What’s New in 2017 on Florida’s Historic Coast

St. Augustine, Fla. (January 2017)– Florida’s Historic Coast includes St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States, and Ponte Vedra Beach, home to the PGA TOUR and THE PLAYERS Championship. This northeast Florida destination boasts world-class tennis facilities, more than a dozen championship golf courses, and 42 miles of beautiful pristine Atlantic Beaches, which offer year-round fun in a seaside paradise.

Hosting visitors to this coast for more than 450 years doesn’t mean there aren’t new adventures to be had. While unparalleled history, natural beaches, eclectic dining and romance rule, after a visit to St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra you’ll be adding plenty of new discoveries to your “must-do” list.
 
What’s New with Lodging
The newly opened Wyndham Garden Sebastian is located along the San Sebastian River on the edge of St. Augustine’s Historic District. The hotel features a heated pool, 24-hour bistro and lounge and each of the hotel’s 95 spacious guest rooms is well-appointed with microwave, mini-refrigerator, workspace, laundry facilities, flat-screen HDTV, coffee and tea makers. Free shuttle service ferries guests to and from area attractions.

Set to open in mid-February 2017, The Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens in St. Augustine is a hotel like no other. Once the home of the Dow Museum of Historic Houses, a beloved St. Augustine landmark dating back to 1790, The Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens blends contemporary indulgences, quaint touches, personal service and amenities while maintaining authenticity. With its wrought-iron finishes, fountains and period details, this distinct hotel boasts 30 uniquely appointed guest rooms and suites.

Ponte Vedra Lodge & Club recently completed a multi-million dollar renovation of its 66 oceanfront guest rooms. Each of the 24 suites, 8 preferred rooms and 34 deluxe rooms have a new interior design receiving mahogany furniture, paint, fresh carpet, plush bedding, new windows and doors, lighting, and high definition televisions.

The AAA Five-Diamond Ponte Vedra Inn & Club has served as host to many of the nation's most influential groups and business leaders. The Inn executed a new design to its conference center, comprising over 25,000 square feet of indoor meeting and exhibit space, with comfort and elegance in mind.  Exquisite touches to the two ballrooms with vaulted ceilings, delicate chandeliers and flex-back conference chairs, mix elegance with maximum comfort.

The award-winning Casa Monica Hotel & Spa, located in the heart of the Nation’s oldest city, embeds its unique history, character and charm into meetings or getaways. Already recognized for its richly appointed ballrooms with gold leaf details, a poolside terrace, and sumptuous private dining rooms, the atmosphere at The Casa Monica just keeps getting better. The addition of the Poseidon Spa, a relaxed atmosphere with customized therapies from the earth and sea; an expansion of the Grand Bohemian Gallery and an update to the decor of the pool area create even more inviting indoor and outdoor gathering space.

The Hammock Beach Resort, located south of St. Augustine in Palm Coast, has completed a remodel of the lobby with all new furnishings and a sophisticated new lobby bar. The resort’s make-over extended to its Premium Ocean Front Suites, meeting and function space, and restaurants. Hammock Beach has never looked better!

The $25 million resort-wide refresh of the iconic Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa in Ponte Vedra Beach can be seen throughout the 511 guestrooms/villas, resort pool area, modernized front desk area, hotel façade, the Sawgrass Spa and the Cabana Beach Club. Other sophisticated facets of the project are a “Butler Serviced” guest wing and the American Gator Club restaurant.
 
What’s New with Golf, Attractions & Tours
The PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass recently re-opened after a major renovation. The Stadium Course closed following THE PLAYERS Championship in May 2016 and reopened for play in November 2016. The course renovations included a rebuild and resurface of all greens; expanded greens and new hole locations on several holes; rebuild of all bunkers; a redesign of #12 & practice grounds; a new lake between holes 6 & 7; repositioning of some tee boxes, new parking area and a facelift to the front entrance, providing a breathtaking first look at one of the most popular golf facilities in the world. To learn more about TPC Sawgrass and THE PLAYERS Stadium Course renovations, visit http://tpc.com/sawgrass/the-players-stadium-course.

The Lightner Museum in St. Augustine welcomes an exquisite collection of 36 original costume pieces seen on the award-winning television series Downton Abbey®. The final stop of a national tour, Dressing Downton: Changing Fashions for Changing Times™, will be held October 4, 2017 – January 7, 2018 in the museum’s Grand Ballroom Gallery. Tickets to the exhibit are now available online.

