Florida is home for me. Although I haven’t lived there for the majority of my life, it is forever in my blood. The Sunshine State’s perfect weather, white-sand beaches, palm trees, fountains, history, culture, wildlife, and entertainment will always warm my heart (#floridapun). There are still many Florida cities for me to visit, but I’m positive no other Florida city can beat St. Augustine.
From stores that exclusively sell hammocks to colorful fountains practically at every corner to pedestrian-only streets to bright-blue skies, what does St. Augustine not do well? Small, mostly family-owned, shops rule the land. I can spend all day going in and out of every store and still want more time.
St. Augustine has much more to offer than shopping. The Old City is the oldest permanent European settlement on the North American continent. That’s quite the title to hold! St. Augustine was founded 55 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock and 42 years before Jamestown was settled.
Let’s take a break from history for a moment and talk about the light-hearted aspects to St. Augustine. Today, it is a thriving city. Take a tour of St. Augustine Distillery, San Sebastian Whinery, or Whetstone Chocolate factory (where you can take a picture with Lucy from I Love Lucy). Take the family to the Pirate & Treasure Museum, or go by yourself because pirates are awesome and who doesn’t want to relive their childhood? Ripley’s Believe It or Not and a wax museum are even in the Old City. Not so old, huh?
Back to history, the Old City has much more to offer than 1500’s history. Railroad tycoon Henry Flagler practically ran the city in the 1800’s. He constructed three hotels in St. Augustine: Flagler Hotel (now Flagler College), Alcazar Hotel (now the Lightner Museum), and the Casa Monica (still a hotel). Constructing three hotels doesn’t make you the big-man of the city, but stretching your hand to every part of the city does. It seems every tour I took, like The Old Jail tour, my favorite in St. Augustine, mentioned Henry Flagler.
Henry Flagler wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. He helped the city modernize and put it on the map as a tourist city, although initially only for other tycoons. I find it fascinating how much power he held.
I’m a sucker for a beautiful city, but St. Augustine knocked it out of the park. I initially thought the Old City would be littered with boring, mediocre museums. Whew, was I wrong! I enjoyed every tour, museum, meal, and sight.
My only request? To go back again. Most guidebooks recommend two days in St. Augustine; I recommend three, at minimum. St. Augustine is one place I truly want to see and do everything.
Old Town Trolley tours is a reasonably priced way to visit St. Augustine’s sites. The tour guides are funny, knowledgeable, and helpful. They want you to enjoy their city as much as they do! Buy tickets at the booth for discounted attraction fees or pre-order online for a discounted trolley fare. Stop #1, at the Old Town Jail, and Stop #2, off US1, offer free parking for trolley-goers.
Have you visited St. Augustine? What was your favorite part?