Siesta Beach, Florida
On a recent trip to Longboat Key, Florida I just had to get over to Siesta Beach in Sarasota and see what Dr. Beach ranked the #2 in the USA. (Back in 2011 it was ranked the #1 Beach in the USA) .
The beach is complete with volleyball nets, a snack bar, grills, tables, beach rental services, bathrooms, and lifeguards. I can see the draw as it does have calm clear water and nice white sand. The stretch of sand from the parking lot to the beach is wide and hard packed and once you’re at the shoreline you see a line of umbrellas and chairs stretching each direction. The Gulf of Mexico’s warm, calm water makes it the perfect place for small children.
2016 Dr. Beach # 1 Beach
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, Oahu
I have to agree with Dr. Beach on this one. It’s one of the most beautiful beaches we’ve been to and, like so many beaches in Hawaii, holds a very special place in our hearts.
Hanauma Bay allows you to get up close and personal with the amazing sea creatures of Hawaii and the view from the beach to die for! There is something very special about being on the crescent-shaped coral sand beach!!
I love seeing The Dr. Beach Best Beach List come out every year and get excited seeing some of our favorites on it! Have you been to any on the list? What’s your favorite beach? Feel free to share it in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!!!
Visiting Longboat Key with Kids
A true Floridian at heart, this summer I wanted to get back to my roots and visit the Gulf Coast of Florida where I grew up. I chose Longboat Key for its charming, laid-back, quite vibe, beautiful white sand beaches and crystal clear water. It neighbors the popular and touristy Anna Maria Island, but offers a more upscale and low-key atmosphere. It’s close enough to things to do yet far enough to feel like you’re on a relaxing getaway. There is never a need to fight for space and you won’t find a single chain hotel on the entire island.
Visiting Longboat Key with kids is a great choice because most accommodations are condos. It’s nice to have your own space, a kitchen, and be right on the beach. We stayed in Whitney Beach and can’t wait to visit again!
After visiting beaches all over the US, including some of the best beaches in Hawaii, it’s easy to say that Longboat Key is still one of my favorites. What I love about it is that the water is fairly shallow even if you’re really far out and the waves are not too big. Every day we would see dolphins swim by us and we were even lucky enough to see a few manatees.
There is very little public beach assess so it’s not uncommon to have the beach all to yourself!
Things to Do on Longboat Key
- Lounge at the beach all day. Build a sandcastle. Collect shells. Take a long walk! You can easily spend days just lounging at the beach taking it all in!
- Search for sand dollars and conch shells. These are found mostly in the water and should only be looked at! The little critters inside the conch shell doesn’t like to be touched!
- Go shelling. Every day new shells wash up. You can find beautiful treasures up and down the beach.
- Find coquinas in the shore break. All you have to do is burry your feet a little! These little creatures get exposed with the crashing waves and it’s fun to watch them bury themselves back in the sand.
- Search for ghost crabs at night with flashlights. If you’re quiet the come out during the day, too.
- Watch dolphins and manatees in the wild. It’s not uncommon to see dolphins and manatees just offshore. You could be driving over the bridge and spot them or see them right from your window.
- Visit the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium.
- Hang an ENO at Beer Can Island. This is one of the most beautiful spots on the island. It’s at the north end and you can walk to it from the public parking area on North Shore Rd.
- Visit Joan M. Durante Community Park.
- Rent a boat and visit the local sandbars.
Things to Do NEAR Longboat Key
- Visit Anna Maria Island – ride the free trolley or visit a beach.
- Go shopping or have lunch at St. Armand’s Circle.
- Go to Bean Point - one of the best beaches in Florida.
- Eat at the Rod and Reel Pier.
- Visit Coquina Beach and Coquina Baywalk.
- Make your on concoction at The Donut Experiment, Anna Maria Island.
Cumberland Island, Georgia
Georgia’s largest barrier island, free from cars, where the horses roam free!
What is Cumberland Island?
Cumberland Island is a preserved barrier island on Georgia’s southern coast and one of the few places in the world where you can see wild horses roaming free. It feels like you step back in time as you take in the remote and undeveloped land, tour the ruins, and relax on the pristine beach. It’s a nature lovers dream. A photographers paradise. A history buffs classroom.
Cumberland Island has been on my list for some time. We’ve visited most of the major coastal cities between North Carolina and Florida, but had yet to make arrangements to visit Cumberland Island. In part, it was probably because it takes a little more planning than just going on a weekend trip exploring a city. To visit Cumberland Island you must made advanced reservations on a ferry (unless you’re lucky enough to know someone that can take you there by private boat or if you’re staying at the Greyfield Inn). The reservations can be made up to six months in advance and often fill up since the public access limit is only 300 people per day. I’m always hesitant to plan something that far in advance, but I’m so glad I did because it was a day we’ll never forget!
