Ready for a family adventure in the Nation’s Oldest City? A visit to Florida’s Historic Coast with children is easy-peasy with outdoor and hands-on fun including history, beaches, and plenty of culture. The best part? The kids won’t even realize they are learning so much about a city that was founded in 1565! Let’s get started…
DAY ONE: Historic Downtown
Start by booking your stay at one of these family-friendly resorts:
TRYP by Wyndham Sebastian St. Augustine offers colorful and modern accommodations near historic St. Augustine. Ask for a room with views of the San Sebastian River.
PARENT PERKS: An outdoor pool, shuttles to local attractions, a restaurant on-site, free parking, and free wifi.
DoubleTree by Hilton in the Saint Augustine Historic District is located across the street from the Mission Nombres de Dios, where the Great Cross stands that marks the 400th anniversary of St. Augustine, built in 1965. The Mission is the site of the first Catholic mass held by the city’s founder in 1565. Just north of the historic district, this hotel has complimentary parking and wifi, and families often ride a trolley or walk to nearby attractions, museums, and historic landmarks.
PLAY & LEARN
Walking around historic St. Augustine is one of the best ways to view the Ancient City and take in the historic architecture. We suggest beginning at Lightner Museum, completed in 1888 by Standard Oil co-founder Henry Flagler as Hotel Alcazar. This beautiful structure is built in the Spanish Renaissance Revival Style. Today it houses City Hall, Lightner Museum with three floors of 19th-century art and collectibles once owned by Otto C. Lightner, and Cafe Alcazar, a restaurant that sits in the location of what was once the world’s largest indoor swimming pool! While the museum is child-friendly and includes a scavenger hunt, it’s just as much fun to explore the outdoor areas including four fountains and a fish pond with koi in the stunning courtyard.
BEST INSTAGRAM SPOTS: The bridge over the pond in the courtyard and the front fountain, with a view of the Lightner Museum and the statue of Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, the city’s founder.
After Lightner, cross King Street to Flagler College, once the Ponce de Leon Hotel, also built by Henry Flagler and completed in 1888. Tours are offered but depending on the age of children, they may just enjoy the front frog fountain and the stunning painted dome ceiling inside the main entrance! It’s free to walk inside and view what was once a summer vacation spot for the rich.
BEST INSTAGRAM SPOTS: The Henry Flagler statue, the massive black iron gate, the frog fountain, and the painted dome ceiling.
Ready for shopping and ice cream? Head over to Saint George Street and try The Hyppo, famous for their all-natural popsicles in hundreds of exotic flavors. On Hypolita Street, Mayday Ice Cream serves up artisan ice cream in dozens of flavors like Datil Dark, Queens Salted Caramel, Key Lime Pie, and The Aviator (Nutella ice cream with hazelnuts and cookie chunks), all perfectly paired with homemade sprinkles, waffle cones, and galettes!
Sites along the way include the Casa Monica Hotel (1888, Moorish Revival and Spanish Baroque Revival), the Government House Cultural Center and Museum (circa 1710, made of coquina, a native St. Augustine building material), Trinity Episcopal Church (1821, the oldest protestant church in Florida) and the Cathedral Basilica (1793–1797, with the original parish, burned to the ground in 1586 by Sir Francis Drake).
SHOP, EAT, DISCOVER
Saint George Street boasts plenty of souvenir shops, art galleries, and restaurants. Favorite family casual dining spots include St. Augustine Seafood Company, Pizzalley’s, Pizza Time, and Burrito Works Taco Shop.
Hands-on attractions include: The Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse, built in the early 1700s; the Colonial Quarter, a living history museum where guests learn about blacksmithing, can view a live musket demonstration, and climb the wooden watchtower for amazing views of the Castillo de San Marcos and the bayfront; and the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum, where exhibits include artifacts from Sir Francis Drake and Robert Searles, both pirates who frequented the Nation’s Oldest City and played a role in the history of pirates and colonial America.
BEST INSTAGRAM SPOTS: Stand in the middle of Saint George Street and get views of the shops and the balconies above. Other favorite photos; Views of the fort and bayfront from the wooden watchtower and ringing the school bell in the garden at the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse!
DAY TWO: Anastasia Island
Take a trip to Anastasia Island for the day to experience the beach and iconic attractions.
