Florida’s Birding & Photo Festival offers field trips, wildlife photography sessions, lectures and exhibitions spread over 80 to 90 venues.
Hitting the beach drink in hand is often the first thing attendees think about when planning for Florida, but they would be remiss not to also dive into the state’s cultural side. With over 450 years of history, Florida’s Historic Coast, comprised of Saint Augustine & Ponte Vedra Beach, is a melting pot of cultures expressed in vibrant arts, cuisine and architecture. (For more Florida planning ideas, check out “3 Planning Ideas for Getting Creative in the Florida Keys & Beyond“)
Florida’s Birding & Photo Fest
Festivals abound throughout the area—from Florida’s Birding & Photo Fest, which offers field trips, wildlife photography sessions, lectures and exhibitions spread over 80 to 90 venues—to seafood, Spanish wine, Celtic heritage and Music by the Sea festivals, the latter taking place at St. Johns County Pier Park in St. Augustine Beach.
Museums and monuments galore, like the 17th century Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry Fort in the US, and living history reenactments explore some of the area’s most memorable moments. Groups can also trace the area’s history through architectural tours, or for the adventure seekers, through various eco, culinary or even ghost tours. Outreach programs and guided hikes within the 74,000-acre GTM Reserve in Ponte Vedra are also popular.
In St. Augustine’s historic downtown area, the monthly First Friday Art Walk gives groups an excuse to take in the city’s artsy side with more than 30 galleries and free hop on/hop off transport with Old Town Trolley Tours and Ripley’s Sightseeing Trains. Or they can a stroll through the city’s brick-lined streets, stopping along the way for free food and wine at the galleries or local watering holes like the San Sebastian Winery.
Larger groups should check out the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall, while the bookable 16-acre St. Augustine Amphitheatre, with myriad state-of-the-art shows throughout the year amid meandering tree-lined walking trails, is recognized as one of the best in the world. The roughly 4,100-seat amphitheater is located on Anastasia Island, making excursions into Anastasia State Park for scuba diving, geocaching, canoeing, shelling or even an evening of campfire s’mores easy to plan.