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5 Ways to Enjoy St. Augustine on a Dime
Tuesday April 10, 2012 @ 4:11 pm
Are your pockets feeling a little lighter these days?
Just because we're all adapting our budgets to the changing economy doesn't mean we have to give up the extracurricular activities that make us happy -- like taking vacations for example. If you live within a day's drive of St. Augustine, you have access to a great destination for rest, relaxation and exploration that won't break the bank.
We've put together a few tips that will give you a great trip to St. Augustine without busting your budget.
1. Soak up the sun at the beach.
Let's be honest, Florida's best asset is its sun-drenched sandy shoreline. St. Augustine has 42 miles of gorgeous beaches and guess what -- it's free!
Park in one of the many public lots along coastal highway A1A, cross the boardwalk and sink your toes into the sand without spending one dime. Bring a sandwich, a blanket and a small cooler (plastic bottles only, no alcohol) for a day filled with fun in the sun. You can fish, surf, kayak or just soak up the rays on the sand.
Butler Beach, St. Augustine Beach and Crescent Beach all offer free parking and beach access (in the summer months they do tend to fill up quickly so be sure to stake out a spot early!). They also have covered pavilions with picnic tables, bathrooms and outdoor showers to rinse the sand off your toes. You could easily spend the whole weekend enjoying the beach for next to nothing -- just remember to wear sunscreen!
2. Take a stroll along St. George Street.
At the heart of St. Augustine's historic district (which will soon celebrate its 450th anniversary!) are three blocks of pedestrian only foot traffic along a gorgeous cobblestone path called St. George Street. Lined with restaurants, pubs and unique gift shops, this charming road is perfect for a leisurely afternoon stroll. Window shopping is free, as are the whiffs of great food and the riffs from local musicians playing at many of the outdoor cafes along the street.
If you decide to indulge in a good meal, there are plenty of great sandwich shops, pizzerias and bakeries along St. George Street that won't set you back more than a few bucks for a delicious lunch.
3. Attend a few free events.
St. Augustine is abuzz with events that are free to the public year 'round. From May 28th through September 3rd, locals and visitors alike flock to the Plaza de la Constitución (St. Augustine's equivalent of a town square) for free concerts every Thursday night. Bring a blanket or a chair and enjoy the music and a light sea breeze beneath the shade of hundred year old oaks.
Make plans to visit during the first weekend of the month and you can enjoy St. Augustine's newest tradition, First Friday Art Walk. The Oldest City's incredibly talented art community throws out the welcome mat on Friday evenings with live entertainment, food and special exhibits often featuring the artists themselves. It's a great night with a great atmosphere from Aviles Street out to the city gates.
The last Saturday of the month also marks a special evening in St. Augustine known as Uptown Saturday Night. The businesses of North San Marco Avenue, including book stores, art galleries, bistros and antique stores hold multi-block open house with great entertainment and special events like book signings and art shows. The St. Augustine Community School of Performing Arts is located in the North San Marco area and often puts on a free performance during Uptown Saturday Night.
4. Enjoy our National Monuments and State Parks.
You can't visit St. Augustine and not spend a little time learning about the city's incredible history and its role in the development of our nation. Start your tour at the Castillo de San Marcos, a 300 year old coquina fortress on Matanzas Bay in downtown St. Augustine. This National Monument is only $7.00 per adult (anyone under the age of 16 is free). South of St. Augustine off of A1A, St. Augustine's other National Monument, Fort Matanzas, is free to enter and explore, including the ferry ride to the small coquina fort on Matanzas Inlet. This is also a great spot for some beach time or an afternoon picnic.
St. Augustine and its surrounding areas are home to five great state parks as well. Ft. Mose, site of the first legally sanctioned free African settlement, is located just north of the historic district. It's only $2 per person to enter the museum on the grounds (children under 5 are free). Anastasia State Park near the St. Augustine Lighthouse is $8 per vehicle (with 2 - 8 passengers), $4 for a single vehicle or $2 for a pedestrian or bike rider. In addition to four miles of pristine beaches, Anastasia is also home to Salt Run, perfect for kayaking, andoffers restrooms, a picnic area, snack bar and camping for RVs and tents. South of the St. Augustine city limits, Faver-Dykes State Park, Washington Oaks Gardens State Park and Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area offer entry for $5 per vehicle (up to 8 passengers). All three parks are gorgeous and equipped for hiking and picnics. Faver-Dykes also has available canoes for rent at just $5 per hour plus tax.
A family of four could easily visit both forts and all five state parks for just $45! That's half the cost of admission to Disney for one person!
5. Bring your bicycles!
St. Augustine is working toward becoming a more bike-friendly town, adding "sharrows" to the Bridge of Lions and bike lanes on other roads around town. You can cruise around downtown St. Augustine, ride on the beach or pedal along the hiking trails at the state parks. With parking in the historic district being so limited, being a bike is not only eco-friendly, it will save you the headache of hunting for a parking spot. If you need a break, hop on the Sunshine Bus for $1.00 per one way ride or $3.00 for a day pass. Buses run Monday through Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (except on holidays) and are equipped with bike racks for transporting you and your bicycle around St. Augustine.
