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Articles Tagged "holidays"

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November
10

Holiday season is a magical time of year. Warmth and holiday movies and family and a general, pervading sense of mirth make for a potion that can rejuvenate even the darkest spirits. But let's face it – capturing that holiday spirit can be tricky when you're in a place like sunny Florida, where the temperatures rarely dip below 50 degrees and snow seems more like something from a book rather than an actual meteorological event.

Don't fret, though. There are still plenty of ways to kindle your holiday spirit even in a state that's more at home in summer than winter, and we're here to share them.

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February
3

Just because the pandemic hasn't quite gone away yet doesn't mean you can't still celebrate Valentine's Day in a special way. We've all spent plenty of date nights cuddled up on the couch with a good movie over the last year, so why not try something new without sacrificing the safety of social distance? Here are some romantic, pandemic-safe date ideas.

Stargazing

Nothing says romance like watching the stars with your main squeeze. Find a night with clear skies and venture away from the city's bright lights and enjoy the quiet, peaceful ambiance.

Go for a Picnic

Rather than risk dinner at a restaurant, pack up a picnic with your favorite snacks and enjoy the outdoors with your valentine. Who says you need candlelight to make a dinner romantic?

Rock Climbing

You could book time at an indoor rock-climbing wall if you're new to the activity – many gyms have reopened with enhanced safety protocols. But if you and your partner are experienced athletes, you could always try your hand at the real thing!

Pick Fruit Together

Chances are you have at least a couple farms or orchards nearby that let guests pick fresh fruit for fun. You'll be surprised at how much fun you and your partner will have picking fresh apples, berries, or even fresh herbs together.

Hit the Water

Have an aquatic adventure with your partner that you'll both remember for a long time. Rent kayaks, paddleboards, or even a full-sized boat and enjoy a fun and romantic outing on the water.

Explore Your City

You may think you know your own city, but when is the last time you went exploring? Together with your partner, plot an expedition downtown, visit popular landmarks, and check out other corners of the city you've never visited. Discovering the city together can deepen your connection to your partner.

Play a Sport

Whether it's a tennis showdown, nine holes of golf, or even a quick game of H.O.R.S.E. on the basketball court, a little bit of friendly competition can lead to sparks.

Make a New Dish Together

Don your chef hats, put on your aprons, and pour your love into a new recipe. Creating a new delicious dish is an amazing shared experience that will highlight just how well you two work together.

Break Out the Board Games

Another way to spark your competitive spirit is with a board game night! For an extra layer of fun, bring back the classics of your youth like Connect Four, Battleship, Hungry Hungry Hippo, and more.

Hot Air Balloon

This one may be a bit trickier to organize depending on where you live, but if you can make it happen, you and your partner are in for the date of your lives. Few things can match the romantic thrill of embracing each other hundreds of feet in the sky with a 360-degree view of the world's beauty surrounding you.

December
2

Gainesville, FL is no stranger to holiday spirit! The home to the University of Florida, Gainesville and its residents don't slack when it comes to celebrating Christmas with ornate displays and festive atmosphere. Here's where you can see the best Christmas lights in Gainesville, FL.

Butler Town Center Friday Night Lights

Every Friday night through December 18, you can catch a live lighting of the Butler Town Center's Christmas tree. The event features special sales, letters to Santa, giveaways, and more. You can even tune in live on Facebook or Instagram if you can't make it in person!

Celebrate D Holidays at Depot Park

Venture out to Depot Park for a stunning light display featuring more than 200,000 LED lights. Wander through the festive wonderland while enjoying tasty snacks and drinks provided by local vendors. The best part? You can visit any day until December 30.

Celebration Pointe Holiday Lights

One of Gainesville's more popular destinations, Celebration Pointe, has its impressive holiday light display hanging until December 31. Chances are pretty good you'll be visiting Celebration Pointe anyway, so why not enjoy the festive lighting while you're there?

Lights on 20th Avenue

Lights on 20th Avenue is the masterful work of one man and his family. Logan Euler, a self-proclaimed Christmas lights maniac, has been creating this extravagant display of lights, decorations, and music for years, and the show only gets better each year.

31st Annual Duck Pond Lighting at North Florida Regional Medical Center

For the 31st year in a row, the North Florida Regional Medical Center kicks off the holiday season with its 90,000+ light ceremony! Unlike previous years, the event will be broadcast virtually as opposed to an in-person ceremony. Guests are still invited to visit the campus and see the display for themselves throughout the month of December, however.

