Top Things to See and Do in St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine’s primary claim to fame is its status as the oldest colonial settlement in the United States. In 1513, the famed Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon landed on the southeastern coast of the North American mainland. He claimed the land for Spain and named it La Florida, which translates into English as “land of the flowers.” About half a century later, another Spanish voyager, Pedro Menendez de Aviles, founded the city of St. Augustine. The modern-day city traces its heritage back to 1565.

Visitors will find a wealth of treasures to enjoy in St. Augustine, including lots of family-friendly activities for kids. Here are 12 hot suggestions to help kick off your trip planning…

17. Take a Guided Tour

St. Augustine features many reputable tour operators that offer informative, educational, and entertaining guided experiences. Guided tours are a great way to get acquainted with the city, and operators offer themed outings that cover a wide range of subjects. You can take a hop-on hop-off tour that allows you to explore points of interest on your own, as well as history tours that delve deep into the city’s storied past.

After nightfall, you can experience the spooky side of St. Augustine with mystery tours and ghost tours. Research your options and book in advance to optimize convenience.

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16. Explore The City On A Hop-On-Hop-Off Trolley Tour

Speaking of guided tours, the St. Augustine Hop-On-Hop-Off Trolley Tour is a great opportunity to see the city at your own pace. This tour includes 23 stops all of which you can hop on or off whenever you please.

The tour also comes with an informative guide so you can learn about St. Augustine’s history along the way.

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15. See The City From Above in a Helicopter Tour

The St. Augustine Fort Matanzas & Old Downtown Helicopter Tour provides you a unique view of St. Augustine, Florida that you won’t get anywhere else.

The tour departs over the Intracoastal waterway to North Beach where you will be able to enjoy a view of 17 miles of stunning coastline. During the tour, you’ll see Vilano Beach, Porpoise Point, Conch Island, Bird Island, San Jose Forest, Mendez Park, St. Augustine Beach and Fort Matanzas. Finally, on your way back to the airport be sure to take in the view of the Old Downtown.

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14. Stroll Down St. George Street

Historic St. George Street runs through the heart of St. Augustine’s Colonial Quarter, and it is an absolute must-see. This pedestrian walkway passes many of the city’s best-preserved historical sites, including its ancient schoolhouse and the Old City Gates. Along the way, you’ll pass dozens of interesting boutiques, inviting cafes, and independent galleries. Prevailing wisdom suggests that you’ll need between two hours and half a day to get your fill of this beautiful section of St. Augustine.

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13. Check Out The Alligators At The Alligator Farm Zoological Park

If you’re hoping to see some wildlife on your trip to St. Augustine, be sure to check out the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. You’ll not only have the opportunity to check out every crocodilian species but you’ll also be able to check out their wide range of other animals too.

Once you’ve had an opportunity to check out the wildlife you can add more adventure to your day by zip-lining through the zoo! The challenging course will give you a birds-eye view of alligators and crocodiles and you’ll be able to see tropical birds at eye level and red-ruffed lemurs at an arm’s length!

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12. Discover the Lightner Museum

While you’re in the Colonial Quarter, it’s a good idea to check out the nearby Lightner Museum. Rated as one of the city’s most unique attractions, the Lightner Museum features an unusual collection of 19th-century art. Some of the strange things you’ll encounter include old-school cigar packaging, a collection of shriveled heads, and bundles of human hair. If weirdness isn’t your cup of tea, there’s also plenty of conventional artworks for you to enjoy. The museum is housed in a former hotel that was built in the 19th century, and its beautiful architecture is also a major draw in its own right.

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11. Head for the Lighthouse

The St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum is widely considered another auto-include on visitor itineraries. Built between 1871 and 1874, the lighthouse is the oldest brick building in the city that still stands today, and urban legends claim the site is haunted by several spirits. Visitors rave about heading to the top for a soaring view of the city and surrounding coastline, but be prepared to work for your reward as you’ll need to climb 219 steps to reach the summit.

