Seasonal sights and sounds

McKee Botanical Garden
McKee Botanical Garden celebrates the holidays with thousands of lights and holiday activities galore plus a large-scale model train
and, of course, Santa. MCKEE BOTANICAL GARDEN

Calendar is packed with something for all ages to see or do


Celebrate! From the bright red bicycle to the spinning dreidel – the toys, the parades and the festivals are here. Jump on board – imagine it’s the Florida version of the Polar Express – and let it transport you straight into the holiday season.

Start with a tour of Heathcote and McKee botanical gardens for the many thousands of lights twinkling in the dark and the holiday scenes, some familiar and others brand new. Vero Beach’s McKee, named one of the top 10 attractions worldwide by Tripadvisor’s Traveler’s Choice awards 2021, fascinates with its large-scale model train display. You may want to go more than once to experience everything because activities take place on different days. Its website has the schedule.

Heathcote, in Fort Pierce, offers displays that will amaze, all made out of colored lights, skillfully created over a year’s time by dedicated volunteers. A multicolored tree created with lighting, a jellyfish, a pink flamingo, glowing flowers, a bicycle, a realistic pond are just a few of the creations on display during past years.

Some eagerly attended events have been postponed to next year. One postponed favorite is Festival of Trees at Riverside Theatre in Vero Beach. But it is expected to return next year.

Boat parades, sparkling against the dark sky, begin at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 11 for Martin and St. Lucie counties, and Dec. 18 for Indian River County. These are a must-see if you’ve never been to one. The boats travel the river showing off their elaborate decorations – Santas, trees, elves, wreaths, garlands and gifts with giant bows.

It’s a treat to see – and you can see more than one since they are on two different days. Just contact the Marine Industries Association of the Treasure Coast at if you have a boat and want to participate. It’s a great family adventure whether you watch or take part.

Heathcote Botanical Gardens
Heathcote Botanical Gardens offers whimsical and scenic displays of lights. HEATHCOTE BOTANICAL GARDENS
Tradition in western Port St. Lucie
Tradition in western Port St. Lucie lights up the night with a blue holiday tree.

On Nov. 28, gather in the Town Square of the Tradition community in western Port St. Lucie for the Menorah lighting from 5-8 p.m.
Early December brings the parades on land. On Friday, Dec. 3, see the great Stuart Christmas parade presented by the Visiting Nurse Association of Florida. Bring the kids out to SE Ocean Boulevard to watch the marchers, floats and bands – in fact, check out for an advance peek. A Reflection of Christmas Classics is the theme this year.

Saturday, Dec. 4, offers a second chance to see a great parade. Head to Vero Beach, out on the island on Ocean Drive, to see a fantastic assortment of floats and marchers. Thousands of lights sparkle in the dark on large floats on a street lined with spectators drinking it all in. Be sure to bring the camera along. Visit the Oceanside Business Association at if you can’t wait to see what it looks like.

Port St. Lucie’s annual holiday festivity, Festival of Lights, is themed Disco in December this year with the Studio 54 band playing and youth group performances. The parade starts at 6 p.m. and is followed by the lighting of a beautiful tree and great fireworks. The kids will love the carnival. Enjoy the food trucks, and browse the vendors – all in a great holiday atmosphere.

The city is again holding its holiday lighting competition – more on that will be available later in October or November. A tour called PSL in Lights is planned for Friday, Dec. 17, from 6-9 p.m. and video of the tour will be aired that weekend.

Ballet Vero Beach
Ballet Vero Beach produces an original version of the classical Nutcracker by placing it at the Indian River Lagoon. BALLET VERO BEACH

The Hallstrom Planetarium on the Indian River State College campus in Fort Pierce is hosting its annual Star of Wonder show on Fridays and Saturdays in December. You can make reservations by calling the IRSC box office. It’s a great experience for both kids and adults [bring your sweater because it’s cool].

If you love The Nutcracker, you’re in luck because you can see several. Ballet Vero Beach has created a local version, Nutcracker on the Indian River, using the Indian River Lagoon as its location. It is also presenting an accessible low intensity version. The Sunrise Theatre in Fort Pierce hosts the State Ballet Theatre of Ukraine dancing the classical Nutcracker.

A Swingin Little Christmas
Get ready for A Swingin Little Christmas with Jane Lynch at The Lyric Theatre in Stuart.

For another kind of Christmas show try A Swingin’ Little Christmas with Jane Lynch at The Lyric in Stuart on Nov. 30. Many will remember her as the acerbic Sue from the TV series Glee. Also at The Lyric the very popular A Peter White Christmas is back on Sunday, Dec. 12.

In downtown Fort Pierce the annual Sights and Sounds on Second returns the afternoon of Dec. 5 with children’s activities, a parade, and lighting of the Christmas tree in the roundabout plus the dancing [lighted] trees in the park.

Bird lovers, check out a lunch and learn program on the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count and learn how you can be involved. It’s at the Manatee Observation and Education Center near the city marina in downtown Fort Pierce.

Here’s wishing everyone a happy, healthy and safe holiday season this year!

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