Throwback Thursday: Revisiting St Augustine

We are a family who homeschooled for 20 years. Though both my girls have now graduated High School and are in college, I have never outgrown the lure of adventure that awaits someplace that we haven’t yet explored. I also enjoy revisiting places that held great memories, either by taking a return trip or via a walk down memory lane in photos.

Today is a photo trip : )

Castillo De San Marcos

Did you know that St. Augustine is the oldest city in the nation? It was founded on September 8th,1565 which was 42 years before Jamestown and 55 years before Plymouth. Next year, 2015, will mark the 450th anniversary of this Spanish settlement. The city is already gearing up for a big celebration.20140302-173130.jpgThe “Old City” is home to the national monument of Castillo De SanMarco. It also boasts the oldest wood school house in the USA, now conveniently located near an ice cream shop.

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The St. Augustine Light Station tour included a trip to the top of the lighthouse and some nautical hands-on exhibits on the grounds around the lighthouse.

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Mostly though, we just enjoyed time away with the family that weekend.

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Aboard the Nina and Pinta

One of these things is not like the other. Clearly this vessel stands out in the marina and so it should. It is a replica of Christopher Columbus’ vessel the Nina. In 1492, as you may recall, the Nina was one of the three famed sister ships that lay claim to the discovery of the Americas over 500 years ago.

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Replicas of the Nina and Pinta tour the country 11 months out of the year and draw a crowd wherever they are in port. This month, we were fortunate to have them dock on our coast in Stuart, Fl.

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There is an entrance fee of $8 for adults. For children aged 4 – 16, the cost is $6, and children aged 4 and under are free. We found parking was limited in the marina, especially on the weekends, so we parked across the street in Downtown Stuart by the Pelican Restaurant. From there we walked under the bridge via Stuart’s Riverwalk and went across to the Sunset Bay Marina.

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The Nina is the most historically accurate Columbus replica ship ever built. The original Nina made the entire voyage and was the ship that carried Columbus safely home.

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One of the things that struck us the most was how SMALL these ships were compared to modern ships. You can see how they sized up compared to a yacht and tug boat docked next door. The originals were 15 feet longer and 6 feet wider, but still nothing compared to the size of a modern day cruise ship. A lot has changed in 500 years!

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The Pinta returned home from the original voyage and disappeared from history without a trace until she was revived through her replica by The Columbus Foundation.

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You can view the port schedule to see when and where they will visit throughout the year.

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For us, an afternoon spent aboard the Nina and Pinta,

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and exploring a nearby park

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followed by a walk on the dock

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and some ice-cream at Kilwins, was definitely a day well spent.

Tara and Mama at Kilwins

Florida Oceanographic Center

Florida Oceanographic Center Stingray PlayA visit to the Florida Oceanographic Center affords you unlimited access to a stingray tank and much more, though the stingrays remain the favorite. The Center offers daily feeding times where you can grab a shrimp by the tail and a stingray will come along a suck it out of your hand. Awesome, but not if you’re allergic to shrimp. If you are, like me, then please maintain a shrimp-free experience. If you are a preschooler, you might also be just as interested in the sensation of water as you are the stingrays, which is just a win-win as far as I’m concerned.

Also there to explore are touch tanks with star fish, anemones, snails and such. The “one finger only” rule applies here. Note: If your preschooler likes to carry a toy with them, try not to have the toy visit the touch tank. It happens.

Hands on exhibits can be found outside under a shaded area and inside as well. The grounds are accessible to strollers and wheelchairs alike. You can bring coolers for lunch at a picnic table. If not bringing lunch, definitely bring drinks to stay hydrated. If you forget, there are vending machines for drinks but no snacks for sale.

The second most watched exhibit was the Lagoon Fish Feeding Program. There is a large man-made pond that houses a variety of local fish. At feeding time, they come out to play. There are more fish on display inside in small tanks and aquariums. Keep an eye out for the moray eel.

We like to walk the trails on our trips and many trails in Florida lead to a view of the water, in this case, the beautiful Indian River Lagoon.

The Center offers many educational opportunities throughout the year and hosts a popular summer camp as well. There are numerous opportunities to extend the learning experience, or just take a simple day trip like we did. Either way, a visit to the Florida Oceanographic Center is a day well spent.

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Visit Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center for more information. Print out their Animals on Display page and create your own scavenger hunt form!

Saint Lucie County Fair

February Fun at the Saint Lucie County Fair

Who doesn’t get a little excited when they see a Ferris wheel in the distance?

Fairs always make me want to watch Charlotte’s Web. They call to the child in each of us; our day at the Saint Lucie County Fair did just that.

We started our day at the petting zoo. After paying a dollar for a cup of carrots, we entered the feeding frenzy. The animals were all happy and healthy. Playful baby goats entertained us as their siblings stuck their heads through the bottom of their pens and snatched at our cup of carrots. Sneaky goats. The piggies posed for us while the emus remained aloof. We expected cows – but kangaroos and a zebra? That’s what I’m talking about – best petting zoo ever!

More animals awaited us as we meandered down the wide paved paths that were a welcome addition to the “new” fairgrounds, as were the barns built especially for the horses, steers, and hogs on concrete flooring. Those visiting the fair with strollers or wheelchairs had great accessibility to all events.

Ever seen a Clydesdale? They are a creature like no other. You slow down and bask in their presence differently than the other animals. I kinda stood there in awe for a little while, like my nephew did when the camel bent down to visit him. I walked away glad to have had the moment.

As night fell, the lure of the lights drew us over to the rides and games, but first to the ticket booth for a $20 wrist band. The rides were plentiful, clean, well maintained, and had friendly attendants. We mainly kept to the kiddie rides and enjoyed some “shark” fishing where my nephew won a glow in the dark light saber.

We rode home with the dim glow of fair magic beaming in the back seat as the little ones drifted off to sleep. A day well spent…

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Where I Ride

I am a Florida leisure cyclist. I love my blue Sun Beach Cruiser and long lazy rides through Tradition, Fl. When I reach this lake on my regular route, I can feel my soul settle down and unwind a bit.

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Out here I ride with the cranes.

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I ride with the cows.20140227-192139.jpgI ride with a helmet and a smile.

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Visit a Florida Citrus Grove

There are citrus groves scattered all throughout Florida. During orange season, the orange blossoms perfume the air with a scent similar to honey. Why not visit a Florida citrus grove and take home some fruit fresh off the vine? Click here for some great info on touring a Florida citrus grove: Visit a Florida Citrus Grove| VisitFlorida.com.

 

Oxbow Eco Center

So much to explore and get your hands on and your eyes around at a nature center. We are blessed to locally have “The Oxbow.” I love to watch the wonder in a child’s eye when they experience something for the first time, like standing eye to eye with an otter.

Ever lay your hand across the back of a bobcat? Curious about a crane’s beak? Then head to the Oxbow. Your experience can be different every time. On our last visit, the staff had just received a nest of baby birds that had fallen out of a neighboring tree – we were mesmerized as their little beaks chirped up at us.

Peek through the glass at the snakes and turtles, run your fingers through the sand at the sensory table, take a hike on the trails…all part of a day well spent.

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