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Fountain of Youth: St. Augustine, Florida

The Fountain of Youth, St. Augustine, Florida is a legend of long standing. It is said that if you drink its waters, you will be young forever.   (I'd settle for just not getting any older.)

Anyway, a lot of people don't know that there is a real Fountain of Youth. Yep, it really does exist.

And you can find it in St. Augustine, Florida

Blast from the Past

St. Augustine, Florida is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the United States. Everywhere you look, you see a piece of history. From the Bridge of Lions, to the City Gates, to Castillo de san Marco, the past exists right along with the present.

The Fountain of Youth attraction doesn't have rides, and aside from the planetarium, no shows. What it does have is a peek inside what life was like almost 500 years ago.

Fountain of Youth, St. Augustine, FloridaNow I'll tell you straight out that I have a sentimental feeling towards the Fountain of Youth park -- my husband's granny worked there waaaaay back when, and she always spoke of her time there with fondness.

It doesn't mean you should drop all your plans and run off to visit the Fountain of Youth attraction. Read the rest of this page before you find yourself at the park entrance.

At the Entrance Gate

The first thing is to bring cash, as they do not accept credit cards for the Fountain of Youth park entrance fee. It's not too bad, $6 per adult, but there aren't any cash machines nearby.

Don't come hungry -- although you can drink sodas in the park, the only food is available just outside the park entrance. I have to admit, though -- with the no food policy the grounds sure are clean!

Use the restroom on the way in -- it, too, is just outside the entrance.

Now for the Good News

The park covers 15 acres, most of it tree-shaded. There are all kinds of neat things, like old cannons around the grounds. There are statues, fountains, and exhibits of all sorts.

I enjoyed the planetarium show. For one, it was nice and cool in there (oh boy, did I ever go on a hot day!) and two, I finally learned how mariners navigated to find their way to the New World. I'd say that the show was about 15-20 minutes long. Warning -- there are strobe lights that flash at one point, and the thunder sound effects are loud. It didn't bother me, but I figured you should know anyway.

There is a duck pond area with all manner of fowl. I got a big kick out of the emu who kept looking at us and opening its mouth, like it was begging for a treat. Could be that it was -- there are peanuts you can buy to feed the animals. Oh, and peacocks roam the grounds -- lots and lots of peacocks. And if you are feeding the birds anyway, how about slipping a few nuts to the local squirrels?

Ponce de Leon, Fountain of Youth, St. AUgustine, FloridaThere are plenty of benches in nice shady spots where you can sit and people-watch, if that's what you like to do.

Finding the Actual Fountain of Youth

Naturally, I wanted to see THE fountain. So I looked on the map. Hmmm, is that it by the pottery exhibit? No, guess not. Hey, maybe it's near the statue of "the man", Ponce de Leon himself? Not quite. So where the heck is the fountain?!?

Save yourself the aggravation -- the original Fountain of Youth is located in the Spring House exhibit.

In the Spring House, you will see some dioramas of Ponce de Leon meeting up with the Native Americans, seeing the spring which became known as the Fountain of Youth. And yes, they do offer water from the fountain that you can drink.

If you do take a sip of the fountain water, you might want to have a mint or something available afterwards. The water has some sulfur in it, although it's not overpowering.

Who Shouldn't Go

The Fountain of Youth is more like a museum than an attraction in some ways. It's full of history, but you do need to know what you are looking at to appreciate it. There are no rides and very little in the way of shows. It's not what you would call "high tech" at all.

If you don't like historical exhibits, this isn't the park for you; save yourself the admission fee.

Anything Else?

There is a tour (free) that I never managed to catch up with. I would have liked to know a little more of the history behind what I was looking at, to appreciate it more. When you go, I do recommend that you go on it.

Another exhibit I didn't manage to catch is the Discovery Globe. I wish I had, it sounds interesting: "In an amazing 8 minute presentation visitors are immersed in total darkness ad with the aid of an immense two story globe and black light, the journeys of the early explorers and other items of historical importance are mapped out."

Other points of interest:

  • The Salt Cellar: Displayed in the Spring House is an exact Pewter reproduction of a Salt Cellar which was discovered in 1904 by Dr. Louella Day MacConnell. The Salt Cellar is believed to have been a gift to Ponce de Leon from Columbus in commemoration of their 1493 voyage across the Atlantic together.

  • The Indian Village: Visitors to these grounds walk upon the same ground that was once occupied by the Ancient Indian Village of Seloy. Indian skeletons, fragments of pottery, and other artifacts showed Indian occupation of this site extended back to at least the year 1000 B.C.

  • Timucua Indian Exhibit: "First Encounters" details the collision of cultures when the first Europeans met the native Indians. Exhibits and artifacts trace the relationship of the Spanish Conquistadors and the Timucua as the adapt to each others customs and differences.

  • Indian Burial Ground: In 1934 while preparing to plant Orange trees a short distance from the spring, workmen uncovered human bones. The Smithsonian Institution was called to evaluate the site. This site was declared to be one of the most important archeological finds in the Southeast. These remains have since been re-buried with Christian and Indian ceremony.

If you can, try to go in the cooler parts of the year -- late September through maybe April.   Wear comfortable shoes as walking is the only mode of transportation.

And do feed the emu -- he's probably still hungry.

Time and Place

The park is open 9 AM to 5 PM every day except Christmas. Parking is free. The phone number is (904) 829-3168 or (800) 356-8222.

The park address is 11 Magnolia Avenue, which is off San Marco Avenue (one of the main roads). It's hard to miss the sign for where to turn -- it's very large.

The park is located in downtown St. Augustine.

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