy to guarantee our own!) If it’s critical that you do something while on vacation, please call the business or attraction directly just to make sure that nothing has changed that we’re not aware of! 🙂