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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.
Now in its 20th year, the Bed and Breakfast Holiday Tour happens December 14 and 15, 1-5 pm each day. To reflect this year's theme, "Christmas Around the World," 24
inns will feature the holiday traditions and cultures of different
countries. The $25 tickets are good for two days and include refreshments at
each stop. Tours are self-guided and easily navigated by walking. Free shuttles, courtesy of Old Town Trolley, also stop at locations along the
tour route. Tickets are still available at: www.StAugustineBandBTours.com Rembrandtz Gifts at 151 King Street and Metalartz Gallery at 58 Hypolita Street.
Partial proceeds of ticket sales will benefit the Betty Griffin House, a resource for victims of domestic violence.
Party Like it's 1513
The Garden Club of St. Augustine has a tradition of outdoing itself, year after year, with the quality and beauty of its holiday home tours. Another Garden Club tradition is the sold-out tour. For the last three years, tours sold-out in advance. Unfortunately for procrastinators, this year was no different. Before you yell at this blogger for featuring a sold-out tour and end up with coal in your stocking, mark your calendar for next year. Tickets generally go on sale in early October.
This is the 45th year the Club has held a holiday home tour. This year's theme, "La Navidad en la Florida," celebrates the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Florida in 1513.
One of St. Augustine's most venerable institutions, the Garden Club was founded in 1926, to promote beautification and conservation, concepts that are especially important today, with the growth of the Old City.
Proceeds from this year's ticket sales will help fund Club activities and scholarships to Camp Wekiva, a summer camp that teaches kids to appreciate nature.
Insider Tip: December in St. Augustine brings changeable weather - windy and rainy one minute, sunny and warm the next. Dress in layers and wear comfortable shoes. Even with shuttles, you'll walk some distances, up stairs and over our beloved, but uneven brick lanes.
Disclaimer: While every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, we recommend that you verify hours, prices and important information before embarking on your Old City adventure.
Sharing and re-posting this blog is encouraged. Please credit OldCity.com
Photo credits: Saint Augustine Historic Inns and The Garden Club of St. Augustine.
Will the Real First Thanksgiving Please Step Forward?
Wednesday November 20, 2013 @ 10:36 am
Will the Real First Thanksgiving Please Step
The first European-Indian feast happened in St.
American school child learns the facts about the first Thanksgiving: Indians,
pilgrims, Plymouth Rock, 1621. Right? Not
so fast. The legend we learned in grade school has come into question.
this: St. Augustine, Florida, was founded 56
years before Plymouth Rock. When Spanish Admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés
landed here on September 8, 1565, he and his crew of soldiers, sailors and civilian
passengers held the first Catholic mass in this new land. Meanwhile, the native
Timucua Indians watched the ceremony. Afterwards, everyone gathered for what appears to be the
first feast between Europeans and Indians on North American soil. The Spaniards
brought beans, salted pork, hardtack and that ever-popular St. Augustine beverage,
wine. The Indians would have contributed whatever fish and fowl they had on hand, which could have included wild turkey. The inaugural potluck was held
in the vicinity of the Mission of Nombre de Dios, overlooking the Matanzas
Tingley, senior research librarian at the St. Augustine Historical Society,
believes this first Euro-Native meal was motivated by gratitude for a safe voyage and to honor the founding of a new town. According to Tingley, the
Spaniards sang Te Deum Laudaumus, the
"Song of Thanksgiving" as part of the day’s activities. “Singing or more likely, chanting Te Deum Laudaumus was
standard operating procedure for Spanish explorers,” Tingley says. Mission Director Eric Johnson concurs. "The 1565 event meets every qualification one would use to define a Thanksgiving feast."
fascinating bit of history was brought to light by two Florida authors. In his
book, Cross in the Sand, Dr. Michael Gannon argued that the St. Augustine feast should be considered the real first
Thanksgiving. Among his many honors, Gannon is a Distinguished Service Emeritus
Professor of history at the University of Florida and a former Mission director.
Inspired by a Gannon lecture and
determined to bust the Plymouth Rock myth for new generations of school kids,
Robyn Gioia wrote America’s REAL First Thanksgiving, a children’s picture book.
