April 26, 2015
Just 5 hours south of Atlanta, St. Augustine is a fantastic location for a family vacation! While providing interesting and educational activities for the whole family, the kids just think they are having fun! 

This year, St. Augustine which was the first city founded in America, turns an astounding 400 years old! History permeates this whole city. From the original Spanish conquest and the battles with England over who would control this area to the swashbuckling pirate era and finally the opulent days of railroad tycoon, Henry Flagler, there's a fascinating story around every corner!

Fun, family-friendly things to do in St. Augustine:
Hang out at the Beach!
If you want to spend your entire vacation sun bathing and playing in the surf, St. Augustine features a gorgeous beach with countless cottages and condos for rent. The beach is gorgeous, featuring warm water, rolling waves and miles and miles of soft, pristine, white sand. And, you can actually drive on the beach! Just pack the car, drive to your spot and unload. How's that for convenient!

Old Town Trolley Tours:
One of the best ways to get an over view of any new location is with a guided tour. Climb aboard an Old Town Trolley to experience humorous tales and interesting trivia by friendly conductors, as they bring 400 years of American history to life. This 70 minute tour covers 100 points of interest around St. Augustine. Their Off and On Re-boarding Privilege at 22 stops makes it easy to hop off to explore an attraction or eat lunch and then hop back on to continue the sightseeing tour.

The Colonial Quarter:
At one of my favorite attractions, you can experience three centuries of St. Augustine history. During a guided living history tour, you can watch a 16th century Spanish sailing ship being built, see a forging demonstration in the 17th century blacksmith shop, engage in a musket drill, climb a 17th century Spanish watchtower replica, visit an 18th century Spanish soldier's home, create a bracelet at the 18th century leather shop, and visit an 18th century British colonial print shop. Our costumed guide, Grimm, was extremely knowledgeable as well as entertaining. His unbelievably fast history lesson covering 4 centuries and 11 flags in one breath at the Boardwalk of Flags is very impressive! Next door to the main entrance, La Taverna del Caballo is an excellent choice for a lunch of delicious Spanish tapas.

St Augustine Alligator Farm, Zoological Park & Rookery:
No trip to St. Augustine is complete without a visit to the alligator farm!  The St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park began in the late nineteenth century as a small exhibition of Florida reptiles and became a quintessential Florida attraction. Today it functions as a modern zoo serving the public and the scientific community with educational shows and exhibits, important research and worldwide conservation efforts. The St. Augustine Alligator Farm is the only facility in the world exhibiting living specimens of all 23 currently recognized species of crocodilian. The park is also home to albino alligators, pythons and other reptiles, Komodo Dragons, lemurs and exotic birds. For the ultimate dare-devil, Crocodile Crossing is their new 7 acre zip line and aerial obstacle course complete with alligators and crocodiles right under your toes!

St. Augustine Eco Tours:
For a truly unique experience, book a boat ride with St. Augustine Eco Tours. An experienced naturalist leads each personalized outing with only six passengers or less. Being out on the water is a glorious way to spend the morning and I learned a tremendous amount about the fascinating maritime history cruising St. Augustine Inlet, Salt Run and the Matanzas River. On our 1 and 1/2 hour trip we also got "up close and personal" with both manatees and Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins. We learned about dolphin conservation and the first-ever population survey of dolphins being conducted by this group. They photograph dolphins and identify individuals by their dorsal fins. Catamaran and Kayak Tours are also offered.

Pirate & Treasure Museum:
Voted St. Augustine's Best Attraction, this exciting and educational museum features the world's largest collection of authentic pirate artifacts, Florida shipwreck treasures and interactive fun, including the world's only pirate treasure chest!
Black Raven Pirate Ship:
At the St. Augustine Municipal Marina board the Black Raven Pirate Ship, an authentic replica of a 74 foot, 127-passenger Spanish Galleon. Take an exciting voyage with one of the best pirate shows, performed by the best professional pirate actors in the entire state! This crew will show you the fun side of piracy with sing-a-longs, hilarious tales and pirate magic! 

Ghost & Gravestone Tours:
Being four hundred years old, St. Augustine is filled with tales of ghosts and there are many options for hearing about them including guided walking tours and horse drawn carriage tours. But one of my favorites is the Ghost & Gravestones Tour. On this "fright-seeing" tour aboard the Trolley of the Doomed, you will hear tales of murder, mayhem, ghostly apparitions and hilarious legends as you visit the St. Augustine Lighthouse and enter the town’s most haunted building, the “Old Jail.”

Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorium Museum:
Robert Ripley traveled the world to find the odd and unusual. This Odditorium is the very first permanent Ripley’s attraction! Set in a beautiful historic castle, Ripley’s three floors house 800 interactive and totally bizarre exhibits for family friendly fun! You must see it to believe it..... or not!
Cafe Alcazar: Call 904-825-9948 for reservations & directions.
For something a little more upscale, but totally unique, eat lunch on the bottom of the deep end of a swimming pool! The Alcazar Hotel built by Henry Flagler in 1887, featured the world's largest indoor swimming pool. It was four stories tall with a glass ceiling that could be cracked open to view the stars. No longer a hotel, the building is now home to the Lightner Museum, and the drained pool has been converted into the Cafe Alcazar, open for lunch daily. The menu offers soup, salads, sandwiches and light entrees.
Castillo de San Marcos:
Built by the Spanish in 1672, this is the oldest and largest stone fort in the continental U.S. The fort, which was never conquered, protected the town. A drawbridge entrance spans a 40-foot dry moat. Tours explain the history and exhibits while you visit the vaulted powder magazine, the chapel, a prison cell and guard room.  See demonstrations of Spanish military life, musket and cannon firings. (The kids love this... they are loud!)

Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth:
Drink from the legendary fountain, see stars in the planetarium, visit the native Timucuan Indian village, see beautiful free roaming peacocks, visit the 1587 church and hear the Spanish cannon roar!
Hot Shot Bakery:
Want your kids to eat more vegetables? They will be begging for the luscious Sweet Potato Waffles with homemade Caramel Sauce and Bananas from the Hot Shot Bakery! These are absolutely fabulous!! Luckily, they serve breakfast all day, but their soups, paninis, wraps and sandwiches are also great. If you want your 15 minutes of fame, you can try your luck for a spot on the "Wall of Flame" by eating a chocolate covered Datil pepper. But be forewarned, this is not for the faint of heart!

Disclosure Statement: I was provided with complimentary admission to most of these attractions and restaurants for the purpose of this review. However, as always, my opinions are my own and are unbiased.