There are many reasons why North Florida is such an wonderful place to visit (or live). The climate is spectacular; great for boating, golfing, surfing, fishing and other forms of sports and recreation. In addition, the area is rich in arts and entertainment, fine-dining, shopping and history. North Florida also offers miles of beautiful beaches and waterways, cultural pursuits from jazz and Scottish festivals, to hot clubs and remarkable, ethnically diverse restaurants.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Holiday Events, Jacksonville, Florida . . .

There is always something exciting to see and do in Jacksonville and the holidays are no exception!

If you’re looking for fun, family friendly and festive events on the First Coast this holiday season look no further than our 2014 Guide to Holiday Events In and Around Jacksonville. Here you will find all of the best tree lighting ceremonies, Santa visits, Gingerbread House making events, light displays, boat parades, holiday shows and everything you need for a holly jolly holiday season. Be sure to check back throughout the season for updated holiday events.

Tree Lightings

28th Annual Christmas on the St. Johns Tree Lighting Ceremony (November 28 | 7:00 p.m.) – Watch in awe as The Landing’s 56-foot-tall energy efficient tree comes to life as 78,000 LED lights glow in the night sky. This gorgeous tree also features more than 100 ornaments and is programmed to perform a 10-minute synchronized light show set to holiday music. The evening will conclude with a fireworks display on the St. Johns River.

St. Johns Town Center Holiday Spectacular (November 15 | 2014 2:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.) -Nothing says the holiday season like a tree lighting and what better place to celebrate the reason for the season than at the St. Johns Town Center. Chances are you will already be there holiday shopping so grab the fam and enjoy some family friendly holiday fun. The 9th Annual Holiday Spectacular will be headlined by Country music star Joe Nichols and include family-friendly activities like stilt walkers, costumed characters, balloonists, holiday-themed photo opportunities and more. In addition, St. Johns Town Center retailers will be offering holiday shopping opportunities, in-store promotions and specials throughout the weekend. The highlight of the event comes at 8 p.m. when Santa leads the crowd in an official countdown to light the 32-foot tree. The tree lighting will be followed by an energetic fireworks finale.

Beaches Town Center Holiday Celebrations (December 6, 2014 |3:00 p.m.) – The Beaches Town Center Holiday Celebrations will begin with a bike parade through the town center followed by musical and dance performances, face painting, craft tables, Mr.s and Mrs. Claus and the gorgeous tree lighting! The Mayors of both cities will light the tree just in time for Santa to start meeting the children.

TPC Sawgrass Tree Lighting Ceremony (November 28, 2014 | 6:30 p.m.) – Experience a holiday tree lighting at one of golf’s great locations — The Clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass! The 6:30 p.m. tree lighting is a complimentary family event — music and hot cocoa included.  A buffet dinner by reservation follows the lighting.

Annual Christmas Tree Lighting at The Ritz Carlton Amelia Island (November 26, 2014 | 5:30 p.m.) – This YMCA fundraiser will light up the Ritz Carlton as local entertainment and Santa himself arrive to celebrate the season. The tree lighting will be followed by spectacular fireworks.

Holiday Light Displays

Jacksonville ZOOLights (December 12 – January 3 | Monday through Thursday 6:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. & Friday through Sunday 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.) – Join Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens for the 3rd Annual ZooLights and watch as thousands of LED lights transform the zoo into a luminous winter wonderland filled with moving sculptures, forests of lighted trees and animal silhouettes. In addition to the lights, zoo guests can enjoy the Zoo’s lighted train, carousel ride, the 4-D Theater featuring The Polar Express, marshmallow roasting and even “warm weather” ice skating!

Deck the Chairs (November 28, 2014) – The famous Lifeguard chairs in Jax Beach will light up this holiday season during the 2nd Annual Deck the Chairs. The Beaches Winter Light Festival will feature a display of more than twenty American Red Cross life guard chairs in Latham Plaza decorated in coastal-themed designs and lights. Kick off is the day after Thanksgiving with chair decorating, music, hot cocoa, judging and lighting ceremonies.

Atlantic Beach Christmas (December 1 – throughout the season) – This is one of many spectacular and magical holiday lights displays throughout Jacksonville. Atlantic Beach Christmas is located in the Ocean Walk neighborhood. If you take Seminole all the way down to the end and enter the neighborhood at the second entrance you will run right into Snapping Turtle Drive. Take a left here and you won’t be able to miss this vibrant display.  The houses that put it on recommend you park your car on Ocean Walk Drive West and taking a short walk over to the cul-de-sac. In addition to the incredible lights on these two houses, there is holiday music that plays well into the night.

