With festive decorations, themed activities for all ages and delectable feasts, celebrating the holidays at Sea Island is serious business.
By Amber Lanier Nagle
From spending time on sun-soaked beaches and lounging near the pool to dining at the resort’s Forbes Five-Star Georgian Room and golfing the Seaside Course, it’s difficult to imagine a day that doesn’t feel like a holiday at Sea Island. But when those special days approach, the resort pulls out all the stops to ensure each one is more memorable than the last, with time-honored traditions like Easter egg hunts and dazzling soirées to bring in each new year.
Mother Nature begins to paint the Sea Island landscape just before Easter as pink azaleas, yellow daffodils and paperwhite buds blossom, with the region’s diverse flora out in full force. It’s also an exciting time for Sea Island staff, members and resort guests, since Easter brings a variety of activities that take advantage of the spring sunshine and colorful vistas.
The celebrations begin midweek, with the Easter holiday reception taking place in The Cloister Colonial Lounge. The fun continues in the following days—families get their hands sandy as they compete to construct the best Easter Bunny-inspired sand castle near the Beach Club; kids take part in imaginative parties; and there are plenty of jelly beans and other Easter treats to go around.
The Friday before Easter brings a special breakfast for kids, who relish in spending time with the Easter Bunny in The Cloister Ballroom. Bunny- and egg-shaped pancakes are served and kids can have their photos taken with their furry host. On Easter Sunday, hundreds gather on the shore for a sunrise service.
Perhaps the most treasured Easter activity, however, takes place that afternoon, as kids—and kids at heart—descend upon the Retreat Clubhouse for the annual Egg-Stravaganza and egg hunt. “It’s best described as an egg free-for-all,” laughs Anne Harvey, activities manager at Sea Island. “[More than] 10,000 eggs are scattered in sections corresponding to different age groups. After a dramatic countdown, 1,000 children and adults raid the field scooping eggs from the ground. The golden egg is a coveted discovery, as it means big prizes.”
In keeping with tradition, ladies and girls don their finest Sunday dress on Easter Sunday, which often means bright and cheery Lilly Pulitzer attire, while gentlemen and boys sport suits, ties and seersucker.
Red, White and Blue
“Our annual Fourth of July parade down Sea Island Drive is the place to be seen,” says Elizabeth Killgallon, Sea Island’s associate director of catering. “There are floats, vintage cars, bikes, tricycles, golf carts and strollers all decorated in red, white and blue. People strut down the road all dressed up like Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty—even pets wear patriotic costumes. Last year, one dog was dressed like Betsy Ross and posed on a rocking chair like he was sewing a flag.”
Amid dozens of summer activities, families attend a flag raising ceremony on the beach and, a few days before the holiday, take part in the much-anticipated Fourth of July Family Olympics with three-legged races, egg tosses and tug-of-war matches.
The patriotic festivities culminate in a fitting tribute to America’s independence—a firework spectacular that illuminates the night sky, followed by the After-the-Fireworks Party with live music, delectable food and more celebration.
Merry and Bright
Poinsettias, evergreens, sparkling lights and Christmas trees transform Sea Island into a holiday wonderland just after Thanksgiving. “It’s magical,” says Melissa Ippensen, event design manager at Sea Island. “We decorate 27 twinkling trees and line the walkway with glowing luminaries. Our guests can visit with Santa Claus or listen to carolers while strolling through The Cloister. And we unveil a magnificent gingerbread house.”
In the evenings leading up to Christmas, little ones look forward to the Elf Tuck-Ins. For more than 16 years, Santa’s Sea Island elves have visited hundreds of children at bedtime, serving milk and cookies, and reading a Christmas storybook to sleepy kids who soon have visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads.
The Reindog Parade is another opportunity to make jolly family memories as guests and members dress pets in fanciful costumes. Judges determine which pet is most likely to lead Santa’s sleigh in the tradition of one famous, red-nosed reindeer.
The days surrounding Christmas also are filled with parties, receptions, galas and fine dining opportunities such as magnificent feasts, scrumptious brunches and divine dinners of traditional holiday fare.
Toasts and Cheers
“We have various types of parties on New Year’s Eve and each is structured to accommodate our guests’ tastes and preferences,” Killgallon says. “Some people like big, bold extravaganzas with live music, dancing, noisemakers and lots of fanfare, while others may want a more low-key evening with a quiet four-course dinner. All of these parties lead up to the countdown to midnight at The Cloister—’party central’—where guests can toast the new year with a glass of Champagne and view fireworks from the terrace.”
On New Year’s Day, more than 150 daring souls line the shoreline to take a refreshing dip in the Atlantic Ocean in the annual Polar Bear Plunge. Note their heads have to go all the way under the water for their effort to count.
Bloody marys and tall mimosas await back in the lobby, and heaping platefuls of traditional celebratory foods such as black-eyed peas and collard greens are served in the dining areas.
While any holiday spent with loved ones is a special one, the Sea Island staff delights in creating events that are nothing short of magical. From rummaging through the grass for Easter eggs to sparkling Champagne toasts, Sea Island’s enduring holiday traditions are sure to create countless timeless memories for members and resort guests of all ages.