While you’re in the neighborhood, it’s also worth checking out the Maritime Museum. Both the lighthouse and the museum are open year-round, with the only closures falling on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

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10. Hit the Beach

St. Augustine Beach is located about five miles outside the city’s Colonial Quarter, and it’s a big hit with families. The beach features a kid-friendly splash pad, along with approximately two miles of pristine white sand and warm, crystal-clear waters. It’s rarely crowded, and the north end of the beach is crowned with the St. Johns County Ocean and Fishing Pier. This is a great place for angling enthusiasts to cast a line and try their luck.

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9. Visit the Old Jail

Another supposedly haunted historic location, St. Augustine’s Old Jail was completed in the early 1890s and now serves as a fascinating tourist attraction. Designed to match the city’s existing architecture, the Old Jail is a surprisingly appealing Romanesque Revival building. It remained in active use as an incarceration facility until 1953 before opening to the public the following year.

Guided tours are available and highly recommended, with staff dressing up in authentic period garb and leading visitors on an informative and eye-opening experience.

Photo by: Visit Augustine

8. Hunt for Pirate Treasure

St. Augustine and the Florida coast are rich in pirate lore, and it is perfectly captured at the popular St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum. A convincing character named Captain Mayhem greets visitors at the door, offering free guided tours. One of the tour’s main highlights is a replica pirate ship, which guests are free to explore. As you might imagine, this opportunity is a big hit with kids.

Some of the historical treasures housed in the museum include America’s oldest surviving “Wanted” poster and an authentic skull-and-crossbones “Jolly Roger” flag that dates to the 1600s. The museum isn’t overly large and can be fully explored in just a couple of hours. Yarrrr!

Photo by: St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum Facebook

7. Seek the Fountain of Youth

Florida’s discoverer, Juan Ponce de Leon, is also famous for his efforts to find the fabled Fountain of Youth, a legendary pond whose waters supposedly stopped the natural aging process. According to some, he succeeded in his efforts, and the magical spring is said to be located in Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archeological Park.

In addition to its namesake spring, the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park also houses an old-style blacksmith’s studio, a replica Native American village, and a planetarium. Several dozen peacocks also roam the grounds, putting on a show with their dazzling feather displays.

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6. Explore the St. Augustine Distillery

The St. Augustine Distillery is a locally owned and managed distillery that is famous for artisanal spirits. The distillery is conveniently located downtown St. Augustine in a stunning restored ice plant.

Check out the St. Augustine Distillery for yourself! The tours are free and are offered 7 days a week. During the tour, you’ll learn about their award-winning bourbon whiskey, vodka, gin, and rum and you can even have a taste for yourself (if you’re of legal drinking age, of course).

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5. Explore Exotic Wildlife at the St. Augustine Wild Reserve

This isn’t your average run-of-the-mill zoo. The St. Augustine Wild Reserve was founded in 1995 to serve as an animal sanctuary, and the nonprofit organization that operates it is committed to rescuing exotic animals from life-threatening situations.

Some of the fantastic beasts you’ll find within include bears, leopards, mountain lions, and tigers. You can also see a lion that was once owned by pop star Michael Jackson. However, be sure to book your visit online before you head there, as reservations are required.

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4. Head to Castillo de San Marcos

Castillo de San Marcos is America’s oldest surviving brick military fortification. Built by Spanish settlers in the latter decades of the 17th century, the fort served to safeguard St. Augustine from pirate invasions and attacks by the British, who were seeking to strengthen their foothold in North America at the time.

Britain, of course, eventually took control of the modern-day United States, and they went on to use the fort as a base for military operations during the American Revolutionary War. About a century later, the Confederates also used Castillo de San Marcos as a base of operations during the American Civil War. The site has enjoyed National Monument status since 1900.

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3. Ferry to Fort Matanzas

Fort Matanzas is one of America’s most unique National Monuments. It is built completely out of concrete and seashells, and the site commemorates the spot of a major battle fought between Spanish and French colonial powers, who were vying for supremacy during the early years of North American settlement.

