As the days get warmer and school starts winding down for the year, we know that summer vacation is right around the corner. In my family we travel with 3 generations—my parents, spouse and kids (my parents’ grandchildren). In addition to my multigenerational family, my children’s ages are across various age demographics from teen, elementary aged twins and infant. Its always a goal to try and find a destination that can be suitable and accommodating for my entire family. Like most families, our vacation wish list has some important key elements to help create a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone. Some of those factors include:
- Comfort (Spacious lodging that can fit 8 people and their belongings)
- Handicap Accessibility (My mother can not walk long-distances so when traveling she needs access to a wheelchair or her favorite mode of traveling—an ECV/electric motorized scooter)
- Fun Activities (Activities and things to do that keeps everyone entertained and interested, including the teen and younger children)
- Dining Choices (Having a variety of dining choices that are pleasurable, affordable and meet the needs of everyone from my parents to the baby, i.e., family-friendly, different cuisines, casual, etc.)
Being able to partner with Viaja San Agustín (and Florida’s Historic Coast) as a U.S. Hispanic Ambassador for Florida’s Historic Coast, we knew how wonderful St. Augustine and Florida’s Historic Coast area was for couples to relax and rejuvenate together.
DID YOU KNOW? In 2013, Budget Travel Magazine editors selected St. Augustine as one of the top 12 destinations when traveling with toddlers, tweens and teens?!
Located midway between Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, Florida’s Historic Coast includes historic St. Augustine, the outstanding golf and seaside elegance of Ponte Vedra and 42 miles of pristine Atlantic beaches. With so many attractions, beaches, dining options and recreational activities that will satisfy your family members at every age, Florida’s Historic Coast is a guaranteed family-friendly destination.
DID YOU KNOW? St. Augustine is the birthplace of the U.S. Hispanic Heritage! By the time the first English settlement in the new world was established at Jamestown, Va., St. Augustine had been a thriving coastal town for more than 40 years. Founded by Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1565, the influence of Spanish history in St. Augustine is still evident today, more than four centuries later. From the Fountain of Youth, which Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon legends are made of, to Castillo de San Marcos, the massive fortress which helped protect Spain’s treasures, St. Augustine celebrates its Hispanic heritage. It’s been more than 450 years since Pedro Menendez de Aviles founded the coastal town, and today visitors can revel in the culture thanks to attractions (some new, like the Colonial Quarter, but most centuries old), restaurants and events celebrating Spanish history.
WHAT TO DO
If you ever wanted to feel what its like to step back in time, touch real historical artifacts and get a glimpse of centuries past then Castillo de San Marcos is a must-see. National monument, the Castillo de San Marcos, is the oldest masonry Fort in the United States and the only standing 17th century military construction. It is also one of two forts built of coquina, a soft limestone composed of broken shells. This native material gave the Spanish a special advantage. Instead of cracking or collapsing, coquina walls absorbed or deflected enemy projectiles allowing the Spanish to guard their possessions and keep their people safe. Standing since 1695, it was incredible to stand inside this magnificent fort, see real canons, learn in the exhibits about the history of the fort and the soldiers that once guarded the city, all while overlooking the beautiful St. Augustine Bay.
Even the grounds area around the Castillo de San Marcos is a lot of fun (especially for kids). Visiting Castillo de San Marcos is a great opportunity to blend learning with fun!
Ever want to board a pirate ship or know how heavy real pirate treasure weighs? Now you can and a lot more at St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum! Its truly remarkable to see all around you the world’s largest collection of authentic pirate artifacts. You can see how pirates slept, what they dressed like and experienced life while standing aboard a pirate ship—even seeing one of only two existing 17th century Jolly Rogers. Paying homage to pirates such as Sir Francis Drake and Robert Searles who frequented St. Augustine and the Spanish fort, the Castillo de San Marcos, played a major role in the history of pirates and Colonial America. The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum offers an exciting and educational museum experience that transports families back in time over 300 years to Port Royal, Jamaica, at the height of the Golden Age of Piracy.
