You may have heard of the nation’s oldest city, St. Augustine. But did you know that it has the absolute best holiday lighting displays?
We’re not just talking about a few strings of lights or a large Christmas tree in the square. We’re talking millions of lights strung throughout the entire small town, creating a breathtakingly beautiful display that is sure to leave you and your partner feeling enchanted.
Are you planning to visit Nights of Lights in St. Augustine? Find everything you need to see and do in one place!
No need for hours of research here! This guide has got everything from the best viewing spots to the most magical events and activities so can make the most out of your trip. We experienced the magic of Nights of Lights ourselves, so you’ll get first-hand recommendations and insider tips!
In this Article:
- In this Article:
- Why Choose St. Augustine for a Romantic Holiday
- Best Times to Visit for the Nights of Lights
- Getting to and Around St. Augustine
- Where to Stay: A Guide to Romantic Accommodations
- Experiencing the Nights of Lights
- Culinary Adventures for Couples
- Daytime Activities
- Practical Tips for Couples
- Making Special Moments
- Local Secrets and Hidden Gems
- A Romantic Journey Through a Tropical Winter Wonderland
- More Romantic Getaways in Florida
This annual event, known as Nights of Lights, has become a must-see for couples looking for a romantic weekend getaway full of holiday cheer in a magical atmosphere. If you and your partner are ready to experience the holiday season like never before, stay tuned! This is our ultimate guide to a romantic weekend at Nights of Lights St. Augustine.
Why Choose St. Augustine for a Romantic Holiday
What makes St. Augustine’s annual Nights of Lights celebration different than any other city adorned with holiday lights this time of year? Well, for starters, this charming city is already romantic in and of itself. With its cobblestone streets, Spanish architecture, and beautiful waterfront views, St. Augustine is the perfect backdrop for a romantic weekend filled with love and holiday magic.
And… when you add millions of dazzling lights to the mix, the result will take your breath away. But the charm of Nights of Lights doesn’t stop there — it’s also the sense of community and togetherness that makes this event truly special.
For instance, Flagler College will have a beautiful tree in the entryway, and the Lightner Museum will have lovely trees tucked in here and there. Local dining spots and shops also go all out with festive decorations, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere that will make you feel like you’re in a Southern winter wonderland.
Best Times to Visit for the Nights of Lights
This year, the Night of Lights season will begin on November 18th, 2023, and continue through January 31st, 2024. To avoid crowds, plan to visit AFTER Christmas and the New Year when things start to calm down a bit. It also helps to arrange your visit during the week rather than the weekend. During this time, accommodation rates are lower, and you’re less likely to deal with long waits for the trolley or train.
When it comes to weather, early December tends to be the most pleasant, with temperatures in the 60s. From late December to the end of January, temperatures tend to drop, and it can get quite chilly. Make sure to pack accordingly, as you’ll want to enjoy walking around the town, taking in all the beautiful light displays!
Most importantly, book your trip EARLY in advance. Everything, including tours and boat rides, sells out quickly during Nights of Lights, so don’t miss out on the chance to experience everything this great time has to offer.
Getting to and Around St. Augustine
The best way to get to St. Augustine for the Night of Lights is to either drive in or fly into one of the nearby airports. If you are driving, there are a few different routes to take depending on your starting point.
If coming from the north or south, you can take Interstate 95, U.S. Highway 1, or Florida’s scenic A1A highway. Those traveling from the west can access Interstate 10, while those coming from central and southwest Florida can take Interstate 4 or 75.
If you choose to fly in, St. Augustine has a small airport (St. Augustine Regional Airport) that services private and charter flights. The closest major airports are in Jacksonville, Orlando, and Daytona Beach.
Once you’ve arrived, you’ll easily be able to get around by foot, trolley, or train. Many of the main sights and attractions in the downtown area are within walking distance, but if you prefer to see the Night of Lights from a completely different perspective, there are trolleys and trains that offer the best views!
Where to Stay: A Guide to Romantic Accommodations
There are so many wonderful places to stay in St. Augustine, so it can be hard to pick! Here are some of our top recommendations for a magical stay in the city of St. Augustine.
Craving a spot of luxury? The Casa Monica Resort & Spa is calling your name. This romantic hotel offers panoramic views of the illuminated city and is located in the heart of downtown St. Augustine. The hotel features upscale amenities, including a luxurious spa, fine dining options, and elegant rooms with all the modern comforts you could ask for. It’s a bucket list destination for us.
Bed and Breakfasts
If cozy and charming is more your style, look no further than the St. Francis Inn. This beautiful bed and breakfast offers a historic ambiance with modern comfort, offering the best of both worlds. Enjoy breakfast in bed or take a stroll through their picturesque gardens — either way, you and your beau will feel right at home.
