Perfect Way to Spend an Afternoon

Saint Johns Town Center in Jacksonville

by Trish Utter

Executive Chef Partner Paula Cammuso and Service Manager Jonathan Errico

I love little road trips, and often go over to St. Johns Town Center in Jacksonville. The drive takes about an hour and a half from Gainesville. This is one of the very best planned, luxury, open-air, shopping areas I have been to. It opened in 2005 and has over one hundred stores, and many restaurants and they recently added a Food Truck area. The Town Center is beautifully landscaped and is a wonderful place to spend a relaxing afternoon. You can park your car and leave it – with lots of convenient parking, it eliminates the stress of driving around for hours looking for a spot, and you park right where the shops are!

Handmade, Sparkling
Raspberry Lemonade

Bring your dog…yes, bring Fido, as you find most of the stores are pet-friendly and have water bowls outside. Some even offer dog treats. There is a small dog park, and as you stroll, you will also find lots of small areas to sit in the shade and relax.

One of Seasons 52 famous
Roasted Mushroom flat breads

My daughter, Brooke, and I started off with lunch at Season 52. We sat at a comfortable, plush booth. Service Manager, Jonathan Errico took the time to give us background on the restaurant and explain the menu. 52 started sixteen years ago in Orlando, and now has many locations. It offers separate vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free and glute-free menus. 52 is well known for their light and crispy flat breads. One of our favorites is the Braised Short Rib & Cheddar. It just bursts with flavor and texture. Another signature item is their Organic Sunshine Martini. The vodka is infused with fresh oranges for a week. You really get two drinks for the price of one, as they leave the martini shaker at the table. Brooke loved the Mint Lemonade that is made in-house with agave, lemon and mint chiffonade.

Everything at 52 is only made with the top ingredients. Executive Chef Partner, Paula Cammuso has been with 52 for six years. It is great to see a woman in a male-dominated trade. Chef Cammuso told us that our Cedar Plank-Roasted Salmon entrée (that my daughter and I spilt) is also their most popular. Errico told us that at the end of every night, the restaurant second harvests the leftover food and donates it to the Salvation Army. What a great idea. We had to try one of their mini desserts, as they won the Best American Restaurant Association Award for Small Innovated Desserts. We ended with a cup of cappuccino….heaven.

I always have to stop by Anthropology. This women’s clothing store has trendy, yet comfortable clothing. They also carry items for the home. Daphne has been in here so much that she drags me in for their dog biscuits that the staff keep behind the counter. A great way to get customers when your dog drags you in…lol!

Pottery Barn is a must on my list of stops in St Johns. I would love to have a house full of their well-designed, high quality home furnishings. I have bought beautiful linens and china from here. As always, I love looking at their sale items.

Who doesn’t love Tiffany’s? I stop in here so much that the staff actually know me. Over the years, Ron, the sales assistant, has always helped me pick out something fantastic for my daughter. I have found many little items that make memorable gifts with his help. One day, when I went in, Ron was thrilled to tell me about the dog leash and collar that had just come out. Daphne is now the proud owner of it…my dog is better dressed than me!

Brooke loves…LOVES, Urban Outfitters. We have spent hours in there. The trendy store has great quality clothing and novelty items. Although pricy, it always seems to have a huge sale section.

Brooke’s other stop is to Lululemon, a Canadian company that specializes in athletic/yoga clothing, which has become a trendy place for men and women to shop for comfortable living clothing. While we were there, we noticed a lot of people with their dogs hanging out on the bench by the door, where staff were coming out with dog bowls of fresh water. So thoughtful.

We both enjoy exploring items in Nordstrom. I have found some unusual items here and love their sales racks. Yes, I always make a point of visiting sale areas in stores, you never know what you might find. Brooke and I also like playing in their cosmetics area. Lots of knowledgeable staff to help you try different items, and they often have samples. There was a special sampling of Creed, a perfume from England that has become very trendy with a free sample of a chocolate truffle. Nordstrom always seems to have some promotion going on, which makes it exciting to visit.

Go explore this area. St. Johns is adding new stores and restaurants all the time. This is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. It is only ten minutes to Ponte Vedra and Jacksonville Beach, and such an easy drive from the Gainesville area. See you there!