In the Owens-Thomas House, one of the great, historic homes in Savannah, a tour of the 1819 property begins in the slave quarters, perhaps the most interesting part of the household, because of the remnants of the “haint” blue wall and ceiling colorings, the largest example of such paint known to exist in the country.
When restorers were peeling away the many decades of construction and reconstruction to get to the base, they discovered the walls and ceiling of the rooms had originally been painted haint blue, a mix of indigo, lime and buttermilk.
This was an important discovery because the slaves, remembering their African history, knew that evil spirits, called hinques, could be kept away by barriers of water. So, they re-created such barriers using haint blue pigment, which the African slaves believed had the same spiritual qualities as basic water.
On St. Simons Island, about a 90 minute drive south of Savannah, try to find the First African Baptist Church, built in1869 by former slaves of the area’s plantations, and to this day attended by the descendants of slaves. One of the distinctive features of the small church are the windows, which are haint blue – the congregation is still trying to keep away the evil spirits
I was told, although I didn’t attend a service to confirm, that the congregation still speaks Gullah, a creole language that preserves African linguistic and cultural references.
Resort, Relaxation and a Midwestern Discovery
I was visiting St. Simons Island, staying at the beautiful and historic King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort, expecting a couple of days of purely leisure activity, i.e., doing nothing and eating well.
The resort was located on a quiet stretch of Atlantic beach. During mid-day, when the tide had ebbed, I could look out at the ocean and see sandbars in the shallow waters. In the evening, the sandbars disappeared and so did the beach, as the strong incoming tide arrived with waves crashing at the gates of the property.
Watching the tide was the most activity I wanted to experience – other than eating!
I had heard the resort had brought in a new executive chef, Jason Brumfiel, an American who had honed his craft in England, and was intent on shaking up the menu – mixing the Southern tradition of the hotel kitchen with more international creations. And quite frankly, he had me at my first lunch, a delectable crab-mac-cheese that was much more complicated than the simple name implies.
I thought I was going to be settled in at the King and Prince, eating and lounging away, but the hotel had arranged a trolley tour of the island – and there went my respite. For a place as small as St. Simons Island, only 12 miles long and three miles wide, it had a long and fascinating history from pre-Revolutionary War days right up through the World War II.
Part of it all was the King and Prince itself, which had started out in 1935 as a seaside dance club, but in 1941 with the addition of guest rooms became the King & Prince Hotel. The change came just in time for the onset of the World War II, and the U.S. Navy took over the property for war time training, coast watching and housing British experts in the new but arcane science of radar.
If I didn’t spend all my waking or comatose hours at the King and Prince during my three days there, it’s actually the resort’s fault because it arranged for me to take a tour of the island with a new company, Saint Simons Colonial Trolley Tours that had just bought its first vehicle.
The owners, a Midwesterner and his father-in-law, who was a transplanted local, decided running a trolley service would be a fun thing to do. On my day on the trolley, the Midwesterner, was just gearing up for the summer season, and was uncharacteristically bubbling over with enthusiasm.
There’s a lot to see on this tour – two hours worth of crisscrossing the island, but what caught my interest was post-Civil War emancipation, which continued to affect life and progress on the island.
At one time, 14 plantations (mostly growing cotton) covered the island and there are still slave quarter ruins or in one case, a slave quarter building that has been rehabbed for mercantile purposes, still standing in places on the island. The slaves working the plantations were treated as badly as elsewhere except for some noticeable benevolence. One plantation called Retreat had a slave hospital.
The hospital was conceived by Anna Matilda who married Thomas Butler King, the owner of Retreat Plantation. After the Civil War, the Retreat Plantation withered away, but the property remained in the King family until in 1926, when it was sold to the Sea Island Company. The majestic road to Retreat, lined with old oaks, can still be seen on the grounds of the Seal Island golf course. So, serenely beautiful is the line of oaks, couples often get married in the shade of the trees. I liked it so much I went to the local bicycle rental shop, got myself a cruiser with the big wide handlebars and rode my way back to the oaks so I could get a few pictures.
