Do you know the feeling when you fall in love with a city? The architecture inspires you, the history fascinates you, the style invigorates you or the beauty just fills your soul? And best of all is when all of that happens at the same time.
I’d heard a little about St Augustine, Florida over the years, mostly from friends who simply gushed about loving it so much. But you never truly understand until you experience it for yourself.
And that’s what we recently did. And all of those things I mentioned fell into place.
Let me show you why.
Disclosure: I received complimentary lodging and attraction tickets during our stay in St Augustine to fully experience the city in order to give you my thorough and honest opinions.
When setting out to experience the flavor of a new city I love to delve into its history. And no place has more history than St Augustine. Literally. It’s the oldest city in the United States.
So the first stop on our tour was where Juan Ponce de Leon first discovered what he called La Florida in 1513, the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park. And where the first European settlement was started by Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1565.
The site was fascinating. And thanks to the visual presentations and authentic re-enactments, the kids had a blast learning about history. How often can you say that?
In addition to the European discoverers, you also learn about the Timucuan Village that had already been there for thousands of years before the explorers stepped foot on the land. It’s largely thanks to University of Florida researchers who’ve been uncovering artifacts there for decades.
While you explore the grounds, you get an added bonus in seeing (and hearing) about 30 absolutely gorgeous peacocks.
-Hit the Navigators Planetarium first. It’s a really neat show and it’s in air conditioning, which is great for a hot day.
-The cannon firing really is loud. Have young children cover their ears. But it’s a must-see.
Open daily 9am – 6pm. Adult tickets are $15, kids 6-12 are $9 and kids under 5 are free.
Our next stop was the breathtaking Castillo de San Marcos fort along the Matanzas River. Showing you how amazingly St Augustine has preserved its history, Castillo de San Marcos is the only surviving 17th-century fort in North America.
You’ll get a glimpse of the Spanish, French, English, and American presence there.
It was amazing to see the names of soldiers carved into the stone walls in the 1800s.
The views from the top of the fort are stunning and you get a great breeze, a nice surprise on a hot day.
-They have a water bottle refilling station, a lifesaver on a hot day.
-You can get in free with a National Park Service pass.
Open daily 8:45am – 5pm. Adult tickets are $15 (valid for 7 consecutive days) and kids under 15 are free.
The best way to see St Augustine sites is on a trolley and Old Town Trolley Tours are the best. We used this same company while exploring Key West and we’ve been very happy with the experience in both cities.
The drivers explain the history of what you’re seeing in such great detail. And it’s a great way to get around town without having to drive to each stop.
-Your pass is good for one day, so use it all day. I like to take the whole round trip tour first, to soak in all the information, then hop on and off at the attractions.
-If you don’t get a chance to see everything you want in one day (and you probably won’t) you can add a second consecutive day pass for $10.
Daily tickets start at $25.26 for adults and $9.36 for kids 6-12. Kids under 6 are free.
The tickets also get you free admission to the St Augustine History Museum and shuttle rides to the St Augustine Lighthouse and to the beach!
On board our trolley rides we got to see and learn about some history a bit more modern than the 16th and 17th centuries.
Flagler College was originally the Hotel Ponce de Leon, built in 1888 by oil and railroad magnate Henry Flagler.
Admission Details: Tours are given daily 10am – 2pm. Adult tickets are $12 and kids 11 and under are free.
Lightner Museum was originally the Alcazar Hotel, also built by Flagler in 1888.
Admission Details: Open daily 9am – 5pm. Adult tickets are $15, kids 12-17 are $8 and kids 11 and under are free.
And St George St is a pedestrian thoroughfare holding more attractions, shops, restaurants, and bakeries.
There is so much to see on St George St, I recommend carving out a few hours to stroll and enjoy it.
And what better way to experience the flavor of a city than tasting actual flavors, of amazing food and spirits that have been made there for decades.
The whole family was definitely looking forward to a tasting tour at Whetstone Chocolates. And it did not disappoint.
We learned a lot about how chocolate is made, the differences in types of chocolate and we got to see how Whetstone’s signature shells are made.
Whetstone used to be a much bigger chocolate maker, making products for Nestle, Hershey, M&M Mars and Disney. But several years ago they downsized to focus on artisan chocolates made specifically for you when you order them.
You can definitely taste the quality in all of their amazing products.
Of course, we had to take some home. 🙂
Tasting tours are 10am – 3:30pm most days. Adult tickets are $8, kids 5-17 are $5.50 and kids under 5 are free. And tickets come with a coupon for Whetstone stores.
One of the places I was looking forward to the most was the St Augustine Distillery. I’m not gonna lie, I’m a fan of spirits and I love to taste local products. This is a relatively new distillery in a very old building, the original Florida Power & Light Ice Plant built in 1907.
This tour was really interesting and thanks to the personality of the tour guide, it was also a blast. You get to see how they make their small-batch vodka, rum, gin, and whiskey…
And yes, you get to taste them too.
But don’t worry, it’s still a family-friendly tour. The kids got free lemonade, which was much appreciated.
Tours are every half hour 10:30am – 5pm. And admission is totally free! But be prepared to spend some money in their store. You will want to take some of their spirits home with you.
After long days of sightseeing, it’s so nice to collapse into a giant, cozy bed.
For a couple of days, we called Jaybird’s Inn our home. Close to all the amazing sites, Jaybird’s is a clean, cozy and stylishly modern hotel in a building with lots of St Augustine character.
And this frugal mom (as well as my silly kids) loved the free continental breakfast including their amazing pancake maker. 🙂
You could also use coupons for a seated breakfast at their restaurant.
And did I mention it was hot when we visited? A dip in the pool definitely helped.
The only thing wrong with our trip to St Augustine was that it wasn’t longer. There really are a lot of amazing sites to see and incredible places to go and restaurants to try.
Here are a few more awesome attractions that we will be taking a close look at next time we go, which I hope will be soon!
Open daily 9am – 6pm. Adult tickets are $12.95, kids 12 and under are $10.95.
Open daily 10am – 5pm. Adult tickets are $8 and a family pass is $18.
Open daily 9am – 5pm. Adult tickets are $5, kids 6-12 are $4 and kids under 6 are free.
Cathedral Basilica, the oldest Catholic parish in the U.S.
You can take self-guided tours daily, for free.
Open daily 10am – 6pm (Sundays 11am – 6pm). Admission is free.
Want to know more? Check out these articles and blog posts:
Free or low-cost things to do in St Augustine
Discover what’s off St George St
Columbia restaurant review by Andrea Eats
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