With the kids back in school and the buzz of summer crowds dying down, savvy travelers seek ways to stretch their budgets without sacrificing the things that autumn memories are built on. October and November are the perfect months to enjoy St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and the Beaches to not only explore centuries of Hispanic history, but to get in the holiday spirit.
Halloween Kicks off the Holiday Season! Halloween isn’t just for kids anymore. When it comes to selecting the perfect place for ghostly fun, the Nation’s oldest city is the ideal haunted getaway destination. With over 450 years of history, ancient narrow streets, two historic cemeteries with graves dating back hundreds of years, a brooding Spanish fortress and endless stories of roaming spirits, it’s the place to be for all things other-worldly. And while Halloween is known as the night that stirs up the supernatural, St. Augustine features ghost tours and spooky encounters that one can actually experience year round:
GHOSTS AND GRAVESTONES FRIGHTSEEING ADVENTURES: Explore the darker side of the Nation’s Oldest City on this nightly trolley tour named by Southern Living magazine as one of the five best in the South. Relive the historic haunted tales and legends found at every turn. In addition, the tour includes a visit to Lighthouse Park, where the ghosts of three little girls are said to still haunt the place of their tragic drowning. For more information, visithttp://www.ghostsandgravestones.com
ST. AUGUSTINE LIGHTHOUSE DARK OF THE MOON TOURS: Go on the only tour that takes participants to the top of the tower of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and into the eerie Keeper’s House. Find out why the Syfy Network’s Ghost Hunters program called the Lighthouse the “Mona Lisa of paranormal sites.” For more information, visit http://www.staugustinelighthouse.org
GHOSTAUGUSTINE DEAD WALK TOUR: Take this unique walking tour through the narrowest and darkest streets on the south end of the St. Augustine historic area. The tour has several new haunted stories that have not been heard by the public until now! Tours depart at nightly from Beerhammer’s located in St. George Street. For more information, visit http://www.ghostaugustine.com
After Halloween’s tricks-and-treats, Florida’s Historic Coast takes the fall season up another notch as Thanksgiving rolls around the corner with its savory flavors. Tradition supports that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621, as English Pilgrims in Plymouth Massachusetts shared a plentiful harvest with Native Americans.
Except that it wasn’t.
The first Thanksgiving celebration in the United States actually took place in Florida. Fifty-six years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, colonists in St. Augustine shared a feast of thanksgiving with the native Timucuan Indians when the Spanish explorer Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles arrived on the coast of Florida. He came ashore on September 8, 1565, naming the land on which he stepped “St. Augustine” in honor of the saint on whose feast day, Aug. 28, the land was sighted. Colonial records indicate that on the date Menendez and the nearly 800 settlers accompanying him came ashore and celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving (first Catholic mass on American soil), and, afterward, shared a feast of Thanksgiving with the native Timucuans.
Around this time of the year, people are reminded of the bounty of treasures that are a part of life in St. Augustine. Savory and sweet flavor combinations reign supreme in the restaurants and events here. The city’s rich 451-year heritage influences a unique culinary scene. Spain, Greece, Mexico, Minorca, Cuba and the Caribbean are just a few of cultures that not only make up St. Augustine’s history, but add to the area’s global cuisine. Take a culinary journey of its St. Augustine’s fall flavors.
GREAT ST. AUGUSTINE CHOWDER DEBATE: Datil peppers are St. Augustine’s best culinary surprises which has definitely made a spicy mark to its robust food scene. One of the hottest peppers in the world, these little green-orange peppers pack a bang, similar to the punch of a Scotch bonnet or habanero. Local lore says the Minorcans brought it over in the late 1700s, and it has continued to be farmed here ever since. Spice aficionados can savor Minorcan clam chowder, arguably the destination’s signature dish. Inaugurated in 1984, the Debate is one of the longest-running chowder championships in the country. Over 30 restaurants from the St. Augustine area come out every November to donate their chowders and their time in hope of winning first place. The Great Chowder Debate will take place November 6 when 5,000 foodies will savor over 2,000 gallons of chowder, served by some of the Florida’s best restaurants and chefs.
EARLY THANKS: The St. Augustine Amphitheatre and Swamp Radio present Early Thanks for the second year in a row, a southern-style Thanksgiving dinner and radio show event on Saturday, November 19th, join the cast of Swamp Radio, Northeast Florida’s beloved (and hilarious) live radio show, for an Early Thanksgiving event. This is a truly unique gathering of local storytellers, musicians and chefs for one unforgettable early Thanksgiving celebration! For more information, visit http://www.swampradiojax.com
DINE OUT ON THANKSGIVING DAY: Roasted turkey, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, cornbread and sausage stuffing, gravy, homemade cranberry sauce, buttermilk rolls and pumpkin and pecan pies make the perfect traditional Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings. Visitors to Florida’s Historic Coast will savor every last bite at local area restaurants such as Raintree Restaurant, Columbia House and Old City House Inn & Restaurant. For more information on St. Augustine’s culinary scene, visithttp://www.historiccoastflavors.com
ST. AUGUSTINE ART & CRAFT FESTIVAL: Celebrating 51 years of a Thanksgiving Tradition,, the St. Augustine Art Association’s popular juried art fair showcases 150 top national and regional artists exhibiting paintings, pottery, jewelry, sculpture, woodworks, glass and other unique fine art creations November 26 and 27th. Surrounded by history in a thriving cultural community, the festival attracts artists, discerning shoppers, art collectors, visitors and families alike. International foods, live music, Colonial crafts, Kids Art Zone and the citywide Nights of Lights combine to create a memorable holiday experience and ideal start to the shopping season.