The fort itself dates to 1740 and rests in the midst of a 100-acre plot of marshy barrier islands that dot the Matanzas River. Left to decay for many years, Fort Matanzas was carefully restored by the United States Department of War between 1916 and 1924. Today, it is accessible only by ferry, but the trip is well worth it, particularly for history buffs. It can easily be paired with a visit to Castillo de San Marcos, which is its companion monument.

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2. Check out Fort Mose Historic State Park

Fort Mose Historic State Park brings local history to life in unique ways. During colonial times, Fort Mose served as St. Augustine’s northernmost military fortification. As slavery spread throughout the developing American South, it also became an important junction on the famous Underground Railroad escape route.

Founded in 1738, Fort Mose also evolved to become the first free African settlement in the modern-day United States. The Fort Mose Historical Society occasionally stages reenactments in the park, and visitors can enjoy picnics and kayaking all year round.

Photo by: Visit St. Augustine

1. Enjoy A Sunset Cruise

After spending the day exploring the city unwind with a relaxing Sunset Cruise with Florida Water Tours. The adult-only tour is reserved for passengers who are 21 years old and over which ensures you’ll have a relaxing adult atmosphere.

Onboard you can purchase from a great selection of beer, wine, and other non-alcoholic drinks. While you taking in the breathtaking sunset view you’ll also pass many landmarks such as the Bridge of Lions, St. Augustine Lighthouse and more.

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7 Awesome Inspirations for Your Babymoon

Parenthood is awesome and rewarding in the way that no other experience is. On a more pragmatic note, it’s also exhausting (especially in those early days, filled with sleepless nights). You’re also transitioning from a party of two to a party of three. All of these are great reasons to take advantage of this special (and time-limited) window before you become parents with a babymoon vacation. Here are some spots and thoughts to help you plan:

7. Practical Stuff

Before you go anywhere, double check on travel policies for pregnant women. Most airlines will allow women to fly up to 32-36 weeks, but there may be conditions surrounding that (i.e. pregnancy and other health complications). Cruise ships also place some restrictions around travel for pregnant women too. It’s also worth checking out the fine print on your travel and/or health insurance and any limitations on coverage depending on what stage your pregnancy is at.

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6. Couples Resort -Whitney, ON

On the shores of super clean, super clear Galeairy Lake, the posh Couples Resort is an excellent spot to spend some quality time with your significant other (it’s in the name!). This four-season resort has activities aplenty, including swimming, boating, biking and hiking in nearby Algonquin Park in the summer and skating and cross-country skiing in the winter. The themed  rooms at this hotel are huge, and many of them feature jacuzzis, stone fireplaces and private terraces overlooking the lake. Meals are included at their five-star restaurant, where guests can expect gourmet dining and excellent service. Treat yourself to a prenatal massage at the full-service spa on site.

Photo by: Couples Resort
Photo by: Couples Resort

5. Rocky Mountaineer Train, Western Canada

If sitting still (which will be a rare experience once baby arrives) and having breathtaking scenery of the Canadian Rockies unfold before you sounds like a great way to connect with your partner, then consider a trip on the Rocky Mountaineer train, that winds its way through the Canadian Rockies, making stops (some overnight) in notable Canadian destinations. Journeys are of differing lengths and cover different terrain, but they all offer gourmet dining and glass top observatories to really absorb the mountain views in all of their natural glory.

Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock.com
Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock.com

4. Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, Maui

Is there anything more relaxing then the gentle lilt of a ukulele floating on the breeze through the palm trees, while you gaze out at the ocean? This sets the scene for the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, located in Lahaina. The views are spectacular. Moms-to-be will appreciate the complimentary yoga classes to help stretch out that aching lower back. In addition to the usual beach vacation fare, guests can take snorkeling lessons, hula lessons and lei making- all included with the resort fee. The hotel also runs a shuttle into nearby Kaanapali Village, where boutique shopping and restaurants await.

