Dickens on Centre in downtown Fernandina Beach, our new holiday tradition

Who says there’s nothing to do at the beach in winter? For the past three years, downtown Fernandina Beach has been trying to prove that belief wrong with its Dickens on Centre celebration.

And what more appropriate location for a celebration of the Victorian Era story, than Fernandina Beach’s Victorian Era downtown.

Kristi and I had low expectations when we attended the outdoor event last year, not knowing what to expect, but came away so impressed it has now become a must-do on our December calendar. Despite temperatures in the 30’s this year, extremely unusual for northeast Florida, we made our way downtown on Amelia Island where we live and once again enjoyed ourselves.

Sabbia Mediterranean Street Food counter.
Sabbia Mediterranean Street Food counter. (Photo credit Chadd Scott / TRAVELING WITHOUT KIDS)

We started our evening with a trip to Sabbia Mediterranean Street Food on 3rd Street. I had the lasagna special, Kristi had taziki with pita bread and pizza. The pizza is something of a thin-crust, deep dish hybrid. Kristi wasn’t a big fan, but I liked it – I like pizza I can sink my teeth into, she likes it crispy. This was our second visit to Sabbia since it opened in early 2017 if memory serves. Prices are reasonable, portions are large, and I’ve enjoyed everything we’ve tried there.

Back outside, we were surprised by the number of other people who chose to attend as we did, braving the freezing temperatures. On top of the cold, it was breezy. Rain unfortunately canceled the first night of the three-day event, and cold surely kept many away.

Dickens on Centre features vendors, games, period-costumed actors as well as musical and theatrical performances along the main artery of downtown Fernandina Beach, Centre Street. With all the retail shops open, holiday lights strung in the trees and the portion of Centre Street closest the harbor closed to vehicle traffic for pedestrians, it’s quite the lively scene.

Still in its infancy, Dickens on Centre doesn’t have the reputation or tradition of longer-running holiday festivals in the area, but from experience, it far exceeds St. Augustine’s much more ballyhooed “Nights of Lights.” This blog is not meant to throw shade so Kristi and I avoided writing about our experience at “Nights of Lights” in 2016 which was a complete bust on multiple levels. That event doesn’t hold a candle to Callaway Gardens’ in Georgia’s “Fantasy in Lights” and Dickens on Centre is far superior as well.

The highlight for both Kristi and me this year and last were the one-man readings of Christmas favorites. While we were there, actor Jason Woods was performing “A Christmas Carol” on the main stage to an audience of more than 50.

Jason Woods reading "A Christmas Carol" at Dickens on Centre.
Jason Woods reading “A Christmas Carol” at Dickens on Centre.
Jason Woods performing "A Christmas Carol" at Dickens on Centre.
Jason Woods performing “A Christmas Carol” at Dickens on Centre. (Photo credit Chadd Scott / TRAVELING WITHOUT KIDS)

If you want to polish off your Christmas shopping and warm up while you enjoy the festivities, you’re sure to find something for young kids at Villa Villekulla Neighborhood Toy Store – as we did. Celtic Charm for something different or Christmas on the River for something seasonal, in addition to a number of clothing, jewelry and book stores in the downtown area will surely stuff your stockings.

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