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Fort Mose Historic State Park
Thursday February 27, 2014 @ 4:47 pm
Fort Mose Historic State Park
St. Augustine the birthplace of America's First Free Black Settlement
By Nancy Moreland
Each year, millions of people
visit St. Augustine. Many of them miss one of our most historically
significant sites. Just two miles north of downtown, the first legally
sanctioned free African settlement in the New World was established.
Today, it’s known as Fort Mose Historic State Park, but in
1738, it was named Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose by the Governor
of Florida, Manuel de Montiano. In 1987, a team from the University of Florida discovered significant
archeological evidence of Fort Mose (pronounced “Moh-say”). That discovery and
additional research pieced together a remarkable story.
In the eighteenth century, the Spanish governor promised
freedom to slaves working in the Carolinas, a British territory. The
catch? The slaves had to travel more than 300 miles to St. Augustine. Driven to
desperation in their desire for freedom, nearly 100 slaves evaded alligators,
snakes and slave catchers to reach Spanish Florida. Like pilgrims at Plymouth
Rock, they were helped by Native Americans who taught them how to survive off the land.
Arriving in St. Augustine, the Africans built an earthen
fortress under the leadership of former slave Francisco Menendez, a Mandingo from
West Africa. Constructed of logs and mud, Fort Mose was a first line of defense
against the British. As Park Services Specialist Tonya Creamer said, “It was
like a early warning Doppler alert system. Castillo de San Marcos was the real
protection.” Two years after the Africans arrived, the British attacked St.
Augustine. Fort Mose residents escaped to the Castillo. By the time the British
were driven away, Fort Mose was demolished. The Africans lived in St.
Augustine while rebuilding their settlement. By 1752, the settlement had a
church and 22 huts housing nearly 100 people. They occupied Fort Mose for almost 25 years until 1763,
when the British reclaimed Florida. Spanish subjects, including Fort Mose
residents, left for Cuba. Today, nothing remains of the fort, but there are plans
to build a representative structure, hopefully by 2015.
Fort Mose is worth a visit for several reasons. What you
learn here may surprise you. “The Spanish slave system was very different from
the British system. Under the Spanish, slaves could own property and could work
their way out of slavery. They could even sue their masters for bad treatment. And
many people are surprised to learn that freed Blacks even existed at that
time,” Creamer said.
There’s something special about standing on the spot where
history happened. Visitors can walk or picnic amid
peaceful long leaf pines and live oaks close to where the settlement stood. Depending
on the season, the park’s historically accurate garden may be growing. Stroll
the two boardwalks overlooking the scenic marsh and Robinson Creek and you’re
likely to see wood storks, osprey and hawks.
To fully appreciate Fort Mose, watch the brief video at the
Visitors Center. Next, visit the museum, where state-of-the-art, interactive
exhibits give a glimpse into Fort Mose through stories of people who lived
here. “Fort Mose was a melting pot settlement, with interactions between Blacks,
Indians and Spanish. They all learned from each other,” said Creamer.
Insider Tips: Fort Mose has public kayak launch behind the
Visitor Center. Water levels change dramatically – plan to depart and return
during high tide.
With picnic tables, a grill and room to play Frisbee, Fort Mose is a nice retreat. Open year-round, the grounds are free. Picnic tables are first-come, first-serve, but groups such as
family reunions may reserve space.
Call for Volunteers
Fort Mose is seeking volunteers. To
learn how you can help, contact Tonya Creamer at 904-823-2232 or
The park presents a variety of free monthly programs, from
guided nature walks to lectures and reenactments. On June 21-22, the park stages
its largest event, the Battle of Bloody Mose, commemorating the 1740, battle between the Spanish and British.
This lively event features a side-by-side battle reenactment, a cannon and
musket salute and a presentation of one of Spain’s oldest plays by
Florida Living History’s Theater with a Mission.
Center is open Thursday – Monday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission to the museum is
$2.00 per person; kids five and under are free. The grounds are open daily, 9
a.m. – 5 p.m., year-round. Admission is free.
Comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of City Blog information, but please verify hours, prices and important information before embarking on your Old City adventure.
Sharing and re-posting this blog is encouraged. Please credit OldCity.com when sharing.
