The first in the Kate on Vacation novellas is set in St. Augustine, Florida, where Kate’s parents live in a retirement condo community on the beach. Kate and her family are there to celebrate Christmas, but they find themselves entangled in a mess when one of the O’Donnells’ friends mysteriously disappears.

Betwixt and between their efforts to help his wife find him, they visit many of the sights in St. Augustine. As Kate says, nobody but nobody does Christmas quite like St. Augustine!

But first let me introduce you to the gorgeous Spanish architecture…

     The Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine — the first Catholic parish in America

(see more about the cathedral here)

 Flagler College (once the Ponce de Leon Hotel– a resort frequented by the rich and famous)

The Castillo de San Marcos

This fort took the Spaniards 23 years to build (1672-1695).   It is made of coquina, a type of soft limestone made from seashells and coral. Not very formidable building material for a fort, you might think, but cannonballs tended to partially penetrate the walls and stick there, rather than shattering the stone.  (see more about the fort here)


Visitors can see the old city from an open-air tram or take a leisurely horse and buggy ride around the historic district.

A favorite stop is the shopping district on St. George Street. One of the sights along this pedestrian-only street is the oldest wooden schoolhouse in the U.S.

At Christmas time, every lamp post and palm tree becomes a decoration. Three million lights are used to illuminate the city.

The most gorgeous decorations are to be found in the center of the historic district, in the Plaza de la Constitucion.




And as the sun sets and the lights come on, the magic begins…



Even the horse-drawn carriages are lit up!

The Casablanca Inn (that plays a special role for Kate and Skip in Unsaintly Season in St. Augustine)

Statue of Ponce de Leon

Throughout the month of December, St. Augustine has various events, including the Grande Illumination (a parade with a drum and fife corps and people dressed in 1700s period costumes), caroling in the Plaza and a Boat Parade of decorated pleasure boats on Mantanzas Bay. To see pictures and videos of the Nights of Lights events go here.