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Must See Holiday Festivals

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The Haile Village Center’s Light the Village Night

The Haile Village Center invites children and adults to gather for an evening of holiday cheer at Light the Village Night. View the lighting of the tree amidst caroling, live music and tasty cuisine. The center offers train and horse-drawn carriage rides, bounce houses and photos with Santa. Full events kick off Dec. 5 at 5 p.m. and last until 9 p.m. Admission is free.

Kirby Family Farm Christmas Express

All aboard the Christmas Express! Experience the train ride of the season through thousands of twinkling Christmas lights at the Kirby Family Farm. Step back in time on their old-fashioned, 1800s train – one of only few like it in the world. After your journey, sit back, relax and enjoy classic Christmas movies under a starlit country sky. The farm will also feature an antique car ride, carousel, hayride and a spin on the Monster Bus. The Christmas Express will be accepting passengers from Santa’s “nice list” on select nights in November and December. Mr. Kirby recommends planning a two to three hour visit and booking your tickets during advance registration, open in November, to ensure your spot on the train. The farm is located in Williston, Florida, about 20 minutes from Interstate 75. The event lasts from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., with the first train departing at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $10.

North Florida Regional Medical Center Annual Pond Lighting

3… 2… 1… Lights on! Count down to the start of the holiday season in Gainesville with the North Florida Regional Medical Center Annual Pond Lighting. A few thousand people gather to usher in the celebration, which grows bigger each year. Watch the lights sparkle on the pond as you take in the cheerful local performances, holiday decorations, and even a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus! The 25th annual lighting takes place at the medical center’s Duck Pond on Dec. 5 at 5:30 p.m. Admission is free.

Tioga Town Center’s Winter Holiday Concert

Tioga Town Center’s annual Winter Holiday Concert is sure to have you humming your Christmas favorites with the area’s little voices. The event showcases the local ensembles of the Meadowbrook Elementary School Chorus and the Kimball Wiles Wildcats Chorus. The concert is located at The Square at Tioga Town Center on Dec. 16 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is free.

Light Up Ocala!

Experience an Ocala holiday tradition at Light Up Ocala! The event offers entertainment on three stages for a wide selection of holiday cheer. Celebrate the most wonderful time of the year by saying hello to Christmas characters including Santa, the renowned living-angel-statue actors and real-life reindeer! Then take a spin on the event’s ice rink for some classic winter fun. Kids will love the youth parade from 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., a Michaels craft tent and bounce houses. This picturesque winter night culminates in the lighting of the Downtown Square and the town’s huge Christmas tree at 6:30 p.m. Magic 3D glasses transform the tons of glimmering lights into favorite Christmas shapes and characters. The event takes place on Nov. 22 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Downtown Ocala. Admission is free.

Out-of-town Events

St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights

Nights of Lights is well worth the drive to Florida’s historic east coast. The nation’s oldest city offers something for everyone: a dreamlike Christmas wonderland for the kids, a romantic holiday getaway for couples and unforgettable sights for all. With millions of white lights covering the city, the St. Augustine area will illuminate on Nov. 22 at 6:30 p.m. and will continue to glow with holiday magic until Jan. 31.

Other notable events include the Regatta of Lights, a boat parade on the bayfront held Dec. 13 at 6 p.m. Sailboats, trawlers, shrimp boats and more don holiday decorations for the display between the Bridge of Lions and the Castillo de San Marcos. The regatta is hosted by the St. Augustine Yacht Club. All Nights of Lights events are free and open to the public.

Holidays at The Village of Baytowne Wharf

If you can’t spend the holidays in the North Pole, heading north to the Panhandle’s Village of Baytowne Wharf is the next best thing. Located at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, the Village offers a unique holiday getaway with events throughout November and December.

The 12 Nights of Lights

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… a remarkable timed lights show set to the cherished songs of the holidays. The spectacle, located in the Events Plaza, is performed every Friday and Saturday in December until Christmas at 6, 7 and 8 p.m. The show will also be performed during the holiday-themed editions of the Wednesday Night Concert Series at 7 p.m. Admission is free.

Sparkling Wine and Holiday Lights

This glamorous evening is sure to please your palate while sipping champagne through streets lined with sparkling lights and holiday greenery. Tour Baytowne Wharf in the best way – through sampling featured menu items from select restaurants. In the spirit of the season, attendees will receive a sneak peek of the Village tree lighting and holiday entertainment. The event lasts from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 15. Tickets are $40 per person. Visit baytownesparklingwinefest.com to purchase tickets.

Holiday Lantern Parade

Now in its fifth year, the Holiday Lantern Parade has become part of the Village’s distinctive holiday flair. Custom paper lanterns made into favorite holiday characters will float through Baytowne Wharf in the enchanting parade, while tubas playing holiday tunes fill the air. Join the spectacle by creating your own paper lantern. The fun starts on Dec. 13 at 6 p.m., joined by special guest Santa Claus at 7 p.m. Admission is free.

Victorian Christmas in Downtown Thomasville, Georgia

A journey into Christmases of the past awaits those who make the trek to Victorian Christmas in Thomasville, Georgia, located near the Florida-Georgia border. For two nights in December, Thomasville turns back time to the late 1800s when visitors would flock to the historic downtown to spend their holidays in the moderate weather and charm of south Georgia. Stroll the streets filled with carolers in Victorian finery, glimmering storefronts and smells of Christmas goodies. Other attractions include a nativity reenactment, Victorian craft village, live musicians and dancing. Join Thomasville for the 28th Annual Victorian Christmas on Dec. 11 and 12 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission to the spectacle is free, select attractions may request additional charge or donation.

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