The wonders of Santa Rosa County will be showcased starting this weekend with the Beaches to Woodlands Festival.
During the next five weekends there will be numerous special events across Santa Rosa County with some special events planned all month long as well.
The ninth annual event offers something for everyone.
“The joy of fall and this tour is the opportunity we all get to enjoy fabulous, wholesome events in our own backyard,” said tour coordinator, Karen Harrell. “The tour is comparable to an extended fall festival with about 40 events and venues that touch all four corners of Santa Rosa County.”
Sponsored by the Tourist Development Council, the self-guided Beaches to Woodlands Tour is designed to showcase the many attractions and diversity of the area during a key shoulder season. Most of the events are free or low-cost, tied to an area fundraising effort and family friendly.
“After the first weekend in August, tourism numbers drop dramatically in the region,” Harrell said. “Once the children are settled back in school, folks start looking for a long weekend opportunity to take a mini-vacation before the holidays set in.”
Santa Rosa County offers a diverse range of lodging options from traditional hotels to luxury beach rentals, wooded cabins, RV parks and primitive camping and best of all — offseason rates are among the lowest of the year.
This weekend's events will include the Milton Heritage Tour and the Artfest.
The Milton Heritage Tour is new to the festival and is a progressive bus tour of Milton’s Historic Sites with expert tour guides to share the rich history of the area. Stops include the Acardia Mill Archeological Site, West Florida Railroad Museum, Downtown
Milton Historic District and the Imogene Theater and Bagdad Village Preservation Museum. The cost is $20 which includes transportation and a boxed lunch. Advance reservations required. Details: 850-626-3084, ext. 102.
The Artfest is an event hotsted by the Santa Rosa Arts Association Inc. on Sept. 29 from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. at the Santa Rosa County Auditorium. Artfest will feature original art and crafts by gulf coast artists. There will be door prizes, music, and live demonstrations throughout the day. Hot food and baked goods will also be available.
The tour itself has been a big draw for some, especially when it involves residents from the south end of Santa Rosa County
“What we’ve found is people who may not travel to north Santa Rosa County any other time of year will make several trips to visit events like the Corn Maze, Holland Farms and the Haystackular because their kids have so much fun and they enjoy the experience too,” Harrell said. “And this year we have the two additional farm events for even more fun. Who doesn’t like to see their kids playing outside in the fresh air versus sitting inside in front of the television or a computer?”
The corn maze design this year helps support breast cancer awareness with the theme “Give Cancer the Boot” with Oct. 13 designated as Survivor Day. Also, “Tuffy,” a quarterhorse used regionally to help combat bullying will be available to ride along with other horses from the Hayes Ranch.
Events planned for the month long tour include:
Adventures Unlimited Fall Foliage Zipline Tours, Canoeing, Ropes Course, Camping and Kayaking - Fall is a great time to enjoy the many natural attractions at Adventures Unlimited located just north of Milton, Fla., in the Blackwater River State Forest. October is a great month to absorb the changing colors through a Fall Foliage Zipline Tour. Weekend stays at the resort’s camping sites or wooded cabins are available along with the ropes challenge course, canoeing and kayaking majestic Coldwater Creek. Details: (850) 623-6197 or (800) 239-6864 or www.adventuresunlimited.com.
Arcadia Mill “Secrets of Santa Rosa Archeology & History in Your Own Backyard” Saturdays in October, 11 a.m. Arcadia Mill Archaeological Site, 5709 Mill Pond Lane, Milton, Fla. Arcadia Mill is Florida’s largest antebellum industrial complex. The weekend lecture series events is presented by the University of West Florida, the Florida Public Archeology Network, West Florida Historic Preservation, Inc., and Arcadia Mill. The schedule: Oct. 6, Dr. Brian Rucker, Pensacola State College “Arcadia: Its Significance in West Florida and the Old South”; Oct. 13 – Lindsey Cochran, UWF Archeology Student “High-Tech Archeology at Arcadia Mill’s Simpson Lot”; Oct. 20 – Marisa Foster, UWF Archeology Grad Student “Paradox on the Blackwater: Preliminary Investigations of the Swingbridge Wreck Site” and Oct. 27 - Dr. Richard Lewis, Bagdad Village Preservation Association “Slavery and Women in America.”Details: (850) 626-3084 or www.historicpensacola.org/arcadia.cfm.
Avalon Landing RV Park Free Saltwater Fishing - Sundays in October, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. 2444 Avalon Blvd., Milton, Fla. Just south of I-10. The park provides loaner fishing poles and tackle for visitors to explore the inlets and marshes at the resort. Introduces and familiarizes locals and visitors to the unique saltwater fishing and recreational opportunities available on Santa Rosa County’s many saltwater inlets and estuaries, cultivating a love for our local fishing, serene waterways and outdoor experience. Also offers special Beaches to Woodlands RV rates in October. Details: (850) 995-5898 or www.avalonlandingrvpark.com.
