Teens in NorthEast Florida Trip Report

Old May 19th, 2019, 04:46 PM
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Teens in NorthEast Florida Trip Report

My husband and I took the 2 teens (16 and 13) to St Augustine, Florida for spring break in March. We stayed at a really nice VRBO house in St Augustine Beach. We could easily walk to restaurants, there was a nice grocery store in short driving distance, and good coffee places. It was easy to drive into town or to the other places we were going.

Day One: Sunday: This was hard. I was in Orlando for a conference the week before our vacation. DH and the kids flew in Saturday night, arriving at 11 pm. (we are MST so it was only 9 pm for them) BUT it was the night to change for Daylight Savings Time, so getting up by 9 ish to start our day at 10 was brutal. The kids wanted to see Harry Potter World. I booked a room at the Royal Pacific Hotel at Universal so we could get Express passes included with our room. There was no way I going to Universal in the middle of Spring Break season on a weekend without express passes. I priced out staying at cheaper hotels off property and buying express passes but it was actually less expensive to stay at the Royal Pacific. It was fun to take the boat to the theme park. We were maxed out by 4pm. So we piled in the rental car and drove to St. Augustine Beach.

Day Two: Monday: I had planned to see a bunch of St. Augustine today. We were all exhausted and slept really late. Sigh. We did get to see the Castillo San Marcos which is absolutely amazing. Wow. What a site and so well done. Then we went to the Pirate Museum, which is surprisingly good for something that sounds so hokey. We had a yummy lunch at Old City BBQ. Then we walked down St. George street to the Cathedral and had ice cream.

Day Three: Tuesday: We started our day with a 9am kayaking tour with Ripple Effect Ecotours. We launched at the Marineland site. This was a great tour. We saw dolphins circling up fish and brown pelicans diving in to get in on the feeding frenzy. We saw lots of other birds and learned quite a bit about the waterways, animals, etc. The tour includes free tix to Marineland.

We had planned to do some other things that afternoon but the guide told us all about the birds that were nesting at the Alligator Farm. I had not put this place on our agenda because it sounded awful. Was I ever wrong. It is really nice. All of the gators, crocs, etc. have nice enclosures. There is a ton of info on them that you can read. They are raising some babies. We watched the feeding and that was a little wild. But the nesting birds—that was amazing!! There were people who came there just to take photos of all the birds. Turns out these birds all want to nest in a tree with an alligator at the bottom to keep predators out of their nests. What better place than an alligator zoo?? We saw egrets, herons, spoonbills, etc etc.

And, then, we had just enough time to go see the Lighthouse. We toured the exhibits and climbed the tower. It was really interesting and something fun to do.

Day Four: Wednesday: We drove up to Fort Clinch. The fort is in great shape but there isn’t a lot of info about it and it is extremely understaffed. We did go out to the beach to look for shark’s teeth—no luck, but it was fun to wade in the water. Then we hiked the Nature Trail. This was fun, except for when you walk by these ponds and it has alligator warning signs. I am really not interested in seeing dinosaurs that eat people!!! That was scary for all of us. (I’m sure people who are used to gators would not find this daunting. I will take the rattlesnakes in our foothills any day.) We ate a late lunch/early dinner at a really fun restaurant in the town near Ft Clinch. The patio was basically on the beach. It was right on a roundabout. I cannot remember the name… I would say that given the long drive to Fort Clinch and the fact that it was understaffed at that time of year, I would have skipped it and gone to Fort Manzanas instead.

Day Five: Thursday: We started with a tour of the Sea Turtle Hospital that is across the street from Marineland. This is a really cool facility. You learn all about the animals they take, how they get them, how they treat them, their veterinary care, what they eat, and then you get to see the turtles in their tanks. We all really liked this tour!

Afterwards, we used our free tix to go to Marineland. It was interesting but I don’t know if I would pay to go.

Then we went back to St. Augustine and toured the Gonzales-Alvarez house, which was really interesting. We learned a lot about the family, the town, etc etc. I highly recommend this tour.

Day Six: Friday: Kennedy Space Center. We had booked a tour to see some of the original launch sites but that got canceled due to a launch that was happening later in the day. So we took the tour of the Apollo launch pad site—that was really amazing. We also stopped to see the Saturn rocket which is incredible. I love to see all the wildlife that is visible from the bus—eagles, alligators, dolphins, other birds. Then we drove back to Orlando for our evening flight home.

You have to plan St. Augustine better than we did—everything that you want to see closes at 5. We had wanted to see the Military Hospital and the Greek Shrine and maybe tour Flagler College. We did get to see highlights, but I guess I always want to see more.

Restaurants: We liked all the places we ate.
Café Mango Mango (we ate there twice—great variety, super nice staff)
Sunset Grille
Seafood Kitchen
Violas Pizza

All in all, it was the type of vacation we enjoy—history and nature.

StantonHyde is offline  
Old May 20th, 2019, 02:53 PM
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Sounds like a great trip. We get the time change in reverse when we go west, ready for bed before it's dark under the table.

Thanks for the report.
emalloy is offline  
Old May 21st, 2019, 04:45 AM
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Thanks for taking the time to report.
schmerl is offline  
Old May 21st, 2019, 04:47 AM
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We went to KSC in March and had a fabulous time. It is so well done. We were there two days, which was perfect. The Atlantis was my favorite. Thank you for the report.
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Old Aug 5th, 2019, 05:40 AM
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Just found this trip report and found it really useful as we will be driving from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale with our teens this Christmas. I had a question about the kayak eco-tour - wondering if Fodorites can advise if this tour would be suitable at the end of December? We will be in St Augustine over Christmas - not sure if it's too cold to do this kind of activity?

Thank you!
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Old Aug 9th, 2019, 08:01 AM
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Nice, helpful report. Thanks for posting.
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Old Aug 9th, 2019, 11:10 AM
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StantonHyde— Nice trip report. I also thought that the Castillo San Marcos and the Gonzalez-Alvarez House were extremely well-done and offered an out-of-the-ordinary slice of US history. I also appreciated the Prince Murat House and was surprised that a nephew of Napoleon ended up in this far-flung outpost of the Spanish empire.
jacolis—I went that time of year and while I had some nice days, St. Augustine has a significant probability of being chilly in late December—I think having a backup plan is advisable—a kayaking trip is iffy at best.
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