Learn About a Soldier’s Life
Visiting one of the massive forts in Old San Juan is a must-do for a couple of hours while on vacation in Puerto Rico. But can you imagine what it was like to have lived in a fort? The National Park Service offers a number of different educational tours at the forts, and the Lantern Light Tour of a Spanish Soldier’s Life at Castillo San Cristobal offers some insight into life inside the fort. It is a 45-minute, guided, after-hours tour that tells you about life in the fort back in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
When we visit the forts today, we happily go to the forts to explore, enjoy the views of the city and ocean, and duck into the air-conditioned movie theater when we get too hot. As it turns out, a Soldier’s Life in the forts was not a happy tale.
The park ranger will explain why the forts where needed, how they were built, and the protections they provided. They’ll tell you about the soldiers who manned to forts, who these young soldiers were, how and why they arrived in San Juan, the uniforms they wore, the weapons they used, where they slept, what food they probably ate, health issues they encountered, and what they did for fun in their spare time. The ranger leads you through the fort, and explains the the purpose of different rooms and areas. It is really interesting, and the rangers are open for all questions about the fort and life back in the day.
We have been on this tour twice. The first time was at Fort San Cristobal (where they offer this tour on a regular schedule), and second time was at El Morro (where it is being offered as part of the special 100 Nights celebration). We have really enjoyed the free Park Service tours at the forts, and want to encourage more people to take advantage of these learning experiences.
The Park Service tours inside the forts are free. We’re always amazed at how few people attend the tours. Just sign up when you buy your ticket. There is a maximum of 30 people per tour.
On the third Sunday of every month, the Life Inside the Fortification tour is offered at El Morro. This is a living history demonstration of military drills and cannon firing. The costumed actors tell a little bit about the military part of a soldier’s life at the fort, and are available for questions and pictures.
The usual fort entrance fee ($5/person over 15 years old, free for 15 and under) is charged, but once it is purchased, it is good for a week of unlimited visits to both forts! These National Park Service tours are free with fort admission. Maximum of 30 people per tour. If you have a National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, you can use it in the forts, too!
Lantern Light Tour of a Spanish Soldier’s Life at Fort San Cristobal is offered on Tuesday at 6pm (in English), and on Saturday at 6pm (in Spanish).
Life Inside the Fortification tour is offered at El Morro is offered on the third Sunday of the month at 10:30am (in Spanish) and 2:30pm (in English).
They occasionally change the event schedule. Always check the San Juan National Historic Site web page for the current schedule.
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