I remember back in school learning about Spanish Conquistadors and even then, Ponce de Leon stood out as my favorite. He seemed like a real go-getter, so I was always interested in learning more about him. I was also entranced by the stories of the Fountain of Youth. So, when we had the chance to visit St. Augustine, Fla., I was very excited.
All of these school memories came flooding back when we planned our visit. It was where all of this history actually happened and home to the oldest city in the country.
We weren’t exactly sure how much time we’d need to spend checking out this amazing city, so we decided to visit for a week. We could have easily stayed two weeks taking in all the city has to offer.
The city is a mix of fantastic history, flashy tourist attractions and high-end elegance. We had the amazing opportunity to sample a little of each of these during our visit.
Fountain of Youth
One of the first places we visited was the Fountain of Youth. Before even getting into the parking lot, you will be impressed by the street it is on. Magnolia Avenue is lined with large oaks on either side that have grown to form a canopy over the street. It’s really an incredible thing to see and hey, it’s free!
Once you get into the grounds, you’ll notice the beauty of the park. Old, mature trees, beautiful flowers, and even a few resident peacocks.
Alright, let’s get down to business, the real reason you are here is to take a drink from the famous fountain so you can live forever and eventually take over the world, right? Well, let’s get on with it.
As you enter the building where the fountain is, you’ll head down a few steps to get to the fountain. Here you can grab a cup and chug down some of the sweet nectar. I had two glasses, just to be sure.
Another very cool thing about the Fountain of Youth, and St. Augustine in general, is that they are very dog-friendly. We brought our two labrador retrievers along with us on this visit, and they had a great time. They are 11 and 10 years old, so I made sure to get them a cup of their own. I can’t go on living forever without my two buds.
Well, sadly I’m not so sure it worked. The crackling of my knees every time I bend down has led me to believe I’m not getting any younger. Ah well, it was worth a shot.
The rest of the park is really neat. There are live Native American demonstrations that happen throughout the day, live cannon firing, as well as real archaeological digs that happen right there in the park.
We really had a fun time exploring the park and learning the history of it. For more information, check out their website at www.fountainofyouthflorida.com.
One of the tourist attractions we visited was the Alligator Farm. When we decided to go there, I wasn’t really looking forward to it as I thought it would be a second-rate zoo. Well, I was way wrong about that.
We spent more than four hours at the Alligator Farm and it almost didn’t seem like enough. They have TONS of alligators and crocodiles, along with some tortoises and other reptiles. They do live feedings where gigantic alligators actually fight for position and for the prize.
The Alligator Farm is a must-see if you have kids. There is so much to see and the alligators are very active, especially during the rat feeding! There is a small cafe on site that serves up quite a menu, including cold beer. For more information, check out www.alligatorfarm.com.
Castillo De San Marcos
Getting back to some of the history of the city, another must-see is the national monument Castillo de San Marcos. This is a 17th century army fort right on the water.
It was great walking the fort and seeing a live cannon shot by men in uniform.
If you want to see some of the elegance of the city, check out a historic tour of Flagler College. We heard it was one of the largest displays of Tiffany glass and crystal in the United States, so we chose not to do the tour (four kids and a lot of historic crystal isn’t a good combo), but the campus, which used to be a hotel, is absolutely beautiful.
If you’re looking for some great dining, take a stroll down George Street. There are tons of restaurants and pubs to choose from with all different types of food. The problem we had was choosing which one to visit!
We did partake in a gourmet popsicle or two at The Hyppo. Gourmet pops are a growing trend lately and it’s easy to see why!
Old Town Trolley
One of the best ways to see the whole city and learn a lot of the history in the process is by taking a trolley tour. The Old Town Trolley tour runs continuously throughout the day and is a hop-on, hop-off deal.
You can buy your ticket, jump on and ride it to one of the 23 stops. You can ride all day and your ticket is even good for three consecutive days after your purchase. Even if you’ve memorized the tour, it’s still great transportation throughout the city.
Learn more about the Old Town Trolley tour at www.trolleytours.com/st-augustine.
Anastasia State Park
If you’re looking to connect with nature while visiting St. Augustine, they’ve got that covered too. Anastasia State Park is a great place to visit to either for the day or to camp for a few nights. You can hike, kayak, surf or swim here making it a great place to spend some time.
St. Augustine Beach
Another great place to spend a warm day is the St. Augustine Beach. Located on the famous A1A scenic highway, you can catch some waves in the Atlantic and hang out in the warm sand.
Right across the street from the beach are some great restaurants where you can dine outside on the roof and enjoy spectacular views and delicious food. We especially loved Sunset Grille.
Lastly, if marine life is your thing, a short drive south on A1A you’ll find Marineland Dolphin Adventure. Here you can see sea turtles, sharks, and of course dolphins! You can also do a dolphin experience such as meeting them, feeding them and even swimming with them.
St. Augustine is a great place to visit whether you’re young or looking to stay young with a little help from the Fountain of Youth. There are endless options of things to see and do here, so definitely add it to your list.