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 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!

Love Rocky Goes to the Beach

I purchased a shirt for myself and Gavin pre-Christmas from Love Rocky, a friend I’ve made online that makes awesome screen printed clothes. Her Etsy store is here and her facebook page is here.

throwing sand

Gavin adores his shirt. It is soft, stretchy and is just the right attitude for my feisty little guy. He had such a blast playing on our beach that I’m not sure he realized that I was photographing him to send the photos back to my friend. Thankfully she loves the shots as much as I do and has shared them on her facebook page and across social media platforms.


We ended up spending 2 hours just hanging out. I shot photos (which I love) and Gavin dug in the sand, ran in circles and chased birds (which he loves). Right before we left, we caught the sunset. A perfect ending to a fantastic afternoon.


Checkout Love Rocky’s designs! She has clothes for kids and moms. And if you use the coupon code DESTINMOM at check out, you’ll get 20% off your order! (Seriously. I need to go shopping now.)

One more for the road!


Weekend at Portofino


Last weekend the husband and I took some time away from the kids, work, and every day life and headed west. We were a little overdue for time alone to reconnect and unwind, so we chose Portofino.



I’ve been a real estate appraiser for 11+ years and I cover Pensacola Beach to Panama City Beach. I’ve seen a lot of condos and homes along the beach and while I always admire the view, there have been few that I have wished to share with my family. Portofino is a five tower resort on the Far East end of Pensacola Beach. It abuts the Gulf Island National Park to the immediate east and is the last development before several miles of untouched white sandy beaches. The development itself is high end with pools, spas, tennis courts and a lifestyle center complete with Starbucks. It is gated and manned 24/7 and they ask for your card key every single time you enter the property.


We stayed in Tower 5 in unit 1001. This property is managed by Pointe South, a Southern Resorts company. The unit is fully tiled with area rugs throughout, granite countertops and enough bathrooms to give everyone privacy. It is well furnished and (to put my appraiser hat on) with minimal deferred maintenance. The couch and chairs were comfortable, the beds soft, the kitchen was fun to cook in and the views were awesome.





View from our Balcony

View from our Balcony

The tourist season throughout the Gulf Coast area is from Spring Break through Labor Day weekend. The golden time for locals is autumn as the beaches are more vacant but the weather is still warm enough to enjoy the fall season. The husband and I decided on a romantic getaway at the end of October. We’ve been together for 20 years and married for 15, so it seemed like an excellent reason to celebrate. Waking up two mornings to the sound of the Gulf and enjoying coffee while watching the sea was utterly delightful. IMG_4295

In addition, we also explored Pensacola Beach a little bit and visited Fort Pickens. The last time I visited there, I was a pre-teen. I didn’t remember much about the fort, but I did know that it would be a fun place to take photos. We went to the museum on property and to the original structures which date back to the early 1800’s. The history lesson available is pretty extensive. The fort was one of only four that was not occupied by Confederate troops during the Civil War. In addtion, it was used for military operations from 1834 through the end of WWII. It was turned over to the National Park service in the 70’s and has been open for visitation since then. Several of the original canons are still in place and it is easy to visualize their use. There were several dark tunnels to wander through and the architecture is intriguing.

Cameron at Fort Pickens

Cameron at Fort Pickens

The entire weekend was wonderfully relaxing and recharging. It was great to get away for a couple of days and to play tourist. We spend so much of the year in our everyday lives juggling work, kids, school, and life in general. Taking time to enjoy the beautiful beaches we live near was important. I know we live in paradise. It is great to confirm it from time to time.

Sunset from our balcony

Sunset from our balcony

What are your favorite places to visit to getaway?


Spring Break in Destin

It’s spring break in Destin. Well actually it’s been spring break for the past month, but my kids are actually out of school in addition to all of the families and kids visiting from out of state. I’m sure spring break in, say, Atlanta doesn’t have the same ring to it. We are a beach town and sometimes the population doubles just because it is Easter weekend and three colleges are out. It’s not a big deal usually. When families are visiting, I usually try to stay out of the way. I take the back roads since only the locals know them, and we don’t eat out during the peak times. This week is a little different. It is often in the 60’s to 70’s this time of year. This week, it is hovering near the 50’s with lows in the high 30’s. I’m sure it is summer weather if you are from Alaska, but here it is COLD. The beaches have been relatively empty. I’m enjoying it.