When it comes to the best and the brightest Fourth of July celebrations, it’s safe to say, St. Augustine ranks high on the list. Between the city’s rich history and a remarkable fireworks display that brings in more than 50,000 attendees each year, is there a more fitting locale in which to spend the Fourth? We think not. With St. Augustine celebrating its own 450th birthday this year, one can only expect the upcoming party honoring our country’s independence will be one for the memory books.
As far as the crowds go, you know what they say, if you can’t beat them, join them! If you’re up for leaving the comfort of your home this weekend, we’ve put together some suggestions for you. Since the holiday falls on a Saturday this year, we invite you to make the most of your extended weekend of celebrations with the help of the following activities kicking off Thursday.
1. Attend the Anastasia Blvd. Party
No longer are the two mighty lions positioned at the foot of the Bridge of Lions (downtown side) the only lions in town. Two new lions are being unveiled on the East side of the Bridge of Lions in Davis Park at the intersection of North St. Augustine Boulevard and Anastasia Boulevard. The unveiling ceremony takes place Thursday, July 2 at 6 p.m. The public is invited to attend and welcome this newest addition to the city’s public art collection and to take part in activities planned for Anastasia Boulevard.
Businesses along Anastasia Boulevard are participating in the celebration by remaining open and contributing to the festive environment from 4 to 8 p.m. on Thursday. Blue Water Jewelers is hosting an open house. Black Fly has a “Lion Fish” special, Puddy Mud is offering paint your own pottery for kids, and Candle Light South is having a Beer Tasting. Business owners and residents are excited and supportive of the new additions and view the installation as an opportunity to spotlight the initiative to improve Anastasia Boulevard and develop the area’s unique identity. Read more about the lion unveiling and Anastasia Blvd. festivities here.
2. Get Artsy
Spend your Friday night out of the town with art-filled fun at July’s First Friday Art Walk, kicking off at 5 p.m. While you’re out and about, consider stopping by Plum and surrounding art galleries located on Aviles Street and throughout downtown, along with the First Friday Cello Recital taking place at the Cathedral Basilica at 6 p.m. Still, just because it’s art night, doesn’t mean you have to stay downtown. Simple Gestures on Anastasia Island is hosting music and art for the occasion.
First Friday festivities aside, if you’re looking for some hands-on artsy fun for your kids to partake in at home throughout the holiday weekend, stop by The Red Sable art supply store in its new location on Old Dixie Hwy. The shop is offering savings special to the Fourth of July.
3. See a Show
If you have yet to see Hello Dolly performed on the stage at the Limelight Theatre, this weekend is your last chance. No performances are held July 4; however, there is an evening performance taking place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 3 and both matinee and evening performances held on Sunday, July 5. Read more about the show here.
If you’ve already seen Hello Dolly, here’s an alternative for you. The Summer Musical Theatre Camp opens its 21st season with a classic musical theater production this week — West Side Story, the updated musical retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Performances are held in the Lewis Auditorium at Flagler College and take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 2-3; and 2 p.m. Sunday, July 5. There is no Saturday performance July 4. Read all about it here.
4. Drive out to World Golf Village
If you don’t want to wait until the Fourth to see fireworks, take a short drive out to World Golf Village on Friday night for dinner, movie, and fireworks taking place from 5 to 10 p.m. World Golf Hall of Fame prides itself on shooting into the sky one of the largest displays in North Florida. Dinner and movie packages are available for purchase. Dinner includes summer fare from the Fairways Cafe. The featured movie of the evening will be Terminator Genisys. The fireworks show will be featured after the movie. Visitors are welcome to come out and experience this holiday at the World Golf Hall of Fame. Event admission is $40, $35 for annual passholders. World Golf Hall of Fame located at 1 World Golf Place St. Augustine, FL 32092. (Located at World Golf Village off I-95 at Exit 323.) For more information visit worldgolfhalloffame.org.
5. Bike it Up
Kickstands up! Join the VeloFest community in celebrating the holiday weekend by bike. Get your workout on with St. Johns Velo at 8 a.m. on Saturday, July 4. The group departs from Armstrong Park for a 12-30 mile ride of primarily trail riding. St. Augustine Cycling also offers a large group ride every Saturday from Cobblestone Parking lot near Panera on 312. They start promptly at 7:30 a.m. Total ride is about 38 miles, all levels welcome.
If you prefer to cruise on your own this weekend, plan ahead to bike downtown for Fireworks Saturday night. Bicycle parking locations are located throughout downtown making it easy to secure your bike before going to dinner or taking a pre-fireworks stroll. Click here to see locations of bicycle parking.
Additionally, several parking areas have been identified as being a bit far to walk, but perfect distance for bicycling. These lots are welcoming those who wish to park-and-bike to Fireworks Over The Matanzas.
