It's almost that time of year again! We can hear the Easter Bunny hopping down the lane (or is he riding in the back of a roaring Camaro?). One of St. Augustine's best traditions, the St. Augustine Easter Parade is just around the corner!
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When we think of Spain we often think of flamenco dancers, bull fighting and salsa music, but not all of Spain is characterized by stereotypical Spanish culture. In the mountains of Northern Spain where the Picos de Europa spill out of France and into the lush, green Spanish countryside, you are much more likely to hear bagpipes, sip cider and see remnants of the Celtic culture. It's from this part of Spain -- specifically from a city called Aviles in a province known as Asturias -- that St. Augustine's founder Pedro Menendez de Aviles was born. When he discovered the Nation's Oldest City in 1565, he imparted his mixed Spanish and Celtic culture on our beautiful little city.
When it comes to romance, the city of St. Augustine knows a thing or two about love. Few places have as much romantic charm as the Nation's Oldest City with its cobblestone streets, horse drawn carriages and gorgeous sunsets. If you're looking to make plans for Valentine's Day, look no further than St. Augustine.
The Nation's Oldest City is the perfect spot to say goodbye to 2011 and hello to 2012! Whether you're looking for family friendly fun or a romantic evening, there is a celebration in St. Augustine for you to enjoy. We've put together some details about the New Year's events happening around town so you can make your plans and reservations for the big night.
New Year's Eve Balloon Drop at the Cultural Center of Ponte Vedra Beach
Don't want to stay up until midnight? You can still celebrate the New Year at the Noon Balloon drop! The Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach is bringing back the bang with their New Year's Eve Noon Balloon Drop. Grab a slice of pizza pie while the kids decorate cookies and dance away the morning in our bubble-wrap room as you jump to the jingles of our house band tunes. Create a hilarious hat with eyes that wiggle or make party masks that will make everyone giggle. Be there before noon to save your spot, they will drop hundreds of balloons at noon on the dot! This event is free to members of the CCPVB or $5 per person for non-members (a family of four can purchase four tickets for $15). Pay at the door, space is limited. For more information, please visit ccpvb.org.
Beach Blast-Off at the St. Augustine Pier
Kick off 2012 in seaside style at this special St. Augustine Beach event! Enjoy a blast of flavor, icy sculptures, and fireworks when several of St. Augustine's favorite restaurants serve up chili for tasting and judging at the Fire and Ice Chili Cook-off from 4 to 8 p.m. After things cool off from the chili - the Fireworks begin at 8:30 p.m. This display will delight visitors and help usher in the New Year! Admission is free. The Beach Blast takes place at St. Johns County Fishing Pier and Pavilion, 350 A1A Beach Boulevard in St. Augustine Beach.
Uptown Saturday Night: New Year's Eve Edition
Join the businesses on San Marco Avenue (just north of the Visitor's Information Center and Parking Garage) for their monthly Uptown Saturday Night gathering. Art galleries, book stores, boutiques and restaurants along the street will stay open until at least 9:00 p.m. (restaurants and bars will be open later) for extended shopping. Live entertainment, refreshments and more will be part of the celebration from 5:00 p.m . to 9:00 p.m. Parking at the Mission Nombre de Dios is FREE and conveniently located to the San Marco shopping district. Come out and enjoy the night!
New Year's Eve at the Tasting Room
The Tasting Room's annual New Year's Eve tradition continues in 2011-12 with a two options for an incredible tasting experience. Select one of the early seating times (5:30 p.m., 6:00 p.m. or 6:30 p.m.) and you will enjoy a decadent three course meal and live entertainment from Sam Pacetti. The early seating options are $48 per person plus beverages, taxes and gratuity. For the full New Year's experience, make your reservations for the 9:00 p.m. seating which features a four course meal, wine pairings and live entertainment from flamenco dancers and "mental entertainer" Meraux Dantes. A complimentary champagne toast at midnight is included with this option for a total cost of $75 per person plus beverages, taxes and gratuity. Limited seating is available so make your reservations soon!
