What are the five best things to see and do in St. Augustine?

Since St. Augustine is one of the oldest cities in the nation (the debate continues on whether it is the oldest), many of its attractions focus on its rich past. While you're here, don't miss the following:

1. Castillo de San Marcos. Once flanked by two forts — Fort Mose on the north (the structure is no longer there) and Fort Matanzas on the south — Castillo de San Marcos is the center of the city's historic defense. Like the town of St. Augustine, the 20.5-acre monument site is a reminder of what the old world was like under the Spanish Empire (then considered the "New World"). The architectural wonder is made of coquina (a hard-to-find type of limestone) and includes the original city gate. It is one of the most popular sites in the city.

2. The lighthouse. On one of the countless sunny days, head over to the St. Augustine Lighthouse and peer out as far over the Atlantic. The 1870s lighthouse beams all the way across the harbor and is still fully operational. Kids at least 44 inches tall are allowed to climb the lighthouse tower; those under 12 years old need to be accompanied by an adult.

3. The Fountain of Youth. To relive the past, head straight to the Fountain of Youth, one of the city's oldest tourist attractions (and always a crowd-pleaser). Almost 500 years old, the Fountain of Youth serves paper cups full of its famous water to help you turn back time. But you won't want to sip any more than that — the sulfur-tinged water tastes rather vile, but eternal youth comes at a price.

4. Old Town. The Dow Museum of Historic Houses offers a collection of historic homes. The nine houses here date from 1790 to 1910 and include artifacts, antiques, pictures and turn-of-the-century collectibles. One abode that you’ll want to check out is the Prince Murat House, where Napoleon's nephew Achille Murat is said to have boarded.

5. San Sebastian Winery. For more adult fun, go to San Sebastian Winery. The St. Augustine winery offers free 45-minute-long tours that include tastings.

  • On June 21
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What are the five best things to do with kids in St. Augustine?

    St. Augustine is full of surprises for kids of all ages. If you're traveling to this coastal Florida city with kids in tow, consider adding one of these activities to your to-do list:

    Ripley's Believe It Or Not
    This museum is a longtime favorite among the pint-sized sector. Heralded as the first and oldest Ripley's museum in the world, this multi-level attraction is filled with creepy and curious artifacts like shrunken heads, wax mannequins and the world's smallest production car. Best of all? Little hands will find plenty of places to stay busy, as the museum has tons of interactive exhibits.

    Black Raven Pirate Ship
    What child wouldn't want to ride on a real pirate ship? Take your kids on a magical journey as they sail around St. Augustine, listening with rapt attention as pirates share stories, lead the entire boat in a sing-along and perform a family-friendly show. The "Family Adventure" tour includes free face painting for the kids, too.

    St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park
    Alligators are the main attraction at this St. Augustine mainstay, but they're backed up with a fascinating supporting cast of exotic reptiles, birds and crocodiles. Wildlife shows help children learn more about these creatures. You can also earn major parent points by securing tickets to Crocodile Crossing, a zip line and challenge course that's open to children ages 10 and up (the minimum height requirement is 4' 9").

    St Augustine Lighthouse
    Climbing to the top of this historic lighthouse provides three rewards for parents — a good workout with the kids, a chance to discuss the building's history in a fun and hands-on way and, most importantly, a chance to bond over the incredible sweeping views of St. Augustine that visitors enjoy once they reach the top. Kids must be 3' 8" or taller to climb, but if they don't meet the height requirement, there's a special play area where they can burn off some of that trademark kid energy.

    Anastasia State Park
    This state park has enough activities to fill an entire vacation. Soak up some sun while allowing the kids to enjoy four miles of protected beaches, or gather up the gang and embark on a fun and educational hike through one of the park's trails. Campsites are available to help make this special excursion last a little longer.
  • On May 30
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What are the best places for dessert in St. Augustine?

    One of my favorite things about St. Augustine is roaming around the cobblestone streets, searching for just the right treat to satiate my sweet tooth. Here are a few of my favorite places to stop for a sugary indulgence:

    The Hyppo is a homegrown popsicle purveyor that makes quirky flavors like mango habanero, orange cream, datil strawberry and ginger pineapple. On a hot day, these tasty treats are perfect for a quick refreshment on the go.

    St. Augustine may be a long way from France, but you'd never know it once you set foot in Bon Ami Confections. The cute bakery on Hypolita Street makes bright, colorful macarons in a whirlwind of flavors (my personal favorites are lemon and salted caramel), and the handmade marshmallows are equally tasty.

    If you're a fan of the sweet and spicy combination, head to Hot Shot Bakery for a chocolate-dipped datil pepper — if you can handle the heat, that is.

    And, although it's a chain, you can't go wrong with fresh-made fudge or a scoop of chocolate ice cream from Kilwins


  • On May 23
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    Where is the best shopping in St. Augustine?

    If you're driving to St. Augustine on I-95 South, you can't miss the two outlet malls that comprise the bulk of St. Augustine's shopping clout: St. Augustine Premium Outlets and the St. Augustine Outlets. Both options are comparable for size and quality of retailers (you'll find factory stores for Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, J. Crew, Nine West and Coach at the Premium Outlets, and favorite designers like BCBGMAXAZRIA, Cole Haan and Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th at the St. Augustine Outlets). It's worth noting that a large portion of the St. Augustine Outlets mall is indoors, which is a huge benefit in the hot summer months; really, though, even the outdoor shops at its competitor are close enough so that the trek between stores is bearable.

    A number of independent boutiques, antique shops and souvenir shops fill the historic downtown St. Augustine area, peddling everything from rhinestone-encrusted belt buckles to canvas photo printing services. Window shopping on St. George Street is a fun way to spend an afternoon, and if you have your heart set on picking up a special Florida souvenir like a seashell windchime or beach-chic jewelry, this area of town is the best place to find it.
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  • On April 19, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What is the best time of the year to visit St. Augustine?

    There's no bad time to visit St. Augustine; even on the hottest summer days, the Oldest City's prime position near the Atlantic Ocean makes it easy to cool off with a quick swim. However, any native Floridian will tell you that summer is peak tourist season, so your best bet is to avoid the throngs of visitors that crowd the small city between June and August.

    I personally love to visit St. Augustine around the holiday season. The mild winter is manageable, so walking around the cobblestone streets is still quite pleasant as long as you dress appropriately. Keep in mind that the humidity that makes heat stick to your skin in the summer doesn't go away during the winter, so be sure to pack enough layers — Florida winters can pack a surprising chill, even if they only last for a few weeks. The entire city twinkles during the annual Nights of Lights, a magical time of year when thousands of white bulbs light up the sidewalks, trees and buildings. Spring and autumn are equally romantic times to picnic on the lawn of the Castillo de San Marcos fort, stroll along St. George Street and explore the numerous state parks found along the coast.