NEW DISCOVERIES AWAIT VISITORS TO
ST. AUGUSTINE, PONTE VEDRA & THE BEACHES
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (April 1) St. Augustine is the Nation’s oldest city, but visitors to this historic destination and the luxurious resorts of Ponte Vedra will find plenty that’s “new” to enjoy for spring and summer 2009. In addition to rediscovering the Old World charm and seaside elegance found in this unique destination on northeast Florida’s sunny shores, visitors will be adding lots of new discoveries to their “must-do” lists.
With more than 60 historic sites, impressive museums, numerous opportunities for world class golf, more than 40 miles of pristine Atlantic beaches, great fishing and tours that entertain and educate, there’s never a shortage of things to do in St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra &The Beaches. This spring and summer, visitors can re-discover their favorites from years past and discover a wide array of new opportunities for fun. For example:
After being closed for nearly a decade, the Villa Zorayda has once again opened to the public. This architectural masterpiece was built in 1883 by Franklin Smith as his winter home. The Grand Gilded Age residence is built as a 1/10th scale replica of a small portion of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. Over the years, the Villa has been a private residence, club, gambling casino and a museum. Today, visitors can admire the unusual architecture as well as the Villa’s extensive collection of antiques including paintings and furniture from the 17th century, brass lamps, porcelain china and even a 2,400-year-old rug taken from an Egyptian pyramid. State-of-the-art audio tours in English and Spanish are also available with an admission ticket priced at $10 for adults, $9 for seniors and military, $8 students, and $4 for children ages 8-13. To find out more, go to: www.villazorayda.com .
Want to experience the true story of the macabre side of the City of St. Augustine? Well, now you can at your own pace in English or Spanish. Shivers and Awe employs the latest in GPS technology combined with sound effects and narration of the highest cinematic quality to create a tour that may forever change the way you look at the Oldest City. For a sample of this innovative tour and additional information, go to www.SAGPSTours.com .
What’s more romantic than horseback riding on the beach – at sunset or sunrise? Now couples can experience the thrill of riding at the very edge of the sea thanks to Country Carriages in St. Augustine. Up to four persons can ride together on Vilano Beach just across the inlet from the oldest city or along the wide expanse of sand at Crescent Beach on Anastasia Island just south of St. Augustine. For more information, call 904.826.1982 or go to www.countrycarriages.net
For more than 50 years, St. Augustine’s Red Sightseeing Trains have provided millions of visitors with delightful narrated tours of the city. In recognition of current economic times, the trains have just rolled their ticket prices back to the 2004 rate of $16.99. Each ticket provides unlimited travel on the trains for three days. www.redtrains.com
Looking for a great teambuilding adventure or friendly family competition? AdLib Luxury Tours has just introduced The Oldest Amazzing Race – a fun and thrill packed race with teams working together to solve puzzles and get clues from historical characters while avoiding roadblocks and detours. With its narrow brick passageways and many historical attractions such as the Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine is the perfect place for staging The Oldest Amazzing Race. For details, call 904. 827.1845 or go to www.AdLibtours.com
There’s something special about a tour of St. Augustine’s historical sites – especially when some ghosts are included! Ghost Tours of St. Augustine is now offering a history and ghost tour at 4 p.m. daily. Tickets are $10 and the tour leaves from their store at 2 St. George Street. For more information on Ghost Tours of St. Augustine, go to their website www.aghostlyexperience.com or call 904.825.0087.
Marineland’s Dolphin Conservation Center has a new program that is perfect for anyone who has ever wanted to touch a dolphin, but was discouraged by the cost of swimming with or other in-water dolphin encounters. The new Touch and Feed Program is only $26 per participant and provides a great way to make contact with these magnificent creatures. In addition, Tocoi, Aqe, and Tomo — three dolphin calves born at Marineland last year – will be available to amuse visitors with their playful antics and to celebrate their first birthdays in June and July! For more information, go to www.marineland.net
St. Augustine Eco Tours has introduced thousands of guests to premier dolphin and bird viewing locations. Now, they have added seven new paddling destinations to their list of available excursions. Expert guides will show you the way at Guana River & Lake, Moultrie Creek, Moses Creek, Washington Oaks, Faver-Dykes, & Six Mile Landing. For more information, visit www.staugustineecotours.com .