James W. Baker begs to differ with Gannon and Gioia. His book Thanksgiving: The Biography of an American Holiday, states,
"despite disagreements over the details" the event in Plymouth in the
fall of 1621 was "the historical birth of the American Thanksgiving
of where the experts stand, we can all be grateful that history is alive and
well in St. Augustine, Florida.
Insider Tip: Stage your own feast where history
happened. Small picnics are permitted on the grassy waterfront area by the
Mission parking lot. Grills and tables are not available, bring your own picnic blanket or enjoy the benches.
Mission de Nombre de Dios
Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche
27 Ocean Ave
St. Augustine, FL 32084
Hours: Monday-Friday: 9-5 Saturday/Sunday: 10-5.
Disclaimer: While every effort is
made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, we recommend that you
verify hours, prices and important information before embarking on your Old
and re-posting this blog is encouraged. Please credit OldCity.com
credits: Cecile Browning-Nusbaum, OldCity.com
Tasting Tours a Favorite with Foodies
Wednesday November 13, 2013 @ 10:21 am
Tours a Favorite with Foodies
St. Augustine history, one bite at a time
By Nancy Moreland
city can’t survive nearly 450 years without developing some cooking skills
along the way. St. Augustine’s food scene is a literal melting pot of
multicultural tastes and traditions. For a community of its size, St. Augustine has a
remarkably diverse selection of restaurants. A fun way to discover places you might not
find on your own is by taking a food tour. There are several tours in town, including The Tasting Tours and St. Augustine Historic Walking Tours that combine food, libations and learning. This month, we're featuring the Savory Faire Food Tour a 2.5 hour walking tour of four Old City eateries, with some
history on the side.
It’s one thing to experience the past
through mind-numbing textbooks. It’s entirely different to stand in the spot
where history happened. Even if you slept through American History class
in high school, you’ll enjoy this tour. Affable guide Alan
Hudson presents a narrative of historical high points – from the Menendez landing to Flagler's Gilded Age. Strolling
through downtown, Hudson’s bite-sized history lessons are more like listening
to a well-informed friend than a guide who has memorized all the spark out of
his spiel. Hudson encourages questions and strives to present an accurate
picture of St. Augustine's complex history while reminding tour-goers that, “History
is a living, breathing thing,” with multiple perspectives.
Fortunately, you won’t be quizzed on
dates and battles at tour’s end. Your biggest challenge is pacing yourself as
you taste and sip your way through four restaurants and a couple “bonus stops” at food specialty
shops. Routes change throughout the year to keep the tour fresh for repeat
customers and to suit the season (summertime gelato stops are popular). And
although you’re dining next to people you’ve never met before, the atmosphere is
casual and convivial.
On my tour, the first stop was Old City House Inn and Restaurant, a 19th century horse stable turned B&B
Under new ownership, the establishment has retained its intimate ambiance
and attention to detail in each dish. Next, our group headed to Athena Greek Restaurant, overlooking Plaza de la Constitucion. Of the four tour stops,
Athena’s fare seemed most closely connected to St. Augustine’s culinary
history. The city’s multicultural flair was represented in the staff, including
Greek cooks and a Czechoslovakian waiter who urged tour-takers to shout “OPA!”
as he set Saganaki (Greek cheese) aflame. Saganaki is actually much better than it sounds, particularly if you like tangy, tart Mediterranean flavors.
Moving along to Meehan’s Irish Pub,
we sampled a noteworthy chowder, Guinness beef sliders and a Reuben disguised
as a spring roll. We also learned that the Irish had a presence in St.
Augustine from the start. “The Irish came to St. Augustine in 1565 with the
Spanish and five of our colonial mayors were Irishmen,” Hudson said.
Tour-goers were pleasantly satiated
at this point, but the eating wasn’t over. Thankfully, our last stop, Gourmet
Hut, served lighter fare – a small salad and bruschetta, followed by a tasty
dessert morsel. Selections reflected Hut’s preference for farm-to-table
food. Seated in the eatery’s eclectically-furnished garden overlooking Cuna
Street, this spot was an appealing end to an appetizing afternoon.
