Heading to St. Augstine was my kids' aunt's idea initially. In fact, she has been telling me for quite a few months that she'd like to go. So, lo' and behold, when the opportunity presented itself, we headed off to Florida's oldest city! We decided before going that we'd like to try the Old Town Trolley Tours. This bus you see in the photo above, picked us up at our hotel, and drove us to the actual trolley stop (so cool!). That meant we didn't have to take our car at all! Hurrah, no need to find parking!
We arrived at the station where you can get tickets for a variety of things, or any number of packages. We opted for the package that would take us to the Old Jail and the St. Augustine History Museum. It also took us to Potter's Wax Museum and on the Ghosts & Gravestones Trolley Tour at night. An option to take a free shuttle to the lighthouse, alligator farm, and the beach was included in the package. We didn't get there early enough in the day to enjoy everything, but we sure did enjoy what we could get to while we were there! You pay approximately $25 (a little more, but close enough) for all of that, and the trolley takes you on a tour of all of the finer stops throughout the city. It is a hop-on/hop-off tour, so if you are going all day long, you can get off anywhere along the way, and hop back on when another trolley happens by. There are 23 different stops. Just be aware of your times. You can choose 1 or 2-day tickets. We chose 1, but I recommend getting the 2-day. There are so many stops we would have taken, if we had booked that second day!
All of us were excited about different aspects of the trip. My youngest was sold the second he saw the Ghosts and Gravestones Tour. It had a warning for children under the age of 13 (he is almost 12), AND the only tour that still had slots open was the one for 11 p.m (which is way past his bedtime) so those things made it very appealing to him.
I loved our visit to the Oldest Store Museum. Living History Tour Guides are dressed and act their parts. Everything in this store is an original that was in the store for sale when it was up and running, as the owner always refused to sell the original of everything.
The kids were 'volunteered' to help run some of the various items we got to look at in the first part of the store. This was the coffee grinder here. They sure have changed in size, but I bet this one lasts longer than any we have made today. :)
So many of the items were fascinating. There were quite a few models of these large wheel bikes. It was interesting to hear that it was usually the wealthy who owned these, and they had to all but vault to get up on the seat.
Some of the things they had were very surprising like this large canister they carried on their wagons that held flour, sugar, meal, breads and cakes. I guess I was just surprised at how large they were, but I guess you didn't come across that many stores when you were out and about back in the day.
My grandmother actually had a wringer washer. It was a lot of work to run but she never complained. This one, however, was designed to be run by a goat. The funny thing is, those who used it had to hope the goat didn't also eat the clothes, because goats will eat almost anything!
My son asked what this was in the picture above. I knew at that moment that I was 'at that age.' When he picked the receiver up, there were people having a conversation. A party line! We never officially had a party line, but sometimes when you would pick up the phone, you could hear others talking, or they could hear you. Sometimes both. Every once in awhile, you could talk to the strangers so you'd have to hang up and wait a bit to get a better line. I'd totally forgotten about all that, though our phones didn't look like these, but I still recognized this as being a telephone.
The mannequins in the carriage had on authentic clothing for the time period. The prices were pretty astounding, if you were comparing them to today's. This surrey held up to 4 people and sold for just under $50.
This piece I just took a picture of for nostalgia value. Does anyone else remember the old Avon cologne (or maybe aftershave?) bottles that were shaped like this? My grandfather had one, so when I saw the real deal, I got excited and took the picture. This was in an area that had authentic blacksmith items on display.
The Old St. John's County Jail was interesting, and also something that was included on the Ghosts & Gravestones tour, so we opted to skip it since we were a little short on time, and come back after dark on the aforementioned trolley tour (that takes you into several places, including the jail).
My son climbed into the display, and a guy in a striped jail suit started yelling at him to quit acting like he owned the place. It was said in jest and part of the character he was being, but you have never seen a kid hightail it so quickly out of a display.
The Old St. Augustine History Museum was full of interesting things. We honestly didn't want to leave, and so we took quite a bit of time exploring what it had to offer.
There was actual treasure on display that was taken from sunken ships. There was also a big silver bar there that you could pick up (it was in some kind of case that allowed you to reach in and pick it up, but not carry it anywhere). There were also dishes and that kind of thing that they recovered, placed behind glass windows and put on display.
I always get a kick out of seeing some of the old day-to-day items that were used in yesteryear. It's especially exciting if I see something my family owned once upon a time, which I did, as did my kiddos' aunt. Her mom was more of collector than mine, so she recognized a lot more things. Some of the things she remembered, I also could recall seeing in her mom's house. Look at the sign on the far right...Havana Cigars, 10 for $.35!
