The Traveling Steve's

Pre-Christmas Weekend at Jekyll Island 2017

This past weekend we had yet another wonderful stay at Jekyll Island. In what has become an annual tradition for the last few years, we stay for a 3 night weekend during the month of December, and get an early start on the Christmas celebrations.  We met Michelle and Larson several years ago at Jekyll, and they now live full time on the island, after formerly wintering there and living part time in Memphis.  We always meet up with them when we go, and invite them over with who ever else is visiting with us that weekend.

This year my Orlando friends Ben and Tom, and my brother Andy and Art from Virginia joined us as well; all of us staying at the historic and grand Jekyll Club Hotel. I’ve posted about Jekyll Island several times before, but if you haven’t read about it, here is a wikipedia link to Jekyll Island’s history, and here is a link to the Jekyll Club Hotel website, which also has some historical photos and information, as well as a cool panoramic aerial view of the historic district.

I worked this week in frigid Wisconsin, and was really excited to be going to South Georgia for some warmer weather, however with the cold front coming across much of the country going from the low 20s to a rainy low 50’s didn’t seem much warmer. I had a busy week in Wisconsin and for part of the week stayed in this beautiful Bed and Breakfast Inn in Viroqua, (western) Wisconsin. The owner of the Heritage Inn, Nancy, actually owned two B&B’s there, including this one that originally caught my eye across the street. Both houses were from the same Jekyll era; i.e. circa 1890’s and the house across the street had the Jekyll familiar turret atop one of the rooms.

The B&B’s large rooms with high ceilings, rich woods, heavy doors, and fancy staircase with ornate woodwork, did indeed remind me of the Jekyll era of the late 1800’s, although with some modern conveniences such as microwave and coffee makers!

To get in the Christmas wintery mood, we even had a bit of snow one night while I was there!  While it didn’t amount to much accumulation, it was pretty to see, as I drove carefully down the main street here on my way back from dinner.

Meanwhile my brother Andy and his partner Art flew down to Tampa from Roanoke, VA on Thursday, and Steve (DOS) picked them up at the airport for some pre-Jekyll fun. They stated at the Grand Hyatt Tampa airport, and that evening went to Bern’s Steakhouse for a leisurely dinner. Bern’s is also one of my favorite restaurants, and it’s typically a 3 to 4 hour experience, as you have dinner in one dining room, and then a dessert and cordial course in a separate dining room, one floor above. Truly a classy night out, and they had fun while I was shivering in an airport hotel for my last night in LaCrosse Wisconsin while going to bed early for my 6:15am flight.

But of course I was happy they were having a wonderful meal, and I wasn’t jealous. Well maybe just a little.  LOL!

On Friday I had an early 6:15am flight to Chicago, connecting later to Jacksonville after a 2 1/2 hour layover. The Lacrosse, Wisconsin Airport is a small but modern airport, and I easily made my flight leaving my hotel at 5am.

I had a 2 1/2 hour layover in Chicago O’hare, so I took a short nap in the Admiral’s Club quiet room section, followed by some yogurt and coffee.  The Quiet room was just that, and most of the time I was there it was completely empty, while the rest of the lounge was packed.   I guess people don’t like be being quiet and relaxed in this busy cell phone age!

It was a quick six minute walk from the G terminal to the L terminal, where I boarded my flight to Jacksonville.  I always enjoy taking this photo of the K/H corridor, and this time of year it was extra dressy with the Christmas decorations.

I slept most of the way on the 2 hour flight from Chicago to Jacksonville, made a bit more comfortable in my First Class aisle seat 4D.

DOS, Andy, and Art were waiting for me in Jacksonville, and like me were all excited to be going back to Jekyll island.

I must say Jacksonville Airport is one of the most Christmasy-decorated Airports I’ve been to. They have a Christmas tree decorating contest, featuring civic groups, airline employees, and others, each creating a unique tree with an individual theme. Like last year, I stopped to take a few photos before heading the hour’s drive up to Jekyll Island.

DOS had rented a HUGE Chevy Suburban which was necessary to haul all of our luggage and decorations to Jekyll. He had already loaded my Jekyll luggage and decorations before I left for my Wisconsin work trip, and then loaded his suitcases, followed by Andy and Art’s in Tampa. And now with my work suitcase and laptop bag from my Wisconsin week, there was literally no extra space to put anything! And that’s on top of having Ben and Tom bring down several things for us in their car!