Blackhawk Bluff Lights – This neighborhood located off Girvin Rd. was the first place I ever visited to look at Christmas lights after moving to Jacksonville. Almost the ENTIRE neighborhood gets in on the fun and decorates with thousands of twinkling lights and Christmas displays. As you enter the neighborhood you’ll put on your parking lights and slowly meander through the canopy of shimmering lights that hang out of the trees. Be on the lookout for the massive stars in one part of the neighborhood!

Jax Illuminations (November 21 – January 4 | 6:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.) – This dazzling lights display will send you through almost a mile of 500,000 lights twinkling to holiday music you tune into on your radio. Jax Illuminations is located at the Morocco Shrine Center 3800 St. Johns Bluff Rd. South. The dazzling displays costs $20 to ride through.

Christmas on Crystal Springs (November 27 – January 1 | Sunday through Thursday 6:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. & Friday through Saturday 6:30 p.m. – 11 p.m.)  – This one house located off of I-10 at Chaffee is a sight to see. Each year they put up several hundred thousand lights choreographed to music.

Riverside Luminaria (December 21, 2014) – This magical tradition in Riverside will put a smile on your face as you enjoy the annual lighting of the lanterns at sundown as well as bike rides, church festivities, block parties, light parades and much more.

Luminary Night at the St. Augustine Lighthouse (December 3, 2014) – The highlight of the holiday season at the lighthouse is Luminary Night.  Visitors are invited to enter the lighthouse grounds for a free evening of children’s holiday crafts, warm refreshments, live music performances (including a string quartet inside the lighthouse tower), visit with Santa, and an up-close look at the museum’s Christmas decor.  This is a special evening the whole family will enjoy.

Light the Park Town of Orange Park (December 3, 2014 | 6:00 p.m.) – Join the town of Orange Park as they light up Town Hall Park  for the holiday season. This special event will also feature a reading of “It was the Night Before Christmas.”

Pictures With Santa/ Dining with Santa

The Avenues Mall (November 7 – December 24) – Eager children and their families can once again experience the magic of the holiday season with a visit to the Simon® Santa Photo Experience at The Avenues. Children can be photographed with Santa through Wednesday, December 24 at 6:00p.m. The Santa Photo Experience is located in the Center Court on the lower level. The most convenient entrance to the Santa Photo Experience is between Dillard’s and JCPenney.

St. Johns Town Center (November 16 – December 24 ) – Santa will be in front of Dick’s Sporting Goods for your Holiday photos!

Orange Park Mall (November 7 – December 24) The most convenient entrance to the Santa Photo Experience is the AMC entrance or through Dillard’s.

A Visit With Santa (December 6 -December 7, 2014 | 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.) – Santa is taking a break from the toy shop and visiting Catty Shack! For one weekend only, come meet Santa and tell him your Christmas list! Afterwards, enjoy a leisurely, guided tour of our sanctuary and see all the residents (Siberian tigers, lions, cougars, black leopards, a bobcat, a coatimundi and foxes)! Tours last approximately 45 minutes.

Beaches Town Center Holiday Celebrations (December 7, 2014 | 3:00 p.m.) – The Beaches Town Center Holiday Celebrations will kick off with a bike parade led by Santa Claus himself! Santa and Mrs. Claus will arrive by sleigh and begin meeting and greeting with the children at 6:00 p.m.

Science with Santa at MOSH (December 13 | 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.) This December MOSH will host Science with Santa. These special holiday programs will take place in the JEA Science Theater at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., The Alien Who Stole Christmas will play in the Bryan-Gooding Planetarium at 11 a.m. ($5 per person in addition to Museum admission). The day will also include holiday crafts and visits with Santa at 10:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.

Santa’s Storybook Tea (November 29, 2014, December 6, 13, & 20, 2014 | 12:00 p.m.) – A Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island tradition; fireside holiday storybook read by Santa plus an afternoon tea with finger sandwiches, pastries, cakes, candy and a picture with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Boat Parades

Community First Jacksonville Light Boat Parade (November 29, 2014 | 7:00 p.m.) – Set sail this holiday season as captains and crew deck out their boats with dazzling lights and decorations and float up and down the St. Johns River. Following the Community First Jacksonville Light Boat Parade enjoy dazzling fireworks from the two barges in front of The Jacksonville Landing and Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront.

