Posted by: bestraveler | October 20, 2015

St. Augustine, Florida

I heard that King Felipe VI of Spain and his wife Leitizia were in St. Augustine this past August. Ha! I was there in July Mr. King and Mrs. Queen of Spain…I beat you!  So king me!

I am originally from Florida (see my previous blog posts) but I have never visited Jacksonville or St. Augustine.  Ok, ok, I once was flying United (The Friendly Skies!) from Miami to Chicago and I had to connect in Jacksonville International Airport (JAX).  Compared to Miami or O’Hare, it wasn’t anything memorable.  I really didn’t explore Jacksonville and I wanted to focus on St. Augustine.  If it is good enough for me, the King of Spain, and his wife, you should visit it too!

castillo de san marcos

Castillo de San Marcos St. Augustine FL

King Felipe VI and his wife visited the Castill de San Marcos.  This is now a US National Park.  It is along the main drag in Old Town St. Augustine, so parking might be a challenge.  You need to be prepared to walk around Old Town and the Castillo.  The entrance fee is US$10 per adult but check their website for any changes.

castillo de san marcos view

Looking out from the Castillo de San Marcos St. Augustine FL

This is the view looking out from the Castillo (ok, let’s just call it a fort from now on).  Imagine you were a soldier on a Spanish galleon heading to the “New World.”  This fort location is pretty much where the Spanish landed and decided to protect their newly claimed land by buiding a fort. The fort was built in the late 17th century and still looks good.  **Bestraveler Tip: It may be hot, but there are shades areas within the fort where you can get out of the sun.**

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Aviles Street in Old Town St. Augustine FL

The Old Town section of St. Augustine has a European / Spanish flavor to it.  Many of the streets are one way because they are so narrow and only one car may drive on it.  You want to expore this section – it is packed with great restaurants, stores, coffee shops (Kookaburra), and museums.  This is an area you want to get lost in! The main street is Aviles Street, named after Pedro Menendez de Aviles, the founder of St. Augustine.

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Fountain in front of City Hall St. Augustine FL

The building behind this fountain is City Hall.  It is the most beautiful City Hall I have ever seen.  When may I move in and live there?!?  There are so many buildings (old and new) in the form of Spanish Colonial architecture.  I wanted to sit in front of this fountain all day!

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Fountain Of Youth Park Sign St. Augustine FL

Yes, there actually is a Fountain of Youth!  In this park!  Yes, you may drink from it – I did!  I won’t tell you how it tastes…that is for you to find out! The Fountain of Youth Park is not close to the fort or Old Town.  You may bike it but it would be best by car / taxi.  The Fountain of Youth Park is in the Northern part of St. Augustine.

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Peacock Roaming the Grounds

The park is so large that is has on its property over forty (40) peacocks and peahens roaming about freely.  I saw over forty because there were little babies following the peahens and I lost track of the count after forty.  You may spend all day or most of the day at this park.

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Timeline Sign in the Museum

There is a wonderful History of St. Augustine museum about 2-3 blocks away from the Fountain of Youth Park.  I walked it and it was a nice, brisk walk even in the hot Florida summer sun.  Get a little exercise and walk or bike to it.

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Gator Bob’s – Go to the Museum!

To get to the History Museum, you have to enter through “Gator Bob’s Trading Post” aka gift shop.  It’s cheesy, but they sell bottles of water cheap and they even have a little sandwich shop tucked in the corner.  I didn’t try it but if you need a small bite and want to escape the Florida sun for a few minutes, grab something to eat / drink or just check out their souvenirs.  Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you!

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Plates that are hundreds of years old!

There were plates from Spain and England dating back hundreds of years.  This museum is fascinating for anybody who loves history and artifacts.  There are even coins recovered from shipwrecks!  Captain Jack Sparrow would be at home in this place!

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Chef Vinny & Family at Uptown Scratch Kitchen!

In between Old Town and the Fountain of Youth Park, there are several hotels, little local shops, and restaurants.  I stopped at this food truck, “Uptown Scratch Kitchen.”  Ii have eaten from many food trucks in Chicagoland and this one was fantastic!  That is Chef Vinny D’Amato & Family in front of their food truck.  Their food is very fresh and reasonably priced.  They have a Facebook page, Instagram page, and they are on Pinterest.  If you are hungry, stop on by!

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Old St. John’s County Jail

Right next to the History Museum is the Old St. John’s County Jail.  The jail was built in 1891.  I am always fascinated by old buildings because I try to imagine the living conditions way back when.  This is even more interesting in Florida since there was no air conditioning and very few roads – the modern creature comforts we all love.  What was serving a sentence like in this old jail?  Don’t worry – the guided tour takes you inside the jail and it wasn’t fun or easy.  It was jail!

St. Augustine, Florida is a must see when you are planning a trip to The Sunshine State.  If you are going to Miami / South Florida, then this is too far away.  If you are staying in Orlando, you may drive to these sites.  Orlando to St. Augustine is about a three (3) hour drive.  You could leave in the morning and be back late at night.  **Bestraveler Tip: I would spend at least one night in St. Augustine or Jacksonville to see all the sites.  If Jacksonville is your base, then stay a minimum of two nights to take in all the places.**

St. Augustine, Florida is 450 years old.  It is the oldest city founded by Europeans in the “New World.”  Discover it yourself!

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