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September
19

The Retiree's Guide to Moving to Florida

Florida Retiree

Florida has become one of the most popular places for people to retire. This state has a lot to offer to people of all ages, but retirees, in particular, enjoy the year-round warm weather and planned communities. Our real estate agents have helped many clients find their dream home in Florida. Here are some tips and tricks they've picked up along the way. 

  • Consider Golf Communities
    Golf communities are not for everyone. However, they are a popular option for retirees moving to Florida. In communities like these, you not only have easy access to a golf course but also to recreational centers and community activities.

    These communities can make life social and enjoyable. On the other hand, if you'd like a more secluded spot with less socialization, you may want to avoid these planned communities. When working with one of our agents, be sure to mention if this type of community interests you! 

  • Look Into Tax Differences
    One reason why Florida is so great for retirement has to do with the taxes. Florida does not have any state income tax. They do not tax retirement income or Social Security benefits. So, your money will go further in Florida than in most other states. Take these tax differences into account when planning your budget and browsing properties. You may be able to afford "more house" in Florida.

  • Move Close to a Beach Town
    Florida's beaches are some of the most beautiful in the country. If you love the beach, you may want to move into a beachside town like Daytona Beach. However, you can often find plenty of affordable houses a mile or two in from the beach. In towns like these, you get a beachy feel, and the beach is just a short drive away, but you won't be as surrounded by tourists.

  • Take Advantage of Good Healthcare
    When deciding where in Florida to move, look into the medical practitioners in the immediate area. Florida has some of the best geriatric specialists, and they offer excellent care for older adults. Plan on transferring to a primary care physician and other doctors in Florida as soon as you move.

  • Consider Airport Proximity
    When you move to Florida, your family members are going to want to plan a visit! They'll have an easier time if you move into a community a reasonable distance from an airport. In the areas surrounding Orlando, Sarasota, and Tampa, there are plenty of retirement communities within 20 minutes or so of the airport. At that distance, you can easily pick up and drop off visitors.

  • Look Into Smaller Cities
    While many people retire to the larger areas of Florida, there are plenty of other lovely Florida cities to consider. Jacksonville is one option. Its population is growing, but it's still a bit quieter. There are several scenic golf courses overlooking the ocean and river, and the white sand beaches are stunning.

    Another option for those who prefer a quieter setting is New Smyrna Beach. It represents a slow, beachy lifestyle, but there are still plenty of wonderful restaurants and smaller businesses to enjoy.

Moving to Florida is certainly a wise choice if you want to spend time in a warmer climate near lovely beaches and golf courses. Contact us to learn more about our real estate services. We'd love to help you find your perfect retirement home.

July
18

What to Expect During the Closing Process

Closing Process

You're ready to start the process of searching for your next home, but you're a little apprehensive about all the steps associated with the process. One stage that our real estate agents suggest you learn about is the closing process.

The closing process is the last major stage of buying a home before you're officially a homeowner. Here's what you should know.

  • It Takes a While to Reach the Closing Phase
    From the point that the home seller accepts your offer, it usually takes between 40 and 60 days to close on the property officially. There are often a lot of documents that you need to turn in for your mortgage application to officially be processed. Even if you're obtained mortgage pre-approval, you still need to submit documentation to verify your income and assets. Depending on how busy your lender is, it might take a few weeks to process your loan. You also need to schedule any inspections that are required or recommended to buy the home, like a home appraisal, home inspection, or property inspection, during this period. It's possible to potentially extend the closing date if the home seller and buyer agree to do so. Sometimes, one party might need an extended period to sell a property, find a new home, or handle other personal matters. 
  • Your Closing Date Could Be Delayed
    It's possible for items to pop up that delay your official closing date. For example, if your home inspection shows that the property needs some repairs and the seller agrees to fix them, these repairs can delay the closing date. Or, if you take out a new loan or credit card while you're waiting to close on the home, your credit might be impacted. This means that your mortgage lender may need to review the specifics of your loan to confirm that you still qualify. To prevent your closing from being delayed, avoid making any changes to your financial situation. Don't apply for or take on new debt. Keep the balance in your savings accounts consistent; if you do make a large deposit to your bank account, make sure that you have documentation that proves where the funds came from (your lender will want to confirm that the money isn't from a loan or credit cards). Changing jobs is usually okay if you otherwise have a stable employment history. Just make sure that your income doesn't significantly change, or this can affect your loan approval. 
  • There Are Certain Things You Need to Bring to Your Home Closing
    To close on your new home, you'll need to make sure you have the necessary items to ensure everything goes smoothly. You'll need some kind of government-issued identification, like a passport or driver's license. A certified check may be used to pay your portion of your down payment and closing costs, or if permitted by your lender, you may use a wire transfer to transfer the money. If this money will be coming from different investment or bank accounts, make sure that you give yourself enough time to transfer the funds. You also need to bring proof of your homeowner's insurance on your new home. 

Ready to find your next home? Our team is ready to help every step of the way. Contact us today to start your search!

June
6

Florida Famous Foods: Order Ceviche at These Spots

Ceviche

Ceviche is a Latin dish that highlights two ingredients Florida has in abundance. Citric acids in lemons, limes, and oranges "cook" raw fish and seafood for a bright, refreshing flavor. Our real estate agents find Florida's famous food at these amazing local restaurants.

  • El Buzo Peruvian Cuisine - 5675 N. Atlantic Ave., #110, Cocoa Beach, FL 32931
    As a championship diver and longtime spearfisher, Chef Bruno developed an incredible knowledge of seafood. After operating a successful restaurant in Lima for many years, Bruno brought El Buzo Peruvian Cuisine to the area near Cocoa Beach homes for sale. The menu includes five types of ceviche, served with sweet potato, lettuce, and corn nuts. Hours are 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

  • PeruRican Ceviche - 1119 S. 14th St., Leesburg, FL 34748
    PeruRican Ceviche
    creates such spectacular versions of Florida's famous food that they put it right up front in their name. Turn up the heat with the spicy option for an extra kick. In addition to ceviche, the restaurant features Peruvian-Puerto Rican fusion dishes such as mofongo, stuffed fried plantains, and pumpkin cream soup. PeruRican Ceviche is carryout only, so place an order online for pickup after viewing Leesburg homes for sale. Hours are 3 p.m. - 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday.

  • Ceviche Mix - 426 Plant St., Winter Garden, FL 34787
    Ceviche Mix is the only cevicheria near Winter Garden homes for sale. Their unique ceviche is a delicious blend of Peruvian, Guatemalan, and Mexican flavors. Choose from shrimp, tilapia, mahi-mahi, octopus, or a mix. All you need is a side of chips, guacamole, and salsa to complement your meal. Ceviche Mix is open 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. Sunday.

  • Aji Ceviche Bar - 1436 FL-436, #1024, Casselberry, FL 32707
    How authentic is the food at Aji Ceviche Bar? It gets glowing reviews on social media from Peruvians who praise this restaurant, just minutes from Casselberry homes for sale. More than a dozen types of ceviche on the menu provide a wide range of variety. Customers rave about the olive sauce that adds a welcome touch of salty creaminess. Aji Ceviche Bar also gets high marks for its friendly and helpful servers, who are happy to explain the details of each dish. Hours are noon - 9 p.m. daily except Friday and Saturday when closing time is 10 p.m.

