A long weekend in St. Augustine, Florida

Hello, world!

I am a huge advocate of exploring new places anytime I can. That's why I love taking advantage of long weekends. Last year, for Memorial Day, we visited St Augustine for (my) first time. I loved it because it surprised me!

It's unique scenery and history truly sets this city apart from any other in the country. St. Augustine has a quaint feel but it also has a big appeal. You will see why when you stroll along the brick-lined streets. The city also has a unique European scenery with centuries-old buildings, horse-drawn carriages, hidden courtyards, and so much more. St. Augustine has more than 450 years of history to explore. St. Augustine is also known for its excellent restaurants serving a variety of dishes reflecting the town's multicultural heritage. 

PLACES TO VISIT 

ST AUGUSTINE VISITOR'S CENTER
Address: 1 US-1 BUS, St Augustine, FL 32084
I always like to visit the city's visitor center because they tend to have nice souvenir shops and offer great/free tips on where to go and what to do. Located on Castillo Drive, the center is open daily and staffed with a friendly staff. You can pick up maps and brochures about the city here. 

CASTILLO DE SAN MARCOS
Address: 11 South Castillo Drive., Saint Augustine, FL 32084
Tickets $10 for adults / FREE for kids
Probably St. Augustine's main attraction. The Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest forts in the continental U.S.A. The Castillo is over 300 years old, and it is a quite large Spanish stone fortress built to protect and defend Spain's "new lands' in the American continent. The Castillo is a National Monument and part of the National Park Service. On special dates, they hold ceremonies for the public.

1st Photo above by @floridaexplored

ST GEORGE STREET
Address: 2-10 Hypolita St, St Augustine, FL 32084
A street that feels like you're in Disney World. It's a pedestrian-only street and the center of downtown St. Augustine. It's filled with shops, bars, and restaurants.

2nd Photo above by @thisismonica

ANASTASIA STATE PARK
Address: 300 Anastasia Park Rd, St Augustine, FL 32080
Such a beautiful park! Anastasia State Park includes over 1,000 acres of beautiful scenery and wildlife. It also has a beautiful 4-mile-long beach and a great nature trail which takes you to dunes. You can also visit the Coquina Quarry, an archaeological site where coquina rock was mined to help construct the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, earning it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. The park also has a campground pretty close to the beach.

ST AUGUSTINE DISTILLERY
Address: 107-117 Riberia St, St Augustine, FL 32084
The St. Augustine Distillery is housed in a historic ice manufacturing plant built in 1917. Now, it's been (beautifully!!) restored as a working distillery. They offer really fun and FREE daily public tours that include information about Florida’s distilling heritage and the building’s former life as an ice plant. It also has a tasting room and a chance to watch spirits being made from scratch using age-old techniques in two copper pot stills. It's an incredible experience and of my favorites in this city! 

1st Photo above by @staugustinedistillery

OLD JAIL
Address: 167 San Marco Ave St Augustine, FL 32084
Home to prisoners for over 60 years, the Old Jail in St. Augustine looks more like a resort than a maximum-security facility. The original structure was built in 1891 by Henry Flagler; and although it has been restored and renovated throughout the years, it looks very much the way it did when it opened over a century ago.

CITY GATES
Address: 3-17 Orange St, St Augustine, FL 32084
The Old City Gates are a striking site toward the north end of St. George Street. These Gates used to be the only entrance into St. Augustine. The two ancient columns made of stone were built in 1808 to protect the city. Visiting the Oldest City in the United States would not be complete without taking a moment to see the Old City Gates. 

OLDEST HOUSE
Address: 22 St Francis St, St Augustine, FL 32084
If you're into historic houses and buildings, you'll totally appreciate this place! The house is owned and operated by the St. Augustine Historical Society. The house is officially called the Gonzalez-Alvarez House. It was constructed in the 1700s and it is believed to be the oldest surviving house in St. Augustine.