November
11

You can directly tie your Thanksgiving experience to which stage of life you're in. Hear us out: when you're a kid, Thanksgiving means having family over (or going to a family member's house) for a delicious feast. As you get older, maybe you start helping with the setup or even contribute your own dish. Then you become a full-fledged adult, and suddenly you're hosting Thanksgiving at your house and oh my there's so much to do. As always, we're here to make sure you get through your first Thanksgiving as host. Or maybe it isn't even your first time! That's fine, too, because these tips for hosting Thanksgiving will help anyone looking to host the best Turkey Day possible.

Planning Around COVID-19

We can't talk about Thanksgiving in 2020 without addressing the elephant in the room: COVID-19. The risk factors associated with the disease doesn't mean we can't still celebrate our beloved holidays, but it does mean they'll look a little different. Some general guidelines to follow for a safe Thanksgiving this year:

  • Try to avoid travel if possible
  • Keep dinner plans down to a few people, preferably the people in your household
  • Have a virtual dinner with family and friends
  • If you're hosting a moderately sized group, host it outdoors if possible
  • Avoid large gatherings like sporting events, parades, etc.

On to the actual tips for hosting Thanksgiving!

Make a Plan

Go into the big day with a vision in mind. How many guests are coming? What time is dinner? Are you doing anything after dinner? What's on the menu? Having a firm plan along with contingency plans for when craziness inevitably happens will help you manage expectations and stress for you and everyone in the house. A plan also makes it easier to divvy up responsibilities so no one person is doing too much. This goes for your grocery list, too. Make your shopping list as detailed as possible, down to the very measurement of each ingredient. Nobody wants to venture into the chaos that is a grocery store on Thanksgiving morning because you didn't get as much cinnamon as you needed.

Seriously: Delegate!

If someone offers to bring the mac and cheese, let them! Unless you have the world's best mac and cheese recipe, don't turn down help. As host, you've got enough on your plate as it is. Don't trick yourself into believing that your aunt bringing the pumpkin pie means you're not a great host; if anything, it makes you a smart host who won't lose their mind from stress.

Cook Ahead

The food is the star of the show on Thanksgiving. Ensure that star shines brightly by making as much as possible before the big day. It may not make every dish taste better, but it will make your hosting experience that much simpler when you're not juggling multiple dishes, ingredients, and cooking times with a looming deadline.

Don't Experiment

If you're not Gordon Ramsay, you should leave the experimentation to another night. On Thanksgiving, you know what the people want: turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, broccoli casserole, mac and cheese, the usual. Your guests might appreciate the effort you put into your turkey lasagna, but it doesn't mean they want to eat it.

But Do Use Shortcuts

Again, if you're not Gordon Ramsay, don't feel compelled to make absolutely every dish completely from scratch. Take those shortcuts when they present themselves. Stuffing from the box is perfectly acceptable because it's easy and delicious. Additionally, lean on local bakeries for your Thanksgiving desserts. They make pies every day, they must know what they're doing.

Set the Table Early

Not only does this remove one of the most annoying parts of hosting from the equation, but it also gives you a chance to pat yourself on the back when everyone arrives to a beautifully curated dining table. Future You will thank Past You.

Relax & Enjoy the Holiday Spirit

Hosting is stressful, there's no getting around that. But if you only let stress dominate your day, you'll be exhausted by noon without ever getting to enjoy the atmosphere you've created. Remember to take a step back, take a deep breath, and look around at what you've done. It's a happy Thanksgiving because of all your hard work. Now go get that second piece of pie. You've earned it.

October
26

Even though spooky season is thoroughly underway, there's still a need to follow safety guidelines to keep everyone safe and healthy. While that means the landscape of Halloween looks a little different, it doesn't mean you can't still get your creepy kicks this October. Here are some creative, socially distant Halloween ideas!

Create a Candy Graveyard

Use novelty skeleton bones to create a path that stops at individual graves full of candy! Go wild decorating to give each station a unique flair and your trick-or-treaters will have a blast stocking up on candy in a safe, socially distant way.

Carve Pumpkins as a Family

This is a pretty common activity that many families already do. But this year, it might take on a new significance as we look for ways to celebrate Halloween safely. With that in mind, a trip to a pumpkin patch followed by carving spooky (or silly!) designs all night might be the perfect option. Turn on a scary movie and snack on some candy to really amplify the atmosphere.