  • El Rinconcito de Lima - 7300 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32216
    When you're touring Jacksonville homes for sale, be sure to make time for lunch at El Rinconcito de Lima. This unassuming food truck is serving up generous portions of top-quality Peruvian dishes for inexpensive prices. Get a different perspective on ceviche with an order of Leche de Tigre, a soup with bits of raw tilapia in a citrus-based broth served with onions and boiled corn. Place an order to go or enjoy your meal in the adjacent air-conditioned dining room. El Rinconcito de Lima is open from noon - 9 p.m. every day but Monday.

The eclectic dining scene is only one of the benefits of living in Central Florida. Learn more when you contact us at Watson Realty Corp.

May
2

Florida Famous Foods: Florida BBQ Spots

Florida BBQ

BBQ may be popular from coast to coast, but this beloved cuisine is embedded in the DNA of the South as one of Florida's famous foods. When our real estate agents are craving BBQ, slow-cooked meats and tangy sauces are just minutes away at these top restaurants.

  • Keller's Bar-B-Q - 280 S. State Rd. 434 #1047, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714
    Keller's Bar-B-Q is just down the street from Altamonte Springs homes for sale, but the recipes and techniques were created over 130 years ago, deep in the Everglades. Each day, fresh meats are trimmed and basted with Andy Keller's secret sauce before cooking. Try the trademark Brunswick stew, made with pork, beef, and chicken in a rich tomato sauce. Keller's is open 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11:30 a.m. - 9 p.m. Sunday.

  • OakWood Smokehouse & Grill - 230 Citrus Tower Blvd., Clermont, FL 34711
    At OakWood Smokehouse & Grill, not far from Clermont homes for sale, the star of the show is their award-winning ribs. Described by customers as "fall-off-the-bone delicious," rib combos are on special every day of the week. If you have a seafood lover in your group, OakWood also gets high marks for their fried fish. Hours are 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. daily except Sunday when doors close at 3 p.m.

  • Bubbalou's Bodacious Bar-B-Que - 5818 Conroy Rd., Orlando, FL 32835
    Bubbalou's Bodacious Bar-B-Que may be near Orlando homes for sale, but their reputation extends far and wide. National sources such as Food Network, the New York Times, and Southern Living have recognized Bubbalou's for their tasty food and warm hospitality. Can't decide? Go with Bubbalou's Special, a combo of ribs, chicken, beef, and pork with three sides and garlic bread. Bubbalou's is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.

  • BubbaQue's - 1306 N. Young Blvd., Chiefland, FL 32626
    From the tongue-in-cheek name to the traditional recipes, BubbaQue's is designed as a tribute to the joys of this uniquely Southern cuisine. Enjoy flavorful brisket, pulled pork, chicken, or turkey as a sandwich, dinner, or topping for salads and nachos. Dress up your choice of meat with one of ten different sauces, including Bubba's signature Tractor Grease. Dine in or take out after a day of viewing Chiefland homes for sale. Hours are 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Monday and Wednesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. Sunday. 

  • 4 Rivers Smokehouse - 9220 Baymeadows Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32256
    John Rivers, founder and namesake of 4 Rivers Smokehouse is a Jacksonville native. It's only fitting that his family-owned restaurant should have a location within a convenient distance from Jacksonville homes for sale. In addition to classic sandwiches and platters, their BBQ meats are showcased in south-of-the-border favorites, including burritos, tacos, and barbacoa bowls. Give your taste buds a new treat with one of the John Rivers Originals, such as the aptly-named Texas Destroyer, featuring their signature Angus brisket on a brioche bun topped with onion rings, jalapeños, melted provolone, and 4R sauce. Hours are 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Fabulous food is only one of the things to love about living in Central Florida. Find out more when you contact us at Watson Realty Corp.

April
4

National Wildlife Week: Visit These Florida Nature Preserves

Florida Nature

National Wildlife Week is celebrated every year in April. This year, it'll be observed from Tuesday, April 5, through Saturday, April 9. As an initiative of the National Wildlife Foundation, it has connected nature lovers of all ages and backgrounds since 1938 – and that includes our real estate agents.

In the United States, there's virtually no place better to be for National Wildlife Week than right here in Florida. 

Throughout the Sunshine State, you have the opportunity to meet animals the likes of which you'll find nowhere else. Wildlife ranges from the prehistoric alligator to the Florida flamingo, which has a niche distinct from any other bird on Earth. These and more can be encountered on public preserved land.

Let's take a look at some of the best nature preserve lands throughout Florida:

  • Timucuan Ecological & Historical Preserve – 12713 Fort Caroline Road, Jacksonville, FL 32225
    Jacksonville homes for sale aren't far from Timucuan Ecological & Historical Preserve, which bills itself as one of the last truly pristine coastal wetlands on the Atlantic coast. More than 60 centuries of human history can be glimpsed among the salt marshes, coastal dunes, and native hardwood.
     
  • Long Creek Nature Preserve – 1050 Palm Harbor Parkway, Palm Coast, FL 32164
    Near Palm Coast homes for sale, you'll find Long Creek Nature Preserve. It isn't the biggest preserve at nine acres, but the natural treasures it safeguards are just as precious. As the newest addition to the Palm Coast park system, it is popular for water sports, including kayaking and fishing. It's directly connected to the 225 acres of Long Creek Basin and the saltwater canal system beyond.

  • Lake Apopka North Shore – 24600 County Road 448A, Mt. Dora, FL 32757
    If you're considering Apopka homes for sale, don't forget Lake Apopka North Shore. A 20,000 reclaimed paradise of beauty and wonder is the end result of many years of work restoring former muck farms. The entire area used to be part of Lake Apopka itself before being separated off by a levee in 1941. Now, hiking and biking opportunities are abundant around the Lake Apopka Loop Trail.

  • Sherwood L. Stokes Preserve– 7598 Lake Marion Creek Road, Haines City, FL 33844
    Located near Haines City homes for sale, Sherwood L. Stokes Preserve is a nature spot that bird lovers will want to visit again and again. Make sure to bring your birdwatching binoculars! Birdwatchers have the chance to spot roughly 70 different species of birds on this 225-acre preserve. Other animals you might spot during your visit include deer, turkey, and even wild hogs.

  • Tibet-Butler Preserve – 8777 Winter Garden Vineland Road, Orlando, FL 32836
    There's more to Orlando than theme parks! Did you know that there's a nature preserve not too far from Orlando homes for sale? Tibet-Butler Preserve is a part of the Orange County Parks and Recreation program and offers plenty of ways for all ages to learn about nature. Stop by their nature exhibits or take a hike on one of their many trails!

Ready to experience all the natural beauty Florida has to offer? Contact us to find out more about Florida real estate today.

January
5

Florida Orchestras: Catch a Performance in 2022

Florida Orchestras

Are you ready for another amazing year of music and culture in Florida in 2022? Florida is home to a vibrant collection of orchestras, featuring both experienced performers and youth groups honing their craft. Tickets sell quickly for the biggest shows, so now is the perfect time to start planning your concert schedule for the year. We've got the details you need to find the best performances throughout the area.