Once at Jekyll Island, DOS checked in, while I assisted the senior bellman Rone with the unpacking of the car and luggage delivery. Rone remembered us as we’ve had him help us for several years now, and warmly welcomed us back. (The photos of the hotel and the car below were actually taken as we were checking out as it was cold and rainy when we checked in Friday night. We thought we would have less things in the car as many were gifts or disposables; i.e. snacks, wine, paper plates etc, but the car was somehow just as full! LOL!)

Here’s a photo of DOS and myself with Rone on our last evening at Jekyll as he set up a fire for us in the living room. At checkin  we were too busy organizing the multiple luggage trips to our room, plus the weather at checkin was too yucky to take a picture then.

While we didn’t need multiple bellmen, it did take Rone three trips on a full cart each time to get all of our luggage, decorations, etc up to our four floor room (the two level room with the circular  turret on top)! And we also had to get the things we had stored in Ben and Tom’s car brought up to, which I helped Tom with.

Once all the luggage, decorations etc were delivered to the room, the real work began. We only had an hour and a half to setup and decorate the room before our island friends Michelle and Larson were coming over for pre-dinner drinks and decorating stockings. More on that in a minute.

Ben and Tom, And and Art, and DOS and myself all worked quickly setting our room up for entertaining. We always book the Presidential Suite at Jekyll, which is great for entertaining with two fireplaces, living room, and narrow staircase leading up to the signature Turret. This year, Andy and Art, and Ben and Tom, were also staying down the hall from us on our fourth (top floor) level, which made it convenient for meeting up, as well as setting up.

We put the lighted greenery over the fireplace, and arranged the four miniature LED trees, and a fiber optic tree nearby the fireplace. DOS and Tom set up lights and wreathes in the room, while I put the lighted musical bells atop the large mirrored bath vanity. DOS also put lights on the staircase going up to the turret.  Again we were to busy unpacking and setting up, but the decorated room pics are shown a bit further down in this post.

Meanwhile I finished unpacking the many suitcases and duffel bags, and set up the stockings and glitter which we would decorate at 6:30pm when Michelle and Larson came by. There were boxes of snacks, beer and wine, and various gifts we would exchange as part of the stocking stockers on Saturday night.

But for Friday night we had a stocking decorating welcome back to Jekyll Island party. The eight of us (Michelle and Larsen, Ben and Tom, Andy and Art, and Steve DOS and I) each decorated our own stocking with the glitter glue we provided.

DOS had bought better quality Elmer’s glitter glue this year, which seemed to dry better. Decorating stockings while sipping on vino or a brewski with a fire going and Christmas decorations blinking brightly with Christmas music playing is a sure way to get into the holiday spirit! It was rainy, chilly and damp the first night on the island so the fire felt great.

We later had dinner in the main dinning room (minus Michelle and Larsen who joined us on Saturday night), and went to bed all a bit tired from the long travel day, but thrilled to be back at Jekyll. The main dining room dates back to 1888, and for over 50 years was the exclusive enclave for the likes of the Rockefeller’s, the Vanderbilt’s, the Morgan’s, and the other millionaires of the Club era and guests.  Now it’s open to ordinary folks like us, and it takes just a bit of imagination to picture the room filled with ladies in their hoop dresses and hats, and men decked out in their tuxes; the daily wear of the wealth in those days.  If only those walls could talk!

On Saturday morning we had a late breakfast in the main dining room, which was fairly busy as there were a couple large wedding parties on Jekyll this weekend. We then went into ‘town’, just a short drive to the new Convention Center area and adjacent shops and Westin Hotel, in search of Christmas wrapping paper, something we forgot to bring.  This is where modern Jekyll takes over from the historic Jekyll, just a couple miles away, and ocean front or a short walk from the beach too! 

We went to the local all-purpose grocery store, and although they didn’t have any, called up the street for us to another shop we went to. While the card/souvenir shop didn’t have Christmas paper, they did have island-themed paper sheets which I bought 3 packs of.

The six of us staying at the Jekyll Club then had lunch at the local Irish-themed Wee pub, with everyone but me getting the daily soup special to warm up a bit from the chilly Jekyll weather – in the low 50s, but still damp until later in the afternoon.

