Holiday Gift Guide

by LIZA MITCHELL
The best gifts don’t necessarily have to come in the biggest boxes. They don’t need the shiniest wrapping paper, the biggest bow or even the biggest price tag to stand out. The most thoughtful, personal and memorable gifts come from the heart.
We all know that the holidays are all about the giving and receiving of gifts. As the calendar ticks off the final shopping days until Christmas, you don’t have to face the laborious chore of sifting through sweaters, over-priced household gadgets, and the latest electronic trends when you can give your loved ones something special that doesn’t fit under the tree. This year, give outside the box.
In the spirit of the season, give that special someone a gift that truly lifts their spirits. Whether it’s a ride in a hot air balloon, a day of pampering at an upscale salon or the opportunity to finally learn the art of French cooking, there is something for everyone on your list. Giving the gift of experience is a way to broaden horizons, realize dreams and make memories that last longer than your Aunt Ethel’s fruitcake.
Take a Class
The gateway to a new experience is learning, and there is a class for everything. Learn how to cook, dance, draw, paint or play an instrument. It’s literally at your fingertips. For the foodie in your life, several local restaurants and retailers offer instruction in all areas of the kitchen from cooking with gourmet ingredients to fresh farm-to-table fare. Williams-Sonoma (www.williams-sonoma.com) offers a cookbook of the month class featuring recipes and cooking techniques from selected cookbooks. They also host monthly cooking lessons featuring cooking demonstrations and international cuisine. There are two locations: 4712 River City Drive in the Town Center, 998-4304, and 10300 Southside Blvd in the Avenues Mall, 538-0750
With so much emphasis on cutting costs and eating organic, many people are turning the dirt in their own backyards to grow their own produce. Sustainable Springfield (www.sustainablespringfield.net) offers instruction in some of the most current seasonal dining trends from some of the city’s most prolific chefs. Participating restaurants for 2013 include Taverna, bb’s Restaurant, Black Sheep and the Floridian. Learn how to prepare delicious, seasonal fare straight from your own garden or local farmers market with fresh ingredients paired with each recipe. Individual classes are available per season or create a special holiday gift package with all four seasons for a limited time.
An easy way to get a jump on the New Year and the all the resolutions that follow is by taking a dance class. And if your partner has been nagging you to join them on the floor, you can score major points for being a willing participant. Learn the romantic art of ballroom dancing with a seasoned professional or the sensual rhythms of salsa, flamenco or the tango. Fred Astaire Dance Studio offers a multitude of classes to choose from (www.fredastairejacksonville.com). Dance fitness classes like zumba, belly dancing, and, yes, even pole dancing, are offered at Dance Trance (www.dancetrancefitness.com). Combine the best of both worlds. Feel the burn and enjoy the fun.

Take a Tour
Take a walking tour through the streets of St. Augustine. Wine and food tours are available to cater to most discerning palettes. The Savory Faire is a walking tour through the city’s rich history, culture and food. Participants will sample tasty treats from the most well-known establishments and the hidden gems tucked away in the city’s nooks and crannies. (www.staugustinecitywalks.com)
Taking a guided Segway tour is an easy way to explore the geography of a particular area in a fresh and exciting way. EcoMotion Tours offers a unique view of Little Talbot Island State Parks and the nearby Fort George Island and Kingsley Plantation. Segway transporters provide an enjoyable and eco-friendly way of touring the barrier islands. They are quiet and easy on the trails, providing a wonderful way to explore nature without disturbing its inhabitants. Guests will be equipped with a wireless headset to learn about the fascinating plant and animal life along the trails.
EcoMotion Tours provides helmets, orientation and training to ensure everyone has a relaxed and safe experience. No experience is necessary, but riders must be at least 13 years old and between 100-250 lb. Riders under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult. All guided trips include instruction, interpretation, bottled water, and a snack. Reservations are required, 251-9477 (www.ecomotiontours.com)

