St Augustine is the oldest city in the United Sates and was listed by National Geographic Traveler among the Top 20 “World’s Must See Places”. Filled with history this town has lots of fun things to enjoy during a family vacation. We recently visited St Augustine with my children who are six and nine and where really amazed at how much they loved the trip, there where lots interesting and exciting things for them to do and they learned so much about the history of St Augustine and the United States. Here are 10 of our favorite things to do with kids in Saint Augustine.
Visit El Castillo de San Marcos
This massive fortress built with coquina stone is right in the historic center of St Augustine and just a short walk from most of the area hotels and B&Bs.
The Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest masonry fort in the United States and was designated as America’s first national monument. The Castillo helped protect Spain’s treasure fleets from the English and pirates and it comes alive through a diverse range of programs which include ranger talks, museum exhibits, historical weapons demonstrations, living history reenactments and special events.
We visited and did a self guided tour, the kids learned a lot about history and of coarse loved the cannons and the re-enactors dressed in period clothes. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the Historic Weapons Living History Program cannons and muskets are fired. For more information, visit NPS.gov/casa
Embark on a Pirate Adventure
Sail aboard a pirate ship that will take you along the Matanzas river for a one and a half hour interactive pirate adventure. My children enjoyed becoming part of a pirate crew for a day. Thee crew sings songs and there is face painting and tattoos as well as sword fighting. We have been on other pirate cruise ships but what made this one really special is that a second pirate ship attacks the pirate cruise and there is a fight for the treasure as the smaller pirate ship tries to take over the larger ship. At the end of the trip the kids receive a treasure. The crew does an excellent job involving the kids and keeping with character. For the adults it’s a great way to see St Augustine from the water. For more information and to purchase tickets visit the Black Raven Pirate Adventure website.
Visit Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum
Housed in a historic building which is supposed to be haunted the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium in St Augustine was the first permanent Ripley’s exhibit. Filled with strange artifacts and oddities that will attract the attention of kids of all ages, there is everything here from creepy shrunken heads to many art pieces made with strange materials like candy or car parts. There are interactive things to do along your way through the 4 story building: it’s very entertaining, specially for the kids who where thrilled to “discover” many things they had never seen or heard about. This is a perfect place to visit if you want to take a brake from the Florida heat or during a rainy afternoon. Weeks after our visit my 6 year old son is still talking about some of the exhibits. I liked that many of the things my children saw really awakened their curiosity: now my daughter wants to make art with candy and my son wants to invent strange machines. This would also be a great place for teens. You can visit the Ripley’s Believe it or Not! website to find out about hours and admission prices.
Get Up Close and Personal with Dolphins at Marineland
Marineland Dolphin Adventure is the worlds first Oceanarium, it opened in 1938 as Marine Studios with the purpose of filming scenes for motion pictures and newsreels. Today, Marineland Dolphin Adventure offers guests a variety of interactive and in-water programs that allow guests to make physical and emotional connections with animals.
We participated in the Touch and Feed program where we had the opportunity to interact with the bottlenose dolphins and feed them. We also took the Behind the Seas tour where we got to learn a lot about the history of Marineland and Nellie, the oldest dolphin in captivity who was born at Marineland and lived to be 61 years old. My children loved the experience and learned a lot about the dolphins and other sea creatures. You can clearly see that the staff really loves their job and cares about the animals.
We got to see a 6 week baby dolphin with his mom, watched the sea turtles, learned about other sea creatures like crabs, lobsters and octupi and really enjoyed getting up close and personal with the dolphins. Visit the Marineland website for more information about their programs and special events.
Admire the Grandeur of Flagler College
Not only is Flagler College, originally the Flagler Hotel, a beautiful building but is filled with history and rich and interesting facts. Smaller children will be wowed by the gorgeous 80-foot domed ceiling supported by eight ornate oak caryatids and enjoy walking, or running, around in the flower filled garden while older kids and adults will find the history behind this marvel of modern architecture quite interesting.
