Pat Croce is the former owner of the Philadelphia 76ers. He's a motivational speaker, author, TV analyst, collector and more. He's passionate about a lot of stuff, including St. Augustine. That's why he's putting millions of dollars into first class attractions in the nations oldest city.
Just across from the fort sits the Colonial Quarter. Its a spot rich in history and full of personality, much of that coming from characters like Nathaniel Grimm, who also serve as a tour guide.
"We do interactive stuff for our guests," Grimm told us. "Like blacksmithing and gunsmithing. We actually fire a musket right there for our guests and let them participate in the tour through the property."
Grimm and the others here will have you learning and laughing your way through the Colonial Quarter. Not only is the tour fun, it's accurate. History majors and the University of Florida make sure everything they show and everything you see is just how it was.
"Our whole goal is to make history accessible and make it accessible to not just people who love history, but to every body. Our audience is ages 8 to 80. They've all got to be able to absorb the material and immerse themselves in our colonial history."
Creating something this accurate and A-list take a lot of money. Millions of dollars. Pat Croce told us he had no problem providing the funding because he has a bigger vision for St. Augustine. That's the same reason he invested in the attraction next door to the Colonial Quarter, the St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum. It's a place that's equally awesome, accurate and interactive. Plus, it comes with its own cast of characters.
Capt. Mayhem, one of the pirate tour guides, took us all around.
"You can fire cannons from the gun deck, you can tie knots on the main deck, sniff cargo boxes and guess what the cargo might have been. You can then go into our tavern and touch the big pirate book, it's an interactive screen. It tells you the twelve most notorious pirates of the golden age of piracy."
This museum holds the largest private collection of pirate artifacts in the world, Pat Croce's collection. 825 artifacts including a book said to have been read by Black Beard himself. Plus a very sought after flag.
Mayhem told us, "It's one of only two authentic pirate flags in the world. This one is 164 years old. That is a real pirate flag you can see in the museum."
You can learn quite a bit plundering through the treasures at the museum. We did! For example, walking the plank, there's no such thing!
"Believe it or not, it was started by Hollywood 75 years ago and now everybody thinks that pirates are made to walk the plank." Mayhem said. "It was never a thing for pirates. It was too easy."
In addition to these two attractions, Croce has also helped bring the Bull & Crown Pub, Taberna and the Spanish Mercado to St Augustine. And he's not anywhere close to finished. He has his his sights set on developing several other spots around town.