Discover the Gilded Age: The Lightner Museum & More
St. Augustine is rich in history, and in the late 1800s, “rich” was the operative word. This little town became the premier resort destination for the well-to-do – and it all began in 1883 with an auspicious visit by Henry Morrison Flagler, John D. Rockefeller’s partner in founding Standard Oil. Stroll back in time as you explore the historic Lightner Museum, former Ponce de Leon Hotel and more with this guide to the Gilded Age in St. Augustine. We’ve included suggestions for drinking, dining, and discovering your way through an opulent era of lavish architecture and conspicuous luxury.
MORNING | Breakfast and Flagler Legacy Tour
Quaint and quirky comfort food with options like blue crab quiche, corned beef hash and eggs, chicken biscuits, and more.
Built by Henry M. Flagler at the height of the Golden Age, and one of the most exclusive resorts of its day, Historic Tours of the former Hotel Ponce de Leon highlight the Spanish Renaissance architectural heritage of what is now Flagler College.
AFTERNOON | Lunch and Explore Downtown and Flagler’s Churches
Local, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients in a comfortable and casual atmosphere. Taste southern comfort food, and vibrant, creative dishes with many vegetarian options.
The Hyppo makes delightful all-natural ice pops from everything under the sun with over 450 flavors!
As you explore downtown, visit the beautifully adorned Cathedral-Basilica of St. Augustine. America’s first parish and the oldest Catholic Church in the city. Explore this exquisite building and view the Spanish-inspired architecture.
Henry Flagler had a hand at constructing many of the oldest churches in St. Augustine, and this was dedicated to his daughter. Visit the Memorial Presbyterian Church, where Flagler and his family were laid to rest.
Visitors can enjoy local events at the plaza like a seasonal concert series or the Nights of Lights during the holidays. The plaza is surrounded by large cannons which make for a fun vacation photo op.
EVENING | Dinner and Exploring
For a local dining experience straight out of the Gilded Age, try Ice Plant. The Ice Plant was Florida’s first power and ice plant since 1907 which used to make 125 tons of ice for local fishing and shrimping industries. Smaller quantities were sold to residents until freezers and refrigerators became available in the 1950s. Today, the restaurant serves seasonal cocktails and dishes with the original bridge crane suspended over the bar.
Visit the museum and experience a free guided tour. Located within a beautifully restored ice plant from the turn-of-the-century, St. Augustine Distillery’s mission is simple: Educate and inspire guests about local, handcrafted, award-winning rum, whiskey bourbon, gin, and vodka.
MORNING | Breakfast and Museum Tour
Dine in this small Cuban-American restaurant in the heart of historic downtown St. Augustine, serving Cuban food from family recipes and breakfast all day.
A monument to the lavishness of the Gilded Age, the Lightner museum features three floors of artifacts from the 19th and 20th centuries, including exquisite Victorian clothing and art, Tiffany stained glass, paintings, and oddities from around the world.
AFTERNOON | Lunch and Art Galleries
Formerly Henry Flagler’s Alcazar Hotel, which closed in 1932. The indoor pool, now the location of Café Alcazar, was the largest in the world in its time. At certain times, the pool was drained, and elaborate gardens were installed on the pool’s floor.
Explore Aviles Street and King Street Art Galleries
Explore Aviles Street, America’s oldest street and now one of the area’s most diverse arts districts filled with galleries and restaurants. It was paved with bricks so that the shoes of ladies from New York would not be soiled walking through muddy streets.
EVENING | Dinner and Live Music
Take a culinary journey along the Mediterranean at Costa Brava. A sumptuous meze-style menu features fresh and flavorful coastal cuisine, perfect to share with family and friends.
Henry Flagler purchased the hotel in 1888, including all fixtures, furnishings, silver, hardware, linen, bedding, parlor, hall, dining room, kitchen furnishings, and other chattels.
Enjoy upscale, locally-sourced Southern cuisine in the historic Lincolnville neighborhood. The restaurant is located in the beautifully preserved Jefferson House, previously occupied by Thomas Jefferson’s great-granddaughter in the 1890s.
Enjoy live music each weekend under the Colonial Oak at The Colonial Quarter. The stage area is nestled in a collection of replica buildings of St. Augustine’s 17th Century Spanish and 18th Century British rule, and a restored 1740 colonial home, the De Mes-Sanchez House.
Visitors to St. Augustine, such as Flagler’s distinguished guests, sometimes golfed on the lawn of the Castillo. After your visit to the Lightner Museum, tour the grounds of the 17th century Spanish fort, imagining its elegant use in the Gilded Age as a tourism destination for America’s Elite.
Interactive Map – Guide to the Gilded Age
The map below will help you plan your route through historic St. Augustine, from the Lightner Museum to local haunts, as you enjoy sights, sounds, and flavors around every corner.
Video – Experience The Gilded Age in St. Augustine