On St. Simons Island, you might find yourself on Neptune Road or at Neptune Park. The word Neptune had nothing to do with the Roman God, but was the name of a slave owned by the King family of Retreat Plantation. He was Neptune as a slave, but Neptune Small as a Freedman.
The reason he is so remembered on the island was because of his dedication. When the Civil War broke out, he accompanied Captain Lord King into service until the captain’s death at the Battle of Fredericksburg. He found the captain’s body on the battlefield and took it all the way back to Georgia for burial. Then he accompanied Lord King’s younger brother with his service in the war.
As a reward, the King family gave Small some property on their plantation where he built his home. In the following decade, after Small had passed away, a portion of that well-located and now valuable property was sold to the city of St. Simons where it was turned into the park that bears his name.
Now, here’s the part of St. Simons’ history that really caught my attention and made me give up the days when I should have been relaxing at the beach or the pool. First, I had wanted to trace the history of the former slaves, which was why I ended up at the First Baptist Church, but I also wanted to see the properties that were given to the former plantation slaves.
When General William Tecumseh Sherman led the Union army through Georgia on his famous March to the Sea, he issued Special Field Orders No. 15 to provide arable land to the black Freedmen (former slaves). This was sometimes known as the 40-acres-and-a-mule policy and it specifically allocated lands in the islands south of Charleston.
On St. Simons Island, Freedmen were given property and they and their families through the generations continued to live on those lands for more than 100 years. Then came the real estate boom at the start of 2000s and developers washed ashore on St. Simons offering bundles of cash to buy out those now valuable plots of land that had been in African-American families for decades and decades.
The pressure to sell must have been intense because many families put up signs on their front yards, saying, in effect, “stay away, we are not selling out.” They were saved when the real estate market collapsed in the Great Recession.
However, with the country’s economy stabilizing, it appears the developers have returned and I noticed some of those “keep away” signs are back up on front yards.
One odd effect of the real estate boom years is that if you travel through neighborhoods in the central island, you’ll see small, old homes bordering big, new homes. In the end, a kind of neighborhood integration resulted.
IF YOU GO:
Getting There: Like most tourists, I drove to St. Simons Island from Savannah, which can take 90 minutes on the Interstate, or a bit longer if you drive scenic coastal Route 17 and stop in Darien, which also boasts historic sites. www.cityofdarienga.com
Where To Stay: My wife and I stayed at the historic King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort, which sits on a quiet stretch of beach, not far from the little tourist town at St. Simons Pier. A new executive chef, Jason Brumfiel, has really livened up the menu. The property continues to renovate, with a new pool area. www.kingandprince.com
Things To Do: Two recommendations: take the Saint Simons Colonial Island Trolley Tour, which gave a great introduction to the island (www.saintsimonstrolley.com); and to get a little closer to things, rent a bike or kayak at Ocean Motion Surf Co. (www.stsimonkayaking.com).
As nature parades her fall colors, share the glory with your family. Here are ten spectacular places where the crisp air will invigorate every member of your crew:
1.Purity Spring Resort. East Madison, NH.
Check in to this family-owned getaway and enjoy apple picking, country fairs, and antique shopping in the picturesque White Mountains of New Hampshire. The kids will love racing through the Sherman Farms corn maze and exploring nearby hiking, mountain biking and sunset paddling on the Saco River; all with spectacular fall colors as your backdrop. Grab your cameras and visit nearby covered bridges and waterfalls. Contact: 800-373-3754: www.purityspring.com.
2.South Carolina Upcountry.
Choose from a wealth of scenic side trips off Highway 11, the 112- mile long Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway. Ride a zip line through the changing colors and picnic near Campbell’s Bridge, South Carolina’s only remaining covered bridge. Kayak at Paris Mountain State Park then stop for homemade fudge or visit local apple orchards. Don’t miss Devils Fork State Park for wildlife watching and to marvel at the half-dozen waterfalls that spill into Lake Jocassee. Contact: www.greenvillecvb.com; www.theupcountry.com; www.scenic11.com.
