My family and I spent a weekend in St. Augustine, Florida recently, and I was struck by the relatively few children I saw at many of the local tourist attractions, restaurants and hotels. The oldest town in the United States was plenty busy, but the collective age of most of the tourists seemed to be just shy of qualifying for social security. Is St. Augustine just for the retired traveler? Not at all! Check out some of the things my family of four did on our St. Augustine vacation.
Family Things To Do In St. Augustine
The kids will be deputized at the beginning of the tour and get a kick out of putting the adults behind bars. You’ll learn a little bit about the history of St. Augustine, but mostly it’s just a fun place to look at.
There are two sightseeing tours in St. Augustine, and most locals will recommend the one that is not run by Ripley’s. This is a great way to see the town with little kids who get tired after too much walking. If you’re lucky, your kids can sit up front by the trolley driver and ask questions about the things they’re seeing.
I was hesitant to take my children on a ghost tour, despite the fact that St. Augustine is famous for them. But my five year old insisted. Both kids – 5 and 10 – had a blast and were not frightened. It’s probably a good idea to discuss the idea of ghost stories with your kids before the tour begins.
Castillo de San Marcos
For little kids, a visit to this old fort is like getting to run around a real life castle. It’s great how much access visitors have to the grounds. Kids will also enjoy the cannon firing ceremonies that take place several times a day.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not
What little kid doesn’t love a shrunken head and indoor ferris wheel? Actually, my kindergartener was more frightened by Ripley’s than the ghost tour. This is a great stop, however, if you have a child who’s into the Guinness Book of World Records, magic tricks and joke books.
Similar to Orlando’s Gatorland, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm is the best way to see alligators and crocodiles! The highlight for us was taking pictures with the ginormous 40 year old croc named Maximo – and watching Dad jump when Maximo moved!
St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum
It’s 291 steps up to the top and your reward is an amazing view of the water and surrounding city. As long as your child can walk well on their own, they’ll be able to enjoy the lighthouse. Whether or not they’ll step outside once they reach the top depends on how they feel about heights. Our youngest loved it – our oldest climbed to the top and quickly climbed back down.
The only reason we went inside this converted luxury hotel is because it was a stop on the trolley and we were searching for food. Come to find out, it’s actually a pretty neat museum that gives kids a scavenger hunt worksheet to make exploring more interesting. This was one of our favorite surprises of the trip.
Eat & Sleep in St. Augustine
There are dozens of historic hotels, inns and B&Bs to choose from in St. Augustine, many of which claim to be haunted. But if you’re traveling with kids, the Holiday Inn & Suites may be your most convenient option. Shuttle service is available to the trolley centers and family suites allow plenty of room for adults and kids to spread out. Kids eat free in the restaurant and everyone can enjoy the pool and hot tub when you need a break from sightseeing.
Need a bite to eat when you’re out exploring? Stop by Harry’s Seafood for some amazing New Orleans style food. Skip the kids meal; the adult portions are more than generous enough to share and good enough that the kids will want you to! (Our family gives the jambalaya 8 thumbs up!)
St. Augustine may be nicknamed Old Town, but don’t let the nod to history deter you from visiting with young kids. The laid back environment and tightly clustered attractions are perfect for a relaxing family weekend away.
Photos by Britt Reints