Photo credits: Reenactors and boardwalk: Florida Department of Environmental Protection; Marsh/Fort Mose site: Nancy Moreland.
The Journey Toward Equality
Wednesday February 5, 2014 @ 3:44 pm
The Journey Toward Equality
Exhibit Chronicles St. Augustine's African-American HistoryBy Nancy Moreland
For generations, the St. Augustine story focused on Spaniards. With the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act in 2014, attention is shifting to the integral role of African-Americans in the city’s narrative. St. Augustine has always been known as a city of “firsts.” The same holds true for African-American history. Now through July 15th, the St Augustine Visitors Information Center is helping visitors and residents gain a deeper understanding of this remarkable story.
The Center’s current exhibit, Journey: 450 Years of the African-American Experience, tells the story through interactive exhibits and artifacts. The exhibit is divided into four themes: arrival of the first African-Americans (both slaves and freedmen); the first free Black settlement, Fort Mose (pronounced “Moh-say,”); St. Augustine’s connection to the Underground Railroad; and Civil Rights history.
Journey’s compelling displays bring the past into the present. St. Augustine’s earliest Black residents may not be here to tell their stories, but Journey can. We learn of Estebana, the first-known Black child to be born in the New World. Her 1595 birth record - fragile as an eggshell - is here. So is the 1598 marriage certificate of Simon and Marin, African-American citizens of St. Augustine. And how can we begin to imagine the slave experience? Rusty shackles and a bill of sale take us closer to the tragic truth. A century or more removed, another artifact commemorates the hard journey toward equality. The arrest record of Martin Luther King, Jr., (opposite right) documents his height, weight and fingerprints. The words “City of Palatka” are crossed out, replaced with a handwritten, “St. Augustine." The Old City arrested so many of King’s fellow protestors, it had to borrow forms from Palatka.
Journey also sheds light on lesser known aspects of African-American history. Did you know there were Black conquistadors and much later, Black cowboys? Or that interracial marriages existed in Colonial St. Augustine?
Like the rest of the nation, St. Augustine has been slow to come to grips with a complicated chapter of America’s history. Journey, at least, is one step closer toward understanding.
Insider Tip: Because the Journey video "ties everything together," Docent John Mofran encourages visitors to make time to watch the well-done production.
Journey runs through July 15, 2014, at the Visitors Information Center, 10 Castillo Drive, next to the parking garage. Hours: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tickets: Adults $4; seniors (60+) $4; children 6 and under, free; children 7-12, $3; family of 4, $15; military in uniform, free; St. Johns County residents, free.
Questions? Comments? Please email nmoreland@OldCity.com.
effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog. Change is
inevitable, however, so before embarking on your Old City adventure, verify
hours, fees, etc. with the contact information provided above.
Sharing and re-posting this blog is encouraged. When sharing, please credit OldCity.com.
Photo credits: City of St. Augustine.
A Sailor's View of the Nights of Lights
Tuesday December 17, 2013 @ 8:09 am
A Sailor's View of the Nights of Lights
Hit the holiday pause button on Schooner Freedom's Sunset Sail
By Nancy Moreland
Need relief from the holiday rush? Just add water.
If you've ever glimpsed Schooner Freedom
gliding through Matanzas Bay and yearned to be aboard, wait no longer. There are few sights more breathtaking than St. Augustine's skyline, illuminated by more than three million lights, especially when viewed from the water.
The experience ought to be on everyone's bucket list.Serenity Under Sail
Step aboard Schooner Freedom and within minutes of drifting away from the St. Augustine Municipal Marina
, all land-locked concerns subside. You never lose sight of land on the two-hour sail, yet you're gracefully beyond the grasp of your busy life back home. Sea breezes beckon and dolphins dip playfully among the waves. You sit back, relax and leave the work of piloting the 76' topsail schooner to Captain John Zaruba III or his wife, Admiral Sarah Zaruba and their capable crew of Kim Desmond and Jimmy Fox. Not that you won't have a chance to help out. Sailing is a group effort; everyone on board gets to hoist a sail if they're so inclined.
