What do you do in St. Augustine when it rains? Or when it’s too hot to be outside? Great question! August and September in Florida are known for daily thunderstorms—not to mention hot temperatures. So what can you do in town to enjoy your late summer getaway? First, in case of rain: one option is to wait it out—we normally only get rain for 20 minutes at a time, and there’s oftentimes a delicious breeze afterward.
Pro Tip for Downtown: If it just started raining, try to hang out in one of our covered porches and enjoy the clouds. If you must go out, avoid the following areas: Granada Street (next to the Lightner), the areas around Lake Maria Sanchez (around St. Francis and Cordova Street), and the intersection of Bridge and Cordova Streets, behind the Lightner Museum.
Secondly, about the heat? The hottest part of the day is usually right around 1:00, so that’s a great time to break for lunch and enjoy some a/c and cold water. We usually have a breeze on the Bayfront, so you may want to check out a Bayfront restaurant, like the new Casa Reina (get the grouper!), OC White’s (the first floor is usually the coolest), or our longtime favorite Meehan’s Irish Pub. Read on for our ten favorite rainy and hot days activities…
The Lightner is one of our favorite museums—and it is HUGE. It has an extensive collection of Victoriana, donated to the museum by Otto Lightner and displayed in rotating installations since it can’t hold everything all at once. Try to go at 11 am or 2 pm to see the live demonstration of some of the music boxes (and victrolas and cylinder machines) in their collection. This year, they have also been hosting local artists—see their website for more information. While you’re there, have lunch in the Café Alcazar, situated in the hotel’s historic indoor swimming pool.
Innkeeper Tip: Take a few quarters with you so you can buy fish food for the koi in the beautiful courtyard pond.
Villa Zorayda is a beautiful little castle right in the middle of town, just down from the Lightner and across from Flagler College. Boston millionaire Franklin W. Smith built it as his winter home in 1883 and was inspired by the Alhambra Palace in Granada Spain. In 1913, the building and part of Franklin Smith’s large art and antique collection were sold to Abraham Mussallem, which is still owned by the Mussallem family today. You never think about museums being family-owned businesses, but we love that this one is. Tour the stunning building and enjoy some of the unusual pieces collected by Franklin Smith, including a mummy hand and a 2400-year-old rug made of cat hair! Me-ow!!
Ripley’s Believe it or Not
If you’re traveling with pre-pubescent boys, they will LOVE the Ripley’s Museum. Full of oddities such as a two-headed calf, the story of the man who tried to turn himself into a lizard, and plenty of other gross stuff for boys to read about. Not being pre-pubescent boys, we prefer the “unofficial” tour of the old mansion—originally built in the 1880s by William Worden of Standard Oil. Later it became a hotel—one that Ripley himself stayed in. There is one part of the creepy tour that is the best: impress the kids by walking through the Tunnel of Doom at the end of the tour without falling over.
Innkeeper tip: the trick is to close your eyes and simply walk through the “tunnel”, thus avoiding the crazy spinning colors that will make you lose your equilibrium.
How do you save a dying pirate? C-P-ARRRRR. Seriously, cheesy pirate jokes abound, but there is nothing cheesy about the Pirate Museum. This is real pirate stuff (except for the small exhibit at the end of the tour with items from Pirates of the Caribbean), with real stories about Blackbeard, women pirates, and actually found treasure. We find it a little scary for children 6 and under, as there is an animatronic Blackbeard holding his own head mid-museum and a man having his eyeball removed by a doctor near the entrance. However, older kids, around ages 7-12, liked the interactive displays, and the “moving room” which replicates a ship’s movement on the sea. As adults, we were fascinated with the authenticity of the exhibits. In fact, there is a real Jolly Rogers flag on display (one of the only two in known existence), a real pirate chest (from Captain Thomas Tew and the only one remaining), and the story of how the museum’s owner found the sunken remains of Sir Francis Drake’s ship off the coast of Panama.
iFly Jacksonville—Indoor Skydiving
For those of you who are afraid of heights but want to experience what it would feel like to jump out of a plane, iFly is the place for you. This is indoors and you never get more than about 6 feet off the ground and an instructor is in the wind tunnel with you the entire time ensuring your safety. iFly is a little bit of a drive at about 30 minutes, but it’s worth it and it’s awesome for kids and adults. iFly is also only a stone’s throw from the St. Johns Town Center. If you want to do any shopping, this is the place! There are over 175 stores—and not just hole-in-the-wall stores but huge ones like Ballard Designs, Restoration Hardware, and Nordstrom’s. There are also lots of great restaurants too—we recommend Cantina Laredo (the ahi tuna taco appetizers are perfect for a full meal when paired with their tableside guac) and Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian Steakhouse.
Innkeeper Tip: Take your jewelry off before you go, so you don’t have to leave it in the iFly locker area. They won’t let you wear any in case of injury. 😊
Distillery Tour & Lunch at the Ice Plant
The St. Augustine Distillery has won a LOT of awards—both for its spirits and for its fun tour of the facilities. And yes, there are samples. You can also purchase great souvenirs in their gift shop once the tour is over. The Distillery is now producing bourbon, rum, gin, and vodka.
Innkeeper tip: their alcohol is available, of course, but they also have everything you need for a grown-up party from homemade bitters and shrubs, to copper mugs perfect for Moscow Mules, cheese boards, and knives. It’s one of our favorite places to shop!
After your distillery tour and gift shop stop, take the stairs to the fabulous Ice Plant restaurant. Retrofitted into St. Augustine’s old ice plant, the restaurant has a cocktail menu that’s delicious and innovative (true to their origins, they feature all types of ice depending on the drink). The menu is short but well-curated, and changes based on local availability. If you just want a quick drink to cool off, try one of their homemade sodas—the hub loves the lemon/lime, and the ginger ale is even better than a cold bottle of water to quench thirst and help you cool down.
San Sebastian Winery Tour
While we’re talking alcohol, try the San Sebastian Winery tour. Located inside one of Henry Flagler’s old East Coast Railway buildings, the tours (and samples) are free! If you’re looking for a local item to take home as gifts (or a souvenir for yourself), the winery has plenty of options such as vintner’s red, Vintner’s White, Reserve, Rosa, Blanc de Fleur, Blanc du Bois, Castillo Red, Cream Sherry, and Port.
Innkeeper Tip: If you go on a weekend, plan to grab some appetizers and enjoy the live music on the rooftop. It’s a beautiful place to watch the sun go down, and one of the best-kept secrets in town.
Binge Watch Your Favorite Shows!
All of our properties have streaming video television, and the heat of the day (or thunderstorm du jour) is the perfect time to watch those shows you don’t have time for at home. If you’d like to make it a binge party, text us and order a pitcher of sangria, a bottle of wine, or pop a bottle of bubbly and toast your favorite characters. Book your room today at the Bayfront Marin House and book a great trip to St. Augustine—no matter what the weather!Book Now