St Augustine in December — The Perfect Time of Year!
As Floridians, one cannot presumptuously expect cooler temperatures simply because we’ve flipped the page on our calendars to December. Grass is still green, flowers abundantly seen, palm trees remain queen, and yes… beach babes (lean and mean) are still applying that coconut sunscreen! Sound like Christmas? Not exactly!
Okay, so we may be seasonally challenged here in the Sunshine State, but annually my mind goes on a mission to somehow duplicate (or find a reasonable facsimile) of that ‘Northern’ Christmas spirit I took for granted for 42 years. I’m happy to report the lost has been found in a charming little Southern City called Saint Augustine.
Welcome to the First Coast — The Oldest City in Our Nation
Located in Florida’s northeast corner, and just 45 minutes south of Jacksonville, is our nation’s oldest city — Saint Augustine. It was founded in 1565 by the Spanish, and is also the oldest port in the continental United States.
St. Augustine’s narrow cobblestone streets are best explored by foot. In fact, our vehicle was valet-parked in our hotel for 4 days and we didn’t need it until check-out! Self-guided and ‘themed’ walking tours abound, everything from notable historic sites to ghostly tales. The lodging of choice for many visitors to Saint Augustine is the plethora of charming and romantic bed and breakfast inns. And, of course, the Spanish Colonial Architecture adds to the romantic atmosphere and is a photographers dream-come-true!
Historic Casa Monica Hotel — Romance Revisited!
Saint Augustine was the culmination of a 6-city east coast trek celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary. We love the Florida coast anytime of year, but as the weather plummeted from the mid-eighties to high-sixties St. Augustine became even more charming. There, it was easy to lose ourselves in the history of the ‘Old City’ as we explored the enchanting, walkable neighborhoods. Our hotel, The Casa Monica, was located in the center of the quaint historic district and only a few blocks away from fabulous fine-dining options, beautiful Matanzas Bay, art galleries, nightlife, and sensational little unique shops all decked out for the season.
At the historic Casa Monica Hotel you will experience Moorish-style grandeur in an 1888 property that was once owned by railroad tycoon Henry Flagler. (Mr. Flagler developed much of Florida’s eastern coast.) Here’s a link to view Casa Monica rates and availability.
Photo Tour — Opulent Casa Monica Hotel
Here, romance can blossom at any old time!
Vittles and Vino VIP Carriage Tour!
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry!
The Vittles and Vino VIP Carriage Tour is one of many tours offered by The Tasting Tours Company in St. Augustine. What a fantastic gift for our 25th Wedding Anniversary! I’m not surprised Travel and Leisure Magazine ranked The Tasting Tours #1 in the best activities to do in St. Augustine. For the ‘foodie’ in your family, I highly recommend this award-winning tour as a unique special occasion gift that the recipient will fondly recall for a lifetime. The selection of food and beverage outlets vary with each tour, but you can check out The Tasting Tours slideshow below to see what delectable morsels I had.
Our Tour Included:
3.5 hours of food and wine
5 food tasting venues (at 5 different restaurants in the historic district)
4 wine sample venues (including a wine tasting to begin the tour and a bottle to enjoy on the carriage ride or take home)
A fun and informative guided tour (Jennifer, our tour guide was the best! And our carriage driver was a wealth of knowledge regarding all the historical facts of the city)
This was a delightful way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and we were not hungry again until very late that night. No dinner was necessary, just a bedtime snack!
Okay, so we didn’t go dashing through the snow, but we were in a one-horse open carriage. And, after the second or third stop on the tour, we were most certainly laughing all the way! I don’t remember any bells on bob-tails ringing… but they could have been, by then our spirits were very bright!
TIP: If you’re considering traveling to St. Augustine in the near future, check out the current available tasting tours here. Book early, as they tend to fill up fast!
Tis the Season to Be Jolly — Food, New Friends & Folly on Our Tasting Tour!
The Tasting Tours
Ranked in the Top 20 Best Overall Food Tours in the U.S.