Council on Aging (180 Marine St.)
Willie Galimore Center (399 Riberia St.)
Blue Waters Jewelers (500 Anastasia Blvd.)
St. Augustine Amphitheatre (1320C A1A South)
Red Cox Road (Red Cox Rd. @ A1A south)
SJC Library on US1 North (1960 N. Ponce De Leon Blvd.)
VeloFest is supplementing the available parking with temporary racks set up at Ponce Circle and near the Visitor Information Center.
Bike Tip From VeloFest: As always, practice safe cycling and be a smart road user. Look smart, wear a helmet. Red flashing rear and bright white in the front if cycling in the dark. Carry water so your tank doesn’t get too empty. Use hand signals when turning. Enjoy the ride and if you have little ones, set a good example.
6. Watch the San Agustin Rowing Challenge
If you’ve ever explored the marshlands behind the Fountain of Youth, you might have stumbled upon the Chalupa, utility wood workboat. Come Saturday, you get to see this rowing vessel in action in Matanzas Bay, a sight familiar to folks who lived here during St. Augustine’s 16th century Spanish Colonial period.
The inaugural San Agustín Rowing Challenge is presented by the St. Augustine Maritime Heritage Foundation and takes place on the downtown waterfront from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Saturday, July 4.
It’s the Men’s “Sons of Neptune” versus the Women’s “San Agustín Sirens” rowing crews. Each team takes a turn rowing the San Agustín Chalupa, while competing against the tides and the clock. Prime viewing area for this inaugural event is between the Bridge of Lions and Fort Castillo De San Marcos.
7. Cool Down with a Gourmet Ice Pop
What’s even more quenching than an ice cold glass of water on a hot summer day? A fresh, frozen Hyppo Pop. The Hyppo is bringing back a pop created special for the Fourth of July holiday, decked out in red, white and blue.
Before securing a spot amongst the masses by the fort for the evening fireworks display on Saturday, make a stop by one of The Hyppo’s downtown locations and pick up a celebratory gourmet ice pop. This year’s patriotic pop will include coconut milk with swirled raspberries and whole blueberries (and is entirely vegan-friendly). Our mouths are watering just thinking about it.
8. Experience Fireworks Over the Matanzas
The star of the weekend is the epic display of Fireworks Over the Matanzas.
Starting at 6 p.m., the popular local band The All Star Orchestra will perform a two-hour show of big band and swing music along with patriotic favorites. The concert is free and open to the public. Attendees are encouraged to bring lounge chairs for seating.
Then, at 9:30 p.m. comes the main attraction. The fireworks display is noted as one of the largest on the East Coast, featuring 5,000 individual shells, exploding as high as 2,000 feet and as low as 100 feet. The bayfront road and Castillo Dr. will be closed to accommodate this event. The Bridge of Lions will be closed to boat and vehicle traffic. Street closures begin at 8:30 p.m. and end at 10:30 p.m.
Visitors are invited to park it on the Fort greens or line the streets and sit anywhere along the Bridge of Lions, bayfront and Castillo Dr. to view the fireworks from downtown. The 20-minute fireworks show is choreographed to sync with a soundtrack of patriotic music over a sound system that will be blasting throughout the bayfront area. The show is produced by Fireworks by Santore, who has produced fireworks shows for venues such as Walt Disney World.
Rather than immediately fighting the traffic to leave downtown following the fireworks, the community is encouraged to stick around and support downtown businesses that have elected to remain open for the occasion.
9. Pack a Picnic
The Fourth of July is the prime opportunity for a picnic. If you feel like incorporating a picnic into your fireworks plan, bring your basket along with you down to the Fort on Saturday eve. Not sure what to pack in your basket? For your picnic needs, take a drive out to Rype & Readi on Hwy. 207 prior to the Fourth to stock up for the weekend.
Rype & Readi has even shared an Elkton potato salad recipe perfect for a picnic. This particular potato salad was prepared by Matt Brown of Collage and Ryan Ruffell from Blackfly at Rype & Readi’s Farm Stroll event earlier this year.
Destination Picnic: If you’d rather escape the crowds downtown and find yourself in the mood for a picnic retreat this weekend, consider one of our select, more remote picnic locations featured in our summer issue (#25 on our list of 25 Things to Try This Summer, page 42).
- Princess Place Preserve
- Washington Oaks
- The Mission
- Fort Mose
10. Try a New Adventure
Speaking of summer adventure, the extended holiday weekend offers ample time for you to try something new, and put some adventure in your step. If you haven’t yet seen our complete list of “25 Things to Try This Summer” in our current June/July issue, it’s available at a number of retailers. Check out our where to buy page for a full listing of where to pick up your copy.