The Wild Horses at Cumberland Island
The main reason we wanted to visit was to see the wild horses on Cumberland Island roaming free. We were not disappointed! Within the first few minutes of our arrival we were shocked to a large group of horses, including a baby, grazing in the field near the crumbling ruins of a Carnegie mansion. We were in awe watching them do their thing as if nothing or nobody in the world existed!
Visiting Cumberland Island with Kids
Without a doubt this will probably be one of the most natural places you’ll ever visit! It’s a true blessing to be able to witness a place so untouched and unspoiled in todays day and age!
The Sand Dunes
Shame on me for not taking more photos of the dunes and beach, but hauling our stuff through the sand and over those dunes was quite a task! However, trust me when I say that you’ve probably never seen dunes like these before. The soft-sand path to the tranquil and deserted beachfront bring you over some of the tallest and most beautiful sand dunes we’ve ever seen!
*I packed a soft roller cooler to carry all of our drinks, lunch, towels, etc. and for the most part the ground was hard and it was manageable. When we got closer to the beach the sand got softer and it became more difficult. Next time we will all just carry a small backpack with our own stuff!
The hard-packed sand beach stretches on and on as far as you can see and is completely untouched by any development. You’ll walk over the dunes via a wooden boardwalk, but otherwise it’s completely natural! Here is where we truly relaxed. We spread a blanket down and the kids frolicked in the waves. They saw a dolphin close to shore and they had a blast looking and finding sand dollars! In the hustle and bustle of life it was so refreshing to just sit still and take it all in. It’s what life is all about folks!
Just when we thought we saw it all we were in awe yet again! As we were stepping out of the wide open space on the waterfront we entered an enchanted forest-like path though the campground and we were definitely not prepared for the beauty of the live oak and palmettos that surrounded us! As campers (camper campers, not tent campers) I must say that this is one of the most beautiful campgrounds I’ve ever seen.
Cumberland Island Campground has both developed and wilderness camping available. Visit their page for more info!
Things to Know
- The only way to get there is by ferry or private boat.
- You must take everything you need with you. Food, drinks, sunscreen, etc. There are no concessions.
- You must take all of your trash off of the island with you. There are no garbage cans.
- Make sure to wear comfortable shoes.
- Pack bug spray.
- Plan on walking the island or taking a guided van tour.
- Bikes are available to rent on a first come first serve basis.
- Pack a camera and make sure it’s charged!
It’s been way too long since I’ve posted. I’m sorry about that. 2015 went by way to fast and to be perfectly honest, I’m glad it’s over! I made it a goal to get refocused, reorganized and to live my life with greater intention in 2016! It is something that I struggled with last year and this year I’m going to make a more conscience effort to do better….to be better….so far I’m off to a great start!
These sweet girls are growing way too fast! They’re doing great at school, playing sports, and enjoying our family time, especially in our camper! It’s been more difficult than I imagined to balance everything, especially now that my oldest is in middle school, but we are setting goals and checking boxes!
Our travel plans for 2016 are all over the place, but in the next couple months we are going to San Diego, Newport Beach, Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Florida! I can’t wait to share those trips. I’m also working on a new blog which I’m super excited about! It is going to be about a lot more than travel, though that will still be a big part of it! Stay tuned!
Close Encounters with a few Cute Green Sea Turtles in Oahu
While we were visiting Oahu recently we had a close encounter with a few curious and fun green sea turtles. The kids loved seeing such amazing creatures in their natural habitat and it was a highlight of our trip!
Did You Know
- The Hawaiian word for sea turtle is Honu.
- A typical adult green turtle can weigh from 200-500 lbs.
- The lifespan for green sea turtles is around 60-70 years.
- All sea turtles are protected by federal and state law.
- You may NOT feed or harass sea turtles.
Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains and only minutes away from downtown Boone, North Carolina, Flintlock Campground has all of the camping amenities for a wonderful family stay. Whether you’re looking for tent camping near Boone, NC or plan on taking your RV, this place can accommodate you. A refreshing mountainside stream runs through the park and we had a wonderfully relaxing weekend sitting by the stream listening to the rushing water! The kids enjoyed getting in and wading in it and every so often a mischievous chipmunk would pop out seeing what we were up to! The park also has a volleyball net and playground!
Cell Service: Great
Public Rest Rooms: Clean
The Good: Everything was perfect. We had a hard time pulling ourselves away from this campground to explore all of the fun things to do in the area including Grandfather Mountain, Tweetsie Railroad, Linville Caverns, Blowing Rock, and Boone. We ventured a little farther away and rode the Virginia Creeper Trail, too!
The Bad: Nothing. This campground made our list of places to return to next year.
