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Visit the Ravine Gardens

Ravine Gardens

Have you heard about the latest trend “day trips” for your next vacation? Many guests are talking about it and as we approach our version of fall and winter, many guests ask, “What do you do when it starts to “cool” off? I love the smell of nature, whether it be the ocean, the river or fresh flowers. If you love the outdoors, I highly recommend a day trip to the Ravine Gardens – a state park located in Palatka, a short 40 minute drive from Beacher’s Lodge.

On the way to Ravine Gardens you will notice that you are heading toward the country. This is something most vacationers don’t think about when they think of Florida, but we do have a country side to our beautiful state. The best part of going this time of year is that the weather is cooler and you still see some of the flowers in full bloom. I went once in January and flowers were still in bloom and the weather was perfect. There is an Azalea festival the first weekend in March which is really breathtaking.  

Upon driving up you will see an aisle of fountains and they are beautiful to see. You will often see children running back and forth, getting rid of all their energy. I just love the layout of the stones and listening to the fountains. There are gardens around these fountains with different flowers attracting butterflies from near and far.  Once you have had your fill of the flowers and  fountains, get ready for some hiking, Florida style.

 

Ravine Gardens Fountain

Hiking boots are not required unless you plan on running down the side of the ravine which I have seen some kids do. But no matter how careful you are, or how well made your hiking boots are, you still take a risk of getting hurt as the terrain does slope down into a ravine. I personally wear my flip flops, shorts and a t-shirt for comfort.

Remember it’s still Florida, so be sure to pack plenty of water! There are restrooms near the fountains, so go ahead and stay well hydrated.

One of my favorite spots, which is the same for many of the folks that come here, is of course the swinging bridge. It doesn’t really swing like you might think, but I would still use caution as you cross it. Occasionally you will see some adventurers bouncing on the bridge trying to scare others, but not very often as the area is highly patrolled by our local park rangers and they will get you for misbehaving.

Ravine Gardens Bridge

Be careful when going up the steps to various trails as they are uneven but so much fun to climb!!! However, I wouldn’t recommend running up or down them as they are not even. They do give you a sense of “yesterday’s past” with their worn appearance.

Ravine Gardens Trail Steps

One of my favorite sections of the gardens is a massive area that is full of bamboo. My last trip I was faced with what looks like a giant foot was placed in the middle of all this bamboo. Many of us were mesmerized by it.

If you are a big fan of flowers you will love the blooming azalea bushes. The Ravine Garden is full of them!!!! I can never get enough of them and the pleasant fragrances of all the botanicals in this park.

Ravine Gardens azaleas

If you want to make your adventure complete, I highly recommend packing a picnic and either eating by the stream or at the picnic tables that are located by the fountains. Either way, you will enjoy the soothing sounds of the park and the beauty that surrounds it all.  To get to the Ravine Gardens 1600 Twigg St, Palatka, FL 32177 from the Beacher’s Lodge,  head North on A1A and take a left onto 206. You will stay on 206 until it ends at 207 South. You will turn left onto 207, drive through the town of Hastings (Potato capital of Florida) until you come to 17 North. Take a right onto 17 North.  Next you will see that you are in a little town called Palatka. It’s pretty vacant these days but a pleasure to drive through. Turn left onto N. 3rd Street and continue onto River Street. Take a left on South 15th Street and a right onto Twigg Street. Go slow as you will miss the sign that signals you to take a left for the state park. Remember the first thing you see will be the line up of fountains. Don’t forget there is so much more to see!!!  

How To Survive A Summer Vacation With Extended Family

Summer Vacation - Extended Family

Summer is here and families are ready to hit the road to their summer vacation destination. Now more than ever, many families are spending their summer vacations with extended family. How much of an extended family you might ask? Everything from bringing grandparents to siblings getting back in touch as a group gathering. If you are traveling with extended family this summer, take note of these family vacation survival tips.