Ghost Your Neighbors

Not in the online dating sense, of course. Rather, this Halloween consider ghosting your neighbors – in other words, create goodie bags full of treats and leave them on your neighbors' doorsteps with a friendly note to pass it on. See how far you can keep the "haunt" going!

Make Custom Halloween Facemasks

If you are going out for Halloween, it's wise to still mask up. Why not get in the spirit of things by designing your own custom Halloween masks? Check out these designs for inspiration then get started on your own macabre masterpiece!

Trick-or-Treat at Home

Instead of going door-to-door in your neighborhood, go door-to-door in your own home! Set up different bowls of candy in separate rooms, then decorate each door with a unique spooky theme. Play some Halloween music and sounds for creepy ambiance, and you've got your very own trick-or-treat route at home!

Bake Halloween Treats Together

This one's great with younger kids who are eager to help out in the kitchen. Get the whole gang together to whip up some awesome Halloween-themed goodies…and then eat them. The goodies, of course.

Get a Tarot Card Reading

What better time than Halloween to get in touch with your spiritual side and catch a glimpse into your future? For extra fun, hire an expert to give you a tarot reading over a video call.

Throw a Costume Parade

With socially distant spacing, a costume parade through the neighborhood is a great way to get in the Halloween spirit! You can set up candy station stops along the parade route so trick-or-treaters can still get their sweet fix while showing off their costumes.

Put a Spin on Easter Egg Hunts

Instead of hiding plastic or painted eggs, sneak some goodie bags with glow-in-the-dark stickers affixed to them throughout the house and backyard. Once it's dark, give your kiddos a flashlight and set them on the hunt.

Throw a Virtual Costume Contest

The best part of Halloween is dressing up, right? Well we're not going to let 2020 take that from us. Dress up in your favorite costume or create a brand new one, then show it off to friends and family with a virtual costume contest.

Have a Scary Movie Night

If you aren't already spending every night in October watching horror movies (explain yourself), schedule time to watch a few scary flicks and eat some tasty snacks!

Tell Scary Stories

Gather the family and have everyone share their own scary story. For bonus atmosphere, recite your tales around a campfire in the backyard!

September
30

Spooky season is here! There's only one way to celebrate: turning your home into a ghastly Halloween haven. And while you could drop tons of money on store-bought décor, why not try your hand on some homecooked decorations? Take these DIY Halloween décor projects for a spin this spooky season to get your ghoulish vibes right.

Empty Bottle Candlestick Holders

Take any empty bottle, spray paint it matte black, then insert a candlestick in the opening. Now you've got spooky flickers of candlelight!

Paper Bats & Cats

Cut out silhouettes of bats, cats, half-moons, and other creepy imagery using black paper, then stick them to the outside of windows throughout your house – they look great and are easy to make!

Flannel Face Pillows

Flex your sewing muscles with this nifty project that turns your favorite throw pillows into adorably creepy monsters.

Oversized Spiders

Foam balls, toothpicks, some paint, and a few more crafts are all you need to make these oversized spiders.

Bubbling Cauldron

Double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble! Creating your own frothing cauldron is a breeze. Just take a cast-iron Dutch oven and mix in a little water and dry ice and voila!

Illuminated Ghost Garland

Want to make your home feel truly haunted? Follow these simple instructions to make a bunch of friendly ghosts that'll light up your home with spooky charm.

Partygoing Pumpkins

Instead of carving up your pumpkins, try decorating them with other crafts: gemstones, glitter, masks, and more.

Pumpkin Archway

Let trick 'r treaters know exactly what kind of house they're approaching with this custom pumpkin archway out front.

Mummify Your Front Door

Take some white crepe paper, adhesive putty, and some scissors to transform your front door into a macabre mummy. If you want more silly than spooky, add some googly eyes.

Spider Cake

Take any store-bought cake and add some white frosting to a frosting piping bag (or make your own with a sealable freezer bag) to layer spiderwebs on the exterior. Stick some small novelty spiders on top of the webs and you've got a chilling yet delicious spider cake!

Witch Legs

Spruce up your front lawn with these wicked witch legs. A few crafts and some elbow grease are all you need for these witchy bush decorations.

Trees from Another Dimension

Those aren't any ordinary trees in your yard – at least not when you give them a set of ghoulish eyes! Draw some pupils on a fluorescent foam circle to create the eyes, then stick them to your trees with double stick tape.

