Guest Author - Cynthia Parker
Founded by Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1565 and celebrating its 450th birthday in 2015, St. Augustine, Florida is the oldest city in the United States. Rich with history and located on some of the most scenic waterways in the country, there is much for a family to enjoy in this amazing city. History is obviously one of the primary attractions in St. Augustine and there are sights and experiences that will appeal to everyone.
The Colonial Quarter is a historic site that offers lots of interactive experiences as it walks its visitors through the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries of its existence. Visitors can watch a master craftsman as he works to assemble a 50 foot caravel or they can search for 16th century artifacts in dig boxes at the archeological site. Moving on to the 17th century, guests may climb the watchtower over Castillo de Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States. Interested parties can learn how to load and fire a musket and visit the blacksmith shop where everything from horseshoes to household items were made or repaired. At the 18th century Spanish Garrison, guests can view a soldierís home to see how his family lived while he was in training, visit a hands-on leatherworking shop, and perhaps rest in the Taberna del Caballo for some refreshments. They may also explore the 18th century English settlement when they can visit the De Mesa Sanchez House, view an old-fashioned printing press at work, and visit the Bull & Crown Publick House.
There are many historic churches in St. Augustine of literally every denomination. The oldest Catholic Church in the city is Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine. This parish also holds notoriety as the first parish in America. St. Photios Greek Shrine is the home of many Byzantine frescoes that are a beauty to behold, as well as a museum dedicated to the first Greek colony in the United States. Discover the Mission of Nombre de Dios, dating back to the cityís founding and discover the important role of Christianity in the early days of St. Augustine at the Mission Museum.
Family adventures abound in St. Augustine, including an outing with pirates hosted by Black Raven Adventures. The family can join Blackbeardís crew on a treasure hunt with includes a 90 minutes ship ride filled with swordfights, song and dance, a sea battle when rival pirates try to steal the treasure that includes cannon and pistol firing, and the recovery of the pirateís treasure. The reclaimed booty is shared with the children on the tour, who also can enjoy face painting and sword training.
Ponce de Leonís Fountain of Youth and archeological site features the Spring House, where the explorerís famous find is housed. Drink from the fountain and sign the guest book that dates back to 1868. Visit the Temucuan Village that was a busy tool and pottery making civilization in the day of its discovery by Pedro Menendez de Aviles. View the archeological digs and the finds that are still being discovered to this day. Climb the Spanish lookout tower that features a birdís eye view of the St. Augustine marshes. Stroll along the Founderís Riverwalk that stretches out over the Matanzas Bay and St. Augustine inlet.
Eco-tours are popular in St. Augustine and there are several tour companies that offer a variety of services. There are guided tours where expect guides discuss dolphin behavior, point out rare shorebirds, and explain how a salt water marsh ecosystem works. Kayak tours provide a more intimate look at the marsh ecosystem, allowing participants an up-close experience. Some of the tour companies feature underwater microphones for listening to the dolphins, sailing tours, and deep-sea fishing. It is best to check out several tour companies for specific features and rate comparison before making a decision on your familyís experience.
St. Augustine is certainly rich in many ways and a visit with your family to this wonderful city can enrich minds, lives and memories of each family member. Explore and enjoy!