3. Oregon Orange.
Enjoy the changing hues as you and your family explore the 44-mile trail that winds through Oregon’s National Wild and Scenic Rogue River Canyon. The pathway, originally carved by miners, offers respite along the way in the form of five historic lodges that enable trekkers to explore by day and relax in comfort come nightfall. What’s more, your gear will be transported via river raft during the four-day, three-night outing, enabling hikers to catch a ride when weary and to enjoy the scenery with only a camera and binoculars to weigh down your packs. Contact: 1-800-336-1647; www.wildrogue.com
4. Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. Arkansas.
Visit Ozark country for purple, gold, orange and red fall colors set against stunning sandstone bluffs. Make time for horseback riding, a rock climbing challenge, hiking, archery, family games, elk viewing, and skeet shooting. The whole family will enjoy time in the petting zoo. Family cabins make for a cozy retreat at day’s end. Ask about discounts for four or more. Contact : 800-480-9635; www.horseshoecanyonranch.com.
5. Spectacular Sedona.
Marvel at the splendor of the season in Northern Arizona, savoring the rich, visual treat from a Pink Jeep, a helicopter or a hot air balloon. With the Red Rocks of Sedona providing their own rich hues, take advantage of world class hiking amidst shimmering aspen leaves, check out canyon petroglyphs and shop for local arts and crafts. Stay at the pet friendly Bell Rock Inn and enjoy studio accommodations where families can spread out, cook in and enjoy a warming fireplace on a cool Autumn evening. Contact: 877-444-8044 www.arizonatourismcenter.com.
6. Southern Utah.
Pile into the car for a Fall foliage road trip that includes brilliant color set against the backdrop of some of our country's most stunning national parks. Travel along Utah State Route 143, a recently designated Scenic Byway. Also known as the Patchwork Parkway, the path runs from Parowan through Brian Head to Panguitch and commemorates a time when pioneer travelers used handmade quilts as protection from the winter cold. The region includes Cedar Breaks National Monument, Zion and Bryce National Parks, as well as lava fields, historic and petroglyph sites. Take advantage of scenic overlooks and pull out to view aspen stands. Contact: 1 (800) 354-4849; www.ScenicSouthernUtah.com.
7. Leavenworth, WA. Celebrate Fall at the Washington State Autumn Leaf Festival tucked in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. The kids will enjoy a Main Street parade, clowns, a climbing wall and air trampolines. The town's longest running festival also features Bavarian brass bands and other musical entertainment for all ages. Contact: 509-548-5807; www.autumnleaffestival.com.
8. Canadian Color.
Visit New Brunswick for spectacular fall foliage and family fun. The Miramichi River region is home to the elusive Atlantic salmon and a popular haunt for fishing enthusiasts. Doaktown's Fall Frolic festival includes a lumberjack contest as well as home tours, quilt shows, and canoe runs. Stop by the Atlantic Salmon Museum and the historic Doak House to see how early settlers to the area lived. 1 (506) 365-1105; www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca; www.Doaktown.com.
9. Empire State Beauty.
See New York State's fabulous Fall foliage from aboard a unique vessel. Get comfortable on the Esperanza Rose, an elegant 65-foot wooden boat offering leaf peepers dinner and lunch cruises on the waters of Keuka Lake. Or consider viewing the colors while traveling through century -old canal locks and passing through historic towns aboard vintage water craft. Take part in the non-profit and education focused Sam Patch and Mary Jemison Cruises and you and the family will learn about the legendary Erie Canal and adjoining Genesee River, the development of which many consider to be an engineering wonder. Contact: 315-595-6618; www.esperanzaboat.com ; 585-662-5748; www.samandmary.org.
10. Rocky Mountain Wonderland.
Glimpse Colorado's golden aspen leaves by taking advantage of a Fall bike packages that includes rooms in Breckenridge, rental bikes and a free shuttle ride to the top of a mountain pass so you and the family can enjoy a downhill cruise and stunning Fall scenery. Or change saddle strategies and appreciate the beauty of Fall in the Rocky Mountains on horseback. Beaver Creek-based one and two hour trail rides or a three hour picnic ride will provide the family the chance to enjoy the crisp mountain air and time to wander through the splendid aspen stands. Contact: (888)906-6303;www.breckenridge.com; 1(970)845-7770 www.vailhorses.com/
When I’m traveling on my own or with family, I always learn something. That’s part of the thrill for me.
