St. Augustine is one of the most family-friendly cities in the United States, exciting kids of all ages with its vast array of historic and natural treasures. Below, a list of ideas and activities to enjoy with your family.
For the History Buffs
Stay at the edge of St. Augustine’s historic district. Walk to the sightseeing train station and hop aboard for a bell-ringer tour. Visit the Oldest Wooden School House in the country, where a robotic schoolmaster teaches lessons on Colonial education.
For kids who are fascinated by pirates, visit Castillo de San Marcos and enjoy the Colonial-era reenactments. Get your fill of swords, cannons, tricorns, soldiers and eye patches in St. Augustine’s decidedly unmusty attic — browsing souvenir shops, walking cobbled streets with effusive performers, and visiting the Colonial Quarter. Here, history fleshes out as costumed demonstrators involve kids in musket firing, blacksmithing and the likes.
For an off-the-beaten path adventure, explore the oddities at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum. Then venture to see Gomek, the then-alive (now-preserved) monster croc at St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park.
Also try the Old City “frightseeing” tours, like the Ghosts & Gravestones trolley tour (walking tours are also available). For older children, it’s a good pick — dark and scary enough, crammed with grisly facts, but made insidiously hilarious by local drama students and visits inside the town’s “most haunted places:” Spanish Military Hospital Museum, Old Jail and the Old Drug Store, now home to Potter’s Wax Museum.
Nature and Sightseeing
For a sightseeing adventure, climb to the top of St. Augustine Lighthouse. Then visit the famous beaches and state parks of St. Augustine — from Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve and Vilano Beach to Anastasia Island State Park, St. Augustine Beach Pier, and the drive-on beaches around Crescent Beach and Washington Oaks Gardens State Park. Surf shops sell and rent equipment around Anastasia Island State Park, also known for its windsurfing and kayaking. Salt Run, the cut between the park’s beach and marshy shore, is perfect for both, and the park rents gear and provides instruction.
Nature trails at all three beachfront parks — plus Faver-Dykes State Park, inland along a state canoe trail — travel through ornamental gardens, salt marshland, hardwood hammock and coastal scrub where myriad birds take shelter, bobcats hide, and giant sea turtles nest each summer. Call ahead for special ranger-narrated walks.
Between the ocean, Intracoastal Waterway, mighty St. Johns River and smaller streams, St. Johns County’s backyard is fully stocked for anglers of all ages. Hot spots: Vilano Beach Pier, St. Johns County Ocean Pier and fish camps along the St. Johns River and Intracoastal. To dine family-friendly in a fish-camp atmosphere, try Salt Water Cowboy’s in St. Augustine Beach or Cap’s on the Water, north of Vilano.
On the Water
For more on-the-water adventure, check out Fort Matanzas National Monument, south of St. Augustine Beach, where a free (donations accepted) boat tour takes you across the river to a time when the outpost protected from “backdoor” attacks on St. Augustine’s proud and impenetrable Castillo. It’s the best of both St. Johns County’s child-appeal worlds, where attic-peeking meets backyard-conquering.
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