Unique Accommodation Options
Want to feel like you’re (quite literally) immersed in the regatta of lights that is Night of Lights? Book a stay in The Heart of St. Augustine, a quaint little Airbnb apartment located above a beloved local pizza joint. This one-bedroom apartment comes fully furnished and even has its own balcony overlooking St. George Street, so you’ll be a part of all the action.
We also love booking a few blocks outside of the historic city walls and walking to and from everywhere we go. It gives us time to stroll through the neighborhoods and see the cute homes and lush gardens.
Experiencing the Nights of Lights
You can’t make a visit to St. Augustine without taking the Old Town Trolley Tours, especially this time of year! The drivers dress up as elves, play Christmas music, and tell stories about the city’s history and holiday traditions while you gawk at all the best light displays. This is also a great opportunity to catch sight of the Grinch driving around in one of the local golf cart cabs (Or book a ride with the Grinch or Scrouge yourself for some added laughs)!
Normally, you can walk up and grab tickets at any of the small booths located around the city, but for Nights of Lights, plan ahead and get your tickets early!
Bring all your holiday cheer on a Nights of Lights Trolley tour. Expect carols, laughter, and unadulterated holiday fun while cruising through the tight streets of St. Augustine.
Booking a boat tour is a must-do during Nights of Lights. These tours offer a unique perspective of the city and its lights from the water, making for a truly romantic experience. The Schooner Freedom offers a 2-hour nighttime sail aboard their beautiful wooden ship, complete with hot cider and holiday treats (these book out FAST for the Nights of Lights, so book ahead). If you prefer something more intimate, consider booking a private boat tour for just you and your sweetie!
One of the best things about St. Augustine is how walkable it is. Grab your partner’s hand and take a romantic stroll through the historic streets, admiring all the twinkling lights and holiday decorations. Don’t forget to stop for hot cocoa or mulled wine along the way! We particularly love walking over the bridge of lions at night and marveling at just how bright St. Augustine glows.
Culinary Adventures for Couples
Romantic Dinner Spots
Dine under the stars at Michael’s Restaurant, known for its intimate setting and steakhouse menu. Their menu features dishes from steak, seafood, and fine wine, making for a truly romantic dining experience. We love their terrine and suggest asking about the tasting menu, even if you’re not sure you can eat it all.
Or, if something more laid back and relaxed is your style, head over to Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille for some Cajun-inspired flavors. Either way, you and your partner will enjoy a delicious meal and an intimate evening together.
Cafés and Hot Chocolate Shops
There’s no shortage of cozy cafés and hot chocolate shops in St. Augustine. Some favorites include The Kookaburra for their Australian-style coffee and pastries or Claude’s Chocolate for delectable treats like truffles, macarons, and, of course, hot chocolate. (This is one spot I go back to every time we visit for a mid-day pick-me-up).
For a truly unique experience, head to Ancient City Brunch Bar for their amazing charcuterie creations! Trust us, you won’t find anything like it anywhere else!
If you and your partner love fine wines, make sure to visit the San Sebastian Winery. Located in a historic building, this winery offers free tours and tastings of its award-winning wines. Our personal favorite is Bin39, a cozy wine bar located inside the winery where you can enjoy live music and delicious tapas. On a warm day, they have tables outside to sit and enjoy the bustle while sipping your wine. Don’t forget to cheers to a romantic evening in St. Augustine!
Now that each night with your love is booked up with magic, romance, and holiday spirit, what is there to do during the day? The lights may be off, but St. Augustine still has plenty to offer during daylight hours. Here are some ideas that’ll fill your days with pure joy:
- Flagler Tour: The Flagler Tour is a must for any history buff or architecture lover. Explore the magnificent Ponce de Leon Hotel, now home to Flagler College, and the opulent Lightner Museum.
- St. Augustine Lighthouse: For those willing to climb, the view from the top is a breathtaking panorama of the stunning city. Plus, you’ll get a glimpse into the city’s seafaring past.
- Colonial Quarter and Ximenez-Fatio House: Take a step back in time at these historic sites, where you can learn about colonial life and see how early settlers lived.
- Zipline at the Alligator Farm: For adventure-seekers, take a thrilling zipline ride over alligators and other wildlife at this unique attraction.
- Lincolnville Museum Learn about the important role African Americans played in shaping St. Augustine’s history at this fascinating museum.
- Anastasia State Park: Get out in nature and enjoy a kayak or hike at this beautiful state park. You can even rent bikes to explore the trails together.
