A Couple of Florida Holiday Travel Destination Ideas

St. Augustine Florida

 Forget Gift-Giving, and Create Experiences by Spending the Holidays in St. Augustine

Sure, we all love the holidays. But sometimes they can feel like the same old, same old. Year after year, you attend the same Christmas parties, wrap similar square-shaped boxes, bake dozens of cookies and struggle to maintain your pre-Thanksgiving weight. What if you did something different this year? What if you spent the holidays creating new experiences and memories with your close friends and family?

St. Augustine, Florida is home to one of the most famous holiday lighting displays in the world. It’s also the Nation’s Oldest City having been continuously occupied by European-established settlements since 1565. And did we mention that this little city by the sea is situated on the Atlantic Ocean and boasts miles upon miles of white, sandy beaches?

There are many reasons to spend the holidays in St. Augustine. Here are some of the most popular events and things to do. 

Nights of Lights  Every year, millions of twinkling lights cover the cityscape of St. Augustine nightly. Come see why Nights of Lights was selected by National Geographic in both 2011 and 2012 as one of the best holiday lighting displays in the world as you journey through old town by trolley, on foot or from a horse and carriage ride. 

Nights Of Lights Tours – One of the best ways to experience St. Augustine’s famous Nights of Lights is aboard Old Town Trolley’s Holiday excursion dubbed the “Holly Jolly Trolley” by locals. Enjoy complimentary cider, cookies and caroling as well as super-cool, winter-themed viewing glasses that turn millions of tiny lights into snowmen, Christmas trees and other holiday favorites. Tickets are $6 for children and $14 for adults. 

Support Small Businesses Even if you’ve decided to forgo gift-giving this year, St. Augustine has hundreds of small, locally owned shops with one-of-a-kind items you won’t be able to find at home. Dozens of art galleries dot the cityscape featuring local artists creating everything from glass wind chimes to metal art. Tour an artisan chocolate-maker or pick up some holiday spirit at the St. Augustine Distillery, which produces small-batch gin, rum, vodka and bourbon. 

The Nutcracker Mother Ginger, the Sugar Plum Fairy and Mouse King all come alive in St. Augustine Ballet’s annual rendition of The Nutcracker at Flagler College’s Lewis Auditorium. Some of the area’s most talented dancers join local celebrities and guest artists in this holiday classic. Tickets are $20-$30 each. 

Christmas Tour of Homes Each year, The Garden Club of St. Augustine hosts its annual “Christmas in the Flagler Era” inspired by the Gilded Age opulence of oil tycoon and railway magnate, Henry Morrison Flagler.  Christmas Tour of Homes feature a walking tour through historic downtown to six private homes dating back to the early 1800s. 

Historic Lodging There is no shortage of beautiful inns, hotels and bed and breakfasts dotting the landscape of St. Augustine’s downtown. Built in 1865, The Kenwood Inn on Marine Street is an ideal locale for your holiday stay in the Nation’s Oldest City. Individually decorated guest room’s feature rich, hardwood floors, four-poster and antique beds for a mix of Old Florida elegance with a hint of the tropics. 

Rest & Relaxation Erected in 1888 and a member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Historic Hotels of America, the Casa Monica Resort & Spa is the perfect spot for rest and relaxation while taking in the famous Nights of Lights display. Located on Cordova Street across from Flagler College, Casa Monica blends Moroccan-inspired d├ęcor with modern conveniences and the brand new, full-service Poseidon Spa. 

Key West Florida

 Head to Key West for a Nautical Holiday Steeped in Sand, Sun and Surf

At the tip of Florida and just 90 miles north of Cuba is Key West, a tropical island famous for its laid-back lifestyle, beautiful blue water, relaxing beaches and romantic appeal. While Key West is a great place to visit year-round, these islanders take the holidays seriously – transforming the seascape into a wonderland of twinkling lights, trolley tours, boat parades and live music events.

Key West is an island in the Straits of Florida and at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys. With a total landmass of 4.2 square miles and an average yearly temperature of 77 degrees, it’s easy to see why popular local landmarks like Duval Street, Hemingway House, Key West Lighthouse, Mallory Square and Mile Marker 0 have been welcoming visitors for centuries. Add Key West to your upcoming holiday travel list and create memories to last a lifetime.

There are many reasons to spend the holidays in Key West. Here are a few of the most popular events and things to do.

Harbor Walk of Lights Honoring Key West’s maritime history, the annual Harbor Walk of Lights kicks off the holiday season as you walk along the seawall past Green Street, William Street and Margaret Street to the Key West Ferry Terminal. This free event, which stretches through New Year’s Eve, is fun for they entire family and features nautical theme light displays, shopping, dining and seasonal libations. 

Holiday Lights and Sights Trolley Tour One of the best ways to experience Key West during the holidays is aboard Old Town Trolley’s Holiday Lights and Sights Tour. While there won’t be a white Christmas in Key West, that doesn’t stop the island from decking the halls with lights and decorations. This 60-minute trolley tour begins in Mallory Square and includes cider and cookies before departure. 

Lighted Boat Parade Twinkling lights illuminate the waters at Key West’s Historic Seaport for the annual Schooner Wharf Bar & Galley Lighted Boat Parade. Dozens of boats parade through the waters.

Fury Water Adventures A staple for outdoor activities in Key West for almost 30 years, the largest watersports company in South Florida hosts a variety of holiday-themed events during November and December. Offering special trips on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve as well as a unique Lighted Boat Parade viewing experience that is second to none. 

Support Small Businesses Key West has hundreds of small, locally owned shops with one-of-a-kind items for everyone on your nice list. Art galleries dot the seascape featuring local artists creating everything from glass jewelry to handmade pottery and dozens of clothing boutiques and gift shops offer up everything from hammocks and seashells to vintage beach photos and eco-friendly treasures. Make sure to add popular destinations like Clinton Square Market and Mallory Square Marketplace to your shopping itinerary.

Rest & Relaxation Inspiring guests like Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams since it opened in 1926, La Concha Hotel & Spa is a National Historic Landmark in the heart of the vibrant downtown historic district. Located on Duval Street, the hotel was designed with comfort in mind and features contemporary accommodations with colorful ceilings, dark wood plantation furnishings and coastal inspired window shutters. Enjoy a cocktail by the pool, dine at 430 Duval, sip world-class wines at Wine-O or stop by La Concha’s full-service spa for signature treatments at their rooftop facilities. 

Historic Lodging There is no shortage of beautiful inns, hotels and bed and breakfasts dotting the landscape of Key West’s downtown. Built in 1898, Key West Bed and Breakfast is located in the William Russell House and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Constructed by Bahamian shipbuilders, this three-story Victoria is located on a quiet, tree-shaded street in the heart of Old Town. With a short walk to the water and Caribbean-style guest rooms, you’ll find it easy to rest and relax at Key West Bed and Breakfast. 

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