Can a romantic vacation include some cultural interest? Absolutely! St. Augustine, on the northeastern coast of Florida is an incredible city. Known as the oldest city in North America, it was originally founded in 1565 by a Spanish Admiral. Downtown St. Augustine retains its past, with enchanting historic buildings and many of the original cobblestone streets. It’s both charming and romantic.
Brian and I planned to spend a long weekend and chose the Marriott’s Autograph Collection Hotel, the Casa Monica. It is the perfect location – in the center of town, overlooking the park. The Autograph Collection boutique hotels are found in many cities now, refurbished from old mansions and unique landmark sites. All the properties in The Autograph Collection boast old fashioned elegance and contemporary comfort – so true – it was worth it! I used my Marriott points. What a beautiful hotel, we highly recommend it. Our next trip to this area will be a little longer, so we’ll probably do a house rental via homeaway.com. Whenever we spend a week or more somewhere, we both prefer our ‘own place’ with a kitchen.
As always, I recommend getting an overview of the city via an Old Town Trolley tour at the beginning of your stay. The guides always give interesting area history and trivia, as well as pointing out many of the more notable attractions. To get the latest deals on area attractions, you may want to check out living social.
Take a stroll through the beautiful streets of the historic district. There are several trendy cafes and some really great restaurants. It’s a little difficult to find a good bagel in the south, but ‘Everything Bagel’ knows how to get it done and is a nice choice for breakfast or lunch. For dinner, try Harry’s Bar & Grill on Avenida Menendez. Delicious!
There are unique shops to browse as you make your way through the ‘Old City’. For a little nostalgia, check out The Old School, built in the early 1700’s and the oldest standing wooden schoolhouse in the U.S. It’s looking a little tattered, but I guess that’s to be expected. Just across from the historic district, on the Matanzas Bay, Castillo de San Marco is open to tourists. This is the oldest masonry fort in The States, construction began in 1672.
When you’ve had enough history for a little while and are ready for the romantic side of things, take a horse and carriage ride along the Intracoastal Waterway. You can catch a carriage at the waterfront, Matanzas Bay, or book in advance at www.staugustinecarriage.com. They have a BYOB policy if you’d like to bring along a bottle of wine!
St. Augustine is also known for its 43 miles of pristine beaches, located just on the other side of the gorgeous Bridge of Lions. You may become so enthralled with this beautiful city, you’ll have to remind yourself to set aside some time for ‘beach bummin’. Some other things that might peak your interest… visit the beautiful lighthouse, take an eco tour, go sailing, or swim with the dolphins at nearby Marineland.
There is an abundance of night life, with many area restaurants and pubs. Or try one of the tasting tours. There’s the Corks and Forks or Barrels and Kegs Tours. Of course, you won’t want to miss the Haunted Pub or Paranormal Investigation Tours in this ancient city. Centro, a piano bar in the old town, had a nice atmosphere and great entertainment. The food was so/so. Maybe just drinks and dessert later in the evening to hear the live music.
During the holiday season there are always different events associated with their ‘Night of Light’ festivities If you’re in town for New Years, you’ll love the annual fireworks display over the Bridge of Lions! Check out www.oldcity.com for a calendar of events during your stay. I was in town for the Halloween and ended up surrounded by zombies! Literally.
It’s easy to fall in love with Downtown St. Augustine. Just a short drive from Orlando, Jacksonville or Daytona area airports. Now seems like a good time to plan your trip to the warmer weather!