No matter what you decide to do in St. Augustine to ring in the New Year we wish you a safe and happy evening!
Best wishes for a prosperous, healthy and happy 2012.
December is one of the best months to visit the Nation’s Oldest City! Between the sparkling glow from the Nights of Lights, the cool breezes off the bay and the holiday cheer flowing through the cobblestone streets, you can’t beat Christmas in St. Augustine. Whether you come up for a day, weekend or a week, you’ll find plenty to do this time of year. To help you make your plans, we’ve highlighted a list of holiday events you’ll definitely want to check out while you’re visiting.
Once a year, the St. Augustine Amphitheatre is transformed into a family friendly winter wonderland complete with an outdoor ice skating rink, ice slide, sleigh rides, Santa visits and real falling snow! While you sip hot cocoa the kids will enjoy running around Elf Village, riding the Frost Kingdom Express Train and jumping on the Blizzard Bounce. Winter Wonderland is open Monday through Friday from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and on the weekends from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. (after Dec. 16th they will be open from 2:00 p.m to 10:00 p.m. every day through Christmas Eve). Admission is free, rides and activities range from $2.00 – $10.00.
Nights of Lights Carriage Tour
Cozy up to your sweetheart in the back of an old, horse-drawn carriage as you glide through the streets of St. Augustine beneath the glow of three million white lights. This hour-long guided ride from Tasting Tours also features a sampling of delicious Spanish boutique wines. Tours are held Monday through Saturday at 6:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. for $49 per person. Reservations are required so make sure to call Tasting Tours and schedule your carriage ride soon!
Holly Jolly Trolley/Santa’s Big Red Christmas Train
For a fun family tour of St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights, hop aboard one of the Oldest City’s delightful Christmas trains. Sing along with Christmas carols played inside the train as you zip through the streets of St. Augustine and its three million white lights. Both trains offer complimentary refreshments and special glasses that will make the lights look even more dazzling. The Holly Jolly Trolley leaves from the Visitor’s Center with continuous departures every day (now through Jan. 31st) between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. and is $7 for adults, $4 for children. Santa’s Big Red Christmas Train departs from Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum every day (now through Dec. 30th) between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. and is also $7 for adults and $4 for children. Climb aboard and enjoy!
Candlelight Tours at Villa Zorayda
One of St. Augustine’s most unique destinations is Villa Zorayda, built in 1883 as the winter residence of Franklin Smith. The building is now featured on the National Historic Registry both for its historical roots and beautiful Moorish Spanish architecture. During the holiday season, you can take a special guided candlelight tour of the house on December 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 27, and 30th. All tours begin at 6:30 p.m. with complimentary refreshments beginning 30 minutes prior to the tour. Tickets are $16 per adult and $8 for children ages 7 – 12 (children under 7 are admitted for free).
We hope you’ll come and spend a few days of the holiday season with us in St. Augustine and enjoy some of these great activities! For a complete list of holiday activities, visit our St. Augustine calendar.
This Saturday marks the continuation of one of St. Augustine’s best traditions–the annual Christmas Parade. Each year, representatives of local civic organizations, school marching groups, community clubs and (of course) a few festive pirates march through the streets of St. Augustine to announce Santa’s arrival in the Nation’s Oldest City.
The parade begins at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday morning and lasts for about an hour to an hour and a half. Arrive by 9:00 a.m. if you want a front row seat along the parade route, which begins at the Mission of Nombre de Dios on San Marco Ave., runs up S. Castillo Drive and Avenida Menendez (in front of the fort and along the bayfront) before turning west on Cathedral Place in front of the plaza. From there, the parade turns up Cordova Street to finish off at the Visitor’s Information Center on Orange Street.
This fantastic holiday tradition is fun for the whole family! Dads will enjoy the convoy of old cars, Moms will appreciate the beautifully decorated floats, kids will love the fire truck that carries Santa into the city and the whole family will get a kick out of Rudolphadillo (it’s a Florida thing).
