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!
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. Two words: Beach Tote
Wake Up Coffee, Photo: Lucy Thompson
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.
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). I’ve been hearing lots of great things about Del Sur Bakery that opened up shop in recent years so I’ll have to stop by sometime over the holidays.
Casual spots: Gnat’s Landing, Bubba Garcias, Southern Soul, and Indigo Coastal Shanty (Brunswick, GA). Good for lunch or dinner, these island favorites serve up tasty items like the Fried Oysters (Gnat’s), Jerk Shrimp Taco Salad (Bubba’s), Pulled Pork (Southern Soul), and a pimento cheese burger (Indigo Coastal Shanty).
Fine dining: Regardless of the cuisine served, most SSI restaurants are accustomed the”Island Style” dress of visitors and locals alike. Delaney’s Bistro & Bar is a must when in St. Simons. If you don’t make it this weekend, you’ll need to make another trip asap. Their entire menu is divine but if you plan on going out opt for the the tapas menu, featuring dishes like lamb pops (pictured above) and burger sliders. 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 spots I love are Halyards, Tramici, and Coastal Kitchen.
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 snacks that go along with football. If I were there this year, I’d be ordering hot wings at Bubba Garcias with an ice cold beer. Maybe some boiled peanuts too.
If you’re watching the game at home, think ahead and order BBQ to go from Southern Soul. You can also stock up on gourmet goodies at the Sea Island Market.
Shopping – Prepare Your Wallet for Monster Sales
This weekend is usually host to a million sidewalk/tent sales because of the influx of visitors. Don’t be dissuaded by the crowds though, most of the sales are absolutely worth waiting in line for a dressing room.
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!
Wild Souls in Redfern Village is a new shop that has a great selection of affordable boho style apparel and accessories. I haven’t visited yet but you can shop their website. I snagged this LBD (below) recently and was perfect for my trip to the San Francisco last week.
Dress: Wild Souls // Boots: Two Friends
GoGo: stunning jewelry inspired by the coast
Nancy: designer duds, vintage home decor, and a delicious restaurant all in one.
Viola’s Market: one of my all time favorite shops with antiques, jewelry, and accessories. This is my go-to shop for gifts.
Two Friends: cute accessories! I always find the best shoes here.
Petite Maison always has the coolest up and coming artists featured as well as unique home decor and funky jewels
Every now and then you and your wallet might get tired from all that shopping; if that happens then head to the beach. You’ll be hard pressed to avoid the craziness on the St. Simons Island beaches. If you’re wanting more peace and quiet on your beach walk, I’d head to Sea Island or Jekyll Island’s Boneyard Beach.
Sea Island, Photo: Ryan Hines
Remember this is a busy weekend in St. Simons so if you don’t like being close to your neighbors, then you might think about skipping the late night scene. But if you’re brave… For craft beer check out Bubbas Up (above Bubba Garcias). They usually have several Georgia offerings like Creature Comforts (Athens) and Wild Heaven (Atlanta) on tap and a good bottle/can list. Grab a seat on the porch for a view of Redfern and some stellar people watching. If you’re interested in live music check out Gnat’s Landing late night. Murphy’s Tavern is a cool dive bar in the Village that will be jam packed.
For a more mellow lounge, check out the Village Pub at the Village Inn. This restored 1930s beach house turned B&B has a small bar with a beautiful patio, yummy snack mix and friendly bartenders.
Whether or not you care about football, this is a fun weekend to be in St. Simons Island! Enjoy!