A year ago my daughter went to St. Augustine as part of a school field trip. She enjoyed it so much we decided to make a 24 hr stop on our way to Charleston the following summer. For those who do not know, St. Augustine is the oldest city in the country. Not only is it full of history (from Spanish colony to British rule) but it is fun to. It is a great place to walk around, admire the cool Spanish architecture, have some good food, and experience some great tours and entertainment. There are also tons of tourist traps – I mean shops along the way to pick up some mementos. If you have never been to St. Augustine, then pack your bags and give it a go. There is lots to keep you busy and I guarantee you will find something that is right for you. We spent less than 24 hrs in this historic town and sampled just a bit of what it has to offer. I can’t wait to go back for more.
If you are able, I recommend that you give yourself at least 3 days to truly appreciate everything St. Augustine has to offer. However, if you are pressed for time like we were, don’t let this discourage you. You can still see and experience quite a bit in just one day. The hard part will be choosing what to do. Here is a recount of what we did and a few other things you might want to consider doing while there.
Old Town Trolley
We arrived in St. Augustine close to 10 am and went directly to purchase our tickets for the Old Town Trolley. They do have convenient free parking at a number of stops so we picked one of those to leave our car at for the day while we toured. The trolley is informative, fun and convenient, plus your ticket is good for 3 consecutive days. I love that you can hop on and hop off as many times as you want and the driver provides interesting facts along the way. It will even take you down to the beach, the alligator farm, and the lighthouse museum so you do not need to drive your own car.
Our first stop was a quaint little French Bakery we spotted along the way and since we were hungry decided to enjoy breakfast there. Les Petits Pleasures did not disappoint. Everything was made fresh and they were very accommodating and friendly. P.S.: I hear they have moved locations but I am assured that the owners are the same and the food is just as good.
After filling our tummies with pastries, croissant breakfast sandwiches, coffee and juice, off we went to the Spanish Quarter so we could do our first tour of the day at the Colonial Quarter. This was probably my favorite tour of the day. Our guide was dressed in period clothing and was not only knowledgeable but funny. He made our trip through the centuries of St. Augustine informative and entertaining. We learned about the history of St. Augustine, we visited a period blacksmith shop and were shown how the metals were worked. We even experienced a musket drill and were allowed to handle and see the musket up front and personal. Both the adults and children were very entertained and we all learned a thing or two about the history of St. Augustine. After our guided tour, we climbed the watch tower and got to enjoy beautiful views of the Castillo de San Marcos.
Pirate & Treasure Museum
After our wonderful history lesson and tour we decided to go for some treasure hunting at the Pirate & Treasure museum. The museum is full of fun interactive exhibits and the kids had fun finding all the skull and cross bones hidden around the museum.
TIP: if you plan to visit both the Colonial Quarter and the Pirate Museum then make sure to purchase the combo ticket as it is a nice discount. You can get them at either museum or online.
St. Augustine Distillery
The St. Augustine Distillery is a small batch Whiskey, Gin, Rum, and Vodka distillery. They utilize local ingredients and everything is made in the USA. From the grains to the barrels this craft distillery is American proud. I have enjoyed a few wine tours but never a distilling one. This one did not disappoint. It was the perfect length (tours every 30 minutes), the perfect price (FREE), and they provided samples at the end (even some non-alcoholic ones for my girls).
The Whetstone Chocolate Tasting Tour
On this tour we learned about the Whetstone story and got to sample a few different types of chocolate: some dark (my favorite), some milk (my girls favorite) and even some white (not a favorite, and have I mentioned it is not even chocolate). You also get to walk through the factory and see all the confections being made. Seeing the factory was very nostalgic for me as my dad had a chocolate factory and this brought back many memories of my childhood. Although the process I observed in this factory was at a bigger scale and much more automated than what my dad used to do it was still familiar to me.
Breakfast – I already covered breakfast at the wonderful Les Petits Pleasures.
Lunch – We had a quick lunch at Café Hidalgo while walking through the old city. This is a nice little spot that serves Paninis, salads, gelato, smoothies and coffee.
Snacks – We did some fun flavored wine tasting but I cannot remember the name of the place. It was on the second story of a small house along St. George Street where all the tourist shops are. We got to sample a few flavors and one of our favorites was Key Lime. They also make slushies which are perfect on a hot day.
No visit to St. Augustine is complete without stopping at the famous gourmet ice pop shop – The Hyppo. These are all natural ice pops that come in many fun flavors. They use local ingredients when possible and have no preservatives or color added in. The hard part is picking which flavor to indulge in.
Dinner – there are many great places to eat in St. Augustine. Making a choice was not easy. But as dinner time approached it began to rain so we took cover at The Floridian. Their menu changes with the seasons but they classify themselves as “Innovative Southern Fare” The menu is quite varied and can accommodate many tastes. They even have some gluten free options.
What else to see and do:
Castillo de San Marcos – This is a must see if in St Augustine. The only reason we did not visit on this trip is because my daughter had just been there with school.
Lightner Museum – If you enjoy museums you will enjoy this one. It is mostly a museum of antiquities and American Gilded Age pieces. The house itself is magnificent as it is the Historic Alcazar building in downtown St. Augustine.
St. Augustine Light House – I was sad not to be able to explore this one, however, time did not permit it. This is an active lighthouse and a maritime museum and it promises amazing views and lots of fun.
Alligator farm and zoological park – this is one of Florida’s oldest continuously running attraction it has a zoo, shows, and a zip line.
There are tons of other things to do including beautiful beaches, and visits to the oldest wooden schoolhouse, the jail, the history museum, the wax museum, the fountain of youth, Ripley’s believe or not museum, ghost tours and so much more.
If you need more ideas check out this blogger for a locals view of everything St. Augustine.
What are your favorite things to do in St. Augustine? I would love to hear your ideas so leave me your comments below.