Established by the Spanish in 1565, St. Augustine, Florida, is historically known as the first settlement in the United States. With hands-on learning adventures and a variety of historic sites, St. Augustine offers a unique spin to taking an educational vacation.
Here are some places around St. Augustine to have some hands-on fun.
Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park
Walk through the recreated town of Seloy, learn from living history interpreters of the ways of life for The Timucua. Learn how these Native Americans hunted, fished, and created fine pottery and shell tools as their way of life and means to survive the Florida elements. With guest books dating to 1868, the Fountain of Youth is Florida's oldest attraction. Be sure to take a sip of water from Juan Ponce de Leon's Spring of Eternal Hope – with the spring water containing over 30 minerals, providing rejuvenation for settlers throughout history. Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. Adults $15; children 6 to 12 $9. 11 Magnolia Ave., St. Augustine. 904-829-3168, www.fountainofyouthflorida.com.
St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park
Get an up-close look at snakes, reptiles, birds, crocodiles and alligators at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. Take a stroll through the alligator swamp and wading bird rookery – home to native herons, egrets, spoonbills, wood storks and hundreds of alligators. Nesting activity takes place in the rookery from March through June of each year. Maximo, a saltwater crocodile, is the largest animal at the zoo weighing in at 1,250 pounds and is 15 feet 3 inches long. Be sure to take a peek at him through the underwater viewing windows. For those seeking adventure, the new zip line attraction, Crocodile Crossing, takes thrill-seekers high above the wildlife. St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. Adults $24.99; $13.99 children 3-11. 999 Anastasia Blvd., St. Augustine. 904-824-3337, www.alligatorfarm.com.
St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum
Climb the 219 steps to the top of the lighthouse and soak in the views of the Atlantic Ocean and historic St. Augustine. As the first of its kind in Florida in 1824, the lighthouse stands 165 feet above sea level. For a unique learning experience, sign up early for the "Behind the Scenes" lighthouse history tour for a look inside the maritime archaeology artifact conservation lab to meet the on-site archaeologists. See how the museum preserves recovered artifacts and see how they use clues to unlock stories from history. St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum. Adults $12.95; children under 12 $10.95, children under 44 inches are free. 81 Lighthouse Ave., St. Augustine. 904-829-0745, www.staugustinelighthouse.com.
St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum
Take a step back in time over 300 years at the height of the Golden Age of Piracy in Port Royal, Jamaica. See Jack Sparrow's pirate sword, learn what it's like to fire a real cannon and discover treasures and touch a gold bar. Gather your group for a scavenger hunt searching for Discovery Drawers hidden throughout the museum while learning of pirate tales and history. And be on the lookout for pirates at every turn, making for a fun photo opportunity. St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum. Adults $12.99; $6.99 children 5-12, children 4 and under free. 12 S. Castillo Drive, St. Augustine. 877-467-5863, www.thepiratemuseum.com.
For more information on St. Augustine, go to www.FloridasHistoricCoast.com.