Saturday, September 6, 2008

Fall in Love with St. Augustine: Autumn in the Old City

Sometimes the best things in life really are free--including my Florida fall favorite things to do. The summer family tourists have cleared out and so has the humidity. Temperatures, prices, and hurricane threats drop and spooks and sparkling festivities go up. Read on if you like to skip the most of the touristy, admission, military, or golf activities. They're easy to find on many other websites with ads. I focus on local flavor, fun, and free or at least a fantastic deal.

If you can only do three things, see the holiday lights, take the kayak trip, and hit the chowder taste test. Be sure to try the Minorcan Chowder entered by Hot Shot Bakery. Click here to get the recipe or sample it at the Hot Shot Bakery across the street from Casa Monica Hotel. Say hey to Sherry for me.

FIRST FRIDAY ARTWALK (First Friday of Every Month 2008) - Self-guided walking tour of numerous art galleries. The cost of living is lower in St. Augustine than in many other quaint towns, so real artists can actually afford to live here. 5 PM - 9 PM Historic District

UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT - This is a locals' favorite which makes the turnout lively. The last Saturday of every month enjoy extended shopping hours, live entertainment and book signings as the quaint shops along San Marco Avenue host an evening of entertainment and socializing. Exhibits, wine, champagne, authors and music are part of the fun. San Marco Avenue, 5 - 9 PM.

LIVE MUSIC, HEALTHY FOOD at The Present Moment Cafe Friday & Saturdays at 9 PM. An eclectic mix of local music, soul to funk, bluegrass to Africa. Watch for the detour on King Street. Bring Your Own Mug for $1 Cup of Coffee.

HAUNTED ST. AUGUSTINE IS EVERYWHERE Oct. 16-31. Hayrides, ghost tour walks, trick or treat parties.

RIPLEY’S HALLOWEEN GHOST TRAIN: Not so free, but oh, so funny. Board the Ghost Train for a ride throughout the haunted streets of old St. Augustine. There are stops along the way where tales are told and guests can photograph orbs and use EMF meters to identify the presence of spirits or something gassy? Tours begin from Ripley's Believe It or Not at 7 PM. Fee: $24 for adults,$12 for children. See website for $2 off coupon.

ENCHANTED FOREST: Enjoy a magical "scare-free" walk through the enchanted forest loop at Anastasia State Park. The trees will be magnificently lit with sparkling lights for a scare-free walking loop filled with charming scenes. All proceeds benefit the non-profit Friends of Anastasia State Park. Enchanted Forest is located at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. For more information call 904-814-2113.

Indians of the Estuary Kayak Tour in St Augustine - (Oct 21) Come along on a leisurely paddle through one of Northeast Florida's most beautiful landscapes and discover how the Timucuans lived and loved this land. Explore with a professional naturalist/kayak guide and enjoy stories about the important role the Matanzas Estuary played in their everyday lives. Tour fee is $60 per person, includes all needed kayaking equipment, kayaking instruction, park entrance fees, catered lunch and bottled water. For info, contact Coastal Outdoor Center

28TH ANNUAL LINCOLNVILLE FESTIVAL - (Nov 2-4) Lincolnville is one of St. Augustine’s oldest neighborhoods with more than half of its buildings dating from the late 19th century black settlement. Historic visitors included Martin Luther King. The event kicks-off on Friday with live R&B music, food, games, and arts and crafts. Free Admission. For more information call 904-669-0739

BRITISH GARRISON WEEKEND AT THE CASTILLO DE SAN MARCOS (Nov 3-4) Experience what the fort was like during the British military occupation of 1763-1784. Reenactors and rangers will be dressed as British colonial soldiers as they provide historic weapon demonstrations, talks and displays. Hours: 8:45 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Admission: Adults $6, children 15 and under free. 904-829-6506

23nd ANNUAL GREAT CHOWDER DEBATE - (Nov 2) More than 30 area restaurants will compete to see who has the best chowder – each special entry is available for tasting with taste tickets sold for $1 each. An astounding variety of chowders will be available – from local favorites like the Menorcan chowders to an assortment of New England chowders. The event starts at noon and runs throughout the day. The Conch House Marina is located at 57 Comares Avenue. Call the Conch House for info (904) 829-8646

10th ANNUAL WINERY HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE at the San Sebastian Winery. Wine tasting, great music, hors d'oeuvres. (Nov 17-18)

ST AUGUSTINE ART AND CRAFT FESTIVAL- (Nov 29-30) This two day event features art created from lace to limestone and crayons to crystal. The City's largest juried show means this isn't just a street market with palm tree potholders. Festival takes place at Francis Field behind the St. Augustine Downtown Historic Parking Facility located on West Castillo Drive in St. Augustine. Details on the St. Augustine Art Association website.

LEGENDARY FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS (Nov 18-Jan 31) Find out why there's very little occupancy at vacation rentals and local lodging at this time of year when you see the millions of white lights outline historic St. Augustine. This holiday season, the Nights of Lights will be illuminated at a special opening event scheduled to begin on November 18 at 4:30 p.m. in the city's historic Plaza de la Constitucion. After a high-energy musical performance the lighting ceremony will begin at 6:30 p.m. when a single flick of a switch will bathe the St Augustine historic district in the soft glow of two million lights.

HOMES FOR THE HOLIDAYS NIGHTS OF LIGHTS TOUR at Old St. Augustine Village - (Nov 22-30) A storyteller in period costume will tell of holiday traditions in the Ancient City covering over 400 yeas of history. The spectacle of the lighted city will be enjoyed along the way. Old St. Augustine Village is the final destination where an entire city block of historic homes will be trimmed and decorated to reflect the holiday season. After a guided lantern light tour through the homes, refreshments served. Hours: Fridays and Saturdays 7 PM. Admission: $20 WELL WORTH IT.

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