Casa Monica Hotel, St. Augustine, Florida

 

The Anastasia Suite
The Anastasia Suite, Casa Monica’s top accommodation, has ocean and bay views.

 

Since opening 10 years ago, the Casa Monica Hotel has earned its place as the true Grande Dame of St. Augustine, FL, sprucing up an otherwise urban historic area of the oldest city in the nation. The hotel is sure to please those historians on your client list. It has a fabled past, having originally opened in 1888, before Henry Flagler purchased it shortly thereafter and named it the Hotel Cordova, which attracted many dignitaries and hosted some grand celebrations in its day. It ceased operations as a hotel in 1932 and served as a courthouse until Richard Kessler of The Kessler Collection purchased it and reopened it as the Casa Monica Hotel in 1999. Today, the AAA Four-Diamond property is a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts and Historic Hotels of America.

Like all great Grande Dame hotels, the Casa Monica has an excellent lobby bar, which is a great draw for locals, especially on Fridays after work and on Saturday nights, when there’s live music and drink specials from its extensive martini menu. Note: Don’t miss the Sunday brunch at 95 Cordoba (so named for the hotel’s address). It’s a draw as much for its buffet as for its $6 Bloody Marys.

We dined at 95 Cordoba one evening and found it lived up to the praise we’d read about online. We sampled the calamari as well as the steak and the salmon entrees, finding them to be excellently prepared. Note: Signature menu items worth trying are the filet mignon with crab and shrimp ragout, Ahi tuna with Thai peanut sauce or the Chilean sea bass.

There is a myriad of good tables at the restaurant, but we suggest you request to dine in the Sultan’s Room. If the table in the corner near the window is available, grab it; you can gaze out at the quaint horse-and-carriages passing by the Lightner Museum, which is filled with exhibits of cut glass, Victorian art glass, costumes, furnishings and musical instruments from the Gilded Age. Another romantic option is the table for two in the center of the room near the fountain. Call 904-819-6018 for reservations.

 

 

A premium room has views of historic St. Augustine.

 

Accommodations are comfortable at the Casa Monica; the top picks are the Premium Rooms, which have a king bed with a sleeper sofa or two queen beds. Nice Touch: They also provide a wet bar, a mini fridge and a small sitting area, plus vistas of historic downtown St. Augustine.

The top accommodation here is the multi-level Anastasia Suite, which provides views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Contact Jeff Fix (jeff.fix@casamonica.com; 904-819-6012) to make special arrangements for your VIPs. The affable and attentive general manager, Anthony Lazzara (anthony.lazzara@casamonica.com; 904-819-6001) is also available to answer specific questions.

Head Concierge Luis Estes (luis.estes@casamonica.com; 904-819-6016) is incredibly accommodating. He fulfilled our reservations request for an historic trolley ride around St. Augustine via Old Town Trolley Tours, an excursion which gives you a great tour of the entire city. Estes is also able to provide VIPs with a private town car tour of St. Augustine with a Spanish translator, upon request.

Urge to exercise? St. Augustine, we say, is also a great walking town. A short distance from the hotel is St. George Street in the Colonial City, which is brimming with a variety of different stores and restaurants. The Colonial City itself is a great place for families, with a number of fun tourist attractions, but we found some excellent shopping there at Streetwear 35 (115B St. George Street), which had some great resort wear and seemed to get new shipments in every day while we were there.

The ensembles came in handy when we headed up to the Serenata Beach Club Resort on Vilano Beach, which provides access to Casa Monica Hotel guests. Just a 15-minute drive from the hotel, this added-on amenity in our minds provides one of the best city/shore experiences available in the country. The best part? There’s an adults-only pool on the second level that overlooks the ocean, ensuring tranquility in a country club ambiance. Other amenities include men’s and women’s locker rooms that supply towels, a full restaurant and indoor and outdoor bars. There’s also a large, sprawling pool for the kids with a snack bar. The Serenata is available year round. Note: The Casa Monica has its own pool and hot tub in a quiet area that’s furnished with posh black-and-white striped cabanas. If you want to find the best beach in the area on your own, you’re in luck. The hotel is just a block or two away from the Bridge of Lions, which takes you over to Route A1A to St. Augustine’s gorgeous beaches.

Weddings are big business at the Casa Monica, which has a separate special events area just for that special occasion. If your bride and groom want to make their nuptial arrangements at the hotel and bring in a special group of friends and family, contact the conference-servicing managers Alice Jenkins (alice.jenkins@casamonica.com; 904-819-6121) and Ryan Compton (ryan.compton@casamonica.com; 904-819-6169).

Culture Watch: Those who are in town on the first Friday of each month can join in the First Friday Art Walk, when local art galleries open their doors and serve wine and snacks; local artists are often on hand to discuss their work. On the last Saturday of each month, Uptown San Marco showcases the talents of artists, writers and musicians in a street party held in the city’s antique district.

Getting There: Jacksonville Airport is about 45 minutes away, while Orlando is about a one-hour drive. The hotel can arrange for a town car or limousine pick up from the airport upon request.

For further information on St. Augustine and its surrounding area, visit www.getaway4florida.com.

 

 

dining room
The Sultan's Room is attached to the main dining room and features a small fountain.