Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!

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Shortly after Robert Ripley’s death in 1949, Castle Warden was purchased to house the first of Ripley’s famous Odditoriums. It opened the following year and showcased Ripley’s vast collection of strange and astonishing artifacts collected throughout his travels. Among other relics, the museum features a model of the original Ferris Wheel constructed entirely from Erector sets, a mummified cat, various objects used by shamans of cultures throughout the world, as well as celebrity life and death masks (including the likes of Abraham Lincoln). Perhaps the Odditorium’s chief crowd pleaser is Douglas Schnittker, the venue’s own one armed magician. The original museum garnered such success, Ripley’s associates were spurred to open Odditoruims throughout the United States, and later the world. Still, Ripley’s personal collection remains housed at Castle Warden. Additionally, the opening credits as well as segments for recent episodes of the Ripley’s television series were filmed here.

Primarily known as “The Castle,” Castle Warden had originally been constructed in 1887 by namesake William Warden, a millionaire in search of a winter home. The Moorish Revival style mansion later enjoyed success as a hotel, accommodating a slew of famous guests including renowned author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, as well as Robert Ripley himself.

Telephone: 904-824-1606

Web: http://staugustine.ripleys.com/

Address: 19 San Marco Avenue, St. Augustine, FL 32084

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Fountain of Youth

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The Fountain of Youth Archeological Park has been open since its purchase in 1901, by Dr. Louella Day McConnell, also known as Diamond Lil’. Seeing the benefits of what she now owned, this entrepreneur decided to begin charging people to drink from the spring found on her property. The land was used for farming and growing citrus orchards for 350 years prior to Dr. McConnell’s purchase. Before 1513, the property was a Timucua Village known as Seloy, when the now famous explorer, Ponce de Leon claimed the land for his Spanish king and renamed it La Florida. Many attempts were made to settle this area by the Spanish but none were successful until 1565 when a man by the name of Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles arrived. Inside the borders of this property formed St. Augustine, the oldest continuously occupied European settlement on the continental United States, making this park an historical attraction.

The park consists of 15 acres in St. Augustine, Florida and a large archway greets you as it passes above you during your entrance to the park. People from around the world come here to sip the famous “Fountain of Youth” waters and learn about the benefits supposedly imbued upon one who drinks them. The park also contains other attractions, such as the Shipwreck Exhibit, Indian Burial Grounds, the Navigator’s Planetarium and the Discovery Globe. People of all ages can enjoy watching and feeding the squirrels and peacocks that roam the property. There is a picnic area available so visitors can bring their own lunch. Pets are welcome and parking is free. The park is open everyday, except Christmas Day, from 9am-5pm.

Telephone: 904-829-3168

Web: http://www.fountainofyouthflorida.com/

Address: 11 Magnolia Avenue, St Augustine, FL 32080

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Castillo de San Marcos National Monument

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St. Augustine, Florida is home to the oldest masonry fort in the United Station. The Castillo de San Marcos was first built in 1672 by Spain during its occupancy in Florida. From 1763 through 1784 Britain occupied the state and renamed the masonry St. Mark. When Florida became a U.S. territory in 1821 The Castillo de San Marcos became Fort Marion, named after Francis Marion, a revolutionary war hero. It was not until 1942 that the Congress renamed the building Castillo de San Marcos.

St. Augustine is named after a European city founded by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés in 1565. This city was originally a Native American Village that was transformed over the next 100 years as the site of a Spanish defense town. Here nine wooden forts were built. After the attack of English pirate Robert Searle, the masonry was ordered by Mariana Queen Regent of Spain to protect the city.

This masonry was built with coquina stone, “little shells” in Spanish. These ancient stones create an adhesion similar to limestone. Native American workers as well as construction workers from Havana, Cuba built the masonry. Workers quarried the ancient shells at Anastasia Island which is now known as Anastasia State Park. This park and quarry site is located across Matanzas Bay from the Castillo de San Marcos masonry. A ferry carried the stones across the bay during the twenty-three year construction project (from 1872-1695).

Telephone: 904-829-6506

Web: http://www.nps.gov/casa/

Address: 1 South Castillo Drive, St Augustine, FL 32084

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Florida School for the Deaf and Blind

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The Florida School for the Deaf and Blind is a state-supported residential school for deaf and blind children established in 1885, in St. Augustine. In 1882, Thomas Hines Coleman, a young deaf man, was preparing to graduate from Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., the only college for the deaf in the world at that time. He had previously graduated from the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind and knew he wanted to make education for children his life’s work. Florida was one of the few states that had not yet made provision for the education of children who were deaf/hard-of-hearing, or who had visual impairments. Coleman wrote Governor William D. Bloxham of Florida and found he was favorable toward the establishment of such a school. As their correspondence continued, the sum of $20,000 was reached as a minimum appropriation to start the School. In 1883, Florida´s legislature established an institution for the blind and deaf children for two years at $20,000. They requested bids from various towns in the state for the location to build the School. The City of St. Augustine offered the best bid with $1,000 cash and 5 acres of land, the land donated by Captain Edward E. Vaill, a pioneer of the City. Contractor William A. MacDuff erected the original first three wooden buildings at $12,749 and they were completed in December 1884. The first graduating class was 62 students in 1892 and the first graduation ceremony was held in 1898. Notable alumni include Ray Charles and Ashley Fiolek.

