If you’re new to Northeastern Florida and must occupy kids on weekends, holidays and during school breaks, we have your solution.
Take the youngsters to historic St. Augustine.
It’s the nation’s oldest city and a tremendous tourist, cultural and arts destination. It’s also less than an hour’s drive south of metro Jacksonville, which means day trips are easy from any opens in a new windowICI Homes community around “JAX.” It’s also just over an hour from most of our opens in a new windowVolusia/Flagler area communities.
What’s great about the Ancient City? There’s so much to do and see that you can make endless trips here and nearly always experience something new.
Those of us with kids — and grandkids, nieces and nephews — will appreciate those options. The bonus? Adults can enjoy these activities too.
Follow along for Part I of our kids’ guide to St. Augustine.
The obvious options
St. Augustine was founded on September 8, 1565 by Spanish conquistador Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles. It’s a major historic district with mind-boggling museums, buildings and the occasional archeological dig.
But kids just want to have fun!
Start their first visit at the Old Wooden School House. It’s located on St. George Street near the original city gates. No one knows how old the School House really is, but its earliest appearance on local tax records was 1716.
The site includes an outdoor kitchen building, a garden and a gift shop.
Also on St. George Street is Colonial Quarter. This two-acre attraction specializes in living history demonstrations of colonial-era crafts such as blacksmithing and firearms maintenance. Kids can watch a blacksmith work a hot forge and see a live musket firing.
Colonial Quarter includes a 35-foot recreation of a wooden watchtower similar to those built by Spanish soldiers here in the 16th and 17th centuries. Climb it for a spectacular view of Matanzas Bay and the circa-1672 Castillo de San Marcos.
Since we mentioned it…
Do not miss the Castillo
If possible, make your first visit on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday when costumed Spanish re-enactors fire its three replica cast-iron cannons from the northeast gun deck.
Kids may beg you to return every weekend!
The Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest masonry fort still standing in the U.S. The Spanish built it to protect St. Augustine from French and British invaders during the combative colonial period (16th through 18th centuries). Its coquina stones were quarried right across Matanzas Bay on what is now Anastasia Island. You can see the preserved quarry when you visit Anastasia State Park.
Today, the Castillo is operated by the National Park Service. It contains more than 36 historic big guns (cannons), and your group can spend hours being entertained by park rangers’ stories and exhibits.
Outside the Ancient City
If you have time for one more activity, cross the Bridge of Lions to Anastasia Island and visit the St. Augustine Alligator and Zoological Park. Founded in 1893, this attraction celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2018.
Expect gobs of real alligators! Kids to go nuts!
There’s much more than alligators — crocodiles, birds and monkeys, among other species. See a wildlife show or ride the two zipline courses that whiz you above the zoo (and alligators).
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