I have traveled to many cities across the United States, including the nation’s biggest cities like New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta. I am personally from Tampa, which is quite large and impressive in its own right. But no other city that I have been to gets me like St. Augustine, Florida does.
The city is located about 4 Â½ hours north of where I live and it’s an easy weekend destination for me if I so desired. That is one of the things that make the city so enticing for me. I have a degree in history, so one of the main appeals of the city is its beauty and historic significance. You travel there; you travel almost back in time.
Founded by the Spanish in the 1500’s, St. Augustine is the oldest permanent establishment in the United States. Much of the city still reflects its Spanish origins, too. You see the influence reflected in the architecture throughout the city. The city also boasts the oldest established mission in the United States, the Mission De Nombres, and it has the original Spanish fort still standing, the Castillo de San Marcos. All of these are absolutely beautiful and it’s amazing to think, as you tour the fort, that you are actually walking on a part of history. Some of the city’s streets are still cobblestone, something you don’t find in many cities and they are all very narrow, as the layout of the city still reflects its original Spanish influence. If you love this type of history like I do, the city has many guided tours that take you to the attractions and give you the information behind them. You can visit the supposed Fountain of Youth, one of the country’s oldest archaeological sites and the place where Ponce De Leon thought he discovered the secret for youthfulness.
Other attractions there really add to the city’s mystique, like Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum. I personally haven’t been to this, but my understanding is that it houses a large collection of antiques and oddities that Mr. Robert Ripley acquired from his travels around the world. The city is also home to Flagler College. This exquisitely made college was the former Ponce de Leon hotel established by Henry Flagler, million dollar railroad tycoon in the late 1800’s. Henry Flagler, actually, built up most of the city and created a haven for his rich socialite friends to visit in the winter time. His ambitious railroad project really helped to create a living boom in Florida, especially in the St. Augustine area, where he is still beloved for all his contributions to the area. He spared no expense to build his luxurious hotels. Flagler College, the former Ponce De Leon Hotel, has windows that were hand designed by Tiffany jewelry designers. The stain glass and domed buildings are breathtaking to view. The city is also located minutes away from the Atlantic Ocean. The beaches have fine, soft white sand and give visitors a wonderful day in the Florida sun.
St. Augustine’s history also makes it a bit creepy. It is supposed to be one of the most haunted cities in the United States. Many lives were lost in the city from yellow fever epidemics and much blood was shed by the Spanish in nearby waters that is really isn’t surprising the city has spectral residents. Ghosts of Spanish soldiers have been seen still standing post in the city, along with spirits of other residents who just loved the city too much to leave. Henry Flagler’s ghost, in fact, is said to reside in Flagler College and occasionally, he makes himself seen to young and timid students.
Some even have left the school because of the fright! However, these spooks help bring visitors into the city; visitors who want something unconventional in a vacation spot. At night, when many other cities would be asleep, St. Augustine comes to life. Tourists can be seen walking through the city with guides dressed in period costumes, looking at historic buildings and hearing creepy BUT TRUE stories of the city’s dark past. Others can be seen racing through the city in trolleys that look like they came straight from hell. Everyone is smiling and laughing, though. I have taken five different tours in the city and let me tell you, it’s educational and completely entertaining. Many of the local college students earn extra income, especially the drama students, as tour and ghost guides. But these aren’t always for the faint of heart. Strange stories and events have been recorded on tours and many parts of the city will give you crazy Goosebumps.
The cemeteries at night are very spooky and yours eyes begin to play tricks as the shadows dance around at night.
So, whether you’re looking for beauty, history or frights, the city of St. Augustine has something to offer everyone. It is minutes away from some of the Florida’s best beaches. It has quaint stores to shop in. The city is engulfed in history and still reflects many of its Spanish roots. And, it happens to be haunted. Visit the city, have a good fright and enjoy!