Telephone: 904-827-2200

Web: http://www.fsdb.k12.fl.us/

Address: 207 San Marco Avenue, St Augustine, FL 32084

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Cathedral Basilica

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The parish of St. Augustine, which dates from the celebration of a mass on September 8, 1565, by the Spaniard Pedro Menendez and his men, is the oldest Catholic parish within the present day United States. During Queen Anne’s War, the English Governor of South Carolina, James Moore, raided St. Augustine and destroyed an earlier church. Plagued by financial difficulties, the parish was unable to construct a new church until this coquina edifice was begun in 1793. Completed in 1797, in became a cathedral in 1870 when St. Augustine was elevated to a diocese. Augustin Verot was invested as the first bishop. In 1887, fire severely damaged the cathedral, but the facade and walls remained standing and were preserved when the building was restored in 1887-1888. The chancel, transept and campanile were added at that time. Further restoration was carried out in 1965.

Telephone: 904-824-2806

Web: http://www.thefirstparish.org/

Address: 38 Cathedral Place, St Augustine, FL 32084

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The Old Senator

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Where else but the nation’s oldest city could one expect to see a 600 year-old tree? In the epicenter of the city’s historic downtown and just across from the Fountain of Youth, lies one of nature’s grandest granddaddies—the Old Senator. For 600 years, this glorious Live Oak Tree has stood as a testament to Ponce De Leon’s discovery of La Florida in 1513.

Address: 137 San Marco Avenue, St. Augustine, FL 32080

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Basics

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St. Augustine’s  location also gives it ideal year-round weather. With its hottest days in July rising to 88°, and its coolest temperature in January an average of 45°, it is a more moderate in climate than tropical south Florida, yet its winter days are kept mild by the warming influence of the Gulf Stream flowing off shore.

Seasons
There are three seasons in St. Augustine: spring, summer and fall. Winter – sunny, dry, and mild – is a delightful blend of summer and fall. Rain clouds predictably gather in spring and fall, but thunderstorms generally last only a short time. This pleasantly mild year-round temperature lends itself to outdoor events and activities throughout the year.


In the spring, enjoy arts and craft festivals and the Gamble Roger Folk Festival, one of the best in the country. With summer comes Summer Concerts in the Plaza, theater at the Limelight, or concerts and great food on St. Augustine Beach Pier. As September folds into fall, the diverse cultural heritage of St. Augustine – Spanish, Greek, Colonial, and Cracker- is celebrated through festivals, re-enactments and events. After Thanksgiving, the Ancient City lights up for Christmas during the Night of Lights celebration, best viewed from Christmas trolleys or horse-drawn carriages. Of course, water sports, tennis, golf, deep sea, fresh water or pier fishing, and hiking in the many parks can be enjoyed any time.

Population
The population the city of St. Augustine proper is over 12,000. However, neighboring communities flow one into the other which, taken together, create a population of over 25,000. St. John’s County, of which St. Augustine is a part, also includes beach communities to the north and to the south, and ranch and farm land to the west, has a population of just over 161,000.

Size
Selected by AAA in 2006 as one of the 10 most walkable cities in North America, historic St. Augustine is compact, covering approximately 8.4 square miles. Without lingering, the historic district can be walked from one end to the other in 20 minutes. 

Transportation
St. Augustine is primarily accessible by car. Its delightful accommodation choices make it the perfect weekend get-away. It is also a pleasant day trip from Orlando, located just under two hours to the east, a nice change from the largess of theme park venues.

Once in St. Augustine, the Downtown Parking Facility, next to the Visitors Information Center on Castillo Drive and convenient to sites in the historic district, has 1,170 spaces. Parking is free at Old Town St. Augustine on San Marco Avenue with the purchase of a trolley tour on Old Town Trolley Tours of St. Augustine.

Accommodations
With a wide selection of 5,663 rooms from which to choose in St. John’s County, the choices of accommodations are many. Enjoy a romantic stay at one of 26 intimate historic inns, all with descriptive names; experience the elegance at the Casa Monica Hotel, meticulously restored to its 1888 Flagler-era splendor; relax in the simplicity of the leisure life of 1960 America in the low-scaled motels in unpretentious beach towns. For those desiring contemporary accommodations, St. Augustine of the 21st century is showcased at nearby world class golf resorts and in full service luxury beachfront resorts.