Choose Your Own Adventure
Living in a coastal community provides for a wealth of fun in and around the water, and what better way to enjoy the spoils of nature than to dive right in. Treat the adventurous spirit in your life with an experience to remember. Want to learn how to surf? Check. Paddleboard? Check, check. Ride horseback in the surf? Done. Hot air balloon? Why not? Helicopter ride? Sure thing. Trapeze? Yep, that, too. There are a plethora of ways to get the adrenaline pumping and maybe even check something off the bucket list.
Luckily, there is no shortage of experienced surfers ready and willing to share their stoke. The team at Sunrise Surf Shop in Jacksonville Beach (www.sunrisesurfshop.org) is comprised of licensed and insured surfers who offer private and group instruction to all skill levels. They will even provide a board if you don’t have one. Next year, Santa. Surfing, paddleboard and stand-up paddle board lessons are also available through www.jaxsurftraining.com (435-SURF) and the Saltwater Cowgirls and St. Augustine Surf School.
There’s more to do at the beach than just surf. Ride the beaches of Amelia Island and help rescue horses at the same time at www.ameliahorsebackriding.com. All rides are tailored to the capability of each rider with a maximum of three riders per ride. All proceeds will benefit the Cheers Horse Ranch, LLC which is dedicated to the care and support of rescue horses. Gift certificates are available, 277-7047.
Kelly Seahorse Ranch (www.kellyranchinc.net) also offers one hour guided tours of Amelia Island’s beaches. They offer gift certificates, private lessons and are even open on Christmas Day at 7500 First Coast Highway, 491-5166.
Lots of people hope to ride in a hot air balloon once in their life but sadly, there just don’t seem to be as many opportunities to sail the skies as one might hope. It’s up to you to make it happen. Experience the breathtaking, panoramic views of the Jacksonville and St. Augustine coastlines, the downtown skyline and the St. Johns River at sunrise followed by a champagne toast. Flights embark from a predetermined location and last approximately three to four hours, depending on your path. Reservations are available for up to six guests (www.ahotairballoonride.com). Create a romantic trip for two that includes a premium bottle of French champagne, a flight certificate and a post flight brunch.
The historic streets of St. Augustine hold the stories of the nation’s oldest city. See the city from a completely new perspective with a ride from Old City Helicopters (www.oldcityhelicopters.com). Take in a the birds’ eye view of the coastline, the pristine wetlands, the historic Castillo de San Marco and Bridge of Lions during the day or enjoy a sunset ride. A special Night of Lights Tour is also available through January 31 to capture the thousands of twinkling lights that adorn the city of St. Augustine during the holidays. Flights depart from the St. Augustine Airport, 4900 US1 N., 824-5506.
Ever have dreams of running away to join the circus? Learn how to fly through the air with the greatest of ease with trapeze lessons. Trapeze High-Florida (www.trapezehighfl.com) offers instruction in the circus arts for all ages and skill levels. The 90-minute sessions are available for individuals and groups. The cost is $45 per class, $200 for five sessions and $350 for a 10-class package. Trapeze High-Florida is located 515 College Drive, Middleburg.

Support Local Art
Help keep art alive in Jacksonville with a membership to one of the city’s museums. The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens (www.cummer.org) is home to an impressive core collection of priceless works of art and beautifully manicured and tranquil gardens on the banks of the St. Johns River. In the Cummer Store, patrons can browse through wearable works of art such as hand-painted silk scarves, handcrafted jewelry, home accessories, educational toys and gifts for children. Personal shopping is available. There will be a shopping event with complimentary champagne, appetizers, additional discounts and exclusive trunk showings on Dec 6 at 10 am-7 pm & Dec 7 at 10 am– 4 pm. Membership to the museum offers full access to the permanent and traveling exhibits as well as a discount to the Cummer Store through December 17.
The Museum of Contemporary Art (www.mocajacksonville.org) is dedicated to the experience and enjoyment of contemporary art. The museum houses over 850 pieces of contemporary art in a variety of mediums from a vast array of renowned artists. Individual and family membership opportunities are available. Membership includes free museum admission, exclusive previews to exhibit reception, discounted events and shopping at the museum store, 333 North Laura Street, 366-6911.