If you can't bring a bike, rent one!
St. Augustine: A dog lover's paradise
Tuesday January 17, 2012 @ 11:50 am
Sometimes it's just not a family vacation unless the whole family comes along--Fido included! Lately more and more people are taking their pets with them on vacations. It beats the high cost of boarding plus you'll enjoy your trip more knowing that Fido is part of the family fun! But how do you begin planning a pet-friendly trip to an unfamiliar area? Where can you stay and what can you do with your pet while you're visiting?
St. Augustine is a very pet-friendly town with plenty to do and see with Fido in tow. We've put together some suggestions for you that should help with planning your next Fido-friendly adventure.
1. Where to Stay
Whether you prefer hotels, condos or bed & breakfasts, there are plenty of pet-friendly accommodations in St. Augustine. The LaQuinta Inn & Suites located near the St. Augustine Outlet Mall accepts pets, as does the Super 8 and Ramada in the same area. Closer in to the historic district, the Ramada Historic and Days Inn are pet-friendly as well. Bed and breakfasts The St. Francis Inn and At Journey's End also have pet-friendly rooms within a short walking distance of St. Augustine's downtown attractions.
If you prefer a place near the beach (and with nearly year-round seasonable conditions, who wouldn't?), St. Augustine Beach House (Vilano Beach), Super 8 (St. Augustine Beach), Comfort Inn (St. Augustine Beach) and Beacher's Lodge Condominiums (Crescent Beach) also allow pets. Most of the area's campgrounds and RV parks (including Anastasia State Park, Faver Dykes State Park, Ocean Grove and Stage Coach) accept pets too.
Some fees may apply to a few of these lodgings so it's always best to call ahead for more information and reservations.
2. What to Do
Once you're settled into your accommodations, it's time to see the sites of the Nation's Oldest City! Take Fido along to the Fountain of Youth or on a stroll through the cobblestone streets. A picnic on the lawn at the Castillo de San Marcos is a must or you can eat outside with your pets at several of St. Augustine's best restaurants with sidewalk or patio seating. Some of the carriage companies will allow pets along for rides as do a few of the city's nightly walking ghost tours. The St. Augustine Scenic Cruises allow pets on board as well for some unique St. Augustine sight-SEA-ing.
Of course the beaches are also open to pets (provided that they are on leashes). Walking, splashing and lounging in the sunshine are all favorite activities for humans and dogs alike
. Park at one of the public beach ramps or you can drive your vehicle right out in the sand (not recommended if you don't have four wheel drive!). The St. Augustine Lighthouse also allows pets on the grounds, as does the Fort Matanzas National Monument south of town.
All of the local and state parks in the St. Augustine area -- Anastasia, Faver-Dykes, Ron Parker and Treaty Park -- also allow pets. Ron Parker Park on the corner of old A1A and Pope Road (about a block south of SR312 bridge) also has a dog park where your pet can run around and interact with other dogs in a fenced, grassy area.
3. The Community
If you need veterinary services while visiting St. Augustine, the area has several qualified vets and a few emergency hospitals including Animal Emergency Hospital (on Old Moultrie Rd. near the Ponce de Leon Mall) and Jackson Veterinary Hospital (on the corner of SR312 and A1A). Grooming, boarding and even daily day care services are also available through local vets and places like Pet Paradise.
We hope that you and your pet will come and see St. Augustine soon.
You'll both be drooling over everything our city has to offer!
St. Augustine Fall Attractions: Ghost Tours
Friday October 14, 2011 @ 10:09 am
History does not come without its share of mystery–especially in the city of St. Augustine. Ghosts and ghouls have been known to roam the streets after sundown and this is the perfect time of year to get an up close look. Take a look at one of the tours below and prepare for your next adventure.
GhoStAugustine Hearse Rides
If the train’s just not spooky enough for you, how about a hearse? Cruise through St. Augustine in a spooky old hearse along with your guide for the evening. For the 21 & up crowd, you might enjoy the Pub Hearse ride featuring spirits of both the paranormal and liquid variety. Group and private tours are available throughout the witching hours. Visit ghoStaugustine.com to make your reservations.
Ripley’s Ghost Trains
Departing from the Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum every night at 8:00 p.m., the Ghost Train will bring you on a close encounter with the paranormal kind. This 90 minute trek takes you to three of the most haunted locations in the Nation’s Oldest City including the Oldest House, Tolomato Cemetery and Castle Warden. Each guest will receive his/her own EMF Reader and disposable camera to record any paranormal activity you experience along the way. For more information, visit Ripley’s website.
St. Augustine Fall Attractions: Haunted Houses
Tuesday October 4, 2011 @ 10:16 am
As the sun sinks over St. Augustine this October, you might find an electricity in the air around the Ancient City. A current of terror and fear has blanketed the town with the arrival of two heart-stopping haunted houses. Are you brave enough to face the perils that lie within each of these dark, cavernous buildings? If you think you can handle it, read on and find the information needed to begin your journey, if not turn back now…
Located off of Norcross Drive in St. Augustine, there resides a complex of several large warehouses used for business interests and storage. Every day, trucks and trains make their way through this area, shipments are sent and delivered, and the houses are filled with goods, but one warehouse sits alone and abandoned with a simple sign that reads STORAGE 3-1. This building is known as Warehouse 31.