PLAY & LEARN
Eat a hearty breakfast and then travel over the Bridge of Lions (completed in 1927 and guarded by two Italian marble lions) to Anastasia Island for a busy and fun day.
First stop: The 1874 St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, where visitors can climb 219 steps up the spiral staircase to the top for incredible views of St. Augustine and the Atlantic Ocean. The museum features exhibits in the 1876 Keepers’ House, the WWII Coastal Lookout Building, and the working Conservation Lab where shipwreck artifacts are preserved.
PARENT TIPS: Children must be 44 inches tall to climb the tower. Children not tall enough to climb are admitted free of charge, with one parent receiving half-price admission. Parents usually trade off climbing.
FOR LITTLE ONES: There’s a smaller spiral staircase inside the Keeper’s House that leads to the basement with shipwreck artifacts and a tea-time table perfect for little hands. A ship playground outdoors and a climb-in wooden lighthouse with puppets in the Maritime Education Center also keep little ones entertained and engaged.
BEST INSTAGRAM SPOTS: The spiral staircase, views from the top, and staff will take a pano photo of families in front of the 165-foot-tall tower.
Animal lovers unite! Next up, visit the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, founded in 1893 and featuring every living species of crocodilian — alligators and crocodiles — with a focus on conservation and breeding endangered species. Children will especially enjoy viewing the newly hatched crocodiles, tortoises, and native birds! Other animals include sloths, lemurs, snakes, exotic birds, Florida native reptiles, and adorable pygmy marmosets.
PARENT PERKS: A playground, picnic tables around the park, and the Toucan Tina Cafe provide extra enjoyment for families.
EAT & DISCOVER
Family-friendly St. Augustine Beach dining spots include Beachcomber (directly on the beach), Sunset Grille, Mango Mangos, and Stir it Up.
After lunch, enjoy the beach! We recommend the St. Johns County Ocean Pier (completed in 1939, with recent renovations and gorgeous views) which offers free parking, beach access, public restrooms, a splash pad for little ones, a playground, and outdoor showers for washing off the sand! Also on site: The pier ($2 each for sightseeing), a gift shop with snacks and drinks, and a visitor center.
DAY THREE: Uptown St. Augustine
Explore more history and culture in St. Augustine with visits to outdoor landmarks and attractions, perfect for family members of all ages.
PLAY & LEARN
The Castillo de San Marcos was completed in 1695 and is the oldest masonry fortress in the continental United States. Made of coquina, this native stone was mined from a quarry on Anastasia Island, which is now part of Anastasia State Park.
PARENT TIPS: It’s free to explore around the fort and kids love the grassy hills for running and playing! There is a fee to view the inside of the fort, with exhibits and cannon firing demonstrations by re-enactors.
BEST INSTAGRAM SPOTS: Get beautiful photos literally around every corner of this beautiful fort!
EAT & DISCOVER
The best Cuban sandwiches and barbecue can be found at Smoked Southern BBQ, a food stand located just inside the entrance of Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, the location where Pedro Menendez de Aviles founds the city of St. Augustine at the Timucua village of Seloy. Dine at picnic tables then head inside to explore Florida’s oldest tourist attraction, where wild peacocks roam the grounds.
Start at the Spring House, where guests can sample water from the Florida aquifer, an original spring source that was recorded in a 17th-century Spanish land grant. Other exhibits include the Navigators Planetarium, Timucuan Village, a Blacksmith demonstration, a Spanish Lookout (watchtower) with amazing views, a Chalupa Boathouse, the Founders Riverwalk, cannon firing, and other living history areas.
PARENT PERKS: This mostly outdoor park is perfect for all ages with plenty of space for little ones to run and play! A family favorite is an archaeology area where visitors can sift through sand to find artifacts such as shark teeth, beads, and other treasures.
BEST INSTAGRAM SPOTS: The most Instagrammable spot in this area is on Magnolia Avenue at the Foutain of Youth entrance. Lined with ancient oak trees, the canopy is stunning and has been featured in movies, TV shows, and is a favorite for travel photographers. Inside: Wild peacocks make for stunning photos. The Spanish Lookout and the Founders Riverwalk are perfect places for gorgeous photos of the expansive waters that surround St. Augustine.