Ocala Symphony Orchestra – 500 NE 9th St., Ocala, FL 34470
Performing out of the Reilly Arts Center, the Ocala Symphony Orchestra is your destination for amazing music in Ocala. The 2021-2022 concert season is already in full swing for the Ocala Symphony Orchestra, with upcoming performances including The Four Temperaments, 90 Years of John Williams, Symphony Under the Lights, and Symphony Under the Stars. Before each major show, you can attend Coffee with the Conductor events, where you'll learn all about the upcoming performance.

Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra – 445 S. Magnolia Ave., Orlando, FL 32801
With performances all year long in Orlando at the beautiful Steinmetz Hall, the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra will have tons to see throughout 2022. In addition to the usual schedule of highly anticipated concerts, the Orlando Philharmonic is welcoming its first artist-in-residence, pianist Stewart Goodyear, this year. He will be performing in a special series of concerts, including at the annual Resonate Festival.

Metropolitan Area Youth Symphony – P.O. Box 2055, Goldenrod, FL 32733
Made up of 8 youth orchestras spread around the Orlando and Lake County area, the Metropolitan Area Youth Symphony is dedicated to helping young people thrive through music education. There are more than 10 concerts and recitals every concert season throughout the metropolitan area, along with an extensive series of masterclasses where young musicians can hone their craft with expert instruction.

Brevard Symphony Orchestra – 3865 N. Wickham Rd., Melbourne, FL 32935
The outstanding Brevard Symphony Orchestra performs primarily at the King Center, located in Melbourne. With a busy schedule of concerts starting in January, this is one orchestra that you definitely won't want to miss in 2022. Some of the exciting shows on the schedule include Clash of the Titans, Letters from Home, The Wondrous World of John Williams, and Roman Holiday.

Jacksonville Symphony – 300 Water St., Ste. 200, Jacksonville, FL 32202
The Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts is where you'll find the excellent Jacksonville Symphony, with an extensive selection of 2022 shows in Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Symphony has tons of concerts to enjoy this year, like the Florida Blue Classical Series, Concert Organ Series, Mozart Piano Series, Pops Series, and even a Symphonic Night at the Movies Series.

Jacksonville Youth Symphony Orchestra – 300 Water St., Ste. 200, Jacksonville, FL 32202
The Jacksonville Symphony isn't the only group that you'll find performing at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts. The Jacksonville Youth Symphony Orchestra (JYSO) also performs there regularly, and their performances are more than worth the trip. They perform primarily during the September through May concert season and also have one annual performance with the main Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. The JYSO serves more than 350 young musicians annually, from age 7 through 21.

Searching for a home close to all of the art, culture, and live entertainment that Florida has to offer? Our team is here to help. Contact us to buy and sell homes in Florida.

November
23

Plan a Hiking Trip on the Florida Trail - Northern Region

Do you love exploring the diverse, unique natural beauty that you can only find in Florida? This is the perfect time of year to plan your next hiking trip on the Florida Trail, which stretches for more than 1,500 miles from the Gulf Islands National Seashore to the Big Cypress National Preserve. The Northern Region of the trail is the perfect place to start your next adventure. We've got all the exciting details on what you'll find on the Northern Region of the Florida Trail.

Northern Region Overview
The Northern Region of the Florida Trail features something for every interest, from sprawling, gorgeous natural forests to trails that will take you through the sites of historic battlefields. Before you head out on your trip, be sure to check out the Trail Safety guide, which provides plenty of helpful tips that will help you enjoy your experience and practice good safety habits while you explore the Florida Trail.

Lake Butler Forest
Take a trip southwest from Jacksonville to link up with the Lake Butler Forest portion of the Florida Trail, which runs for 23 miles from the City of Lake Butler to the historic Olustee Battlefield. The forests here feature a mix of old hardwood and planted pines, with beautiful natural vistas throughout. 

Camp Blanding
Just a short drive from Gainesville, you will find the Camp Blanding section of the trail, which features some of the most diverse terrain that the Florida Trail has to offer. This part of the trail stretches for nearly 36 miles, featuring sandy hills, forests, lakes, and even desert-like terrain. Take a break along the beautiful waterfront areas, navigate your way through dense forests, and spot various local wildlife throughout your exploration. If you're hungry for more hiking, this trail also connects with the Palatka Lake Butler State Trail.

Osceola National Forest
On the northernmost section of the Florida Trail's Northern Region, you will find the Osceola National Forest trail, which runs for 24.2 miles through old-growth forests before wrapping up along quiet country back roads. If you love hiking through thick, beautiful, ancient forests, then this part of the trail should be near the top of your destination list. After you exit the forest, you will travel toward the scenic Suwanee River before heading into the town of White Springs, where you can enjoy a rest and resupply.

Rice Creek/Etoniah/Gold Head
The Rice Creek/Etoniah/Gold Head portion of the trail, just north of Ocala, will take you on a journey that lasts just over 34 miles and features more elevation than other parts of the Florida Trail. There are multiple bluffs that provide incredible views of the floodplains, forests, creeks, and swamps below. This part of the trail features ancient cypress trees, along with a variety of Appalachian trees that you won't find in other parts of Florida. Stop for a picnic in the designated picnic areas along Little Lake Johnson, then keep traveling through Gold Head Branch State Park, which features its own scenic, three-mile-long trail.

Searching for a home that makes it easy to enjoy all of the amazing natural attractions that Florida has to offer? Our team is here to help. Contact us to buy and sell homes in Northeast, North Central, and Central Florida communities.

November
10

How to Get in the Holiday Spirit in Sunny Florida

Holiday season is a magical time of year. Warmth and holiday movies and family and a general, pervading sense of mirth make for a potion that can rejuvenate even the darkest spirits. But let's face it – capturing that holiday spirit can be tricky when you're in a place like sunny Florida, where the temperatures rarely dip below 50 degrees and snow seems more like something from a book rather than an actual meteorological event.

Don't fret, though. There are still plenty of ways to kindle your holiday spirit even in a state that's more at home in summer than winter, and we're here to share them.

Break Out the Decorations

Hang Christmas lights, decorate a tree, dress up your mantles with garlands, adorn your door with a brightly lit wreath, and tackle any of your other favorite holiday decorating traditions to create a space conducive to a festive mood. If you want to really ratchet up the wintry feelings, add some spray-on snow to your windows to create a frosted look.

Crank the Holiday Music

Chances are, if you're a fan of Christmas music, you've been jamming to your favorite holiday hits since at least November 1. If you haven't yet, find your favorite playlist or turn on a Christmas music station on Pandora and vibe to your favorite holiday hits.

Visit Local Celebrations

Florida doesn't let warm weather stop it from celebrating the holidays with various events throughout the state. If you're in Jacksonville, check out the annual Gingerbread Extravaganza and marvel at the breathtaking gingerbread homes on display.

St. Augustine will be hosting its traditional Night of Lights festival, one of the world's best holiday light displays according to National Geographic. In Daytona Beach, you can meet the Grinch and citizens of Whoville at Kickoff to Winter Wonderland, as well as more fun characters in the weekends following the initial event. And if you're in New Smyrna Beach, you have to attend Christmas on Canal Street to see downtown transform into a holiday haven.