Choose a Destination for Everyone

Of course I would suggest Crescent Beach. The there is so much to do at the beach for all ages. You have the ocean to cool off in, the sand to build things in and the pure serenity that the beach gives everyone. The kids have plenty to do at the beach and tend to get worn out for an easy summer bedtime routine. Adults of all ages enjoy the beach simply because of its beauty, as well as the wonder of wildlife that is present. I am a St. Augustine native and I still get excited when I see the dolphins pass by in the early evening.

Choose a Place to Stay That is Family-Friendly

You will want to choose something that is accommodating to your needs. When you are traveling with a large family, you will want to make mealtime easy and not complicated. What do I mean by complicated? Think of how long the wait is when you are trying to seat a party of more than four at any given restaurant? The wait is long unless you go really early or really late, which is not an option when kiddos are involved. This is why many families, extended or not, tend to vacation in a condo. When you stay in a family-friendly condo, you will have either a full-service kitchen or kitchenette that can allow for quick snacks and easy to make meals. Not only does this fit into your schedule, but it also saves you money.

You will also want to consider a place that it is easy on the “family logistics.” What do I mean by that? We love our family and we enjoy their company but you also need your space. Condos are a great choice for “family logistics” in the essence that you can choose units near each other, as well as not be on top of each other when in the unit, unlike hotels, you often don’t get to choose which room and the only privacy you can get is the bathroom.

Schedule Family Breaks

You love your family and truly enjoy their company, but have you ever heard of that saying, “Too much of a good thing?” This is the same for family. To ensure everyone stays on speaking terms during and after the summer vacation, take a few breaks during your stay together. This works out great when family members want to see different things. While some family members may want to see the manatees in the St. Johns River, others may want to go shopping in the historic district of St. Augustine. Set up groups for these separate adventures. In case you don’t want to see separate sightings, perhaps you can choose at least one meal a day that you have on your own. A lot of our guests that travel with extended families tend to have breakfast alone. Nothing will beat the view from your condo for breakfast.  Lunch is usually spent on the beach together with fruit and sandwiches and dinner is a fun cookout in the bbq area.

Breaking Bread Together

There is something about bringing your favorite dishes together to keep the harmony going among family members. Many of our large group guests like to make a dish in their condo’s kitchen and then everyone meets around the grill for the main course. When they each bring something potluck style it not only brings them together but it saves on the cost of everyone going out to eat together.

These are just a few of my survival tips that I have learned over the years while listening to my guests, after all, they know best.

Join The Fun In Crescent Beach Florida

Beacher's Lodge Crescent Beach, FL

You’ve found the perfect beach destination for your vacation, but now what? Many of our guests truly enjoy throwing down a beach towel or their favorite beach chair and enjoying the mystical sites and sounds of the ocean while resting their toes in the sand. But did you know there’s more to do in Crescent Beach than simply enjoying the view?

Collecting Seashells

Collecting seashells on beautiful Crescent Beach never gets old. But did you know you can find more than just seashells. Yesterday a little boy ran up to me with pure excitement in his eyes! He had to tell everyone that he found a baby shark’s tooth. He was overjoyed and wanted everyone to know it. One of my favorite items to find on the beach are sand dollars, but not just any sand dollar, but the big puffy ones, AKA Sea biscuits. These are rare to find in their whole state, so when I find one, I feel like I won the lottery!

Surfing

I personally don’t surf, but I love to watch these athletic artists carve up waves either as a storm is brewing or when the surf is up after we had a storm roll out of town. Here is a special note, if you see the surfers out, it’s usually wise to stay out of the water unless you are a strong swimmer. The surf can get a little choppy and rip tides are favorable.

Just Floating

A few days ago a guest told me that “floating” is the cure to all woes! I had to think about that for a minute and then she explained. She loves to get either her tube or raft and just relax in the water as the waves gently rock her back and forth. She said the sounds of the ocean are better than any relaxation CD you can buy. I have to admit, just floating is very relaxing and everyone should try it now and then. Word of caution, don’t fall asleep and ensure you have a buddy on land that is watching you and making sure your don’t float out too far.