In an era where politics and history are playing an important role, why not fold the notion into your travel planning.
Here are a few places where you and your clan can learn about some of the people and events that shaped our nation.
Mount Rushmore, SD -
Tucked within the Black Hills of South Dakota, Mount Rushmore is among the more famous monuments in the country. The whole family will
enjoy seeing the faces of four of the most important presidents -George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln -ever to hold the office, carved into rock for the ages. Hiking, biking, wildlife and other tourist sites are nearby.
Contact: www. www.nps.gov/moru/; 1 (800) 732-5682.
Monticello, the mountaintop home of Thomas Jefferson is the only home in America on the elite World Heritage List of the United Nations. There are numerous tours available including one designed for children ages 6 to 11. The 30-minute tours feature hands-on opportunities and a glimpse of what life was like for the children who lived at Monticello in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
Contact: www.Monticello.org; 1(434) 984-9822.
In this historical city, known as the birthplace of democracy, the whole family can stand on the ground where the Liberty Bell first tolled and the Constitution and Declaration of Independence were signed. Visit Independence Hall, see the famous bell, George Washington’s chair, and check out the Betsy Ross house. Take in the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Constitution Center.
Contact: www.philadelphiausa.travel; (215)636-3300.
Stop by for the Peanut Festival and get to know the town made famous by former President Jimmy Carter. Visit his boyhood farm, shop for antiques and learn about his Nobel Prize winning programs. Ride the SAM shortline excursion train.
Contact: www.PlainsGeorgia.com; (229) 824-5373.
Hyannis, MA – With miles of beautiful beaches and bike paths to explore, visitors will enjoy this community known by many as home to the Kennedy family, a clan famous for decades of political involvement. The picturesque coastal haven served as the backdrop for the now famous images of President John F. Kennedy sailing the local waters with his young family. Contact: www.Hyannis.com; 1 (877) 492-6647.
Adding a culinary twist to your cultural exploration, can provide the whole family with a fulfilling experience. Here is a sampling of mouth-watering ideas to consider:
Learning about a food’s origin and the many ways it can be prepared, can turn a curious green vegetable into something of grand interest. Visit this northern California town to discover all things asparagus . The annual festival offers music, amusement rides for kids, Tyson the skateboarding bulldog, a full lineup of canine entertainers performing amazing dog tricks and of course recipes, competitions, tastings and talk about the vegetable of honor. Check web site for dates.
Contact: 209-644-3740; www.AsparagusFest.com.
New Orleans, LA.
The kids will learn about more than just local cuisine when the family ventures to this coastal city that continues to survive against the odds. Snack on tasty beignets for breakfast. Savor po’boys or gumbo for lunch. Stroll through the French Quarter or visit the Children’s Museum to restore your appetite for dinner. Then sample from the wealth of Cajun or creole-style seafood that will be served with a smile in this friendly southern city. The adventuresome in your group might opt for alligator on a stick. Enjoy the flavorful food with the sound of local jazz as your backdrop.
Teach the kids about super foods while sharing the amazing history of the Andes people. This country is home to grain-like and nutrient-rich quinoa and purple spuds, both considered sacred and said to have been cultivated for Incan royalty. The color in the anti-oxidant laden potatoes comes from the same enzyme that gives blueberries their healthy hue. Mix these Peruvian diet staples in to your menu when planning a trek on the Inca trail enroute to Machu Piccu.
Artichokes in Albuquerque, NM.
Some go straight for the heart. Others enjoy dipping the leaves in tasty sauces. Learn how to eat artichokes every which way at the Artichoke Cafe, a charming dining spot set in this southwestern city’s historic east downtown neighborhood. Gather additional local intel by visiting the National Hispanic Cultural Center as well as the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Taste the local New Mexican cuisine, combining native chiles, corn, beans and squash, at one of many restaurants you’ll find in Old Town, Albuquerque’s 300 year old city center.
Eat Local. Experience Global.