Built in 1982, Schooner Freedom is a steel replica of the American wooden blockade-runners that baffled the British in the War of 1812. Weather permitting, she sails twice daily from the Marina. Sailing is an activity attuned to nature; the wind, weather and currents determine your course. On most trips, the Schooner cruises under the Bridge of Lions, through Matanzas Bay and far enough into St. Augustine Inlet to experience a tantalizing hint of open water. The wide, stable craft sets landlubbers at ease, as does the crew, who cheerfully dispense complimentary beer, wine, water, blankets and jokes along the way. The Pursuit of Happiness
As true owner/operators, the Zarubas have run thousands of sails since launching Schooner Freedom Charters in 2001. "Most passengers are surprised to see owners actually on board, sailing," says Captain John. A fifth-generation Floridian, John Zaruba has the easy-going attitude often found in people who spend a lot of time outdoors. In winter 2015, he plans to begin offering private, week-long charters down the Florida coast on his new baby: a 90' packet schooner named "Pursuit."
As Christopher Cross once crooned, sailing does
takes you away. An antidote to holiday stress, Schooner Freedom surrounds you with peaceful moments . . . sails whispering in the wind, flocks of birds winging through the sunset, the sea buoys' breath-on-a-Coke-bottle murmurs. It's a gentle journey that reminds you of the gift of St. Augustine's beauty.
Nights of Lights Sunset Sails depart daily at 4:15, now through January 31st, from St. Augustine Municipal Marina, 111 Avenida Menendez. Price: $45/person. Sunset, Full Moon, Afternoon and Private Sails run year-round; departure times vary, depending on the season. To book a sail or for more information, call 904-810-1010 or email email@example.com.
It gets breezy on board, so bring a jacket. Don't forget the binoculars: you may spot dolphins, manatees, sea turtles and waterfowl along the way. There's no parking at the Marina and parking along the Bayfront is limited. The Visitors Center parking garage is a better bet.Comments?
Thoughts? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of
information on City Blog. Change is inevitable, so please verify hours, prices
and important information before embarking on your Old City adventure.
and re-posting this blog is encouraged. Please credit OldCity.com
Photo credits: Top: Sara LeClaire; All others: Nancy Moreland
Catch the Holiday Spirit in St. Augustine
Wednesday December 11, 2013 @ 10:18 am
Catch the Holiday Spirit in St. Augustine
Five Places to Get Your Jingle On
By Nancy Moreland
In St. Augustine, like other parts of the nation, some big-box retailers began overlapping holiday inventories in September. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations, stacked aisle-to-aisle, created a surreal display of seasonal whiplash. Next thing we knew, Christmas tunes began belting out of our radios before Turkey Day. And while most of the country was covered in snow, the Old City stayed stuck in 80 degree weather.
It's enough to make a Scrooge of anyone.
Yet, even before National Geographic ranked St. Augustine one of the top 10 places to experience holiday lights, our town was a special spot to celebrate the season. Certain aspects of St. Augustine's personality protect it from falling completely under the spell of over-zealous commercialism: a strong sense of place and history, Southern hospitality balanced by an influx of cosmopolitan residents, a multitude of small, locally-owned businesses.
Here are five ways to boost your holiday mood, St. Augustine style:
1. Soak up the Nights of Lights on a Country Carriages tour. Viewed from a horse-drawn carriage at a 19th century pace, the display is especially magical. If the weather turns chilly, drivers provide cozy blankets. Private tours are $85/up to four people. Insider Tip: Share a carriage with another couple and you may be able to trim the cost of your fare. Ask your driver.
Nights of Lights tours run through February 2nd and depart nightly from the Bayfront.
2. Sip a cocoa concoction. On weekends from 5:30-close, The Kookaburra hot chocolate bar allows patrons to mix and match cocoa toppings with glee. The bar includes everything from white chocolate sprinkles to caramel, cherry, blackberry and peppermint flavorings. Overlooking the Plaza, Kookaburra coffee shop is the perfect pit stop. A cup of cocoa will fuel several strolls around town to admire the lights.
Want to sample a sophisticated cocoa drink a bit closer to what the colonials imbibed? Visit Casa Maya, at 22 Hypolita Street. Your server will whip up a mixture of Abuelita brand Mexican chocolate, with just enough nutmeg and chipotle pepper to make it intriguing. It's hot cocoa for grownups, deliciously different from the instant variety.
