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!

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**

Emerald Grande

emerald grande summary

The Emerald Grande

All the local know about it, have seen it and most have visited it. How many of you have actually stayed here?

As a local, I’ve visited people staying here and I even take fitness classes out on the Captain’s Deck. But the chance to stay onsite with a group of ladies who were not familiar with the area was a chance I could not pass up. I also had no idea the vast array of amenities available to the guests. From the concierge desk on the Grand Vista level, to the Grande Vista Grill onsite, pools, beach access, free wi-fi, and the spa – there is something for the whole family. The rooms have full kitchens if you prefer to dine in as well as all of the comforts of home (coffeemaker! shampoo!) The pool is spacious and when you stay onsite, they will check out towels poolside. There is even a shuttle that will take you to a semi-private beach complete with beach service. (Thanks Quentin!)

The Emerald Grande offers several packages to make your couples getaway, family vacation or honeymoon special. Once on-site if you need help deciding what to do next, Maria at the concierge desk can help! She has information on local restaurants, charter boats and movie theaters. (Maria is also a great friend of mine and she really does seem to know EVERYONE.)

The Emerald Grande is located right on Harborwalk Village and its amazing shops, restaurants and nightlife. Harborwalk Village even has a Kids Zone and is opening a Zip Line course and rock wall on 6/15. I can’t wait to try it out and fly across the length of Harborwalk in the blink of an eye.

Emerald Grande and Harborwalk are quite a gem in the Destin community and I am happy to visit them often.

**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**