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Light Up Your Holiday: A Guide to St. Augustine's World Famous Nights of Lights Celebration
Thursday November 20, 2014 @ 4:13 pm

Light Up Your Holiday: A Guide to St. Augustine's World Famous Nights of Lights Celebration By Ama Reynolds

BEFORE "NIGHTS OF LIGHTS," WE WISHED YOU "FELIZ NAVIDAD"

Once upon a time, festooned in lovely white lights, bannered across the beautiful Bridge of Lions, visitors and locals on the downtown side of town were greeted with Feliz Navidad, streetlights and lamp posts swirled with lights and green garland. 

Wreaths with red ribbons lined the streets. And tiny white lights glittered hither and yon, lighting up the bay front downtown, upon anchored boats in the bay, across some of the city skyline’s main buildings facing the bay. Modest. But beautiful nonetheless.

My how times have changed. Today, come holiday time, the whole city glows with millions beautiful white lights. From across the bay, St. Augustine looks like a fairyland and Nights of Lights, especially opening night, has become a worldwide attraction and is listed by National Geographic as one of the 10 Best Holiday Displays in the World. In the WORLD.

NIGHTS OF LIGHTS: A WORLD-FAMOUS HOLIDAY DISPLAY

The Nights of Lights Festival begins every year on the first Saturday before Thanksgiving. This year the date is November 22, 2014 and  the celebration runs through February 1, 2015. So there’s plenty of time to plan a trip to the Old City and enjoy the holiday season in milder climes.

The Nights of Lights in St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and the Beaches--even for the most immune and hardened locals, gets to the hearts of everyone who sees the city, the whole city, lit up with those tiny white sparkling lights in trees and bushes, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, businesses, EVERYWHERE. It’s magical. And with the lights lit up for almost three months, you have plenty of time to make a trip to the Old City and enjoy them.

In the Plaza de la Constition, in the city’s historic center, a huge Christmas tree will even light up--and all of it--millions of lights will appear all at once all over St. Augustine, when the switch is flipped to on, saying, “the most wonderful time of the year,” is here.

This is the place to be to celebrate the holiday, so bring your beloved or your family for a weekend or a week-long holiday getaway. We have the perfect guide of tours, attractions, restaurants, nightlife and accommodations all designed to help you make the most of this magical season.

ST. AUGUSTINE NIGHTS OF LIGHTS EVENTS

NIGHTS OF LIGHTS HOLIDAY TOURS TO REMEMBER

Take in the magic of the city in your own style, with a fun guide to light your way. Decked out in holiday finery, each tour offers a one-of-a-kind look at the city and the wonder of it when it’s all lit up.

ST. AUGUSTINE TASTING TOURS

VIP Vittles & Vino Carriage Tour

These tours take place year round in the afternoon--a great way to enjoy the day--then even continue on another seasonal tour--the Nights of Lights Wine and Carriage Tour, Nights of Lights Lover’s Tour and the Haunted Lights Carriage Tour, which take place November 22, 2014 (opening night) through January 31, 2015.

First, before your VIP Vittles and Vino Carriage Tour begins, visit home base, let the charming  Daniel explain the delicious boutique wines. Select your favorite, uncork, and enjoy while your tour guide--in this case, ours was the delightful Jennifer--gives you a friendly warm-up and run-down of all the fun to come. Relax in the warm comfort of the living room, get to know your fellow travelers, and pleasurably anticipate the fun to come.

Your carriage will arrive with a friendly driver and horse to greet you. Now it’s time to board the beautiful carriage with your fellow travelers, armed with a delightful bottle of wine to split with your date as you travel in decadent style through the historic streets of St. Augustine, on your way to get a taste of the best beers, wines, and appetizers at some of St. Augustine’s best restaurants, including Mojo’s, an amazing barbecue place--and ahem, Bill Murray’s favorite St. Augustine dining spot. Such fun, not-on-the-usual-tours tidbits pour like a smooth Pinot Noir or a crisp Chardonnay from her sweet mouth as we make our way in grand, VIP style through the city.

The modern, expansive atmosphere of Mojo’s complements the finest barbecue and its attendant accoutrements--an overflowing basket of well-spiced, HOT, beer-battered, four-bite-minimum MONSTER onion rings to share with your choice of incredible homemade sauces--paired with a great selection of the wine-lover’s favored red or white or even a fine, rare stout.
Mojo’s offers the perfect blend of down-home barbecue cooking with a modern bent everyone will love.

This three-hour-tour is one of the best this local has ever enjoyed.  It’s designed for friendship and celebration, and locals-only tips from Jennifer and other guides on where to go to dinner, what attractions to visit, where to head out for shopping and nightlife--all based on YOU and what you’re into.

This intimate tour allows revelers to learn about the city, appreciate very fine wines and beers of their choosing, savor the most delicious appetizers at restaurants adored by locals, too.

I share my time with a newlywed couple, first-generation Greek, both of them, who live in the United States but met on that gorgeous Mediterranean isle--our other friends? A delightful couple based in Chicago who spend nine months out of the year traveling. They even have an 18-years-long-and-running diary of all of their adventures.