We had hoped to take a nap in the afternoon, but DOS and I had to organize the Christmas stockings and gifts for the evening festivities, so we got everything setup, and met the others at 3:30pm for the 4pm Christmas-themed tram tour.  We filled the stockings with stocking stuffers, which included souvenirs we had picked up in our travels; everything from Africa magnets to Chilean wine openers; basically things we bought too many of!  We did have a couple nicer gifts and wrapped those with the gift paper we bought in town, but after running out of that I had a novel idea: use some of the Christmas cocktail napkins we brought! Tacky but desperate; it was a cute gesture of ‘Clampet-like’ gift giving; with the Clampet’s referring to the old show the Beverly Hillbillies!  In this photo, the napkin-wrapped gifts, with the post-a-note tags look like a hoagie from Subway! LOL!  Hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?

By 4pm, it had warmed up a bit outside, although you still needed a jacket. We walked over to the Jekyll Island Club Museum, which is housed in the building originally used for the horse stables.  The tram tours leaves from outside the back door of the stables, and as we were early, we had some time to take photos before leaving. Here is a photo I took of the guys standing in front of DuBignon Cottage, which was a short walk from the Club House, and on the way to the Museum.

 The DuBignon Cottage is the oldest ‘cottage’ (the millionaires term for a modest winter mansion)  still standing in the historic district, and dates back to 1884.   The DuBignon family had sold the entire Jekyll Island to the Jekyll Club members in 1886 for use as their exclusive winter Country Club. For years it housed the superintendent of the Island, and also was used for accommodating additional guests if the nearby Club House was full. 

 This year we again had Phyllis as our tram driver/tour guide for the special Christmas tram tour thru the Jekyll Island Village. Phyllis had developed this special Christmas tour which is only offered at 4pm on Saturdays during December.  (The other days have regular tram tours at 11, 1, and 3 pm, but the Christmas one is a bit special as it ends as it’s getting dark, and has refreshments, while Phyllis is dressed in character of the era.) Phyllis has been doing the tram tour for over 15 years, and she really knows the history of the island well, and loves to share her passion of Jekyll Island with the guests that are lucky enough to visit the Island.  Phyllis remembered us from the last few years, no doubt because we always wear some flashing lights, Santa or reindeer hats etc. This year Michelle had also given us two special Jekyll Island light up caps, and me a long light-up want, which I used to point in the direction Phyllis was describing.

After passing this horse drawn carriage, we first went to Faith Chapel, which is beautiful in it’s simplicity, but stunning with it’s two stained glass murals, one an original signed piece by Tiffany.  The first mural as seen from outside the Chapel looks dull and dark, however once inside you can see it beautifully illuminated, entirely from the natural light. Likewise the second mural in the front of the church is also lit only by natural light.  There are lights in the Chapel to light the inside, but the stained glass panels are not affected by the natural daylight coming from outside the Chapel – truly beautiful!

Here our group and the other tram guests listen while Phyllis explains the history of the Chapel, which can also host small weddings, as well as services at different times of the year.

After leaving Faith Chapel, the tram toured continued around the historic district, inviting you to use your imagination of what it must have been like to live here winters during the club area, staying either in the Club House, or one of the several ‘cottages; that member families owned. Of course they didn’t have the bright blinky lights back them!


We toured the Historic Village by tram, with Phyllis pointing out the various ‘cottages’ and the families that owned them during the Club era.  We drove by our hotel, the Jekyll Club Resort, which opened for the first season of membership in 1888.

Next on the tour was Crane Cottage, the largest of the Cottages built on the island.  It was build by the plumbing magnate Richard Crane, and had some 20 bedrooms and 17 baths, quite befitting for someone that has the name Crane on their bath fixtures.  Today Crane Cottage is part of the Jekyll Club Resort, and room can be rented there, and/or elaborate weddings too.  On the Saturday night we drove by, a wedding was setup outside, which seemed a bit cool to have it outdoors.  Seems like they would have moved it inside by one of the many fireplaces!  Until recently Crane housed our favorite restaurant to eat in on the Island.  The new owners decided to relocate the service staff to the nearby wharf area, and reopened Lattitudes 22 after several years of neglect.  We will miss eating in Crane in its intimate library, dining by the fireplace.  In fact, Crane is where we met Michelle and Larsen several years ago!