Faire Food Tour departs daily from Tour Saint Augustine at 4 Granada Street.
Price: $49/person; wine pairing (3-4 glasses) additional $15. (Sharing is
permitted on wine pairings.)
- The Villa Zorayda lot at 83 King Street is the closest parking to the tour departure
point. A bit farther down Granada, you’ll find cheaper parking.
comfortable walking shoes and dress for the weather.
- Food tours
are recommended for ages 12-up. Bringing a baby? Call ahead so tour guides can
Disclaimer: Every effort is made to
ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog. Change is inevitable, so
please verify hours, prices and important information before embarking on your
Old City adventure.
and re-posting this blog is encouraged. Please credit OldCity.com when sharing.
Photos: Old City House appetizers: Stacey Sather/St. Augustine Visitors & Convention Bureau; Preparing Saganaki: Nancy Moreland.
5 Ways to Enjoy St. Augustine on a Dime
Tuesday April 10, 2012 @ 4:11 pm
Are your pockets feeling a little lighter these days?
Just because we're all adapting our budgets to the changing economy doesn't mean we have to give up the extracurricular activities that make us happy -- like taking vacations for example. If you live within a day's drive of St. Augustine, you have access to a great destination for rest, relaxation and exploration that won't break the bank.
We've put together a few tips that will give you a great trip to St. Augustine without busting your budget.
1. Soak up the sun at the beach.
Let's be honest, Florida's best asset is its sun-drenched sandy shoreline. St. Augustine has 42 miles of gorgeous beaches and guess what -- it's free!
Park in one of the many public lots along coastal highway A1A, cross the boardwalk and sink your toes into the sand without spending one dime. Bring a sandwich, a blanket and a small cooler (plastic bottles only, no alcohol) for a day filled with fun in the sun. You can fish, surf, kayak or just soak up the rays on the sand.
Butler Beach, St. Augustine Beach and Crescent Beach all offer free parking and beach access (in the summer months they do tend to fill up quickly so be sure to stake out a spot early!). They also have covered pavilions with picnic tables, bathrooms and outdoor showers to rinse the sand off your toes. You could easily spend the whole weekend enjoying the beach for next to nothing -- just remember to wear sunscreen!
2. Take a stroll along St. George Street.
At the heart of St. Augustine's historic district (which will soon celebrate its 450th anniversary!) are three blocks of pedestrian only foot traffic along a gorgeous cobblestone path called St. George Street. Lined with restaurants, pubs and unique gift shops, this charming road is perfect for a leisurely afternoon stroll. Window shopping is free, as are the whiffs of great food and the riffs from local musicians playing at many of the outdoor cafes along the street.
If you decide to indulge in a good meal, there are plenty of great sandwich shops, pizzerias and bakeries along St. George Street that won't set you back more than a few bucks for a delicious lunch.
3. Attend a few free events.
St. Augustine is abuzz with events that are free to the public year 'round. From May 28th through September 3rd, locals and visitors alike flock to the Plaza de la Constitución (St. Augustine's equivalent of a town square) for free concerts every Thursday night. Bring a blanket or a chair and enjoy the music and a light sea breeze beneath the shade of hundred year old oaks.
Make plans to visit during the first weekend of the month and you can enjoy St. Augustine's newest tradition, First Friday Art Walk. The Oldest City's incredibly talented art community throws out the welcome mat on Friday evenings with live entertainment, food and special exhibits often featuring the artists themselves. It's a great night with a great atmosphere from Aviles Street out to the city gates.
The last Saturday of the month also marks a special evening in St. Augustine known as Uptown Saturday Night. The businesses of North San Marco Avenue, including book stores, art galleries, bistros and antique stores hold multi-block open house with great entertainment and special events like book signings and art shows. The St. Augustine Community School of Performing Arts is located in the North San Marco area and often puts on a free performance during Uptown Saturday Night.