Our carriage driver, Maureen, shares fascinating St. Augustine history about Flagler College, Lightner 
Museum, Flagler Presbyterian Memorial Church, Ancient City Baptist Church and more--and the star of the day, the gorgeous and brilliant and courteous horse aptly named Prince, provided everyone great joy and a smooth ride through all the St. Augustine Streets.

Jennifer kept us up and up on St. Augustine history, too, of course, and filled us in with every perfect detail you WANT to know about the city you’re visiting--back stories about the restaurants and decor, the buildings--and ideal recommendations for wine, beer, food, desserts, and nightlife at the spots we visited as well as wonderful spots she knows and loves herself. And places her guests would love. She’s a great people-reader, and seems easily to determine just what her troupe would best enjoy while in town.

Jennifer not only shared history and guided us through our dining stops; she asked questions and incited lively conversation all the way. She’s the kind of person you want to be your best friend, the one you want at every dinner party and even the one you might want to call in the middle of the night for pressing advice. Yes! After three hours, that’s the impression she emanated--that and she goes above and beyond to ensure the perfect experience. 

Next-stop, local favorite The Floridian, where Southern favorites meet hip, brilliant, and even healthful twists. A variety of local brews and carefully selected red and white wines were offered up for our enjoyment, along with the very popular and decidedly Southern fried-green tomato bruschetta topped with local goat cheese as well as grit cakes topped with seasonal salsa. This is the restaurant where I've celebrated two birthdays and where I bring every one of my many St. Augustine guests. I am biased. But most people here and all over the country feel the same way I do. No one else besides me and Jennifer had tasted fried green tomatoes--not too sure if they'd had grit cakes, either--butour companions loved them--because they were done RIGHT (P.S. They’re done right every time).

After a lovely time spent with Maureen and Prince, we step off the carriage at Lightner Museum's Alcazar Cafe, located in the famous--now drained--pool. Where presidents and still-famous magnates once swam above Spanish tile, diners enjoy delightful fare at this famous spot. We swiftly consumed a to-die-for hummus platter even the Greeks enjoyed, our choice of wine, of course, and another herbal wine specialty called Absentroux, “blended with wormwood and other distinct botanicals to bring your palate the essence of absinthe with the softness of wine,” so reads the lovely art nouveau-styled informational postcard, anyway. Following our illuminating visit of both history, wine, and the cool and spacious atmosphere with three-story-high ceilings, cool cement beneath the feet, and sunlight dappling through the upper-story windows, we stepped outside to meet our carriage.

Our final stop, oh my, was the brand-new and divinely decadent Chocolate Turtle, locally owned and blowing up on the local’s radar, which serves up hand-crafted desserts, coffee and espresso beverages, and selections of red or white wine. Two of us ordered the signature dish--The Chocolate Turtle--and emitted two unbidden and simultaneous shouts of OH MY GOD! A layer of caramel, a layer of chocolate cake and a chocolate mousse filling encased in an elegant chocolate shell (the shape of a turtle’s--okay, a little rounder), encircled by walnuts and presented modestly upon a swirl of caramel and chocolate.  Best with the red. The wide selection of espresso beverages looked positively buzz-worthy, too.


Fully sated and slaked, we climb upon the carriage back to the “home” of Tasting Tours. No one wanted it to end. When it comes to anything, really, you can’t get much better than that--something so good you don’t want it to end. That’s why so many guests always come back. There’s hardly a better afternoon one can have than drinking wine while riding a horse drawn carriage in one of the most beautiful cities in the country, enjoying fascinating history from a friendly guide, and savoring appetizers and boutique wines you won’t find anywhere else. Who in the world would want such a heaven to end? Nobody. That’s who.

Holly Jolly Holiday Trolley

Step into the cozy trolley and travel through the historic streets of St. Augustine for carols, spectacular views of more than three million tiny white lights dressing up the city with magic, and trip the lights even more fantastic with magic viewing glasses. Of course, there's more, including complimentary hot cider and cookies and live performances on select nights. Book online and get even more information at the Holly Jolly Holiday Trolley site.

Santa’s Big Red Christmas Train

Ride Santa's Big Red Christmas Train, enjoy carols and take in the millions of lights with your Santa's Magic Viewing Glasses. Lots of holiday extras, like holiday movies, free balloons, a chocolate fountain and more await you at Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditorium . Visit the Red Train Nights of Lights site for all the details.

Nights of Lights & Holiday Traditions Plaza Stroll

Take in the glimmering views and discover the history behind these white lights when you walk through town on the Nights of Lights & Holiday Traditions Plaza Stroll. What began as a Colonial-era tradition has turned modern-day spectacle famous all over the world. Stroll through the Plaza de La Constitucion and learn all about it.

Nights of Lights Cruise

See the lights sparkle upon the water as you cozy up for a wonderful Nights of Lights Cruise from the Vilano Beach Pier.

Holiday Shopping & Wine Experience

Follow a St. Augustine Shopping expert through the historic streets of St. Augustine and enjoy a fine glass of much-deserved wine at the end of your spree. The Holiday Shopping & Wine Experience Tour begins and ends at the Gifted Cork.

