History comes alive for student groups in  St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra, bringing the lessons from classrooms and textbooks into the everyday, making them truly enjoyable and educational. This year, student tours get an extra special treat when traveling to this region of the country. In celebration of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Florida by Juan Ponce de Leon, the St. John’s area and Florida’s Historic Coast will host a series of events that will run all year long.

Student tours visiting St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra will have the opportunity to take part in a wide range of cultural, historical, culinary, and artistic events and festivals. Through these celebrations, and the many other sites and sounds of Florida’s Historic Coast, student groups can discover a piece of American tradition and capture the spirit of Florida.

In April, the region is commemorating the official landing of Ponce de Leon on Florida’s shores on April 2, 1513, at the exact location where the ship marked its location before stepping onto the sandy beaches of what would soon become Florida. The navigational reading, 30°8´, which was noted in the ship log, will be marked with a historical plaque and a 15-foot statue of Ponce de Leon during re-enactment ceremonies on April 2 and 3. Student groups in St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra this April and May will have a wide variety of events and exhibits to witness, from the Picasso Art and Arena exhibit at the St. Augustine Visitor Center, to the living history experience at the all-new Colonial Quarter in downtown St. Augustine.

Lighthouse Maritime Festival

Lighthouse Maritime Festival

Florida has a storied maritime past, especially in St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra. Student tours can learn all about the nautical culture of Florida during the Lighthouse Maritime Festival, when the tower and the grounds around the historic Light Station open to the public for free all afternoon. Throughout the day, student groups can experience local musicians and entertainers, food, and maritime activities, as well as ship building and interpretive programs about the area’s Spanish nautical heritage.

For some musical entertainment, student tours can nab tickets to The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra’s salute Viva Florida 500 on April 20, with Spanish-style symphonic treasures including Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol, Gershwin’s Cuban Overture music from Carmen, West Side Story and more. The performance takes place in the Flagler College Auditorium.

While 2013 marks the 500th anniversary of Florida’s discovery, St. Augustine’s founding will also be acknowledged as events will continue to run to its 450th anniversary in 2015. As part of that celebration, the city will host an exhibit starting in April, called the Ancient City Mosaic Exhibition. This will feature 450 distinct mosaics created by Florida artists that will be on display at the visitor information center expo hall for student tour groups to peruse.

St. Augustine Romanza, running from May 10-20, is a celebration where over three dozen cultural organizations collaborated to produce over 60 shows and exhibits. Also in May, student groups might just be able to catch a glimpse of royalty as the region is graced by a visit from Spain’s King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia, who will dedicate the bells of the St. Augustine Cathedral Basilica.

It is true Florida has a rich cultural history, but student tours in St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra can also learn about the region’s natural landscape and unique wildlife. Starting in July and running through September, the Museum of Florida History created the Alligators: Dragons in Paradise exhibit. It combines facts and fantasy, exploring the fascinating world of alligators and their symbolic and sociological role in Florida history. Student groups can check out artifacts such as alligator bags, shoes and purses; cast reproductions of alligator and crocodile skulls; and a variety of other alligator souvenirs and memorabilia.

A major part of the state’s past actually dates back to before Ponce de Leon landed on Florida’s Historic Coast. Student groups can learn all about the indigenous tribes that occupied the area before European explorers arrived by visiting the New World in the Eyes of Explorers Exhibition, taking place at the St. Augustine Visitors Center Expo Hall from October 11, 2013 through January 4, 2014.

To end the year-long celebration, Florida’s Historic Coast will host a Maritime Heritage Festival from November 30 to December 8. The festival will include new and historical boats and vessels, educational components, food, music and other entertainment.

Florida’s Historic Coast offers student tours a wealth of educational attractions, exciting activities, and beautiful natural scenery. And this year’s celebrations only add to the appeal of this region. Student tour planners should certainly consider organizing a trip to this significant area of the country. St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra await.

For More Information

Educational student tours and field trip packages can be customized to fit specific needs and budgets, offering a safe, worry-free and fun student trip to St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and The Beaches.

For information and assistance with group itineraries, contact Evelyn Vazquez at 1-800-418-7529 or EVazquez@FloridasHistoricCoast.com, and visit online at FHCTourAndTravel.com to discover more about this enchanting destination.