Photo by: Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa
Photo by: Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa

3. Parrot Cay, Turks and Caicos

This luxury resort on a 1,000 acres with a mile-long white sand beach, provides a perfect, secluded getaway for couples seeking rest and relaxation before they embark on their journey into parenthood. This hotel offers packages, including a romantic package that features couples spa treatments and candlelit dinners in the privacy of the guest’s cottage.

Photo by: Parrot Cay Resort
Photo by: Parrot Cay Resort

2. Vdara Hotel and Spa, Las Vegas

While Las Vegas has a number of family-friendly attractions, it’s decidedly adult overtones provide the perfect backdrop for that last hurrah before baby comes. Located just off the strip, the Vdara Hotel and Spa has a number of features that will catch the eye of the expectant mother, including luxurious suites in which to unwind. Their on site spa, ESPA, has a smoothie bar (gotta get those vitamins!) and special prenatal massage that includes a back exfoliation, and a tailored back and scalp massage. Their lounge offers a long list of interesting ‘mocktails’ to complete the experience.

Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock.com
Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock.com

1. Bayfront Westcott House Bed and Breakfast -St. Augustine, FL

Combine the favorable climate of Florida with the historic ambiance of St. Augustine and you have the perfect setting for a romantic, meaningful getaway. The Bayfront Westcott House Bed and Breakfast specializes in packages- and has a Babymoon package with a long list of inclusions: a stocked mini-fridge for late night (or anytime really) ice cream cravings, in-room prenatal massage, breakfast in bed with non-alcoholic mimosas and a mini-beer basket for the dad-to-be.

Photo by: Wescott House
Photo by: Wescott House

The 7 Spookiest Cities in America

Who doesn’t love a good ghost story? Sharing chill-inducing tales of ghosts and goblins is practically an American pastime, and we can all take solace in the fact that they’re just stories. It’s harder to shake off the uneasiness that a good ghost story leaves you with, though, when you visit the locations where the ghost story purportedly took place. Looking for a really good scare on your next vacation? Stop by one of these particularly spooky American cities if you’re looking for some major frightening fun.

7. St. Augustine, FL

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It should come as no surprise that the oldest city in the United States (St. Augustine was founded in 1585) has a few skeletons in its proverbial closet. To make the most of your ghostly visit to this gem of a city on Florida’s east coast, don’t miss the impressive Castillo de San Marcos. This large fort has been guarding America’s first city for over 300 years, so it has some ghostly stories to tell. While touring the dungeon, you may feel the cold hands of former prisoners wrap around your wrists or shoulders. Visit the fort near sunrise or sunset to see if you can get a glimpse of the spirit of the Spanish soldier; the ghost appears at the edge of the fort, wistfully looking out to the sea, just before daybreak and nightfall. You’ll get the shivers, too, at the Spanish Military Hospital, which was unwittingly built on top of a Timucuan burial ground.

6. Centralia, PA

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America’s ghost towns are inherently creepy, but the creepiness factor of this ghost town in rural Pennsylvania is cranked all the way up to a “10.” Once a quaint coal-mining town, Centralia used to be home to more than 2,000 residents — but now the town’s population has dwindled to less than 10. Why? You can thank the coal mining operation. In 1962, a fire in the coal mine started — and it’s still raging underground today, thanks to a nearly limitless supply of coal. Sicknesses, sinkholes, and dangerous levels of carbon monoxide led to residents high tailing it out of Centralia over the ensuing decades. Today, the abandoned buildings and empty streets give off a distinctly eerie vibe. The creepiest part of this town, though? Steam and smoke still rises from the underground fire and seeps through cracks in Centralia’s abandoned roadways, making it look like the town is enveloped in a ghostly vapor.

