Playing tourist …when you aren’t one.


The Destin Bridge and east pass.

The Destin Bridge and east pass.

I got the opportunity to play tourist in my town with a group of fellow bloggers recently and I must admit, I had a blast. Catching up with old friends and making new ones never gets old to me. We stayed at the Emerald Grande overlooking HarborWalk Village, the Destin Harbor and the East Pass leading to the Gulf of Mexico. The entire Destin fishing fleet travels right by this area and if you are fortunate enough to be an early riser, you can watch them parade out each morning to gather the day’s catch.

Harborwalk

Harborwalk is home to restaurants, shopping, events and music. There is always something on the calendar of events most weekends and each Thursday during the summer is ended with a display of fireworks that I can sometimes see from my house. During the Mardi Gras months, there are parades and Christmas is beautifully lit the whole season.

Who wouldn't want to cook in this kitchen?

The Emerald Grande is a 13 floor condominium with two towers – East and West. The west tower has independently owned condominium units from 2-3 bedrooms with full kitchens, laundry machines in the unit and spacious living areas. The east tower has fractional ownership with some of the units on a rental program. Both towers have similar furnishings and access to the same amenities – pools, fitness center, spa, meeting rooms and garage parking.

Bowling in a fishbowl Bloggers Bowling!

 

The first evening we went to Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl and Grill. We sampled the menu and then donned our bowling shoes to try out the lanes. The sampler was delicious and the bowling truly was a blast.

The ambiance is awesome at Uncle Bucks! The decor is fantastic!

Seriously, how neat is this? You feel like you are under the sea!

Serene Day at the Beach    IMG_6266

The next day we rode the Emerald Grande water shuttle to the beach and enjoyed the cloudy, non-humid day for a couple hours before lunch. Although the sky was overcast, the water was warm and it was really an excellent time to be at the beach.

Fried Green Tomatoes = Bliss! Lunch at Lulu's!

For lunch we reconvened our group at Lulu’s. They are located at the foot of the Mid-Bay bridge next to Legendary Marina and just north of Destin Middle School. I had not had the chance to eat at Lulu’s before and I was REALLY missing out! We tried tuna dip & fried green tomatoes  for an appetizer and they were wonderful.

Fish Trax! Shrimp & Grits (Manna from heaven)

I was happy to notice that they also had FishTrax on their menu! Are you familiar with FishTrax yet? Its a service I have seen at one or two local restaurants that lets you stalk your meal. Find out who caught your fish, where it was processed and even who prepared your food. It’s the coolest trend I’ve seen in local eating. I didn’t get a fishtrax with my meal as I had ordered the shrimp & grits. It was utterly delightful and truly worth returning to eat again.

New baby dolphin! Gulfarium history

After lunch our group headed over to the Gulfarium. The Gulfarium is a fixture in our area and has been here since 1955! I honestly did not realize that until this most recent trip. I do remember going to the Gulfarium in early high school for my marine biology class and wishing fervently that I could speak dolphin. They have a new baby dolphin named Kaya and watching her swim with her mom was beautiful.

Sea lion waves! Walk like a sea lion

We watched the sea lion show and it was a hoot. The sea lions appeared to have more fun than the trainers.

Turtles Penguins

There was a great variety of wildlife at the Gulfarium to view – from turtles, penguins and sea lions to otters, sharks and rays. The animals appeared to be very well cared for and the staff was friendly and knowledgeable.

Ropes course at Sunset

After our fun at the Gulfarium, our last event was a fun Mom’s Night Out at Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone just across the street from the Gulfarium on Okaloosa Island. Its a new business that just opened this year and I’ve been eager to check them out. The ropes course is very visible from the road and looked like a worthy reason to return.

Arcade Dinner

We had dinner in the dining area and I noticed a birthday party going on in a room adjacent to ours. We had pizza and there was an excellent menu with lots of salad options as well. The arcade was large and something I know my boys would adore.

4D Movies! My viewing companions

In addition to the ropes course and dining area, there are several additional places to explore. Our first stop was the 4D movie experience. We saw the Dino Safari which looks similar to a recently released popular dinosaur movie. The seats moved, the movie was in 3D and there was a sensation of wind and movement throughout the movie. It was a really neat experience!

He looks grumpy! My firstborn would live here

Next up was exploring the rest of the area which included mini golf complete with moving skeletons, bumper cars, a trampoline jump, bumper boats, a lazer maze, and a mini roller coaster. My older son went to a birthday party the weekend after my adventure in the zone and he had a blast. I will definitely keep the Adventure Zone in mind for future birthdays and weekend family adventures.

I was fortunate enough to try out all these gems right under my nose thanks to MomDot and the fine folks at Brandcation. Thank you! I can’t wait to go back and take my family!

EmeraldCoasting! 


