This year, all eyes will be on St. Augustine. America’s oldest city will be celebrating its 450th anniversary in grand fashion with wine festivals, a lecture series, special exhibits and even visits from the pope and the king and queen of Spain. St. Augustine is a city of firsts: the first American city to be settled by Europeans, the location of the country’s first Catholic Mass, the nation’s first school system and public library, North America’s first watchtower, and the first port in the United States. Its position on the First Coast, both geographically and historically, makes it a first-class tourist destination.
The city’s tagline was once, “Beautiful beaches and the rest is history.” That pretty much sums it up. Here are 10 ways to take part in the city’s rich history during your stay.
1. Castillo de San Marcos—Built by the Spanish in the 1600s, this fort endures as the oldest and largest stone fort in the continental United States. 1 S. Castillo, Drive, 904.829.6506
2. Aviles Street—The nation’s oldest platted street—dating to 1573—is lined with cafés, shops, galleries and an antique store that’s said to be haunted. King Street and Aviles Street
3. San Sebastian Winery—This winery in the historic East Coast Railway building is said to be the area where American wine was first produced. Free tours and samples are available. 157 King St., 904.826.1594
4. St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum—This museum has one of the world’s largest collections of authentic pirate artifacts and treasures. 12 S. Castillo Drive, 877.467.5863
5. Flagler College—Tour the former Hotel Ponce de Leon built by Henry Flagler in 1887 that has hosted Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt and Babe Ruth. 74 King St., 904.819.6400
6. Lightner Museum—Flagler’s other resort hotel, the Alcazar, now serves as a museum showcasing Victorian-period pieces such as stained-glass art by Louis Tiffany. 75 King St., 904.824.2874
7. Trolley Tours—Hopping aboard a trolley is the perfect way to explore the city and experience Nights of Lights while learning about local history.
8. Fountain of Youth—Legend has it Ponce de Leon sought out this magical water source because he wanted to be as tall and live as long as the American Indians. 11 Magnolia Ave., 904.829.3168
9. St. Augustine Lighthouse—Wind your way up 219 steps to the top of this amazing brick lighthouse for stunning views of the area. 81 Lighthouse Ave., 904.829.0745
10. The Beaches—Watch the sunrise and be the first to leave your footprints in the sand. It’s an amazing feeling, much like the Spanish explorers must have felt when first coming ashore back in 1513.