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New Thrills and Fun Await Spring Visitors To Florida’s Oldest Most Romantic City

New for Spring in St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & the Beaches!

Florida’s Historic Coast has been welcoming vacationers for more than 125 years, but as any recent visitor will tell you “Our History Is Not the Same Old Story”. Located midway between Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, spring visitors to these special 42 miles of northeast Florida coastline will quickly find there is much that is new and exciting to experience. Whether visiting the nation’s oldest city of St. Augustine, playing the world class golf courses of Ponte Vedra or soaking up the sun at one of the Historic Coast’s beach communities, exciting new attractions and amenities await.

For example:

El Conquistador – now even more thrills!

Debuting last year on Matanzas Bay, El Conquistador will soon be offering passengers even more thrills! The high-speed tour boat with the distinctive conquistador helmets mounted above its twin exhaust stacks will feature a new 30-minute thrill ride that is more “thrill” than “tour”. More donuts, figure eights and high speed turns, plus louder music and engines, this exclusive El Conquistador tour is sure to get the adrenaline pumping. www.elconspeedboat.com

Freedom Trail Audio Tour

In 2014, St. Augustine will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and the pivotal role the city played in the passage of this landmark legislation. Today, visitors can follow a self-guided Freedom Trail and hear audio descriptions of what happened at 31 key sites throughout the area. Sponsored by Northrop Grumman and produced by the 40th ACCORD, Inc., the audio tour tells of tragedy and triumph during the summer of 1964 and many of the recordings feature the voices of actual participants. These include the voice of Dr. Robert Hayling, a young dentist in St. Augustine who played a key role in the local civil rights movement and was beaten for his efforts (even his dog was killed). Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Andrew Young were also present at many of these sites that will always be remembered as important stops on the trail to human equality. For more information, go to www.accordfreedomtrail.com

Lost Ships

For the first time, a new tour at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum will give participants a close-up and personal experience with many of the artifacts from the 18th century “Storm Wreck”. Conducted by a professional underwater archaeologist from the Lighthouse Archeological Maritime Program (LAMP), the tour demonstrates both the methods used by marine archaeologist to excavate sites and the process they follow to identify and date what they have found. www.staugustinelighthouse.org

Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth

For decades, visitors to St. Augustine’s Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park have been entertained and enlightened at this ever-popular attraction. Not only do they learn about the fascinating archaeological discoveries made there, they also hear the story of Ponce’s quest for the Fountain of Youth and get to taste a sample of the fabled water! This spring, visitors will find a new, 600-foot observation deck that gives a close-up look at the tidal salt marsh and leads to an authentic 16th century boat yard where a replica caravel, much like the ship that carried Ponce on his voyage of discovery, is under construction. Plus, there are lots of opportunities to interact with authentic re-enactors portraying Timucuan Indians and Spanish conquistadors. For more details, including upcoming special events, go to: www.fountainofyouthflorida.com 

Golf Resort Adds Beachfront Privileges

This spring, guests at AAA Four-Diamond Renaissance World Golf Village Resort and Beach Club in St. Augustine will enjoy privileges at the exclusive Serenata Beach Club, which features a breathtaking setting overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. All the privileges of the beach club will be available to all guests at the resort, no specific package in needed to enjoy Serenata. Springtime rates at the resort start at only $139.99. For more information, go to www.worldgolfrenaissance.com

Indians of the Estuary

New for spring, this fascinating kayak tour take paddlers back to the time of the Timucuans – the original inhabitants of Florida’s Historic Coast. When Menendez arrived in 1565 to found the city of St. Augustine, the Timucuans had already called the area “home” for 500 years…or more. In fact, they had a thriving city named Seloy at the location of today’s Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Park. Regrettably, these remarkable people succumbed to European diseases. Created by Ripple Effect Tours, Indians of the Estuary shows the value of the estuary to the Timucuans and goes to the actual site of an ancient Timucuan encampment where the lifestyles of these long-lost people are explained and demonstrated. wwww.rippleefectecotours.com

More Thrills, Chills, Brews and Food!

St. Augustine City Walks is known for their original, entertaining and educational walking tours of the Nation’s oldest city. This spring, the waiting list for these highly-popular tours will be considerably shorter – that’s simply because more tours are being scheduled daily. Choose from The Plaza Stroll that introduces participants to the history and secrets of the Plaza de la Constitucion – now twice daily! Tour de Chocolate is a new tour offering two full hours or decadent chocolate tasting in a city famous for its chocolates. History, Mystery, Mayhem and Murder – not for the faint of heart, this 90-minute tour looks at the darker side of St. Augustine and now you can experience it four times weekly. Savory Faire-A Food Tour With Taste features two-and-half-hours of tasting delicious foods that reflect the 450-year old culture of St. Augustine (yes, the tour includes walking too). Now available daily except Sunday. And to wash it all down there’s the St. Augustine Pub Crawl offered daily and twice daily on Friday and Saturday. And finally, for those who want a good scare (and some great beer) don’t miss the infamous Creepy Crawl tour of four haunted pubs. www.staugustinecitywalks.com 

St. Francis Inn: New Menu Choices

The oldest accommodation in St. Augustine, the 18th century St. Francis Inn has been setting the standard for hospitality in the oldest city for centuries. In addition to the unforgettable rooms and impeccable service, this spring the multi award-winning inn has updated its popular menu. New offerings include Farmer’s Market Vegetable Strata and a Blueberry Pecan French Toast Bake. Plus, guests can now indulge themselves with an array of specialty coffees brewed to order in the kitchen. For more on this iconic St. Augustine inn, go to www.stfrancisinn.com

