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Recapture your youth in the ancient city– St. Augustine has it all.

by: Wendy Vogeley

Ponce de Leon St. Augustine, Florida Fountain Of Youth St. Augustine

I just spent a long weekend in St. Augustine, Florida and I feel younger than ever! I know–I know, the Fountain of Youth is just a myth, or a fantasy if you will, but a visit to this charming, historic beach town can really do wonders. First, let me tell you, if you have never been to St. Augustine, you’ve got to go. Besides the pretty beaches, great shopping and restaurants, the city is just brimming with magnificent history.

As the Oldest City in the United States, St. Augustine is often called the Ancient City or the Old City. If you come for the fresh air and sunshine–you’re in luck because there’s always plenty of that! But give yourself some time to take a tour of the historic St. Augustine attractions. The original landing site of Ponce de Leon was so interesting and I even sipped a sample of the eternal spring water. What’s amazing is standing on the same spot where Ponce de Leon arrived in Florida in 1513. The Fountain of Youth National Archaeological Park is the actual site where Spanish explorers first came ashore in the United States. The guides at the park are extremely knowledgeable and give you a history lesson on the life of Ponce de Leon and there’s also the Navigator’s Planetarium which shows how the explorers used celestial bodies to help them navigate to the New World.

I also loved seeing The Old City Gates, which are these two ancient stone columns at the end of St. George Street. What’s so incredible about the Old City Gates is that this was at one time the only entrance into St. Augustine. They were built in 1808 as a line of defense for the city. The Old City Gates are an important landmark and really take you back to the times when the original American colonists were trying to establish themselves and make St. Augustine a safe home. My sister, who was traveling with me, was equally enthralled by the Old City Gates, but even more thrilled as we walked through to St. George Street because you are immediately immersed in great shopping, charming restaurants and galleries. The area is a historic pedestrian mall and you can shop, eat and just browse through the many unique sites–there’s several historic attractions there as well.

The Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse, which was made completely by hand in the early 18th century is also intriguing-the entire building is made of cedar and cypress and wooden pegs. If you are on a tour, hop off and walk through the structure and see old student desks and examples of the books they used. Kids today think they have it bad–in those days the students had to learn without electricity and running water!

After we toured the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse we went for a walk through the Spanish Quarter. If you like seeing Colonial Architecture and learning historic facts, this St. Augustine attraction is just the thing. There are several restored colonials in this quaint village. We took a tour through the Government House Museum, and saw where the politicians of that time period administered the government of the colony. There’s also great exhibits that showcase St. Augustine’s remarkable past. The actors who are actually historians in costumes–relive the lives of the Spanish soldiers and their families and demonstrate how the Blacksmiths and carpenters, and other tradesmen lived during the 1740’s. It was very entertaining!

Before this visit to St. Augustine, Florida I honestly had no idea how many fascinating sights there were. We toured through the Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church which was not only gorgeous, but also really moving because Henry Flagler built the church as a memorial for his daughter. He, his daughter, granddaughter and his first wife are all buried there.

Between all the history, the delicious food and baking in the sun–and yes, we did wear sunblock–we had the best time in St. Augustine. And I know you’ll have a ball, too. Just be sure to take a tour because that’s the best way to see as many of the most popular Old City attractions as you can.

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