Sunday, April 9, 2017

Vacation | Our 30A Recommendations

For spring break this year we headed south to Florida.  I've been hearing about how wonderful the 30A region is for some time now and we were excited to check it out.  Well, I was excited and my family was skeptical.  Charlie always wants to head to a city where he can watch some major sports team (preferably basketball) play and Andrew prefers historically significant sights or the action of a big city.  Jimmy wasn't sure how I would handle the long car ride - I can be a bit of a wimp when it comes to road trips.   However, we were all pleasantly surprised how much fun we had on all accounts.

Let's start with the drive...  It's a 10.5 hour drive so we broke it up into 2 days.  On the way down we stopped at the Hermitage in Nashville (on a whim, we didn't have this stop planned) and toured Andrew Jackson's home (historical sight for Andrew, check).  We all really enjoyed the tour and the chance to stretch our legs, walking the  surrounding grounds.  We drove a bit further and stayed in Mountain Brook, AL for the night.  Thanks to all the generous recommendations from Instagram followers, it was the perfect stopping point.  We went to Vulcan Park and explored the little downtown areas of Homewood and Mountain Brook the next morning, before finishing up a rather short drive to Watercolor, FL.

Again, thanks to so many wonderful suggestions from readers and friends we had a long list of places to eat and explore.  We had a glorious week of perfect weather, which I hear can be a gamble in March.  The water was amazing and even made a beach lover out of Andrew.  It is prettier in person than in photos and so much warmer to swim in than the dark Atlantic of the Northeast.  We stayed in Watercolor which was perfect for our family.  The resort was sprawling and meticulously kept.  Pastel houses and gas lights as far as the eye can see.  We could bike everywhere and were only a few minutes from all the restaurants and shops in Seaside.  The resort has a number of pools, the only crowded one was at the Beach Club, the others we pretty much had to ourselves.  There is also a lake for kayaking and YOLO boards and plenty of recreation space for soccer and basketball.  We visited a few other areas while there just to get a feel of the different towns.  And while I am by no means an expert after one visit here, I did want to share a list of places we loved for anyone who is considering planning their own trip...

Places to Stay:
Watercolor Inn and Resort
Seacrest (we had friends staying there - it was beautiful and so close to Rosemary)
Watersound (has a new England feel in the architecture)
Rosemary Beach (so charming and more shops than Seaside)
Alys Beach (especially if going on a girls trip or a couples trip - it's the prettiest of all the towns and feels the most upscale!)

Places to Eat:
Shrimp Shack (Seaside) Eat on the beach! Peel and eat shrimp and the BEST lemonade. We ate there twice.
George's (Alys Beach) for a nice dinner.  I'm still dreaming about their coleslaw with the shaved brussel sprouts - so, so good
Bud and Ally's (Seaside) Eat outside to watch a pretty sunset.  Crab cakes were amazing.  It's definitely a tourist spot, but what there isn't?
The Great Southern Cafe (Seaside) Breakfast, lunch and dinner all looked excellent!
La Crema (Rosemary) Tapas and chocolate, enough said
Pizza Bar (Seaside) Pizza and salads
Cowgirl Kitchen (Seaside on 30A)
Charlie's Doughnuts (Alys Beach)
The food trucks in Seaside are all pretty good, from BBQ to Smoothies, oh and the Taco Bar too

Didn't go but it was recommended a number of times, Goatfeathers Fish Shop (there are two that we saw.  Next time I will because eating out every afternoon and night was particularity pricey there, more so than Nantucket which surprised us)

Skip: The Hub Restaurants, The Wine Bar (Watercolor), unless just for drinks and nibbles, the dinner was so so.

We only went to Watercolor and it was lovely.  Not sure there is a beach there that isn't.  Best times to be on the beach, before 10:00 and after 4:00, but we were there all day.  :)

The highlight of our trip was an afternoon where we chartered a boat and explored some very remote little islands and the bay area.  It's a bit of drive, just under an hour, to Panama City.  We spotted so many dolphins that swam right along side out boat.  We found starfish (and put them back!  don't worry!) and sand dollars and learned about all sorts of marine life.  It was a magical adventure.  Osprey Charters with Captain Greg.  Link here.  He is an amazing guide and will customize the trip for your family.  He can take up to 12 on his boat. Highly recommend!!

All of us really loved the area.  Anyplace with turquoise water and white sand beaches, plenty of fresh seafood and more time spent on bikes than in our car is a winning combination for us.  There is definitely a heavy high school spring break scene happening, especially in Seaside, but it's mellow since there aren't bars or nightclubs, and most, I believe, are with adults, maybe? ;)

On the drive back we stopped overnight in Nashville at the Opryland Hotel (a favorite of our boys) and spent the next day there visiting a few fun spots like the 12 South area and the Parthenon replica (Andrew! He loves his Greek and Roman history!).

It was such a good trip, with so many fun memories made.  We all came back relaxed and refreshed and ready to wrap this school year up and welcome summer. The older the boys get, the more fun traveling is and now that I know I can actually enjoy a road trip (biggest surprise of all on this vacation), it opens up so many more possibilities for us.  Holiday road here we come!!!

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