Later on Saturday night, another of St. Augustine’s best holiday traditions will take place along St. George Street. British Nightwatch’s Grand Illumination is something you have to experience in the Nation’s Oldest City. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time to the city’s earliest days when British soldiers marched to the city gates by candlelight to secure the town for the night. On special occasions and holidays, other community members were invited to join the parade. Authentically attired participants will camp out all weekend on the lawn of the Castillo de San Marcos where the public is welcome to stop by and see how the soldiers lived in the 16th century.
The Grand Illumination parade begins at 8:00 p.m. in front of the government house on the west end of the plaza. The contingent of soldiers will fire their muskets before embarking on their journey to the city gates. After circling the plaza, the parade will move down St. George Street, make a left on Hypolita, a right on Spanish Street and a right on Orange Street where they will arrive at the city gates before returning to the plaza. The public is invited to join the parade and encouraged to bring candles or lanterns of their own.
These two spectacular events will make your day in St. Augustine a magical experience! Come join us downtown on Saturday and spend the day between the two events exploring everything else our beautiful city has to offer.
Once a year when the air turns cool and fills with the tinkling of silver bells, St. Augustine transforms after sunset into a romantic enclave with an ethereal glow. From the massive branches of moss-covered oaks to the angled roofs with Spanish tiles, tiny white lights stitch together the city of St. Augustine, highlighting every detail of the town’s unique beauty. You haven’t experienced St. Augustine until you’ve ridden along the cobblestone streets in a horse-drawn carriage beneath that soft glow.
This year’s Nights of Lights celebration will begin after sundown on Saturday, November 19th. At approximately 6:30 p.m., the annual Light Up Ceremony will culminate with the official flipping of the switch, igniting over three million lights city wide. Named by AAA as one of the 12 best places in the U.S. and Canada to experience Christmas cheer, this is an event you can’t afford to miss.
Following the lighting ceremony, the 1740 color guard will escort the mayor and his guests to the annual Holiday Lightning Gala inside the historic Lightner Museum. This special event includes a catered dinner from the Casa Monica’s award winning restaurant 95 Cordova, dancing to the music of The Committee and a silent auction to benefit the St. Francis House.
Light Up Night is one of the most special evenings in St. Augustine each year, we hope you’ll be able to join us for the festivities! If not, the lights will remain lit through January 31st, giving you plenty of time to make your plans for a special visit!
We are fast approaching the end of 2011! With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we thought we would take a moment to highlight a few events going on in the Nation’s Oldest City during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Whether you plan to visit from out of town or plan to share your city with guests, there is so much to do and see in St. Augustine during the holidays. Below are just a few examples of great events, more information is available on the OldCity.com calendar.
- Nights of Lights Carriage Tour: Step aboard an old-fashioned horse-drawn carriage and enjoy the spectacular light displays of the Oldest City while indulging in a few boutique wines. Brought to you by the Tasting Tours.
- Candlelight Tours of Villa Zorayda: Explore the beautiful Villa Zorayda, decorated for the Holiday season, featuring a Christmas tree in the “Court of Lions”, decorated in the Villa’s traditional red and gold and a beautiful crèche nativity scene that that has been a Villa tradition since the 1930?s. Tours are available on select nights during the holiday season, reservations are recommended.
- Winter Wonderland: Beginning on Saturday, Nov. 26th, the St. AugustineAmphitheatre will be transformed into a winter wonderland complete with ice skating, hot chocolate and nightly snows.
- 46th Annual Holiday Arts & Crafts Festival: One of St. Augustine’s oldest festivals will be revived the weekend after Thanksgiving on the Special Events Field. More than 150 artists from around the country will be represented at thisjuried event, sponsored by the St. Augustine Art Association.
- Uptown Saturday Night: The businesses of North San Marco will come together for their monthly celebration of art and culture on Nov. 26th. Browse antique book collections, galleries and more at this event.