RECOMMENDED ST. AUGUSTINE DINING & NIGHTLIFE


RECOMMENDED ST. AUGUSTINE ACCOMMODATIONS


WARM UP YOUR WINTER WITH ST. AUGUSTINE'S NIGHTS OF LIGHTS
You might find it implausible that such a small, subtropical town in the Sunshine State of Florida offers one of the busiest, most beautiful, and widespread holiday celebrations in the country, but you’d be wrong. The Ancient City’s holiday season lasts from the opening Nights of Lights extravaganza on the first Saturday before Thanksgiving--this year that’s November 22, 2014 and lasts long through January, when the holiday lights go down on February 1, 2015, letting the cheer linger while many of us face colder climes and grayer skies after all the festivities have passed.

Come join us! There’s plenty of time to get in on the fun.


Insider Tip: Park at in the HisToric Parking Facility Located off Castillo Drive and take in the sights in all kinds of ways--on foot, by bicycle or pedicab, on the Old Town Trolley or the Ripley’s Red Train, or by horse and carriage. ARRIVE THE NIGHT BEFORE and park early in the day and hang around town to ensure a parking space. Win a FREE VIP Nights of Lights Tour:
Right now, anyone is eligible to win a VIP tour of this incredible display on your choice of trolley, train or horse and carriage. Discover Great Nights of Lights St. Augustine Accommodations Deals: Make this St. Augustine holiday getaway even sweeter with these great accommodations Deals of the Season.
Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, 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:
St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and the Beaches Visitor's Convention Bureau, OldCity.com, Old Town Trolleys, Ripley's Red Trains, Tini Martini, 
Tasting Tours, LLC and Ama Reynolds 

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Don't Miss Out on Raintree Restaurant: A Fresh and Historic Uptown Dining Spot
Friday October 17, 2014 @ 12:31 pm

Historically Delicious Dining at
St. Augustine's Raintree Restaurant

Before you reach the front door, you're already enchanted.

You've passed through the cast iron gates, and perhaps it's evening. Tall lanterns flicker. Under your feet, deep red brick. Perhaps a local musician is playing in the raised outdoor gazebo. Lively diners talk animatedly (or whisper quietly) to one another while enjoying a glass of fine wine. A woman nods her head in assent to someone's comment, all the while savoring a particularly melt-in-your-mouth and fresh-from-the-Atlantic slice of blackened flounder. 

Smiling servers expertly weave through the packed patio, carrying trays of food that, "look too good to eat," but then again, are so out-of-this-world amazing that some Floridians would call it a sin to miss the intoxicating layers of savory flavors that "taste too good not to eat."

Truer words have never been spoken, for once you do get a chance to taste what's on the plates at Raintree, you'll agree.

Raintree Restaurant's Casual Fine Dining:
Stunning Surroundings and Even Better Food

Sitting in what one of the fanciest Florida sun rooms I've ever seen, my dining companion and I take in our beautiful view. It was like we had the restaurant equivalent of VIP tickets to our team's winning game. White linen table clothes and napkins, sterling silverware, crystal wine glasses beaded with ice water, and a glorious view of the restaurant's brick patio and across San Marco Avenue to one of St. Augustine's most famous attractions--Nombre de Dios and Our Lady of La Leche, best known for its beautiful, peaceful grounds and its Great Cross, approximately four stories tall and a stunning structure that you can see clearly day and night. 

We sit in the beautiful sunshine, surrounded by glorious glass windows, and our server appears immediately with a glowing smile and a warm hello. As he pours ice-cold water into our glistening glasses, he fills us in on the specials so well that we can practically taste the food. 

Raintree's Been Serving Up St. Augustine's
Locally Sourced Food--Especially Fish--Since Its Inception

When you order from the Fresh Catch portion of the Raintree dinner menu, you can be guaranteed it's truly a fresh catch, from the ocean to the filet to your plate. If for some reason it's not, your server will let you know. Disclaimer: this writer has been a hardcore vegetarian since she was 15 and was never a fan of fish.

However, having recently felt brave enough to try fish just few weeks or so before this visit, I felt brave enough to get out of my food comfort zone to order another serving of fish. I filled our fine server in on this fact, and he filled us in on the flounder. And as a native Floridian fisherman himself, we could rest assured his word was golden.
"Our fresh flounder tonight is one of the most mild saltwater fish that I've ever had," he says.

 "It’s very light and a good recommendation for someone who has never had fish or doesn't really like a really fishy fish. It’s very light, very mild, and of course the preparation of blackening, the goat cheese and the balsamic vinegar is amazing."

And he was right! It was AMAZING.

In addition to their Fresh Catch of the Day offering, Raintree also serves up seasonal dinner specials and pastas highlighting the best foods of the season, using local ingredients whenever possible.

Fine International Dining in St. Augustine: Menu Blends
Steak, Seafood, Mediterranean, American, and Pasta Perfectly

Reviewing the dinner menu, you find fantastic favorites for every taste, and they graciously offer up vegetarian options, including a black bean burger, Mediterranean pizza and classic pasta dishes. My dining companion asked about the Steak Capresse.

"The serving is between four and six ounces of blackened filet tips. It’s got a lot of flavors there, too," he said. "The cheese, the balsamic, the tomatoes...it’s very nice."

In the dappling light, we eat our Brushchetta Caa pressee starter--roasted tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic, olive oil, and mozzarella cheese atop fresh French bread--so quickly that it was gone before we even knew it.

