Not the same “old” St. Augustine

St. Augustine, Fla., founded in 1565, is the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement within the borders of the continental United States and is a destination for history buffs. But in late November through January it is transformed into a magical destination during the Nights of Lights with over 3 million lights welcoming visitors to the town.

My daughter and I visited in December and found a different town from the same old St. Augustine we remembered. First of all, it was Florida chilly, with temperatures dipping into the forties in the evening. The town also has nightlife, with live music from country to rock to salsa and a few singers who were channeling their inner Jimmy Buffett. After all, this is Florida. The restaurant scene will please the palate of the foodies in your crowd.

The Castillo de San Marcos has guarded Matanzas Bay and the town of St. Augustine since the 17th century. Within its coquina walls, National Park Service rangers dress in period costume and fire cannons while they teach visitors about the history of the fort.

The heyday of tourism in St. Augustine was when Standard Oil co-founder Henry Flagler opened the Ponce De Leon Hotel in 1888. This was the first hotel wired for electricity (guided by Flagler’s friend, Thomas Edison) and with running water in every room. Rooms at the hotel were rented by the season. The former hotel which was designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany now houses Flagler College. The college has restored the interior to its original splendor. Tours of the Spanish-revival architecture including the dining room with 79 Tiffany stained glass windows.

Henry Flagler’s second hotel, the Alcazar Hotel, now houses the Lightner Museum. The hotel closed in 1932 and fell into disrepair. Otto Lightner purchased the building in 1947 to house his eclectic collection of Victorian antiquities, including a mummy, shrunken heads, fine art, Tiffany glass, furniture and sculpture. The museum is open to the public.

Getting around St. Augustine in a car is fraught with difficulty, from narrow one-way streets, to pedestrian-only thoroughfares, to impossible parking. Fortunately, the town is very walkable, as might be expected from a town in existence for hundreds of years before the advent of automobiles. There is a public parking garage at the north end of town. If you have mobility issues, hop-on-hop-off tour trolleys roam the city.

We took a different type of tour of the city, opting for the Haunted Pub Tour. Our tour guide led us to several pubs, regaling us with stories of the former denizens of the buildings who are rumored to remain in spirit.

Other nighttime Christmas lights tour choices included trolley tours with “magical viewing glasses,” boat tours and a nighttime walking tour with hot chocolate. Be prepared to sing along with your favorite Christmas classics.

Where to stay
If you’re looking to splurge, the Casa Monica Resort and Spa will treat you like royalty. My daughter and I chose to stay at the Peace and Plenty Inn, a bed and breakfast just south of Flagler College. We had a romantic room with a balcony, rather ironic for a mother-daughter trip, but it did make us laugh.

Where to eat
In any touristy town, restaurants come and go, but the best ones last. Columbia Restaurant is a Florida favorite, serving Spanish and Cuban cusine. The signature 1905 Salad is named for the year the restaurant opened, and you can’t go wrong with the arroz con pollo (chicken with yellow rice) or the paella. The menu tells the history of the restaurant which is being run by the fourth and fifth generations of the same family. Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grille has been serving New Orleans cuisine since 1987. The specialties include shrimp and grits, and there is live music on the patio. For quick service, try the Spanish Bakery and Café. Favorites here are empanadas and picadillo.

Visiting America’s oldest town is a natural choice for historians. But my daughter and I discovered a town that also pleases music lovers, foodies and people of good cheer during the Nights of Lights.

Share this story
Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Facebook
About the Author
Teri Bergin is a Physician Assistant with an oncology and hematology practice in Central Florida. She lives in Orlando, Florida with her daughter, two disobedient dogs and a Bengal Cat.
Posted in Destinations Tagged ,

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Enterprise Holdings

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.