5. New Orleans, LA

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New Orleans may be known for its rowdy French Quarter and the ribald festivities of Mardi Gras, but there’s a darker side to this famed southern city, too. For a solid scare, head to the Andrew Jackson Hotel near the French Market; the hotel is said to be haunted by the spirits of five little boys who perished there when a fire ripped through the building in 1778. Another spooky New Orleans pastime? Voodoo. Pay homage to the city’s voodoo queen with a stop by Saint Louis Cemetery. Famed voodoo practitioner Marie Laveau, who died in 1881, is buried here — purportedly along with her pet snake, Zombi. She’s said to cast a curse on whoever walks by her grave. Laveau’s sinister character was recently “brought back to life” in the T.V. series American Horror Story; Angela Bassett played the high priestess of voodoo.

4. San Francisco, CA

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San Francisco is known for its brightly colored row houses, its hippy-dippy history, and — today — as the epicenter of the tech boom. But just off of San Fran’s breathtaking coast sits a more sinister relic. The infamous Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary on Alcatraz Island is just a ferry ride away from the mainland — but only visit if you’re up for being spooked. Alcatraz claims nefarious individuals, like Al Capone, as former inmates; in fact, visitors today claim to hear banjo music emanating from the shower room, where Capone used to play his beloved instrument. Throughout the years, visitors, inmates, and guides alike have been unnerved by the sounds of chains rattling, blood-curdling screams, and the feeling of walking through chilly goosebump-inducing cold spots throughout the prison.

3. Adams, TN

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Are you a fan of the shaky-camera storytelling and substantial scares of the movie The Blair Witch Project? Then a visit to Adams, TN, is a must since some spooky events in the town inspired the film. In the early 1800s, a farmer named John Bell settled in Adams; the Bell family grew happy and prosperous on their Adams farm for a number of years. That is, until mysterious happenings started to capture their attention — knocks on windows, the sound of chains being drug through the house, and strange animal sightings became an almost daily occurrence. Eventually, the family began hearing a ghostly voice, too; the disembodied voice identified itself as the ghost of Kate Batts, a former disgruntled neighbor of the Bells. The ghost of Kate tormented farmer John’s daughter, Betsy, relentlessly; Betsy reportedly had her hair pulled and was pinched and scratched by the ghost. You can still visit the haunted Bell cabin today … if you dare.

2. Salem, MA

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Famous around the world for the horrific Salem witch trials, this tiny northeastern town just can’t shed its witchy past. Relive the hysteria with a visit to Gallows Hill Park. Now a baseball field and children’s playground, this park’s innocent veneer belies its haunting past; it was here in 1692 that the town of Salem hung 19 residents for suspected crimes of witchery. Tourism in the town today surrounds the Salem witch trials; get your dose of ghostly history at the Witch Dungeon Museum, which hosts a live re-enactment of a witch trial, based on the actual 1692 transcript. And don’t pass up a visit to the Witch House, a historic home built in 1642 that once housed the fearsome judge James Corwin, who presided over the witch trials. Suspected sorceresses were supposedly brought to this home to be checked for “witches’ marks,” or marks said to be left by the devil on the bodies of those that practice witchcraft.

1. Savannah, GA

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Amidst the moss-draped old oaks and stately Georgian homes, spirits lurk. In fact, the charming coastal town of Savannah, Georgia, is often referred to as America’s Most Haunted City! That reputation is well earned — see for yourself with a visit to some of Savannah’s spookiest landmarks. Check out the Sorrel-Weed House, a handsome mansion built on top of the unmarked graves of revolutionary soldiers; spirit sightings are so common at the house that the Sci-Fi Channel’s show Ghost Hunters has paid a visit here. And the creepy albeit beautiful Bonaventure Cemetery just outside of town is another must-visit. For major chills, stop by the grave of Gracie Watson, a six-year-old girl who died from yellow fever in 1889. Even if you don’t buy the story that Gracie’s ghost still haunts the cemetery, you’ll still shudder at the ghostly-looking statue that sits upon her grave!