Check your town's event calendar to see what's going on this holiday season!

Turn Down the AC

It may be 75 degrees outside, but it doesn't have to in your house. Crank that temperature as low as you can take it – or are willing to pay for – then stir up a mug of hot chocolate and enjoy your own personal North Pole.

Stimulate Your Holiday Senses

For us, the holidays don't start until we break out our pine candles and peppermint candies. Fill your home with your favorite yuletide scent and make your favorite holiday dishes to stoke your festive spirit.

Spend Time with Your Friends & Family

What are the holidays about if not spending them with your loved ones? No amount of chilly air, decorations, or festive events can measure up to a holiday spent with your dearest friends and family.

Happy holidays!

September
30

Top Florida Cities People Are Moving To

Florida Cities

2020 saw some major shifts in housing markets around the country. With so many people working from home, many chose to leave more expensive and densely populated areas to find new places to call home. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, Jacksonville, Deltona, and Port Saint Lucie ranked as three of the top 15 cities in the country for inbound migration. We've got all the details on why so many people are choosing to move to these popular Florida cities.

Jacksonville

The largest city on our list, Jacksonville ranked seventh overall on the list from the NAR. Jacksonville homes for sale are popular in part because the city offers an affordable cost of living compared to other major metro areas while still providing all of the amenities that you'd expect from a big city. Jacksonville is the largest city by landmass in the United States and also boasts the largest park system of any city in the country.

New residents love the fact that Jacksonville has about 270 days of sunny weather every year, with a temperate climate year-round that makes it easy to enjoy the city's 1,100 miles of shoreline and 22 miles of pristine, sandy beaches. You'll find plenty to do close to home, whether you're attending a Jaguars game, watching some college sports, visiting a museum, watching a live show, or dining at one of the city's many outstanding restaurants.

Deltona

Deltona checked in just behind Jacksonville at number nine on the list of cities that people are moving to, thanks to a prime, central location that offers a mix of big-city amenities and small-town charm. By population, Deltona is about 10 percent the size of Jacksonville, with a population of just over 90,000 residents. The city is bordered by beautiful Lake Monroe on its south side, while Deltona homes for sale offer a location about equally distant from both Orlando and Daytona Beach.

The close proximity to popular attractions makes Deltona a great city for families, and you'll also find plenty to do close to home. Like Jacksonville, Deltona has one of Florida's best park systems, including some fantastic playgrounds for the little ones and plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities for adults. There's always another performance to see at the Deltona Arts Center, while the Deltona Club golf course has long been a local favorite.

Port Saint Lucie

Port Saint Lucie was the top-ranked Florida city on the list at number six, and it's no surprise that Port Saint Lucie homes for sale are so popular. Built around the Saint Lucie River with a warm climate and extensive park system, Port Saint Lucie is a paradise for nature lovers. Local environmental preserves provide endless opportunities for exploration, while the city's growing arts and performance community means that there are plenty of great events to enjoy all year long.

The city's population of just over 200,000 people makes it one of the largest in South Florida, but there's plenty of open space and nature to enjoy. It's also a great place to start a business, with a supportive local government and all of the modern infrastructure to help your business thrive.

Ready to find out first-hand why so many people are flocking to Florida? Let our team help you find the perfect home in your new favorite city. Contact us to buy and sell homes throughout the area.

August
23

What to Know When Buying a Vacation Home

Vacation Home Florida

Do you wish you had a place you can go to relax and have a good time? A place all your own, by a beautiful beach, where you can get away for a few weeks or months each year and swim, sail, surf, and bask in the Florida sunshine.

Our real estate agents have helped turn that dream into a reality for many families.

But before you buy that vacation home you've been dreaming about, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

Know What You're Looking For
You know you're looking to buy a vacation home, but what, specifically, does that mean to you? How much of the year do you plan on using it? During what seasons will you be there? Is there a possibility of eventually using it as your primary home? All of these things have an impact on what kind of home you get and how much you should spend.

You should also take a look at the surrounding area. Where are the good restaurants and entertainment nearby? Will they be enough to hold your interest over multiple stays, or will they get old quickly? What about more practical needs, like grocery stores? Talk to the locals and get their perspective on what it's like living there and what you need to know about the neighborhood.

Look at Expenses
When budgeting for a second home, did you consider all the costs? It's more than just a down payment and mortgage. There are also property taxes, which are 0.98% in Florida, or an average of $1,750 per year.

You need to pay for maintenance as well, to keep the property in good shape while you're away and ensure it's ready for when you arrive. Consider hiring a caretaker or property manager. They can clean the place periodically, make sure the yard looks presentable, and make any necessary repairs throughout the year.

On average, you can expect to spend around 2% of your home's value per year on maintenance. However, certain vacation homes can be a bit more than that. If your house is right by the beach, it may also need regular repainting every couple of years, as salt, sand, and wind are corrosive.

Finally, look at travel expenses. How will you get to your vacation home, and how much will it cost? Will you drive? Take a plane? Make a couple of trips back and forth before you buy the house and note the costs. Then, multiply it by the number of times you plan on going there per year.

Research Rental Options
One way to offset your vacation home's costs is to rent it out to other people when you're not using it. This takes a bit of research and preparation too. Check Watson Property Management and other rental sites to see what similar properties in the area go for. Then see if the community has any rules about rentals. Some homeowners' associations frown on vacation rentals by the week and only allow them by the month.

You should also know what the area is like throughout the rest of the year. The weather may be great in winter when you stay there, but what about in summer? How appealing will this house be in the off-season, and will it be able to draw enough renters to make it worthwhile?

These are just a few of the things to consider before buying a vacation home. Ultimately, having an experienced real estate team by your side helps make the vacation home buying process as smooth as possible.

July
20

Northeast Florida Splash Pads the Kids Will Love

Splash Pads

Summer is here, and there are few things that kids love more than spending a hot day cooling off at the local splash pad. From the piers near St. Augustine to the parks of Green Cove Springs, there are plenty of local splash pads throughout Northeast Florida that the kids will enjoy. Many of the region's best splash pads are also part of larger attractions, making it easy to plan a full day of family fun. We've got the details on five Northeast Florida splash pads where you can plan a fun family outing this summer.

Splash Park at the Pier – 350 Beach Blvd., St. Augustine Beach, FL 32080
The Splash Park at the Pier is conveniently located by the water near St. Augustine Beach, next to the popular St. Johns County Ocean & Fishing Pier. Enjoy views of the water while the kids play in the large, open splash park framed by palm trees. Just next door, you will find all of the attractions the pier has to offer, like a playground, picnic areas, beach access, a gift shop, and a full-service tackle shop with gear rentals for fishing from the pier.

Shipwreck Island Water Park – 1944 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
A shipwreck-themed water park with a splash pad and so much more, Shipwreck Island is your destination for cool summer fun near Jacksonville Beach. This is a great place to plan a group outing, with an arcade, go-karts, mini-golf, and laser tag to go with all of the fun rides at the water park.