Things to Do near Flintlock Campground
Flintlock in only minutes from all of the action in Boone, NC. It has gem mining within walking distance and is just a short drive to many mountain attractions including Grandfather Mountain, Tweetsie Railroad, Linville Caverns, and Blowing Rock. If you’d like to take a day trip I’d suggest riding the Virginia Creeper Trial in Virginia!
171 Flintlock Campground Drive, NC Hwy 105
Boone, NC 28607
For info on camping rates visit their page here.
Disclosure: This campground has no idea who I am. I paid in full and had such a great experience I wanted to share it with my fabulous readers
Hiking Makapu’u Lighthouse
This trail is the second most popular of all hiking trails on Oahu following Diamond Head. It is an easy to moderate hike up a paved trail and when you reach the top be prepared to be blown away! The views are some of the most stunning and memorable you’ll probably see on the island. The views overlook the Makapu’u Lighthouse, Koko Head, the windward coast, and the neighboring islands of Molokai and Lanai. Below you’ll see the giant tide pools and if you’re lucky (like we were) a pod of majestic whales! If I could only hike once while in Oahu, this would be the one I’d pick!
Know Before You Go
- It tends to be dryer and warmer on this point of the island and there is virtually no shade.
- Arrive early to avoid crowds and a full parking lot.
- Bring water.
- Wear comfortable shoes, a hat, and sunglasses.
- Gates open at 7am.
- If you wish to start your hike earlier, you can park your car on the side of the road and walk in.
- The hike climbs approximately 500 feet up to a viewing platform.
- It takes about 30 minutes to reach the top. There are amazing views the whole way up and plenty of places to stop and take it all in!
- It’s free to park and free to hike!
There are some giant tide pools at the bottom of these sea cliffs and brave souls climb down and swim in them. While this may look fun and attractive, it is NOT recommended. It’s dangerous not only to make the climb down, but the ocean is unpredictable and strong waves tend to smash over the barrier reef onto the shelf area.
The Makapu’u Lighthouse is on the very southeastern most point of Oahu and sits 600 feet on top of a sea cliff. You can see three different sections of ocean from one point making a beautiful panoramic photo!
From Waikiki, it’s about a 45 minute drive. You hop on the H-1 South. It will turn into Hwy 72, but still part of the Kalanianaoli Hwy which follows the coast. You will follow H-1 past Koko Head, Sandy Beach, and up towards Makapu’u Point. Turn into the Kaiwi Scenic Shoreline area. In the area you’ll also find Sandy Beach, Hanauma Bay, and the Halona Blowhole.
Visiting Waikiki with kids is no doubt one of the most popular things to do while vacationing in Hawaii. Over spring break we had the opportunity to visit Hawaii and we needed to figure out where to stay. We wanted do this trip on a budget ( yes, that is totally possible) and I scored a great deal bidding on our airline tickets to Honolulu. We were hoping to find a great deal on our Oahu accommodations, too, so I started researching all of our options. We’ve stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village several times before, but for this trip we were hoping for a condo that had a full kitchen to help offset some of the cost. Eating out in Hawaii really adds up so this was a way to help us stay within our budget! We also knew that we wanted to be right near the beach, not a few block off. After looking at many condo rentals we decided on The Ilikai, as it checked off everything on our list: view, pool, location, a kitchen, and space (not to be confused with the Ilikai Marina. They are two different buildings)!
Comfortable Room for the Whole Family
We booked room was 1441 which offered some of the best ocean and sunset views in Waikiki Beach. It was about 650 sq. ft. and had a full kitchen (no dishwasher), one bathroom, and sleeping arrangements for 5. We would have preferred a bedroom, but the studio worked out fine for us. What really sold us on this room was the view! The spacious balcony was the perfect place to drink coffee in the morning and eat dinner at night! We loved watching the boats come into the marina as the sun was setting.
Did I mention the view! This is what we woke up to and went to sleep to! It’s where we ate all of our meals. It’s where we enjoyed a nice glass of wine watching to sailboats come and go. It felt like it was our home, not a hotel/condo.
Great Location for Exploring all of Oahu
The Ilikai has both privately owned condos which are rented out either personally or via property management companies and hotel rooms. The lobby looks like any hotel lobby with staff, a bell service, and a concierge. It is located on the far end of Waikiki directly between the Hilton Hawaiian Village and the Modern. This is our preferred location because we like being a little bit away from the hustle and bustle, but still within walking distance to all of it. It sits right on the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon with is a public lagoon on the widest stretch of beach in Waikiki. Our view was of the marina and Ala Moana Beach Park and the popular Magic Island. To get to the heart of Waikiki it’s about a 15-20 minute walk.
The pool at the Ilikai was a clean and spacious pool and we never had trouble getting a chair. You’re provide clean fresh pool towels when you check in, but you may not take them to the beach. There is not a pool bar/restaurant, but it does have clean bathrooms and showers.