Come see why kayak fishing is one of the fastest growing sports in Florida. Master Naturalists from Ripple Effect Eco Tours teach proper catch and release techniques and the use of circle hooks to minimize impact and to protect our fisheries for future generations. Half-day trips aboard Hobie pedal-drive kayaks for hands free fishing, all high quality Shimano rods and reels with photographs of the catch are $125 per person with one guide and two anglers! Find out more at www.RippleEffectEcotours.com .
Return to the elegant days of the past when St. Augustine’s history was discussed at a slower pace with a person of taste and intellect. John Stavely, author and one of the Ancient City’s most accomplished re-enactors, is now available to give individuals or groups an enlightening tour that provides unique history with a decidedly upscale flair – maybe even a discussion and tasting of fine wines to put just the right glow on your tour. John’s special adventures include ghost excursions (he’s the author of Ghosts and Gravestones in St. Augustine) sailing adventures, culinary tours, photography expeditions and even a look at our local music scene. Seen on the Travel Channel, Discovery Channel, and History Channel, John can also enliven your business meeting or reception by making a first-person appearance as one of several historical characters. To find out more, visit www.LoveMyTours.com .
Lots of pirates must have been looking at Cap’n Jack Sparrow’s treasure map in the final scene of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End because they’re headed for Florida and St. Augustine’s Fountain of Youth. In fact, a full-scale 65-foot Spanish galleon under the command of its pirate crew will be arriving at the City Marina in mid-April. Named the Black Raven, the ship and its crew of bandy-legged sea dogs will be based here permanently. Sailing daily in search of booty, the Black Raven will transport up to 125 passengers on a voyage of high seas fun and adventure. Depending on their mood, the crew might even be convinced to host your wedding, anniversary or birthday party. For a behind-the scenes look, point your spyglass toward www.blackravenadventures.com .
Have you ever pictured yourself as a swashbuckling pirate? Then head over to St. Augustine’s historic St. George Street where you’ll easily recognize Chinese Pirate Tiger Lee hanging about his brand new Pirate Portraits N’ Treasures. Tiger Lee is a world-famous pirate photographer and artist who will capture your image in a striking pirate portrait finished as fine art on canvas. Like hanging out with pirates and other historical characters? Join Tiger Lee on his In Garb Pub Crawl of St. Augustine from 7-11 p.m. on the 2nd Friday of every month. Tickets are $10 ($5 in period clothing) and sales benefit a different charity each month. For details, go to www.PiratePortraitsNTreasures.com
Let Sydney McKenna show you how to capture great landscapes in oil by taking her new class at the newly remodeled Butterfield Too gallery and teaching facility at 137 King Street in St. Augustine. Sydney’s has been teaching her popular course at the Cultural Center in Ponte Vedra for the past three years – she will now be teaching in St. Augustine from 2 to 5 p.m. each Tuesday. The cost for the four-week session is $120. For more information on her classes, call 904.824.2414 and view her work visit www.sydneymckenna.com .
The total renovation of the St. Augustine Amphitheatre has quickly turned it into one of the premier outdoor entertainment venues in the Southeast. Upcoming concerts for spring and summer include Joe Cocker, Chicago, Hall and Oates, Kings of Leon, James Taylor – plus the week-long (May 18-24) Florida First Coast Arts Festival featuring dramatic productions by the University of Florida’s College of Fine Arts. Now, two new venues have been added to the destination. This month, the Artie Shaw Orchestra inaugurated the 400-seat Ponte Vedra Concert Hall located at 105 Cornerstone Drive while the Southern Exposure Music & Heritage Festival became the first major event to be held at Alpine Groves Park on State Road 13. In nearby Elkton, the St. Johns County Fairgrounds has gained increase attention for hosting events such as this month’s Harvest of Hope Festival featuring 140 bands performing over three days. For information on upcoming events at these exciting new venues, go to www.staugamphitheatre.com .
For those who pursue GPS excursions and adventures, it’s all about the benchmarks. St. Augustine has just been given the distinction of serving as the benchmark for the State of Florida. It all began here in 1565 with the city’s founding – today St. Augustine serves as the beginning point for all things GPS in the Sunshine State. The Geocache code for the Florida Geocac in St. Augustine is GC1MVYP.
