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~State parks offer opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities with holiday flair~

Three Rivers

The ranger station at Three Rivers State Park in Sneads welcomes guests in December.

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service invites Florida residents and guests to join us as we celebrate the winter holiday season. Many of the 161 state parks throughout Florida will be decorated with lights or hosting special holiday activities.

Governor Rick Scott said, "The holidays are a great time for Floridians and their guests to visit our award-winning state parks. Seasonal events are just one reason why more than 25 million people visit our parks each year.”

In October, the Florida State Parks system was awarded the National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in the management of state park systems for the third time. Considerations for this award are based on the agency’s ability to address needs of those it serves through collective energies of citizens, staff and elected officials. The achievement makes Florida the only system in the nation to win a third Gold Medal award. In fact, no other system has ever won two Gold Medal awards and systems are not allowed to apply for the award within five years of receiving a Gold Medal. 

"Our parks offer something for everyone, whether you like kayaking, hiking, exploring caverns or spending a day on the beach," said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. "I encourage all Floridians to visit one of our state parks any time of year, but especially with glistening holiday lights and shows on display."

Holiday lights events being offered are:

Christmas Light Show at Three Rivers State Park in Sneads. Dec.6-8 and Dec.13-15. 6-8 p.m.

Laser Light Show at Silver Springs State Park in Ocala. Dec.6-8, Dec.13-15 and Dec.19-31. 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Caroling the Ravines at Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka. Dec.7. 6-9 p.m.

Night of Lights at Fort Cooper State Park in Inverness. Dec.13-15. 6-8:30 p.m.

Celebration of Lights at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in Homosassa. Dec.19-26 (Closed Christmas). 5:30-9 p.m.

Festival of Lights with award-winning holiday sights and sounds at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs. Dec. 6-Jan. 3 (Closed Christmas). Sundown-9 p.m.

Other events being offered are:

25th Annual Camellia Christmas at Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park in Tallahassee. Dec.6. 6-9 p.m.

Christmas on the Florida Frontier at Dade Battlefield Historic State Park in Bushnell. Dec.7. 3-8 p.m.

Holiday Crafts for Kids at Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park in Tallahassee. Dec.7. 9-11 p.m.

Lignumvitae Key Christmas at Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park in the Florida Keys. Dec.7. 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Plantation Christmas at Gamble Plantation Historic State Park in Ellenton. Dec.8. 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.

Candlelight Experience at Fort Foster at Hillsborough River State Park and Fort Foster State Historic Site, just north of Tampa. Dec.13. 6-9 p.m.

Christmas in the Park at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City. Dec.14. 3-10 p.m.

Holiday in the Gardens Celebration at Washington Oaks Gardens State Park in Palm Coast. Dec.14. 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.

Holidays in the Park at Big Lagoon State Park in Pensacola. Dec.20-21. 4-7 p.m.

Santa Over the Rainbow at Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon. Dec. 13-15, Dec. 20-22, Dec. 26-27. 6 to 8 p.m.  

Winter Waterland 2013 at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park in Spring Hill. Dec.20-21. 7-11 p.m.

Holiday in the Woods at Faver-Dykes State Park in St. Augustine. Dec.21. 4-6 p.m.

Third Annual Holiday Songs in the Park at Wekiwa Springs State Park in Apopka. Dec.21. 7-8 p.m.

Holiday Golf Cart Parade at Lake Kissimmee State Park in Lake Wales. Dec.28. 2-4 p.m.

For a complete list of special events at Florida’s state parks, visit www.floridastateparks.org.