Large U.S. cities are often home to cultural enclaves where small, family owned restaurants dish up healthy servings of authentic favorites, combined with a bit of history from the homeland. When traveling to cities like New York, Chicago, San Francisco or Miami seek out dining options in Little Italy, Chinatown or Little Havana. There you can introduce the family to more than just a good meal.
Tennessee is within a day's drive of 65 percent of our nation's population. There, you'll find natural beauty, great music and vibrant communities ladled with a dose of Southern hospitality. Here are five places your family won't want to miss.
1 Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg.
This 800- square-mile wonderland offers a treasure trove of outdoor opportunity for family members of all ages. Heavily forested, it's well known for its plant and animal diversity, including a population of 1,500 black bears. Enjoy picnicking, hiking the nearly 800 miles of trails, horseback riding and fishing. Kids can earn a Junior Ranger badge and join one of the ranger-led programs designed for young people.
Contact: 865-436-1200; www.nps.gov/grsm
2 Graceland, Memphis.
Share a bit of music history with your kids by including Elvis Presley's home in your itinerary. You won't want to miss the trophy building where the King of Rock 'n' Roll stowed his massive collection of awards, records and flashy mementos. Consider donning a headset for an audio tour that includes commentary from Elvis himself as well as his wife, Priscilla.
Conclude the visit with a stop by the Meditation Garden where Elvis and other family members rest in peace.
Contact: 901-332-3322 or 1-800-238-2000; www.elvis.com
3Tennessee Aquarium, Chattanooga.
Make time for a stop at the world's largest freshwater aquarium. Scope out the 10-foot-long sharks, giant spider crabs, river otters and alligators. Within the aquarium's newest addition, Ocean Journey, you and your clan will learn about stealthy stingrays and colorful reef fish as the creatures glide through coral formations. You'll also experience a shark and ray touch pool and hundreds of free-flying butterflies. Ask about overnight programs that allow those 6 and older to "Sleep in the Deep."
Contact: 1-800-262-0695; www.tennesseeaquarium.com
Spend time in Music City USA, and young and old will swing to country music and discover its rich origins. Start at the Grand Ole Opry, where an 85th birthday celebration is under way. Learn about industry legends such as Loretta Lynn as well as more recent names the kids might recognize, including Tim McGraw and Carrie Underwood. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum further reveals how folk and gospel music and front-porch jamming evolved into the sounds we know today. You'll also see rhinestone costumes and tear-stained lyric sheets in this world's largest music museum.
Contact: Grand Ole Opry, 1-800-733-6779, www.opry.com; Country Music Hall of Fame, 615-416-2001; www.countrymusichalloffame.org
5 John Muir Trail, Cherokee National Forest at Reliance, Tenn.
Named for the famed naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club, the John Muir Trail stretches for 20.7 miles along the north side of the Hiwassee State Scenic River. Here, nature-loving families can explore a crowd-free portion of the state that's said to look much the same as it did in Muir's day. Take the trail in springtime to view wildflowers. Fishing, picnicking and rafting are also accessible via the trail.
These exhibits, tours and thrill rides will make for fun and adventure-filled family travel memories. Here are five to consider:
1.Indiana Jones Exhibit, Montreal, Canada.
The National Geographic Society and Canadian production company X3 have teamed up (with the cooperation of George Lucas) to create the 10,000 square foot, Indiana Jones Adventures in Archaeology interactive exhibit. Premiering now through September 18, 2011 at the Museum of Science in Montreal, kids of all ages will be mesmerized by the wealth of enchanting items that make up the expansive collection. See your favorite Indy film props and set designs made available by Lucas Films. Embark on an interactive tour that explores the compelling myths of the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant. Children will enjoy the interactive quest game that tests their skills while they move throughout the exhibition. Consider opting for the handheld multimedia guide that allows visitors to skip sections and spend more time where their interest is most intense.