3. Inhale the scentual delights of Southern Lights Candle Company. As the sign reads, "Come in for the smell of it," and you'll discover tapers, pillars and votives instilled with a variety of exquisite aromas. All are handcrafted onsite by owner Susan Bradley a veteran candlesmith. Housed in an 18th century cottage at 12 Cuna Street overlooking Castillo de San Marcos , the shop comes by its historic patina honestly. It's one of St. Augustine's most enjoyable shopping experiences, akin to Williamsburg's colonial ambience. Insider Tip: Susan's bayberry tapers with jaunty bows make budget-friendly hostess gifts for holiday parties.
4. Indulge your silly side. Only the most hardened of humbugs could ride the Holly Jolly Holiday Trolley without smiling. Hop on, slip into the 3D glasses that turn millions of holiday lights into Santa's face and sing Christmas carols as you roll through a city high on holiday happiness. Fun for families, the trolley's a bargain at $9/adults Sun-Thurs; $12/adults weekends; $4/kids, 6-12. Tours run through January 4th and depart 6-8 p.m. from the Visitors Information Center, 10 Castillo Drive.
5. Attend St. Augustine's signature holiday event, The Nutcracker. Staged by the St. Augustine Ballet, this year's production features guest artists from the Royal Ballet and English National Ballet. December 21 and 22. Tickets are $25 and $30.
Disclaimer: Every effort is made to
ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog. Change is inevitable, so
please verify hours, prices and important information before embarking on your
Old City adventure.
and re-posting this blog is encouraged. Please credit OldCity.com
Photo credits: Nights of Lights: OldCity.com; Casa Maya cocoa: Nancy Moreland; Southern Lights Candles: Susan Bradley.
Holiday Tours a St. Augustine Tradition
Tuesday December 3, 2013 @ 7:15 pm
Holiday Tours a St. Augustine Tradition
Historic homes and inns open their doors during December
By Nancy Moreland
Every December, visitors and residents get a special gift: an invitation to step inside the garden gates and into the
private courtyards of St. Augustine’s prettiest properties. This
month, Saint Augustine Historic Inns and the Garden Club of St. Augustine stage separate, one-weekend tours
of historic bed and breakfast inns and private homes. It’s a chance to see
dozens of historic places decked out in their holiday finery, while supporting community causes.
Now in its 20th year, the Bed and Breakfast Holiday Tour happens December 14 and 15, 1-5 pm each day. To reflect this year's theme, "Christmas Around the World," 24
inns will feature the holiday traditions and cultures of different
countries. The $25 tickets are good for two days and include refreshments at
each stop. Tours are self-guided and easily navigated by walking. Free shuttles, courtesy of Old Town Trolley, also stop at locations along the
tour route. Tickets are still available at: www.StAugustineBandBTours.com Rembrandtz Gifts at 151 King Street and Metalartz Gallery at 58 Hypolita Street.
Partial proceeds of ticket sales will benefit the Betty Griffin House, a resource for victims of domestic violence.
Party Like it's 1513
The Garden Club of St. Augustine has a tradition of outdoing itself, year after year, with the quality and beauty of its holiday home tours. Another Garden Club tradition is the sold-out tour. For the last three years, tours sold-out in advance. Unfortunately for procrastinators, this year was no different. Before you yell at this blogger for featuring a sold-out tour and end up with coal in your stocking, mark your calendar for next year. Tickets generally go on sale in early October.
This is the 45th year the Club has held a holiday home tour. This year's theme, "La Navidad en la Florida," celebrates the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Florida in 1513.
One of St. Augustine's most venerable institutions, the Garden Club was founded in 1926, to promote beautification and conservation, concepts that are especially important today, with the growth of the Old City.
Proceeds from this year's ticket sales will help fund Club activities and scholarships to Camp Wekiva, a summer camp that teaches kids to appreciate nature.
Insider Tip: December in St. Augustine brings changeable weather - windy and rainy one minute, sunny and warm the next. Dress in layers and wear comfortable shoes. Even with shuttles, you'll walk some distances, up stairs and over our beloved, but uneven brick lanes.
Disclaimer: While every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, we recommend that you verify hours, prices and important information before embarking on your Old City adventure.