4. Enjoy our National Monuments and State Parks.
You can't visit St. Augustine and not spend a little time learning about the city's incredible history and its role in the development of our nation. Start your tour at the Castillo de San Marcos, a 300 year old coquina fortress on Matanzas Bay in downtown St. Augustine. This National Monument is only $7.00 per adult (anyone under the age of 16 is free). South of St. Augustine off of A1A, St. Augustine's other National Monument, Fort Matanzas, is free to enter and explore, including the ferry ride to the small coquina fort on Matanzas Inlet. This is also a great spot for some beach time or an afternoon picnic.
St. Augustine and its surrounding areas are home to five great state parks as well. Ft. Mose, site of the first legally sanctioned free African settlement, is located just north of the historic district. It's only $2 per person to enter the museum on the grounds (children under 5 are free). Anastasia State Park near the St. Augustine Lighthouse is $8 per vehicle (with 2 - 8 passengers), $4 for a single vehicle or $2 for a pedestrian or bike rider. In addition to four miles of pristine beaches, Anastasia is also home to Salt Run, perfect for kayaking, andoffers restrooms, a picnic area, snack bar and camping for RVs and tents. South of the St. Augustine city limits, Faver-Dykes State Park, Washington Oaks Gardens State Park and Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area offer entry for $5 per vehicle (up to 8 passengers). All three parks are gorgeous and equipped for hiking and picnics. Faver-Dykes also has available canoes for rent at just $5 per hour plus tax.
A family of four could easily visit both forts and all five state parks for just $45! That's half the cost of admission to Disney for one person!
5. Bring your bicycles!
St. Augustine is working toward becoming a more bike-friendly town, adding "sharrows" to the Bridge of Lions and bike lanes on other roads around town. You can cruise around downtown St. Augustine, ride on the beach or pedal along the hiking trails at the state parks. With parking in the historic district being so limited, being a bike is not only eco-friendly, it will save you the headache of hunting for a parking spot. If you need a break, hop on the Sunshine Bus for $1.00 per one way ride or $3.00 for a day pass. Buses run Monday through Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (except on holidays) and are equipped with bike racks for transporting you and your bicycle around St. Augustine.
If you can't bring a bike, rent one!
St. Augustine: A dog lover's paradise
Tuesday January 17, 2012 @ 11:50 am
Sometimes it's just not a family vacation unless the whole family comes along--Fido included! Lately more and more people are taking their pets with them on vacations. It beats the high cost of boarding plus you'll enjoy your trip more knowing that Fido is part of the family fun! But how do you begin planning a pet-friendly trip to an unfamiliar area? Where can you stay and what can you do with your pet while you're visiting?
St. Augustine is a very pet-friendly town with plenty to do and see with Fido in tow. We've put together some suggestions for you that should help with planning your next Fido-friendly adventure.
1. Where to Stay
Whether you prefer hotels, condos or bed & breakfasts, there are plenty of pet-friendly accommodations in St. Augustine. The LaQuinta Inn & Suites located near the St. Augustine Outlet Mall accepts pets, as does the Super 8 and Ramada in the same area. Closer in to the historic district, the Ramada Historic and Days Inn are pet-friendly as well. Bed and breakfasts The St. Francis Inn and At Journey's End also have pet-friendly rooms within a short walking distance of St. Augustine's downtown attractions.
If you prefer a place near the beach (and with nearly year-round seasonable conditions, who wouldn't?), St. Augustine Beach House (Vilano Beach), Super 8 (St. Augustine Beach), Comfort Inn (St. Augustine Beach) and Beacher's Lodge Condominiums (Crescent Beach) also allow pets. Most of the area's campgrounds and RV parks (including Anastasia State Park, Faver Dykes State Park, Ocean Grove and Stage Coach) accept pets too.
Some fees may apply to a few of these lodgings so it's always best to call ahead for more information and reservations.
2. What to Do
Once you're settled into your accommodations, it's time to see the sites of the Nation's Oldest City! Take Fido along to the Fountain of Youth or on a stroll through the cobblestone streets. A picnic on the lawn at the Castillo de San Marcos is a must or you can eat outside with your pets at several of St. Augustine's best restaurants with sidewalk or patio seating. Some of the carriage companies will allow pets along for rides as do a few of the city's nightly walking ghost tours. The St. Augustine Scenic Cruises allow pets on board as well for some unique St. Augustine sight-SEA-ing.