  
This weekend I am playing tourist in my hometown. Courtesy of the fine folks of MomDot Media, the Emerald Grande, Uncle Bucks Fishbowl, Lulus, the Gulfarium and Wild Willys Adventure Zone, I will finally experience all the fun stuff I hear about but never quite make the time to do. (Seriously, it takes having houseguests to get me on the beach during the summer.)

Stay tuned for fun updates on Twitter and Instgram via my account @Destin_Mom! Check out our adventures under the hashtag #emeraldcoasting and #finalDESTINation15

Pictured above are our beautiful beaches on a sunny summer day. 

Belly dancing in Destin


I have a beautiful and amazingly talented friend, Claire who is a belly dancer. She teaches, attends workshops and even planned part of her wedding around belly dancing. (Best wedding ever!) She is affiliated with Fat Chance Belly Dance which has studios all over the world. This is her in the middle of a dance:

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Considering the grace with which Claire dances, it can be a little intimidating to want to try belly dancing. However, when TheXperience posted that they were hosting a belly dancing class on the first Fridays of each month, I had to give it a try. I’ve already conquered the fear of working out, so why not this?

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I showed up in just yoga pants and a workout top. The studio let us borrow the jingly scarf to properly learn the moves. I totally bought my scarf to bring home and practice. Some moves needed additional work when I wasn’t ready to fall over.

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(My partner in belly dance, Susanna showing off her scarf.)

I had worked out with Karna that morning (hello 5am!), so I was a bit sore going in. I thought the class would be easy-peasy. Silly me! It was as much of a workout as my morning class, so my already sore oblique muscles were screaming. An hour long class and by the end, I had worked up a good sweat and a healthy respect for my hip swinging friend in Texas.
There were approximately 9 ladies there, including Michelle who you might remember from the kids yoga class. I expect there will be even more ladies in attendance at the next class. Hopefully with time, I can work up to Claire’s level of expertise.

Checking out TheXperience’s schedule, I am trying to figure out what I should try next. Any suggestions?

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Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this blog post and all opinions are my own.

Yoga for Kids


20130823-204728.jpgRiley practiced his relaxation pose.

Recently I won a giveaway on Okaloosa-Walton Macaroni Kid for a kids yoga class at Studio E in Destin. I love yoga and have been looking for ways to incorporate it into my routine and expose my boys to it. I was thrilled to bring them to a class.

Prior to attending the class, I messaged Studio E on Facebook to make sure that I could bring both kids and what items I needed to bring. They assured me that I could bring the kids and that we didn’t need to bring anything. Mats were provided and there was a water cooler in the studio.

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We got to the studio a little early and the boys were excited to check it out. I met Michelle and her son Cade. Riley was pleased to see someone his age. Michelle was very welcoming & friendly. She assured me at the beginning of the class that it was a kids class. As such, if the younger kids were more interested in exploring than in participating, it was ok. That really did set my mind at ease as I was sure Gavin was only good for maybe 5-10 minutes of yoga.

Michelle started the class off with breathing exercises including morning sun salutations. We transitioned to energetic breathing and learned the difference between the two. Then we tried out several poses that were new to me. One was similar to a warrior pose. We also did a few partner moves, which were awesome. I partnered up with Riley and Michelle partnered with her son Cade. By this time, Gavin was exploring and off in his own world.

Riley liked doing the moves together and one of his favorites was Lizard on a Rock.

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Many of the moves in class had animal names. We also did Rabbit and Turtle poses. After going through the series, Michelle read the story of the Tortoise & the Hare to the kids. When we reached a point in the story where one of our moves was mentioned, we paused the story to do the move.

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After reading the story, we laid back on our mats for Savasana. Michelle led a great guided relaxation that even chilled Gavin out. (I think he was afraid of falling asleep though since he skipped his nap today.) Afterwards, Riley didn’t want to get back up, he was so calm.

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After class, Gavin tried out the Surfset boards. If they had a class for kids on those, I bet he would be first in line!

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Would I go back? Absolutely. I may leave Gavin home for a bit until he is older and more interested in yoga. It was a great bonding experience with Riley and something I can see doing again.

Studio E offers more than just yoga classes for kids. They also offer Surfset, Pilates, Aerial fitness, SUP Pilates, belly dancing, and more. The fall schedule is going online soon, so check them out! You may even find me trying out a class or two!

Paddle boarding in Destin


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Gavin, my second born turns 4 on Monday. He is full of adventure and a zest for life that I admire and try to cultivate. He loves anything to do with water and really likes paddle boarding.

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We were fortunate today to be able to take out several Bote Boards courtesy of Tristan and his mom, Magda. It was such a treat to get out on the water with friends and family. My in-laws even went out with us!

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My in-laws went out on the Bote Breeze boards. They are so neat – inflatable boards that paddle like fiberglass boards. The Breeze actually deflates and fits into a backpack which you can carry with you anywhere.

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The rest of us went out on the Bote HD boards. If you haven’t been out paddle boarding before, I can’t recommend these boards enough. Heck, even if you have been paddling – try them. They track straight in the water, are super stable, and extremely versatile. I own a Bote Board, and while it is wonderful, it is not an HD.