The same went for our dishes. We are both very quiet during dinner, enjoying our dishes with utter in-the-moment enjoyment and concentration.

Raintree's Signature Dish: Beef Wellington

Once we finish our meal, our fearless tour guide of deliciousness points out a his suggestions for our next visit. First of all, he let us know all about the dish that makes them famous: Beef Wellington.

"It’s inside a puff pastry. The chef sears beef filet tips on all sides and puts them in the oven so that when you put them in the puff pastry the meat doesn't soften the pastry," he says.

"So you have a nice, crisp puff pastry and a nice, tender medium rare filet inside there. It’s delicious," he adds. I always recommend it."

Our charming guide's favorite dish? The Rack of Lamb. "It's phenomenal," he says.

The Raintree Dessert Bar:
A Sweet St. Augustine Legend

Everyone in St. Augustine knows about the desserts at Raintree. In the evenings, many theater-goers, having enjoyed a wonderful performance at the  Limelight Theatre, just a few steps away from Raintree. Catch Addams Family Musical, now running through October 19, or any other featured performance, then stroll down to Raintree to finish off your a lovely evening on a sweet note. Another note: if you eat before your visit to the theatre, Raintree offers a special menu just for you.

Famed for their eclectic selection of out-of-this-world dessert crepes, Southern-style favorites like Key Lime Pie, and the sinfully deliciousWarm Dome Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream and Macadamia Nut Brittle. Plus, the best Cappucino in town, in my humble opinion.

Fantastic Food, Warm Atmosphere, and Incredible Service:
Just the Beginning of This St. Augustine Restaurant's Allure

In addition to delicious dinner and dessert menus and a full bar complete with a meticulous wine list, the Raintree offers delightful extras, including: 

Oh, and The Raintree Has a Fan Club

One particular guest, Mrs. Mullen, even wrote a limerick in the Raintree's honor, titled A RESTAURANT IS:


Where we eat--where we meet
Sooooooooooo--what's the difference in restaurants, you ask?
I shall NOW begin with my task of setting them apart, 'cause Raintree has:

Gardens and gardens, whether dining in or out
Gazebos for six--so romantic I want to shout!
Oh my, oh dear, can this eatery be true?
Such a heavenly place...and great food, too? 

Great food, you say? Why, of course! It's the BEST!
Raintree's set apart from ALL the rest!

We have European atmosphere,
Waiters in uniform--red, black, and white,

We serve your desires, and it ALL turns out right,
'Cause we are the third generation and take pride in what we do,
Please give us a chance to share our cuisine with you.

Three Decades and Counting: There's a Reason
Raintree  Restaurant is Still a St. Augustine Favorite

A Romantic History

All kinds of incidents conspired fatefully to create a restaurant as special as the Raintree: a grand centuries-old Victorian building and a history as romantic as the restaurant itself--that of the MacDonalds--a bright young family of four, traveling across the pond from England, landing in St. Augustine in 1979. Just two years later, the Raintree was born, and has remained in the family ever since, while maintaining its popularity and respectability for more than three decades.

A Family Affair

Passed down from parents to siblings to Lorna MacDonald and her husband, Chris Cantanbene, Executive Chef and General Contractor, Lorna attributes the restaurant's staying power to their attention to every little detail.

From an evolving menu to meticulous attention to the 1879 Victorian building, she says that they both love what they do, and this passion and love for the place and its offerings shines through in the restaurant's ambiance and menu.

"
The menu is ever evolving and we endeavor to change with the times, both in pricing and variety to cater to our customers, Lorna said. 
 

"
We have evolved from a formal restaurant when we opened to what we now refer to as 'Uptown Dining' and the courtyard area outside has been a huge success as al fresco dining is what people are looking for."

The Reward Is in the Details

When asked why the Raintree has remained so popular over so many years, Lorna says, "My husband and myself spend a lot of time on details. The building takes much upkeep, but we enjoy that kind of work." The two pay equally detailed attention to the menu, ambiance and service. And the love definitely shows, so much so that one of the most famed publications in the world--The New York Times, whose particular author had this to say about Raintree:

“There should be special awards for restaurants that manage to combine quality food with historic surroundings, buildings that proudly proclaim their heritage and encourage diners in their own remembrance of things past.”

The special award? Just the Raintree itself, a truly special place of memory and joy and great times with loved ones. A place that makes you feel like all is right with the world, for a little while at least.

Insider Tip: If you're attending a performance at Limelight Theatre, when you make your reservation, let the restaurant know and you'll enjoy a special menu just for Limelight Theatre-goers.

Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, 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: Ama Reynolds and Raintree Restaurant



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Celebrating Story at Florida Heritage Book Festival and Writers Conference:
Wednesday October 1, 2014 @ 12:55 pm

The Written Word is Alive and Well in St. Augustine

By Ama Reynolds

All over St. Augustine—all over the fair state of Florida and all over the world, for that matter—books and the people who write them continue to inform, delight, thrill, elucidate, illuminate, educate, inspire, elicit laughter, provide portals of escape, and remind us of a past we might otherwise be doomed to repeat—lest we forget, that is.

Such is the power of the written word.

