Plan a St Augustine Stay in the New Year
Many remember us for the historical beauty, our massive Fort, quaint streets and coffee shops and fabulous eateries. Over the years however as word has gotten out, it is becoming more researched upon visitation. What many figure out is that everything cannot be achieved in one day but if you set the pace right, three days is just about right.
It is true that we have something to offer every traveler from the history buff to the romantic to the family vacationer, we have it all!
With the help of the Visitor’s Convention Bureau and of course our own experience, we were able to come up with something that may assist the first time visitor set their itinerary and get started on the most important must-sees!
The first day of your St Augustine Stay we recommend starting with Spanish-period sights.
After an introduction to the Old City’s Native American and Spanish foundation at Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, glance skyward and follow the cross to the serene grounds of the Mission Nombre de Dios that was once the location of the first Catholic Mission in the U.S. This is also our founding site in 1565 and the tall cross that can be seen here was a gift for our 400th year commemoration in 1965. The Mission grounds are free to visit.
Travel a few blocks south and pass through the Old City Gates heading back towards the Agustin to the Colonial Quarter – our next door neighbor and attraction. Here visitors stroll through three centuries of life in the nation’s oldest city. The Colonial Quarter immerses you in the daily lives of people from the 16th, 17th and 18th century with interactive exhibits and history re-enactors. Tour the Government House Museum, where Spanish governors once administered the colony of La Florida and current exhibits illuminate the city’s cultural past.
Nearby, see the city’s center (circa 1600) at the Plaza de la Constitucion – the site of the most brilliant Christmas lights during the Nights of Lights Celebration (Sat prior to Thanksgiving – Jan 31st).
To the north of the Plaza, revere Cathedral-Basilica, home of the oldest Catholic parish in the U.S. The structure dates to 1797, but holds records of parishioners as early as 1594.
History lovers must explore The Oldest House Museum circa 1702. Owned and operated by the St. Augustine Historical Society, the museum complex includes Florida’s Oldest House, two museums, a changing exhibition gallery and an ornamental garden where plants that would have been cultivated by Spanish, British and American colonists continue to flourish.
Stop at the Spanish Military Hospital, where a reconstructed hospital, including an apothecary and ward, mark the site of a military medical facility that operated during the second Spanish period. Near the Old City Gates, The Oldest Wooden School House marks another second Spanish-period gem. Pay particular attention to the school’s 200-year-old construction incorporating red cedar, cypress and handmade nails. Also the huge anchor in front that is said to protect the structure from hurricane, which assisted once again during Matthew in 2016.
Hit the battleground running at Castillo de San Marcos and the Fort Matanzas National Monument. Located within St. Augustine’s historic downtown, the Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest remaining European fort in the continental U.S. Cannon firing demonstration take place Thursday through Sunday with park rangers and historic re-enactors providing daily tours. About 15 miles south on A1A, you’ll find Fort Matanzas. A boat will ferry you to the Fort that was completed in 1742 to guard Matanzas Inlet and its Spanish settlers from the British.
Just outside of town off of US 1, you’ll find Fort Mose State Park, the first free African settlement in North America. Although nothing remains of the fort, the site and visitor center memorialize the slaves who fled the American colonies to find freedom in Spanish Florida.
Aside from its attractions, St. Augustine hosts several events throughout the year in honor of its colonial heritage: a day of celebration at the Mission Nombre de Dios and the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park marks the city’s birthday each September; Searle’s Sack n March is an athentic re-enactment of Captain Robert Searle’s raid on St. Augustine; The Battle of Bloody Mose is an annual reenactment of the June 26, 1740 battle between the British and Spanish militia comprised of former british slaves granted freedom by the Spanish; also in June is Drake’s raid an authentic recreation of the 1586 sack of the city.
Let’s not leave out the most magical holiday time of the year! St. Augustine’s Annual Night’s of Lights Festivities will leave you longing for the oldest city each season. Millions of tiny white lights illuminate the historic district each year from the weekend prior to Thanksgiving throughout December and now even the entire month of January! Our light display has received countless recognitions; including but not limited to a top ten spot on National Geographic’s Top Ten Light Display in the World list