2. The Ride. New York, NY.
Board the super-sized tour bus, which uses stadium-style seating facing the sidewalk, to provide participants with a wide angle view of the streetscape. During its first summer season, expect high-energy tour guides, street performers, and plenty of surprises. The 4.2 mile, 75 minute trip, which showcases the pulsing city from Times Square to Grand Central to Central Park, is part theatre, part comedic improv and part informational tour. The experience continues to evolve and on any given day may include jugglers performing on the sidewalk or a “businessman” who suddenly breaks into song and dance while standing on the street corner. The Ride departs from the Marriott Marquis at Times Square.
Contact: 866-299-9682; www.experiencetheride.com.
3. Disney’s California Adventure, Anaheim, California. Fans of Disney movie heroine Ariel will want to check out the Voyage of the Little Mermaid at Disney’s California Adventure theme park. Its opening in Paradise Pier was part of a five year, $1.1 billion expansion of this park that includes other new attractions and an evening program. The musical, underwater adventure begins when guests board a car resembling a large clam shell. The adventure is inspired by the major scenes and popular songs from the movie.
Contact: (714) 781-4400; http://disneyland.disney.go.com/
4. Alabama Adventure, Bessemer, Alabama.
This southern, family-friendly theme park features super-soaker BuzzSaw Falls. Cool off as you plunge five stories through a watery chute and finish with a splash that drenches riders and watchers. The theme park offered a prize to the consumer who came up with the best name for the new ride. The winner chose to remain anonymous and the prize, which includes full season pass privileges, has been donated to the local Ronald McDonald house. Ask about the park’s concert series and the Family Four pack savings.
Contact: 205-481-4750; www.AlabamaAdventure.com.
5. Holiday World, Santa Claus, Indiana.
Junior theme park goers were the focus of $5.2 million worth of new projects at this 100-acre Midwestern Park. Visit Splashland where body slides, shallow pools and other water play facilities will delight toddlers and young school age children. A sleigh ride, Rudolph’s Round-up, located in the park’s Christmas area, is custom designed for young children to ride with older park goers. Also: free Wi-Fi hot spots throughout the park.
Contact: 1-877-Go-Family; www.HolidayWorld.com.
Port Aransas, Texas Offers a Reasonably-Priced Beach Vacation during These Economic Times
Many families in Texas (and beyond) enjoy vacationing in Port Aransas, as the island on the southeast part of the state offers a truly economical trip for families of any size.
Historically, Port Aransas (referred to as “Port A” by Texans) has been one of the state’s top beach destinations. Not as far south as South Padre, Port Aransas is approximately 4 hours from Austin/ Central Texas so the distance is drive-able for most (which is appealing for many families). The island offers quite a few options for family accommodations. An ideal location to park your family for a visit is at Port Royal, situated out of town on Highway 361.
Located on the more secluded beach, the walk from condo to beach spot is a quick jaunt over the boardwalk (close enough for a quick bathroom trip while on the beach). Another option I highly recommend is Beachgate, which is located on the busy public access beach. Beachgate III, the most recently-renovated building on property, is the best bet. You have several options, depending on the size you need. You can reserve just one condo, which is 2 bedroom/2 bath, and can sleep up to 8 people (2 king beds, 2 futons and an air mattress). Also, you can reserve two condos on the same floor, which are adjoining, and you have 4 bedrooms/4 baths. This option is ideal for multiple families traveling together or a family reunion. There are 4 floors in Beachgate III (2 condos per floor).
You’ll find a lot of benefits to both locations for a family vacation. You can drive up, park your car, and not get back in until it’s time to leave (a huge plus for us families with young kids!). Both condo properties have fully stocked kitchens and plenty of space to entertain, including spacious dining areas and living rooms. I recommend bringing all your food and drinks and feeding your family in your condo. That way, you have plenty of food, snacks and drinks to take down to the beach with you, as well.
If you’re at Port Royal, it will be a 20-minute roundtrip to the grocery store in Port Aransas. When your troops get tired of the beach, you also have the option of swimming in the two Beachgate pools, which are great for young kids because they are fairly small and shallow. There are also hot tubs next to each pool. My kids enjoyed hanging out on the beach all day and finishing up the evening in the pool. At Port Royal, you’ll find this a perfect spot for off-season, also. We visited in February and, although we could not enjoy the beautiful palm-tree lined pool, we could certainly enjoy the three hot tubs alongside the pool area. Each one is large enough for a family to enjoy.
