Castillo de San Marcos
A little stay-cation is good for the soul & easy on the budget. Our brood is all about fort-building this summer, so we found it fitting to take the kiddos for their first visit to Castillo de San Marcos – the oldest masonry fort in the U.S (located in Historic St. Augustine, Florida) .
The coquina stone structure was an adventure definitely worth taking with our golden babes. We started our visit with a picnic lunch on the grassy hill just outside the entrance–it was perfect! A Pirate Ship battle that we viewed from the second story was happening as we arrived (we got so lucky – I knew nothing about this in advance!) A historic cannon firing also took place! It was amazing, but be sure to cover any little ears – it’s LOUD! By the time that we got to exploring the downstairs, the children enjoyed hearing their own “echos” more than learning of any of the historical significance… I had to giggle. I know these days of glorious “echos” are so fleeting!
The National Park Service offers valuable tools for preparing for you visit here.
The Hyppo Has All The Hype
Delightful all-natural ice pops with mentions in Travel + Leisure, Food & Wine, and Southern Living – we knew exactly where to go to cool off before heading back to our hotel. The whimsy in this sweetery extended beyond the renown flavors of their treats and into the colorful design of the shop! They boast creating over 450 flavors, and I have to admit choosing was tough. The kids chose most-wisely with the Banilla Vanilla, but I hear the best seller is Chocolate Sea Salt. (I chose Honeydew Melon with Basil… I’m thinking that one must be an acquired taste?) Whatever you decide it is a totally guilt-free dessert that is guaranteed to make your day unique!
America’s Oldest Wooden School House
Schools out for summer! So… we take them to a school house? We should obviously win parents of the year with this one. Honestly, though, what a neat experience–it is THE oldest school house in America!
The oldest classroom comes alive at the press of the button to give guest a glimpse into the 18th century (and, boy, was it different!) The cafeteria and garden were outside the main school house, just beyond the working school bell that–get this–they let you ring “as much as you want”! I think my children enjoyed the bell as much as any other part of our visit! The final touch, the kiddos are presented with a graduation certificate when exiting the exhibit as a special keepsake. How cute is that?!
Vilano Beach is A “Best Kept Secret”
Every year we make a summer wish list, and this year going to a beach that we could drive our
car mini-van on was at the top. When I came across Vilano Beach, I knew we were going to scratch it off our summer to-do! Such a quaint little town just 2 miles outside of historic downtown with everything you need (including Publix… a Floridian must!) You can drive and park (but not peruse) on the beach, lifeguards are on duty, and we found many sharks teeth while playing in the sand. It’s no wonder locals call it St. Augustine’s “best kept secret”!
St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum
If you read no further (I know this post is long, but this city is so full of to-dos), don’t miss the Lighthouse & Maritime Museum! We had the very best time exploring BOTH! Their is a 42″ height limit to climb the 219 steps to the top, but even my littlest ones had fun exploring the nature trails, various artifacts, & climbing about the pirate ship themed playground. The Lighthouse climb was steep, but the two oldest (6 & 8 years) successfully made it to the top with Daddy by their side! I hear the view is incredible!
After the climb, we explored the Maritime Museum, and it is no ordinary museum! Although it had areas that were roped off (as expected), it also had artifacts for pretend play! I honestly don’t know who was more excited about the 18th Century Tea Party – me or my babes?! The vintage dishes, the basement walls, the echo of their chatter… it was an imagination-station that filled them with joy (not too mention the picture ops for this photography loving mama!)
And then we have this… a technology center (in the same Maritime Museum displaying the vintage dishes)! Young visitors are encouraged to use iPads to better understand how ancient artifacts form, and how they are recovered. Even my four year old gained an appreciation for discovery!
J&S Carousel at Davenport Park
The perfect ending to a perfect stay-cation. Before we leave for any lengthy drive back home, we are pretty strategic in feeding bellies & burning any remaining energy. Davenport Park was just the place for that with our four kiddos before the drive back home. The shady oak trees helped to block the summer sun, and the playground offered traditional & unique equipment to entertain, and the restored carousel for just $1.00 per ride was a total hit!
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