Jacksonville Zoo Splash Pad – 370 Zoo Pkwy., Jacksonville, FL 32218
The Jacksonville Zoo has long been a favorite family attraction close to Jacksonville, and it features a splash pad that adds an extra dimension to summertime visits. Kids love splashing around before seeing all of the animals and shows at the zoo, while parents love the many fun and educational programs the zoo offers for young visitors.

Nocatee Splash Water Park – 245 Nocatee Center Way, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32081
There are many reasons to check out Ponte Vedra Beach, and access to this exclusive water park is certainly one of them. The Nocatee Splash Water Park offers countless ways to cool off in the summer heat. This is a private resort-style water park for residents to enjoy. Features include a lazy river, two slides, Splash Cove for the kids, and a shallow-access pool. 

Spring Park – 106 St. Johns Ave., Green Cove Springs, FL 32043
Head over to Spring Park near Duval County for some fun in the sun. Nestled on the St. Johns River, the park is open from sunrise to sunset and is a perfect option for families to visit. Kids will love the splash pad and other playground equipment for them to burn off some energy and cool off simultaneously. Plus, don't forget a picnic basket to enjoy lunch in one of the covered picnic shelters!

Oakleaf Village and Plantation Oaks – 370 Oakleaf Village Pkwy., Orange Park, FL 32065
Oakleaf Plantation residents have multiple amenities to enjoy, and during the hot summer months, it's safe to assume most residents love having access to two water parks. At these parks near Orange Park, residents will have access to water slides, spray grounds, and pools. Be sure to check out their website for pool hours

Ready to find the perfect home close to all of the amazing attractions in Northeast Florida? Our local real estate team is here to help. Contact us to buy and sell homes throughout Northeast Florida communities.

May
26

How to Start Your First Compost Pile

Composting Tips

If you're looking for a new home, one thing you may be thinking about is gardening and landscaping. Many homes have plenty of yard space for growing plants. You may want a home with room for something else, too: a compost pile. If you've never had one before, they're a great tool for anyone with a green thumb. Here's how to start your first compost pile.

How Does Composting Work?

An estimated 30-40% of the food supply in this country becomes food waste. Composting takes those leftover scraps, breaks them down, and turns them into a nutrient-rich substance that, when added to soil, facilitates plant growth, from flowers to trees to vegetables and more.

Turning organic matter into compost requires water, air, and microorganisms. Microorganisms can take the form of bacteria and fungi, as well as earthworms and certain bugs. You also need organic matter that's rich in carbon (brown materials) and organic matter that's rich in nitrogen (green materials). The water and air help the microorganisms to decompose carbon and nitrogen in the plant matter. Those elements then act as nutrients to help future plants grow.

What Can and Can't Be Composted

Food waste isn't the only thing that can go into a compost pile. You can also use twigs and leaves that come from raking the yard and the clippings from mowing the lawn.

However, some things shouldn't be composted. Meat, dairy, oils, and fats can attract local wildlife. Don't compost animal waste either. You can compost wood ash, but not coal ash or charcoal. Finally, don't compost weeds, or plants with diseases, as they can cause problems for whatever you try to grow next.

Building Your Compost Pile

Find a large, open area in your yard that's level and allows for good water drainage. If water pools up, it can ruin your compost. Next, build a wooden enclosure around the area - four sides, but no floor. Clear out any grass in that area as well, so the pile sits directly on the dirt. Build a door or panel into one side that can be opened, allowing access to your compost.

Once you've built the enclosure, it's time to add your scraps. This requires a bit of planning. Your compost pile should consist of even layers of alternating brown and green materials, starting with brown.

Brown materials are "dry" items, such as dry leaves, branches, wood chips, and pine needles. Green is the "wet" materials - food scraps, grass clippings, green leaves, etc. Your pile should be approximately 2/3 brown to 1/3 green.

Maintaining Your Compost Pile

Your compost pile should be watered and turned regularly. Give it light water every day or two as needed to keep the pile damp but not saturated. If you squeeze the dirt and water flows out, it's too wet.

Turning the pile keeps it aerated, so it decomposes better. Stick a shovel or pitchfork into the pile and turn it over, mixing up the various materials. Do this every two weeks or so.

Once it's ready, take the compost from the bottom of the pile and add it to the dirt of whatever you're growing.

We can help you find the perfect house to create your compost pile and grow beautiful gardens and landscaping that any homeowner would be proud of. Contact us to learn more!

April
1

7 Things to Avoid When Getting Ready to List Your Home

Watson List Your Home

Listing your home for sale can be overwhelming, especially if it's your first time. One of the best ways to sell your home quickly and increase your sale price is through proper home staging. Home staging is both an art and a science and often takes a good bit of experience to pull it off just right. Our real estate agents are experts at home staging and are always willing to offer tips to help you through the process.

If you're planning to put your home on the market in the near future, you'll want to make sure to avoid these mistakes.

Personalization
When it comes to getting your home ready for the market, the goal is to create an environment that enables potential buyers to see themselves living in the home. This means keeping things as neutral as possible. Remove pictures, abstract art, bright colors, knick-knacks, or anything that reminds your potential buyer that you're currently living in the space.

Keeping Pets Around 
Who doesn't love pets? Many potential homebuyers don't. Whether it's allergies or just personal preference, pets aren't for everyone, so be sure to keep their presence to a minimum during showings or open houses. Be sure to vacuum up any fur and keep all bowls and toys out of sight. 

Forgetting To Clean
An essential part of the home staging process is deep cleaning. This type of cleaning goes far beyond sweeping the floors and dusting. You'll need to make every corner of your home ready to impress! This includes the ceiling, windows, baseboards, blinds, carpets, and furniture. First impressions are everything, so you want to be sure potential buyers are walking into a spotless home. 

Dark Spaces
The golden rule of home staging: let there be light! Light exposure makes rooms look bigger and brighter. If a particular room doesn't have a lot of windows or doesn't receive much sunlight, buy extra lamps or artificial lighting. You want every room of your house to be bright and welcoming. 

Ignoring The Bedrooms
Many sellers make kitchens, living rooms, and bathrooms a priority during the home-selling process, but it's important not to forget about the bedrooms. The bedroom is where homeowners spend a lot of their time, so it's important to create a clean, relaxing look. Make sure bedding is fresh and clean. Adding some decorative pillows and throw blankets doesn't hurt either. 

Stuffing Your Closets
Cramming everything into your closets might make rooms look less cluttered, but this strategy can actually backfire. Jam-packed closets can actually make your storage space appear smaller. The key to making closet space appear larger is to keep them about half full.

Outdated Appliances
If your kitchen is living in the past, you may want to consider upgrading your appliances. Replacing an old refrigerator or dishwasher will not only help make your kitchen stand out among other Jacksonville homes for sale, but it will also be a major selling point for potential buyers. Because the kitchen is the most important room of the house, you may even be able to recoup your costs at the sale price.

Selling a home can be a challenge, which is why you need an experienced real estate agent in your corner. Contact us today for more tips!