Birding Gulf Breeze Zoo – 5701 Gulf Breeze Pkwy., Gulf Breeze, Fla. Explore the Gulf Breeze Zoo’s Walk-in Aviary and native bird observation area. Enrichment programs and meet-and-greet events scheduled throughout the month. Details: (850) 932-2229 or www.gulfbreezezoo.org.
Dixon Primary Haystackular - S.S. Dixon Primary School P.E. Field, 4560 Hwy. 90, Pace, Fla. Sept.28- Oct. 27. Fridays 4 to 9 p.m, Saturdays noon to 9 p.m. and Sundays the first four weekends in October noon to 6 p.m. Parents and teachers combine to produce one of the largest hay mazes in the region. Activities also include a rope slide, haybale slide, hay ride, corn crawl and more. Refreshments are available. And, just in time for Halloween, the hay maze transitions into the Spooktackular for children and adults over age 13. The cost is $5 per person or $3 for seniors or children under age 3. Caramel apples and candy apples will be sold with proceeds to be donated to the Make a Wish Foundation of Northwest Florida. Details: 850-995-3660 or www.dixonprimarypto.com.
Florida Trails Association Hikes - throughout the month of October. Hikers of all skill levels are invited to join adventures through some of Northwest Florida’s most beautiful terrain. Hikes in October include Oct.7, Bear Lake, Munson, Fla.; Oct.20 – Juana’s Navarre Beach, Fla.’Oct. 21 – Blackwater Heritage Trail, Milton, Fla. And Oct. 21. For information on the Florida Trails Association’s monthly events, (850) 725-4408 or www.meetup.com/ftawesterngate/
Gulf Islands National Seashore, Naval Live Oaks Visitor Center - 1801 Gulf Breeze Parkway, Gulf Breeze, Fla. Ongoing programs all month-long. Be sure to stop by and pick up a Beaches to Woodlands program and map. Details: (850) 934-2600 or www.nps.gov/guis
Navarre Beach Pier, Kid’s Fish Free All Month! 8579 Gulf Blvd., Navarre Beach, Fla. October is the perfect month to get around to “taking a kid fishing!” All month kids under age 12 fish free. The Navarre Beach Pier is the longest on the Gulf of Mexico at 1545 feet. The fishing pier is one of the most popular locations on Navarre Beach. The pier offers fishing for a daily admission or avid fisherman can purchase an annual pass.You can also grab lunch or dinner Bite at the Beach, which is located on the pier and frequently features live local music. Details: (850) 936-1794 or www.fishnavarre.com.
Santa Rosa County History Museum – 5234 Willing Street, Downtown Milton, Fla. Saturdays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Explore Santa Rosa County’s rich history and the ongoing effort by area volunteers to preserve and protect area treasures including the Imogene Theater. Details: (850) 623-9866 or www.santarosahistoricalsociety.com
Holland Farms Tours , Pumpkin Patch and Hay Rides - Homer Holland Rd., Milton, Fla. Open 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sunday. The region is known for peanuts and Holland Farms is one of the biggest suppliers year-round. The Pumpkin Patch and Hay Rides are $5 each or $8 for both which includes a kiddie hay bale maze, petting zoo, double hill slide, corn box and. Details: BJ Holland, (850) 675-6876 or www.hollandfarmsonline.com.
Sweet Season Farms Corn Maze 2260 Horn Rd., Milton, Fla.. Sat. - 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sun. 1 to 5 p.m. and Fridays only in Oct., 6-10 p.m. This agritourism event gives families the opportunity to enjoy a day on a working Santa Rosa County Farm. Visitors can spend time navigating their way through a 5-acre corn maze, playing on the farm themed playground, enjoying hayrides, cow train rides, firing our corn cannon or have a family picnic at designated areas on the farm. Fun special events planned and themed days including Oct.6 “Pink on the Farm Day” sponsored by Cat Country 98.7. Visitors are encouraged to wear pink and bring a canned good for Manna Food Bank and get $1 off admission. Other special promotions include Oct. 13 Cancer Survivor Day (free gift for survivors); Oct. 20 – Scout Day (free patch) and Oct. 27 the 4th Annual Trick or Treat at the Maze and Costume Contest. Details: Trent or Sharon Mathews (850) 675-3573 or www.sweetseasonfarms.com.
Family Fun on the Farm - Whispering Pines Christmas Tree Farms – 1603 Penton, Hwy. 89 North Penton Road, Allentown Community, Milton, Fla. 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. The event features “Fresh from Florida” products on sale; cow calling contest at 4 p.m. each Saturday and Sunday; farm animals on display and a playground area with campfire will feature a campfire with volunteer musicians “picking, grinning and singing” with an Wii Outdoor Video Screen. There will also be hay rides and a public educational demonstration of planting baby trees, trimming the trees and how trees are good for the environment. A cartoon cutout for taking Christmas Card photos and a ” Wacky Playhouse.” Haunted hay rides through haunted woods are offered October 19, 20, 21, 27, 28 and 31. Details: 850-449-4316 or www.floridachristmastree.com.