All photos by Kelsey Walters
This time of year, there’s nothing quite like the magic of twinkling lights. We live in one of those crazy Christmas light neighborhoods that does it up big each year. I love to stroll around the block and see what all our neighbors have come up with. A spot in north Florida, however, puts us and every other light display to shame each year with their dazzling display.
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park – Live Oak, FL
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak transforms itself each winter into a winter wonderland with, quite literally, millions of holiday lights. The 800-acre park, best known for hosting large music festivals, wraps each tree with care and sets up enormous displays in the surrounding forest for a truly magnificent show.
Scott and I first learned of the Suwannee Lights festival back in 2013 when we were camping in the park and came back to our site to find hundreds of cars and even more brilliant lights surrounding the area. We got in line and were completely blown away and have been recommending it as one of our fav holiday activities ever since. This year was the perfect chance to go camping again and bring Avery for her first visit.
What sets Suwannee Lights apart, besides the enormity of their displays, is the creativity that can only be found in a fun music park like this. In this drive-through experience, you are first greeted with a tunnel of light, comprised of wall after wall of lights surrounding you. If that doesn’t get you in the mood to rock around the Christmas tree, I don’t know what will!
Drive Through Christmas Light Display in North Florida
When you arrive, you tune in with your radio for some cheerful holiday music. As you progress through the park, the song will (magically, according to Avery) change itself to match the scene. You’ll find yourself flying through the solar system of glowing planets to an out-of-this-world rendition of “Carol of the Bells,” before you’re suddenly surrounded by massive lit dinosaurs with roars and grumbles heard in the distance while pterodactyls “swoop” overhead.
A military band of glowing soldiers plays in a tribute to our troops, while Santa and his elves can be spotted busily preparing for Christmas day in his workshop. As far as the eye can see, trees are wrapped in lights and handcrafted characters and elements are brightly lit. Driving through the acreage will take you around 30 minutes to take in the approximately 10 million lights.
If you choose to camp at the park, hundreds of quiet tent, camper and RV sites are available, nestled cozily in the surrounding trees. Cabins are also available for rent. Nestled on the famed Suwannee River, the huge park offers plenty to explore. A restaurant serving up lunch, dinner and drinks is within walking distance from camp, as well as a large general store that has just about everything you forgot at home (trust me, we visited several times).
If you can’t stay the night, but want to make a day of your trip before the sun goes down, nearby Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park is open for visits. The park is named for the local songwriter responsible for more than 200 American classics such as “Oh! Susanna”, “Camptown Races,” and, of course, “Old Folks at Home (Swanee River)” which put this area on the map, and is known as the “father of American music.” The beautiful park preserves the history of Foster’s legacy and the song that made the river famous. They will also have their own Festival of Lights from December 10 through 24.
This year, to avoid long lines, Suwannee is selling only 250 car passes per hour so be sure to purchase your spot in advance if you need to go on a particular night. If you’re just visiting for the evening and worried about making a long drive, don’t worry – your night’s not over just yet! When you come to the end of the forest of lights, it’s time to hop out of your car, stretch your legs and get ready to party! A walk-through display of even more lights leads you to a swingin’ glowing band playing all of your favorite rocking holiday hits on stage. It was hard to tear Avery away from her own little dance party.
Further down the path, a bustling little Christmas village is waiting for you near the country store. Here, you can grab everything you need to make your own s’mores (or come prepared with all your own fixings!) around the bonfire, plus find hot cocoa, snacks like fried Oreos and funnel cake, plus ice cream and pizza for sale. The restaurant is also open with live music on the breezy patio on weekends.
You can purchase a handmade, customized ornament as a souvenir or peruse the country store. Inside, you’ll find the Big Man himself waiting to hear your Christmas wishes. Avery prepared all week for this visit and let Santa know she’d like a toy horse and politely informed him she enjoys chips and dip when he requested chocolate chip cookies for Christmas Eve. I guess Santa will be finding chips and salsa at our house this year.
SPIRIT OF THE SUWANNEE MUSIC PARK
3076 95th Drive, Live Oak, FL 32060
SuwanneeLights.com // MusicLivesHere.com
Now through Jan. 2, 2022
$12/person in advance; $15/person at the gate
$2/child ages 4 – 12
PLUS $2 Car Pass per vehicle
Discounted Tickets are available for Seniors 65+, Military and First Responders
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