The museum has so many fun and interactive exhibits like sounds of Blackbeard’s last battle, which the teen and the kids were more than happy to “fire” the real sounding canons. St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum also houses the world’s only pirate treasure chest. They even have a Hollywood memorabilia section, including props, dedicated to the many films and shows featuring pirates like Pirates of the Caribbean. My parents were very impressed with all the pirates artifacts and the kids were fascinated with the rarely-seen shipwreck treasures. The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum is the perfect place for groups of all ages; educational field trips, scouting adventures, birthday parties, and private corporate events Its a definite must-experience for all families when visiting St. Augustine!
What a surprise I had with St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park…first, they have a lot of beautiful animals like exotic birds, reptiles and monkeys in a lush tropical wildlife setting (including a nature trail). As we are walking around and observing all the animals, we came across the main attraction…alligators! There were so many alligators laying about the sandy areas and in the water but they were not moving, seemed to be motionless and were very still…or so I thought. As I was taking pictures (and trying to figure out if the alligators were real), it happened…the alligators started to move (very near to me) and I jumped! I was completely startled! Even though we have lived in Florida the past couple of years, my family and I were completely mesmerized by their agility and strength. It was totally astonishing to see them up close and how they interacted with their environment. The twins were even able to hold an alligator in their arms—that experience alone ranked in their “best and coolest moments ever” of their 9 year old lives!
The St. Augustine Alligator Farm is now the only facility in the world exhibiting living specimens of all 24 currently recognized species of crocodilian. The zoological park functions as a modern zoo serving the public and the scientific community with educational shows and exhibits, important research, and worldwide conservation efforts. The Alligator Farm’s history as an attraction and an accredited zoo is nearly as exciting as zipping across the Alligator Lagoon on Crocodile Crossing, the park’s thrilling zip-line attraction. Families will certainly enjoy the thrilling opportunity to be up close and personal with amazing alligators and wildlife.
The twins headed immediately for The Spring House at Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, where the fabled Fountain of Youth and Enternal Hope Spring is located. Its is a beautiful 60-year old coquina building that encompasses the original spring that Ponce De Leon made famous. With signed guest books stretching back to 1868, the Fountain of Youth is the oldest attraction in Florida, and the Spring House is the centerpiece of the historical Juan Ponce de Leon experience at the Park. The spring comes forth directly from the Floridan aquifer, which lies below ground under much of North Florida. The water contains over 30 minerals and the spring would have been the perfect replenishment site for Juan Ponce de Leon’s ships upon landing on Florida’s shores 500 years ago. The twins were very excited to sample the spring water—like they need any more energy and youth, right?! It was an amazingly surreal experience to know that we were walking on the same grounds Ponce de Leon once walked and drink from the same waters that he discovered centuries ago. It really was history coming alive!
The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park is a 15-acre, waterfront historical attraction, where visitors can learn about the first Spanish settlers who came here in the 1600s and the native Timucuans who were here to greet them. With a working archaeological dig on site, as well as several re-created Spanish and Timucuan buildings and dwellings, the park is bursting with history.
We all enjoyed walking among the Timucuan Indian Village of Seloy, touching their huts, learning how they lived, what they ate and how daily life was for them during those times. It’s also just a beautiful spot to relax, enjoy the views over the water from the 600-foot Founders Riverwalk or from the Observation Tower. A stunning sight was being able to see the colorful peacocks roaming throughout the park. The Fountain of Youth offers a variety of shows and living history reenactments designed to entertain and educate visitors—the Planetarium, the two-story Discovery Globe mapping the routes of the early explorers, the Timucuan Village, and the reconstructed First Mission of Nombre de Dios. A special treat was to hear Spanish Cannons being fired and roaring loudly. When Pedro Menedez de Aviles landed here on September 8, 1565, he brought 20 artillery pieces with him to protect the fledgling settlement. The Fountain of Youth Park has a replica of one of those six-pounder guns, and they give hourly demonstrations about the history of their use in the settlement of St. Augustine. Nothing can compare to the sound and feel of artillery—the roar and smell of the powder transports you back to a time when a small band of Spanish soldier-farmers faced an uncertain future in a new land that was naturally rich, but filled with hostile and potentially lethal threats. Additional weapons demonstrations include arquebus gun lectures and firing and period crossbow demonstrations. With a long, rich history spanning nearly 500 years, the Fountain of Youth Park will delight and amaze you!