Hyatt Community First Jacksonville Light Boat Parade Viewing Party (November 29, 2014 | 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.) – Watch the city light up for the annual Community First Jacksonville Light Boat Parade from the river deck of Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront. Enjoy face painting, cookie decorating and arts and crafts while festively decorated vessels in all shapes and sizes parade along the St. Johns River. In addition, refreshments are available for purchase. Reservations are not required. River deck admission is $5 or one unwrapped gift per adult. Kids 12 years old and under are free. All proceeds benefit the Greater Jacksonville USO.

2014 Regatta of Lights (December 13, 2014 | 6:00 p.m.)  - St. Augustine Bayfront will light up the night when a holiday parade of sailboats, trawlers, shrimp boats and other vessels glitter with vibrant holiday lights and displays. Awards will be given for best theme, most colorful, best in class and best overall.

Palm Valley Light & Boat Parade (December 6, 2014 | 6:30 p.m.) – Head out to Palm Valley to see a spectacular boat parade!There are several vantage points where the public can watch the parade from. There are the three wonderful restaurants along the waterway, Barbara Jean’s, The Palm Valley Fish Camp and Lulu’s but make your reservations early before they are all booked. There’s plenty of free parking under the bridge on each side of the waterway. Also, there are a few places at the end of Canal Blvd. Of course, there’s the entire walkway on the south side of the Palm Valley Bridge. There’s a concrete barrier separating the traffic from the walkway. The vantage point from the bridge is spectacular! Make this classic event part of your holiday plans each year. You won’t regret it!

Holiday Shows/ Theatre

Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra (December 8 | 7:00 p.m.) – The holidays come alive with a FREE concert by the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra.

The Community Nutcracker (December 12, 2014 – 8:00 p.m. & December 13, 2014 2:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m.) – Every year, The Community Nutcracker delights audiences of all ages with this holiday classic. More than 200 children from Northeast Florida audition and perform in the production. Additionally, The Community Nutcracker issues 2,000 free tickets to various Jacksonville agencies and organizations to attend a Community Service Night performance. Residents and clients from area nursing homes and nonprofit agencies are also able to attend the ballet.

A Bethlehem Visit: Live Walk-through Nativity (December 12, 2014 – 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. & December 13, 2014 5:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.) – Imagine a bustling 8,000+ square foot village with merchants, townspeople, artisans and dozens of live animals.  Stroll through the city and get up-close and personal with more than 200 costumed cast members as they re-create the city of Bethlehem as it might have been on the night of Jesus’ birth. Authentic sights, smells and sounds greet guests as they make their way to seek out the manger and the Christ Child at Ponte Vedra Presbyterian Church. This holiday tradition would not be complete without carols sung by a roaring bonfire, free hot chocolate and cookies served to all.

A Christmas Carol at the Times Union – Moran Theater (December 23, 2014 | 7:30 p.m.) – Experience Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” through the eyes of Charles Jones. This spectacular production will take you inside the famous novel with moving renditions of holiday songs such as God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Wassail Wassail, Good Christian Men Rejoice, Away in a Manger, Greensleeves, The Boar’s Head Carol and many more. ‘

Christmas Made in the South (November 28, 29 & 30, 2014 | Various Times) – As Christmas time approaches what better way to get ready for the holiday season than to stroll the aisles for treasures at this year’s award winning 26th annual Christmas Made in the South! Christmas Made in the South is focused on keeping the world of fine artisans and craftspeople vibrant.  Exhibitors will be there all three days demonstrating and selling their handcrafted works.

St. Augustine Winter Spectacular (December 6, 2014 | 2:00 p.m. & 7:00 p.m.) – St. Augustine Winter Spectacular! is a family-friendly, entertaining holiday production that follows a young girl’s journey home for the holidays. Lots of local organizations participate in this event, making it one of the largest parades in Northeast Florida. Expect to see lots of holiday decorations, marching bands and even Santa himself!

Christmas Parades

60th Annual St. Augustine Christmas Parade (December 6, 2014 | 10:00 a.m.) – Celebrate the holiday season with floats, festive decorations and plenty of fun during the 60th Annual St. Augustine Christmas Parade.

40th Annual British Night Watch Grand Illumination Parade (December 6, 2014 | 8:00 p.m.) – Re-live the British Period (1763-1784) in St. Augustine in this colorful and exciting re-enactment featuring hundreds of British troops, their Native American allies and civilians.