March
5

Things Only 90s Jacksonville, FL Residents Will Remember

The 90s were a simpler time. Clothes were baggier, music came on cassette tapes, Blockbuster still existed. If you're anything like the rest of us, you likely spend at least a few hours a day pining nostalgically for all things 1990s. Especially if you lived in Jacksonville, FL during the 90s. Because we can't help but revisit what feels like better days, join us as we tour things only 90s Jacksonville, FL residents will remember.

Sinking Quarters/Tokens into Games at Aladdin's Castle & Tilt

Thanks to barcades like Keg & Coin – an arcade bar in Jacksonville's Riverside neighborhood – and entertainment hotspots like Dave and Busters and Adventure Landing, there are still places you can get your arcade cabinet fix.

But there's nothing like the originals. Bereft of the other distractions – Keg & Coin is a bar first, arcade second, while Dave and Busters and Adventure Landing prominently feature an entire restaurant and a water park, respectively – these classic arcades existed purely for the endless joy of arcade games.

Many of us lost countless hours in Aladdin's Castle in the Orange Park mall. Parents shopping for boring stuff? Give us $5 and we'll be content basked in the warm glow of arcade cabinets for at least an hour. The same goes for Tilt at the Jacksonville Landing (itself an icon of the 90s that no longer exists). A few rounds of Street Fighter with friends at Tilt would be enough to make anyone's weekend.

Playing Mini-Golf with Rex at Goony Golf

DINOmite!! | Jacksonville beach, Jacksonville florida, Jacksonville fl

Before he became the orange sentinel of Beach Boulevard as we know him today, Rex, Jacksonville's famous T-Rex statue, presided over innumerable mini-golf games at Goony Golf. He was one of several, um, interesting obstacles and characters for which Goony Golf was known. For all its kitschy charm, Goony Golf felt like a staple of a fun Saturday afternoon.

And while the chain's Jacksonville location went extinct early in the 2000s, we still thankfully have Rex's beautiful mug to remind us of just how great things used to be.

Going to a Drive-In Movie

Playtime 3 Drive-In in Jacksonville, FL - Cinema Treasures

Going to a movie in a normal theater is a treat in itself, to be sure. But there was just something special about rolling down the windows, audio pouring out your radio, and watching a movie in the crisp night air.

In the 90s, Jax residents had a few options. They could pull up to the Playtime Drive-In off Blanding Boulevard or the Beaches Drive-In. These excellent and unique date destinations from the 90s sadly no longer exist. Playtime had its screens shut down for good in 2008, while Beaches Drive-In had its proverbial windows shuttered in 2003.

The Eats!

Feasting on the Wagon Wheel at Famous Amos. Ordering a Camel Rider on-the-go from The Sheik. A full chicken platter from Beach Road Chicken Dinners. Sipping on a Slush Puppie from the local Little Champ gas station. Barbecue from the short-lived Rumboggies (or maybe you just bought the sauce?).  Eating Chinese buffet in a dimly lit indoor dining area surrounded by koi ponds and bridges at Garden of Tiki.

We could go on, but we're making ourselves hungry.

The Malls!

What were you doing for fun in the 90s if you weren't at the mall? Maybe your commerce hub of choice was the Regency Square Mall, with its bustling storefronts and unique eateries at the food court. Or maybe you favored the newer atmosphere of the Avenues mall, which opened its doors in 1990.

If you lived in Orange Park, though, we know you loved the Orange Park Mall. Dozens of storefronts, a thriving food court, the aforementioned Aladdin's Castle, and, of course, the classic carousel.

The Sports!

jacksonville lizard kings - Google Search | Hockey logos, Kings hockey,  Football team logos

With no major league sports teams calling Jacksonville home in the early 90s, the city still had plenty of sports to get excited for. Baseball was never hotter than when the Jacksonville Suns lit up minor league ballparks (of course they still persist today, though rebranded as the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp).

Meanwhile, possibly the coolest local sports team in terms of uniforms, colors, logo, and name: The Jacksonville Lizard Kings. Sure, hockey doesn't have a strong foothold in Florida, but the Lizard Kings captured the hearts of many Jax residents on sheer coolness alone. Just look at that logo above! 

Then, of course, the big daddy arrives in 1993: Jacksonville gets its very own NFL franchise. The Jaguars were born, and a city fell in love with its team in teal. The 90s seasons were special for the Jags, too, as the team found immense success within its first three seasons playing in the formerly named Alltel Stadium.

Keep Max in Jax

Call Box: Maxwell House sign has been dripping since 1955 - News - The  Florida Times-Union - Jacksonville, FL

The intoxicating smell of coffee beans is familiar to anyone from Jacksonville thanks to the Maxwell House coffee plant located downtown. However, in the early 90s, the plant was nearly shutdown. The city launched a "Keep Max in Jax" campaign to convince Maxwell House to keep the plant open. It turned out to be wildly successful, not only saving the plant but motivating the company to double down in Jax with a multi-million-dollar expansion.

Classic Jax Radio Stations

The 90s had some outstanding radio stations for Jax residents. We spent many an afternoon cranking up the dial on all our favorite modern hits on 97.9 KISS FM. There was 93.3 Planet Radio for crunching new rock, while 104.5 pumped out all the classic rock your heart could desire. Then, of course, we had Cool 96.9, showering us all with "good times, great oldies."

August
27

Famous People You Didn't Know Were from Florida

There's an interesting feeling of civic pride you feel when you discover a celebrity you know and love is from your hometown. But for every well-known celeb from the Sunshine State, there's another handful of famous people from Florida you didn't know were from here.

The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, & More | Jacksonville, FL

Jacksonville may as well one of the capitals of Southern Rock given the number of legendary bands from the genre it's produced. Lynyrd Skynyrd of Freebird fame, The Allman Brothers Band, Blackfoot, Molly Hatchet, and .38 Special all hail from the Bold City. Rock bands continued to emerge from Jacksonville during the 90s and 2000s as well. You probably know Limp Bizkit hails from the First Coast, but so do Cold, Yellowcard, Evergreen Terrace, Shinedown, and The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.

Maya Rudolph | Gainesville, FL

Gainesville was home to a famous rocker of its own (the late, great Tom Petty), but a well-known comedian also hails from Gator Country. Maya Rudolph was born in Gainesville in 1972. The famous actress was a prominent cast member on Saturday Night Live and has starred in several feature films, including Bridesmaids, Inherent Vice, and Big Hero 6.

Bob Ross | Daytona Beach, FL

America's favorite televised painter just so happens to be one of the most famous people from Daytona Beach, FL. That's right, Bob Ross was born in the city in 1942. He served 20 years in the Air Force before eventually becoming the honey-voiced master of zen with a paintbrush we all knew and loved.

Chipper Jones | DeLand, FL

The popular Atlanta Braves slugger hails from DeLand, FL. Chipper Jones also fits as a famous person from Daytona Beach, FL, too; he was raised in the Daytona Beach metro area. That being said, he got his start in baseball playing little league in the DeLand area.

Wayne Brady | Orlando, FL

Despite being born in Georgia, Wayne Brady is still one of the most famous people from Orlando, FL as he spent the majority of his young life in the Central Florida city. The likable improv comedian got his start with Orlando improv troupe SAK Comedy Club, where he developed skills that would catapult him into the national spotlight on TV shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway?.

