St. Augustine is one of the most endearing places in Florida. My first vivid memory of visiting the city was as a 4th grader when you take the obligatory visit to the nation’s oldest city after completing studies on it. Over the years I have returned many times – as a child with my parents, as a prospective college student, as a college graduate before I moved to San Francisco and many time in between that – and each time I find a new reason to love this city.
As a child I was in awe of Castillo de San Marcos. The walls were made from the coquina indigenous to the area and made it feel solid. Having studied about this monument in history books, I could hardly believe that I was getting to see it and experience it in-person. A feeling that still resonates with me every time I travel.
When I was a senior in high school, St. Augustine was one of the many stops on my college campus tour. I instantly fell in love with Flagler College’s campus and the history that was abundant throughout. The centerpiece of the campus is Ponce de León Hall, which was built by the late Henry M. Flagler in 1888. Before being converted to a college campus in 1968, it had been the luxurious Ponce de León Hotel. Today, it is a national landmark and the decadent halls can be visited daily via tours offered on campus.
Post-college I still made it a learning a trip, but incorporated historic bars like Scarlett O’Hara’s, which is in the National Directory of Haunted Places. Legends say the man who originally built the structure in 1879 haunts the restaurant/bar. I have heard that the ghosts sometimes makes appearances in the bathrooms, so if that is not an incentive not to drink too many beers I don’t know what is.
The holidays bring a whole new reason to love and visit the city. The exuberance of St. Augustine is intensified by the holidays and it is widely considered one of the best places in the world to visit for Christmas. As the sunset the chill in the air settled into my bones and the city was aglow with Christmas lights. Once again St. Augustine did not disappoint, and now I have a whole new set of memories.