Fernandina Beach Lighted Christmas Parade (December 13, 2014 | 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.) – America’s Youth Inc. sponsors the annual Fernandina Beach Lighted Christmas Parade. The parade route will travel from Buccaneer Field along Ash Street to Front Street and Centre Street/Atlantic Avenue to Central Park.

Gingerbread Houses

Gingerbread House Extravaganza (December 3 – 23, 2014) – The Jacksonville Historical Society is proud to present this beloved holiday tradition. Now in its 13th year, the Gingerbread House Extravaganza will feature gigantic, creative gingerbread houses built by chefs, bakers, architects, engineers, culinary school students, families, young people and other individuals. These tasty creations will be on display at the Jacksonville Historical Society headquarters, historic Old St. Andrews, immediately across the street from the Veteran’s Memorial Arena.

Publix Gingerbread House Decorating (November 28, 2014 – December 1, 2014 | Various Times) Forgo the mess at home, and bring the family here! This class allows you and your children (up to three kids) to decorate your own gingerbread house. One adult is required for each family group; children should be at least 4 years old.

Cinotti’s Bakery Gingerbread House Family Fun Nights (Saturdays in December | Various Times) – Each year Cinotti’s Bakery opens their doors for families to come and decorate a gingerbread house together. This year is no different as the popular JAcksonville Bakery celebrates its 14th Annual Family Fun Night with a Christmas tree, carols, cookies and coffee!

Gingerbread Pirate Ship (November 26 – December 29, 2014) – The world’s largest Gingerbread Ship returns to the lobby of the Ritz Carlton for the holiday season. Shaped and baked by our talented pastry chefs with pirate characters sculpted from chocolate. You don’t want to miss seeing this amazing pirate ship. Ship departs on December 29.

Festive Fun Runs

Gingerbread Man Dash 5K (December 6, 2014 | 8:00 a.m.) – Join your favorite holiday cookie at the 4th Annual Gingerbread Man 5k Dash on December 6th at 8:30 a.m. at the Heritage Landing Sports Complex. The real Gingerbread Man will be out running amuck around the course…catch him if you can!  Holiday socks, hats and general candy cane striped attire are encouraged.

Festival of Lights 5K (December 13, 2014 | 6:00 p.m.) – The Festival of Lights 5K will be held the same evening as San Marco’s Holiday Magic. The 5K and 1 Mile will both start and finish on San Marco Blvd. in the Square. The event will feature carolers, jugglers, food & drink, bell ringers, pictures with Santa, Christmas Tree lighting, horse drawn carriage, Christmas music and much more.

Santa Suits on the Loose 5K (December 13, 2014 | 8:00 a.m.) – Run, walk, or jog a race in a Santa suit!

Jungle Bell Run/Walk (December 20, 2014 | 6:00 p.m.) – Chosen as one of the Most Incredible Themed Races, Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis is a fun and festive way to kick off your holidays by helping others! Wear a holiday themed costume. Tie jingle bells to your shoelaces. Raise funds to help find a cure for arthritis, the nation’s leading cause of disability. Run or walk a 5 kilometer route with your team members and celebrate the season by giving.

The Subaru Distance Classic (November 27, 2014 | 7:00 a.m.) – kick off your Turkey Day with a half marathon, 6K or 1-miler during the popular Subaru Distance Classic in Pickwick Park in Mandarin.

Reindeer Run Half Marathon & 5K (December 7, 2014) – Fun races and activities for the entire family.  Musical Christmas entertainment on the route. Kids Zone with free atrs and crafts and bounces houses. Beer Garden, Chocolate milk  and holiday cookies and treats for all participants.

Other Holiday fun

Adventure Landing WinterFEST (November 21, 2014 – January 11, 2015) – Enjoy snow in Florida during the 4th Annual WinterFEST at Adventure Landing in Jacksonville Beach. The winter activities and holiday fun include ice skating, snow fall, s’more roasting, light display, holiday carnival games and much more.

Polar Express Camp-In (December 20, 2014 |6:00 p.m. – 7:00 a.m.) –  All aboard! Join MOSH for an overnight adventure filled with holiday arts and crafts, a science show and Museum exploration, including an up-close look at our holiday train display. End the night with a holiday train movie and a cup of hot chocolate before heading up to bed in one of the exhibits. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to make a new holiday memory! The Polar Express Camp-In begins at 6 p.m. and ends the next morning at 7 a.m.