At this moment, kids all over the country are streaming back into their classrooms chattering about summer adventures and bubbling with excitement. With the start of a new school year, so comes another year of shared learning experiences outside the classroom on those wonderful days we all used to look forward to: field trips. And where better to take your class on a field trip but to the Nation’s Oldest City? We decided to put together a quick list of local attractions that also offer learning experiences, living history and maybe a little fun! The Spanish Quarter Museum: Throw out the characteristics of a stereotypical museum–the Spanish Quarter is so much more. Instead of glass encased exhibits and yawn-inducing tour guides, the Spanish Quarter takes students through an actual day in the life of early Spanish settlers in St. Augustine. Students will stop by the blacksmith’s shop to see how horseshoes are made, visit the housewives weaving blankets for their babies and meet the soldiers who keep the city safe from outside enemies. Colorful narrators in period costumes bring to life this replica village tucked away on St. George Street. Oldest Wooden School House Museum & Gardens: Just down the road from the Spanish Quarter, the Oldest Wooden School House also gives students some insight into what life was like two centuries ago when the building was originally erected. Explore the tiny house that used to serve not only as a classroom, but also as a home for the schoolmaster and his wife. Outside, a separate kitchen building and outhouse nestled into the schoolhouse’s immaculate gardens complete the picture of what school life was like in the 1800?s. By the end of this tour, your students will be thankful for the classroom amenities they have today! Castillo de San Marcos National Monument: Historic St. Augustine’s focal point is undoubtedly this massive coquina fortress with roots dating back to the 1600?s. Surrounded by a moat and facing out on the St. Augustine Inlet, this national landmark still shows its battle scars from centuries past in the form of cannonballs embedded into the fort’s walls. It was also the home of Seminole legend Chief Osceola after he was captured during the Second Seminole War. A host of historical artifacts (including operational cannons) are on display inside the Castillo. The rolling lawn also makes for a perfect picnic spot after your tour. Fort Mose State Historic Park: Just north of St. Augustine on the Intracoastal Waterway, the grounds of Fort Mose and its accompanying museum stand at the site of the country’s first legally sanctioned free African settlement. Though there are no remaining structures from the original settlement, the museum inside the park’s visitor’s center features artifacts and several multimedia interactive exhibits to teach students about the significance of Fort Mose and its role in U.S. History. These are just a few of the many attractions that can also offer students an interactive learning experience and make the new school year extra special! We wish all the new students (and their teachers) best of luck for a safe and happy school year. - OldCity.com
The Spanish Quarter Museum: Throw out the characteristics of a stereotypical museum–the Spanish Quarter is so much more. Instead of glass encased exhibits and yawn-inducing tour guides, the Spanish Quarter takes students through an actual day in the life of early Spanish settlers in St. Augustine. Students will stop by the blacksmith’s shop to see how horseshoes are made, visit the housewives weaving blankets for their babies and meet the soldiers who keep the city safe from outside enemies. Colorful narrators in period costumes bring to life this replica village tucked away on St. George Street.
Oldest Wooden School House Museum & Gardens: Just down the road from the Spanish Quarter, the Oldest Wooden School House also gives students some insight into what life was like two centuries ago when the building was originally erected. Explore the tiny house that used to serve not only as a classroom, but also as a home for the schoolmaster and his wife. Outside, a separate kitchen building and outhouse nestled into the schoolhouse’s immaculate gardens complete the picture of what school life was like in the 1800?s. By the end of this tour, your students will be thankful for the classroom amenities they have today!
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument: Historic St. Augustine’s focal point is undoubtedly this massive coquina fortress with roots dating back to the 1600?s. Surrounded by a moat and facing out on the St. Augustine Inlet, this national landmark still shows its battle scars from centuries past in the form of cannonballs embedded into the fort’s walls. It was also the home of Seminole legend Chief Osceola after he was captured during the Second Seminole War. A host of historical artifacts (including operational cannons) are on display inside the Castillo. The rolling lawn also makes for a perfect picnic spot after your tour.