Sandcastles

No matter what your age might be, building anything in the sand is always loads of fun!! You don’t have to be an architect and build an extravagant structure, you can do other fun things in the sand as well. Have you ever just dug a hole in the sand and then jumped in it to see how far you could dig before water came in from the bottom? How about building a tunnel? This was an all time favorite of mine as a child! The best fun in the sand I have seen yet was a grandmother with her three grandchildren buring half of her in the sand. She said they were making her look like a mermaid and the sand became her tail. This overjoyed grandma said it was one of the most fun activities she had done with them in a while.

SUP – Stand Up Paddle Boarding

As a native of beautiful St. Augustine, there is something magical about gliding along the Matanzas River and enjoying the sites. The Matanzas River is on the other side of our little island and is something you should take a moment to see. We have had a few guests ask if this was the bay, and were sometimes shocked to learn it was an actual river. The river offers many things that Crescent Beach does like boating, tubing and yes, SUPing.

Dolphin Sightings

No matter how many times I see the dolphins make their journey either off of Crescent beach or in the Matanzas River, I still get excited to see them. Occasionally you can catch them playing and putting on a small show for you. Their show of acrobatics is a rare sighting, but it does happen!

Skimboarding

The best thing about skimboarding is the fact that you can do this any day of the week and during any time of year. You don’t have to wait for the surf to be up like surfing and boogie boarding, all you need is the board and some skills. I have seen many folks that wipe out and I am sure if I tried I would be one of them as well. Skimboarding is simply getting your skimboard to glide across the water as the water washes up the shore. If you are really good you can do a little trick as the waves crash upon the beach.

These are just a few activities that I, as well as some of our guests, have enjoyed when visiting beautiful Crescent Beach. I hope you have a chance to enjoy some of these adventures as well.

Fireworks Over the Matanzas: 4th of July

Holidays are built around traditions and few holidays have more great family traditions than the Fourth of July: great food, outdoor band concerts, a day with friends and family, and of course, fireworks! They all come together in a grand celebration, and there’s no better place to celebrate the nation’s Independence Day than in the Nation’s Oldest City and no better way than Fireworks Over The Matanzas.

First There’s Music

Starting at 6:00pm one of the region’s most popular big bands, The All Star Orchestra, returns to the Plaza de la Constitución for a two-hour show filled with big band and swing music along with all the traditional patriotic favorites. The All Star Orchestra’s performance from the Plaza’s Gazebo runs from 6:00pm until 8:00pm. The concert is free and those attending should bring lounge chairs for seating.

Then There’s Fireworks!

Fireworks Over The Matanzas, the highlight of St. Augustine’s traditional July 4th activities, has become synonymous with celebrating Independence Day in the Nation’s Oldest City. The spectacular aerial display of pyrotechnics high over Matanzas Bay begins at 9:30pm.

The 20-minute display is tightly choreographed to a stirring soundtrack of great popular and patriotic music delivered over an extensive sound system transforming the entire Bayfront between the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument and the Bridge of Lions into a theatre of sight and sound (click here for a map).

For over two decades Fireworks Over The Matanzas has been produced by Fireworks by Santore, a company based in nearby Flagler County, that’s been in the fireworks business for over 125 years.

http://www.citystaug.com/fireworks/index.php#fireworks

6/7 – 8/9: Summer Movie Series: Wednesday Evenings

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and the Colonial Quarter have teamed up to provide the free Summer Movie Series at the Colonial Oak Music Park. The movie starts at 8:30 p.m. Free transportation is provided by Ripley’s Red Trains from the parking garage and Ripley’s stops to the St. George Street stop. The shuttle service runs every 15 minutes from 7:30-8:30 p.m. and resumes after the movie. Movie attendees are encouraged to bring chairs and blankets for seating. Here’s the movie schedule.

