Known as the oldest city in the United States, Saint Augustine Florida is a wonderful place to explore with your kids. With so much rich history, Castillo De San Marcos is one attraction that is a must-see. While each family will likely experience the fort in their own unique way, today we will share the top 10 things to do at Castillo De San Marcos with kids.
Walk (or Run) Through The Draw Bridges
What child or adult for that matter doesn’t like walking across a draw bridge? There are two draw bridges at the Castillo De San Marcos. After entering the second draw bridge you will see a large sliding door. This was the only way in and out of the Castillo. This is a perfect place to get in character with your child and take a step back in time!
Take A Self-Guided Tour Through the Fort
After passing through the two draw bridges it’s time to tour the remainder of the fort. You can do a self-guided tour of Castillo De San Marcos in one of two ways. The first way is to simply use the brochure that the National Parks offers. Using the brochure and reading the information in the rooms you will learn so much about Castillo De San Marcos.
For the full experience, and the best option I believe for families with older kids would be to use the National Park Service app. The app has a self-guided tour that provides information on every section of Castillo De San Marcos. The app guides are divided into the exterior exhibit, interior rooms, and interior wayside exhibits.
For younger children, the guides on the app might be helpful background information to present to your kids before arriving at the fort. Each stop presents the reader with a picture and a detailed description of what you are seeing.
See The Cannonball Room
One room you won’t want to miss when looking for things to do at Castillo De San Marcos with kids is the cannonball room. While it might be tricky for the adults in the group to make it through the small passageway, it is great fun for children to pass back and forth through the small opening in the wall. My only tips-bend way down and be sure no one is coming from the other side!
Become A Castillo De San Marcos Junior Ranger
One of our favorite parts of visiting National Park sites is participating in the junior ranger program. The junior ranger program is free. It provides a fantastic opportunity for your child to learn more about the park they are visiting.
How To Earn The Castillo De San Marcos Junior Ranger Badge
At Castillo De San Marcos they will have a ranger just inside the Sally Port gate (after crossing the 2 draw bridges). Once you find the ranger you just tell them that you are interested in participating in the junior ranger program. Depending on your age you will receive one of two booklets.
For younger children, they will have one sheet to complete. It is a very quick sheet where they learn about what the fort was built with, what the soldiers wore, and other interesting facts. Older children, on the other hand, will have some more work to complete. To achieve the basic level and be awarded a jr ranger pin they will need to complete 6 pages. To achieve the advanced level and receive a patch they will need to complete all the pages in the book with the exception of the coloring pages.
There are several benches located in the courtyard not far from where you picked up your junior ranger book. We chose one and this is where we completed the activities.
Once your child has completed the desired amount of activities you will bring the book back to the ranger. The ranger will check the answers and then present your child with a certificate. They will also participate in the Castillo De San Marcos junior ranger pledge. Once they complete the pledge they will receive the appropriate reward (whether it be the pin or patch).
Enjoy a ranger program
While the ranger programs were suspended while we were there, there are typically ranger programs available at the Castillo. When not Covid times ranger programs are offered year-round. A schedule is typically posted daily in the courtyard and at the entrance to the park. Ranger programs are an excellent way to learn additional information about the park you are visiting!
Ask A Ranger A Question
When looking for things to do at Castillo De San Marcos with kids you want to be sure to ask the ranger a question. This one might seem obvious, but a simple question about one of the pages in our child’s junior ranger book turned into a 15-minute demonstration by one of the park rangers on the day we visited.
We asked a question about firing the cannons and the ranger told us he would be happy to explain to us what each of the cannon tools was named and how they were used. Our junior ranger books were filled out wrong so we were glad we asked. We were also thankful we asked because we learned a lot of new information that we might not have otherwise gained.
View A Demonstration
While simply stepping into the fort will take you back in time, a demonstration will make your experience that much more relatable for your child. Typically occurring on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, people dressed in time period clothing will demonstrate historic weapons. It is best to check in with the ranger when you arrive to see what demonstrations are available.
Experience The View From The Top
By accessing the stairwell located inside the courtyard, you can go to the gun deck located at the top of Castillo De San Marcos. In the 1740s this gun deck held over 70 different cannons. You now get to explore similar cannons with your children.
You can also check out the four corners of the gun deck where you will find round towers where the soldiers could get a view of the approaching enemy or find protection from harsh weather.
After experiencing all the historical elements, your family can find a seat on the benches provided to sit and enjoy the beautiful views of Matanzas Bay. Our family enjoyed just sitting and listening to the ocean sounds as well as watching the boats pass by.
Frollic On The Lawn
While this might not be the first thing that people think of when looking things for things to do at Castillo De San Marcos with kids, but anyone with kids knows how fun a great green space is for kids. On the front lawn of the Castillo De San Marcos, there is a great lawn where kids can get out their wiggles before or after touring the fort.
You can also use this time to explore the moat of the Castillo. While moats typically have water in them, the moat at Castillo De San Marcos did not. The moat at Castillo De San Marcos was used by the Spanish as a corral for their animals.
Take A Stroll Through Historic Saint Augustine
While not specifically at the fort, I would be remiss not to mention visiting historic downtown Saint Austine when considering things to do at Castillo De San Marcos with kids. Just about a block away from the Castillo De San Marcos parking lot, there are many family-friendly attractions in downtown Saint Augustine.
Special tip: If you parked at the Castillo De San Marcos parking lot, keep your car parked there while you explore downtown. We made the mistake of moving our car and it was difficult finding somewhere to park downtown.
Saint Augustine Colonial Experience
Continue stepping back in time and studying history by visiting the Saint Augustine Colonial Experience. There are several activities to participate in. Whether you choose to see the musket demonstration or climb the watchtower to see the ships coming in, there is plenty to do to experience colonial Saint Augustine.
Pirate and Treasure Museum
If you have a little pirate lover in your family you don’t want to miss the Saint Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum. Although originally located in Key West, the Pirate and Treasure Museum now lies in the heart of Saint Augustine. With interactive exhibits and a treasure hunt for kids, this is a fun stop for everyone in the family.
Saint Augustine Hop On Hop Off Trolley Tours
Saint Augustine Hop on Hop Off Trolley Tour is a great way to see the many sites of the city with kids. It allows you to learn more about the city as you drive amongst the 22 stops. You also have the opportunity to get on or off the boat at any of the stops. This is a great advantage for families because children often cannot walk as far as adults can.
Saint Augustine Family-Friendly Hotels
With so much for your family to experience in Saint Augustine you want to be sure to find a family-friendly hotel to stay at. Here are some places to consider:
The Saint Augustine Beach House
As you can see by the picture above, this lovely establishment is located right on the shores of Saint Augustine Beach. With home-cooked breakfast included (what family doesn’t love that) and also pet friendly, the Saint Augustine Beach House might just be the accommodations you are looking for.
La Fiesta Ocean Inn & Suites
Also located right on the ocean, La Fiesta Ocean Inn and Suites is a great option for families. This hotel includes a pool, free continental breakfast, and direct access to the ocean. All rooms also contain microwaves and refrigerators which is always a great perk!
As you can see there are so many things to do at Castillo De San Marcos with kids. If you are looking for other national parks to visit with your kids be sure to check out our articles on Becoming A Badlands Junior Ranger and our Every Kid Outdoors article.
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