The other warehouses thrive and are filled to the seams, but Warehouse 31 never seems to hold on to any business for more than a few months. Some even go so far as to say it is damned and cursed by its original tenants—a strange cult known as the Church of the Light Bearer…
Throughout the month of October you can experience (if you dare) what lies inside the walls of Warehouse 31. Open from sundown to midnight every weekend, Warehouse 31 is the biggest Halloween attraction in Northeast Florida. Visit warehouse31.com for tickets and more information.
Dates: Oct. 7th – 9th, 14th – 16th, 21st – 23rd, 28th – 31st
Location: Off Holmes Blvd., turn on Norcross Road by the railroad tracks at the old cement plant and follow the road until it dead ends.
Cost: $20 – $45 per person
If you think you’re brave enough to handle it, visit St. Augustine’s Horror Zone. This heart-stopping haunted house includes the Horror Zone Vortex Tunnel, the Frightening Flight to Area 51, The Runaway Mineshaft Rollercoaster Sim, The Predator’s Cave, The NOT so Fun House and the Body Bag Vault of Doom.
Sponsored by the St. Augustine Sheriff’s Office, the Horror Zone is open from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. during the last three weekends in October. It’s been a seasonal favorite in St. Augustine since 2001 when it began as a fundraiser for for the Sheriff’s Office Juvenile Activity and Intervention programs. Food, drinks and candy are available at the Horror Zone, which is air conditioned and wheelchair accessible.
Dates: Oct. 14th – 15th, 21st – 22nd, 28th-31st
Location: In the Food Lion shopping center on the corner of US1 South and Lewis Point Rd.
Cost: $8.00 for adults, $6.00 12 & Under
Anytime Attractions in St. Augustine
Monday September 19, 2011 @ 11:20 am
In addition to the special events on our calendar, there are a lot of on-going events and activities that happen every day in St. Augustine. We thought we’d share a few of these with you for your next visit–some require reservations, so be sure to call ahead.
Gold City History Tours
Ride in comfort and style with just seven other passengers on an all- electric shuttle bus while enjoying a narrated tour of the sites of St. Augustine. This tour goes where others can’t and is personalized to allow stops whenever requested. St. Augustine Gold Tours operate from the Old Drug Store car park on Orange Street. Tours are $15, children six and over $10. Special party bookings are also available by reservation. For more information, call 904.325.0547 or go to www.staugustinegoldtours.com.
El Conquistador Thrill Ride
Go for a thrilling, high-speed, one-hour ride across Matanzas Bay aboard El Conquistador, St. Augustine’s newest thrill ride. Narrated tour features history, speed and fun aboard this powerful speedboat. El Conquistador departs from the City Marina’s Slip 73. Tickets are $39.50 for adults and $29.50 for children (ages 4-12). Free for active duty military. Special rates for groups of eight or more. For safety reasons, children under four and pregnant women are not allowed onboard. For information and reservations, go to www.elconspeedboat.com or call 904.738.4695.
Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre
Experience the first theater on St. Augustine’s St. George Street since a terrible fire destroyed the Genovar Opera House in 1914. The St. Augustine Murder Mystery Theatre features a great meal and exciting live entertainment at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $43.15 each. For more information, call 904.671.2508 or go towww.StAugustineMurderMysteryDinnerTheater.com.
Yacht of Fun
Have a captain and a fun-equipped 22-foot boat at your service from dawn to dusk! Yacht of Fun takes up to six people on a full day of whatever passengers prefer – fishing, swimming, stopping at waterfront restaurants, sunning – you name it. The boat leaves from St. Augustine and offers the perfect way to spend a day. The rate is $60 per person for a party of six. For more information, go to www.yachtoffun.net or call Cap’n Mike at 352.246.3836
Beach Horseback Riding
Experience the fun and excitement of horseback riding at the edge of the sea. Country Carriages offer daily one-hour rides (weather and tides permitting) from Surfside Park on Vilano Beach. The cost is $75 per person. For reservations (a must) and more information, call 904.826.1982.
Climb aboard for a two-hour adventure aboard a unique Stiletto catamaran. The six-guest maximum ensures a great experience for all. Lie on the trampoline or look for wildlife! Discount rate: $45/adult, $35/kids 12 and under. $250 for a private trip. Call for reservations. 904-377-7245. www.staugustineecotours.com
Doo-Wop Musical Salute
Experience an exciting musical salute to The Platters, The Coasters, The Drifters and the Temptations at Fort Menendez at Old Florida Museum. Performed by Myles Savage, former lead singer from The Platters, this salute features the all-time classic songs of these immortal groups. The show begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $40 (limited time, buy one-get one free!) Reservations are required. To purchase tickets, call Fort Menendez at Old Florida Museum at 904-824-8874 or visit www.oldfloridamuseum.com for more information. Fort Menendez is located at 259 San Marco Avenue St Augustine, Florida.