Downtown Fernandina Beach Annual Pajama Party (November 28, 2014 | 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.) – The Historic Fernandina Business Association will be hosting its Annual PJ Party & Costume Contest in downtown Fernandina Beach. The downtown merchants will offer special discounts and refreshments for shoppers in their pajamas from 8 to 11 a.m. Friday, November 28, the day after Thanksgiving.  There will be entertainment, a costume contest and new this year, the South Second Street Block party.

Hollidazle (December 13, 2014 |10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.) -Enjoy extended shopping hours at Riverside Arts Market during this special holiday experience the entire family will love! This nighttime Riverside Arts Market experience will include holiday lights and short format Christmas classics (think How the Grinch Stole Christmas) on a 32’ big screen on the River Stage as well as winter brews, wine and holiday cocktails for the grown-ups and hot chocolate and other treats available for the kids. Holiday-themed activities will complete the festive experience!

Christmas in Avondale (December 6, 2014 |4:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.) – This December 6, the streets of Avondale will be closed and packed with families and friends celebrating the start of the holiday season. Christmas in Avondale will include  live music, games, and many planned activities to ensure that everyone has a great time.

Jolly Jump & Santa (December 12, December 16, December 19 & December 22, 2014 | Various Times)  – Don’t wait in a long line to see Santa! Head to Pump It Up for Jolly Jump & Santa where you can bounce and snap as many photos with Santa as you want!

I think this year my family and I are most looking forward to the Blackhawk Bluff Lights and meeting Santa at the Beaches Town Center!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Downtown Jacksonville, Florida


Galleries . . .

Downtown Jacksonville is home to dozens of art galleries and studios, featuring everything from contemporary art to exotic installations.  Visit one today and find out what an incredible art scene Jacksonville has to offer.

More Details

Museums . . .

Contemporary art and hands-on science labs are only some of the cultural resources to experience Downtown.

More details

Performing arts . . .

Theatres and concert halls, Jacksonville’s arts and culture thrives Downtown.

More Details


Monday, June 30, 2014

Summer Fun in Florida

Whatever your passion or desire, North Florida has an event for you. Here are just a few of the major events scheduled this month in the Sunshine State:


SCALLOP SEASON — Don’t have the patience to sit in a boat staring at a drifting fishing line for hours on end? Try scalloping. All you need is a saltwater fishing license, snorkel, mask and dive flag — all easy to obtain from local outfitters. The rest is simple. Just start skimming the surface of St. Joseph Bay over the gorgeous grass beds of the Florida Aquatic Preserve looking for the telltale glowing blue eyes along the edge of the shells. The 2014 scalloping season begins July 1.

When: July 1-31
Where: St. Joseph’s Bay

NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE PHOTOGRAPHS — The photographers making images for the New York Times Magazine capture beauty and tragedy, glory and grit, movement and transformation in its glossy white pages. Kathy Ryan, the magazine’s director of photography, reviewed more than 1,500 issues of the magazine to pick images depicting war-torn countries, Hollywood’s fabulous old guard, New York after 9/11 and more for this exhibit.

When: July 1-31
Where: Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville



EL GALEON TOUR — Experience 16th-century life aboard El Galeón, a full-scale reconstruction of a Spanish galleon used by the country to roam the little known waters of the Atlantic Ocean from Spain to the “New World.” Embark on a self-guided walking tour above and below deck while making time to talk to the ship’s current crew about ship life. El Galeón was just featured in NBC’s new TV show Crossbones.

When: July 1-15
Where: St. Augustine Municipal Marina

LA FLORIDA: 500 YEARS IN THE PLACE OF FLOWERS — Tourists flock to Florida for our sugar-sand beaches and myriad amusement parks only to be also wowed by the state’s natural beauty. John Moran, a Gainesville nature photographer whose work has appeared in National Geographic and Smithsonian, captured the rainbow-hued, flower-filled visions of paradise in large-format photography.

When: July 1-31
Where: Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville

NIGHTTIME EDUCATIONAL BEACH WALKS — Explore the Gulf Coast beaches under the stars with George Grey, the Okaloosa County’s Sea Turtle Coordinator for almost two decades. Learn about sea turtles’ nesting habits and other beach wildlife on this free guided walk. Reservations are required.

