Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: May June 2012
Doing Biz In St. Augustine, Florida
By: Regina Lynch-Hudson

City Smarts:
Looking for a getaway where quaint antiquity meets posh fabulosity? Nothing compares to visiting America’s oldest continually settled town, St. Augustine, then seamlessly combining it with a jaunt to Ponte Vedra Beach. Allow a week (at least) to thoroughly experience the historic discoveries in the culturally rich St. Augustine, with its charming cobblestone streets, ghost-filled dwellings and magnificent forts. With a population of only 12,000, some 3-million visitors per year swarm St. Augustine ─ named one of the 15 prettiest cities in America by Forbes magazine. Just a half hour North up Highway 1A is Ponte Vedra Beach, known for its seaside resorts, picturesque golf courses and luxurious spas.

Over seven heavenly days I enjoyed nature, top-star restaurants, museums, and a magnificent multiplicity of resorts, cast in a setting of pristine Atlantic shoreline. And if you think I returned home exhausted ─ think again. A stop by Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, the legendary spot discovered by Ponce de León, empowered me ─ after an obligatory sip of miracle water.

Cultural Allure: From Fort Mose Historic State Park, site of the first free African settlement in the country to The Freedom Trail, denoted by markers citywide African-American history has seldom been as well documented as it is in St. Augustine! Merge the captivating sights and sounds of the area into your meeting with local storytellers!

Lux Lodgings: I found myself in a state of tranquility as I lounged in the crème de la crème of the historic coast’s resorts. First stay was the Casa Monica Hotel, the city’s only AAA Four Diamond hotel — a treasured 1888 landmark, fit for a queen. And treat me like a queen they did! From the elaborately festooned grand lobby to my lavish suite overlooking the Atlantic, with king-sized red-velvet tufted bed, every inch of the Casa Monica oozed splendor. When a horse and buggy picked me up at the front entry and carried me away on a whirlwind guided carriage ride of the city, I felt like modern-day Cinderella.

The Casa Monica’s 12,000 sq. ft. of function space, 24-hour fitness center, business center, two elegant ballrooms, poolside Sultan's Pavilion, and Moroccan tent, deem it an extravagant hotel.; Final stopover was The Lodge & Club at Ponte Vedra Beach, a breathtaking 66-room, 300-acre oceanfront resort, that’s sister-property to the AAA Five Diamond-awarded 250-room Ponte Vedra Inn and Club sharing its four restaurants, three lounges, spa, 36-hole golf course, tennis courts, boutiques, shops and riding stables. After playing on the white sand beaches daily, I rushed to my ocean-side suite’s beckoning roman tub and fireplace. Ocean views are as plentiful as air in Ponte Vedra. The Lodge & Club’s conference room boasts an ocean view!

The Power Palette: A lunch meeting at Avilés Restaurant and Lounge is to blame for my latest food addiction ─ the Eggplant Tower!

Located in the downtown Hilton, the eatery lends a global twist to traditional fare. Another must–do spot (open for lunch only) is Café Alcazar, located on the ground floor of the Lightner Museum building. Chef Jesse Espinosa draws raves for his visually stunning good food! For fine dining, the dimly lit 95 Cordova Restaurant gets my vote. A Moroccan facade gives way to exceptional cuisine spiked with exotic Middle Eastern and Asian flavors. In Ponte Vedra Beach, reward yourself with dinner at the Seahorse Grill in the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club. Imagine feasting on Lobster Bisque, followed by Coconut Strawberry Baked Alaska ─ while under the spell of an ocean view.

VIP Treatment: Want to indulge the ultimate Cloud 9 experience? The exhilaration of touring oceanfront properties and vistas in a bi-plane is the perfect way to spice up any itinerary. For a pampering perk that’s every bit as soothing as the blue skies, book services at the uber-opulent 30,000 –sq. ft. Spa at Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, the region’s largest and ritziest spa. After a morning of flying, I grounded myself with an Orange Blossom Body Facial, and left walking on air!

Crowd Pleaser: For adventurous outdoor enthusiasts there’s guided boat excursions and kayak tours. As I paddled the waters of historic St. Augustine in a kayak, I marveled over the beauty of the old Spanish fortress on shore and natural wonders like pelicans, dolphins and manatees.

In Good Company: According to meeting planner Quinta A. Martin, St. Augustine was the perfect destination for the Network to Freedom Underground Railroad Conference to explore how freedom seekers seized opportunity to escape slavery in Spanish Florida.

Doing Biz In™ examines ideal destinations for meetings and group travel. Publicist/travel writer Regina Lynch-Hudson has developed articles, destination marketing and meeting concepts for various venues and tourism boards.