Family Fun Year Round
Give the gift that keeps on giving with season tickets or an annual membership to one of the city’s treasured destinations. Membership to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens (www.jaxzoo.org) is a family-friendly gift that is not only fun but helps support and maintain the animal habitats and educational outreach programs that make the zoo and gardens such a memorable experience. Tickets and gift certificate can be purchased online. Call 757-4463 for additional information.
Individual and group membership packages are available at all levels to the Museum of Science and History (www.themosh.org), 1025 Museum Circle. A visit to MOSH always promises to be an experience from a walking tour through the city’s history to the inner workings of the human body. Membership to MOSH offers full access to the museum’s permanent and traveling exhibits.
Tree Hill Nature Center (www.treehill.org) is as unspoiled a location as one could hope for with a lush tree canopy, a butterfly garden and educational outreach center. An annual access pass is available for only $40 and allows free admission for two adults and up to four kids per household. The facility is located at 7152 Lone Star Road, 724-4646.
Season passes to Adventure Landing (www.adventurelanding.com) not only offer free admission to the Shipwreck Island Waterpark but they also provide discounts on mini-golf, go-karts, laser tag and more. While this may seem too good to be true for the kiddies, parents can relax poolside or take a spin around the lazy Little St. Johns River.
Win or lose, the Jacksonville Jaguars continue to bring a level of excitement to the First Coast, and who better to enjoy it with than your family and friends. With season tickets, fans can take in a game with the kids, impress the out-of-town guests (easier when they win) or send the in-laws if you really need the brownie points. You don’t have to commit to an entire season. Give a single ticket or create a game-day package for every type of fan. (www.jaguars.com)

For the Love of Music
Concert tickets are proof that big things can come in small packages. An evening of live music is a great stocking stuffer to give to the consummate fan. Most venues are announcing their performance schedules for the 2013 season and gift certificates are available. Give the gift of music with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra (www.jaxsymphony.org). Season ticket packages are available or purchase a special $100 holiday gift certificate toward any upcoming events or annual passes, 355-5547.
Love music and theatre? Enjoy dinner and show at the Alhambra Dinner Theatre & Dining (www.alhambrajax.com), 12000 Beach Blvd., 641-1212. Give a single show or create a three-show package from the upcoming season.
The Artist Series presents Broadway in Jacksonville. Musicals coming in 2013 are Mary Poppins and Billy Elliot to mention a few. (www.artistseriesjax.org). Who wouldn’t love these tickets in their stocking?
A membership to the Friends of the Florida Theatre or participation in the Bricks and Bronze Stars Campaign at Florida Theatre (www.floridatheatre.org) are other ways to help maintain the caliber of artists that have graced the stage at the historic theatre at 128 E. Forsyth Street, 355-2787. Single and double brick pavers would be a great way to accompany a ticket to an upcoming performance. Bronze stars and mini brick souveniers are also available. Prices and membership levels vary.
The Ponte Vedra Concert Hall (www.pvconcerthall.com) 1050 A1A North, 209-0399 and the St. Augustine Amphitheatre (www.staugustineamphitheatre.com) 1340 A1A S., 471-1965, are other premiere venues for live music on the First Coast.
Maybe a good laugh is what your loved ones need. Jerry Seinfeld will be at the Times-Union Center on January 18. Go to www.jaxevents.com for a variety of concerts and sporting events.
Mini Getaway
It can be difficult to pull off a vacation, even for a simple weekend jaunt, after all of the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Sure, all of the relatives have gone home and the kids are back in school but most people are out of vacation time and, frankly, out of cash. Booking a cruise out of the JAXPORT Cruise Terminal is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to indulge in a luxury Bahamas vacation without the fuss. Carnival Cruise Line sails out of JAXPORT to the tropical and not-so-far-away destination for four, five and seven night stays aboard the 2,052-person Carnival Fascination cruise ship. For reservations and information, call JAXPORT at 357-3006 or visit www.jaxport.com/cruise or www.carnival.com.
A weekend away at a charming bed and breakfast is also an excellent way to enjoy a mini-vacay in your own backyard. Jacksonville and the surrounding cities of St. Augustine, Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island all have one thing in common – a delightful assortment of charming bed and breakfasts. Book a weekend getaway at one of these lovely inns and enjoy all of the relaxation and tranquility of a mini-vacay without having to travel too far from home or dig too deep in the pockets.
If you can’t pick just one, why not see them all at the 2012 12 Days of Christmas Bed and Breakfast Holiday Tour presented by the St. Augustine Historic Inns (www.staugustinebandbtour.com). Experience all of the finery and wonder without having to pick your favorite. And if you’re unsure about where to make your reservations, this is an excellent tool to help in the decision making process.