Mason Jar Ghosts

Turn mason jars into g-g-g-g-ghosts! Hit them with some glass spray paint and affix some googly eyes to the front and bam, you've got ghosts.

Candy Corn Pinata

Festive cheer comes in the form of a giant piece of candy corn with this craft. Except this one isn't edible – it's a pinata!

Hanging Cage Props

Keep ghastly prisoners in line with these homemade hanging cage props. Follow this guide to make your own!

Skull Candle Holder

Set the spooky mood with these DIY candle holders made with plaster novelty skulls.

Crystal Ball Candlesticks

These nifty pieces of décor may look like something you'd drop $15 on at a big-box store, but you can make them on your own for less!

Hanging Bats

How adorable are these DIY hanging bats? All you need are black socks, hot glue, crafting foam, and a few more supplies to craft your own.

November
6

The holiday season is upon us, and if you're hosting this year, you know how stressful it can be to keep your home spic and span for two whole months. With family and friends visiting non-stop for holiday parties and dinners, it's easy to get overwhelmed. That's why we created our holiday home-cleaning checklist for you. We go room-by-room, highlighting critical areas to focus on and forgotten spaces that could use a good dusting down. In fact, we're confident this is the last holiday home-cleaning checklist you'll ever need. But before we start our room-by-room list, here are some general tips to keep in mind as you go.

Declutter

We're a bit of a broken record when it comes to decluttering on this blog, but it's for good reason. Decluttering is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to keep a space looking clean, open, and sharp. Don't waste valuable scrubbing time moving wallets and mail; keep that stuff where it belongs!

Use the Right Tools for the Job

Just because it says all-purpose on the label doesn't mean you should use it on everything in your house. Find the right cleaner for the surfaces you're working on and stick with that. It's worth the marginal extra effort.

Set the Mood

Make people want to be in your house this holiday season. Light some seasonal candles, plug in your favorite air freshener, and set some nice mood lighting to create a welcoming space.

Show the Forgotten Nooks & Crannies Some Love

When's the last time you wiped down your baseboards? Or polished the smudges off your doorknobs? Don't overlook the little things like light switches, windowsills, and doorframes.

Don't Put it Off

Finally, the most important general tip is the last one you want to hear: don't wait until the last minute to clean! The only things procrastinating will get you are more stress and a less clean house. Now, on to the checklist!

Living Room

  • Wipe down coffee table, accent tables, etc.
  • Dust ceiling fans
  • Vacuum carpet, sweep & mop hard floors
  • Clean any windows and windowsills
  • Dust blinds and/or vacuum curtains with vacuum hose
  • Move furniture and clean underneath
  • Tidy up furniture – neatly arrange pillows or blankets, covers, etc.
  • Dust and wipe down entertainment center if applicable
  • Wipe down lamps and other light sources
  • Clean baseboards

Entryway

  • Sweep debris from outdoor entryway
  • Vacuum, sweep, and mop indoor entryway
  • Move any shoes or coats here to a closet or other storage space
  • Wipe down doorknob and locks
  • Wipe down doorframe
  • Clean any windows and windowsills
  • Clean baseboards

Kitchen

  • Wipe down and disinfect all surfaces
  • Handwash or use the dishwasher to clean any dirty dishes
  • Put all clean dishes away – best to start all holiday gatherings with clean dishes
  • Clean any special occasion dishes and silverware you plan to use – it's probably been awhile since they were last used
  • Wipe down appliances – get rid of fingerprints and spills
  • Clean any windows and windowsills
  • Clear out the fridge to get rid of bad odors and make room for holiday food
  • Mop the floor
  • Remove and wipe down stovetop coils (if you have them)
  • Get rid of garbage disposal odors
  • Clean any baseboards

Bedrooms

  • Wash all bedding, especially if your guests are using it
  • Wipe down tops and sides of all furniture
  • Clean any windows and windowsills
  • Dust ceiling fans
  • Vacuum carpet and/or mop hard floors
  • Clean baseboards
  • Wipe down light switches and doorknobs
  • Wipe down doorframes

Bathrooms

  • Deep clean tub/shower, sink, and toilet
  • Clean all around toilet, including front and sides of bowl and base
  • Clean shower walls
  • Wipe down shower heads, tub faucets, and sink faucets
  • Clean shower door
  • Clean mirrors, windows, and windowsills
  • Wipe down baseboards
  • Organize countertop – don't leave all your toiletries lying around
  • Mop the floor
December
5

Is there anything that says Christmas quite like getting the family dressed up and paying a visit to jolly old St. Nick? We don't think so, which is why we've compiled this list of where to see Santa Claus in Jacksonville and St. Augustine. Whether it's a classic photo op in the mall or breakfast with Santa at a local restaurant, there are plenty of ways to make Christmas memories this December.