Highlights of Port Royal:
1. Quiet section of the beach and very peaceful during off-season.
2. Beautiful pool area with slides, hot tubs and poolside dining (in the summer). 3. Spacious and modern condo unit that could easily sleep a family of six. 4. DSL plug-in Internet access.
Highlights of Beachgate:
1. Easy access to the beach (no boardwalk or dangerous streets to cross with kids)
2. Large renovated condos with full kitchen, dining area, living area and 2 bedrooms with king bed in each. Each bedroom and living room has a flat-screen cable TV. 3. The property offers an array of different sizes and styles of accommodations, from large condos to small suites. 4. For those of us that work while on vacation, there’s high-speed wireless Internet in each condo.
A few important points to consider:
1. At Port Royal, each condo is individually owned. Therefore, you can’t be sure what type of unit you will end up with unless you’ve been there before and can request a certain unit. Some will be more modern and comfortable than others, depending on the furniture, furnishings and kitchen. They have 1, 2 & 3-bedroom condos.
2. If you like a busy beach, you’ll prefer Beachgate. If you like a more peaceful location on the beach, you’ll prefer Port Royal, which is at marker #68.
3. The exterior is less appealing than the interior at both (I’d always rather have a nicer interior than exterior, if I had to choose). But the condo we were given at Port Royal was beautiful and modern. Beachgate III is nicely renovated.
4. Don’t forget plenty of sunscreen, buckets and shovels for the beach. You’d rather not have to purchase these items onsite.
My top two suggestions on your family vacation to Port Aransas are: Fins Grill & Icehouse is a relaxed restaurant if you enjoy eating right on the water. The grill has laid-back options such as appetizers, seafood and burgers. You can ask for a table outside that puts you right on the back patio, overlooking the bay. From here, you can watch the boats come and go out of the marina.
During your stay, make sure and rent a golf cart dune buggy from Coastal Ed’s in town. Coastal Ed is a great guy and very helpful. Your kids will love riding the dune buggy on the beach and around town. Coastal Ed’s has open-air carts (versus others that will be more closed) and is gas-powered vs. battery-powered.
You’ll have a great day cruising the beach in your bright yellow ride!
Port Royal Ocean Resort
6317 State Hwy. 361,
Port Aransas, TX 78373
Beachgate CondoSuites & Resort
2000 On the Beach Dr., Port Aransas, TX 78373
Fins Grill & Icehouse
420 W. Cotter, Port Aransas, TX
Coastal Ed’s Coastal Cruisers & More
513 N. Alister St.,
Port Aransas, TX 78373 361-749-7001
Marika Flatt has been a freelance travel writer since 2002, writing for publications such as GoodHousekeeping.com, Austin Lifestyle magazine, Austin Woman magazine, ChickVacations.com and Plate & Vine. She lives with her husband and 3 children (who love to travel) in Austin, Texas.
Port Aransas, Texas Offers a Reasonably-Priced Beach Vacation during These Economic Times
Beachgate CondoSuites, the Ideal Location for Families
Many families in Texas (and beyond) enjoy vacationing in Port Aransas, as the island on the southeast part of the state offers a truly economical trip for families of any size. Historically, Port Aransas (called “Port A”) has been one of the state’s top beach destinations. Not as far south as South Padre, Port Aransas is approximately 4 hours from Austin so the distance is drive-able for most (which is appealing for many families).
The island offers quite a few options for family accommodations but an ideal location to park your family for a visit is at Beachgate CondoSuites. Located on the public access beach, the walk from front door to beach spot is just about 100 yards (close enough for a quick bathroom trip while on the beach).
You’ll find a lot of benefits to Beachgate for a family vacation. You can drive up, park your car, and not get back in until it’s time to leave (a huge plus for us families with young kids!). Beachgate condos have fully stocked kitchens and plenty of space to entertain.
