Why St. Augustine, FL is Great With Kids
Of the historic Southern coastal cities, St. Augustine, FL, Savannah, GA , and Charleston,SC, St. Augustine is like the ugly far-removed cousin who gets no love! Born and raised an hour drive from this city, I've been visiting and loving this little gem my entire life. And, I'm here to profess, the nation's oldest city, St. Augustine is just as charming and just as romantic as those other talked-about towns, and its also a great travel destination with kids!
WHY IT'S GREAT WITH KIDS!
Yes, St. Augustine is charming and romantic. Cobblestone streets, hidden alcoves, historic architecture, horse-drawn carriages. It's a perfect locale for a honeymoon, babymoon, anniversary BUT you've got kids, one maybe four.
Here's the lowdown on why this adorable little town (I don't consider it a city) is better with your army of little ones.
1.) It's a tourist town so there's a lot to do!
You know those brightly colored rectangular maps with the trolley stops and caricatured drawings of buildings you can find in any tourist town that seem to all be made by the same manufacturer? Yes? If a town has this type of map, let out a sigh of relief, you've found an awesome destination for you and your kiddos. In St. Augustine, there are historical sites, guided tours of every kind, museums and monuments, shopping, re-enactments, sightseeing, trolleys, trains, boats and ice cream parlors galore! Trust me, you won't run out of things to do!
2.) You'll get to see history through your child's eyes!
You know how learning about history sometimes makes you want to snooze (or weep!) Does walking through historical sites in hushed voices and following a tour guide around remind you more of your textbooks just come to life in boring animatronic form? Well, enter your kids! They are so easily amazed! Where you see a historical building, they see a castle. Where you see re-enactors showing up to a job, they see real-live pirates! Those jaw-dropped looks of wonder and unfiltered curiosity will rub off on you. Let it! Have fun, be silly, and talk to the pirates as if they ARE real! They may never say it, but it would probably mean the world to your kids if you played along and contributed to the magic.
3.)There are so many beautiful backdrops for family photos!
Yes, that's right. Family photos. As an amateur photographer (and mom), photos mean a lot to me. And, St. Augustine offers backdrops a plenty. There are colored wooden doors, stone steps, gorgeous brick walkways, detailed ironwork, potted plants, scaling vines, rounded archways, and so many deserted streets. It's a photographer's playground! It would be wise to take 15-30 minutes (for me an hour) just wandering and taking cool shots of your kiddos. I snapped the picture on the left walking on our way to the pirate ship! Look how it's framed so nicely with the iron door and wild plants.
4.) It has GREEN space!
You know what green space means, a place to run! Please, I repeat please, don't expect your kids (especially if they're under the age of 10) to follow you from historical venue to historical venue all day. They're gonna have ants in their pants! Every trip, they'll need an opportunity to be wild + free! The Plaza de la Constitucion is in the middle of the city at the end of the St. George Street walking mall. It's a great place to take a break and let the kids run around. But, it can get crowded and its surrounded by three streets (and cars) . If it's nearing lunchtime, dinnertime, bedtime, or your kids are just a hot mess, head down to what we locals call "the fort" aka Castillo de San Marcos. It is surrounded by well maintained green space where your little ones can run, yell, play chase, have sword fights, roll down the slopes, and be a kid!
My top must-have packing essentials for a trip to sunny St. Augustine, FL
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1) Canon Camera: you remember when I said this is a gorgeous little town full of photographing potential? Don't miss out on this opportunity to photograph it with a real camera! You'll want the image resolution to enlarge the photos of your family and preserve the memories. I recommend the Canon brand because it's what I've used since forever and it's my trusty vacation companion.
2) Sunscreen: Okay, St. Augustine is in Florida and if you've never been to Florida, two things to note: it is HOT and it is sunny! If you come from a more temperate climate, say about 40 degrees latitude and above (e.g. New York, Great Britain, Chicago) the strength of the sun may be a shocker. And, the sun beats down in full force March-November so really anytime you come you're gonna want to be covered. You don't want to walk around day 2 of your vacation looking like a lobster or worse have peeling skin (ewwww!) I use Neutrogena Oil-free Sunscreen SPF 55 and I recommend it because it's lightweight and doesn't make you shiny or clog your pores! I love that it's lightweight enough that I can wear it under my make-up. For my kiddos, I use NO-AD SPF 50. Have you heard of it? It's cheap, not sticky, and it WORKS!
3) A Wide-brimmed Hat: Did you get the memo above that Florida is HOT and the intensity of the sun is relentless and if you don't come prepared you'll completely regret it? I hope so. Part of coming prepared to visit St. Augustine, FL is wearing a hat. Not just any hat, a wide-brimmed hat. Why? Because, sunscreen defends against the sun's brutal rays but your eyes will need some defense as well (and trust me you'll want the extra defense for your skin). Case in point: I'm a native Floridian and while visiting St. Augustine last summer even I had to breakdown and buy a hat at one of the gift shops because it was just TOO hot. I was dripping in sweat and I needed the reprieve from the sun. Just buy your quality hat like the Wallaroo Women's Fedora before hand because those gift shops will charge an exorbitant price for their hats because people come unprepared and they can get away with it.
4) Walking Shoes: Please, I repeat please, come prepared for walking. The St. Augustine historic district is a small space but other than the trolley, it will be all walking, all day. And, depending on your sightseeing route, you may go back and forth along cobbled streets and concrete again and again. I'd prepare for AT LEAST 2-3 miles of walking. Yes, those summery sandals and wedges might be cute against the historic architecture BUT is it worth blisters and and sore feet? I recommend New Balance sneakers because they are durable and comfy. Both my son and I have wider feet and these are the only brand that our feet can slide right into.
Hope these tips were helpful and you choose to stop in St. Augustine, FL during your next road trip! You can easily make a day trip out of it BUT I'd recommend giving St. Augustine at least 2-3 days to fully explore.
Many Blessings and Happy Travels,
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