For nearly two centuries, St. Augustine has been known as a place where weary travelers or folks just enjoying this wonderful part of Florida could partake of a stay at a hospitable inn. Today, more than 30 bed and breakfast inns and small hotels offer visitors comfort and great food in settings that are truly part of the historic ambiance of the Nation’s oldest city. This spring, 15 of these independently-owned lodgings will be sporting a new Superior Small Lodging award in their parlors. Superior Small Lodging is a hospitality program that performs rigorous annual inspections of Florida lodgings. Not only are small lodgings judged on the basis of cleanliness, safety and other physical attributes, their owners are tested on their knowledge of the area where their property is located. Only the very best receive the Superior Small Lodging Award. The latest recipients in St. Augustine are: At Journeys End, Bayfront Inn, Bayfront Marin House, Carriage Way, Casa de Solana. Casablanca, Cedar House Inn, Cozy Inn, Edgewater Inn, House of Sea and Sun, Inn on Charlotte Street, Inn at Camachee Harbor, Ocean Sands Beach Inn, Saragossa Inn, and St. Francis Inn.
How about an affordable getaway to one of the nation’s most luxurious seaside resorts? The Lodge & Club in Ponte Vedra Beach is offering an April special of only $299 per night, including a free breakfast for two! Awarded AAA’s 4-Diamond rating and Four Stars from Mobile Travel Guide, and selected by Travel+Leisure magazine as one of the top 500 hotels in the world, the resort maintains impeccable standards for beachfront service and accommodations. In addition to the beautiful Mediterranean- inspired architecture, the resort offers an incredible selection of high-quality features including two championship golf courses and a golf academy to improve your game. Like tennis? Guests here have access to what Tennis magazine calls the “Best Tennis Resort on the East Coast. For details, go to: www.pvresorts.com .
Selected this year as one of the top 100 hotels in the U.S. by Conde Nast Traveler magazine and as one of the top 500 hotels in the world by Travel+Leisure, the AAA Four Diamond-rated Casa Monica Hotel, www.casamonica.com, is offering an unforgettable Sweet 16 Princess Package – the ultimate in pampering for royal parties of up to six princesses. Inspired by the 2001 visit to the historic Casa Monica by Queen Sophia of Spain, the girls will receive custom makeovers before being picked up by a horse-drawn carriage for a tour of St. Augustine while sipping pink “champagne” followed by dinner in a luxurious private room at the renowned 95 Cordova restaurant. After a midnight chocolate fondue indulgence and a night of beauty sleep, the princesses will be served breakfast in bed followed by a morning of soaking up the sun on the Moroccan pool deck and a professional photo session to preserve the memory of an adventure fit for Cinderella. For full details, email Kristi.firstname.lastname@example.org .
Following a $10 million property-wide renovation, The Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village has captured a prestigious Inner Circle Award from Association Meetings magazine. The resort was selected for the award as a result of comments from the magazine’s readers regarding the high level of service, meeting space, food and beverage service and good value on room rates. The 301-room resort at St. Augustine’s World Golf Village is located adjacent to the St. Johns County Convention Center and is the largest combination hotel and conference center between Atlanta and Orlando with 86,000 square feet of meeting and event space. For more details, go to www.WorldGolfRenaissance.com .
One of the area’s favorite beachfront hotels, the Holiday Inn St. Augustine Beach now offers guests completely new ocean view rooms. In addition, recent renovations have doubled their meeting space from 2400 to 4800 feet – including banquet facilities for 250 guests. For more information, visit www.holidayinn.com/staugustine
Awards have just been received by the Castillo Real, a boutique hotel in St. Augustine Beach, and the Howard Johnson on San Marco Avenue. Both received Gold awards – designating the Castillo Real among the top 10 percent of Choice Hotels International properties and the Howard Johnson as among the top properties in its namesake chain.
To learn more about these award-winning properties, go to http://www.castilloreal.com/ and www.staugustinehojo.com/ .
For generations, the Devil’s Elbow Fishing Resort has offered fishing enthusiasts a relaxed vacation getaway at Crescent Beach only 12 miles south of historic St. Augustine. Now, the venerable resort has added 10 new waterfront rental cottages built in the classic “Old Florida” style with covered porches, tin roofs, roof-top cupolas and hardwood floors. Located on the Intracoastal Waterway just across A1A from the ocean, each cottage has a water view and gentle breezes –perfect for rocking chair rocking on the front porch while watching dolphins frolicking in waters lit by a glorious sunset. For more details, go to www.devilselbowfishingresort.com .