Have a car? Finding parking during the evening can be a challenge.
To avoid this, consider arriving earlier in the morning when there is usually less traffic and available spaces. One option that locals often use is to park across the Bridge of Lions on Anastasia Island. The walk back to the city’s historic district is just 10 minutes and offers a beautiful view of the bridge, especially during the Nights of Lights event.
Practical Tips for Couples
The Nights of Lights season in St. Augustine can get chilly, so make sure to pack warm clothes and comfortable walking shoes for exploring the city. Here is a list of some essentials that’ll have you thanking yourself later:
- Warm jacket and sweater
- A pair of jeans and/or leggings
- Walking shoes
- A nice outfit for a romantic dinner
- Lighter, layered clothes for the daytime
- Light bag or backpack
- A camera to capture all the magical moments
As with any travel, it’s important to stay safe while exploring a new place (even with your special person by your side!). Here are some tips to ensure a smooth and worry-free trip:
- Stay in well-lit and populated areas
- Keep your personal belongings close to you at all times
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Use caution when crossing the busy streets of St. Augustine
- Don’t leave valuables in your car
- Stay hydrated, and don’t overdo it with alcohol consumption
Making Special Moments
Your trip to St. Augustine’s Night of Lights isn’t with your kids, parents, or best friends… you’re with your better half, the love of your life! So why not make it extra special? Here are some romantic ways to surprise your partner to create unforgettable moments that’ll have you two smiling for days to come:
- Arrange for a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride through the city
- Book a couples massage at one of St. Augustine’s luxurious spas
- Surprise your partner with tickets to a holiday show or concert
- Write love letters to each other and exchange them during a candlelit dinner
- Plan a picnic in one of the city’s beautiful parks or on the beach
Local Secrets and Hidden Gems
There are plenty of hidden gems and local spots in St. Augustine that are often overlooked by tourists. One of the coolest places that doesn’t nearly get enough hype is the Saint Augustine Amphitheatre. This outdoor venue hosts concerts and events throughout the year, but during the Nights of Lights season, it transforms into a magical wonderland with a holiday Night Market. Make sure to check their schedule for any shows or events happening during your visit!
Speaking of lights, any local will tell you that the best spot to view the city’s lights is at The Plaza de la Constitución. This central plaza is surrounded by charming shops and restaurants, making it the perfect spot to cozy up with your partner and enjoy the stunning holiday decorations.
If you and your partner are true foodies, make sure to visit Asado Life, a unique Argentine-inspired restaurant tucked away in from the heart of St. Augustine’s historic district and a bit ‘out of the way’ but it provides an experience that is second to none. The chefs cook over a wood-fire grill, and the menu features an array of mouth-watering dishes that are perfect for sharing.
The Nights of Lights in St. Augustine typically runs from the end of November through the end of January, giving couples plenty of time to plan their romantic getaway.
Yes! You can take a self-guided walking tour or simply wander around the city and explore on your own. Most of the attractions, restaurants, and shops are all decked out for the holiday season, so no need to worry about missing out!
Generally, the weather in St. Augustine during the Nights of Lights season is mild, with average temperatures in the mid to high 60s. However, it’s always a good idea to check the forecast before your trip and be prepared for any unexpected changes.
Oh yes. The Nights of Lights season in St. Augustine is chock full of events and activities that you and your partner can enjoy. From holiday markets to concerts and parades, there’s always something fun and festive going on. Make sure to check the event calendar before your trip so you don’t miss out on any of the excitement!
During the day, there are plenty of activities for couples to enjoy in St. Augustine. Here are a few suggestions:
– Take a romantic stroll through the city’s historic district and admire the beautiful architecture and quaint streets.
– Visit some of the local art galleries and museums, such as The Lightner Museum or The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens.
– Take a horseback riding tour along the beach with your partner and soak up the ocean views.
– Rent bikes and explore the city’s parks and nature trails.
– Go on a wine-tasting tour at one of St. Augustine’s wineries, like San Sebastian Winery or The Cellar Upstairs.
A Romantic Journey Through a Tropical Winter Wonderland
The Nights of Lights in St. Augustine is a truly magical experience every couple should add to their travel bucket list.
It’s not just a stunning backdrop of glimmering lights but also a romantic journey through the city’s rich history, delicious food and drinks, and endless activities to enjoy with your loved one.
Couples, mark your calendars; this is a winter escapade you won’t want to miss.
If this guide makes you eager to experience the Nights of Lights in St. Augustine, be sure to share it with your significant other. After all, magical nights are best when shared. To stay in the loop of all my travel guides, subscribe to my newsletter!