Every winter, St Augustine’s Historic District comes alive during the Nights of Lights, with over 3 million lights sparkling in the Old City. From Mid-November to the end of January, the boulevards bustle with an energy that takes the beautiful and historic city’s romantic vibe and raises it through the roof.
At Coleman Concierge, we’re a travel couple specializing in romance and soft adventure, and we’ll share our six most romantic ways to enjoy the St Augustine Nights of Lights.
Read along for our tips and tricks, but be warned, you might be packing your bags before the last holiday light has twinkled.
For over 30 years, Old Town Trolley has been showing people the best of the Historic District with narrated, hop-on/hop-off tours. However, the Nights of Lights Tour is a little more intimate and romantic. You can reserve an entire row in advance for privacy and elbow room and make the 30-45 minute tour a private moment to scout out your favorite light displays.
The tour is a continuous round trip that departs and returns to a station outside the Visitor Center. You get light-enhancing glasses when you board and cookies and hot apple cider when you return. Along the route, the usual narration is replaced with a montage of holiday music.
Pro-tip, arrive early to allow for parking, available at the Visitor Center Garage.
One of our favorite things about St Augustine is the walkability of the Historic District. St George Street is a pedestrian-only thoroughfare, but the entire district is compact and foot-friendly.
While you’re out and about, be sure to pick your favorite display and cast your vote on the QR code. Do you know why this is important? Maya Z. Rossignac-Milon, a postdoctoral research scholar at Columbia Business School, put it this way-
Romantic partners who experience a stronger sense of shared reality feel closer and more committed to their partner and feel that they have ‘merged minds.’ Further, once romantic couples have established a strong sense of shared reality, they are motivated to uphold and protect it.
Voting on your favorite light display might seem simple, but it creates a moment with your partner that will last long after the lights come down.
We gushed about the food scene in our Romantic Things to do in St Augustine piece, so it should be no surprise that it makes a reprise in our Romantic Nights of Lights. However, we added a new venue for the season – the Columbia Restaurant.
The Columbia Restaurant is Florida’s oldest restaurant, dating back to 1905, and a St Augustine staple for almost forty years. The Cuban/Spanish decor is alluring, and nothing is more romantic than sharing tapas and a ‘1905’ Salad prepared tableside. After you feast, it’s an easy frolic over to the Visitor Center to catch a Nights of Lights trolley, or to wander amongst the twinkly lights walking off the deliciousness.
Imagine sailing into the setting sun with the wind in your hair and a glass of wine on your lips. It’s a romantic scene for sure, but throw in 3 million lights and a 320-year-old fort towering over the shoreline, and you might be on to something. Of course, we’re talking about St Augustine, but you still need to pick your boat.
If your visions of romance are inextricably linked to booty, then go ahead and book passage on the Black Raven Pirate Ship. However, if you’re a little more refined or just like wine, may we suggest the Schooner Freedom’s Nights of Lights Sunset Sails?
You start by sailing under the Bridge of Lions’ drawbridge and then cruise where the winds take you. Silence surrounds you when the motor turns off, and you’re alone with the sun, the sea, and the occasional dolphin. As the sun sets, you head to shore to see the Nights of Lights up close and wait for the bridge to open again.
Schooner Freedom’s sunset cruise has an open wine bar for a sip and sail or a practical pirate pregame. You return to the Municipal Marina conveniently located just a few steps away from the central light display at the Plaza de la Constitución. From there, you can clear your head discovering ways to explore the Nights of Lights, or better still, if you have a room in the Historic District, you don’t have to worry about the drive home at all. On that note…
Seriously, St Augustine has some of the most romantic hotels in Florida, including one of our favorites, The Collector Inn. Still, during our time in the Nights of Lights, we tried a romantic B&B in the Historic District – Centennial House Bed & Breakfast and it was wonderful.
Staying in the Historic District during the Nights of Lights makes all the difference because you park once and can enjoy the rest of the evening with nothing but relaxation and romance. The Centennial House was a beautiful home base with the beauty of a B&B but the privacy of a boutique hotel. Plus, check out this fabulous jetted tub to wash away your walking worries😉.
Let’s be clear: the Historic District is a treacherous place to ride, especially during the Nights of Lights. Sure, you could take a pedicab tour of the Nights of Lights, but the pedicab has bright lights and the driver isn’t going to be focusing on the scenery.
However, we’ve found an excellent cycling route through St Augustine that’s safe for experienced riders during the daylight. You might not see the lights, but plenty of other seasonal decorations compliment historic sites like the Old City Gate, Flagler College, and the Bridge of Lions. Plus, the Nights of Lights are during the prime time riding time when the weather is pretty much perfect for cycling, including the epic ride up the coast to Ponte Vedra.
We think that taking a bike ride together is one of the most romantic things a couple can do, even if you’re just riding in a pedicab 😉.
We gave you six romantic ways to see the Nights of Lights, but there are so many more. From the twice-monthly night market at the Amphitheatre to the once-a-season Luminary Night at St. Augustine Lighthouse, there are plenty of festivals to enjoy. Along with your standby favorite things to do in St Augustine, you couldn’t possibly fit it all in a single trip.
Disclosure: A big thank you to Florida’s Historic Coast for hosting us, setting up a fantastic itinerary, and assisting us with images we were unable to capture ourselves for this article! For more travel inspiration check out their Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.
As always, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own, and we only recommend brands and destinations that we 100% stand behind.
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