A 2 story globe. 15 waterfront acres. 30 peacocks. 500 years of documented history. 600 foot observation dock.
St. Augustine’s Fountain of Youth Park is a surprisingly refreshing stop if you know what you’re diving in to!
Our family is enjoying “staycationing” in our hometown this summer. Perks come with staycations… like knowing the summer weather patterns!
We visited the Fountain of Youth one afternoon and timed it so we’d spend the rainy part of the afternoon in the 2 inside attractions. The first is the Navigator’s Planetarium where a peacock tried to join us for the show:
I told you the Fountain of Youth is worthwhile if you know how to enjoy it… so here’s the honest-to-goodness scoop. The planetarium show is the same one that’s been running since they opened a bajillion years ago. So while we did learn how explorers navigated using the stars, we also giggled quite a bit at the outdated show. BUT… it is blissfully dark & cool in this air conditioned building and it kept us dry during the afternoon thunderstorm. It was almost long enough to put little Clara to sleep and was an overall nice respite in the middle of a hot day.
Continuing in the vein of “throwback” attractions… our next stop was the Discovery Globe.
You’ll learn about the time when Spanish and Portugese Explorers mastered uncharted parts of the globe during this presentation that centers around a 2 story globe. The man who introduced the show with knowledge, humor and a clear love of this place was much more engaging than the recorded presentation. I wish he could’ve live narrated w/a laser light to point out specifics… but he didn’t.
Again, it’s air conditioned! And it’s kind of cool in a retro-Florida-tourist-trap kind of way. I know so far I haven’t been too convincing… but it gets better. I promise. Next stop: weapons demonstrations!
The demo of the arquebus gun was super cool. We’ve seen similar demos at Colonial Quarter and reenactments in town but it never gets old to my boys! The soldier interacted with the audience a bit and walked us through the process of cleaning, loading & firing the gun.
As soon as he took out the gunpowder, Clara knew what would be coming & covered her ears. She stood at the ready for 2 or 3 minutes before he actually fired… which was absolutely adorable. I wonder if I’ll enjoy traveling as much when the kids are grown?
The Fountain of Youth has their shows & demonstrations timed where you can move from one activity to the next. Honestly, it started to feel a little rushed to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love that they time the experiences this way so you can enjoy the attraction without having to spend the full day there. But, personally, next time I’ll spread it out a little.
Even though we were there almost 3 hours, we didn’t get to see the Timucuan settlement area or newer Nombre de Dios mission. Again, no regrets but now that we’ve seen all the guided experiences, I’ll slow the pace down next time and spend a little more time just hanging out. The grounds really are beautiful! Alas, with 6 kids who knew what time we were allowed to check in at the beach house, there was no dawdling this trip.
Next, we followed the path to crossbow & cannon demonstrations. Along the way, hands-on activities peppered the path. The boys lifted heavy barrels with block-and-tackle methods and I tried to read up on archeology before being dragged on by the littles holding my hands.
I did convince everyone to take a photo in the dugout canoe. It went something like this:
I’m the mom and I want a photo. Sit in the friggin boat and smile!
Uh… not one of my finer parenting moments. We actually all laughed about it but I must not have been convincing b/c all the photos look like this:
We walked past the new pavilion on the way out and they were setting up for a wedding. It looked enchanting! Our oldest is only 15… but I’m filing that image away for the distant future. You know, in case they ask my opinion. 😉
A visit to The Fountain of Youth is what you make of it. If you’re looking for a glimpse of Florida’s kitschy past, the first three stops there will satisfy that! If you prefer brushes with nature and casually reading signage to take in the historic value of this place or if reenactors teaching about the past is more your speed, the Fountain of Youth provides those experiences too. As the site of Pedro Menendez’ landing in 1565, the historic value of this plot of land is unquestionable and worth a slice of your time in St. Augustine.