Longing to enjoy the holiday season without the endless cooking, stress, and family drama? Make this the year to begin a new tradition of exploring and enjoying a new or favorite familiar location.
You may be a couple in need of a romantic get-away, or a family looking for something fun and different to do with the kids. Perhaps you have a large extended family desiring to spend time together without anyone’s house having to be overrun with relatives. Whatever your holiday situation may be, St. Augustine, Florida is an ideal location to make this holiday season memorable for years to come.
What to Do
The oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine is a treasure trove of history and holiday celebrations. Embrace the season’s cheer with the 23rd annual Nights of Lights, which will continue through January 31, 2017. The city’s historic district glitters and glows with 3 million white lights twinkling in welcome and celebration.
Begin taking in the fabulous light displays at Plaza de la Constitución. Marvel at the lights cascading from every tree, not to mention the lavishly decorated Christmas tree in the plaza’s center. Then stroll over to where more brilliant lights adorn Flagler College and the Lightner Museum. The dazzling view from the Bridge of Lions of the bayfront during Nights of Lights is a photo buff’s dream come true.
Too tired to do a lot of walking? You have your choice of ways to give your aching sightseeing/shopping feet a break, and still enjoy the St. Augustine Nights of Lights.
- Holly Jolly Nights of Lights Trolley
- Ripley’s Red Train Nights of Lights
- St. Augustine Eco Tours Nights of Lights Tours
- Scenic Cruise Nights of Lights Tours
- Florida Water Tours Nights of Lights Tours
There is much to do and see in St. Augustine during daylight hours as well. The Lightner Museum is a “not to be missed” adventure into a labyrinth of captivating eclectic collections. Otto Lightner, willed the building complex bearing his name to the City of St. Augustine. By the time he died, he had filled it with his private collections of items such as salt and pepper shakers, cut glass, typewriters, models of all kinds, as well as a genuine mummy. Be sure to coincide your visit with one of the music box demonstrations at 11:00 AM or 2:00 PM. You will be treated to a delightful and informative musical jaunt into the past.
St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum, worth a visit any time of year, is decked out to shine even brighter. Climb the tower, and enjoy a spectacular view of St. Augustine and beyond. If your timing is right, and the weather cooperates, A dazzling night of lights will be ushered in by a phenomenal sunset.
Ring in the New Year at St. Augustine Beach Pier. This annual family-friendly event features a kids zone, food vendors, live entertainment and fireworks.
Where to Stay
St. Augustine has a variety of accommodations to fit every taste, family situation and budget. From chain hotels to rental properties, You’re sure to find the perfect venue for that special holiday escape.
The following three options are owned and operated by one St. Augustine family Each venue offers its own unique features, but the level of comfort and quality is consistent.
St. Francis Inn, the oldest bed & breakfast in St. Augustine, exudes holiday warmth and good cheer. A hearty breakfast, a 5:00 PM social hour and after-dinner dessert are all included in the room rate. Interaction among the guests is encouraged To this end, an outdoor fire pit is aided in keeping the chill off by hot beverages, luscious homemade desserts and conversation. The Inn is family and pet friendly. It is conveniently located in the heart of St. Augustine, within easy walking distance of attractions, food and shopping. ~ St. Francis Inn, 279 Saint George St, (904) 824-6068
A touch of elegance and style can be found at Casa de Sueños Bed & Breakfast. A peaceful retreat in the heart of St. Augustine’s historic district, the location is the ideal gateway to the city’s restaurants, shopping and attractions. ~ Casa de Suenos, 20 Cordova Street, (904) 824-0887
Prefer to be close to the water, but still partake in all the holiday action? Harbor 26 at the Inn at Camachee Harbor is for you. A roomy waterfront suite, overlooking the Inter-Coastal Waterway, where you can watch boats go by, enjoy nature’s peace and tranquility and feel right at home, awaits you. ~ Harbor 26 at the Inn at Camachee Harbor, 201 Yacht Club Drive, Vilano Beach, (904) 824-6068
Where to Eat and Drink
Considering the population of St. Augustine is approximately 13,000, the variety of restaurants, bars, cafes and specialty food options is nothing short of impressive. Here are a few options to try when you get hungry and thirsty.
Seafood and beer make a winning combination at A1A Ale Works (1 King Street, (904) 829-2977). Located on the bay front, this restaurant and brewery offers a host of tantalizing dishes, all made onsite from fresh ingredients. Add unique handcrafted beers and innovative cocktails and you have a treat for all your senses.
Ice Plant Bar (110 Riberia Street, (904) 829-6553) serves lunch and dinner, as well as an assortment of beverages made from liquors distilled right next door at St. Augustine Distillery (112 Riberia Street, (904) 825-4962). It is the ideal place to relax after a fascinating distillery tour and tasting. You will see how gin, vodka, rum and the first bourbon distilled in Florida since Prohibition are made.
Georgie’s Diner (100 Malaga St., (904) 819-9006) is a family-friendly eatery serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu is extensive, and includes an assortment of authentic Greek specialties. If you like to eat where the locals eat, this diner is for you.
Pizza Time (124 St. George Street, (904) 819-0133) is a no-frills New York style pizzeria serving hot wedges of gooey, delectable heaven. By the slice or by the pie, the numerous combinations of toppings makes it difficult to choose just one. But for most, just one enormous slice is about all you can handle.
Hot Shot Bakery & Cafe (47 Cordova Street, (904) 824-7898) serves lunch and dinner, featuring paninis, baked goods and other tempting delights, all made onsite from fresh ingredients. This cafe also offers locally grown datil peppers transformed into unique hot sauces, relishes, pickles and other products incorporated into menu items, and available for purchase. Hot Shot is the perfect place to eat well, while doing some holiday shopping.
And speaking of holiday shopping, Claude’s Chocolate (6 Granada Street, (904) 829-5790) can wrap up a box, basket or bag of handmade chocolaty goodness for the most deserving people on your list, or for your most deserving self. The ganache is made fresh, as are all the components that go into Claude’s truffles, hot chocolate and other indulgences. These confections are a glorious feast for your eyes, as well as your taste buds.
You Can’t Keep a Great City Down
Don’t let the deplorable actions of a nasty hurricane named Matthew keep you away. Yes, families are still recovering from severe losses as a result of flooding and wind damage, but the streets have been cleaned up of fallen trees and other debris to the point where you wouldn’t know there had been a storm. Businesses and restaurants are open and eagerly awaiting holiday visitor’s. Accommodations are available and selling out quickly.
The magic of St. Augustine’s recovery is primarily a result of individuals and businesses lending each other a helping hand. By sharing time, energy and resources in a concerted effort, they succeeded in insuring St. Augustine would be ready and dressed up in its glittering holiday finery to welcome you.
All the information you could possibly need to begin planning your holiday visit to St. Augustine and the Nights of Lights can be found on the Visit St. Augustine website.
Disclaimer: During several visits to St. Augustine, we have been generously hosted by St. Francis Inn Bed and Breakfast, as well as other local businesses including Lightner Museum, Hot Shot Bakery & Cafe, A1A Aleworks and Claude’s Chocolate. However, all opinions, as always, are entirely my own.