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My board mate Lily agreed it was fun. It was her first time out on a board.

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Susanna & Abby took turns paddling.

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Coming back to the park, I ended up with Gavin and Tristan on my board. They were such a hoot. If they weren’t busy sticking their heads in the water to try to see fish, they were plotting when they would jump off the board next. I really enjoy seeing these two together.

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Once the adults got back to shore, the kids decided they wanted to go out. Tristan opted for a Breeze to paddle him and Gavin around.

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The girls decided on the Bote HD to try out on the water. My niece Natalie enjoyed paddling without a passenger while Lily and Abby learned steering and balance.

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It was a wonderful experience and if I ever have the chance, I’d go again in a heartbeat. Thank you Magda, Tristan and Bote Boards for Gavin’s birthday gift of time on the water!

*Disclaimer: I did not receive any compensation for this post and all opinions are my own.*

Destin Snorkel & Snuba


snuba summary

Destin Snorkel and Snuba was AWESOME. They took us out to the jettys where we could snorkel and check out the marine wildlife or if we wanted to – to Snuba dive. I can’t recommend this enough. If you have ever wanted to dive but were not sure about getting all the certifications and possibly going too far under water, then Snuba is for you. If you are just visiting the area and don’t have time to get dive certified, then Snuba is for you.

Basically you wear a weight belt to achieve zero buoyancy, a mask and a regulator that is hooked to a tank floating on a raft that you share with up to 3 other intrepid explorers. There is also a videographer that is shooting throughout your trip and offers a dvd for purchase after. I made sure to get the dvd as it had some great clips throughout our excursion. They also have a book on board showing the different types of marine life in the area to familiarize you with what you can see throughout your trip.

This was easily one of my favorite parts of Brandcation and I can’t wait to bring my family back to try it!

snuba group blog

Eating at Harborwalk


I ate a several places during my time at Brandcation 2013. Some of them I had prior experience with (well most of them really) while one or two were actually a new experience for me.

food summary

Crab Island Cantina – We ate here on Salsa Dancing night and they had a live band complete with dancers. The food at the Crab Island Cantina is great mexican food. I enjoyed the enchiladas verdes with a side of rice and beans. The ingredients are fresh and the queso dip is to die for. Be warned – a medium margarita is a large in most places!

La Famiglia Harborwalk – This restaurant is owned and run by a family from Rome. Their food is very good and the Steak Roberto is simply DEVINE. The tiramisu is stunning, but be advised they can and will run out nightly. This trip I had a mix of two different pastas (alfredo fettuccine and marina penne), a salad, and a lemon tilapia with a cheese cannoli for dessert. We had a very large group, so the menu was pre-decided. Everything was great and the staff was very attentive.

Harry T’s – The iconic lighthouse on the harbor is located at Harry T’s. With views overlooking the Gulf and Destin Harbor, this is the place to enjoy the sunset. The food is great and the staff is friendly and fast. I enjoyed the shrimp and cheese grits for lunch and they were amazing. The fare is American with lots of fresh fish available and many options for little ones. We ate here after going to the beach and fit right in with many of the beachgoers looking for a great bite to eat prior to heading back out to the water.

Grand Vista Grill – is located in Emerald Grande on the Grand Vista level (aka the pool deck). I enjoyed a grilled chicken salad with a honey mustard dressing on the side. The greens were crisp and the chicken was tender and juicy. This is a great place to eat after an afternoon swimming or exploring.

Starbucks – we are all familiar with the best place to get coffee on the harbor, right? They are located on the upper level and easternmost corner of Harborwalk which makes popping down for a quick egg sandwich and morning latte a no brainer. The oatmeal is very filling and tasty as are their egg sandwiches. They also have pastries if you prefer to indulge your sweet tooth. A unique feature of the Harborwalk Starbucks is their drive up lane in the parking area. Pull up, pop in, and you will be on your way coffee in hand, in no time!

Jim N Nicks Destin – if I told you that this was one of my favorite places to eat in Destin, it would not be a lie. They have stunning Bar-B-Que, amazing sides, and true southern sweet tea. (Seriously. If you don’t like your tea pucker up sweet, ask for it 1/2 sweet and 1/2 unsweet.) Jim N Nicks catered one of our functions during Brandcation and one of the owners, Dave came out to see us and say hello. We enjoyed pulled pork and pulled chicken BBQ, coleslaw, potato salad, icebox lemon pie and brownies. I was in heaven. Jim N Nicks is not located in the Harborwalk village but instead is a few miles east directly on Hwy 98. If you find yourself hungry at lunchtime on Tuesdays, stop in for Taco Tuesday and get the best lunch in the area. The BBQ pork tacos can’t be beat.

**Most expenses were taken care of due to our awesome sponsors and other expenses that weren’t covered, I covered myself. All thoughts, opinions, and thanks are my own**