Category Archives: Summer

Good Old Times in St. Augustine

History, beaches, beautiful architecture, shopping, and fun are some of things you will find in St. Augustine. I’ve been trying to think of a category of traveler who would not find something to do in this fascinating Florida gem of a city, and I can’t.

There are so many things to choose from (museums, historic homes, activities, and tours) that it might just make your head swim. One thing my family did there recently was buy the Old Town Trolley passes. I thought it was a great way to get an overview of the city, get our bearings, and figure out what we wanted to do. It also helps you find free parking in a place where that sort of thing comes at a premium. The trolley passes are good for three consecutive days, so you can use them for transportation in addition to getting background info on all the famous haunts in the oldest city.

One of the places we visited was Castillo de San Marcos. Now, being from Charleston, I always think that if there’s a fort somewhere, I have to see it. But honestly, now that I’m in my mid-40s, I have come to realize that if you’ve seen one fort, you’ve seen most of them. Notice that I said “most” and not “all.” Castillo de San Marcos is bigger and has a little more to take in than the majority of forts I have seen. (Although my favorite remains Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island, SC.) It offers a unique experience with live performers, areas that are set up to look as though life is carrying on in 1700-something, and stunning views. It’s worth the visit.

There’s a little free museum that you can walk through if you have the trolley passes. It makes for a nice, air-conditioned twenty minute stop. That’s nice when you are visiting in July. The attached gift shop is also a good place to get your alligator heads, all things key lime, and other touristy must-haves.

At the Mission of Nombre de Dios, you will find the Great Cross, which marks the founding of St. Augustine. Visiting this cross and the adjoining cemetery and chapel is actually a free activity, but donations to the Mission are appreciated. It’s so lovely and peaceful that I almost can’t quite describe it. It’s definitely a holy place, and just a special experience. Even if you visit on a hot summer day, it feels cooler and pleasant as you stroll through the cemetery, but that may be in part because of the river on which it borders. I personally feel that no trip to St. Augustine will be complete for me without a stop at this inspirational spot.

We skipped the ever-popular Fountain of Youth, but it was a stop on our trolley tour. We just didn’t have time for everything. I do wish we had made time for the Flagler Museum. Next time.

A walk through the old gates and through the Old City proved fruitful and fun. The Oldest Schoolhouse is on that stretch, along with many fine shops and restaurants. Columbia’s is where all the locals say you simply *must* eat.

Potter’s Wax Museum was one of our favorites. I really thought this was going to be a short stop with little value other than entertainment. But there was great historic value in this visit for the whole family. It was definitely fun, but it was educational, too.

The last thing we did before leaving town was the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum.  Be amazed, be fascinated, and be grossed out at Ripley’s. As you are probably aware, this is a chain, and there are many Ripley’s Museums, but this one was the original. Each location is going to have different things in it, and this one is in an old mansion. There’s a good ghost story that goes along with it, too.

This was a great little summer vacation for my family, but would be nice at any time of year. Due to the great variety of things to do in St. Augustine, I would recommend it to families, couples looking for a romantic getaway, a girls’ weekend for shopping and sightseeing, a guys’ golf weekend, or a nice place for retirees to toodle around.

Contact Azalea Travel for help planning your St. Augustine vacation!

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It’s not summer without . . . this.

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Growing up on the coast, there were certain things we just did every summer, without question. We went out in the boat. We went fishing and threw a castnet into the brackish rivers to catch shrimp. I visited my best friend (who lived in another town), and she visited me. I watched way too much TV. We always took a trip, of course. Some of the most memorable include a fishing lodge in the Bahamas, a fishing lodge in British Columbia, two weeks in England, and many trips with extended family to High Hampton Inn in Cashiers, NC.

But there’s one thing that I need now, as an adult, to make summer official. I just can’t do without time at the beach. Since my family had a beach house when I was growing up, I think it was just part of my DNA from the get-go. I need that time, even if it’s just a few days, to live on that lazy schedule and not be able to get all the sand out of my shoes.

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What were those beach weeks like when I was growing up? Well, let’s see. Wake up later than usual to a sunny morning where you can hear the cicadas getting cranked up for the day. Eat an abnormal breakfast that might consist of something like waffles and candy. Finally put on your bathing suit around 10 and walk down to the beach. Rubber flip flops from the drug store, inflatable rafts, and Coppertone are the basic survival gear. Come inside around lunchtime, and have a sandwich. The rest of the day is up for grabs and may or may not include running from a thunderstorm when you see it coming, naps, or talking into the box fan to sound like a robot. But some things that will be certain are a screened door slamming shut many times over, a nice breeze on the incoming tide, sweat dripping off your face during the change of tides, and everyone taking turns with their showers before dinner. Dinner may involve a local seafood restaurant where at least one person in your family knows at least one person who works in the restaurant.

I look back now at how much work that was for my mom, even if we went out to dinner every night (and we didn’t). Cooking, cleaning up, etc. Now that I’m a mom, I much prefer going to a resort or a villa rental when on vacation than having our own place. But I digress.

My parents bought a beach condo when I was about nine, and that became part of my summer beach routine, as well. The absence of the screened door and the addition of a pool and air conditioning were the big differences, but it was still the beach.

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So, for me, it’s not summer without sand, waves, and Carolina “island time.” What is it for you that makes it summer? Is it a trip to the mountains? Maybe it’s sitting by the pool with a good drink? Jimmy Buffett concert or outlet shopping with old friends? Lightning bugs? Comment on our Facebook page and tell us what you can’t do without, when it comes to summer.

Azalea Travel, proud member of ASTA