Historic St. Augustine and its beaches have been welcoming visitors for centuries
St. Augustine, Florida, also known as the nation’s oldest city, is home to some of the most beautiful beaches and memorable attractions the state has to offer. This historic city has popular museums that feature everything from classic cars to demonstrations on life in St. Augustine during the mid-1800s. Along with comfortable lodging and a hearty number of restaurant options, St. Augustine also has plenty of art and music attractions that are sure to attract fans of all genres. Here are some of the best attractions to keep group travelers busy on Florida’s beautiful and historic coast.
ATTRACTIONS AND TOURS
This area of Florida is home to several significant museums. The Lightner Museum, which highlights the deep-rooted city’s architectural history, is located in the former Hotel Alcazar. This museum recently underwent several renovations and added a gorgeous stained-glass exhibit. The Classic Car Museum in St. Augustine is another hotspot as it has a collection of classic cars giving visitors the chance to experience cars all the way from the 1800s to modern day. One Saturday morning each month, this museum hosts an event called “Classic Cars and Coffee” where car lovers and enthusiasts grab a coffee and talk about their mutual obsession.
The Ximenez-Fatio House Museum on Aviles Street functions as a museum, but also offers tours that demonstrate life in St. Augustine during the mid-1800s. These tours are usually during the day but can also be at night to make the visits more unforgettable.
St. Augustine has a history with the paranormal, which is why the Ximenez-Fatio House Museum also offers Twilight Tours for those brave and/or curious enough to go on the adventure. These tours revolve around the classic stories of Spanish merchants, soldiers stationed in the historic city, and single women who ran their businesses on Florida’s historic coast. This house-turned-museum has centuries of history within its walls, so be sure not to miss out. The Ximienex-Fatio House Museum also has a more entertainment and family-friendly aspect to it called the Heist at the Museum night tour.
This tour takes the form of a game where visitors are tasked with an investigation. A rare 17th-century Caravaca Cross has been stolen, so in the tour game the cross must be found. Visitors tour the house and move from room to room looking for the villain in an attempt to return the cross. Another worthwhile tour in the area is The Tasting Tour. This nomadic outing lets travelers walk around the city with its founder, Don Pedro Menendez (an impersonator), while learning about the city’s history and tasting dierent ales and St. Augustine is clearly rich in his story and culture so it’s not too much of a surprise the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, which is considered the oldest masonry fort in the United States, is proudly located here.
The Castillo de San Marcos National Monument is a marvelous outdoor attraction for group travelers, families, and school field trips as its located on the west shore of the Matanzas Bay. It offers visitors the chance to immerse themselves in the fort’s history, watch fascinating weapon demonstrations, engage with park rangers, become a junior ranger and take an in-person or virtual tour. The monument also has its own smartphone app (to help visitors learn and navigate the grounds), and more than 340 years of history and culture.
It may be the oldest masonry fort in the U.S., but it uses technology beautifully to educate its guests. So, whether taking a virtual tour and exploring the fort through photos or watching educational videos online and at the fort’s theater room, the monument has plenty to offer, even if the visit can’t be made in-person.
There’s plenty of museums and tours, but St. Augustine also has loads of chances for visitors to embrace its different cuisine options. With waterfront eateries and sidewalk bistros throughout the area, visitors have more than enough options for heartwarming dishes.
The St. Augustine Aquarium is another major attraction for visitors as it features interactive and educational exhibits and activities with some of Florida’s most notable marine species. Visitors have the chance to touch invertebrates, feed the sharks in the shark and ray cove, and even dig for shark teeth. This gorgeous aquarium also lets visitors snorkel with sea life and hand-feed the fish and rays.
MUSIC AND ARTS ON FLORIDA’S HISTORIC COAST
While much of the world has been slowed by the pandemic, St. Augustine still has several open-air venues to keep the shows running. The Amp, which is ranked within the top three best open-air music venues in the world according to Pollstar Magazine, is planning on hosting several live performances including Buddy Guy, the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band and the Dark Star Orchestra.
This historic amphitheater has its own parking, shuttle service, food trucks, and of course, concessions.
St. Augustine is also home to the Colonial Oak Music Park. This outdoor downtown venue features open-air seating, which allows live performances to continue in 2020 and beyond, and is a small-stage venue where local musicians and artists perform for free on weekends.
The intimate stage and setting feature family-style table seating for more than 250 visitors.
The park is adjacent to the Colonial Quarter, which offers two restaurants and easily accessible restroom facilities.
Ponte Vedra Concert Hall in Palm Valley, which can go from a 450-seated concert hall to a 900-person standing room concert hall, is scheduled in 2021 to host Leo Kottke and Chris Hillman’s Time Between: An Evening of Stories and Song.
LODGING IN ST. AUGUSTINE
St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra Beach have plenty of lodging options for groups with even more on the way. Travelers have the choices between oceanfront resorts, stylish boutique hotels, attractive and historic inns, several vacation rentals on the ocean and in historic districts, several RV and camping parks, along with dozens of well-known and trusted hotel chains. These lodging options also pride themselves on dining options offered to visitors and the nearby accommodations. With more lodging options under construction, St. Augustine is only becoming a more attractive travel destination, so be sure to pay this historic area a visit.
by Tyler Drag