Making History Fun

By: Heidi Tyline King

As the oldest continuously occupied city in the U.S., St. Augustine is the perfect place to teach your kids about history and have fun at the same time.

Learn history the fun way - with family field trips to St. Augustine that make the grade. This vintage Florida tourist stop is chock full of activities and attractions so entertaining that children don't catch on that they are actually learning something while they play. Here's a roundup of kid-friendly places sure to pass the test with your "students."

The Oldest Wooden School House in the USA

If your kids have grown blasé about tales of you trudging five miles to school in two feet of snow, take them for a leisurely walk through The Oldest Wooden School House in the USA, where they can see what school was really like in the "good ole' days." Built before the American Revolution, this wooden school house is the oldest in the country. Inside, an animated teacher and students conduct class, while outside, the backyard kitchen has a display of colonial-era cooking utensils. No more bickering about homework or too little memory on your computer - this school comes equipped with a dunce cap and dungeon for troublemakers.

Ghost Tours

It was a dark and stormy night... or so goes the story of one of the many ghosts that roam the streets of St. Augustine. Carrying candle-lit lanterns, guests on the "Ghostly Experience" tour hosted by Ghost Tours of St. Augustine are led down moonlit passages and back streets in search of the city's spirits and ghosts. Costumed interpreters spin tales about these infamous characters, often stopping to point out where the most recent sightings have taken place. Teenagers love this tour, partly because they're suckers for a scary story, and partly because of the late night schedule. Tours depart every evening at 8 p.m. (call for additional tour times) from St. George Street and last approximately one hour. Reservations are required.

St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park

Inquisitive kids need only the slightest stimulation to bolster imagination. No wonder, then, that a visit to an alligator feeding at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park is enough to keep young minds churning long after the experience. It's hard to top this action-packed event, but the Farm has done just that with the addition of Maximo, a 15' 3" saltwater crocodile and the biggest crocodilian to hit the oldest city since the legendary days of Gomek.

Since 1893, Florida's oldest alligator farm has been wowing audiences with demonstrations and exhibits dedicated to all things crocodilian - alligators, crocodiles, caiman, and gavial. Other exotic creatures such as the rare albino alligator, oversized skinks, lizards and red-ruffed lemurs call the park home.

St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum

Some museums require children to whisper and move quietly between galleries. At the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum, kids (48 inches tall and taller) are encouraged to climb the 219 winding steps to the top for a spectacular view of St. Augustine and beaches. They also offer a separate play and explore area for small children. The first lighthouse was built in 1824, but was replaced by the current lighthouse in 1876. Since then, this black-and-white striped tower has provided a navigational light for seamen off the coast of Florida. Today's light is automated and can be seen for 19 nautical miles offshore. The lighthouse grounds also features a museum with maritime instruments and old photographs.

Original Ripley's

You've seen one Ripley's, you've seen them all... not so, especially in St. Augustine, home to the franchise's original Odditorium. While your visit might add a little hokey to the history, your visit will be fun, educational and unusual. You will see things you never knew existed and find interesting trivia that could lead to full-blown discussions of topics like, "How does one manage to drive nails into a board with bare hands?" or "Exactly what is in the solution to shrink a human head?"

The museum is located in Castle Warden, a castle-turned-hotel that Ripley had attempted to buy to display his exotic collection. It wasn't until after his death that his heirs were able to purchase the building and set up shop. Fascinating, bizarre, mostly unbelievable and totally mind-boggling, the more than 700 items on display at this stop will keep your crew entertained for an afternoon.

Sponsored listings by VISIT FLORIDA Partners

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