NORTHEAST FLORIDA – With the weather changing and holiday season quickly
approaching, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is
encouraging Floridians and visitors to step outside and into the beauty of one
of Florida’s 160 state parks and attend a holiday event. Hosting an array of
festive decorations and activities throughout the holiday season, state parks
are the perfect venue to enjoy the outdoors and celebrate the holidays.
“Holidays are about gathering with family and friends; there’s no better
place to rendezvous this season than a beautiful Florida state park,” said DEP
Florida State Parks Director Donald Forgione. “From visits with Santa to
decorations with millions of dazzling lights, Florida’s state parks are offering
endless opportunities for combining nature, quality time with others and
contagious holiday cheer.”
In light of the hassles that holidays bring, DEP emphasizes the upside of
taking a break at a Florida state park. Attending an event while spending time
in nature and releasing endorphins through physical activity will help relieve
stress and maintain a healthy balance during the busy holiday season. White
sandy beaches, vast open prairies, steep ravines, lush semi-tropical forests,
cultural sites, crystal clear lakes, or rivers and springs offer countless
landscapes for the ideal holiday reprieve.
Holiday events taking place at state parks in Northeast Florida include:
UNION HOLIDAY ENCAMPMENT
Fort Clinch State Park, Amelia Island
December 4, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Sunday, December 5, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Living historians recreate life at Fort Clinch during the War Between the States
with artillery demonstrations, medical demonstrations and soldier drills.
Soldiers and civilians take up duty in the laundry, infirmary, kitchen,
barracks, quartermaster and carpenter shop. A special Christmas tree is
decorated with period, handmade decorations. Regular park admission fees apply.
For more information, call (904) 277-7274.
CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park,
December 4-31, 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Experience the ultimate high
voltage holiday as the park is filled with more than four million lights.
Visitors can enjoy the holiday sights and sounds as they drive through the park
to see unique holiday light displays, including the majestic oak trees adorned
with thousands of lights, an antebellum museum dressed in full holiday splendor,
the gingerbread village located at the gift shop and craft square, candy cane
forest, Santa’s runway and much more! The centerpiece of the park’s light
display is the Carillon Tower which illuminates the night sky standing more than
200 feet tall dressed from head to toe in lights as holiday music rings from its
97 tubular bells. The gift shop and craft square are open each evening until
9:00 p.m. offering unique handmade items, holiday gifts, holiday craft workshops
and providing complimentary refreshments and popcorn, as well as a bonfire and
marshmallow roast. The antebellum museum is open each evening until 8:30 p.m.
and features holiday music selections performed by local church choirs.
Admission is $2 per person and includes complimentary hot chocolate and popcorn.
For more information, call (386) 397-4331.
13TH ANNUAL NIGHT OF LIGHTS EVENT
Fort Cooper State Park, Inverness
December 10 and Saturday, December 11, 6:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
decorations, music and refreshments with a special guests Santa and Mrs. Claus
make this a special holiday event. Event sponsored by the Citrus County
Chronicle. Admission fee is the donation of non-perishable foods or new
unwrapped toys to benefit the Citrus United Basket. For more information, call
SANTA OVER THE RAINBOW
Rainbow Springs State Park, Dunnellon
December 10, 11,
12, 17, 18, 19, 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
The Friends of Rainbow Springs bring Santa
Clause to Dunnellon for this one of a kind experience. Walk through the
wonderland of lights that decorate the headsprings area of Rainbow Springs State
Park, see Mr. and Mrs. Clause come up the Rainbow River on a lighted boat and
head towards their cottage where pictures are taken or visit with Santa’s elves
and listen to carols. Admission is $1 per person. For more information, call
CELEBRATION OF LIGHTS
Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park,
December 18-24 and 27, 5:30 - 8:30 p.m.
The park is decked out
for the holidays with thousands of twinkling lights and Christmas decorations
during this multi-evening event sponsored by the Friends of Homosassa Springs
Wildlife Park. Admission is a $2 donation for adults and $1 for children.
About Florida State Parks
Created in 1935 by the Florida Legislature, the
Florida State Park system has grown from eight to 160 parks in the last 75
years. Today, the Florida Park Service manages more than 700,000 acres of
Florida’s natural environment, including 100 miles of beaches, eight National
Historic Landmarks and 39 sites on the National Register of Historic Places.
Florida State Parks has been recognized by the National Recreation and Park
Association as the nation’s first and only two-time Gold Medal winner for the
nation’s best park service. For more information about Florida’s state parks,