When: July 3, 7, 10, 14, 17, 21, 24, 28, 31
Where: Okaloosa Island and Destin

APALACHICOLA INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATION — Enjoy an old-fashioned Fourth in historic coastal Apalachicola with a red, white and blue-themed golf cart and bike parade, ice cream social and fireworks. And because it IS Florida, stuff yourself with fried shrimp and Low Country boil instead of the more traditional hot dogs and hamburgers.

When: July 3
Where: Lafayette Park, Apalachicola

STARS & STRIPES AT SEASIDE: A JULY 4TH CELEBRATION — Embrace your flag-waving, patriotic fervor and dress in red, white and blue for a day of “God Bless the USA” festivities beginning in the morning with the Annual July 4th parade along State Road 30A and concluding with the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra’s concert and fireworks finale under the stars. The lawn fills up quickly so arrive early to get a prime location.

When: July 4
Where: State Road 30A and the Seaside Amphitheater, Seaside

UNION GARRISON — Welcome to 1864. Think women in corsets and high boots, men doing their daily marching drills and young drummer boys bringing the Civil War-era fort to life. Visitors can interact with these living historians during firearms and cooking demos. Or beat the deep summer heat and enjoy the Fort during the Saturday night candlelight viewing.

When: July 5-6
Where: Fort Clinch State Park, Fernandina Beach

SUMMER MOVIE CLASSICS AT THE FLORIDA THEATRE — Introduce the next generation to these retro ‘80s fanboy classics: The Never Ending Story, Goonies, Batman (the Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson version) and Gremlins. Arrive early to escape July’s warmth while exploring the lavish and fantasy-inspired Mediterranean Revival interior of the 1920s theatre, one of four historic movie palaces left in the state. Don’t miss the indoor courtyard with its grand balcony and star-filled ceiling.

When: July 5, 12, 18, 26
Where: Florida Theatre, Jacksonville

PENSACOLA BEACH AIR SHOW — Grounded for most of 2013 because of budget cutbacks, the Blues are back! The Blue Angels, who call Pensacola Beach home, are airborne again with a 2014 calendar that features 38 appearances nationwide. Catch them on their home turf at the annual air show. Also features Fat Albert, Julian McQueen, Roy Kinsey, Gary Ward, Team Aerodynamix and Skip Stewart.

When: July 11-12
Where: Pensacola Beach

36TH ANNUAL SWAMP STOMP MUSIC FESTIVAL — Spread your blanket under the live oaks and enjoy an acoustic music serenade by singer-songwriters during this Big Bend mid-summer staple. From folk music’s twang to deep Southern blues, the 52-acre park will also delight youth with outdoor games, living history demos and the Tree to Tree zipline adventures.

When: July 12
Where: Tallahassee Museum

FIESTA DE SAN FERMIN EN PENSACOLA — In Pamplona, thousands run through the city streets, defying death as they are chased by snorting, slobbering half-ton bulls made famous by Ernest Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises. Pensacola’s cheeky (and safety conscious) salute to the “encierro” is to task members of the female roller-derby league wielding wiffle ball bats as bulls chasing down red kerchief-wearing participants in this 2-mile adventure. Other events include a Spanish wine dinner and a procession honoring San Fermin, the Patron Saint of Pamplona.

When: July 17-19
Where: Seville Quarters

CHRISTMAS IN JULY CRAFT FAIR — Start your holiday shopping early -- really early -- at the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement’s annual craft fair. Pick up goodies such as handmade soaps, baked treats, works by local artisans, quilts and more. Once you’re shopped out take a free guided tour of the settlement.

When: July 19
Where: Blountstown

CHOOSING TO PARTICIPATE LUNCH AND LEARN: WORLD WAR II VETERANS AND THE CIVIL RIGHT MOVEMENT — For this special lecture, veteran and University of North Florida graduate student Bryan Higham will speak on the subject of the African American veterans who used military training to pursue political office and take on leadership roles within the Civil Rights movement from 1945-1960.

When: July 25
Where: The Florida Historic Capitol Museum, Tallahassee

BEER TRUCK WARS — Sample some of the state’s best craft brews at this event drawing on America’s addiction to gourmet eats served from a kitchen on four wheels. The details are still in the works ... but there will be beer, there will be food and it will be filling.
When: July 26
Where: Francis Field, St. Augustine

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Summer in North Florida: 2014 . . .