In 1888, co-founder of Standard Oil and railroad magnate Henry Flagler opened his luxurious Hotel Ponce de Leon. Designed in the Spanish Renaissance style by New York architects John Carrere and Thomas Hastings, the Ponce was constructed entirely of poured concrete. The hotel also was wired for electricity at the onset, with the power being supplied by D.C. generators provided by Flagler’s friend Thomas Edison.
￼The building and grounds of the hotel are today a part of Flagler College. The college offers tours of the opulent hotel, for more information you can visit legacy.flagler.edu.
Go Back in Time at The Colonial Quarter
Kids can relive history in this interactive living history museum. We took a guided tour where we got to see our tour guide work in a real blacksmith shop and the kids got to participate in a musket drill. The Historical Adventure Tour immerses you in the sights, sounds and smells of three centuries. Kids can see how a sailing ship is built, dig for artifacts, participate in a musket drill and a cannon drill, climb the watchtower and visit a leatherwork and a blacksmith shops. My kids loved every minute of it and it was one of their favorite activities during our trip, to the point that they wanted to go back!
You can visit the Colonial Quarter website for more information.
Visit The Alligator Farm Zoological Park
Located just a 5 minute drive from the historic downtown the Alligator Farm Zoological Park was founded in 1893 and is one of the oldest zoos in the country.
With more that 23 species of crocodilians, snakes, birds and mammals this small zoo is a fun and thrilling experience for kids and adults and a great place to learn about Florida’s rich ecosystems. From February to July the Native Bird Rookery is alive with herons, egrets, ibis, spoonbills and wood storks that seek the security of the park’s Alligaotr Swamp to roost and raise their young. It was truly breathtaking too see all of those birds nesting and be able to get so close to them.
For the older kids the Alligator Farm features a zip line course where kids and adults 10 and older can climb and zip over 7 acres of live alligators, crocodiles, birds and lemurs! My son who is 6 can not wait to go back when he is 10 so he can do the Crocodile Crossing and zip through the zoo! Visit the Alligator Farm Zoological Park website for more information.
Take a Horse And Carriage Ride
Kids will be trilled to experience the city just as it’s inhabitants might have experienced it hundreds of years ago: aboard a horse and carriage. There are many horse and carriage tours available or you can also hire a carriage just for your family. A narrated tour in a horse drawn carriage can be a memorable family event. Some carriages can accommodate up to twelve people.
Learn All About Pirate History at the Pirate & Treasure Museum
This small museum is packed with interesting information and interactive exhibits. A section is designed like the inside of a pirate ship, there are cannons that the kids can shoot and interactive computers where you can learn the history of all of the famous pirates. The kids can do a scavenger hunt and look for different clues.
The location of the museum is ideal, just across the street from the Castillo de San Marcos.
They have a really impressive collection of pirate artifacts that includes the one of the only two Jolly Roger flags left and the only pirate treasure chest in existence. The kids did not want to leave, and neither did I as I was learning so much about pirate history. This museum is truly a must see if you are visiting St Augustine.
Visit the Pirate and Treasure Museum website for more information and tickets.
Enjoy Family Fun in the Sun at the Beach
Beauty, history and unspoiled nature combined have put many of the beaches along the Florida’s Historic Coast on the list of best beaches in the country. A mandatory height restriction of 35 feet for buildings ensures the beaches are never darkened by shadows cast by massive, high- rise buildings.
- Anastasia State Park’s white quartz sands are perfect for a day at the beach with the family. Park rangers and volunteers present programs on various topics ranging from sea turtles to star gazing. For more information visit www.floridastateparks.org/anastasia
- Crescent Beach with miles of broad, white sand has irresistible appeal for anyone seeking the picture-perfect beach vacation.
St. Augustine Beach has everything for the ideal beach vacation—sunny accommodations, tropical seaside restaurants, and a beachfront park with an impressive fishing pier, pavilion and splash park.
- At Ponte Vedra Beach resorts and spas, plus outstanding golf, line the peach and cinnamon coquina sands of this wonderfully uncrowded beach.
For more information on events, activities, holiday getaway and vacation opportunities in St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches, go to the Visitors and Convention Bureau website at www.FloridasHistoricCoast.com, like Florida Historic Coast on Facebook and follow @FlHistoricCoast on Twitter to stay informed of the latest events in St Augustine.
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