Since I live in Florida now, the thought of vacationing here is odd to me; but when my family needed to burn up some time share points, we chose to stay at the Grande Villas at Golf World Village in St. Augustine, located a short drive from I-95. We arrived at our resort to find beautifully manicured grounds, a super-easy check-in, and lovely two bedroom, two-bath condo waiting for us.
The Alligator Farm was our first tour and it did not disappoint. The name is certainly misleading as this park has shows, activities, birds, reptiles, and museum-like displays; basically the works. I was expecting to see only alligators, but this is a sophisticated and fun-filled adventure park. My favorite parts of the park were the hornbills, watching the gator feeding, and the Gomek display.
My family had two noteworthy meals in St. Augustine. For Mexican, we ate at Cantina Louie, which is an eclectic pink and purple restaurant with some kick-ass guacamole, creamy cheese dip, superb service, designer margaritas, and a wide variety of street tacos. Our Italian favorites were enjoyed at top-rated Amici’s, where we feasted on veal parmigiana, tortellini in a delicate basil-cream sauce, pizza, and some of the best chicken alfredo I have ever eaten. The service was impeccable, prices reasonable, and the house salad dressing was divine.
Any historic city deserves a trip aboard Old Town Trolley’s city and historic tours. With 23 locations to choose from, simply buy your ticket, step aboard, and hop on and off as long as you like. Impressively, the ticket is good for three days, and two stops offer free parking. Our guide shared with us valuable information about the city, the people, legends, and history of St. Augustine. It seemed the most popular destinations were the San Sebastian Winery, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, and City Gates for St.George Street, a pedestrian only historic area cram packed with shops, restaurants, and bars. This is the most cost effective way of seeing the entire city as well as exploring all the fun stops along the way. It takes 80 minutes to ride the entire loop.
A second option when purchasing your Old Town Trolley ticket, is to add the Ghosts and Gravestones Trolley tour ticket. St. Augustine’s supernatural happenings have been featured on the Discovery and Travel Channel. We boarded the Ghosts and Gravestones trolley, along the cleverly decorated and candle-lit, at 9:20 with Alexa as our guide. She entertained us with eerie and interesting stories about the people and unexplainable things that have happened in St. Augustine over the years. We traveled to the Lighthouse, through the streets downtown, to Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, and past Huguenots Cemetery. Many people photographed some great orbs throughout the night, myself included. The highlight of the tour was the visit to the Old Jail, circa 1891, where we explored in the dark and were visited by one of the inmates. I highly recommend this as it was fun and different from the typical daylight history tours.
St. Augustine, America’s first colony, was founded by Ponce de Leon and the most popular attraction here is visiting the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park (the oldest attraction in Florida). Ponce de Leon believed this spring was the sought-after fountain of youth. The journey begins with a sip of spring water and then you explore the park visiting exhibits and educational seminars that encompass 500 years of history. Special presentations are held in the Discovery Globe, Navigator’s Planetarium, and Spring House. Our favorite part of the park visit was watching the period weapons and cannon demonstration. The cannon actually gets fired so be prepared! The grounds are beautiful and there are dozens of peacocks strutting around the property.
My favorite tour on our vacation was the City Walks Savory Food Faire walking and historic tour. We met our guide Shawna, who led us through the city walking to six stops for food and drink presentations. Starting at Old City House Inn and Restaurant, we were treated to lamb atop cabbage risotto in a beautiful outdoor courtyard. We sampled greek gyros and flaming cheese at Athena, Mediterranean goodies at Costa Brava at 95 Cordova, escargot and hummus platter at Cafe Alcazar (inside the Lightner Museum), and concluded with ice cream and chocolates at Claude’s Chocolates. There were a few bonus stops along the way and Shawna entertained us with some great history lessons. I highly recommend this tour as we were treated like VIP’s at each stop and the portions were more than satisfactory.
We spent our last day in St. Augustine browsing the cheesy, yet historic, St. George Street, filled with shops and some good restaurants. My husband and I had an al fresco lunch at the amazing Michael’s Tasting Room located at 25 Cuna Street. The service was spot on and the chef stopped by twice to make sure our food was up to standards. It was and in a big way. The caesar salad we started with was perfect and topped with a piece of mouthwatering crispy serrano ham. I ordered the MTR burger as my main course and it came out sheer perfection. I paired it with a side of the tomato jam. All I can say is OMG! Eddie tried the shrimp and grits; again, a home run.
St. Augustine provided a great family trip for us and the weather was nearly perfect. There was something for all of us in the activities listed above. I recommend driving across the Bridge of Lions for a nice photo-op before you leave the city. Crossing over the bridge will take you to Anastasia State Park, home of the Alligator Farm and the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum. If you are headed to the Florida beaches, why not stop here for a day or two and explore something new?
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