Christmas Past Comes Alive on Amelia Island
Victorian Seaport Village of Fernandina Beach Makes Perfect Backdrop for Dickens Festival on Amelia Island
There’s likely no better place to get into the Christmas spirit than Fernandina Beach, Fla., a charming historic town on Amelia Island that was once a Victorian seaport village. Come early December this picturesque community on the northeast coast of Florida transforms itself into a scene right out of A Christmas Carol by staging a Dickens festival, Dickens on Centre, that delights visitors of all ages seeking to experience Christmas past.
This year’s step back in time over the weekend of Dec. 7-9 features horse-drawn carriage rides, costumed carolers, famous Dickens characters playing their part and store windows gaily trimmed in 19th-century holiday décor. There will even be a letter writing station for children’s wish lists to St. Nick and period vendors selling handmade crafts and scrumptious treats that would have tempted Queen Victoria back in her day.
Fine food on Amelia Island
Victorian fare is also on the menu at street carts along Centre Street, including fish and chips, candied nuts and spiced cider. The Ritz-Carlton hotel lobby will house the world’s largest gingerbread pirate ship, manned with colorful buccaneers fashioned from fondant, a chocolate cannon and treasure chest of sweets, all of which will leave visitors agog. The hotel’s eight pastry chefs toil yearly for 350 hours to create this tribute to the legends and lore of Amelia Island, which was briefly ruled by Privateer Luis Aury in the early 19th century.
This year’s festivities also include the Amelia Island Museum of History Holiday Home Tour on Friday, Nov. 30 and Saturday, Dec. 1, which will showcase beachfront homes in downtown Fernandina done up for the holidays by florists and decorators. Fernandina Beach has largely escaped commercialization, so it still boasts a 50-block area of historic buildings, including Victorian houses that date to the Gilded Age when the Rockefellers and Carnegies wintered in this area. “Run Like the Dickens,” a one-mile sprint at the beach on Saturday, Dec. 8 to raise funds for the Fernandina Beach AVID college readiness program, is another seasonal bit of fun.
Amelia Island Extravagance
Accommodations run the gamut on Amelia Island, but two are standouts for luxury. The Ritz-Carlton has garnered AAA Five Diamond status for the past 23 years. Rich in creature comforts, each of its 446 oceanfront rooms sport a private balcony and marble bath. The Ritz-Carlton is especially renowned for its signature Salt restaurant, one of only three AAA Five Diamond rated restaurants in Florida.
Named for its ever-expanding collection of salts from around the globe, Salt focuses on using simple ingredients from the earth and sea, masterfully seasoned and served in a contemporary coastal ambience. Among the most popular dishes are smoked shrimp and grits, grilled romaine, pappardelle pasta and steak and eggs cooked on a Himalayan salt block. Many specialty salts and sugars from their collection can also be purchased in the Salt boutique.
The 1,350-acre Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort is nestled among live oaks with spectacular views of both the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway. This AAA Four Diamond rated resort offers just about every amenity thinkable, including two Audubon International Certified Sanctuary golf courses that have earned the resort a “Top 121 Golf Resorts in the World” ranking by Condé Nast Traveler.
AAA Members receive up to 20% off a stay at The Ritz-Carlton. On select dates, AAA Members receive up to 20% off a stay and free parking at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort. Call 800-398-0379 for details!
(Photos: Drememer Studios, LLC.)
(Go Magazine Nov/Dec 2018)