Damp weather in St. Augustine doesn’t have to dampen your plans! There are plenty of cool things to do in stormy weather.
Here are my top nine:
1. The Lightner. This is my favorite museum in town (pictured above), although I don’t recommend it if you’re only here for a day (because it’s so large it takes forever to go through!) But if it’s raining outside, it’s perfect! The Lightner specializes in Victorian kitsch–everything from taxidermied animals to over the top carved wooden furniture to a dazzling display of cut glass. The Victorians believed that if a little was good, a lot was better–and this museum follows that to a T.
As you plan your day, be sure to ask when the museum staff will demonstrate the Victrolas and other musical items in the first room next to the gift shop. You’ll want to make sure you’re there for that–the staff plays everything from early cylinder players to Edison Victrolas, to a large mechanical band that used to play at a carnival. It’s a great way to hear what MP3’s sounded like when they were still MP1’s.
While you’re exploring the first floor, you might want to dart outside for just a bit and enjoy the beautiful outdoor gardens, which are pretty even in the rain–AND you can enjoy them from underneath the surrounding loggias. If the rain is light, plan to feed the fish–there are lots of koi in the ponds, and they seem to be perennially hungry (there is fish food available for a quarter next to the center bridge).
Speaking of hungry, you don’t have to go outside to eat when you’re at the Lightner. Head down to Cafe Alcazar, which is located in the old deep end of the Victorian hotel’s swimming pool. Grab a brick oven pizza for one, enjoy the live music (usually piano or guitar, depending on the day), and then explore the varied antique shops that line the perimeter of the pool. The Lightner will take up a whole day of rain!
Lightner Museum, 75 King Street, 904.824.2847
2. Villa Zorayda. If you haven’t been to this charming house/museum, you are missing a tiny gem. Villa Zorayda was built in 1883 as the winter residence of Franklin Webster Smith. He replicated details of the Alhambra Palace in Spain, and began the Moorish Spanish Revival style of architecture that you see in St. Augustine today. You’ll find all sorts of Victoriana, including mummy parts, Victorian treasures, and a rug made of cat hair from ancient Egypt! It is estimated to be 2400 years old.
Villa Zorayda, 83 King Street, 904.829.9887
3. Chatsworth’s. Speaking of alcohol, I would never suggest that you spend a rainy day drinking and feeling sorry for yourself. But drinking and having a good time? Well, that I *would* recommend!! Chatsworth’s is a local type place, and just a block and a half from the inn. They have a ton of beers on tap…more than you could ever try in an afternoon. And–bonus–the bar/restaurant has multiple televisions, so there’s always a game on, broadcast from a sunnier part of the world.
Chatsworth’s, 10 Marine Street, 904.829.3337
4. Dance in the rain. Why not? St. Augustine has tons of overhangs, balconies, and awnings–why not skip through the puddles and enjoy the weather? There are much fewer crowds when it’s raining, and the streets take on a real European air. When you come back, you can hop in a hot shower at the Bayfront Marin House. Just be sure that you’re out of the tub by 5:00 so that you can enjoy happy hour. It makes getting stuck in the rain fun! Note: we provide umbrellas to borrow (at our front door), as well as plastic ponchos if you prefer to keep your head dry!
Bayfront Marin House, 142 Avenida Menendez, 904.824.4301
5. The Pirate Museum. Don’t assume that this museum is just for kids–it’s awesome for adults too! Owner Pat Croce (entrepreneur and formerly President of the Philadelphia 76’ers) built this museum a few years ago to house his impressive collection. How serious is he about pirate memorabilia? So serious that in 2011, he decided to go looking for two of the ships that were scuttled after Sir Francis Drake died, and he found them off the coast of Panama! Information about that hunt, and others, mix with state of the art displays created by the talented minds at Disney.
The Pirate Museum, 12 S Castillo Drive, 877.467.5863
6. Green Trolley. If you’re only in town for one day, and it decides to rain that day, you still want to see the town. We recommend the Green Trolley, which will zip you all around town with a fun and informative guide. You can get a rain poncho from the Trolley store, and sit in the middle of the train–you’ll never even notice that it’s raining around you! Multiple stops around the city, in case the sun comes out and you want to hoof it.
Green Trolley, 167 San Marco, 904.829.3800
7. San Sebastian Winery. While you’re on the trolley, why not stop off at the winery on the edge of town? (Yup, the trolley will take you right there). Get a tour of the facilities, as well as multiple samples of this local winery. If it’s still raining when you’re finished, you can always go next door to the Whetstone Chocolate Factory, and grab the tour and samples there (there is a charge for the chocolate tour; the winery tour is free). Instead of being miserable about the weather, you’ll feel happy happy happy!
San Sebastian Winery, 157 King Street, 904.826.1594
8. St. Augustine Distillery. One of the newest attractions in town, the distillery is located in the old ice plant. Take a tour through the distillery and hear how the spirits are distilled and the differences that storage items can make on the final taste. And yes–you get a taste!! 🙂 After the tour, enjoy the Ice Plant restaurant, and the distillery’s gift shop. It’s a good way to spend an hour or two if it’s raining!
St. Augustine Distillery, 112 Riberia Street, 904.825.4962
9. St. Augustine Outlets. You do know that–in addition to being the oldest city in the country–St. Augustine also is home to some pretty amazing outlet malls? Michael Kors, Ann Taylor, J. Crew, Coach, Bose–you can find them all for less at the outlets! (BTW, the outlets are also open in the sunshine, if you want to swing by them any time).
St. Augustine Outlets, 2700 State Road 16, 904.825.1555
The good news is, Florida is called the sunshine state for a reason! But if it does happen to rain while you’re in St. Augustine, there are still plenty of options for a great day in the ancient city.
What is *your* favorite rainy day activity in town?