Whetstone Chocolates is St. Augustine’s first chocolate family. Founded in 1967 by Henry and Esther Whetstone, they began making fudge in their home kitchen. Today the family business operates three retail stores and a local chocolate factory. Whetstone is famous for their chocolate shells, freshly made fudge, luscious truffles and selection of dark chocolate bars.
Now, if you have a chocolate obsession (and who doesn’t) then St. Augustine’s “Original Chocolate Tour” is a must-experience. Led by Whetstone Chocolatiers, the tour will introduce to the history and making of chocolate and the Whetstone story. It was fascinating to learn where chocolates come from, the process of making chocolates, and watching the chocolates being wrapped on the assembly line. One of the best parts is of course the taste testing. Our family loved being able to sample the freshly made chocolates, artisan chocolates and confections while walking through the factory. Its really a decadently delicious experience!
Marineland Dolphin Adventure was founded to foster the preservation and protection of marine life. Their mission is to utilize interactive education, enhanced by on-site research, to inspire visitors to value and respect marine mammals and their environment. As soon as we arrived, we were able to see the incredible bottlenose dolphins happily swimming and playing in the waters. The baby, excitedly went to the glass and started to laugh when the dolphin came up to him inside the tank. It seemed that the two were engaged in playing together-the dolphin would swim back and forth and stop right in front of the baby, who was yelling with delight. It was such a sweet moment to capture and one we will always remember. It was amazing to see how happy the dolphins seemed to be, how they interacted with visitors, how the dolphins lovingly interacted with each other and how the trainers interacted so well with the dolphins.
We went on a fascinating Behind The Seas Tour and went below-the-decks of Marineland Dolphin Adventure. The Behind the Seas Tour offers an exclusive backstage look at the facility and animal habitats, and an opportunity to explore Marineland Dolphin Adventure’s unique history spanning over 75 years (like their beginnings as an underwater film studio). The Behind the Seas tour also features new exhibits with animals native to the Southeast region of the United States, and an opportunity to learn the importance of the Gulf Stream, ecosystems and conservation.
Marineland Dolphin Adventure offer several encounter programs, which really do offer a unique way for people to interact with the incredible bottlenose dolphins. The twins and teen were able to experience the Touch & Feed encounter. They were able to get up-close and personal with one of the dolphins. The program offers the opportunity to meet, greet and feed one of the awesome bottlenose dolphins. The boys were delighted to touch, play games (like waving their hands and the dolphin waving its fin) and be able to feed the dolphin. With the pristine Atlantic coastline as backdrop, Marineland Dolphin Adventure was a day to remember!
Other great family-friendly attractions Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum, St. Augustine Old Jail, Oldest Store Museum, Potter’s Wax Museum, Black Raven Pirate Ship, St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum (which we experienced on our couples’ trip).
WHERE TO STAY
When you are vacationing with family or a large group, comfort, amenities and convenience are important factors when choosing a hotel key. TRYP by Wyndham Sebastian St. Augustine is an ideal choice because of their spacious rooms and suites, kid-friendly amenities and convenient location to St. Augustine attractions. The selection process of choosing a room is very important to my family because not only do we have to fit 8 people comfortably (in 1 or 2 rooms/suites) but there are also certain in-room amenities that are needed to accommodate my parents as well, i.e., in-room coffee makers, handicap bar in the shower, enough space to charge an ECV/electric scooter, etc.