As we continued along our tour, we passed several of the other ‘cottages’, each with it’s own unique style.  Hollybourne was the first cottage build as part of the Jekyll Club era in 1890, and is also the most unusual in architecture.  It was also the only cottage to remain occupied by the same family (the Maurice family) throughout the Jekyll Club era.  It has recently been restored (and it’s still ongoing), and last year Larson (who volunteers with the restoration) gave us a private tour of the huge cottage.  

Some of the other cottages we passed are pictured below:

We finished the tour at Indian Mound, which was once the winter residence of the William Rockefeller family. We’ve been in this ‘cottage’; i.e. mansion several times before, and always enjoy seeing how the wealthy club families lived in their day; i.e.early 1900’s until around 1942 and the end of the club era. This cottage was in a prime area, facing the river on the side, and a view of the Club House from the front.

Mrs. Rockefeller died here in 1931, followed by her husband a couple years later. Mrs. Rockefeller loved her children and grand children which was evident by the large living room with toys scattered about, and beautifully decorated for Christmas. Some Christmas music was hear playing from the original Victrola-Like player, giving the sound an old-fashioned Christmas feel.


After the tour, we gathered outside of the Rockefeller Cottage for some tasty treats and for the first time in the history of the tram tours – a bit of adult beverages too!  We had our choice of local beer, wine, or Phyllis’s special hot drink concoction served out of a crock pot, that no doubt  smelled good, and no doubt had some heavy spirits in it.  

I passed on the special drink Phyllis concocted, but did have a brewski.  Michelle and Larsen met ushere at the end of the tour – i.e. they crashed the wine event after I called them!


Phyllis even passed out ‘crackers’ for everyone, not the type you eat, but the British tradition of pulling apart  a Christmas decorated cardboard tube, with a prize and joke or riddle inside, plus a tacky paper crown you have to wear. (We brought our own crackers for later in the dining rom – a tradition we’ve done for years!)

 After having some beverages and a fun time on the tram tour, we walked back to the Clubhouse, which was just across the lawn from Indian Mound, stopping to take a few photos of the huge lawn tree, and the lights of the Clubhouse,San Souci, and the large hanging moss trees at dusk along the way.  Indian Mound Cottage now looked nicely decorated and had a warmth about it  from the outside as we walked the short distance to the Club House.


Once back at the Club House, we took a couple photos of the elegantly lit hotel as we headed up to our fourth floor party room!

Next up, we had a really fun night of entertaining in the Turret (Presidential) Suite with the eight of us.  We opened stockings, and exchanged a few ‘napkin-wrapped’ gifts as well.  I had setup a Christmas playlist, which played via bluetooth to the portable disco-like speaker I brought with us, which lit up the walls and ceiling, as well as synching to the music, while the fireplace kept us warm and happy.

In a funny and unusual spin on the European ‘crackers’ tradition we had just done at Indian Mound, Art gave me a set of musical crackers, and he said I would be the conductor for the ‘orchestra’.   DOS and I had brought out own crackers for the main dining room, but we’ve never had musical crackers before!.  In addition to the normal cracker version with prizes, jokes and a crown, each musical cracker included a different whistle numbered 1 to 8, and songbook of Christmas songs.

 I was chosen to be the conductor, I guess since Michelle and Larson had given me the light up wand I had used on the tram, and used it to point to the person’s number when it was there turn to blow the whistle.  Everyone lined up 1 to 8, although as I had number 7, I gave it to DOS to do double duty with his number.

  I must say it was quite humorous and much harder than it looked conducting Jingle Bells just shouting out the numbers 1 to 8 continuously! Like handbells in Church, everyone had to chirp their whistle at the correct time, and I was not exactly the best director.  It really was hilarious, and I only wish I had the whole thing on video!  I must not have done very good at conducting, as my musically-talented brother Andy took over in this short video:

After we finished up the gifts, cracker chorus, and stockings, the eight of us headed downstairs to the main dining room on the first floor, where we were promptly seated at 8pm. We took a quick photo of the pianist, Tim, with Michelle and Larson, and who also plays the bagpipes within the 12 days of Christmas at Jekyll.  Nice guy, and very talented!  We’ve listened to Tim and enjoyed his music for years at Jekyll.