The Big Debate Condo vs. Hotel
Since we’ve only stayed in hotels in Hawaii we wanted to give staying in a condo a chance! We found this to be the best value for our family and we’re so happy with our choice! When thinking of booking accommodations think about what type of traveler you are. Do you like to be pampered and taken care of the whole time? Would you mind doing dishes or laundry? Do you like room service? Do you mind cleaning up after yourself? Do your kids need amenities or kid clubs? Do you like to be left alone? Personally, the biggest con for me was the laundry. There is no washer and dryer in the unit, but there is a laundry room on each floor. Otherwise, the pros far outweighed the cons and the price, location, and quality of our stay were all well worth it!
- A Fully Equipped Kitchen! We saved a lot of money by cooking our own meals and keeping snacks on hand for when we were out and about.
- More space to spread out!
- Comfy beds and pillows.
- The balcony was perfect!
- The view was amazing! You would easily pay double or triple for that view in a hotel.
- No Towel Exchange or Laundry Room in the Unit (this was a big deal for me. We were only given 5 bath towels and 3 beach towels so we had to use the laundry room a lot.)
- No maid service. It’s a nice touch to come back to the room and have everything tidied up.
- No refilling of toiletries.
How We Booked
We booked our room via Waikiki Beach Rentals and had a seamless experience. There are mixed reviews on TripAdvisor on the site, but our experience was flawless. Everything is done online, we never actually talked to anyone regarding our stay, but the directions were easy to follow and we didn’t have any bumps along the way. There are no hidden fees and all rates are posted online. Another bonus about booking through them was their policy on late checkouts. If the unit is not occupied the following day you may check out as late as 8:00 PM TOTALLY FREE! We had a late flight home and we were fortunate to be able to utilize this perk. It really gave us an extra day in paradise!
Things to Do in Oahu
Oahu is the perfect place for a family vacation. Unlike other tropical islands, it’s gives families the option of doing city activities, water activities, hiking, and historical tours all within a few hours of each other. Some of our favorite things to do on the island:
- Pay respect to fallen soldiers at Pearl Harbor
- Visit Lanikai Beach
- Hike Diamond Head
- Hike Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail
- Go for a scenic drive
- Kayaking to the Mokes
- Eat delicious malasadas from Leonard’s Bakery
- Snorkel Hanauma Bay and/or Sharks Cove
- Attend a Luau
Disclaimer: Waikiki Beach Rentals has no idea who I am. I paid for this room in full and this is my honest review of our stay!
When we had the opportunity to visit Las Vegas with kids I learned that there is a lot more to the city that never sleeps than casinos and booze. In fact, we discovered that if you think outside the box it is in fact a fun place to have a wonderful family vacation.
Visit the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead
Both parents and kids will enjoy learning about the great engineering feat and marveling at the beauty of this concrete arch-gravity dam! It sits on the Arizona and Nevada border so it’s pretty cool being in two places at once, too!
Visit Hotel-Casinos During the Day
I say hotel casino, but you’ll really be visiting a bunch of fancy malls. Each hotel has it’s own ‘thing’ and there is shopping in each and every one of them. Make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes because you’ll do A LOT of walking through the mazes of hotel-casinos! Each hotel is so different and unique and after a while the kids may get a little tired of it so pick a few must-sees and see go from there!
Go Hiking at Red Rock Canyon
This is a hidden Las Vegas gem! It’s about 20 miles outside of the strip area and is the perfect place to unwind from the action. Pack a lunch and spend a few hours hiking and picnicking within the depths of these massive rocks!
Day Trip: Visit Zion National Park in Utah
Zion National Park is about 2.5 hours from Las Vegas which makes for a perfect day trip. The drive is so scenic and beautiful and a day hiking along the towering canyon walls, along the rushing Virgin River, and through the swirling red and white rock formations makes kids very happy!
Check out the beautiful Chihuly glass ceiling at the Bellagio (Free)
Kids marvel at the glass ceiling!!
Watch the Bellagio fountains at night
Every 30 minutes the Bellagio fountains dance and sing using a dramatic combination of water, music, and lights!
Eat at a Buffet
Vegas is know for it’s wonderful buffets. Most hotels have them to some degree or another – some pretty basic and some pretty amazing! Our favorite was at The M Resort, just off of the Vegas Strip, but well worth the drive! It’s called Studio B and was voted “Best Buffet in Las Vegas” for good reason…it’s enormous and the food is delicious! Did I mention the dessert bar? Wow!
Visit Container Park at Fremont Street
This is best done during the day as there are age restrictions at night.
I hope you enjoyed the list of fun things to do in Las Vegas with Kids! To see more pictures visit my facebook page!