Springtime is Prime Season to Enjoy Amelia
Brimming with natural beauty, an abundance of colorful history and stretches of sandy shores, AMELIA ISLAND has long been a go-to beach getaway for North Florida residents and visitors. Warm summer days can be spent outside on the water, followed by a waterfront dinner and stroll through downtown Fernandina Beach amongst the shops and galleries; or indoors at a luxurious spa, history museum or music performances featuring classical sounds. Whether you’re looking for good eats, upscale resorts, or some funky arts and crafts, the Isle of Eight Flags has a plethora of ways to get better acquainted with its charm during the leisurely, warm-weather months. Here are just a few: Though the highlight of the annual Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival is, obviously, the delicious seafood, visitors also enjoy the Shrimp Boat Parade, which includes a contest for the best-decorated boat. Celebrate the “Year of the Golden Shrimp,” in the heart of downtown Fernandina Beach with musical acts, roving pirates, a juried arts and crafts show and shrimp concoctions from 25 food booths. This year’s Shrimp Fest is May 3-5, and admission is free. Shrimpfestival.com. Open on Saturdays from 9 AM to 1 PM, the Fernandina Beach Market Place on N. 7th St. offers a small but well-edited selectionof local artisans selling everything from handmade pastas to local jellies. Each week features different offerings, but fresh produce is always available. Learn more about the foods you eat and shake the hands that harvest them, while you shop the freshest products and enjoy live entertainment. Fernandinabeachmarketplace.com. Though The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island hasa reputation founded on luxury and extravagance, deals at their award-winning spa are available to those in the know—or those on the list, at least. Locals who join the spa’s email list will receive advance notice of specials and, on Sundays, can receive a 25 percent discount on any spa service 60 minutes or longer. Not a resident of Amelia? No worries. The savings apply to anyone living between St. Augustine and Brunswick, and is applicable on any Sunday except for holidays and blackout weekends. (904) 277-1087. Slip on some sandals, head down to thebeach and breathe in the scents of summer on the back porch of Marché Burette Deli at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation during Boardwalk Bash. Visitors can take advantageof food and drink specials, live music, and a variety of kid-friendly activities. Friday nights 5-8 PM, May 3 to June 29. Omniameliaislandplantation.com. You don’t need a DeLorean to go back intime. Instead, take a trip to Fort Clinch State Park, one of the country’s most well preserved 19th century fortifications. The park is open daily, but Fort Clinch’s Union Garrison encampment, held the first weekend of every month (May 4-5), allows visitors to witness what life was like for soldiers serving in the late 1800s. The fort comes to life with reenactments from costumed troops, firing demonstrations, marching drills, cooking and other daily activities. In addition, there will be a candlelight viewing on Saturday evening. The event costs $6 per vehicle plus a $2 entrance fee per person into the fort. Other popular park activities include swimming, hiking and camping. Floridastateparks.org/fortclinch. Great musical talent comes from all over the globe, sometimes making it difficult to discover international names and faces. The Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival temporarily bridges that gap by featuringmore than 50 world-class musicians in a series of performances May 11 through June 2. Renowned artists like violinist Robert McDuffie, cellist Zuill Bailey and pianistRobert Spano will play at various Amelia venues. Tickets range from $25-$50. (904) 261-1779 or aicmf.com. Hemming Plaza isn’t the only part of Northeast Florida that livens up each monthfor artists’ sake. Amelia Island hosts Artrageous ArtWalk in downtown Fernandina Beach the second Saturday of every month, including May 11, June 8, July 13, and August 10. Nearly a dozen galleries, like Island Art Association and Blue Door Artists, open their doors to art appreciators 5:30-8:30 PM, showcasing a wide range of creations from photography and paintings, to stained glass and pottery. Ameliaisland.com. Take a walk on the wild side at the annual three-day Wild Amelia Nature Festival May 17-19. This venture promotes bioregion educationand conservation