The St. Augustine Aquarium, Snorkel Adventure & Zipline is a new Florida marine attraction. The first phase, which opened in December 2016, consists of an 80,000-gallon Snorkel Adventure, an interactive Shark & Stingray Cove, seahorse and hands-on habitats. Guests enjoy interaction with some of Florida’s most beautiful marine species with shark, stingray and fish feeding. For the adventurous, get up close and personal snorkeling with sea life in a natural reef environment. The Castaway Canopy Adventure by Zipstream will be open in Spring 2017 with a guided tour, climbing walls, bridges and more, all contributing to a thrilling experience.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse is always one of the area’s top attractions. And why not? That amazing view from the top – totally worth climbing 219 steps - keeps locals and visitors returning time and again. But it’s what’s under water that’s really getting attention. Secrets from the sea, artifacts, and archaeologists are part of the museum’s latest exhibit, Wrecked! Discover the long lost secrets of a 1782 Loyalist shipwreck and the science behind its archeological recovery from the ocean floor. 

The original Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum is located in the Castle Warden in St. Augustine. Operating since December 1950, this museum houses more than 800 oddities from around the world. In recent months, the Odditorium has added 3 new educational galleries. “Believe It or Not Bugs”- how bugs are used in science; “How’d They Do That?” a look at peoples’ actions that are unreal; and the” Space Oddities” exhibit, with artifacts about and from space.

Kids Krew Tours is specifically designed for families and kids. Your guide on this adventure through the historic streets of St. Augustine keeps everyone engaged as they learn the history of the city. Participants become one of the pirate crew, look through a real spy glass in search of soldiers, learn how to use a compass and find treasures throughout the city.

The World Golf Hall of Fame opened a new, interactive exhibition “Major Moments: Celebrating Golf’s Greatest Championships.” The exhibition recants the story of the four men’s Major Championships – the Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship – through colorful accounts and priceless Hall of Fame member artifacts. The Major Moments exhibit includes new artifacts and interactive features, including a leaderboard that allows guests to put their name on top of a most impressive leaderboard, take a photo and share with others. Also new is a digital touchscreen kiosk where guests learn details around the four Major Championship trophies, such as their history, height, weight and past winners, and even engrave their own name onto the Hall of Fame Inductee crystal.

What’s New with Food and Beverage
The St. Augustine Distillery has become one of the hottest spots in town. The Distillery utilizes Florida ingredients to produce whiskey, rum, vodka, gin and bourbon in hand crafted small batches. Since opening in 2014, the Distillery has already won awards along with fans of its products. Housed in a historic building that once served as an ice plant, guests enjoy the free tours and tastings daily. In the fall of 2016, the Distillery launched Florida’s first legal Bourbon since prohibition and in November 2016, USA Today named the St. Augustine Distillery’s Gin the #1 Craft Gin in the country.

The St. Augustine Distillery & the Florida Citrus Council collaborated to create the A1A Cocktail Trail where at each stop, the master mixologists at restaurants and bars serve up an all-Florida specialty cocktail using fresh Florida citrus paired with St. Augustine Distillery spirits. Responsible imbibers bring their completed trail passport to the St. Augustine Distillery for A1A Cocktail Trail gear.
Since the opening of the St. Augustine Distillery, new craft cocktail lounges are popping up all over. Odd Birds has attracted fans of the art of craft cocktails. Relax with a variety of small bites of eclectic fare and live music. Prohibition Kitchen invokes the spirit of Bartolo in the very spot of what was St. Augustine’s Genovar Theatre, the social epicenter of Flagler's prohibition era, in the heart of historic St. George Street.

And the Ice Plant Bar, adjacent to the St. Augustine Distillery, is inspired by the historical period of the early 20th century. Guests are reintroduced to a time where the experience of having a cocktail and a bite to eat was both healthful and enjoyable.

Distilled Spirits aren’t the only popular new beverages on Florida’s Historic Coast. Wine continues to make a splash. St. Augustine has two new wine rooms. The Carrera Wine Cellar, where there is no limit to the themed wine classes offered; and the new Bin 39 Wine Bar at the St. George Inn pours the best boutique wines from Sonoma and Napa valleys.