Mandy Moore | Longwood, FL

Mandy Moore is one of the few famous people from Longwood, FL. Her family moved there when she was two years old, and it's where she spent the majority of her formative years. Mandy Moore got her start as a singer with a handful of chart-topping hits to her name before taking on roles as an actor later in her career.

Kate Upton | Melbourne, FL

The eye-catching model moved to Melbourne, FL as a kid in 1999, where she attended Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy and even competed nationally as a young equestrian. She later built her career as a head-turning model and actress.

Jim Morrison | Melbourne, FL

Jim Morrison is, without question, one of the most famous people from Florida. Hailing from Melbourne, FL, Morrison made his name as the front man for rock band The Doors. His vocals, lyrics, and memorable live performances have left a lasting impression not just on his fans, but on the entire rock genre for decades after his untimely passing.

June
26

You Just Won the Lottery – Splurge on One of These Florida Luxury Homes

It was just like any other day when you bought that lottery ticket. You played some random numbers and some significant ones – a loved one's birthday, maybe? – and then filed it away somewhere, certain it would be another waste of a couple dollars but hopeful it might not be. Then the stars aligned and every number you picked came up. Jackpot! Suddenly you're flush with money and that housing upgrade you've been wanting to make doesn't seem like such a distant dream anymore. With your newfound lottery winnings, you can start living like a celebrity in one of these Florida luxury homes.

4470 Worth Dr. W Jacksonville, FL 32207

This breathtaking estate stretches out across more than 11,000 square feet. The massive home is southern through and through, from its Georgian design to the southern gothic vibes given off by the surrounding greenery. Step inside and you'll feel like royalty as you traipse across marble floors to the home's centerpiece: the river room and its arched windows giving way to stunning river and garden views.

2483 Newfound Harbor Dr. Merritt Island, FL 32952

If untouched luxury is more appealing to you, then this newly constructed home might catch your eye. Your lottery moolah buys you direct access to Horti Point on Merritt Island, a blissful master suite with a spa-level master bath, an expansive kitchen with double islands, and so much more. Yeah, this is the high life.

7809 Palmilla Ct. Reunion, FL 34747

Your lottery winnings may not allow you to do something truly absurd like, say, purchase a section of Walt Disney World, but they can enable you to buy a home just a few miles away from the happiest place on Earth! That's not the only incredible feature to be found in this Mediterranean home, though; a gourmet kitchen, massive theater room big enough for the whole family, and golf course views also make this house a treasure.

335 Ponte Vedra Blvd. Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082

And now for the cream of the crop: this $10 million+ mansion right on the beach. If you asked someone to dream up a celebrity home, this is probably close to what they'd come up with. It features loggias, terraces, verandas, and balconies overlooking the pool and Atlantic Ocean. Exquisite details like reclaimed heart of pine floors, intricate moldings, and custom murals contribute to the home's one-of-a-kind feel. This is where paradise lives.  

May
3

The Best Comic Book Shops in Jacksonville, FL

You can trace comic books all the way back to the Golden (1940s) and Silver (1950s) Ages, but there's no better time to jump in than now. Superhero movies and TV shows dominate the big and small screens alike, and even non-superhero comics have been adapted into mega-successful properties beyond the page (like The Walking Dead).

And with Free Comic Book Day just around the corner, you have the perfect excuse to head out to your local shop this weekend! If you're not sure where to start, worry not. We've got the best comic book shops in Jacksonville, FL right here.

Cosmic Comics 11018 Old St. Augustine Rd.

Whether you're looking to fill some holes in your collection or you're starting from scratch, Cosmic Comics is a great shop to visit. In addition to their long boxes full of back-issues, you'll find tons of great action figures, statues, and other collectibles.

Mythical Mountain 11570 San Jose Blvd., Suite 13

Mythical Mountain has quite the reputation around town. It was voted Jacksonville's 2nd Best Toy Store and Best Local Comic Book Store in 2018 in Folio Weekly's Best of Jax contest! That's thanks to its huge inventory of classic comics, new books, action figures, vintage collectibles, and the ever-present Funko® Pops.

Coliseum of Comics 2724 Park St. 746 3rd St. South

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="900"]store-photos-jax-19-900 Photo: Coliseum of Comics, Riverside[/caption]

Coliseum of Comics is the go-to for all things comics in both the Riverside and Beaches areas of Jacksonville. Comics new and old line the walls of this trendy shop alongside incredible statues and dozens of tabletop classics. You can even buy miniatures and other supplies for games like Warhammer 40,000.

Gotham City Limit 4195 Southside Blvd. #104

From Marvel and DC to Star Wars and Doctor Who, Gotham City Limit has something to appeal to nerds of all stripes. Check out the Star Wars pinball machine and classic Pac-Man cabinet when you first enter, or the shelves full of memorabilia from just about any popular franchise you can imagine. And if you can't find a specific comic or item on your list, let them know and they'll order it for you!

Altered Egos Comics & Games 400 Madison Avenue, Suite 106

The folks at Altered Egos don't try to hide their passion for comic books and the community that surrounds it. They'll gladly welcome you in whether you've been reading since the Golden Age or you're fresh out the movie theater and ready to learn more about the character you just watched on the big screen. You can even hang out with like-minded fans at one of the shop's weekly game meetups!

Action Toys & Collectibles 1429 Cassat Ave.

Unlike the other shops on this list, Action Toys & Collectibles isn't a destination for new comics. However, if you're a nostalgia hunter in the market for back-issues or throwback action figures, make a stop at Action Toys & Collectibles. And if you have old collectibles that need a new home, Action Toys is often in the market for new merch!

December
17

Welcome to The Watson Blog

For more than 50 years, Watson has been in your neighborhood. And like any good neighbor, we can't wait to show you around. That's why we created The Watson Blog.

If you haven't noticed, we're fresh off launching a brand-new website. One of our goals when designing our new website was to equip it with the features you'd need to feel empowered during your home-buying and selling experiences. Feeling empowered is, among many things, feeling knowledgeable. Know what you want in your new home. Know what to do once you find the perfect home. Know about the neighborhood you're moving into. Our new website has everything you need to obtain this knowledge, and so much more.

The Watson Blog is a natural extension of that. Because while you can find the right house through our new website, The Watson Blog will fuel your creative urge to nail down the perfect décor style and themes for that house with posts about design trends and other forms of home inspiration. Our new website makes it easy to see statistics about that new neighborhood you're venturing into. But The Watson Blog will show you what it's like to live there. Find the local pizza joint with the best sauce-to-cheese ratio or the best yoga spot to achieve zen in the neighborhood guide section of our blog. Discover the best spots to spook up a good time around Halloween or how to plan the perfect gameday experience for your favorite local sports team in our local events section.

And when we say we're in your neighborhood, we mean it. Watson has a presence throughout Florida and southeastern Georgia; from as far north as St. Marys and Jacksonville to as far south as Port St. Lucie and Port Charlotte – and lots in between – The Watson Blog will be there to show you around. So join us as we post new content weekly covering a wide range of topics about all the places you call home. And should you wander into an area of the blog that doesn't have much content, worry not; we'll be fleshing out every section of The Watson Blog with the kind of rich content you want to read over the coming months.