Sharing and re-posting this blog is encouraged. Please credit OldCity.com
Photo credits: Saint Augustine Historic Inns and The Garden Club of St. Augustine.
Will the Real First Thanksgiving Please Step Forward?
Wednesday November 20, 2013 @ 10:36 am
Will the Real First Thanksgiving Please Step
The first European-Indian feast happened in St.
American school child learns the facts about the first Thanksgiving: Indians,
pilgrims, Plymouth Rock, 1621. Right? Not
so fast. The legend we learned in grade school has come into question.
this: St. Augustine, Florida, was founded 56
years before Plymouth Rock. When Spanish Admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés
landed here on September 8, 1565, he and his crew of soldiers, sailors and civilian
passengers held the first Catholic mass in this new land. Meanwhile, the native
Timucua Indians watched the ceremony. Afterwards, everyone gathered for what appears to be the
first feast between Europeans and Indians on North American soil. The Spaniards
brought beans, salted pork, hardtack and that ever-popular St. Augustine beverage,
wine. The Indians would have contributed whatever fish and fowl they had on hand, which could have included wild turkey. The inaugural potluck was held
in the vicinity of the Mission of Nombre de Dios, overlooking the Matanzas
Tingley, senior research librarian at the St. Augustine Historical Society,
believes this first Euro-Native meal was motivated by gratitude for a safe voyage and to honor the founding of a new town. According to Tingley, the
Spaniards sang Te Deum Laudaumus, the
"Song of Thanksgiving" as part of the day’s activities. “Singing or more likely, chanting Te Deum Laudaumus was
standard operating procedure for Spanish explorers,” Tingley says. Mission Director Eric Johnson concurs. "The 1565 event meets every qualification one would use to define a Thanksgiving feast."
fascinating bit of history was brought to light by two Florida authors. In his
book, Cross in the Sand, Dr. Michael Gannon argued that the St. Augustine feast should be considered the real first
Thanksgiving. Among his many honors, Gannon is a Distinguished Service Emeritus
Professor of history at the University of Florida and a former Mission director.
Inspired by a Gannon lecture and
determined to bust the Plymouth Rock myth for new generations of school kids,
Robyn Gioia wrote America’s REAL First Thanksgiving, a children’s picture book.
James W. Baker begs to differ with Gannon and Gioia. His book Thanksgiving: The Biography of an American Holiday, states,
"despite disagreements over the details" the event in Plymouth in the
fall of 1621 was "the historical birth of the American Thanksgiving
of where the experts stand, we can all be grateful that history is alive and
well in St. Augustine, Florida.
Insider Tip: Stage your own feast where history
happened. Small picnics are permitted on the grassy waterfront area by the
Mission parking lot. Grills and tables are not available, bring your own picnic blanket or enjoy the benches.
Mission de Nombre de Dios
Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche
27 Ocean Ave
St. Augustine, FL 32084
Hours: Monday-Friday: 9-5 Saturday/Sunday: 10-5.
Disclaimer: While every effort is
made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, we recommend that you
verify hours, prices and important information before embarking on your Old
and re-posting this blog is encouraged. Please credit OldCity.com
credits: Cecile Browning-Nusbaum, OldCity.com
St. Augustine Easter Parade 2012
Tuesday March 20, 2012 @ 10:54 am
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!
On Sunday April 8th, after church services, you'll want to secure a spot along the parade route for the 54th Annual St. Augustine Easter Parade. The procession will begin at the Mission of Nombre de Dios on San Marco Avenue just north of the Visitor's Center and head south on San Marco/Castillo Dr/Avenida Menendez in front of the Castillo de San Marcos. At the base of the Bridge of Lions the parade will turn and go along the north side of the plaza (Cathedral Place) in front of the Cathedral Basilica. From there, the parade will turn right onto Cordova Street on the edge of the Flagler College Campus and head back up to the Special Events Field on Orange Street.
This is a great event for the whole family filled with pirates, ghosts, marching bands, clowns, car clubs, representatives of the Spanish Royal Family and of course a special appearance from the Easter Bunny himself. We've added a collage of photos from last year's parade below and added a gallery to our Facebook page.