Camping
Camping is another fun and family-friendly way to get away without having to travel too far away from home. For those who want to stick extra close, camping is also something you can literally do in your own backyard. Pack up the gear, tent, lantern, sleeping bags and reserve a space under the stars. Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park offers cozy cabins and primitive campsites, biking and hiking trails, fishing docks and paddle boat rental at 500 Wonderwood Drive ([email protected]) 249-4700.
Little Talbot State Park and Huguenot Memorial Park also offer rustic camping in a lush, natural setting in close proximity to the Ft. George Inlet, St. Johns River and Atlantic Ocean. Both campgrounds offer primitive sites and the opportunity to get off the grid, even if it’s just for a night. Or you can always set up shop in your own backyard. The kids will love making s’mores, telling spooky stories and snuggling deep in their cozy sleeping bags with the all the comforts of home just steps away.

Drink it Up
It’s enough of a chore to remember which wine to serve with which meal. Impress your friends with your knowledge of the wine-making process with a winery tour. Learn about the various aging techniques, how to recognize each fragrance and note in the different blends and discover the wines that come from each region. Daily tours and wine tastings are available at the San Sebastian Winery (www.sansabastianwinery.com). Journey through the complete fermenting process, tour the 18,000-square-foor barrel room and learn the tools of tasting. Take a bottle home with you or you can order wines online. Gift baskets are available. The winery is located at 157 King Street, St. Augustine 826-1594.
Nothing says Happy Holidays like a belly full of hops and barley. For some, beer is just as much fun to make as it is to drink (almost). There are several locations throughout the First Coast that cater to the beer connoisseur. Engine 15 (www.engine15.com) offers step-by-step instruction on the beer brewing process. It takes a little time to get it just right but there is a tasty reward at the end. Engine 15, 1500 Beach Boulevard in Jacksonville Beach, 249-2337
Just Brew It has two locations: 2670-1 Rosselle Street in Jacksonville (381-1983) and 1314 3rd Street North in Jacksonville Beach (435-4767). Gluten-free products are available (www.justbrewit.com).
Check out our special brew section beginning on page 9 for all you need to know about seasonal brews in Jacksonville.

His and Hers
Pamper the lovely lady in your life with a personalized spa session. Create a one-of-a-kind experience that she will love with a massage, facial, mani/pedi, cut, color, and style or all of the above. Most salons will create a beauty package tailored to all wish lists at any budget. Options range from the upscale to down to earth and everything in between. One thing is certain. She will feel like a million bucks no matter what the price.
While the ladies may indulge at the salon, the guys can experience their own special day with a round of golf at their favorite course. Golf packages and individual tee times are available at most local courses including but not limited to the TPC at Sawgrass, Hidden Hills Golf and Country Club, Jacksonville Beach Municipal Golf Course, Deercreek Country Club, San Jose Country Club, Glen Kernan Golf & Country Club.

Give Back
It’s always a super satisfying sensation to know that you have hit the holidays out of the park by giving someone a gift that they really want. Imagine the warm and fuzzy feeling you can enjoy by giving back to someone who may not otherwise experience the hope and magic of the holiday season. There are always plentiful opportunities available to volunteer and help those less fortunate, but no more so than during the holidays. Donations of canned goods, other non perishable food items and new, unwrapped toys are accepted at most grocery stores, banks and other businesses within the community.
There are a number of local nonprofit organizations citywide that can always use a helping hand. Help brighten a child’s face on Christmas with the donation of a new toy to the Children’s Christmas Party of Jacksonville (www.ccpoj.org). Do what you can to make sure no one is cold with a donation of a coat, a pair of gloves or a warm blanket to the Sulzbacher Center. Help serve a holiday meal at the City Rescue Mission (www.crmjax.org) for those who don’t have enough to eat. Foster a pet from the Jacksonville Humane Society or adopt a new, forever friend from Jacksonville Animal Control. Lending a helping hand is free, and it is the most rewarding experience of all.

About FOLIO

april, 2022

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