About St. Augustine

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St. Augustine, America’s “Oldest City” is a quaint historic community with a storybook quality, off busy interstates and away from the flash of a theme park atmosphere. Located in the northeast corner of Florida in a landscape of moss-draped live oaks, sabal palms, palmetto, marsh grass, sand dunes and miles of beaches, it brims with interesting and fun things to see and do.

In a young country like America, where old is a relative term, the city of St. Augustine is really old and has sites to prove it. Founded by the Spanish in 1565 as a defense bastion during their New World exploration, it offered protection to the armadas as they traveled the Gulf Stream transporting riches from Central and South America. It pre-dates the landing of the Pilgrims in 1620 and even the 1607 Jamestown settlement and, much to the fascination of visitors, elements of the Spanish period remain to experience.

Location is the reason the area was so desirable to the Spanish and to the indigenous Timucuan Indians before them. Location is why it was fought over and controlled off and on by both the Spanish and the British from the late 1600s through the 1700s, and was finally acquired by a fledgling America in 1821. Location is why railroad magnate Henry Morrison Flagler built it into a winter resort for the wealthy during the gilded age of the late 19th century. It is also the reason visitors flock there today.

St. Augustine offers a wonderful combination of past and present, old and new. A walk through the historic Ancient City peels away the cultural layers of the past. For history buffs of all ages, a remarkable collection of historic landmarks chronicles the passage of time, beginning in the 16th century, and offers unequalled immersion experiences. As such, St. Augustine is a must see destination for young people and adults alike.

Walk down narrow cobblestone streets lined with diminutive buildings of coquina stone and wood. Peer through the walls of the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in continental North America and imagine how the Spanish guarded their settlement. Discover the oldest wooden building in the United States, a schoolhouse dating to the early 1700s, and learn about life in the remote outpost in the Colonial Spanish Quarter.

Among these relics from the Spanish period, find examples of the rugged yet simple life of the Florida Crackers, hardy American pioneers who homesteaded the newly acquired territory beginning in the early to mid 1800s. In contrast, marvel at the lavish excess of America’s industrial wealth of the late 1800s at one of the greatest architectural specimens in the Southeast, the heavily ornamented Spanish Renaissance Flagler College, at one time the Hotel Ponce de Leon. The gilded Rotunda with ornate carvings and the Dining Hall dappled in the glow of 79 Tiffany stained glass windows are astounding.

While strolling from one fascinating venue to another, hunt through antiques shops, browse through art galleries, find the perfect curio along St. George Street or something special in trendy boutiques. Enjoy the culinary pleasure of diversely tasty food served in casual bayside or oceanfront restaurants, in curbside bistros, Spanish tavernas, sleek contemporary dining venues, or opulent dining rooms.

There is more than history in St. Augustine. For water, sun, and beach lovers, expanses of sandy beaches to the north and south offer swimming, surfing, shelling or a wonderful spot to just lie in the sun with a good book. For naturalists, there are tidal salt marshes and nature preserves to explore. A golfer’s dream, great golf courses are scattered throughout the area, including Sawgrass, host of the PGA Players Championship, the Ponce de Leon Golf course, the oldest in Florida, or the World Golf Village.

St. Augustine Beach Towns To Visit

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Only minutes away from the historic Old City lies all that is synonymous with Florida: miles of white sand beaches; small oceanside villages; newer waterfront developments; parks with tidal marshes and old Florida live oak hammocks; nature trails to explore, on foot or by boat; glorious sunsets; waterside restaurants serving fresh seafood; and swimming, shelling and golfing to enjoy.
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Flagler College / Ponce De Leon Hotel

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The magnificent structure was erected between 1885 and 1887 by Henry M. Flagler, the hotel and railroad magnate whose activities contributed greatly to the development of Florida’s eastern coastal area.  Designed by New York architectural firm of Carrere an Hastings, the building reflects the Spanish Renaissance style throughout.  The hotel was first the major edifice in the United States to be constructed of poured concrete, a mixture of cement, sand, and coquina shell.  The interior is decorated with imported marble, carved oak, and murals painted by Louis Tiffany of  New York.  The Ponce de Leon Hotel was the flagship of the Flagler hotel system which soon extended all along the east coast of Florida.  Located in the “Winter Newport,” this resort hotel entertained celebrities from around the world,  including several U.S. Presidents.  During World War II, the hotel served as a Coast Guard Training Center.  In 1968, this historic landmark was converted into Flagler College, an accredited liberal arts institution.  Independent and coeducational, the college serves students from across the nation.

Telephone: 904-829-6481

Web: http://www.flagler.edu/

Address: 74 King Street, St Augustine, FL 32084