Current economics are increasing interest in the value of one or more families renting a beach house for a shared vacation. The Beach Cottages Company of St. Augustine has come up with several offers that provide value along with the cost savings of preparing your own meals – plus, the houses are perfect for sharing good times together at the beach. For more details, go to www.thebeachcottages.com .
Lynne Fairfield, owner of Inn on Charlotte in historic St. Augustine, presents Container Gardening ‘101’ to her guests beginning April 1st , along with tips, tricks and the art of container gardening to guests who want to develop their own ‘green thumb’. A Master Gardener with a horticultural degree (in addition to being an award-winning inn owner), Fairfield has created a unique guest experience that will inspire even those with a limited amount of space for gardening – www.InnonCharlotte.com .
Shoppers stopping at the Prime Outlets-St.Augustine and St. Augustine Premium Outlets located at I-95’s exit 318 will discover new and exciting changes. For instance:
The completely re-designed Prime Outlets-St. Augustine changed the face of shopping in Northeastern Florida three months ago when it opened the doors to a new and upscale shopping experience. The $35 million, 90,000 square-foot expansion includes 25 new stores – and the names read like a Who’s Who list of the world’s most exclusive retailers – Gucci, Hugo Boss, Michael Kors, Kenneth Cole, Cole Haan, Juicy Couture, and many others including a new 28,000 square-foot Off 5th – the outlet for upscale retailer Saks Fifth Avenue. In April, Dooney & Bourke, a leading American designer of fine accessories in leather and fabric opens along with Coldwater Creek, the place to shop for unique clothing for women. And for those who enjoy a little culinary treat with their shopping experience, this month will also usher Beard Papa’s Cream Puffs and Nature’s Table Café into the Prime Outlets. Need even more shopping? In May, Talbots, known for exceptional women’s clothing with modern classic style, will open. The 75 Prime Outlets-St. Augustine stores offer savings of 25 to 65 percent off the regular prices making this one of the top-ranked Florida destinations preferred by discriminating shoppers everywhere.
Charlotte Kaye Fine Gifts and Home Décor has been named as St. Augustine’s premier distributor of Womar Glass – the magnificent, functional art glass hand blown in the Krosno region of Poland using centuries old artisan techniques. Each piece is part of a limited edition – some include Swarovski Crystallized elements. For a limited time, savings of 20-30 percent and free shipping are offered. Charlotte Kaye is located in the Bubble Room Village at 100 St. George Street. www.charlottekaye.com
Fresh seafood, Minorcan favorites featuring the destination’s signature datil peppers, Spanish tapas and the very best in New World cuisine are just some of the culinary delights enjoyed by visitors to St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches. This spring, visitors will find new culinary delights awaiting discovery.
Opening this month, Aunt Kate’s is a family-style seafood restaurant built on the same site where Oscar’s Old Florida Grill stood in the Vilano Beach area for 94 years. In 2001, Oscar’s was destroyed by a fire. Aunt Kate’s is a waterfront restaurant with 5,000 square feet of dining area, 2,000 square feet of deck and 150 feet of floating docks. It is named for Katherine Usina, who bought the property in 1904 and ran the earlier restaurant for many years. For more information, call 904.824.1806, x210.
The Bubble Room is just a few weeks away from its grand opening on historic St. George Street in St. Augustine. This fun family-focused restaurant is from the same owners as the popular restaurant by the same name in Captiva Island on Florida’s west coast. Noted for its fun decor and memorabilia from the 1930s-1950s and a menu of comfort food favorites, the restaurant will serve lunch and dinner daily. Banquet facilities will be available. Manager Jim George, who has worked for the owners at their location in Captiva Island for many years, relocated to St. Augustine to oversee this new location in the Oldest City. For more information, call 904.829.3220 or go to www.bubbleroomrestaurant.com .
This spring, three of St. Augustine’s finest restaurants are celebrating their selection as recipients of some of the top honors in the industry. Opus 39 (www.opus39.com ) and 95 Cordova (www.casamonica.com/95cordova ) received the prestigious Golden Spoon Award and the creativity of the chef at Bistro de Leon (www.BistrodeLeon.com), Jean-Stephane Poinard, was recognized for having conjured up one the Top 50 Restaurant Great Ideas in the nation as announced by Restaurant Business News.
For more information on vacation opportunities and special events in St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches, go to the Visitors and Convention Bureau’s website www.Getaway4Florida.com or call 1.800.418.7529.