Monday, June 4, 2012

Staycation 2012

Staycation 2012
St. Augustine, Florida

It's that time again, where we all want to have that special vacation, yet can't find the time or the money (or both) to have it.  Why not enjoy a Staycation instead?  Why bother with packing, then forgetting something important, wasting time with long drives or delays at airports, not to mention the security hassle, when you could stay at home, yet have a wonderfully fulfilling experience?

Here are just a few tips for a successful Staycation:
  • Set up the rules in advance.  Are you taking time off from work?  Then do NOT go in to work, don't call them, don't get guilted into coming in for "just a few minutes" and then staying all day, etc.  If you were to leave town, they wouldn't be able to do that, so don't let them do it to you when you're home on leave.
  • Don't be on the computer or cell phone constantly.  This is supposed to be good quality time with family, make it so.
  • Plan ahead.  Would you want to do laundry or go grocery shopping if you were to fly 3000 miles away for vacation?  No, you wouldn't, so have things ready as if you were actually going to leave town.  
  • Be sure to budget yourself accordingly.  Our Staycation blogs are to help you out and show you free or inexpensive places to go and things to do.  Try not to get too distracted and end up blowing a ton of money on a bunch of stuff, food, tours, etc. that you don't really need when the whole goal is to save while enjoying your family vacation.  There's always that one special item or tour that may jump out at you that you really feel would just "make" the vacation, well, if that's so, then go ahead and do it.  But remember, this is a "Staycation" for a reason.  Keep a watch on the wallet, but don't stress yourself out.
  • Don't forget the camera!  Just because you aren't leaving town doesn't mean you aren't going to want to save the memories in picture form and add them to a scrapbook/Facebook/Tumblr/etc later.  
Of course, there are always exceptions to any rule, but the closer you stay to home, the closer you need to adhere to your vacation rules, in order to keep sane.  This is your time, after all, enjoy it!

If you're not from (or near enough to) St. Augustine, Florida to enjoy a Staycation here, check back tomorrow for a list of over 40 other destinations all over the US!

So, on with our Staycation 2012 in St. Augustine, Florida... 
(these are in no particular order)

Park Now Card
First things first, if you are a St. Johns County resident and are going to be doing a lot of stuff downtown and either parking at the parking meters or in the parking garage, you might want to purchase a ParkNow card.  You can get one at the Financial Services Office located behind the Lightner Museum.  You can get hourly parking for .50 cents vs. the $1.50 and only pay $1 for the parking garage vs. the usual $10 charge.  Call 904-825-1034 for details.  You can also check out the brochure here.

First Friday Artwalk
This is a FREE event that is held on the first Friday of every month, starting in May 2012 and running through the end of the year.  It runs from 5pm until 9pm and you can start at any of the AGOSA participating galleries (see link for more details and a list of the galleries.) and receive a free map to help you on your way.  There is also transportation by the Old Town Trolley Tours available during the event.  Please visit the website or call 904-829-0065 for more information.

Uptown Saturday Night
Live street music, wine tasting, art and antiques, all available for yet another monthly event.  This time it takes place on the last Saturday of the month, from 5pm until 9pm along San Marco Avenue between Ripley’s Believe it or Not and the Mission of Nombre de Dios.  The Mission offers free parking as well. 

The Mission of Nombre de Dios
While you’re in the area, why not visit the Mission at 27 Ocean Avenue, with it’s large cross that stands 208 feet tall.  Take a walking tour, enjoy the grounds, check out the archeological excavation or visit the Shrine gift shop.  You can call (904) 824-2809 or (800) 342-6529 for more information or to book a group tour.

Fountain of Youth
Come see where it all began.  This attraction is not expensive and if you’re a St. Johns County resident, you can get in for free with your ID.  The park is also pet friendly and they encourage you to feed the peacocks and squirrels who wander around the grounds freely.  Come visit, drink from the Fountain of Youth, and learn about our country’s beginnings.

There’s always the relaxing sport of fishing to enjoy in St. Augustine.  Of course, you can always charter a boat, if you don’t have one of your own already, but if that’s a little more than you want to take on, there are two piers that are favorites to cast off of.  One in Vilano Beach, the other at the St. Augustine Beach pier.  Don’t forget to get your license, though!  Shoreline licenses are free to Florida residents, but be sure to check out for details.