Book Lovers Unite (at the Florida Heritage Book Festival)!  
  
This Saturday, celebrate that power at the Florida Heritage Book Festival in the heart of the St. Augustine historic district and most especially on the beautiful red brick and cobblestone terrain that is the Flagler College campus.

"Each year The Florida Heritage Book Festival showcases Florida’s rich and diverse literary legacy with a day of author talks which promise to delight book lovers and provide inspiration for aspiring authors," say Florida Heritage Book Festival co-founder Vic DiGenti.

Weave through the maze-like treasure trove of the latest books from your favorite Florida authors and publishing houses. Meet with featured and marketplace authors to purchase books, get your own copies signed and enjoy a little one-on-one discussion with the author if possible.

Florida Heritage Book Festival’s Featured Writers: Getting Better All the Time

“This year we've raised the bar even higher by presenting an enticing mix of bestselling authors whose body of work—in both fiction and nonfiction—is truly impressive,” says DiGenti.  

“If you're into fiction, you may have some tough decisions to make about which author presentations to attend. The same problem arises with nonfiction.”

Please review the festival website to discover the details about featured poetry, nonfiction, and fiction writers.

Whichever writer you decide to see, you’re sure to be pleased.

Florida Heritage Book Festival and Marketplace

The Florida Heritage Book Festival and Marketplace takes place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, September 27, at the Ringhaver Student Center on the Flagler College Campus.

Authors will be on site to sign their books and both featured and marketplace authors will read excerpts from their books in the Festival Reading Room. Please download the full schedule to review ahead of time, or just review the full printed itinerary that will be provided to you at the festival. Be sure to discover all you can about the festival’s featured poets, fiction writers, and nonfiction writers.

Festival Highlights

Hang on to your schedule and be sure to note these exciting featured events and thoughtful transportation offerings courtesy of the Florida Heritage Book Festival. All of the below events and offerings are free and are offered on Saturday, September 27, at varying times. Please click links for details or visit the Florida Heritage Book Festival site for details about all of the below featured events.

Make Every Word Count This Weekend

Kickoff fall in the right style. You’ll discover a world of knowledge at the Florida Heritage Book Festival. And this priceless good time won’t cost you a dime!

Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, 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: Florida Heritage Book Festival.

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In Vino Veritas: Kick Off September with the St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival
Friday September 5, 2014 @ 12:05 pm

In Vino Veritas, In Aqua Sanitas

By Ama Reynolds

The Latin phrase above translates to "In wine, there is truth. In water, there is health." Which makes our fair city the perfect spot for the St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival

Many historians, laymen and any wine-lovers claim that in this legend there is truth: when the Spaniards landed in St. Augustine almost 450 years ago, their mighty ships were filled with more barrels of wine than water. So there's health, too. They did have water. They just happened to have more wine.

St. Augustine's 450th Birthday Is on Its Way

So the Spanish brought both truth and health to St. Augustine, which is perhaps why the city has managed to maintain its honorable truth as the oldest continued settlement in the United States. 2014 marks St. Augustine's 449th birthday, and the St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival has been a part of the three-year-long celebration leading up to its 450th birthday next year.
A New Legend in the MakingThe week-long festival event pops the cork on its celebration on September 9 with its Kick-Off Luncheon, featuring Spanish-inspired fare crafted by First Coast Technical College's Culinary Arts Program students. After lunch, St. Augustine's thoughtful, charitable and celebration of fine Spanish wine flows bountifully through the entire week, featuring an enticing bouquet of great events, all capped off with the one-of-a-kind Batalla de Vino at Francis Fielda game that's kind of like a water-gun fightbut with wine!

"Indescribably fun," is how Charlie Seraphin, Marketing Strategist for the St. Augustine 450th Commemoration, describes it. He says it was Barry Broudy's idea, and that initially, Seraphin wanted nothing to do with it. That is, until he did become part of it. "I couldn't stop laughing through the whole thing," he says, adding that an 80-year-old couple showed up for the festivities, and they couldn't believe it. But the couple was game, and as soon as they were squirted with several cupfuls of red wine, it was on.

"Anyone not participating is really missing out," he says.

A Celebration of Community 

One of many wonderful factors of this festival? Its inclusion of the entire community, especially the local and regional businesses and organizations that make the festival possible. Presented by Wells Fargo and sponsored by: The St. Augustine Record; Celebrate 450 YearsSt. Augustine; Publix; Southern Wine and Spirits of North Florida; The Raintree, Black FlyThe Restaurant; Broudy's, and Michael's Tasting Room. The Festival's Masters of Ceremonies are locals, toonewscasters from Channel 4 WJXTTarik Minor, Mary Baer and Kent Justice. Tarik Minor will host Vino Veritas on September 11; Mary Baer will host the Cava Reception & Dinner on September 12; and Kent Justice will host the Batalla de Vino on September 13.

