8. State parks: We mentioned Anastasia State Park earlier. It is home to more than 1,500 acres of tidal marshes, dunes, and wildlife, including seabirds. Rumor has it, the state park is home to thousands of fiddler crabs just waiting to be caught (and released) by eager toddlers. Picnic tables, hammocks, campsites, and even kayak rentals are available. Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve begins in Ponte Vedra Beach and winds through St. Augustine, offering biking, hiking, horseback riding, fishing, and more.
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Where to Go if You’re an Adventure Seeker
Try the go-karts, batting cages, and VR at Adventure Landing. Photo courtesy of the venue
9. Adventure Landing: At this entertainment facility, kids can test their driving skills on go-karts, their hitting skills in the batting cages, or their putting eyes in mini-golf. But the must-do attraction is the roller coaster simulator. Take off on an imaginary coaster ride from inside a virtual-reality chamber. Fair warning: This is not for the faint of heart, or young children.
10. Castaway Canopy Adventure: At this aerial adventure park, families, including teens, can enjoy an eco-zip line tour through some of northern Florida’s most unspoiled wetlands. Seven zip lines and four bridges ensure plenty of action for all.
11. Pirate Melee: Equal parts group tour and thrill-seekers’ adventure, Pirate Melee begins with a trolley tour through the historic district and continues with the “kidnapping” of tour guests, who are whisked away to an outdoor venue for dinner, drinks, and pirate entertainment, including an old-old-fashioned pirate donnybrook.
Things to Do Indoors in St. Augustine, Florida
Because not every day there is perfect …
12. Bowling: Anastasia Lanes offers weekly bowling specials, birthday celebrations, even lessons. On Tuesdays, enjoy buy-one, get-two games FREE; on Wednesdays bowl for only $1 per game. Anastasia Lanes is located near a number of kid-friendly restaurants on State Route A1A.
13. Escape rooms: The escape room craze has reached northern Florida, just in time for rainy-day fun for your teen or tween. St. Augustine boasts two rooms — Escape U and Xscape Our Rooms. The template is familiar: A group of friends (or strangers) is “locked” inside a room, needing to find the necessary clues to be released.
14. Potter’s Wax Museum: Much like Madame Tussaud’s in Manhattan, in this museum you’ll find yourself side by side with some of history’s legendary figures. Potter’s claims to be the oldest wax museum in the country, and it’s housed inside the oldest pharmacy in the nation.
15. Ripley’s Believe it or Not: You’ll see the strangest things in this house of the bizarre. The “odditorium” also features train tours through the city, highlighted by its Ghost Train Adventure that might be a bit too spooky for the littlest ones.
Activities for Fans of History (and Pirates)
Get your hands on a pirate ship’s gun deck at St. Augustine’s Pirate & Treasure Museum.
16. Castillo de San Marcos: The “Castle of St. Mark” is the oldest brick-and-mortar structure in the United States, built by the Spanish to protect the city from raids by privateers. Kids can explore the fortress, enjoy a Ranger program, even search for celestial bodies in the clear night sky. A few miles south is Fort Matanzas National Monument, built in 1740 to protect St. Augustine from raids coming from the south.
17. Colonial Quarter: A walk through the quarter is quite literally a step back in time. Learn about blacksmithing, climb the top of the 35-foot watchtower, and join a tour culminating in a musket demonstration. Some of St. Augustine’s best family-friendly restaurants can be found in the quarter, which also hosts a regular series of outdoor concerts and movies.
18. Fountain of Youth: Here, youth is not wasted on the young. This popular St. Augustine attraction celebrates explorer Ponce de Leon’s discovery of Florida in 1513. At the time, de Leon, you might remember, was searching for the magical Fountain of Youth. Attractions here include a blacksmith shop, historical excavations, a Native American village, the resident peacocks and, of course, the “magical” spring water.
19. KidPirates Tours: This family-friendly walking tour is targeted for children ages 4-11. Learn about the city’s history and interact with the “pirates” in what organizers call “pirate school for kids.”
20. Pirate & Treasure Museum: Thrill to this educational museum that transports families back three centuries to the pirate stronghold of Port Royal, Jamaica. Embark on a “treasure” hunt and enjoy a special Disney show about legendary pirate Blackbeard.
21. St. Augustine Lighthouse: Climb the 219 steps to the top of this 145-year-old beacon for the best views of the city and beaches. Some form of watchtower has actually stood near the current lighthouse since 1589. Young kids will enjoy the shipyard playground area. Older kids might be intrigued by the wooden boat builders who work on the main floor. Shipwreck artifacts are conserved in an onsite lab and there are a number of nature trails.
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Mother Nature thrives in St. Augustine’s natural ecosystem. Birds at the Alligator Farm. Photo by Ardith Bondi
Where to See Animals and Wildlife in St. Augustine, Florida
Are there alligators in St. Augustine? Yes, but plenty of other creatures, too.
22. MarineLand Dolphin Adventure: MarineLand is actually an incorporated community just south of downtown St. Augustine Beach. But, no, its resident dolphins and sea turtles do not have a voice in local politics. However, MarineLand’s dolphin encounters are among the most popular excursions for visitors. Kids can experience these friendly creatures in-house, during a dolphin swim or at an open-water sail. Kayak and boat tours of the coastal ecosystem are also available.
23. St. Augustine Aquarium: Every week is Shark Week at the St. Augustine Aquarium, where kids can feed sharks and rays seven times a day. Sharks are also available via a touch tank at select times. Gear is provided for those who wish to snorkel with Florida reef fish and rays.
24. St. Augustine Alligator Farm: Ever heard of albino alligators? You can, in fact, find them here, along with dozens of other reptile species. There’s even a wading bird rookery, where visitors can interact with herons, egrets, and more.
25. St. Augustine Wild Reserve: This nonprofit is a working rescue center for unwanted exotic animals. Visitors are welcome for guided tours of the center’s tiger and bear sanctuaries, as well as its cougar, leopard, and wolf areas. Five resident Arctic wolves and an African lion were received from late pop star Michael Jackson.
Oh, and before we sign off, the answer to the flags question: At various points in history, St. Augustine has belonged to the Spanish, British, French, the United States, and, the Confederate States of America.
Photos courtesy of FloridasHistoricCoast.com, unless otherwise noted