Annual Christmas Tour of Homes
Presented by The Garden Club of St. Augustine
One of my favorite things to do in any city is a Tour of Homes. In St. Augustine the Christmas Tour of Homes is an annual tradition that typically sells out pretty fast. Tickets go on sale in early October, and it’s best to purchase them well in advance, as we did.
Our Tour of Homes included six private residences. Three of them were located in the Military District, along the beautiful Matanzas River. We toured the homes of Major General Emmett Titshaw, Colonel Perry Hagaman, and Colonel Joseph Duren. Another highlight for me was the former Kirkside Estate, winter home of Henry Flagler. It was a special treat personally meeting the owners of each home who graciously paused for photos upon my request. Our Tour of Homes concluded with Tea and Cookies, a Unique Boutique, and a Raffle at the Memorial Presbyterian Church, a St. Augustine historic landmark. In fact, Henry Flagler and several relatives were laid to rest in a mausoleum on the church grounds.
For five fantastic hours on a Sunday afternoon in St. Augustine I felt like I was ‘home’ for Christmas. Each home had their own version of snow, mistletoe, and presents under the tree. Okay… so I wasn’t really home for Christmas — but I was in my dreams!
St. Augustine Holiday Tour of Homes — Photo Tour
- Photo Album Tour of Homes – 2016
Are you ready for some new decorating ideas? Grab a cup of eggnog or hot mulled cider, have your notebook handy, sit back and enjoy the slideshows from the 2016 St. Augustine Christmas Tour of Homes!
Top 10 in the World!
Saint Augustine’s Nights of Lights was named by National Geographic
as one of the Top 10 places in the world to see holiday lights!
St. Augustine Nights of Lights
National Geographic magazine included Saint Augustine’s Nights of Lights in its list of the ten best places in the world to see holiday lighting displays. That’s pretty impressive, considering they’re competing with places like Vienna, Copenhagen, Brussels, Callaway Gardens, Gothenburg, and Madrid. If you only visit St. Augustine once in your life, make sure it’s during the annual Nights of Lights!
Like everything in St. Augustine, the Nights of Lights has its roots in history. During the 250 years that St. Augustine served as the capital of Spanish Florida, residents would put a lighted candle in their window to commemorate the holiday season. Real candles have turned to electric, but they’re still white, and just as dazzling to behold as they decorate the old buildings. The entire historic district is lit with some three million white lights, an amazing holiday spectacle to see.
This year, you can view the Nights of Lights every night from November 18, 2017 to January 31, 2018. There are eight different ways to view the Nights of Lights display; a self-guided walking tour (free), Old Town Trolly Tours, Ripley’s Red Train, by boat with Florida Water Tours, St. Augustine Eco Tours, Gold Tours private small bus, and Helicopter Tours of St. Augustine. Whether you choose to view this holiday tradition by land, air, or sea… you will not be disappointed! Here’s a convenient link to make reservations for any of the tours — Nights of Lights advance reservations.
TIP: I’ve saved the best for last. One of the most romantic ways to see St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights is a private carriage ride. You can view rates and availability here — Nights of Lights Private Carriage Tour.
Celebrate the Holiday Season in St. Augustine
St. Augustine ranks at the top of my list for romantic getaways. And when you couple that with the annual Nights of Lights, there’s no better place in Florida to celebrate the holidays. This sleepy little Spanish town (technically, it’s a city, but it has more of a small town feel) is dripping in romance. What once was a winter playground for the rich and famous, can now be experienced by anyone with a passion for history, culture, and romance. The spirit of the Flagler Golden Era can be felt in every nook and cranny of this place. St. Augustine exudes a bygone era of grace and casual elegance that will forever be a part of this ancient city’s heritage.
St. Augustine is like the charm of Europe on the coast of Florida! There’s no other place in America like it! If you’re looking for a memorable romantic holiday, St. Augustine is sure to add another chapter to your never-ending love story.
Have you been to St. Augustine, America’s oldest city, during the holidays? Please share your favorite memory with our readers in the “comment” box below!