Charity Begins at Home

This open-hearted festival deepens its connection with our community by raising money for a few very special organizations and causes in St. Augustine. All proceeds benefit THE PLAYERS Championship Boys & Girls Club, St. Augustine; EPIC Behavioral Healthcare; Catholic Charities–St. Augustine Regional Office, and Fresh Starts in the Culinary Arts

"The St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival was part of the City of St. Augustine's master plan for the three-year commemoration leading up to St. Augustine's 450th Birthday," says Seraphin. He said the City wanted some kind of food and wine festival, and he was charged with finding the means with which to create and support it.t

When asked about the festival giving back to the community, he said the reasons were two-fold. First of all, since it's a city event, no one wants to use taxpayer money to fund it. Seraphin found private vendors to support the festival, and says that attendees and vendors give back to the community, given that their participation allows the festival to donate all proceeds to worthy local causes. So it's a full circle of community involvement, fully celebrating the city of St. Augustine and its people. You could say he's done a pretty good job.



*St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival Schedule of Events

Kick-Off Luncheon
September 9, 12 p.m.-1:30 p.m.
First Coast Technical College, $25 a Ticket
(Benefits Fresh Start in the Culinary Arts)

VIP All-Access Couple’s Pass, $450
September 9, 12:00 p.m.-September 13, 6:00 p.m.
Provides you and a guest with access to each event.

Vino Veritas
September 11, 6:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
$50 per ticket in advance online/$75 per ticket at the door
Learn the secrets of authentic Spanish recipes and Spanish wine pairings from the experts.
(Benefits the THE PLAYERS Championship Boys & Girls Club, St. Augustine and EPIC Behavioral Healthcare)

Cava Reception & Dinner–SOLD OUT!
September 12, 6:00 p.m.-10:30 p.m.
The Treasury on the Plaza 
$125 per ticket/$1,500 per table

Grand Tasting
September 13, 2:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.
$35 per ticket in advance online/$45 per ticket at the door
Sample more than 125 different types of wines made in Spain.
(Benefits Fresh Starts in the Culinary Arts.)

Batalla de Vino
September 13, 4:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.
Francis Field 
$10 per ticket in advance online/$20 per ticket at the door
Participate in an outrageous event where squirting wine on strangers is the name of the game.
(Benefits Fresh Starts in the Culinary Arts.)

What It's All About

If ever there were a perfect definition and purpose of this festival, it is this, as it appears, word for word, on the festival's beautiful and informative site:
"The Third Annual St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival is about connecting with friends, friends from the old world that many of us have yet to meet, friends from around the state and from around the country that we welcome to our community, and those from down the street and around the corner that we look forward to reuniting with." 

If the above words aren't the reason to celebrate and to enjoy all the fun, truth and health brought to us by the St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival, then this writer doesn't know what is. Truth, health, friends, great timesand a little winejust might be the perfect recipe for a good, memorable and healthy life. Raise your glass to truth, health, and happiness! Salud! 

*All event information taken directly from the St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival website.

Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, 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: St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival.

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Three Places to Celebrate Earth Day in St. Augustine
Friday August 1, 2014 @ 10:11 pm

Three Places to Celebrate Earth Day in St. Augustine, Florida

Outdoor Recreation in the Old City

By Nancy Moreland

St. Augustine may be the nation’s oldest city, but it’s keeping up with a contemporary concept: eco-friendly tourism. April is an excellent time to get outside to enjoy our naturally beautiful surroundings. Here are three places to visit in honor of Earth Day, April 22nd.

Hiker Heaven

If you want to imagine what St. Augustine looked like before it became a popular tourist destination, hike Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve's nine miles of woodsy trails or five miles of unspoiled beaches. With 73,352 acres, the GTM Research Reserve offers plenty of room for hikers, cyclists, fishermen and birders.

The Reserve's trails are mostly shaded and lead to the river where, even on warm days, you can usually catch a breeze. At the trailhead, a covered pavilion with rest rooms makes a fine post-hike picnic venue.

Just 11 miles from downtown, the woods, marshes and waterways of the Reserve feel far removed from the busy bustle in town. Perhaps the presence of 22 archaeological sites, some dating back 5,000 years, contribute to the sense of peaceful simplicity.



Kayaking Excursions


Since most of the Reserve is inaccessible on foot or by motor boat, kayaks are a wise way to approach and fully appreciate this pristine area. Bart Swab of Action Kayak Adventures  specializes in kayak fishing expeditions to quiet, scenic spots many folks have never seen. A licensed and insured guide, the native Floridian is well versed in the fish, wildlife and waterways of St. Augustine.


His half-day, full-day and evening tours include kayaks and all the gear you'll need for a memorable fishing trip. He also leads non-fishing tours for folks who want close-up views of the marshes, estuaries and wildlife. If you’re interested in seeing sites like the St. Augustine Lighthouse from the water, Bart can arrange tours of Salt Run and other areas closer to town.






Nesting Season


Even novice shutterbugs can capture amazing close-ups at St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park starting in March and lasting through June. That's when flocks of coastal birds build nests and hatch their young in the Farm's dozens of rookery oaks, even as gators loiter beneath. Any time of year, the Park’s focus on fun (try the Crocodile Crossing Zip Line) and conservation make it a worthwhile trip.


Insider's Tip:
Avid birders and photographers begin staking out their viewing venues along the  boardwalk soon after the Alligator Farm opens. Arrive early to get a good spot.

Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, but please verify hours, prices and important information before embarking on your Old City adventure.