June 7: Secret Life of Pets – PG

June 14: Angry Birds – PG

June 21: Sing – PG

June 28: Fantastic Beasts – PG 13

July 5: The Wild Life – PG

July 12: The Jungle Book – PG

July 19: Monster Trucks – PG

July 26: Finding Dory – PG

August 2: Lego Batman – PG

August 9: Moana – PG

See more at: http://www.floridashistoriccoast.com/events/summer-movie-series#sthash.oTTBhaJ3.dpuf

6/27 – 7/2: KPMG Women’s PGA Championship Week

Visit the Hall of Fame during the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship week and enjoy learning about Hall of Fame Members who are past champions. There will be a special photo opportunity with tournament artifacts. The broadcast will be shown throughout the museum during the week. On Monday through Saturday, the hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday the hours are noon-6 p.m. General admission is $20.95. http://www.floridashistoriccoast.com/events/kpmg-women%E2%80%99s-pga-championship-week

 

6/15 – 6/24: St. Augustine Music Festival

Enjoy world-class musicians from the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra and internationally known guests during the St. Augustine Music Festival.  This Free, classical music festival is held over six days during the last two weeks of June and ranges from Bach to Stravinksy, intimate solo recitals, chamber music ensembles, and full orchestral works… plus world-premier presentations of new works.

Performance Information
June 15 at 7:30pm — Nigel Armstrong, Violin
June 16 at 7:30pm — Stephen Robinson, Guitar
June 17 at &:30pm — Leon Fleisher & Katherine Jacobson, Piano
June 22 at 7:30pm — The Diaz Trio featuring Andres Cardenes, Andres Diaz, Roberto Diaz
June 23 at 7:30pm — Horn Sextet in E flat Major, Op. 81b – Ludwig van Beethoven • String Quartet in F Major – Maurice Ravel
June 24 at 7:30pm — Elissa Koljonen, Violin

Seating is limited, on a first come, first served basis – so arrive early! Doors close when the concert starts.  
Thanks to donations and sponsorships, the concerts are open to the public with no paid admission ticket required. All programs are subject to revision.   Click here for more information.

 

 

6/17, 7/15, 8/19, 9/2: Music in the Park

Anastasia State Park is hosting a Music in the Park Summer Concert Series in partnership with Island Beach Grill. Come enjoy a beautiful evening at Anastasia State Park, delicious food and drink from Island Beach Grill, and a wide variety of music from the featured musicians.

Each concert will begin with an OPEN JAM SESSION from 5:00—6:00PM. Guests and local musicians will be welcomed to the stage to showcase their talents.

Each month will feature a different local musician or band for a two-hour show at our beach pavilion. Concerts are from 6:00 – 8:00 PM.

Concert Schedule
May 6th   -– Ace Winn
June 17th -– Matt Fowler
July 15th -– The Conch Fritters
August 19th -– Those Guys
September 2nd -– Matt Fowler (Labor Day Weekend)

Concerts are free with paid park admission. Island Beach Grill will be featuring food and drink specials during each concert.

Park Admission:
$4/single-occupant vehicle
$8/vehicle with 2-8 occupants
$2/bicyclist

https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Anastasia

Cruise-In: 3rd Saturday of the month

The St. Augustine Cruisers Car Club (SAC), over 100 members strong, hosts a Cruise-In on the third Saturday of the month in the parking lot of the Riverside Center (Intersection of US 1 and SR 312). The Cruise-In includes music, door prizes and a 50/50 drawing.

http://www.staugustinecruisers.com/

 

Dark of the Moon (Nightly)

Discover the history and mystery of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum.  Investigate the most haunted place in St. Augustine!  Guides share paranormal history and experiences of people who have visited, lived, or worked at the Lighthouse.  Featured on TAPS/Ghost Hunters, CNN, Parade Magazine, Fox News, and The Weather Channel.

Tour Prices
$20 — Children 12 & under / $25 — Adults

Limited space is available. Please visit the Lighthouse website to book your tour in advance or call (904) 829-0745!  (Check in 15 minutes prior to the tour. Start times and days vary seasonally!  Some dates are blacked out.)

www.staugustinelighthouse.org/