Once seated in the Main Dining Room, the meal was once again very nice and leisurely, and with the piano music playing in the front, and the fire blazing in the back of the dining room, coupled with the poinsettias, main Christmas tree and lights, it was an ideal setting for a warm Christmas dinner.

We even saw Ola, who has been serving at the hotel for nearly 30 years.  She is now working in the backroom bar area, but came out to see us which was so nice.  Ola was the first server we had when DOS and I started coming to Jekyll several years ago, and it was great to see her.

We had quite a long dinner with appetizers, salads, wine and desserts, and were the last people to leave the dining room – imagine that!  We also brought our own non-musical crackers to the dining room, and had fun once again with the crowns, prizes and riddles. What a fun night it was!

On Sunday, the weather really cleared up, and while still a bit chilly it was sunny and clear outside.  It was nice to sleep in a bit as we had really been on the go the last couple days; not working, but having too much fun setting up the Christmas decorations and party, tram tour, stocking decorating, gift giving, and a celebrating a bit of holiday cheer too – really exhausting! LOL!  We met for brunch at 11am again in the main dining room, and had as enjoyable time as previous years.  The Sunday Brunch at the Jekyll Island Club hotel is a classy event, complete with a shrimp and crab station, salmon and caviar, cheese and charcuterie, salad, and huge dessert stations, not to mention the main foods which included an omelette station, crispy bacon and sausage, pork tenderloin, grits, potatoes, green beans etc, and the best of all Prime Rim carved to order.  Quite a wonderful treat!  It also included Champagne, and although we didn’t really want any, we had to at least make a toast, so we had a glassful.

After brunch, we walked around the Jekyll Historic district for a while, once again admiring the ‘Cottages’ neatly laid out along well manicured lawns and paths, this time by a more photographic sunny day.

The historic district is the one thing that always brings us back to Jekyll; it’s like a mini-Williamsburg without the crowds.  It’s so nice walking amongst the paths surrounding the cottages, and wondering what it must have been like here over a hundred years ago when the island was literally the exclusive playground to the ultra-rich of that day.  Above and beyond the wealth however, Jekyll is such a peaceful and tranquil place to visit; it’s truly a hidden gem in the busy world of today.   Shhhhshh – before it gets too crowded!

Later we packed up some of our luggage and things, and Ben and Tom were nice enough to again haul the things home in their car.  Sunday afternoon was a nice and leisurely time for us at  Jekyll, and it’s especially quiet as most of the weekend guests and wedding party check out on Sunday morning.

Andy and Art, DOS, and I met in the evening for drinks and sunset views on the Turret, before heading to dinner.  This last day (Sunday) was by far the best weather-wise for the week, and we were able to get some good sunset photos before heading out to dinner.

On Sunday night, we had our last dinner on Jekyll at the Westin Hotel.  Ben and Tom had to leave Sunday afternoon, and Michelle and Larson were busy, so it was a quiet night for just the four of us: Andy and Art, DOS and myself.  We took the complimentary Jekyll Club hotel shuttle to the Westin, and Rone took us on the scenic; i.e. color light show route.  We had not seen the light up Christmas display lights in one of the public parks, and it was nice driving thru there to see them. Several of the displays were animated, and these still photos don’t do them justice.

The restaurant and meal were quite nice and casual, and unlike Jekyll overlooks the ocean, although as it was dark you couldn’t see it.  The oceanfront Westin Hotel is fairly new and modern, compared to the historic Jekyll Island Club Hotel, which is over 125 years old.  It was a nice change of atmosphere, although we still prefer the Jekyll Island Club Hotel to stay in for it’s history, ambiance, and location in the historic village.


After dinner, we took the complimentary Westin shuttle back to our hotel (we had taken the Jekyll Club shuttle over to the Westin), and headed up to bed, sad that our 3 day weekend was quickly coming to an end.  A couple last parting shots in front of the hotel, please!

In the morning, we headed back to Orlando, dropping Andy and Art off at Jacksonville Airport on the way.  DOS and I are flying up to Roanoke on Friday, so we will see Andy and Art (and my parents then).  

But for now we are all back home, and reminiscing of the wonderful pre-Christmas weekend we had at Jekyll Island!   Merry Christmas to all!


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