Fort Mose State Historic Park: Just north of St. Augustine on the Intracoastal Waterway, the grounds of Fort Mose and its accompanying museum stand at the site of the country’s first legally sanctioned free African settlement. Though there are no remaining structures from the original settlement, the museum inside the park’s visitor’s center features artifacts and several multimedia interactive exhibits to teach students about the significance of Fort Mose and its role in U.S. History.
These are just a few of the many attractions that can also offer students an interactive learning experience and make the new school year extra special! We wish all the new students (and their teachers) best of luck for a safe and happy school year.
Action packed holiday weekend ahead for St. Augustine!
From the First Friday Art Walk to the Oldest City’s Fireworks over the Matanzas Independence Day Celebration, St. Augustine is the place to be for family fun and excitement this weekend! We’ve put together a sample schedule of what you and your family might enjoy if you’re planning to visit St. Augustine for the 4th of July holiday weekend.
- Friday Night: The festivities will kick off at 5:00 p.m. with live entertainment, refreshments and incredible art work at some of St. Augustine’s best galleries. Visit each open house on foot or hop on the free First Friday Art Walk Trolley. St. Augustine’s art community is one of the best and most talented, so be sure to catch as many openings and receptions as you can to view a variety of pieces from paintings to sculptures and more. After the art walk wraps up at 9:00 p.m. you can grab a late dinner, or just kick back to some great music at one of St. Augustine’s popular pubs.
- Saturday: Hit the cobblestone streets early (before that sun gets everything so darned hot) to see St. Augustine’s historical attractions including the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, the Oldest Wooden School House, and the Oldest House Museum. When it starts to get steamy outside grab some lunch and seek air conditioned shelter in the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum or Ripley’s Believe it Or Not! Museum. When the afternoon thunderstorms roll in you’ll know it’s time for your daily siesta.
- Saturday Night: Get all dolled up for a night on the town at one of St. Augustine’s fine dining restaurants. From gator tail to sushi and empanadas to fried shrimp, you can find almost any type of cuisine in these city streets. After dinner, it’s time to find out what St. Augustine nightlife is all about. Find your drinking establishment of choice by listening out for the best music. The tinkling of piano keys or strum of guitar strings will tumble out of every open door from the piano bars to the pubs. If you’re looking for more family fun, check out one of St. Augustine’s spooky ghost tours.
- Sunday: Take the kids on an educational adventure with a kayak journey through the quiet coastal habitat around Marineland. Explore areas that can only be reached by boat and see some of wildlife native to our area. After your kayaking trip, take a picnic lunch to the beach and spend the afternoon soaking up the sun (be sure to wear plenty of sunscreen!).
- Sunday Night: You can’t visit the shores of the Atlantic without trying some seafood. Throw on your flip-flops and slide into one of the great restaurants along St. Augustine beach for crab legs, shrimp, scallops, fresh fish and conch fritters. If you’re feeling a little stuffed after the meal, take a nice moonlit stroll along the shore before bed.
- Monday, 4th of July: Take advantage of the kids being worn out from their day at the beach and sleep in! Grab a late breakfast at one of the bakeries downtown before doing a little shopping. The Outlet Malls at Interstate 95 are a short 10 minute drive from historic downtown, perfect for some much needed retail therapy. Rest up in the afternoon before heading back downtown for a patriotic concert in the plaza at 6:00 p.m. Stake out your spot for the fireworks by 8:00 p.m., the show starts at 9:30 p.m.! (Note: The City of St. Augustine has banned all personal fireworks this year because of the high risk of wildfires in our area, keep it safe with flashlights and glow sticks, not even a sparkler will be allowed anywhere downtown).
We hope to see you in town this weekend, but no matter where you are the Old City family wishes you a safe and happy 4th of July!
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