Why You Should Visit the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park This Spring

Spring is the perfect time to visit St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States. Why? Between March and May, the daytime temperatures sit comfortably in the 70s and 80s and the Florida humidity levels are hardly a bother. And, there are fewer crowds which also means lower hotel and airfare rates, less time standing in lines, and more time doing what you want. 

To take advantage of this springtime bliss, we suggest you plan a day trip to the one-of-a-kind St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. This famous park is located on Anastasia Island in close proximity to several other must-see St. Augustine landmarks, such as the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum and, of course, the beach. Opened in 1893, the park is one of the oldest continuously running attractions in the state of Florida, yet it’s constantly keeping guests entertained with exciting developments and creative new exhibits. 

Alligators and Crocodiles

If you want to get up close and personal with massive, scaly alligators and crocodiles, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park does not disappoint. Tiptoe across the boardwalk as dozens of reptiles swim just feet below you in the Alligator Swamp. Visit the Oasis of the Nile exhibit to experience an Egyptian-themed habitat with other-worldly “Gaboon Vipers,” and several spectacular Nile gators. Or get an up-close look at Maximo, a stunning 1,250 pound saltwater crocodile which can be seen via an underwater viewing area. 

Birds, Bullfrogs, Boas – Oh my!

There are over 800 alligators and dozens of different species represented at the park, but there is a wide variety of other wildlife to see as well. The park is home to monkeys, lizards, snakes, owls, turtles, and more. The Python Cave houses an enormous 21-foot python that is worth seeing with your own eyes. The Rookery is the place to find a rainbow of native birds from herons and parrots to hornbills and storks. Spring is birding season, which is just another reason to check out this signature landmark before summer. During the earlier part of the year, the trees are full of birds, happily chirping and cooing, and it’s likely you’ll spot a nest with a baby hatchling or two.

Exhibits and Adventures

Guests don’t have to travel far for a host of hands-on learning opportunities, interactive exhibits, and wildlife shows for all ages. The “Rainforest Review” showcases the personable parrots and introduces guests to other rainforest residents like the expressive Madagascar lemur. There are various chances throughout the day to touch and feed the alligators and learn more about their diet, habitat, and history. At the “Scales and Tails” Reptile Show, you can even hold a snake! 

Before you call it a day, you’ll want to experience the Zip Line, a speeding adventure through the zoo and over the live exhibits. Those feeling adventurous can take a leap and also try the “Python Challenge,” a 40-foot free fall with a reassuringly soft landing. Don’t wait until summer to visit the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park – adventure is calling!

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St. Augustine, Florida: The History Behind the Name

Did you know that St. Augustine, Florida was officially established by a Spanish admiral, Don Pedro Menéndez on August 28, 1565? 

Or did you realize that this beautiful oceanside city has changed hands four times in its history, never taken by force, most notably handed over to the British in 1742?

You may not have known these facts as you walked the old streets of St. Augustine, passing by museums, land markers, and other historical sites that preserve this important history. It would take years to fully grasp the historical timeline of the city, but we think you’ll be fascinated by learning just a little before your next big trip to St. Augustine.

The Arrival of the Spanish

In the early 1500s, there were many failed attempts by the Spanish to colonize Florida. When neighboring rival, France, successfully established Fort Caroline in present-day Jacksonville, King Phillip II was outraged and commissioned Don Pedro Menéndez to expel the French. 

On August 28, 1565, Menéndez and his Spanish fleet sighted land in Florida. The day of the sighting was also the Feast Day of St. Augustine, a religious holiday to celebrate and honor the patron saint. So, they named the place St. Augustine. 

As planned, the Spanish quickly laid claim to the land and effectively eliminated the French from the area. Matanzas Inlet, which translates to “slaughter” in Spanish,” was named after the massacre of French on the inlet that still holds this name to this day. 

For 200 years, the Spanish developed the St. Augustine area as a trading port and military outpost. In the 1670s, they constructed the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest standing fort in the United States. In 1763, the Spanish ceded Florida to the British and thus marked the first official change of control for the coastal city.  

Who was St. Augustine?

St. Augustine was born in 354 in present-day Algeria. As a young boy, he struggled with morality and the weighty prospect of living up to Christian ideals, so he experimented with other religions and atheism. He was an intelligent scholar and eventually moved to Milan to continue his teaching. In Milan, he had a divine encounter with God, feeling profoundly moved to seek redemption and pursue a life of Christian study. 

St. Augustine believed that a true philosopher must be a “lover of wisdom” and he exemplified that belief by writing a wealth of books, letters, and other written works. He had well-defined beliefs regarding freedom, knowledge, and the role of grace and salvation in Christian thought. One of his most popular works, “Confessions,” is written in the format of a dialogue with God and attempts to make sense of his own uncertainties and doubts about God. 

St. Augustine is a controversial figure in the church to this day. Yet despite the caution of some, the Feast of St. Augustine is still recognized widely to this day and his work has greatly influenced doctrine and theology in the church. 

History Lives On

Just from touching on the founding history of St. Augustine, we have identified several major people, settlements, and moments in time that define the city of St. Augustine, Florida. Many of these significant sites can still be visited today, such as the Castillo de San Marcos. We hope your curiosity will lead you to discover more stories and to visit St. Augustine to experience them for yourself!   

#visitstaugustine #historylovers #historicalplace #explore