I highly recommend Beachgate III, the most recently-renovated building on property. You have several options, depending on the size you need. You can reserve just one condo, which is 2 bedroom/2 bath, and can sleep up to 8 people (2 king beds, 2 futons and an air mattress). Also, you can reserve two condos on the same floor, which are adjoining, and you have 4 bedrooms/4 baths. This option is ideal for multiple families traveling together or a family reunion. There are 4 floors in Beachgate III (2 condos per floor).
The condos are very spacious, clean and the property tries to accommodate guest’s needs as much as possible. I recommend bringing all your food and drinks and feeding your family in your condo. That way, you have plenty of food, snacks and drinks to take down to the beach with you, as well.
When your troops get tired of the beach, you also have the option of swimming in the two Beachgate pools, which are great for young kids because they are fairly small and shallow. There are also hot tubs next to each pool. My kids enjoyed hanging out on the beach all day and finishing up the evening in the pool.
Highlights of Beachgate CondoSuites:
A few important points to consider:
Beachgate CondoSuites & Resort
2000 On the Beach Dr., Port Aransas, TX 78373
Phone: 361 749 5900
Take a break from work, school and routine. Add a healthy dose of sunshine or snow, or better yet, both, as a quick-fix remedy for those eager to explore. Here are eight great ways to recharge.
Road Trip. If you’d like to cover some country with your kids consider teaming up with the folks at Tracks & Trails. They create custom, self-drive RV vacation packages that take the guess work out of an adventure-
Whether expecting your first child or your fifth, those days and months before the new baby arrives can be hectic. So why not plan a relaxing and romantic getaway so that parents can greet the new family member with renewed vigor.
Here are five places to enjoy a Babymoon:
1. Baby Me.
Expectant parents who book the Baby Me package at one of 12 W Hotels, will be treated to a copy of Bump it Up, Amy Tara Koch's pregnancy style bible for the chic mommy-to-be. You’ll also garner a pair of Baby Mocs and a cotton Onesie for the new arrival. Craving a little something to snack on? Order delectable goodies from the “Womb Service” menu. Mom-to-be can also relax with a bump-friendly massage designed to relieve tired muscles and sluggish circulation. Contact: 888-625-4988; www.whotels.com.
2. Relax at Biscuit Hill.
Take time for yourselves in Texas Hill Country. Stay at this charming bed and breakfast nestled in a wooded hillside and overlooking a picturesque lake. Tuck your toes into microwaveable, herb-filled slippers designed to provide relief for the expectant mom’s aching feet. Enjoy fruit, chocolate, sparkling juices and a spa bath tote filled with soothing products to take home. Relax by the fireplace or the cozy outdoor sitting area. Contact: 888-998-9909; www.biscuithill.com/babymoons.htm
3. Little Palm Island Resort & Spa.
Off the Florida Keys. For the ultimate pre-baby holiday, get cozy in an oceanfront, thatched-roof bungalow within this luxurious, 5 ½ acre resort only accessible by seaplane or boat. Enjoy his and hers spa gifts and treatments. Then meet for an 80 minute couple’s massage. Relish in the television, telephone-free environment where the only sounds that may interrupt your rest are waves lapping outside the door or birds chirping overhead. Contact: 1(800)343-8567; http://www.littlepalmisland.com/LittlePalmIsland_BabymoonPackage.aspx
4. Canadian Seaside Getaway. Just 20 minutes from downtown Victoria, observe whales, seals and otters frolicking in the ocean from your perch at Amore By The Sea. Relish your stay within this award-winning bed and breakfast where elegant rooms, fine linens, jetted tubs, fireplaces and the quiet ambience combine with luxurious spa treatments, rich chocolates, and specialty lotions and soaps to relax and prepare parents-to-be for the arrival of their new baby. Contact: 1 (888) 828-4397; www.amorebythesea.com/index.html
5. Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa. Birmingham, AL.
While future Dad explores the Robert Trent Jones Trail and the inherent championship golf, Mom-to-be might indulge and relax within the resorts sprawling, 12,000 sq.ft. European Spa. The “Baby Love” massage will restore her energy enough to take in a night on the nearby town. Before heading for home, enjoy an afternoon by the pool, and doze to the rhythmic pulse of the signature waterfalls and fountains.1-888-236-242; www.marriott.com