PONCE DE LEON'S FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH
Address: 11 Magnolia Avenue., St. Augustine, FL USA
The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park is a 15-acre, waterfront historical attraction, where you can learn about the first Spanish settlers who came here in the 1600s and the native Timucuans who were here before us. The park is also a beautiful spot to relax, enjoy the views over the water from the Founders Riverwalk or from the Observation Tower, You can sample the waters from the natural spring (Ponce de Leon's legendary Fountain of Youth?), but I personally thought the water tasted pretty bad. 

FLAGLER COLLEGE
Address: 74 King St, St Augustine, FL 32084
Even if you’re not a huge history buff, the historical tour of Flagler College is such a fascinating way to spend an hour. Once the Hotel Ponce de Leon, built by railroad magnate Henry M. Flagler in 1888, this National Historic Landmark is one of the finest examples of architecture, design and human ingenuity in the U.S. today. Guided tours, which take place on most days, are $10 per person.

TOURS

if you're more into walking through the city to discover more spots consider buying a St. Augustine Self Guided Walking Tour, which is available in print or mobile versions for $4.95 at citywalkingguide.com/staugustine.

Of course, if you’d rather sit back and take a tour, there are plenty of those to choose from. Both Old Town Trolley Tours and Ripley’s Red Train Tours offer hop-on-hop-off tours to all of the most notable area must-sees. Tickets are $23-25 per adult and are good for three consecutive days of unlimited use.

Those who’d rather get off the beaten path or see a specific side of St. Augustine (the haunted side or the foodie side, for example) might consider a guided walking tour. St. Augustine Historic Tours (staugustinehistorictours.com) and St. Augustine City Walks (staugcitywalks.com) both offer pub tours, food & wine tours, "paranormal" tours and scavenger hunts.

WHERE TO EAT & DRINK

There are plenty of great restaurants in St. Augustine, so narrowing down to just a few for lunch and dinner will be a challenge. 

The Back 40 Urban Cafe
Because we visited on a long weekend the crowds at the restaurants were a bit out of hand. We ended up at The Back 40 Urban Cafe and I am so glad we did! It's a house turned restaurant with a cute little patio with outdoor sitting. The menu is varied and the prices and service were great.

Stogies Jazz Club
They have local talents performing every night, so there’s always someone to listen to. The club is adorned with twinkling lights, couches, chairs, and end tables cozily arranged so that it almost feels like someone’s living room. Additionally, they have an upstairs lounge and seating outside, where music can still be heard, in case there’s no standing space inside. They have fire pits outside too - this means I'll have to go back when the temperatures drop.

No Name Bar
No name bar has live performances, plus very cheap beer. It gets pretty crowded on the weekends. The outdoor seating set up faces the fort, South Castillo Drive, and the Bridge of Lions, which are all gorgeous at night

Michael’s Tasting Room, which features artful Mediterranean-inspired seasonal cuisine, is a secluded spot featuring over 70 different Spanish wines.

A1A Ale Works
A1A Ale Works also has a beautiful upstairs balcony seating area, offering a great view of the St. Augustine Marina, Bridge of Lions, and the center of town. With an extensive menu ranging from Mexican plates to seafood, there’s something here for everyone. Also! check out their specialty drink menu. There’s a ton of delicious options.

The Floridian, run by husband-and-wife team Jeff McNally and Genie Kepner, cook their dishes with Florida ingredients (like Datil peppers) for some delicious plates!

Café Alcazar at the Lightner Museum even though it's only open for lunch, it is a special spot for a midday break. Set inside a former indoor swimming pool built by Flagler, the peaceful space is the perfect place to enjoy delicious sandwiches and salads away from the crowds. 

In between meals, be sure to slurp an artisanal ice pop from The Hyppo, enjoy a coffee from Crucial Coffee, and snack on a traditionally made empanada from the Spanish Bakery off St. George Street (sooo delicous!) 

1st and 2nd Photo above by @thehyppo 

For more dining ideas, check out this USA Today 10 Best article about St. Augustine’s finest restaurants.

Have you been to St. Augustine? What are your favorite spots?

Until next time!