St. Augustine Celtic Festival
Wednesday February 15, 2012 @ 10:02 am
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.
Nearly 450 years later, we finally have an annual celebration to honor our Celtic roots: the St. Augustine Celtic Festival
. This year, the festival will be held on Saturday and Sunday, March 10th and 11th at the Special Events Field. A delectable assortment of Celtic foods will be served while musicians and entertainers of all sorts regal us with bagpipes and Irish dancing.
The festival will kick off in grand fashion with the St. Patrick's Day parade (held on Saturday, March 10th this year because of conflicts with the Seafood Festival the following weekend). Participants and floats will follow a parade route from the Special Events Field, down Orange Street to the bayfront, in front of the Castillo de San Marcos to the plaza, where they will head up Cathedral Place, turn north on Cordova and finish off back at the Special Events Field. The parade begins at 10:00 a.m. with festivities to follow at the Special Events Field well into the night.
Although the festival officially ends on Sunday, March 11th, performances from some great Celtic musicians will continue at Ann O'Malley's on Orange Street and Meehan's Irish Pub on the bayfront through St. Patrick's Day.
This is a wonderful event for people of all ages to enjoy. Come for a day or stay for a weekend. In fact, we would suggest that you stay with us in the Oldest City for that entire week. Not only is early March the most beautiful time of year in the city, but if you come for the Celtic Festival you'll want to stick around for the 31st Annual Lion's Seafood Festival the following weekend. Imagine sandwiching two culturally rich festivals with a few beach days in between!
Sounds like a dream to us!
Valentine's Day in St. Augustine
Wednesday February 1, 2012 @ 10:33 am
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.
If we were to plan the perfect day of romance in St. Augustine, we think it would go something like this:
Upon arriving in St. Augustine we'd take a leisurely stroll through downtown, grab lunch at an outdoor bistro (maybe one of the ones with a beautiful little fountain that creates just the right sort of peaceful ambiance). After lunch, we'd browse through the gift shops on St. George Street and maybe pop into a few galleries on Aviles Street. In the late afternoon we'd check into our charming B&B with a beautifully appointed room and get ready for a night on the town.
(Picture at right is of the St. Augustine "Love Tree" on Cordova Street, a palm tree that actually grew from the loving embrace of a live oak. Rumor has it that a kiss in front of the Love Tree will seal two hearts forever!)
Down on the bayfront we'd settle onto one of the benches along the sea wall to watch the orange glow fade out of the night sky. When the lights along the Bridge of Lions came to life, we'd embark on a romantic carriage ride through the cobblestone streets, listening to the gentle clop-clop of the horses hooves as we learned about the city's rich history and sipped glasses of champagne.
Our kind driver would drop us off at our restaurant of choice for some delicious food and a little live entertainment. If the night was nice (and it probably would be) we'd be sure to get a seat in a patio or courtyard to enjoy the breeze off the bay and sip a few drinks before the main course.
Following dinner, a quick trip across the bridge to the beach would be in order to take a moonlit stroll along the sandy shore. With the salty breeze still lingering in the air, we'd return to the city for a nightcap and a little dessert before retiring to our charming bed and breakfast for the night.
You can make all of this a reality with a trip to St. Augustine! Even if you can't join us for Valentine's Day, the romance sticks around 365 days a year, so you're welcome to bring your sweetheart to visit anytime and experience the magic our little village has to offer.
New Year's Eve 2011 in St. Augustine
Tuesday December 20, 2011 @ 10:38 am
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.
St. Augustine Holiday Events
Friday December 9, 2011 @ 9:52 am
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.
57th Annual St. Augustine Christmas Parade
Wednesday November 30, 2011 @ 9:42 am
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.
St. Augustine Nights of Lights
Wednesday November 16, 2011 @ 12:00 am
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!
Thanksgiving Events in St. Augustine
Tuesday November 15, 2011 @ 10:05 am
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.
St. Augustine: Learning outside the classroom.
Monday August 29, 2011 @ 1:26 pm
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!
A blacksmith works in his shop at the Spanish Quarter Museum. Photo courtesy of the City of St. Augustine.
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.
4th of July Weekend in St. Augustine
Monday June 27, 2011 @ 11:19 am
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!