Whatever your passion, North Florida has it. Here are just some of the major events scheduled this month in the Sunshine State:



5TH ANNUAL TASTE OF GAINESVILLE — When the students flee the University of Florida for the summer, the locals reclaim their now-sleepy college town and turn out to dine on signature dishes from 30 local restaurants spotlighting different regional flavors. Not to miss: the always-popular local Iron Chef competition featuring cheftestants Ray Leung (Dragonfly Sushi), Taylor Dukes (Great Outdoors Restaurant) and Valero Alises (Sabore).
When:  June 1
Where:  UF Hilton Conference Center, Gainesville

BILLY BOWLEGS PIRATE FESTIVAL — As the website advises, “Keep Calm and Party with Pirates” when Billy Bowlegs and his band of swashbuckling scallywags storm the Fort Walton Beach coast for three days of parties, floats, parades, skirmishes, live music and fireworks.
When:  June 5-7
Where:  Fort Walton Landing, Fort Walton Beach

DRAKE’S RAID — In 1586, the English corsair Sir Francis Drake and his band of raiders sacked the city of St. Augustine, driving Spanish forces from their encampment, before they burned the city. The two-day reenactment begins on Friday with news of the arrival of the British marauders and continues on Saturday with a battle between the British and Spanish throughout the historic district of the city, ending at Plaza de al Constitucion.
When:  June 6-7
Where:  historic downtown St. Augustine

USA VS. NIGERIA: 2014 FIFA WORLD CUP SEND-OFF SERIES — Send the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team to Brazil with chants of “U-S-A” while waving the stars and stripes during their last match on home soil. The men will face off against Nigeria, the only team that they will play during their Send-Off Series of matches that also has qualified for the FIFA World Cup.
When:  June 7
Where:  Everbank Field, Jacksonville

PANAMA CITY BEACH BEER FESTIVAL — With Florida’s devotion to the craft beer craze an unstoppable force in the beer brewing movement, these festivals are a great way to sample dozens of brews from beloved brands like Cigar City, 7venth Sun, New Belgium, Founders Brewing and Ommegang. As for people watching, don’t miss the T-shirts beer geeks will be breaking out their favorites. There’s bound to be at least one featuring a bear with deer antlers above the word “Beer.” Really.
When:  June 7
Where:  Fishale Gastro Pub

60TH ANNUAL CHIEFLAND WATERMELON FESTIVAL — Indulge in ice-cold watermelon, participate in the seed-spitting contest and cheer on the newly-crowned Watermelon Queen at the annual festival which features a community parade and arts and crafts festival.
When: June 7
Where: Chiefland Train Depot

21ST ANNUAL WELLBORN BLUEBERRY FESTIVAL — Indulge in all things blueberry: from cobblers and pies to ice cream and jellies to syrups and fudge. The highlights of the annual festival: crowning the blueberry queen, the blueberry parade, the blueberry bake-off and the famous blueberry pancake breakfast.
When:  June 7
Where:  Andrews Square, Wellborn

24TH ANNUAL PENSACOLA VILLAGE OPEN HOUSE — Get a glimpse into Pensacola’s varied history with free tours of the Charles Lavalle House (a French Creole home from 1805), the Clara Barkley Dorr House (post-Civil War construction from 1871) and the Lear-Rocheblave House (Victorian middle-class family home from the 1890s). Tours will last about 20 minutes and free kids activities through the day include candle dipping, making calling cards and a photo booth.
When:  June 7
Where:  Historic Pensacola Village

TALLAHASSEE LATIN DANCE FESTIVAL— Shake your moneymaker with workshops, evening parties and a performance showcase all dedicated to the salsa, mambo, tango, bachata, kizomba and cha cha cha for a wannabe or established dancer. Dance the night away to live music or DJs spinning Latin beats or watch an awe-inspiring performance by Colombian dancers Adrianita & Jefferson, the 2013 Salsa gold medalists at the World DanceSport Games.
When:  June 13-16
Where:  Hotel Duval, Tallahassee

FLORIDA COUNTRY SUPERFEST — Required for the two-day country music event: cowboy hats and boots, a ready-to-rock persona and the ability to sing all the words to Mama’s Broken Heart. Country superstars Miranda Lambert, Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Florida Georgia Line, Little Big Town, Big & Rich, Eastin Corbin, Colt Ford and Joe Nichols will bring the epicenter of country music to Jacksonville for the weekend. The Superfest will also feature a Fan Fest and Tailgate Party outside the stadium.
When:  June 14-15
Where:  Everbank Field, Jacksonville

