Every Halloween weekend, thousands of football fans descend on the Golden Isles for the anticipated brawl between the University of Georgia Bulldogs and University of Florida Gators. This match-up has been going on since 1915 and has been hosted in Jacksonville, Florida since 1933. Being in such close proximity to Jacksonville, many UGA fans, alums, and students congregate in St. Simons Island for the festivities. UGA’s fall break coincides with this event causing a circus-like caravan of antsy co-eds sitting in traffic along Hwy 15 heading for the coast after classes starting on Wednesday.
I am a proud UGA alum, but football has never really been my thing. I enjoy socializing and going to parties but if the bulldogs lose…it’s not gonna ruin my day (unlike some). If you find yourself in this boat and want to brave the Golden Isles for a mini beach vacay- don’t worry- there is plenty to do in SSI for those not as concerned with the game’s outcome. Here’s my guide to GA/FL weekend in St. Simons Island!
Coffee: If you are gonna make it through this weekend, you’re gonna need a lot of coffee! Morning, afternoon, or at night Wake Up Coffee in Redfern Village is my go-to. Lots of yummy baked goods, fair trade coffee, teas, and unique gift items from around the world. I’ve found several tote bags here perfect for the beach.
Staying near the Village? Palm Coast Coffee is on the main drag with all your coffee favorites and yummy organic teas. Grab a cup and a seat on the porch…great for people watching.
Food: If you have ever been to SSI, then you know the majority of your vacay revolves around eating. For you newbies- prepare to gorge.
Breakfast: Cafe Frederica, hands down has the best breakfast on the Island. You can cure any hangover here or fuel up for a long day of shopping. My go to is a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich with grapefruit. Feeling sweet? Go for the blueberry pancakes or the cinnamon roll (it’s the bomb).
Favorite Casual spots: Gnat’s Landing, Bubba Garcias, Southern Soul, and Brogens. Good for lunch or dinner, these spots serve up tasty items like the Fried Oysters Bowl- signature crunchy cole slaw topped with fried oysters (Gnat’s), Fried Jalapenos with goat cheese (Bubba’s), Smoked Chicken Salad (Southern Soul), and a really great burger (Brogens).
A Little Swanky: Regardless of the cuisine served, most SSI restaurants are accustomed the”Island Style” dress of visitors and locals alike. This next group of establishments are on the higher end but no need for coat and tie.
No trip to SSI is complete without visiting Delaney’s Bar and Bistro. Open since 1994, Delaneys offers a beautiful and intimate dining experience serving house specialties like grilled margaret duck breast and charred foie gras. In recent years, with the help of my fabulous interior designer mom, Delaney’s has been remodeled to include a bar with seating to create a fun and casual atmosphere.
Delaney’s offers an extensive wine list and bartender Jay Hyde serves up your cocktail favorites. This room is a little more lively and offers a rotating tapas menu with unique items for those in the mood to try several dishes. My favorite dish is the burger sliders- the preparation is always different and they are baked inside a puff pastry! After dinner, skipping dessert is not an option. Choices vary by season but are always delightful. If they have the chocolate bourbon pecan pie it is an absolute must or the white chocolate cheesecake…both are killer. Other high end dining options are Halyards, Tramici, and Coastal Kitchen.
Now that we’ve covered food- onto the shopping!
Apparel: The Tibi outlet is usually one of my first stops. During GA/FL weekend they have a HUGE sale and stay open throughout the weekend making it convenient for visitors and locals to come shop. The designer, Amy Smilovic, is a fellow UGA alum and grew up in St. Simons. She was kind enough to bless us with the Tibi Outlet located in Redfern Village. The prices are great and they often feature runway samples!
Other apparel shops in Redfern Village: Midnight Blue- great casual wear with brands like Tresics and Hard Tail. They have fun and affordable accessories too!
Two Friends is another eclectic boutique with an selection of clothing and accessories. I always find the perfect boots for fall here.
Beaches: Every now and then you and your wallet might get tired from all that shopping; that’s when I head to the beach. My fav SSI beach is Gould’s Inlet on East Beach…less crowded then by the coast guard station. This weekend you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere secluded but this is a great spot. If you want try and find a quiet spot, try Jekyll Island or Sea Island. Boneyard Beach on Jekyll is beautiful to walk and the stretch on Sea Island is to the right of the jetty is perfect for walking or catching some rays.
To watch the game or not: Like I said before, watching the game is not of the utmost importance to me. I tend to float from place to place visiting friends and family while the two teams duke it out. However, I do enjoy the food accompaniments to the football games…snacks and beer. At my family’s restaurant, Gnat’s Landing, they serve up steamed oysters and cajun boiled peanuts during all Georgia games so I always make an appearance there to refuel and mingle. Corona and boiled peanuts make the perfect afternoon pick me up. There are lots of great places to watch the game but this is where I usually make a stop.
Want a more low key option without being at home? Head to Viola’s Market and stock up on Callie’s Pimento Cheese, Phickles, and other goodies found in their pantry and take a seat on their back patio and enjoy a view of the marsh.
Nightlife in Redfern: There are countless watering holes in St. Simons so it’s difficult to choose where to spend your nights this weekend. If you want to see some live music I would head to Gnat’s Landing. Starting on Thursday night of GA/FL week, the patio serves as an excellent venue with local and traveling bands entertaining throughout the weekend. The crowds are usually manageable- adding an extra bar outside helps limit waiting for beverages. Bubba’s Upstairs Bar is fun too with DJs and bands throughout the weekend. When busy, the bar gets packed so if you don’t like being close to your neighbors, then try Bubba’s Up another time.
Nightlife in The Village: Brogens’ bar in the village is an island institution but also extremely crowded during GA/FL weekend. For a more mellow spot, check out the pub at the Village Inn. This restored 1930s beach house turned B&B is also home to the Village Pub. This bar has a beautiful patio, yummy snack mix and friendly bartenders.
Whether or not you care about football, this is an eventful and exciting weekend to be in St. Simons Island! Enjoy!