Sail Away to Romance

Just when you think the Inns of Elegance couldn’t possibly be any more romantic, they come up with another addition that is sure to make any getaway one for the memory books. Beginning this spring, guests at any of the Inns of Elegance will have an opportunity to go on a romantic sailing trip aboard the beautiful Schooner Freedom. Two 2-hour cruises are offered daily and each comes with a complimentary bottle of champagne! For details on these outstanding inns and this unique sailing opportunity, go to www.innsofelegance.com

Chocolate Adventures for Adults and Kids

In February, St. Augustine’s Whetstone Chocolate Factory was the only Florida stop selected by The Food Network for inclusion in their exclusive chocolate road trip across America – a guide to the best spots for chocolate lovers nationwide. Every Friday and Saturday this spring, chocolate fans can join St. Augustine’s original chocolate family for a Chocolate and Wine Pairing. The 90-minute event begins at 6 p.m. at Whetstone’s Anastasia Island store, 11 Anastasia Boulevard, and features four different wines paired with a unique chocolate piece. Tickets are $25 each and participants must be 21 years of age. Of course, kids and adults will enjoy the famous Whetstone Chocolate Factory Tour is available daily at 139 King Street.www.whetstonechocolates.com. And especially for kids, don’t miss Peterbrooke Chocolatier’s special selection of handmade chocolate Easter treats, including a giant chocolate egg stuffed with Peterbooke’s signature chocolate-covered popcorn. Plus, the Easter Bunny will be there for free photos from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 31. Located at 1011 A1A Beach Blvd, #3 in St. Augustine Beach. . Telephone 904-471-2830.

Live Concerts:

In addition to nightly entertainers in St. Augustine restaurants and pubs, Florida’s Historic Coast will feature spring concerts for every musical taste. The St. Augustine Amphitheatre will host Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt (March 23); Martina McBride (April 13); Rise Against (April 27); and The Beach Boys (May 2). Featured performances at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall include Suzy Bogguss (March 30); Gallagher (April 5); and Edgar Winter (May 20). EMMA’s concert series held at Flagler Auditorium includes Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra (March 25);State Street Ballet (April 22); Bella Voce (May 6).

Events:

As always, spring on Florida’s Historic Coast is filled with exciting events featuring the very best in golf, great food, music and history. For a complete calendar of spring events, go here Spring Calendar of Events.

Here are just a few highlights:

May 7-13: THE PLAYERS Championship

The world’s greatest golfers compete for the richest purse in the game at this exciting tournament held at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach. This championship week of golf gets off to a great start on May 7 when the 2012 Class is inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine. Among the game’s luminaries to be inducted this year are Phil Mickelson and Hollis Stacy. For more details and ticket information for THE PLAYERS, go to www.pgatour.com or call 800-741-3161. Special accommodations packages for this tremendous event can be found at http://www.floridashistoriccoast.com/golf_landing The packages start at only $99 per night and can be modified to include golf and admission to the Hall of Fame.

April 19-22: Sawgrass Wine Festival

More than 200 wine vendors will offer samples and a gourmet tent will feature culinary delights at the luxurious Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa in Ponte Vedra Beach. www.sawgrasswinefestival.com

April 25-29: Florida’s Birding and PhotoFest

Experience northeast Florida’s abundant bird life while learning from some of the world’s best outdoor photographers. Headquartered at Marineland, about 15 miles south of St. Augstine, the event’s more than 100 exciting birding and outdoor photography sessions make it one of the best of its kind. www.FloridasBirdingandPhotoFest.com

April 27-19: Rhythm & Ribs Festival

The nation’s best barbecue chefs bring their tastiest concoctions to St. Augustine for this annual event. Great live music included! www.rhythmandribs.net

April 28: Taste of St. Augustine

Savor the unique tastes of St. Augustine as local restaurants serve samples of their signature dishes in a flavorful competition to win the coveted “Best Of” title. www.epiccommunityservices.org 

May 3-6: Culturally La Florida: Spain’s New World Legacy

Flagler College, Florida Humanities Council, Florida’s Historic Coast and the City of St. Augustine will host a celebration of Spanish culture and heritage from the arrival of Ponce de Leon in 1513 to the present day. Presentations cover archaeology, cuisine, maritime history, culture and art and many others. www.CulturallyLaFlorida.org

May 4-6: Gamble Rogers Folk Festival

Enjoy the very best in folk music at this annual celebration of the music and stories that made Gamble Rogers famous. Concerts take place at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre and at various venues throughout the oldest city. www.GambleRogersFest.org

May 12: Taste of the Beach

Sample sumptuous creations from St. Augustine Beach restaurants in this annual competition for “Best of the Beach” honors.www.thecivicassociation.com

May 14-20: Romanza Week

Experience more than 50 productions and presentations featuring art and music of St. Augustine – the nation’s oldest and most romantic city. www.RomanzaFL.org 

May 19: Lincolnville Street Fair

Immerse yourself in the African-American arts, culture and history of Lincolnville – one of St. Augustine’s designated historic districts. Sponsored by the Cyprian Center for the Expressive Arts. www.CyprianCenter.org

Located midway between Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, Florida’s Historic Coast features historic St. Augustine, the outstanding golf and seaside elegance of Ponte Vedra, 42 miles of pristine Atlantic beaches – the same beaches that greeted Ponce de Leon in 1513 when he discovered and named La Florida – an area whose boundaries included what would later become the eastern United States. For more information on events, activities, holiday getaways and vacation opportunities in St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches, go to the Visitors and Convention Bureau website at www.FloridasHistoricCoast.com become a fan on Facebook or call 1.800.653.2489.

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