One of the surprise hits of our recent trip to St Augustine, Florida was our visit to the Lightner Museum. While there are several museums in St. Augustine, the Lightner Museum has the reputation of being one of the most beautiful museums in the area. We had heard it was beautiful, but we were unsure if it would be family friendly. Secret’s out: it is! (Just keep the toddler crew contained in a stroller when exploring the glass rooms).
The Lightner Museum is housed in the former Alcazar Hotel, which was commissioned by Henry Flagler, a prominent oil and railroad tycoon who is credited with designing and building much of St Augustine. The hotel was completed in 1888 by the same firm who designed the New York Public Library and was open until the early 1930s. The hotel included a three story ballroom, sulfur baths, and the largest indoor pool in the world (at the time). Many of the remains of these parts of the hotel can still be seen in the museum today.
In the mid 1940s, newspaper editor and publisher Otto Lightner, who collected artwork and furniture from around the world, purchased the Alcazar to house his 20,000+ piece collection. The museum, which opened in 1948, is well known for its Tiffany lamps and panels, porcelain and glass, geological specimens from around the world, and various musical instruments from the 1800s.
Playing “I Spy” at the Lightner Museum:
See if your child can find the following items in the museum:
- ROTA, an African lion presented to Winston Churchhill in 1943 as a war mascot.
- Dinosaur eggs and the five foot skin of a diamondback rattlesnake.
- A favorite chair in the 3rd floor collection (we liked the mid 1800 rocking chair).
- The early 1800s cradle (imagine rocking a baby to sleep in there today?!)
- A favorite desk that has hidden drawers (some of the desk features in the museum’s collection were used by princes)
- The shell, rock, and mineral collection on the first floor.
- A Nickelodeon, Violano-Virtuoso, and graphophone in the Victorian Music Room.
- A Lambert typewriter from 1897
- The War and Pieces sculpture featuring thousands of pieces of broken vintage porcelain.
- A favorite, original Tiffany stained glass panel in the Illuminate exhibit.
Bonus: Make sure to look down from the second floor to the space that was the Alcazar pool, the largest indoor pool in the world in the late 1880s. Visitors can actually walk onto the space, connected to the Cafe Alcazar.
Looking for other nearby fun in St. Augustine? Check out our posts featuring Alligator Farm, the Fountain of Youth, Castillo de San Marco National Monument, St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum, and our full City Guide to St. Augustine. And follow along on our adventures on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.
Disclosure: Our family was given a media pass by Florida’s Historic Coast to explore the museum; all opinions expressed are my own.