The wax figure of the pirate was very life-like. I didn't realize his leg was missing until I stepped back to take a vertical photo.
I like to see currency from different times and places. It's one of the things I like to do when I travel too.
Here is a picture of the actual trolley we rode. It has open seating and you can get a good view of everything because there are no windows.
The trolley drove us up close and personal to the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. It's amazing to see that this kind of history still exists. This particular fort changed hands several times, but never due to defeat.
We returned here on our own, after the tour was over. We really wanted to spend some times checking it out, up close and personal. It was worth the time to go. The next day we were taking a boat cruise and saw a re-enactment of a canon shoot taking place on the water-side of the fort. The actors were dressed in period clothing.
I liked taking the trolley because they gave you some information and history on what it was you were seeing. I also like that it had 23 stops because by the end of the tour, you really have a good sense of the city you are seeing.
This is where we had dinner later in the evening. We were having a hard time figuring out the best place to go, and then a local tipped us off to this restaurant and it was pretty good! He had also just left his spot in the far back-left of the first floor and directed us there, telling us to just sit there and wait until they cleaned it. It was a good thing we listened to him and a lucky break to run into him too, because as it turned out there were a ton of people standing around waiting for a first-come, first-serve seat to find. We didn't know we'd eat there while we are on the trolley. I just took the picture because the building reminded me a bit of those we'd seen in New Orleans the summer before.
Again, the history in this city was amazing to learn about. Being the oldest city in the state of Florida, it has no shortage of it.
In addition to the oldest house in the city, we also came across a house that was ordered from the Sears and Roebuck catalog. I'd heard of those, but never saw one for myself. In fact, I didn't even realize there was still one standing! The trolley was wonderful but didn't lend itself well to leaning over and taking pictures as it was driving, so I didn't get a good picture of the house fro Sears, but I still thought it was worth mentioning. Can you imagine getting your house in the mail?
Even the trees had history noted about them. This one was magnificent in person. If you follow my Pinterest boards, you know I have a thing for trees. There's just something peaceful about a huge, flourishing tree that makes me happy. Maybe because I spent so much time in them as a kid.
Here's the tree. They also had the trees with the moss hanging, and I do love those. They have a lazy, summer day feel to them that is hard to resist.
The Old Town Trolley took us back to the station and we walked around the area to visit some more of the buildings and props.
This was the back side of the old jail.
There were gallows out there too, tough we stayed as far away from those as we could. ;)
After the tour we got on the shuttle bus back to our hotel, rested and refreshed and then got in our car to head down to the St. George Street area to see some more sites. There were alleys with brick roads, and shops, restaurants, and things to do galore. There were some art galleries, and unfortunately, I didn't get to see who did the piece above, but he had several in the window and was inside for people to meet and greet with him. The way he used illumination in his work was really impressive to me, though my photo of his painting does it no justice at all. It had far more splendor in real life.
The p.m. brought us to our Ghosts & Gravestones Tour that was a part of the package we received.
It stopped at various places throughout the city, including this graveyard where we got details of those buried in it.
This tour was great because it allowed us to visit other places we'd meant to during the day, but hadn't had time. The businesses were closed, but since they are supposedly haunted, we got to go in as part of the tour. Just seeing all of the old items on display in the Old Drug Store was really fascinating. It was one part reminiscent, one part history, and one part fun to see.
Finding out that the main ingredient of most 'medicines' back then, was a harsh drug was a little unsettling. How awful for the people to think they were getting a cure for something that ailed them, but really they were getting doses of drugs we'd never think to put in over-the-counter care today. We also went through Potter's Wax museum after dark. The wax displays were covered to help avoid damage (they're expensive to make!) but they did stop at a designated few and play them up while trying to scare the patrons.
The Old Jail tour had people jumping out of the dark to scare you. We were seated in the dark right in front of this cell. It looked like people were in it, but upon taking a photo, we saw they were only mannequins so we were able to relax. This is the part of the tour where the age restriction comes into play. The 'jailmate' giving us our tour was happy to recount in gruesome detail some of the crimes the prisoners of this jail had committed. It didn't sound like a very happy place to be, under any circumstances. The boy had a great time on the tour, and relished in being able to stay up late.
On the way out of town the next day, we talked about coming back. There were so many things still left to see and do, including a visit to the lighthouse we could see in the distance. Everyone enjoyed our trip to St. Augustine, and the Old Town Trolley tours we took. We will return, hopefully when we have more than just 2 days to enjoy it. This is a very family-friendly place to go, and there is something to do for everyone! I highly recommend.