Certainly, don’t forget our beaches.  You can’t be in St. Augustine and not go to the beach.  (Well, you can, but why would you?!)  During the summer months, you will need a parking pass to drive on the beach, but the fee is nominal and you can always purchase a yearly pass or just a daily one at the toll booths at any of the on-ramps to the beach.  Of course, there are other alternatives that are free, with a little bit of walking.  Frank B. Butler Beach is a popular spot with picnic tables under pavilions, restrooms, and a walkway from the parking area to the beach, crossing over the dunes.  Check out the sea turtles below the walkway, as many times they can be spotted as you head to the shore.

Flagler College
The college offers tours during the summer months for a nominal fee.  These tours run hourly starting in the main lobby and last about an hour.  St. Augustine residents receive a discount and children under 12 receive a coloring and activity book as well.  This is a beautiful college and is worth it to witness such interesting architectural design and history with a marble staircase and Tiffany windows.

St. George Street
One of our most famous landmarks is the pedestrian section of St. George Street from Cathedral Place to Orange Street, this walking street is home of many vendors, restaurants and bars.  Just like our beaches, you really can’t visit St. Augustine and not stroll down this coquina paved street and consider yourself as having seen St. Augustine.  Although some of the stores might seem a bit too touristy, many are very unique and enjoyable to shop in or just even window shop.  The restaurants serve good food with good service and some even have live music as well.  This particular zone can be as cheap (free if you’re just going window shopping) as you want or as expensive as you can afford, (impulse buyers beware!) depending on how much you buy, so be savvy, stay the course, and be sure that the souvenir(s) you purchase will be the one(s) you will enjoy for many years to come.  Personally, I can usually get away with walking the whole street with only hitting one or two of the candy and ice cream shops, but the temptations are many.

There are also attractions down this street that you may decide you would like to visit as well.

Oldest Wooden School House
The Historic Pena-Peck House ( )
St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine ( )

There are also quite a few Ghost Tour options available:
Some tours are decently priced, and may have discounts for online purchasing, etc. but be careful, as some of the more fancy, private tours can get a little pricey. 

Music by the Sea
Free concerts at the St. Augustine Pier Pavillion every Wednesday evenings starting in May and going through September go from 7pm until 9pm.  Different restaurants sell dinners at 6pm for $10 or less.  Be sure to bring lawn chairs or blankets for your own seat.

Music at the Plaza
Memorial Day through Labor Day, every Thursday evening at 7pm, enjoy yet another free concert series, this time downtown at the Plaza.  Remember, bring a chair or something to sit on and maybe a picnic, but alcoholic beverages are prohibited at the Plaza.

Dow Museum of Historic Houses
Nine historic houses in St. Augustine await your visit for a very small fee.  Tickets are free to St. Augustine residents on the first Monday of the month.  The houses are all contained in one city block starting at 149 Cordova Street, near the corner of Bridge Street.  See the website for more details.

British Night Watch Parade
If you’ll be around on December 1st, you won’t want to miss the British Night Watch Parade and bring a candle if you would like to participate!  It starts at 8pm at the Government house by the Plaza

The Lightner Museum
Formerly the Hotel Alcazar, this museum showcases America’s Gilded Age, a period of rapid transformation that led to America being one of the strongest nations in the world.  “Gilding” refers to taking a cheaper metal and covering it with gold.  Located across the street from another former hotel, Flagler College, architects and builders were commissioned by Henry Flagler to build both hotels in the 1800’s.  Admission is fairly cheap at $10 or less.  You can also enjoy lunch at the Secret CafĂ© Alcazar at 25 Granada Street.  It’s located in the Lightner Museum, but entrance is on the side of the building.

The Markets
If you enjoy visiting markets and roaming around local vendors, St. Augustine has many flavors for you.  The St. Augustine Amphitheater hosts a Farmer’s Market on Saturdays  from 8:30am until 12:30pm.  

On Wednesdays, there’s the Market at the St. Augustine Beach Pier.  from 8am until 12:30pm. 

The St. Augustine Flea Market is located off SR 207, the entrance is beside the Racetrack gas station.  The flea market is open Saturdays and Sundays from 8am until 4pm.

Ponte Vedra Concert Hall
Located at 1050 A1A North, Ponte Vedra, FL 32082, the pricing is a little more than most of the events we’ve listed, but for a concert, they’re rather reasonable. 

