Rodeos, Biblical Letters, and Italian Opera

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Where else can you spectate calf roping and sound off whooping noises, divine on letters from Biblical times, and travel back in time to relive life on a military fort in the 18th Century.

Where else? St. Augustine, Florida!

I am continously surprised at the gamut of activities organized by this historic city of Florida with a population of only 15,000. The oldest continuously occupied European-established city and the oldest port in the continental U.S., St. Augustine draws locals and visitors state-wide and abroad. This magical city preserves the history of our young nation, while simultaneously offering contemporary culture and hoot-hollering fun.

Indeed there's something for everyone including a guided bird walk, photo expeditions, professional rodeos and more. Read below for a potpourri of physical, educational and entertaining events!

Friday and Saturday: January 23-24

Cowboy-up with the pros at this two-day event at the St. Johns County Fairgrounds -- rodeo clowns, team roping, calf roping, barrel racing and bull riding, and more! The best rodeo performers from throughout the Southeast will display their skills. Tickets are $12 for ages 12 and up; $7 for students ages 6 to 11. The St. Johns County Fairgrounds are located approximately 7 miles west of I-95 on SR 207 in Elkton , Florida . For more information, call 904.845.7492 or visit

Friday and Sunday: January 23 & 25

Celebrate an evening of Puccini while enjoying First Coast Opera’s performance of La Bohéme. Directed by Don Westwood of Jacksonville Lyric Opera and Belleayre Festival Opera, this performance of the world’s most beloved opera takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Pedro Menendez Performing Arts Center at Pedro Menendez High School, 600 State Road 206 West in St. Augustine. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door for adults. Student tickets are $20 per person. For more information, call 904.797.7770 or visit

Saturday: January 24

Gain an insight into the writings of Saint Paul the Apostle at this special presentation How to Read the Letters of Saint Paul by Msg. Steven Bosso, professor of Sacred Scripture at St. Vincent de Paul Seminary. The event takes place at 9 a.m. at the Bishop Baker Center on St. George Street next to Cathedral Parish School ( 249 St. George Street ) in St. Augustine . This special engagement is part of the observance of the 2000th birthday of Saint Paul the Apostle. For more information, call 904.824.2806.

Enjoy this program that is part of the National Parks Service Nature Series at Fort Matanzas National Monument . This ranger-led walk explores "Survival in the Maritime Forest " one of a series of guided walks, each exploring a different habitat or ecosystem at Fort Matanzas . The tour takes place from 9:30 - 11:00 a.m. Participants meet the ranger at the park picnic area. Fort Matanzas National Monument is located on A1A at the south end of Anastasia Island approximately 15 miles south of St. Augustine . For more information, call 904.461.0116 or visit

Take the National Park Service’s ferry to Rattlesnake Island and experience daily military life at Fort Matanzas – the 18th century Spanish fort that guarded the southern approach to St. Augustine . From 10:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., authentically clad re-enactors will demonstrate Spanish muskets and cannons at the fort. Admission is free. Fort Matanzas National Monument is located on A1A at the south end of Anastasia Island approximately 15 miles south of St. Augustine . For more information, call 904.471.0116 or visit
Sunday: January 25

Come along with an experienced birder for a guided bird walk of the beautiful wooded and marsh areas of Fort Mose Historic Park . Participating birding enthusiasts will find a variety of herons, egrets, wood storks, hawks and owls, and are encouraged to bring binoculars and a field guide. The walk, which is weather permitting, takes place from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Accessible parking is provided throughout the park. Entrance fee is $2 per vehicle. Fort Mose Historic State Park is located at 15 Fort Mose Trail in St. Augustine . For more information call 904.823.2232 or visit

Join Florida Master Naturalist and nature photographer Craig O'Neal for a "photo expedition" within the GTM Research Reserve. Learn different photography techniques and locations for both landscape and wildlife photography. The expedition will cover 3 to 4 miles of the trail systems including freshwater and saltwater savannahs, upland hammocks and deep water canals in search of wildlife encounters. Closed toe shoes, drinking water, camera equipment and bug spray will be required. For more information, contact Cost is $15, registration and prepayment are required. Call Diana Eissing at 904.823.4500 for reservations. The three-hour expedition starts 8 a.m. at the Guana Dam trailhead pavilion. There is a $3 parking fee to enter the Research Reserve. Guana Research Reserve is located at 50 Guana River Rd. , 8 miles north of Vilano Beach in Ponte Vedra Beach .

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  1. Christine - I've never had a yen to winter in Florida, but after reading your accounts of all the things to do and see - I'm tempted!


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