Known as America’s oldest city, St. Augustine, Florida, has an unparalleled history and all the museums, historic buildings and points of interest to go along with it! But there’s so much more to this town than educational spots. You’ll find plenty of unique, fun and downright thrilling activities to entertain even the most hard-to-please members of your family – teens and tweens.
Teens and tweens are a picky bunch. How do you find the right balance between fun, education and a little R&R when traveling with the 11-16 year old set? That’s a question I asked on a recent trip to Florida’s Historic Coast with my 12-year old son.
But I needn’t have worried. In St. Augustine, you really can have it all! Beaches, history, unique dining experiences, plenty of thrills and even some chills to entertain your kids. Here are nine places to check out in St. Augustine to ensure you never hear the words “I’m bored.”
1. Zip Line at the Alligator Farm
A visit to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park is a must. See dozens of crocs and alligators, plus exotic birds, turtles, reptiles and monkeys, in a lush tropical setting. But the real thrill here is the Crocodile Crossing Zip Line.
Teens will love this zip line, a high ropes course and zip line tour that goes right over the alligators and crocodiles! There are two different courses to choose from: a short route, the Sepik course, goes a maximum of 20 feet high and takes about 45 minutes. The second route, the Nile, is for the more adventurous! It goes a maximum of 60 feet high and takes about two hours.
Both ziplining courses take you through the treetops and over exhibits, including the Land of Crocodiles. But don’t be too scared; everyone wears a harness and is connected to a safety line.
2. Climb the St. Augustine Lighthouse
Located at the oldest maritime port, the St. Augustine Lighthouse features a climb of 219 steps to the top for fantastic views of the beach and city. The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum also features a lighthouse keepers house from 1876 and a great museum covering centuries of maritime history from in and around St. Augustine.
3 . Discover Haunts on a St. Augustine Ghost Tour
Explore the darker side of St. Augustine with a nighttime ghost tour. Several companies offer ghost tours, including the Ghosts & Gravestones Tour, which will take you on a trolley ride and into some of St. Augustine’s most notoriously haunted sites, including the Lighthouse, Old Jail and Wax Museum.
We did the Ghost Tours of St. Augustine tour, which is a walking tour of the downtown historic district. It was cool and just moderately scary enough for my 12-year old. For older teens and the truly daring, try one of St. Augustine’s ghost tours where participants are given electromagnetic meters to detect the presence of ghosts.
TravelingMom Tip: A ghost tour is perfect for teens, but not recommended for young kids! This old town has some legit scary history and it’s even creepier in the dark.
4. Check Out a Fort
Castillo de San Marcos sits along the coastline of the Old City and is within walking distance from the downtown area. It’s also a stop on the trolley. Built by the Spanish in 1695 to protect their treasure fleets from the British and from pirates, this national monument is the oldest masonry fort in the country. Teens and tweens will enjoy exploring the fort, checking out the cannons and learning about how the military lived and worked. Best of all, the entrance to this fort is just $10.00 per adult and children 15 years old and younger are admitted free.
5. Visit the Pirate Museum
If there’s one museum I highly recommend for tweens especially, it is this one! The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum has nearly 50 displays and exhibits detailing the fascinating – sometimes scary – history of pirates going back more than 300 years. There are authentic artifacts, cannons, and even interactive experiences for kids, teens and adults of all ages to enjoy.
My son loved the interactive activities and the new exhibit featuring artifacts of the Red Sea Pirates.
Upon paying admission, museum staff will give you a treasure map. You can hunt for treasures hidden around the museum in spots marked with a skull and crossbones (as in X Marks the Spot!). This makes for a truly fun and interactive learning experience. At the end, kids who complete the activity get a prize.
TravelingMom Tip: This is a great place to visit on a rainy day. With mainly indoor exhibits, you can easily kill a few hours here while waiting for the sun to come out to enjoy St. Augustine’s other attractions for teens.
6. Eat at an Authentic Spanish Tavern
Get a real feel for what life in America’s oldest city was like by dining at an authentic Spanish tavern. There are two in Old Town, both resembling the 40 or so taverns that were here during the 18th Century, right down to the wooden tables and lanterns!
We had lunch at the Taberna del Caballo, just steps from the Pirate Museum and in the center of the Colonial Quarter. It was the perfect place to take a break midway through our visit and regroup to plan the rest of our day.
7. Score a Hole in One
One of our favorite ways to relax and have fun as a family is by playing miniature golf. In this age of electronics, it is great to be able to be outside together and share a laugh and some friendly competition.
There are two great mini golf courses in St. Augustine Beach: Fiesta Falls and Bayfont Miniature Golf. My son and I played two nights in a row at Fiesta Falls (the first night we got rained out half way through the course and they let us come back for free the next day) and had a blast! Fiesta Falls is right on the beach, and sells ice cream and slushies so you can indulge with a treat at the end of your game.
8. Learn Something New at the Oldest School
Nothing will make your teens appreciate going to school in this day and age more than a visit to the Oldest Wooden School House! Located in the Colonial Quarter, this small museum depicts what life was like for teachers and students in the 1700s and 1800s. My favorite was the list of Rules for Teachers from 1872 including this gem: “Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.”
9. Enjoy Some Beach Time
Having time to play at the beach is a must when you’re visiting the Florida coast! St. Augustine consists of more than 40 miles of beaches on the Atlantic Ocean, where Spanish explorers first set foot hundreds of years ago. The beaches are free to enjoy and parking is easy to find, making beach time hassle-free.
We stayed in St. Augustine Beach at the brand-new Marriott Courtyard. While it wasn’t right on the sand, it was just across the street and only a five-minute walk from leaving the room to toes in the water!
Worth a mention – TripAdvisor has named St. Augustine Beach a “Top 10 Beach in the U.S.” for two years in a row, and the Travel Channel lists it as #6 on their list of the “30 Best Beaches in the World for Families.” It is easy to see why!