December
5

Where to See Santa in Jacksonville & St. Augustine

Is there anything that says Christmas quite like getting the family dressed up and paying a visit to jolly old St. Nick? We don't think so, which is why we've compiled this list of where to see Santa Claus in Jacksonville and St. Augustine. Whether it's a classic photo op in the mall or breakfast with Santa at a local restaurant, there are plenty of ways to make Christmas memories this December.

Where to see Santa in Jacksonville

11/2-12/24: Photos with Santa at the Avenues Mall

Time to put the finishing touches on those Christmas lists and get your best sweater on, because Santa has his sleigh parked at the Avenues Mall from now until Christmas Eve. Head here to check his schedule and reserve your time!

12/15-12/16: Seven Bridges Breakfast with Santa

Head to Seven Bridges in Jacksonville and grab breakfast with Santa! In addition to a tasty meal, kids get a gift bag of goodies and a personal visit with Santa. Professional photo services will also be available.

12/15: Embassy Suites Jacksonville Breakfast with Santa

From 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., Santa will be at the Embassy Suites in the Southside/Mandarin area of Jacksonville. In addition to enjoying a tasty breakfast buffet, you can bring Toys for Tots donations – and children 12 and under who donate a new, unwrapped toy get in for free.

11/10-12/24: Photos with Santa at the St. Johns Town Center

Santa will be waiting between Tory Burch and Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics. Don't miss your chance to meet the big guy!

Select Dates in December: Santa at WinterFEST

Every year, fun park Adventure Landing transforms into WinterFEST, a frosty destination with ice skating and a 130-foot ice slide. And on select dates throughout December, Santa himself will be onsite! Check here to see when Santa is at the park and plan your trip to WinterFEST.

12/3-12/21: Photos with Santa at the Orange Park Mall

Santa's set up shop at the Orange Park Mall in front of JCPenney through December 21. Reserve your spot here and ensure you don't miss out on your chance to give Santa your Christmas list in person!

12/1-12/29: Santa Claus in the Courtyard, Beaches Town Center

Who says Santa doesn't like the beach? You'll find him at the Beaches Town Center every Saturday before Christmas from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where to see Santa in St. Augustine

12/8-12/23: Conch House Breakfast with Santa

Arts and crafts, delicious breakfast buffet, and a visit with Santa – this is what you'll get at Conch House's Breakfast with Santa event. Call them at (904) 829-8646 to reserve your time. Tables will fill up fast!

11/23-12/23: Santa at the St. Augustine Outlets

Head to the food court at the St. Augustine Outlets for a free visit with Santa. Make a donation to the local organizations acting as Santa's helpful elves and you might even find a spot on the nice list!

November
27

The Best Pizza in Riverside

For most of us, October is noteworthy because it signifies a change to cooler weather, changing leaves (well, maybe not in Florida), and of course, Halloween. But there's another major reason to celebrate the coming of October, and it involves three of the greatest things on the planet: bread, tomato sauce, and cheese. That's right. October is National Pizza Month all across America. Luckily for all residents of Jacksonville's trendiest neighborhood, Riverside is home to some of the city's best pizza places. The next time you're in the mood for a good pie, head on down to one of these pizza havens for a tasty slice. Or maybe try all three and decide for yourself who has the best pizza in Riverside! 

V Pizza 1406 Hendricks Avenue, Jacksonville, FL 32207

The "V" in V Pizza stands for Veloci or "quick" in Italian, but don't confuse quick for a lack of quality. With its towering ovens that reach 900 degrees, V Pizza strives to bring the authentic taste of true Italian pizza to Jacksonville. And they succeed. Try the house staple Pizza Bolognese and enjoy the succulent garlic and all-natural meatballs or go with a classic Pizza Margherita, made with fresh mozzarella and basil. Pizza isn't the only thing V excels at; grab an order of the oven-roasted chicken wings (pizza's greatest natural companion) and find out for yourself why V Pizza is so often lauded as having Jacksonville's best wings.

Carmines Pie House 2677 Forbes Street, Jacksonville, FL 32204

It's a debate as old as pizza itself: New York or Chicago style? Do you like a thin, cheese-dripping slice of New York pizza, or do you favor a hearty helping of Chicago pie, packed full of toppings and cheese? If your answer is the former, well, you certainly won't be upset eating at Carmines. But if Chicago style holds the key to your pizza-loving heart, then Carmines is heaven on earth. You can order any of their specialty pies – with classics like the Margherita alongside unique creations like a cheeseburger pizza – as deep dish mountains of dough, cheese, and robust toppings. Just like any true Chicagoan would have it.

Moon River Pizza 1176 Edgewood Avenue S, Jacksonville, FL 32205

Sometimes you just want a small slice of pizza or two like the ones you'd get from any of the well-known delivery chains. But sometimes, you just need a titanic slice that strikes fear in the hearts of flimsy paper plates everywhere. When that time comes, get yourself to Moon River Pizza. Try house specials like the T-Rex, which comes piled with enough meat to earn its prehistoric name, or build your own from their extensive list of toppings. No matter your choice, it'll only take a couple slices to leave you full and satisfied. But go ahead and order a full pie anyway. Besides, pizza's better the next day.     

October
17

Four Jacksonville Haunted Houses to Visit Before Halloween

Halloween is almost among us, which means time is running out to get your spook on. If you aren't in the scary spirit yet, don't fret! There are still a few frightful attractions in Jacksonville that will fill you with fear just in time for All Hallows' Eve.

Haunt Nights at Adventure Landing Beaches - 1944 Beach Blvd. Thursdays-Sundays through Halloween

Adventure Landing's annual Haunt Nights boasts four chilling haunted houses for intrepid explorers to investigate, including an ancient mental asylum and a research facility that's overrun with zombies. If you need to shake off some of the fear, there's even a ticket package that includes a go-kart race or a game of mini-golf. Tickets can be purchased here.\

The Old Spanish Trail Westside – 13535 West Beaver St. Thursday - Sunday Nights through October 28

Take a trip out to The Old Spanish Trail for a journey into madness you won't soon forget. This sprawling two acre trail features three distinct themes for you to creep through. At the center of it all is a haunted building from the 18th century. Tickets can be purchased at the gate or online here.

Warehouse 31 Unleashed Southside - 11262 Beach Blvd. Thursday-Sunday through November 3; Additional dates include 10/29, 10/30, & 10/31

Face off against deranged clowns in a twisted circus or investigate a formerly popular meat factory that was mysteriously shut down over night more than a hundred years ago. These are only two of the four terrifying haunted houses available for brave visitors willing to face their fears at Warehouse 31 Unleashed. If you think you've got what it takes to make it through each horrifying setting, grab your ticket here.

The Haunted Brewery Northside - 111 Busch Drive October 19, 20, 26, & 27

Jacksonville's Anheuser-Busch brewery has been overrun by all manner of foul creatures that go bump in the night! Gather up your squad and lead the hunt against the zombie horde that's descended upon the brewery. Once you've done some damage to the zombies, head to the haunted putt 'n crawl or the Creepy Clown CarnEVIL for some relaxation. For more details on these attractions and more, head here  

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