A Walkthrough STA History, No Admission Required Posted on May 8, 2020May 8, 2020 by Mandy Mizell In my final phase of quarantine, I escaped to St. Augustine. I spent 43 days cooped up in my West Palm Beach home, with cabin fever slowly taking over my persona. I transitioned from “Stay Home” to STA FLA, and my spirits are elevated now that I am back to exploring Florida. There is an unrestricted beach and all of my favorites of The Local Spots Series are still serving their customers downtown. The days of FLOvid19 do make STA feel a bit like a ghost town, since most attractions have been closed. This time made me realize that you do not need to take a tour or pay a fee to appreciate many of St. Augustine’s landmarks. I rounded up some points-of-interest to give you a walkthrough STA History, no admission required! Explore where “La Florida” was Discovered in 1513 Magnolia Avenue & The Fountain of Youth This scenic street is home to one of the oldest landmarks in US History, The Fountain of Youth. Juan Ponce de Leon landed here in 1513 on his quest for a fountain that provided water to make those who drank it forever young. In reality, Ponce just found a small fresh water spring in the native Timacua Village. He reached this point around Easter with wildflowers rolling across the landscape, and named it “La Florida.” The admission to the Fountain of Youth is $18 to drink some metallic tasting Florida well water and look at some archeological exhibits. I suggest you snap a photo in front the sign and spend your dollars at the Fountain of Juice across the street. and drink some Cuban coffee or fresh squeezed juice instead. This adorable open air stand serves up fresh squeezed juice, fruit smoothies and Cuban coffee. Take your sip for a stroll down Magnolia Avenue, a beautiful Southern street shaded by the canopy of the live oaks and Spanish moss swaying in the breath. A few hours before sunset is a great time to snap some shots of what National Geographic has called one of the most photographed streets in the country. Roam where the Saint Augustine was born in 1565 The Castillo de San Marcos & Mission Nombre de Dios This fort has been holding strong for 325 years and is an icon of the Oldest City. The Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest masonry fort in the US and took 23 years to complete the structure built from coquina stones. The Castillo grounds are accessible without admission and is a designated National Monument. It is common for visitors and locals to picnic on the seawall or the rolling lawn in front of the fort. My favorite time to visit is at night, you can get an earful of spooky tales from overhearing a ghost tour and take some silly shadow photos on the fort walls. My favorite view at the fort is from the walkway on the North side of the Castillo. From this vantage point you can see the Mission Nombre de Dios, where founder of St. Augustine Pedro Menendez claimed this city in the name of Spain and God. It became a Catholic mission where the Spanish baptized the natives and it is also the site where Menendez massacred French Huguenots in 1565. This is how the river got the name “Mantazas” which literally means slaughter, and from this point you can see where the Mantanzas River meets the Tolomato River in a grassy estuary habitat. Saunter where the Oldest City became the Modern World in 1925 The Bridge of Lions & Davis Shores I took Hazel Bay for a stroll from the Bridge of Lions to the City Gate, which is about a 10-minute casual stroll. In the past 15 years of visiting STA, this is the first time I have taken a picture of these beautiful Medici lion statues. I remember being told on a ghost tour during my 4th grade STA Field Trip (a Floridian rite of passage) that the artist committed suicide because the sculptor forgot to put tongues on his beautiful big cats. As it turns out, this is an Urban Legend that derived from the Chain Bridge in Budapest, and it is not even a true story. No lives were spared over lions tongues in neither Florida nor Budapest. This drawbridge was built in 1925 and took two years to complete. It connected the Oldest City to Anastasia Island by the work of D.P. Davis where he developed the neighborhood of Davis Shores. This is the same developer that created Davis Island in Tampa, which was his first time using these dredging techniques. Where to Wander Next? I also discovered that the Florida Humanities Council has an app to download which has multiple walking tours of St. Augustine that you can listen to on your mobile device as your stroll the ancient streets. You can download the Florida Stories App here. Be sure to check out my FLOmap while you wander St. Augustine to find all the best local spots and landmarks.