The St. Augustine Amphitheater 
The St. Augustine Amphitheater also hosts many concerts and this summer, some of the great names will be ZZ Top, 3 Doors Down, Ringo Star and Boston.  Although, these tickets will cost you quite a bit, but sometimes you just have to see your favorite band in person, and if you’re doing a Staycation to save some money, maybe you can use some of the money you’ve saved for a fabulous concert full of great memories.

And of course, there’s the Winter Wonderland also located at the St. Augustine Amphitheater  if you’re planning a Christmastime Staycation.  Check out the site once the fall hits for more details.

Castillo de San Marcos
The only fort to not ever be taken in actual battle, but only handed over from one culture to another via treaty, this fort is rich in history and culture.  And at a fee of only $7 per adult (age 16+) that is good for seven consecutive days, (and 15 yrs and younger are free when accompanied by an adult) it’s one of the better priced attractions in St. Augustine.

Anastasia State Park
Near the Castillo de San Marcos is Anastasia State Park.  For a small fee, you can enjoy the beach, nature trails, camping, bicycling, fishing, and much more.  Call 904-460-9111 for more information.

Bird Island Park
Enjoy nature trails, a sea turtle maze, a playground, sculptures, story telling time, and much more at this beautiful park in the Vilano Beach area, behind the library at 101 Library Blvd., Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082.

First Coast Opera
For a bit more culture on a more refined side, yet still within a Staycation budget ($15 if purchased ahead of time, $20 at the door) try the opera.  See the website for specific dates and shows.

The Love Tree
Definitely a must see for couples, it is said that kissing by this tree is supposed to ensure the couple stays together forever.  The Love Tree, a palm growing out of a live oak tree, is located on Cordova Street near the Tolomato cemetery.

Aviles Street
St. Augustine’s oldest new attraction… or is that the newest old attraction?  Said to be the oldest street in America, it has been remade back into it’s old world charm with sidewalk dining and vintage lampposts.  Even for those of us who have lived here for a long time, this is something new yet familiar to enjoy.

Ponte Vedra Beach Car Show
For the car enthusiasts out there, admission is free for this event, see website closer to September for more details and info about actually registering if you wish to do more than observe and admire.

Bayfront Mini Golf
For a very small fee, you and your family can enjoy a game of mini golf at the Florida’s oldest mini golf course.  It is located downtown on the bayfront overlooking the St. Johns River by the Bridge of Lions.

Fiesta Falls Mini Golf
For another mini golf option with a pirate ship and waterfalls, for just a couple bucks more, you can enjoy Fiesta Falls Mini Golf located next to La Fiesta Ocean Inn and Suites at 818 A1A Beach Blvd., St. Augustine, FL 32080.

July 4th
One of this particular blogger’s favorites, July 4th fireworks in St. Augustine are an amazing thing to watch.  There are two locations and admission is free to both locations.  The two places to see our fireworks are:

The bayfront where the fireworks are set off from a barge and go off over the Castillo de San Marcos.  There is also a soundtrack of patriotic music that is usually synced with the fireworks.  Bring your own seating.  Call 904-825-1004 for more details.

The second is at the World Golf Village.  Bring your own seating (no coolers please, at this location) and find a spot to sit around the Walk of Champions.  Call 904-940-4123 for details. 

Nights of Lights
If you want something to do during the winter holidays, The Nights of Lights is one that you don’t want to miss.  From November 19th to January 31st, downtown St. Augustine is lit up with an amazing display of breathtaking white lights. 

St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum
If Pirates are your thing, then the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum is just the thing.  This museum was voted Best Local Attraction in 2011.  For a small fee, you can enjoy learning about pirates, view pirate artifacts, visit exhibits that immerse you into a world of pirates long forgotten, such as 17th century Port Royal, Jamaica, The Rogues Tavern, the Main Deck of a pirate ship, or even go below deck to experience some of the more seedy parts of being a pirate such as the Execution Dock and Shipwreck Island, and much more.  Annual and Family passes are also available as well as apps for Apple and Android devices.  Check out the website for more details, maps and videos.

Historic Churches & Cemeteries
There are many churches and cemeteries in St. Augustine, all rich in history and tourist-ready, even if you are a local, you can always “play” tourist, after all, isn’t that what the Staycation is all about?
The Cathedral Basilica
Grace Methodist Church
Huguenot Cemetery 904-829-8272
Memorial Presbyterian Church

There is so much more to see and do than even on this list, in St. Augustine.  But hopefully this will give you some ideas for a fabulous Staycation this 2012.  Enjoy and be sure to let me know how your Staycation goes!

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