WILD BLACKBERRY FESTIVAL — Do visions of blackberry pancakes, jellies and syrup make you hungry? They do, right? So load the family in the car and roadtrip to Jasper, located along the Florida/Georgia state line. The city is the heart of Hamilton County, the Wild Blackberry Capital of Florida. Festival fun also includes a classic car show, Miss Wild Blackberry Pageant and live music. Don’t forget to bring a piece of Hamilton County home with you when you purchase your own blackberry plant.
When:  June 14
Where:  downtown Jasper

ST. GEORGE ISLAND MULLET TOSS — Start warming up your throwing arm. $25 gets you an event T-shirt and two mullet ($20 for children) to toss across the beach at this annual event. The winner in each category (You didn’t think the men and women competed against each other, did you?) gets bragging rights and some kind of prize. All proceeds go to charity.
When:  June 14
Where:  On the beach in front of the Blue Parrot Oceanfront Cafe, St. George Island

ST. AUGUSTINE MUSIC FESTIVAL — Take a break from the seasonal deluge of jazz, funk, blues and country music fests to salute the world’s greatest composers — Beethoven, Brahms, Saint-Saëns, Vivaldi, Mozart and Mendelssohn —  at this eighth annual tribute. Featured international musicians like the Diaz Trio, pianist Eugenio Urrutia-Borlando and violinist Elissa Lee Koljonen will be joined by members of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. Can’t make it in person? All six concerts will be streamed live over the internet.
When:  June 19-21, 26-28
Where:  Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine

COMMUNITY FIRST SEAWALK MUSIC FESTIVAL — Sun, sand, sea breeze and surf -- what better way to enjoy music in Florida than barefoot with the gentle waves of the Atlantic Ocean providing its own soundtrack during this beachfront music fest. The free, one-day event is a platform for local musicians such as the Ivey West Band, the Corbitt Brother Band and Be Easy. Also enjoy local eats and art.
When: June 21
Where:  Seawalk Pavilion, Jacksonville Beach

BATTLE OF BLOODY MOSE — Attend the 6th annual reenactment of this 1764 battle between James Oglethorpe’s British forces and a Spanish militia comprised of freed former British slaves. The battle reenactment will happen twice on both days, as will scenes from one of Spain’s oldest plays, “Nuevo Mundo” by Lope de Vega and performed by Florida’s Living History with a Mission.
When: June 21-22
Where: Fort Mose, St. Augustine


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Nation's Oldest City . . .

Founded in 1565, St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied settlement of European and African-American origin in the United States. Forty-two years before the English colonized Jamestown and fifty-five years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, the Spanish established at St. Augustine this nation's first enduring settlement.
The architectural legacy of the city's past is much younger, testimony to the impermanent quality of the earliest structures and to St. Augustine's troubled history. Only the venerable Castillo de San Marcos, completed in the late seventeenth century, survived destruction of the city by invading British forces in 1702.
Vestiges of the First Spanish Colonial Period (1565-1764) remain today in St. Augustine in the form of the town plan originally laid out by Governor Gonzalo Méndez de Canzo in the late sixteenth century and in the narrow streets and balconied houses that are identified with the architecture introduced by settlers from Spain. Throughout the modern city and within its Historic Colonial District, there remain thirty-six buildings of colonial origin and another forty that are reconstructed models of colonial buildings.

St. Augustine can boast that it contains the only urban nucleus in the United States whose street pattern and architectural ambiance reflect Spanish origins.

Historians credit Juan Ponce de Leon, the first governor of the Island of Puerto Rico, with the discovery of Florida in 1513. While on an exploratory trip in search of the fabled Bimini he sighted the eastern coast of Florida on Easter Sunday, which fell on March 27 that year. Ponce de Leon claimed Florida for the Spanish Crown and named it Florida after the Easter season, known in Spanish as PASCUA FLORIDA. This newly claimed territory extended north and west to encompass most of the known lands of the North American continent that had not been claimed by the Spanish in New Spain (Mexico and the Southwest).
In the following half century, the government of Spain launched no less than six expeditions attempting to settle Florida; all failed. In 1564 French Huguenots (Protestants) succeeded in establishing a fort and colony near the mouth of the St. Johns River at what is today Jacksonville. This settlement posed a threat to the Spanish fleets that sailed the Gulf Stream beside the east coast of Florida, carrying treasure from Central and South America to Spain. As Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés was assembling a fleet for an expedition to Florida, the French intrusion upon lands claimed by Spain was discovered. King Philip II instructed Menéndez, Spain's most capable admiral, to remove the French menace to Spain's interests.