I have been visiting Seaside, Florida for the past seven years. The iconic white sand and emerald waters are expected, but it's the unexpected that is the charm and lure of Seaside. The winter of 2017 was no different.
My first encounter was discovering the new beach walkover behind Bud & Alley’s (to learn more about this new addition to Seaside’s iconic Bud & Alley's click here) had transformed into an outdoor sculpture garden with a gulf view. A pop-up art installation, common to stumble upon on city streets, was now on the sandy sides of the beachwalk in Seaside, Florida. New York sculptor, Judith Modrak, an artist in residence with Seaside’s Escape to Create was on-site interpreting her project, “Thought Storm.” Using a painted plaster cast, she created a series of sculptures inspired by the area’s live oaks and rare sand dunes. Vacationers from all over the country walking by congregated around these whimsical creatures in the afterglow of the sunset. I was not expecting to share the end of my day with new friends and sculptures on the beach, but that’s Seaside. Click here to learn more about Escape to Create.
Since 2008, proprietors Jenifer Kuntz and Arix Zalace have been specializing in farm-fresh juices, salads, protein shakes and more from a stylish airstream café on the beach. Don’t be surprised if you see someone taking a dip in the gulf while sipping juice from a chilled coconut or taking a wheatgrass shot at Seaside's local juice bar, Raw and Juicy (visit www.rawandjuicylife.com for more).
According to Arix: “When the juice bar first started nine years ago many people considered the Southeast “behind the times” when it comes to health conscious eating and lifestyles.”
He goes on, “I am always surprised how many people will call us before they decide to visit. Many have very specific diets and want to make sure they have a place to eat out while on vacation. It is always enjoyable for me personally to watch people discover Raw and Juicy. Back home there would be multiple juice bars to choose from, but here it is like finding an oasis in the middle of a desert.”
And for those wheatgrass imbibers, Jenifer adds, “We love being able to offer fresh wheatgrass to our customers in Seaside.” This begs the question from some of us, what exactly is wheatgrass? Jenifer reassures me this is a common question. "Wheatgrass is pressed from the first green leaves sprouting from wheat seed. The juice is high in chlorophyll, oxygen, vitamins and minerals that is detoxifying and possesses energizing properties to catalyze and support our bodily functions. Definitely a boon to our immune system, plus 2 oz. of wheatgrass is equivalent to the vitamins and minerals found in 5 lbs. of produce.”
As for its taste, Jenifer admits,“The grass has a strong rich flavor that is not always agreeable. But Raw and Juicy serves wheat grass by the shot with a lemon wedge to ease the strong flavor, or we blend it into a cooler.
RAW AND JUICY’S APPLEGRASS COOLER
1 ounce Wheatgrass
1 teaspoon Ginger
Blend together and enjoy!
It’s not uncommon to hear laughter while on vacation, but around 4 pm daily, you can find an abundance of it at The Great Southern Cafe in Seaside. This laugher beckoned me across the square one afternoon and I joined a group of cheerful folk enjoying happy hour at Great Southern. Located in the heart of Seaside, Chef Jim Shirley has created a lively, inviting outdoor atmosphere and is the place to find fresh oysters, guava mojitos, local beers, and more, all at great happy hour prices. A neighborhood bar where everyone is welcomed in like an old friend, it didn’t take long and I felt like a local as well. Find out more about this favorite local spot at - www.thegreatsoutherncafe.com.
This carefree spirit resonates around Seaside’s Central Square and Amphitheater. With plenty of great shopping (some of my favorites areSundog Books and Central Square Records) and outdoor seating to enjoy your coffee or ice-cream, the Square is a great place for watching people or children playing on the green. However, if you need to escape some of the vacation madness, I have the perfect spot for you - Ruskin Place. Located behind the square, Ruskin Place is a quiet park surrounded by boutiques, art galleries featuring local and regional artisans, and most importantly - winding, twisted oak trees line the entire park. I found a bench under the shade, quiet enough to decompress and read that perfect book I had saved for vacation.
It was also easy to strike up a conversation with a local “Ruskinite” and he shared a secret:
“The north side of the plaza is called “Fairy Forest” and if look up you may spy a fairy or two peeking out from one of their hidden perches.” Coming from a Norwegian community, this story resonated with me as you can find “nisses” (a mythical Scandinavian gnome) hanging out in doorframes and windows of homes around town. I enjoyed looking up occasionally from my book to investigate this new Fairy Forest away from home. Click here to learn more about Ruskin Place in Seaside, Florida.
As often happens, the unknowns turn into the best vacation memories. And for those that are lucky enough to reside in Seaside full-time, it is a way of life. For the winter of 2017, my favorite times included sculptures, art, wheatgrass shots, guava mojitos, and lazy afternoons in a “Fairy Forest”. So as you plan your next visit or move to the beach, just think what Seaside surprises could be in store for you.