Of course the beaches are also open to pets (provided that they are on leashes). Walking, splashing and lounging in the sunshine are all favorite activities for humans and dogs alike
. Park at one of the public beach ramps or you can drive your vehicle right out in the sand (not recommended if you don't have four wheel drive!). The St. Augustine Lighthouse also allows pets on the grounds, as does the Fort Matanzas National Monument south of town.
All of the local and state parks in the St. Augustine area -- Anastasia, Faver-Dykes, Ron Parker and Treaty Park -- also allow pets. Ron Parker Park on the corner of old A1A and Pope Road (about a block south of SR312 bridge) also has a dog park where your pet can run around and interact with other dogs in a fenced, grassy area.
3. The Community
If you need veterinary services while visiting St. Augustine, the area has several qualified vets and a few emergency hospitals including Animal Emergency Hospital (on Old Moultrie Rd. near the Ponce de Leon Mall) and Jackson Veterinary Hospital (on the corner of SR312 and A1A). Grooming, boarding and even daily day care services are also available through local vets and places like Pet Paradise.
We hope that you and your pet will come and see St. Augustine soon.
You'll both be drooling over everything our city has to offer!
St. Augustine Fall Attractions: Ghost Tours
Friday October 14, 2011 @ 10:09 am
History does not come without its share of mystery–especially in the city of St. Augustine. Ghosts and ghouls have been known to roam the streets after sundown and this is the perfect time of year to get an up close look. Take a look at one of the tours below and prepare for your next adventure.
GhoStAugustine Hearse Rides
If the train’s just not spooky enough for you, how about a hearse? Cruise through St. Augustine in a spooky old hearse along with your guide for the evening. For the 21 & up crowd, you might enjoy the Pub Hearse ride featuring spirits of both the paranormal and liquid variety. Group and private tours are available throughout the witching hours. Visit ghoStaugustine.com to make your reservations.
Ripley’s Ghost Trains
Departing from the Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum every night at 8:00 p.m., the Ghost Train will bring you on a close encounter with the paranormal kind. This 90 minute trek takes you to three of the most haunted locations in the Nation’s Oldest City including the Oldest House, Tolomato Cemetery and Castle Warden. Each guest will receive his/her own EMF Reader and disposable camera to record any paranormal activity you experience along the way. For more information, visit Ripley’s website.
St. Augustine Fall Attractions: Haunted Houses
Tuesday October 4, 2011 @ 10:16 am
As the sun sinks over St. Augustine this October, you might find an electricity in the air around the Ancient City. A current of terror and fear has blanketed the town with the arrival of two heart-stopping haunted houses. Are you brave enough to face the perils that lie within each of these dark, cavernous buildings? If you think you can handle it, read on and find the information needed to begin your journey, if not turn back now…
Located off of Norcross Drive in St. Augustine, there resides a complex of several large warehouses used for business interests and storage. Every day, trucks and trains make their way through this area, shipments are sent and delivered, and the houses are filled with goods, but one warehouse sits alone and abandoned with a simple sign that reads STORAGE 3-1. This building is known as Warehouse 31.
The other warehouses thrive and are filled to the seams, but Warehouse 31 never seems to hold on to any business for more than a few months. Some even go so far as to say it is damned and cursed by its original tenants—a strange cult known as the Church of the Light Bearer…
Throughout the month of October you can experience (if you dare) what lies inside the walls of Warehouse 31. Open from sundown to midnight every weekend, Warehouse 31 is the biggest Halloween attraction in Northeast Florida. Visit warehouse31.com for tickets and more information.
Dates: Oct. 7th – 9th, 14th – 16th, 21st – 23rd, 28th – 31st
Location: Off Holmes Blvd., turn on Norcross Road by the railroad tracks at the old cement plant and follow the road until it dead ends.
