It's lovely to walk around St. Augustine town and take in the sumptuous architecture. Grab a map at one of the visitor centers and let your feet guide you to the next pretty building up ahead. The beauty of this area is marred by the level of tourism/commercialism here. Avoid the money-grabbers at the tourist parking garages, and park for free along the road such as on Sevilla St or Saragossa St, by the Grace United Methodist Church (8 Carrera St).
Places not to be missed in St. Augustine are: the Castillo de San Marcos, with its lovely spacious spot on the water with little grassy slopes and cool strong breezes (you don't need to pay to enter but can just visit the outside for free), Mission Nombre de Dios, an adorable ivy-covered chapel that is a pilgrimage site (you need to drive to it), and the Lightner Museum, Flagler College, and Memorial Presbyterian Church with their gorgeous terra cotta exteriors.
Across from the castillo is the small St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum, which has some interesting real treasure but is quite expensive for a half hour of entertainment.
St. Georges Street is a pedestrian-only street where you can grab an icecream among the massive crowds of people. It leads south to Plaza de la Constitution, where the famous Christmas lights are strung. They are pretty, though if you need to drive hours to see them, it is not worth it as they are not the best in the world as National Geographic said! (The ones near my house were actually better!) Across from Plaza de la Constitution is the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine- go inside and light a candle. For more Christmas lights, stroll over to the plaza in front of the Lightner Museum- this is magical.
Walk past Flagler College, built in 1888 by Henry Flagler as a luxury hotel called Ponce de Leon, and designed by the same architects as the church, Carrere and Hastings out of NYC. While in Florida, you will hear a lot about Flagler, a railroad and hotel magnate who contributed much to the look of eastern Florida. Next you can see the adorable Villa Zorayda, inspired by the 12th century Alhambra Palace, a Moorish palace in Granada, Spain. Boston millionaire Franklin W. Smith had it built as his winter home in 1883, and it is now a museum with an audio tour. It is an exact replica of one wing of the palace, to one-tenth size. Smith designed the house himself, using the innovative technique of poured concrete, a mixture of cement, sand, and coquina shell. Many of the materials used in the construction of Villa Zorayda were imported from Spain.
Next, walk around in front of the Lightner Museum, formerly the Hotel Alcazar, built in 1887 in Spanish Renaissance style also by Flagler, designed by the same architects. Stroll around the inner courtyard and over the stone bridge over a fishpond surrounded by palms (you can enter the inner courtyard for free). In the museum, enjoy the collection of Victoriana gathered by Otto C. Lightner, who bought the hotel in 1946. Objects from the Victorian era (1870s to 1920s) that you can see are: automatic musical instruments that are demonstrated daily at 11am and 2pm (kind of long-winded presentation), adorable Victorian rose bowls and glass baskets, gorgeous vases, and an Egyptian mummy. You can also see Tiffany glass, furniture, sculptures, and paintings. It is very musty inside the museum making you want to leave asap.
Across Cordova Street from the Lightner Museum is the Casa Monica Hotel with its quatrefoil window over the front entrance, also one of the oldest hotels in the USA and built of poured concrete. It was built by Franklin Smith, the Boston millionaire who built and lived in Villa Zorayda.
The Memorial Presbyterian Church, Ponce de Leon Hotel, and Hotel Alcazar buildings have gorgeous terra cotta ornamentation over the exterior, that gives them their distinctive look. This is the look of St. Augustine town and it is breathtaking when you first see it!
If you need a rest, sit outside on the patio at the Chocolate Turtle with a cup of tea. It is really pleasant in the quiet part of town, and you can look up at the historical storefront. Nearby, explore inside the Memorial Presbyterian Church (32 Sevilla St) which was built in 1889 by Henry Flagler in honor of his grown daughter who died that year. Created in Spanish Renaissance style, it was inspired by St Mark's Basilica in Venice. Check out the peaceful blue interior and Tiffany glass windows. Flagler is buried in the church, along with family members.
St. Augustine has a beach over the causeway from the town, Vilano Beach, with views of the St. Augustine Lighthouse across the water. Another beach is St. Augustine Beach, which has slightly nicer sand than Vilano Beach, with flecks of red in it!
For a fun activity, visit Alligator Farm and look down on a natural lagoon full of hundreds of alligators and crocodiles!
Parking is too expensive at the visitor center ($12) so park along the road for free instead. There is free parking along the road near the Grace United Methodist Church, 8 Carrera St, St. Augustine FL 32084.
Castillo de San Marcos is located at 1 S. Castillo Dr, St. Augustine FL 32084.
There is a parking lot at the castillo ($1.50 per hour) but you'll only find a spot if you come first thing in the morning.
Plaza de la Constitucion (Christmas lights), 23 Orange St, St Augustine FL 32084.
Flagler College, 74 King St, St. Augustine FL 32084.
Villa Zorayda, 83 King St, St. Augustine FL, call (904) 829-9887. Open M-S 10-5, Sun 11-4. Closed Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day (fourth Thurs in Nov), Dec 24 and 25. Cost for audio tour is adults $10, seniors $9, children (aged 13 and up) $8, children (aged 7-12) $4.
Lightner Museum (Christmas lights outside), 75 King St, St. Augustine FL, call (904) 824-2874. Open 9-5 daily. Closed Dec 25. Admission is adults $10, military $6, college students and teens $5. Children under 12 enter for free. Beware: it's musty inside.
The Chocolate Turtle, 27 Cordova Street, St. Augustine FL 32084.
Memorial Presbyterian Church, 32 Sevilla St, St. Augustine FL 32084. Entry is free.
Last Updated: Sat, 16 Jan 2016 21:55:01 GMT