New to area’s burgeoning culinary scene, Terra & Aqua brings modern, northern Italian cuisine to Florida’s Historic Coast. Terra & Acqua is a restaurant inspired by the beautiful Atlantic ocean and locally-farmed ingredients. Chef/Owner Simone Parisi’s menu features authentic modern Italian cuisine, wood-fired pizza and handmade pasta.

Florida’s second largest winery, St. Augustine’s San Sebastian Winery, has been producing vintage dated varietals from hybrids such as Stover and Blanc Du Bois along with blended and sparkling wines from native Florida Muscadine grapes for decades. The San Sebastian Winery recently released a Pinot Grigio blend using west coast grapes and will be releasing a California blend of Petit Syrah. In spring 2017, San Sebastian’s Cellar Upstairs Wine & Jazz Rooftop Bar will expand its hours, open Thursday through Sunday every week.
 
What’s New with Art and Music
St. Augustine has been hosting First Friday Art Walks for decades. It has become so popular, the event has spread to outlying communities. The Vilano Beach Art Walk-off the Beaten Path takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. on the first Friday of each month along Vilano Rd.

Anchored by the St. Augustine Lighthouse, Anastasia Island is an emerging shopping and dining area. Concerts at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre include world-renowned artists, but it’s the “Amp’s” new Backyard Stage events that have everyone talking. The Backyard events – which take place in a small staged area behind the venue – are free or low cost and feature up-and-coming bands with food trucks and local artists displaying their wares.
 
What’s New Shopping
St. Augustine’s Uptown area on San Marco Blvd is still known for the beautiful Mission Nombre de Dios and the great cross that towers over the Nation’s oldest city. But the once quiet, empty stretch of San Marco Avenue is now lined with eclectic boutiques, a wine bar, and the popular “Uptown Saturday Night,” event that brings out shoppers the last Saturday of the month who enjoy live music, libations and the chance to mingle with friends old and new.

Sawgrass Village in Ponte Vedra is a modern entertainment, dining and shopping complex, that’s shaking things up. Boutiques and one-of-a-kind stores include A’Propos Boutique, John Craig Clothier, J Turner & Co., Lemon Twist, Scout & Molly’s Boutique and the Village Jeweler. You’ll also find fine art and personal shoppers. Cocktails and Seafood Happy Hour. It’s not your typical mall and restaurant row, not even close.

The St. Augustine Outlet Mall has completed an extensive $7 million interior remodel and added new stores and merchandise. Improvements include bright new flooring, inviting soft seating areas, attractive lighting enhancements, Wi-Fi throughout the mall and touch screen directories. In 2015, new stores opened including H&M, Old Navy, Papaya, and Christopher & Banks.

St. Augustine Premium Outlets opened three new stores in 2015. Torrid, which sells trendy plus-size clothing for women who wear sizes 12 to 28; and Swarovski , which sells high-quality crystal product collections such as jewelry, accessories, decorative items for the home, ornaments and figurines; and TaylorMade Golf Factory Store, which sells off-season product lines and gear from TaylorMade, Adams Golf, Adidas Golf, and Ashworth.
 
What’s New with Groups and Meetings
The latest venue to open up for group outings is Dockside Events, located at St. Augustine’s Shipyard on the beautiful San Sebastian River—just moments from historic downtown St. Augustine. Catering is by popular eatery Culinary Outfitters. Dockside Events’ 5,700 square feet of covered area is perfect for weddings, bar mitzvahs, holiday parties, corporate meetings and conventions.
 
What’s New with Airport Access
Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) is 50 minutes north of St. Augustine and 30 minutes from Ponte Vedra Beach providing service aboard most major air carriers. The Northeast Florida Regional Airport in St. Augustine now has seasonal service with Frontier Airlines from Philadelphia April through October and year-round non-stop service between St. Augustine and Charlotte with VIA Air. Just a 5-minute drive from downtown St. Augustine and 20 minutes from Ponte Vedra beach, the Northeast Regional Airport is open to private and chartered planes, making getting here easy from several markets. 

Located midway between Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, Florida’s Historic Coast includes historic St. Augustine, the outstanding golf and seaside elegance of Ponte Vedra, and 42 miles of pristine Atlantic beaches. For more information on events, activities, holiday getaways and vacation opportunities in St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches, go to the Visitors and Convention Bureau website at www.FloridasHistoricCoast.com, become a fan on Facebook or call 1.800.653.2489.

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