with tours, photography workshops and environmental activities for kids, including the new Starlab Planetarium. A Segway exploration of Ft. George Island State Park is $65 and a kayak tour of Egan’s Creek is $55. Wildamelia.com. On the third Friday of every month, 3rd on 3rd at the Amelia Island Museum of History offers presentations on historical events and guest speakers. “We usually feature local history, but sometimes branch out to other topics,” says Gray Edenfield, education director at the museum. During the summer months (including May 17, June 21, July 19 and August 16), guests can expect to learn about the early settlements on Fernandina Beach and Minorcans in Florida. The event is free for members with a suggested donation of $5 for nonmembers. Ameliamuseum.org. Learn how to cook by getting tips from some of the best and indulging yourself in a twoday Cooking School at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island restaurant, Salt. The June 5-6 school features daily breakfast, a champagne du jour and luncheon, overnight accommodations, as well as a Ritz-Carlton apron and recipe book. “Guests divide up in teams with chefs to cook meals,” says Joe Murphy, Ritz-Carlton public relations director. “It’s highly interactive and entertaining.” Learn how to create French classics during “Cooking with Julie Child”-themed courses. $999 for one person, $1,359 for two. À la carte options are available at $339 perperson. Ritzcarlton.com/ameliaisland. Need a new fishing buddy? Meet other locals who share a love of the salt life at the Nuts & Bolts Fish ‘N Fest June 6-9. “It’s not a tournament, just an opportunity for people who like spending time on the water to meet new friends and enjoy great food and a new fishing spot,” says Cefus McRae, captain and host of the Nuts & Bolts Fishing television series. Participators will also have the chance to appear in an upcoming episode of the show. No entry fees, but charter fees apply for those without a boat. Nutsandboltsfishing.com. No shirt, no shoes, no problem. In honor of National Marina Day, the Fernandina Harbor Marina is pulling out all the stops for this year’s Marina Day on June 8,10 AM-3 PM, on the waterfront. This free afternoon party features a boat show, food vendors, and activities for the family. Adults aren’t left out of the kid-like fun. Look for the adult-sized hamster balls for racing and a laser obstacle course. “It’s a great time to come and see all that is going on in and around the water in Amelia Island,” says Joe Springer, Marina Manager. Everyone involved in marine business on the island will be making it out for this water day, including boat dealers, fire trucks, police cars, kayakers and the Coast Guard. Fhmarina.com. When you think Father of the Bride, you may immediately recall Steve Martin’s 1991 role as an uptight and overprotective parent, or perhaps the original black and white movie. The story is one to which many viewers can relate—opinionated family members, disagreements, and all the craziness that accompanies the task of planning a wedding. Father of the Bridemakes its way onto the stage, presented by Amelia County Theatre and directed by Jennifer Webber. Performances begin June 13 and continue through the end of the month; tickets range from $10 -$20. Ameliacommunitytheatre.org. If simple 5K runs are no longer cutting it for you, the Jacksonville Olympic & Sprint Triathlon Series is sure to get hearts racing and adrenaline pumping. The event, set for June 22, includes two obstacles for participants to choose from: the Sprint (comprised of a .25-mile swim in the Atlantic, 17-mile bike ride along the Amelia Island Coast, and 3-mile run through North Fletcher Avenue), and the Olympic—a 1.5K swim, 40K bike ride and 10K run through Fort Clinch State Park. Drcsports.com. Nothing screams Florida summer like a barbecue, and the Great Southern Tailgate Cookoff ensures plenty of outdoor grilling complete with live musical entertainment August 23-24. The free two-day event features several bands, as well as more than 60 professional and amateur teams from across the country competing for awards as part of a Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) event. Visitors can choose to purchase chicken, ribs, brisket and more from various vendors, and when children are done filling their stomachs, they can venture to the Kid’s Zone for more fun. On Saturday, a $10 wristband allows participants to sample barbecue from all teams participating in the People’s Choice Contest. Gstailgatecookoff.com.