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TYBEE GETS MERRY
Beach town expands free parking islandwide for the holidays
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The palm trees lining Tybrisa Street are bedecked with brilliant bulbs. - photo by Photos by Nick Robertson

THE ICONICALLY quirky spirit of Tybee Island carries on through the holidays, when locals tool around this laid-back beach town in Christmas-themed golf carts to hit their favorite hangouts beneath towering palm trees glowing with starry bulbs.

To warmly welcome visitors to share in Tybee Island’s daze of holiday joy, this year the municipal government expanded its gift of citywide free parking to span from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. In 2019, free parking was provided for the two weeks around Christmas and New Year’s to boost local business, and the initiative’s success inspired this year’s extended parking-fee holiday, according to Tybee Island City Manager Shawn Gillen.

The beachside Christmas tree by Tybee’s pier.
The beachside Christmas tree by Tybee’s pier.

Beyond offering a beachy breath of fresh salt air far removed from pervading sensations of holiday-season stress, Tybee Island has many shops open with distinctive sandy curios and warm-weather reminders that make good gifts or distinctively kitschy stocking stuffers. Meanwhile, the isle’s bars and restaurants are especially inviting while devoid of summer crowds.

Of course, this being 2020, COVID-19 precautions are in effect at Tybee’s public attractions, while the use of face masks is urged islandwide. The pandemic also precluded a beloved island tradition from occurring as usual − the occasionally wild Christmas Parade.

Tybee Island’s semi-sanctioned Christmas Caravan on Dec. 4 inspired locals to festoon their golf carts with strings of lights and other jolly decorations.
Tybee Island’s semi-sanctioned Christmas Caravan on Dec. 4 inspired locals to festoon their golf carts with strings of lights and other jolly decorations.

Nonetheless, Tybee locals displayed their penchant for mischievous perseverance by instead holding a semi-sanctioned Christmas Caravan on Dec. 4, which saw high-spirited Santas and red-nosed reindeers taking to the island’s streets in a haphazard procession of variegated vehicles bedecked with flashing bulbs.

The Tybee Post Theater (10 Van Horne Ave.) is showing this same spirit of fun-loving persistence by hosting a series of Christmas-movie presentations on the big screen, made possible by only admitting 35% of the venue’s capacity to allow social distancing and by disinfecting the seats between screenings, among other coronavirus precautions.

Audiences can watch Love Actually on Dec. 11, White Christmas on Dec. 12, Gremlins on Dec. 13, Scrooged on Dec. 18, A Christmas Carol on Dec. 19, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas on Dec. 20, with showtimes of 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. for each film; see tybeeposttheater.org for more details.

However, Tybee’s all-enveloping holiday spirit is apparent even with just a drive out to the island for a walk on the shore. The pleasantly incongruous sight of Christmas lights glistening around surf shops and open-air bars provides a welcome reminder that this region is a tropical paradise compared to many snowbound cities up north, inspiring seasonal appreciation amid the isle’s merrily mellow mood.

“Please consider Tybee your beach and make it part of your holiday plans,” said Tybee Island Mayor Shirley Sessions. “Slow down, mask up, and enjoy the spirit of the season.”