Monday, April 18, 2011

St. Augustine: A Destination for the Whole Family

I can't believe it's already been a week since our vacation! The week went somewhere, I know it. I'm just not sure where :)

I want to highlight some of the fun places we saw while touring around the quaint, historic town of St. Augustine, Florida. In case you are looking for a new vacay spot, maybe these ideas and attractions might help you plan.
The sunsets out behind us were fantastic every night. Check out those storm clouds a-brewin!
Trolley Tours: I learned long ago that sometimes the best way to see a new city efficiently and cheaply is to sign up for the hop on - hop off double decker bus tours. For usually a reasonable price, you can get a two- or three-day pass that takes you to all the best touristy spots in that town. In St. Augustine, they up the cute factor and do the whole thing on a trolley tour, and we really, really enjoyed it. While the city is small enough to walk around, the trolleys take you across town while filling you in about the history, perfect for those steamier days in Florida.  
Our vote: worth the price if you are staying multiple days and have a lot to see.

Historic Spanish Quarter: If you have ever visited Historic Williamsburg and enjoyed playing colonial resident for a day, this stop is for you. We got to talk with the metal worker about primitive ovens and creating unique sculptures from iron bars, and saw a demonstration of a real musket firing, too. So loud!

The best part of the Spanish Quarter is something that anyone can experience even without the ticket price, though -- the period tavern is accessible from the street, and is run by a woman, typical of the times when those positions were reserved for widows from the wars. We played a centuries-old dice game with a local, and talked about beer and the colonial life with the tavern owner.  
Our vote: A perfect spot for a quick afternoon drink. 

The Historic Tavern tap may have had current beers, but they were served in those cool old mugs on the right!
Local fish is awesome: There are so many great places to eat around town. While we spent most days and nights cooking out on the charcoal grill at our beach house, we ate lunch in town on our touristy days. Harry's Seafood Bar and Grille right by the Bridge of Lions had fantastic shrimp po' boys, and the local ice cream shops on St. George Street are a good mid-day snack. We also had a wonderful dinner out mid-week at Cap's -- definitely check out this local favorite if you are a fresh fish lover. For those homebound nights, get your seafood selections from The Seafood Shoppe on A1A at St. Augustine Beach.  
Our vote: Why eat meat when the fish is literally caught that morning?

The sunset dinner at Caps was worth the evening chill in the air!
The doctor is in: One of the most interesting tours we did while in town was with the Spanish Doctor. Partially due to the great tour guide leading the group, and partially due to the weird and fun facts that he shared with us, our group was enthralled during the entire hour. Did you know that manufacturers and food vendors use bugs (yes, bugs) still today that residents then discovered produce a red-colored dye?
Our vote: if you have curious kids or are a medical nerdo, you will go ga-ga over this stop.

Enjoying a lazy evening at home while the family cooks up dinner
Other winning spots: 
  • The Tiffany stained glass-filled buildings at Flagler College -- try and pick out the original chairs from the College's original hotel days in the dining halls. Hint: the replicas have angel faces that are frowning. 
  • The Old Jail tour guides act as if you are actual inmates while they show you around. Best behave yourselves. 
  • The St. Augustine Lighthouse is worth the 200-step trek up for the fantastic views you will get of the harbor and the ocean beyond.
The view from the bottom of the Lighthouse was intimidating!
All in all, it was a great spot not only for history buffs, but for young adults, parents and kids alike. I'd love to return there again, and can see why it's a favorite go-to vacation spot of so many families!

Have you ever been to St. Augustine? What is your favorite Florida destination city for a family? 



Anonymous said...

So I never comment on your blogs; however, after watching you post pictures you have officially convinced me to change my weekend destination from Amelia Island to St. Augustine Beach. I am looking forward to it! :) Thanks again!!!

Unknown said...

Anon - Aw good! I am excited for and your vacation! I hear that Amelia is fantastic, but I think St. Augustine Beach will give you a good combo of beach and things to do. Great beach to ride a bike on, btw, so bring yours along!