This town has it all. By far one of my favorite vacation destinations, it has something for everyone and has proven to be perfect for my entire family. If you are looking for something off the beaten path, offering something completely different, St. Augustine is the place.
With historical spots around every corner, spooky and ghostly history at every turn, unique and eclectic shops spanning miles, pristine beaches and unique one of a kind restaurants, hotels and bars, you just couldn’t ask for a better place to relax for a weekend or even longer to really take it all in.
Upon our arrival at the luxurious Casa Monica hotel, we were greeted by one of the most attentive and friendly staffs that I quite possibly have ever encountered on a trip. From the smiling and helpful valet and bellhops to the informative and kind front desk staff, we were quickly made to feel at home in this unique and historical hotel. If you are looking for something different, this is the place. I was able to spend almost an hour walking the halls enjoying the different artwork not only in their galleries but also in each floors hallways. It was an event in itself and we hadn’t even left the hotel grounds.
The Casa Monica gym was packed into a small space, but well thought out and accommodating. The second story heated pool and hot tub felt like an oasis of luxury with canopy lounge chairs and warm, clear water secluded from the rest of the hotel.
The restaurant, bar and cafe all on the grounds also served some of the finest food and drinks the town has to offer, and the view, smack in the middle of a historical time warp was to die for, and literally thousands had died for it on the same soil.
Shops were only just a few feet away from the doors of the Casa Monica. We strolled along St. George street for hours and explored it’s many shops, eateries, and unique stores among the road and it’s side streets. There was a shop for every taste and enough variety for the entire family to endure the walk, even if I did walk back with 50 pound bags filled with my wife’s findings. Thankfully I was able to take a quick break at Burrito Works Taco Shop, and scarf down a “baja style-mahi burrito”. It was cheap, quick, tasty and fresh. Afterwards we got some gourmet popcorn for dessert at Kernel Poppers. I highly suggest them both for quick eats while keeping moving down the street.
One of the most thrilling, yet family friendly activities was the Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum. This is the original Ripley’s and was filled to the brim with its signature oddities and artifacts. Ripley’s also ran a ghost tour that focused on the science of actually finding ghosts and not a theatrical rouse to scare your family to tears. We learned history, and were able to view some cool spots at night on their train ride through back streets and cemeteries. It was just creepy enough to be fun, but not so scary that you couldn’t bring your young children along for the fun. Did we see any ghosts? That’s just between me and them.
We stumbled upon a delicious BBQ joint called Mojos, with food so good we ate there twice. It coincidentally was right across the street from the tomolato cemetery we visited on our ghost tour as well, and this time my daughter was a little apprehensive to return. I am glad she mustered up the courage though to walk by the cemetery gates and into the resturant. They accommodated us quickly, kindly, and presented us with delicious full plates of bbq 30 minutes before they were to close.
The staff was top of the line and only second to the food placed before us. From appetizers of burnt ends, to salmon and smoked chicken, to hearty and large sides and dessert that fills you to the brim, there wasn’t a single thing I could complain about except that we didn’t eat there a third time. Many of the restaurants claimed authenticity, and despite their clever names and decorations really disappointed us, however Mojos nailed it completely.
There was so much to take in from the historical sites and parks, the famous lighthouse and haunted history we didn’t know where to start. After grabbing a coffee in the unique “Crucial Coffee” we opted for a horse drawn carriage ride to round out the vacation with some history crammed into a private horse ride. John, our driver was educated beyond belief about the history of at Augustine and catered to our interests and questions, making stops and narrating the tour through areas we wouldn’t have been able to explore on our own.
Though we could have stayed another month at least and still not seen and done it all, St. Augustine has stolen a piece of my heart and will forever feel like my second city. It’s laid back, mellow and interesting, without being ran by some cookie cutter corporation. It’s down home, it’s old florida and it’s one heck of a place to visit. See you again soon!
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