Sharing and re-posting this replica watches uk blog is encouraged. Please credit OldCity.com when sharing.

Photo credits: GTM Research Reserve; Kayaker: Bart Swab; Rookery: Nancy Moreland.


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Some Enchanted Evening
Wednesday May 28, 2014 @ 9:34 am

Some Enchanted Evening

Colonial Quarter Conjures Cultural Magic with Downtown Bazaar

By Nancy Moreland

It’s the last Saturday night of the month and what are your options? You could lower your IQ watching reality TV. Or, if you're in St. Augustine, Florida, you could experience cultural magic at the Downtown Bazaar in the Colonial Quarter.

Located in the center of St. Augustine’s historic district at 33 St. George Street, the Colonial Quarter was revamped in 2012 by Pat Croce, who also created the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum. Mr. Croce, who attended the Bazaar's opening night on April 27, 2014,  said his vision for the Colonial Quarter was to give visitors an experience unlike any other other on St. George Street. The University of Florida owns the Quarter, but Mr. Croce invested millions of his own money to revitalize the facility.

Stepping inside, it's apparent he accomplished his goal. The difference is tangible from the first moment. It's always a bit cooler in this leafy green oasis of sheltering trees and native landscaping. The second difference is the intimate ambiance. The attraction covers three centuries of St. Augustine history in an up close and personal style, through reenactors and curving pathways leading to interactive exhibits. 

During Downtown Bazaar, the Colonial Quarter transforms into a friendly cultural gathering where artists display paintings, photography, sculpture, jewelry and other expressions of creativity tucked amid trees and Colonial-style buildings. Live music emanates from the Colonial Quarter stage and at nightfall, the setting sparkles with hundreds of white lights, creating a magical atmosphere. It’s hard to believe you’re steps away from bustling St. George Street.

Photographer and graphic designer Stacey Sather said the Bazaar began as a way to showcase local talent. “It can be difficult to get into a gallery. The Downtown Bazaar provides regional artists with access to a public display space. It also gives visitors and residents an opportunity to see how much talent exists here in North Florida.”

Ms. Sather credits Event Director Nico Recore of St. Augustine Art Glass with spearheading Downtown Bazaar. Her gallery is one of several local businesses supporting the event. For a complete list of sponsors, see christian louboutin schuhe web: www.thedowntownbazaar.com.

 Downtown Bazaar happens the last Saturday of each month, April-November, from 6 – 10 p.m.


Insider Tips:

Arrive early if you want to dine in the Quarter's Spanish Taberna del Caballo or British Bull and Crown Publick House. Both restaurants fill quickly on Saturday nights.

The Colonial Quarter and its restaurants are pet-friendly, provided that your dog is leashed and well-behaved.

Comments? Email nmoreland@oldcity.com

Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, 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: Nancy Moreland                       



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The Journey Toward Equality
Friday May 16, 2014 @ 10:44 pm

The Journey Toward Equality

Exhibit Chronicles St. Augustine's African-American History

By 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 replica watches 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 replique montre

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.

Disclaimer: Every 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.

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Colonial St. Augustine Comes Alive at Government House Museum
Friday March 21, 2014 @ 5:14 pm

Colonial St. Augustine Comes Alive at Government House Museum

Exhibit puts 21st Century Spin on 16th Century Town

By Nancy Moreland

Colonial St. Augustine pushed the “multiculti” envelope centuries before it became a buzz word. The fledging settlement was a melting pot with interracial marriages, slaves who bought their freedom and mulattos who became prominent landowners. Old City culture evolved from Spanish, Native American and African influences, but Catholicism was the great leveler. For Spaniards, religion was more important than skin color or social status.

That’s the message of “First Colony – Our Spanish Origins,” the current exhibit at the Government House Museum overlooking the Plaza. On loan from the Florida Museum of Natural History, it’s another of the high quality exhibits to visit St. Augustine in recent years.

“We look at multiculturalism as a modern development, but it was alive and well in 16th century St. Augustine. First Colony presents history in a way that makes it easy to relate to. It connects visitors with the individuals who founded our city. In that sense, it puts a face on history,” said Willie Masson, general manager of the Government House.

The First Colony exhibit gives a glimpse into the health, wealth, religion, weaponry, playthings and daily life of early St. Augustine. It features Indian and Colonial artifacts and interactive touch screen displays that appeal to the 21st century mind. Using 3-D gaming software, visitors can “fly” through the original settlement and hear stories from its residents. All signage is bilingual, a plus for Spanish-speaking visitors.

Looking at artist renderings of settlers and reading their stories, you marvel at their hardships and opportunities. Did Estefania de Cigarroa, kidnapped by pirates as a teenager and later returned, ever recover from seeing her little sister killed? How did Diego de Espinosa, a mulatto, make his remarkable rise to wealthy landowner status?


History becomes tangible when you see the belongings of early residents. How many hours did the Timucuan Indian spend holding her well-worn shell scraper? Was the gentleman who spent the glimmering gold escudos (coins) the same fellow whose weapon had a brass trigger guard? Did the woman who wore those still-stylish earrings stroll the same streets we do today? Even less attractive artifacts are intriguing. Leftovers like you never want to find in your fridge – pig bones and carbonized corn cobs – connect us to the past through mundane daily rituals.

