Santa is always busy in December, but when visiting Longboat Key, he’s not just busy. He’s active. Although he hasn’t been spotted playing pickleball yet, he has been surfing, fishing, jet skiing and steering both a rocket and pirate ship.
Inflatable Santas and holiday cheer are lighting up the island. Stroll through the garden at the Longboat Island Chapel, cruise down St. Judes Drive North, or stop at the Spanish Main Yacht Club’s marina for the most lights in one spot because if one neighbor decorates, others will follow.
Longboat Island Chapel
First stop on the light-seeing tour has to be the Longboat Island Chapel. Congregation members and local businesses have transformed the church's garden into a winter wonderland.
There are 24 specially themed trees. Longboat Ace Hardware's tree is easily recognizable. It's trimmed with tape measures and has a paint bucket tree topper.
For those who prefer the Grinch to Santa, there's a separate kiddie section dedication to Dr. Seuss and pink flamingos.
St. Judes Drive North
Santa doesn’t need his sleigh on this street. He’s got a jet ski, surfboard, pirate ship and pickup truck to ride.
He has animal friends too, all of the marine variety, of course. There's a fish, turtle, crab, lobster and even a narwhal wearing a red scarf.
Spanish Main Yacht Club
Some of the houses in this neighborhood would make Clark Griswold proud. They’re decked from roof to stoop in lights so bright, they shine across the marina.
There are a few boats glistening in the harbor too.
From quaint and classic white lights to an inflatable dinosaur playing a guitar, the village has a little holiday something for everyone.
The news must have spread on Longboat Drive N and Fox Street that lights were going up. Those neighbors, in particular, went all out this year.
Gulf of Mexico Drive
No navigation required to find these decorations, the lights are strung along the main strip of Gulf of Mexico Drive.
From homes to condominiums, GMD is temporarily colored red, white and green.
Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.