Arts and Culture

By VANESSA CACERES

Northeast Florida has no shortage of arts and culture destinations. From a symphony orchestra to well-regarded museums, visitors can find something for everyone.

In St. Augustine, tours of places like Villa Zorayda Museum give a glimpse into the past. The building was originally constructed in 1883 as a winter residence and was made of poured concrete and crushed coquina shell. Villa Zorayda is built to one-tenth the scale of a section of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. Tours detail its historic significance in St. Augustine’s history and display many unique items—there’s even the “Sacred Cat Rug” that is more than 2,400 years old.

Nearby, Flagler College was built by railroad magnate Henry M. Flagler in the late 1880s, originally as Hotel Ponce de León, one of the most exclusive resorts of its day. Now an historic landmark, the stunning architecture and sights at the college include a 68-foot domed ceiling, a dining room with 79 Tiffany stained glass windows, and original hotel furniture and art.

For an in-depth look at St. Augustine’s visual arts, take part in the First Friday Art Walk, which includes more than 20 art galleries opening their doors for the evening. Enjoy refreshments, receptions and live music for free. There’s complimentary parking and a free shuttle at San Sebastian Winery on King Street where you can board the Old Town Trolley or Ripley’s Red Train Tours to most of the galleries. They run every 30 minutes on a continuous loop.

If you want to take in a show, The Amp, (formerly known as the St. Augustine Amphitheatre) seats 4,100 and is considered St. Johns County’s leading multi-purpose arts facility. Recent performing acts have included the Doobie Brothers, Bill Currington Widespread Panic and ZZ Top. St. Augustine’s Farmers Market and the Night Market are also held on the grounds of the amphitheatre.

Another place to enjoy music and shows is the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall in Ponte Vedra Beach. It features performing artists from around the globe as well as special events and community gatherings. The concert hall also has convention and meeting spaces.

Southwest of St. Augustine in Putnam County, Palatka features more than 30 outdoor murals.

In February, head north on U.S. Route 17 to Green Cove Springs for the annual Northeast Florida Scottish Highland Games & Festival. For a year-round glimpse at the region’s Scottish connection, just visit its historical and military museums.

In downtown Jacksonville, the monthly First Wednesday Art Walk covers 15-plus blocks of arts and culture. Check out more than 40 art & cultural galleries, museums, live performance venues and restaurants. The tour connects visitors to the dozens of artists and street performers in Hemming Park.

From September to May, the Jacksonville Symphony makes its home in the Robert E. Jacoby Symphony Hall, praised for its great acoustics, at the Times–Union Center for the Performing Arts, and also performs at other venues in Northeast Florida and around the state. The symphony is ranked among the country’s top regional orchestras.

Featuring two stages of live music, local food, drinks and shopping, the annual Jacksonville Jazz Festival is promoted as one of the largest jazz festivals in the U.S. The festival has been part of the area since 1981 and takes over 10 blocks of downtown.

Amelia Island welcomes its annual Chamber Music Festival in February, March and April, with concerts featuring world-renowned musicians.