I’m not sure where you are located, but the temps here in New York have dropped. It’s the perfect time of year to take a sunbreak, and last year I found just the place.
St. George Island, a 28-mile barrier island, sits four miles off the mainland, with the Apalachicola Bay on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. According to Dr. Stephen Leatherman’s (aka Dr. Beach’s) annual survey, the tiny island claims to be the sixth best beach in the world! I have to agree…it’s breathtaking. The nine miles of undeveloped shoreline features some of the best shelling. If the kids are lucky, during May and August, they might get a glimpse of a loggerhead sea turtle.
Besides the beaches, there’s great fishing, nature trails, canoeing, and kayaking in shallow Apalachicola Bay. Journeys offer some great kid-friendly adventures. For $40, you can hop on a boat to scout for dolphins and visit Little St. George for a hermit crab race. Snacks and drinks are included. Local rental agencies such as Resort Vacation Properties offer loads of private accommodations. For $5 (per person, per night) you and the family can also rough it and camp at Gap Point in the island’s state park. Watch out for the “cat faces” left over from when the pine trees were turpentined. Hope y’all get to visit!
Looking for an awesome surprise for your valentine? We can help! Just in time for Valentine’s Day (and Mardi Gras!), we’re teaming up with Zatarain’s to send one reader and his or her sweetheart on a romantic trip for two to New Orleans. One lucky winner and guest will score a two-night stay in the French Quarter at Omni Royal New Orleans, $1,000 coach airfare vouchers, a $250 gift card to one of Chef John Besh’s exclusive restaurants for a VIP dining experience in the Big Easy, and a Zatarain’s prize pack! To enter to win, post a comment below in the comments section from now until 11:59 EST on February 6. For full contest rules, click here. Make sure to visit Zatarain’s Facebook page or Twitter feed @MyZatarains. And Goody Luck!
No matter if you snapped an amazing photo of your little one dipping her toes in the ocean, playing at the park, or exploring the top of a mountain – we want to see your best shots from your last family trip!
The prize includes round-trip airfare and ground transportation in Jamaica, 7-days and 6-nights hotel accommodations of your choice, plus your pick of not one, but two exciting family tours (choose from fun options like river tours, tubing, horseback riding, and dune buggies).
Wait, there’s more! We’re giving away a $250 cash prize every week for 11 weeks to the reader whose photo gets the most reader votes in Parents’ Photo Faves gallery. After you enter, you’ll receive a URL that you can forward to family and friends via email and post on Facebook and Twitter to encourage people to vote for your kid’s pic!
So last week, before my mind was consumed with the right glasses for toddlers, I headed to La Playa Beach & Golf Resort in Naples, Florida, for a long weekend. I wasn’t able to get away with my husband, as our executive editor Chandra did last weekend, but I did bring my best friend Alexis, who celebrated an unnamed milestone birthday while we were there. Alexis hadn’t gone away for this long without her children since 2005, and we’ve both been going at breakneck speed for ages (just like all of you), so this trip was Kind Of A Big Deal for us.
La Playa is located right on the water; our gorgeous suite, 14 stories up, overlooked the Gulf of Mexico. Just looking at our view—that’s it in the photo—made me feel like I was hit with a tranquilizer dart (in a good way). The weather was unseasonably warm even for Florida, so it required no guts whatsoever to wade into the water. When we wanted a change of pace from the beach, we headed over to one of the resort’s four pools. (By the way, “four pools” might conjure up images of a giant, sprawling resort, but that’s not La Playa’s vibe at all. It’s spacious, but also small and intimate.)
I was struck by how many families with young children were there. That first afternoon, as I lay in the sun with a magazine, I overheard one little girl, right around 5, talking to her parents: “Okay, Mommy, I’m Ariel. And you’ll be a different mermaid—no, you’ll still be Mommy, but Daddy, you’re King Triton…” I had to laugh, knowing that’s exactly how it would’ve gone had I been there with my husband and two young daughters. One morning, I saw what had to have been a newborn snoozing away in a crib set up in the family’s poolside cabana. Another night, during an incredible meal at the resort’s oceanfront restaurant, Baleen (I had sauteed scallops with a lemongrass lobster sauce; Alexis had a roquefort-crusted filet), we watched a group of adorable little boys and girls playing tag on the grass as their families dined nearby. Afterward, we went up to our suite’s balcony to take in that tranquil view, and we could see the kids still running around, having a ball.
One of the highlights of our stay was our time at the spa. We each had a few treatments: Alexis enjoyed a massage and a Japanese soaking ritual, and I had a massage medley (I’d give you details but I was too relaxed to note anything) and an incredible pedicure. I even got to keep the bottle of polish for touchups, which is a perk I’ve never encountered anywhere else.
If our husbands hadn’t been home with the kids, they might have hit the golf course. La Playa has been consistently recognized as one of the top golf resorts in the country. Since it’s on the water, though, golfers need to head three miles inland to play, and staffers make this easy.
Actually, staffers make everything easy at La Playa. Everyone we encountered was incredibly friendly and accommodating (and if you’re wondering, almost none of them knew I was a reporter!). I’m already trying to figure out when I’ll be back.
Don’t you hate it when you’re ready for a vacay but your bank account isn’t? Well I found some travel deals that I think your wallet will warm up to at livingsocial.com. Originally started as a site for huge discounts on everything from restaurants to haircuts, it launched an “Escapes” section this week with 40 to 70 percent savings on weekend getaways and longer adventures. I’m eying the 50 percent off Vermont package. What vacation are you coveting?
In the last video postcard from Disney’s Baltic cruise, Sally Lee and her family take in Russia and Finland–and all the fun offered back on the boat. Check out the vid now or the previous installments by clicking here and here.
Is it time to return to caveman parenting?: Hunter-gatherers , the human way of life until the agricultural revolution about 8,000 years ago, were responsive caregivers, who didn’t let a baby cry it out. Moms breast-fed, probably for about five or six years. Cave kids had hours of unstructured free play, with children of all ages. [MSNBC]
Hey kids: tests help you learn: Tests aren’t just a way for teachers to torture their students, according to a new study that finds the brain encodes better mental hints during test-taking than during studying alone. [MSNBC]
Theme parks roll out Halloween thrills: This time of year, theme parks across the nation are transformed into Halloween hot spots. If you’re searching for a destination that has pulled out all the stops to give you a monstrously good time or an attraction that won’t give the littlest trick-or-treaters nightmares, scare up your favorite costume and check out these amusement parks for Halloween fun. [CNN]
10 best resort kids’ programs: More and more resorts are catering to children — though the quality of their kids’ programs still varies. [ABC News]
‘GMA’ gets answers: Newborn baby with pre-existing condition?: She’s heartbroken because she has endured what no mother should have to endure. While pregnant with twins, she lost one of them at 30 weeks. The other baby, Kinsleigh, was born with serious heart problems. But [the mother] is angry because her insurance company, Aetna, held up paying thousands of dollars in medical charges. [ABC News]