We were pleased to find the rooms and suites to be very spacious and really created with families in mind. The suites include the privacy of a separate bedroom, balcony and extra space of the living room area with sofabed, flat-screen HDTV, a spacious work area with desk, chaise lounge and small table. As most parents can attest, its great to be able to put the kids to sleep in a separate room and be able to relax (like binge watching your favorite shows) without disturbing the kids. The doors, separating the bedroom from the living room area, help to give some privacy and quiet time for parents and kids. The rooms and suites also have plenty of counter space in a kitchenette-style layout (helpful when preparing baby bottles) featuring a mini bar, microwave and mini-refrigerator. The bathroom were comfortably spaced and handicap accessible. Requesting side-by-side or next door suites so you can be close together will help aid larger families or groups traveling together. Another wonderful feature—that kids and parents alike—will appreciate is that TRYP by Wyndham Sebastian St. Augustine offers free WiFi throughout the hotel! A real must-have (and especially when traveling with children).
Needing to fuel up before a fun-filled day in St. Augustine? The hotel’s Café Lounge Muscadine’s is open 7 days a week and serves a hot breakfast buffet from 6:30am to 10:30am and Spanish Tapas—small plates and appetizers—from 11am until midnight. It was really convenient to be able to eat a hot breakfast downstairs (instead of having to find a place to eat with a big group like ours) and get after-dinner snacks in the Café and Convenience Store. From the moment you walk into the hotel, you will be greeted by very courteous, welcoming and helpful staff members. The hotel lobby and hotel décor is decorated in a Floridian/Victorian flair and with the bright, airy and clean seashore decorative themes, TRYP by Wyndham Sebastian St. Augustine immediately makes you feel like you’re really on vacation!
Additional services provided by the hotel (which are accommodating to families) include:
- Free WiFi
- Outdoor Pool
- Fitness Center
- Convenience Store
- Local Shuttle
- Free Parking: EV & Tesla Stations
- Lobby Bar
- Business Center
- Dry Cleaning
Tip: I had the pleasure of meeting Dillon, a front desk staff team member, who was kind enough to take the time to provide an overview of one of the TRYP by Wyndham Sebastian St. Augustine suites. With a wonderful sense of humor and genuine smile, Dillon, was a wealth of knowledge about St. Augustine, insights about the hotel, and sharing local recommendations—from best places to eat to family-friendly attractions. It is this kind of exemplary service that you will find with Dillion and the rest of the TRYP by Wyndham Sebastian St. Augustine staff and team members. Dillon is featured in the video below and when you visit the hotel, ask for him. He (and the other staff members) will be happy to help you enjoy your stay! 🙂
WHERE TO EAT
When you go on vacation, you want to be able to enjoy different, fresh, unique and delicious cuisine. St. Augustine restaurants feature flavorful dishes in casual cafes to gourmet eateries, serving quick bites to five-course meals. On any street you can find selections to satisfy all tastes—Spanish, French, Italian, New-Orleans Cajun, American, Seafood and much more.
The ambience of the Taberna del Caballo is great for families—outdoor eating, pet friendly, kids menu, tapas, live entertainment, including servers in period clothing and unexpected visits from 1700s Spanish garrison soldiers. Its a fun and unique environment that will make for a memorable treat!
Recommended Places To Eat
- Aunt Kate’s Restaurant
- Salt Life Seafood Shack
- The Oasis on St. Augustine Beach
- Creekside Dinery
- Carmello’s Pizza
- Michael’s Tasting Room
- Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille
- Columbia Restaurant
- The Conch House Marina Resort
- Palm Valley Fish Camp
- Hot Shot Bakery & Café
We had an AWESOME experience in St. Augustine! Its not always easy to accommodate a multigenerational family but it really can be easily done at St. Augustine and Florida’s Historic Coast. From unique attractions, fun immersive experiences, comfortable and spacious lodging facilities, St. Augustine and Florida’s Historic Coast is truly made for everyone!
Plan a visit to Florida’s Historic Coast and take advantage of special offers and themed packages for visitors to enjoy family fun. For more information on events, activities, holiday getaways, accommodations and to plan your vacation in St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches, go to the Visitors and Convention Bureau website at www.FloridasHistoricCoast.com or call 1.800.653.2489.
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Disclosure: As the U.S. Hispanic Ambassador for Florida’s Historic Coast, this is sponsored content.
Any opinions stated here are our own.
Joscelyn, Owner of Mami of Multiples & Mami Innovative Media
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