Where to see Santa in Jacksonville

11/2-12/24: Photos with Santa at the Avenues Mall

Time to put the finishing touches on those Christmas lists and get your best sweater on, because Santa has his sleigh parked at the Avenues Mall from now until Christmas Eve. Head here to check his schedule and reserve your time!

12/15-12/16: Seven Bridges Breakfast with Santa

Head to Seven Bridges in Jacksonville and grab breakfast with Santa! In addition to a tasty meal, kids get a gift bag of goodies and a personal visit with Santa. Professional photo services will also be available.

12/15: Embassy Suites Jacksonville Breakfast with Santa

From 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., Santa will be at the Embassy Suites in the Southside/Mandarin area of Jacksonville. In addition to enjoying a tasty breakfast buffet, you can bring Toys for Tots donations – and children 12 and under who donate a new, unwrapped toy get in for free.

11/10-12/24: Photos with Santa at the St. Johns Town Center

Santa will be waiting between Tory Burch and Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics. Don't miss your chance to meet the big guy!

Select Dates in December: Santa at WinterFEST

Every year, fun park Adventure Landing transforms into WinterFEST, a frosty destination with ice skating and a 130-foot ice slide. And on select dates throughout December, Santa himself will be onsite! Check here to see when Santa is at the park and plan your trip to WinterFEST.

12/3-12/21: Photos with Santa at the Orange Park Mall

Santa's set up shop at the Orange Park Mall in front of JCPenney through December 21. Reserve your spot here and ensure you don't miss out on your chance to give Santa your Christmas list in person!

12/1-12/29: Santa Claus in the Courtyard, Beaches Town Center

Who says Santa doesn't like the beach? You'll find him at the Beaches Town Center every Saturday before Christmas from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where to see Santa in St. Augustine

12/8-12/23: Conch House Breakfast with Santa

Arts and crafts, delicious breakfast buffet, and a visit with Santa – this is what you'll get at Conch House's Breakfast with Santa event. Call them at (904) 829-8646 to reserve your time. Tables will fill up fast!

11/23-12/23: Santa at the St. Augustine Outlets

Head to the food court at the St. Augustine Outlets for a free visit with Santa. Make a donation to the local organizations acting as Santa's helpful elves and you might even find a spot on the nice list!

October
17

Halloween is almost among us, which means time is running out to get your spook on. If you aren't in the scary spirit yet, don't fret! There are still a few frightful attractions in Jacksonville that will fill you with fear just in time for All Hallows' Eve.

Haunt Nights at Adventure Landing Beaches - 1944 Beach Blvd. Thursdays-Sundays through Halloween

Adventure Landing's annual Haunt Nights boasts four chilling haunted houses for intrepid explorers to investigate, including an ancient mental asylum and a research facility that's overrun with zombies. If you need to shake off some of the fear, there's even a ticket package that includes a go-kart race or a game of mini-golf. Tickets can be purchased here.\

The Old Spanish Trail Westside – 13535 West Beaver St. Thursday - Sunday Nights through October 28

Take a trip out to The Old Spanish Trail for a journey into madness you won't soon forget. This sprawling two acre trail features three distinct themes for you to creep through. At the center of it all is a haunted building from the 18th century. Tickets can be purchased at the gate or online here.

Warehouse 31 Unleashed Southside - 11262 Beach Blvd. Thursday-Sunday through November 3; Additional dates include 10/29, 10/30, & 10/31

Face off against deranged clowns in a twisted circus or investigate a formerly popular meat factory that was mysteriously shut down over night more than a hundred years ago. These are only two of the four terrifying haunted houses available for brave visitors willing to face their fears at Warehouse 31 Unleashed. If you think you've got what it takes to make it through each horrifying setting, grab your ticket here.

The Haunted Brewery Northside - 111 Busch Drive October 19, 20, 26, & 27

Jacksonville's Anheuser-Busch brewery has been overrun by all manner of foul creatures that go bump in the night! Gather up your squad and lead the hunt against the zombie horde that's descended upon the brewery. Once you've done some damage to the zombies, head to the haunted putt 'n crawl or the Creepy Clown CarnEVIL for some relaxation. For more details on these attractions and more, head here  

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