Ever since I first visited Florida (well, the first visit that I can remember), the state has always held a special place in my heart. From the palm trees to the warm weather to the fields of orange trees that I could smell when driving by on the highway, it’s always been a place that I just couldn’t get enough of, no matter how many trips I took there.
Oddly enough, I had never seen much of the state besides my trips to Disney, so when my mom announced a beach trip its Eastern seaboard, I was more than ready to go.
Although we spent most of our time on Amelia Island (which I highly recommend), I did get to spend a day in St. Augustine, which had been on my bucket list for what feels like forever. After receiving some amazing recommendations from Samantha of Samanthability, I had an amazing time exploring the city, and it definitely became the highlight of my trip. To show you all how I spent my day, I decided to put together a travel diary!
Sunday, May 6, 2018
We started our morning with an hour and a half car ride from Amelia Island to St. Augustine, where I spent the majority of the time either navigating or researching where we should park. After looking through their website, I decided that we should park at the Historic Downtown Parking Facility, which is located next to the Visitor Information Center. It cost a flat rate of $15 to park here for the day, which we preferred over a parking meter, since we weren’t sure how long we were going to be visiting, and didn’t want to worry about refilling the meter every few hours.
After parking, we walked to the visitor center, which had several information stands, a small museum, a gift shop, and plenty of brochures. Although we had thought about visiting St. Augustine for a few days, we hadn’t officially decided to until early that morning, and had almost nothing planned. After seeing how much there was to do and see, my sister Emma and I quickly decided to go on a trolley tour, which would give us a tour of the city, plus discounted tickets on plenty of attractions. For about $50 each, we got tickets to 3 museums and a hop-on/hop-off pass for the trolley.
Mistake #1: Parking
Okay, so before I go any further, I do want to point out that we had already made one mistake so far, and that was parking. Since we purchased trolley tickets, we could have enjoyed FREE parking one of the trolley company’s two parking lots. This would have saved us $15!
Mistake #2: Coupons
While this wasn’t exactly a mistake we made, it is one that we almost made. Like I said before, the visitor center has plenty of brochures and information pamphlets, which were one of the first things we looked at. Luckily for us, many of them had coupons inside! Using these, we were able to save some money on our trolley tickets, and there were other discounts and deals available for around town.
Stop 1: Pirate & Treasure Museum
After running out the door of the visitor center, Emma and I caught the trolley around the block to visit the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum, which is now one of my favorite museums. (But maybe that’s just the interior design nerd in me talking.) Not only was it beautifully designed, but it was extremely immersive and interactive, and has some amazing artifacts to look at and even touch. It was there that I got to see one of the only two original Jolly Roger flags left in existence, plus the only surviving pirate treasure chest! There were also props and memorabilia from movies such as the Pirates of the Caribbean, Peter Pan, and the Goonies.
Stop 2: Riding the Trolley Around Town
Since the second stop we had chosen (The Fountain of Youth) wasn’t until later in the trolley route, Emma and I enjoyed a large amount of time touring the city on the trolley. The cool part about the trolleys is that it’s not only a fast and cheap way to get around the city, but the driver will tell stories, crack jokes, and explain the history behind the town and landmarks. Since we didn’t have enough time to get off and explore every trolley stop, getting to hear the history and stories behind the places we passed from the trolley driver gave us a lot of insight into the city, and the tour was almost worth it just for that, much less the transportation.
Stop 3: The Fountain of Youth
When Emma and I had bought our trolley tickets, we were also given a list of other museums/spots of interest that we would receive discounted tickets for if we purchased them through the trolley company. Whereas I had chosen the Pirate & Treasure Museum, Emma had selected the Fountain of Youth.
Yes, apparently the Fountain of Youth is a real place you can visit. I was shocked.
After entering the park, the first building we came to (pictured above) is actually the one that houses the Fountain of Youth. Inside is a gravel area with some displays and (of course) the fountain, which is more like a natural spring than any of the fancy fountains Hollywood has turned it into.
But this is the exciting part…you actually CAN drink from the fountain.
Little plastic cups are provided, and you are free to fill them up yourself and try the same water that Ponce de Leon tasted himself. (Talk about flashbacks to my 5th grade history class.) In the picture above, the stream of water is the white line in the lighted area.
As the Fountain of Youth (Florida spring water) has only been filtered through natural processes, it WAS a little hard for me to choke down…but I did it. Now I can claim to have drunk water from the Fountain of Youth and I’m feeling younger by the minute. (Okay, so maybe it doesn’t actually work that way, but whatever.)
After drinking the famous spring water, Emma decided that she was done and that it was time for us to leave (even after I tried insisting we stay to check out the rest of the park, since it included other attractions). However, we didn’t have much more time before we left St. Augustine for the day, so we decided to catch the next trolley and walk around the town.
Stop 4: Flagler College
Visiting Flagler College was one of Samantha’s recommendations, and after seeing so many photos of it online, I knew it was a must-do. The trolley tour gave me the opportunity to see a lot of the campus, as well as hear about its history, but actually stepping foot onto campus was truly amazing. (How come my campus can’t look like this?!)
Stop 6: Ben & Jerry’s, Lightener Museum, and Instagram Photos
After leaving the Fountain of Youth, we used the trolley to go to the main part of town, where we stopped for Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream (as they have vegan ice cream for Emma) and looked in a few of the shops. We also walked over to the Lightener Museum, which I had really hoped to go to (as it was another recommendation of Samantha’s), but unfortunately didn’t have enough time for. At first we just stopped to admire the building and look in some of the windows, but instead stumbled upon its beautiful courtyard that was hidden away from street view.
After leaving the Lightner Museum we tried to find our way back to the waterfront–where Emma and I had planned to meet up with the rest of our family—without the trolley. Instead, we failed miserably and got lost. But on the bright side, we did stumble upon this little street that was almost devoid of people, and was perfect for Instagram photos!
After that, we left St. Augustine, which unfortunately means that I didn’t get to to try any of the restaurants I had heard about. (Unless Ben & Jerry’s counts?) Hopefully I can go again soon so I can see more of the city and it’s attractions.
So what do you think? What else should I see the next time I go to St. Augustine?