Cost: $20 – $45 per person
If you think you’re brave enough to handle it, visit St. Augustine’s Horror Zone. This heart-stopping haunted house includes the Horror Zone Vortex Tunnel, the Frightening Flight to Area 51, The Runaway Mineshaft Rollercoaster Sim, The Predator’s Cave, The NOT so Fun House and the Body Bag Vault of Doom.
Sponsored by the St. Augustine Sheriff’s Office, the Horror Zone is open from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. during the last three weekends in October. It’s been a seasonal favorite in St. Augustine since 2001 when it began as a fundraiser for for the Sheriff’s Office Juvenile Activity and Intervention programs. Food, drinks and candy are available at the Horror Zone, which is air conditioned and wheelchair accessible.
Dates: Oct. 14th – 15th, 21st – 22nd, 28th-31st
Location: In the Food Lion shopping center on the corner of US1 South and Lewis Point Rd.
Cost: $8.00 for adults, $6.00 12 & Under
Anytime Attractions in St. Augustine
Monday September 19, 2011 @ 11:20 am
In addition to the special events on our calendar, there are a lot of on-going events and activities that happen every day in St. Augustine. We thought we’d share a few of these with you for your next visit–some require reservations, so be sure to call ahead.
Gold City History Tours
Ride in comfort and style with just seven other passengers on an all- electric shuttle bus while enjoying a narrated tour of the sites of St. Augustine. This tour goes where others can’t and is personalized to allow stops whenever requested. St. Augustine Gold Tours operate from the Old Drug Store car park on Orange Street. Tours are $15, children six and over $10. Special party bookings are also available by reservation. For more information, call 904.325.0547 or go to www.staugustinegoldtours.com.
El Conquistador Thrill Ride
Go for a thrilling, high-speed, one-hour ride across Matanzas Bay aboard El Conquistador, St. Augustine’s newest thrill ride. Narrated tour features history, speed and fun aboard this powerful speedboat. El Conquistador departs from the City Marina’s Slip 73. Tickets are $39.50 for adults and $29.50 for children (ages 4-12). Free for active duty military. Special rates for groups of eight or more. For safety reasons, children under four and pregnant women are not allowed onboard. For information and reservations, go to www.elconspeedboat.com or call 904.738.4695.
Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre
Experience the first theater on St. Augustine’s St. George Street since a terrible fire destroyed the Genovar Opera House in 1914. The St. Augustine Murder Mystery Theatre features a great meal and exciting live entertainment at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $43.15 each. For more information, call 904.671.2508 or go towww.StAugustineMurderMysteryDinnerTheater.com.
Yacht of Fun
Have a captain and a fun-equipped 22-foot boat at your service from dawn to dusk! Yacht of Fun takes up to six people on a full day of whatever passengers prefer – fishing, swimming, stopping at waterfront restaurants, sunning – you name it. The boat leaves from St. Augustine and offers the perfect way to spend a day. The rate is $60 per person for a party of six. For more information, go to www.yachtoffun.net or call Cap’n Mike at 352.246.3836
Beach Horseback Riding
Experience the fun and excitement of horseback riding at the edge of the sea. Country Carriages offer daily one-hour rides (weather and tides permitting) from Surfside Park on Vilano Beach. The cost is $75 per person. For reservations (a must) and more information, call 904.826.1982.
Climb aboard for a two-hour adventure aboard a unique Stiletto catamaran. The six-guest maximum ensures a great experience for all. Lie on the trampoline or look for wildlife! Discount rate: $45/adult, $35/kids 12 and under. $250 for a private trip. Call for reservations. 904-377-7245. www.staugustineecotours.com
Doo-Wop Musical Salute
Experience an exciting musical salute to The Platters, The Coasters, The Drifters and the Temptations at Fort Menendez at Old Florida Museum. Performed by Myles Savage, former lead singer from The Platters, this salute features the all-time classic songs of these immortal groups. The show begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $40 (limited time, buy one-get one free!) Reservations are required. To purchase tickets, call Fort Menendez at Old Florida Museum at 904-824-8874 or visit www.oldfloridamuseum.com for more information. Fort Menendez is located at 259 San Marco Avenue St Augustine, Florida.