“The Colonial Quarter tells St. Augustine’s civilian story, the fort explains military history and the Government House reveals the cultural side of the city,” said Willie Masson. The renovated Government House is impressive. “There’s been a government building on this site since the 1570s,” Masson explained. In the early days, the building served the same purpose as the White House in Washington. Spanish and British governors lived and worked here. It’s also been a post office and court house.

Insider’s Tip: Buy an Explorer’s Passport ($19.95) and you get admission to Castillo de San Marcos, the Colonial Quarter and Government House Museum. Passports are available at the Visitors Center, 10 Castillo Drive.

“First Colony” runs through 2015 louis vuitton outlet. The Government House is at 48 King Street. Admission: $7.99 adults; $5.99 adults age 62+; kids $5.99; $5.99 for St. Johns County residents; $3.99 for St. Johns County kids. Hours: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Sunday, except Christmas.

Comments? Email nmoreland@oldcity.com

Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, 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: Nancy Moreland

                    
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First Friday Art Walk
Tuesday March 11, 2014 @ 5:40 pm

First Friday Art Walk

Gallery Hopping through St. Augustine

By Nancy Moreland

When it comes to culture, St. Augustine doesn't let inclement weather get in the way. Rain or shine, the First Friday Art Walk must go on. If anything, cloud bursts, frigid or humid temperatures just make the atmosphere inside the galleries more convivial.

Established by Art Galleries of St. Augustine (AGOSA) and now in its 18th year, the free event has become an Old City tradition. The first Friday of each month, from 5 - 9 p.m., more than 25 member galleries showcase new exhibits, guest artists, refreshments and live music.  

"Art Walk is a professional, collective presence for our member galleries. It's one of many ways AGOSA provides a strong support system for art venues in a recovering economy. Together, we're saying to the world that St. Augustine is a true arts destination. No matter what your artistic interests are, we have it here," said Aimee Wiles-Banion, owner of High Tide Gallery and secretary of the AGOSA Board.

Although the hub of activity happens near the Plaza de la Constitucion, Art Walk also extends to West King Street and Anastasia Island. Participating galleries are listed on AGOSA's self-guided walking tour maps. Maps are available at all AGOSA member galleries, the St. Augustine Visitor Information Center, downtown St. Augustine B&Bs and Jacksonville International Airport.

From folk to fine art, whimsical to introspective, exhibits are as eclectic as the artists themselves. There's wearable art in the form of one-of-a-kind jewelry and stunning sculptures that could fill a foyer. Building a collection on a budget? Art Walk is full of affordable finds, from the work of emerging artists to smaller pieces with smaller price tags from established creatives - replica prada handbags.

"Art Walk has changed the landscape for artists in St. Augustine. New artists are getting an opportunity to showcase their work and established ones are getting repeat patrons. It is a win-win situation for gallery owners, artists and our visitors," said Tina Verduzco, a local artist and owner of 2ghouls Paranormal.

Insider's Tips: After 5 p.m., gallery-goers can park for free at downtown meters and lots, except for the Visitor Center Parking Garage.

From 6-9 p.m., Red Train Tours and Old Town Trolleys provide free Art Walk shuttles around downtown, except during December and January Nights of Lights.

For more information, call 832-779-2781or visit www.artgalleriesofstaugustine.org.


Comments? Email nmoreland@oldcity.com


Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, 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: Top: St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau; others: Nancy Moreland.

 

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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 Tonya.Creamer@dep.state.fl.us.

Upcoming Events

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.

The Visitor 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 nmoreland@oldcity.com

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.

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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 schoonerfreedom@aol.com.

Insider Tip:
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 nmoreland@oldcity.com

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.

Sharing and re-posting this blog is encouraged. Please credit OldCity.com when sharing.

Photo credits: Top: Sara LeClaire; All others: Nancy Moreland


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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 can get diskont christian louboutin.

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.

Sharing and re-posting this blog is encouraged. Please credit OldCity.com when sharing.

Photo credits: Nights of Lights: OldCity.com; Casa Maya cocoa: Nancy Moreland; Southern Lights Candles: Susan Bradley.

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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.

Global Glamour

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 christian louboutin online.

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 when sharing.

Photo credits: Saint Augustine Historic Inns and The Garden Club of St. Augustine.                          

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Will the Real First Thanksgiving Please Step Forward?
Wednesday November 20, 2013 @ 10:36 am

Will the Real First Thanksgiving Please Step Forward?

The first European-Indian feast happened in St. Augustine, Florida

By Nancy Moreland

Every 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.

Consider 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 River.

Charles 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."

Rediscovering History

This 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 holiday."

Regardless 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 City adventure.

Sharing and re-posting this blog is encouraged. Please credit OldCity.com when sharing.

Photo credits: Cecile Browning-Nusbaum, OldCity.com                             

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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. 


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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.


Celtic DancersNearly 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

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 (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!

- OldCity.com
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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. 

- OldCity.com

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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.


- OldCity.com

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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.


Winter Wonderland

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.


- OldCity.com

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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.

- OldCity.com

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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 replik designer handtaschen 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!

- OldCity.com

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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.

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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.

- OldCity.com

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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!

- OldCity.com

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