Jekyll Island has once again been transformed into a winter wonderland on Georgia’s coast for this year’s Holly Jolly Jekyll season.
The season runs through Jan. 3 and includes numerous ways to enjoy the holiday season while experiencing the natural beauty of the island.
The island is adorned with more than 500,000 light bulbs, including more than 35,000 lights on the great tree in the historic district. Cookie decorating, a Peppermint Land golf course, guided historic tours, Santa sightings and more will make the season all the more special.
Events include a Holly Jolly Jekyll Parade Saturday, two fireworks shows, drive-in movies and a Big Truck Roundup.
Planning for the Holly Jolly season began in June to adapt the programs and activities to COVID-19 restrictions and changes, said Alexa Orndoff, director of marketing and communications for Jekyll Island Authority.
“While we wanted to be optimistic about the future of events during the pandemic, we had to be realistic when it came to planning and be willing to make any hard decisions early,” she said. “We looked ahead and found ways to reimagine the holidays with enhanced health and safety protocols to provide visitors the opportunity to safely enjoy the holidays. It was important to us to continue to be a safe place of respite for many visitors and to also keep the spirit of the season alive.”
Budget constraints this year, due to the negative impacts the virus had on tourism, limited the number of lights JIA could purchase so staff found ways to be resourceful, Orndoff said.
“The Jekyll Island Authority roads and grounds team built dozens of new light sculptures by hand from recycled materials and it created a unique addition to our light displays, and complemented the over half a million lights they placed around the island,” she said.
The goal of Holly Jolly Jekyll is to provide activities that bring people to the island to experience its natural beauty.
“But we do this through the lens of ensuring our island resources and staff needed to execute our holiday events are not strained,” she said. “In the last couple of years, we have evolved what was previously a singular holiday event into several weeks of activities, now known as the Holly Jolly Jekyll season, to manage visitation and provide a better experience and a higher standard for the island overall.”
The Holly Jekyll Parade will begin at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Attendees will be able to watch as Santa and his friends make their way around the island in a variety of golf carts and vintage vehicles. The free event is presented by the Beach Village merchants.
Visitors can view the parade from special spectator viewing spots at some of the beachfront parks.
A new holiday fireworks show is planned for 7:30 p.m. Sunday, and a second show will take place at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20. The fireworks will launch near Beach Village.
Guests can park and watch the show from their cars at a beachfront park. The event is free.
Ideal viewing locations will be Great Dunes Beach Park, Corsair Beach Park and Oceanview Beach Park.
Also new this year are free drive-in movie events, planned for 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 12 and Dec. 19. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” will be shown outside of the Jekyll Island Convention Center, and Santa will be in attendance.
Cookie decorating activities with Santa are planned for 2 p.m. Sunday and Dec. 20. Santa and his elves will be on hand to help, and each ticket holder will receive half a dozen cookies as well as candies and icing.
Orndoff recommended arriving early to events like the parade, fireworks and drive-in movies to ensure a good viewing spot. She also recommends tickets be purchased in advance to avoid a sellout.
“If families are looking to enjoy the self-guided light tour, weekends tend to be busier so consider a weeknight or view them right at sunset and then stay for a round of nighttime mini golf at Peppermint Land,” she suggested. “Many families are also opting for ‘safe-cations’ this year so many of our hotel properties are running holiday specials where you can feel like you’re somewhere magical and still stay close to home.”
COVID-19 precautions will be taken at all events. Social distancing and mask wearing is encouraged. Anyone who feels sick is asked to stay home.
Visit www.jekyllisland.com/holiday for more information about the Holly Jolly Jekyll season.