Quick trips: St. Augustine from A to Z
07/05/2014 12:00 AM
07/05/2014 5:28 PM
St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest city, has plenty of history. But it has enough other charms, from an amphitheater to a uniquely Florida zoo, to fill a list from A to Z. Consider:
Amphitheater: On State Road A1A next to Anastasia State Park and Recreation Area, the St. Augustine Amphitheatre accommodates crowds of 3,000-plus for A-list musical acts that have included Wilco, Mumford & Sons and Ringo Starr (staugamp.sjcvenues.com).
Bed-and-Breakfasts: It’s possible to enjoy a St. Augustine getaway with a room at a well-known hotel chain, but consider staying in style at one of the many independent bed-and-breakfasts. Architecture and antiques complement the historic destination at an assortment of B&Bs, including The Cedar House Inn, At Journey’s End, Inn on Charlotte, the Kenwood Inn and the Centennial House, among others. (Find a list at floridashistoriccoast.com.)
Castillo de San Marcos: The Spanish fort built in 1695 is the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States and arguably St. Augustine’s most famous landmark. It’s a popular stop for school field trips, but adults also will enjoy the history as well as the occasional breeze off Matanzas Bay (nps.gov/casa).
Dolphins: Marineland park, a tourist destination since 1938, reopened as Marineland Dolphin Adventure in 2006. An affiliate of the Georgia Aquarium, the park offers guests the chance to touch, feed, swim and communicate with dolphins. Interactive programs starts at $31.95, but visitors can watch for general admission of $11.95 adults, $6.95 for age 12 and younger (marineland.net).
Education: In the Colonial Quarter, costumed blacksmiths, blanket weavers and other artisans demonstrate the lifestyle of early Spanish settlers (colonialquarter.com).
Flagler College: This entry also could be filed under “H” for Hogwarts, the Harry Potter reference that comes to mind in the presence of the ornate architecture of the Flagler College lobby and dining room. One-hour tours offer ample time for gazing at the chandeliers, sculpture, paintings and decorating touches that include a clock designed by Thomas Edison (flagler.edu).
Guitar players: Venture along side streets in the Colonial Quarter to find occasional street musicians, an authentic touch that leavens the creeping presence of T-shirt shops and tourist merchandise. One of the city’s musical treasures, veteran folk-singer Don Oja-Dunaway, is a fixture at the Mill Top Tavern on St. George Street.
Haunted tours: Potential ghost sightings are the draw for these entertaining nighttime excursions. Ghost hunters can choose among tours that focus on haunted bars, graveyards or even a ghost tour of the St. Augustine Lighthouse (staugustinetours.net).
Independent bookstores and art galleries: Browsing online for books offers efficiency but can’t compare with strolling among the shelves at Second Read Books on Cordova Street next to Flagler College. The old-school bookshop is surrounded by an inviting assortment of independent art galleries that often feature work by Florida artists. Reach the bookstore by phone only at 904-829-0334.
Jimmy Buffett: Although more often identified with the Florida Keys, the Margaritaville singer was among many musicians to have played the Tradewinds Lounge, one of St. Augustine’s venerable nightspots. The smoke-tinged bar shows its age, but still books a busy schedule of local and regional acts (tradewindslounge.com).
King Buster: The annual King Buster 400 is a kingfish competition that has been a fixture for two decades in June at the St. Augustine Municipal Marina. Anglers compete for prizes that range from $10,000 cash to vacations (kingbuster.com).
Lighthouse: The St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum offers self-guided audio tours of the grounds and the interior of the lighthouse, built in the 1870s. It’s 219 steps to the top (staugustinelighthouse.org).
Matanzas River: Take a ferry across this body of water to the Fort Matanzas National Monument, the centerpiece of a 300-acre park that’s also home to sea turtles, indigo snakes, ospreys and pelicans (nps.gov/foma).
Nombre de Dios: The Mission of Nombre de Dios features scenic historic grounds and a museum that chronicles Christianity’s influence in Florida. The Great Cross towers 208 feet above the marshes of the Matanzas River (missionandshrine.org).
Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse: Built more than 200 years ago of red cedar, cypress, wooden pegs and handmade nails, the building features books and other artifacts of early Spanish explorers (oldestwoodenschoolhouse.com).
Pirates: Although Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp gets a nod in the Pirate and Treasure Museum in the Colonial Quarter, it also has entertaining historical information about St. Augustine’s own array of pirates (thepiratemuseum.com).
Quarter: As in the Colonial Quarter, a pedestrian-friendly historical village that offers an interactive look at early settler lifestyle and demonstrations of pioneer arts and crafts (colonialquarter.com).
Ripley: This original Ripley’s Believe It or Not showcases more than 800 oddities, including real shrunken human heads, pirates, the world’s smallest production car, largest erector-set Ferris Wheel and photo ops with the Lizard Man (ripleys.com/staugustine).
Spanish influence: From the architecture of Flagler College to the sangria and dining at the well-known Columbia Restaurant (columbiarestaurant.com), the Spanish Influence endures in St. Augustine.
Trolley tours: Not only does a trolley tour yield educational tidbits about St. Augustine, it also offers the benefit of reboarding later in the day when you’ve had enough walking (trolleytours.com).
Under par: Even nongolfers can find entertainment at the World Golf Hall of Fame, which traces the sport’s appeal to everyone from comedian Bob Hope to golf’s icon, Arnold Palmer (worldgolfhalloffame.org).
Villa Zorayda Museum: Inspired by the design of a 12th-century Moorish palace in Spain, the renovated museum features Spanish architecture, ceramics and artwork on self-guided tours. Among the attractions, an ancient rug made of cat hair (villazorayda.com).
Wine: Tours of the San Sebastian Winery’s 18,000-square-foot production operation include wine tastings. The winery occupies the space once known as business magnate Henry Flagler’s East Coast Railway Building (sansebastianwinery.com).
Ximenez-Fatio House Museum: The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America operates a museum in this 18th-century house as a window into early tourism in Florida (1821-1861) and St. Augustine life in the early 19th century (ximenezfatiohouse.org).
Youth: As in “Fountain of,” a St. Augustine landmark that commemorates Juan Ponce de Leon’s search for the mythical secret to longevity. The water smells funny and the production is old-fashioned, but it still attracts visitors in the 21st century (fountainofyouthflorida.com).
Zoological park: The St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park has showcased alligators, crocodiles and native birds since the late 19th century. Recent additions include Crocodile Crossing, a zip-line ride with an aerial view of the attraction (alligatorfarm.com).
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