I recently graduated from Leadership Bartow XVII, a 2 year developmental program that builds leadership skills, encourages volunteerism and educates the class on city, county and local government as well as our local tourism. I learned more than I could have ever imagined. Once a month we visited everything from horticulture nurseries, chemical plants, city facilities, government facilities, local farms, public schools, art museums, historical sites, local colleges, Our States Capitol in Tallahassee and last but not least, we visited The United States Capitol in Washington DC. This trip was incredible. All adults, no kiddos this time, which is rare for me.
I soaked it up and left inspired.
I had been to DC in the late 90s visiting a college friend and went back in 2012 to run the Marine Corps Marathon. This trip was different. I wasn’t in charge of the schedule or agenda. It was educational and fun and a gorgeous time of year, because the cherry blossoms peaked just as we arrived. This was definitely a highlight for me, as it was on my bucket list.They could not have been more beautiful.
We were non stop for 3 days. From Union Station to The White House, Lincoln Memorial, The Mall, Washington Monument, The US Capitol Building, Arlington National Cemetery, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, US Naval Academy, The District Wharf, a yacht cruise down the Potomac River and into Annapolis, Maryland for the best crab everything at Middleton’s.
We started out our spring break road trip with a quick stop by Devil’s Den. I’m not a huge fan of freezing cold spring water, but its been on my bucket list for a while now. It’s hard to believe we live so close to so many beautiful springs and there are several I haven’t been to. Devil’s Den did not disappoint. Although a tad too touristy for my taste, it was gorgeous. Family friendly and easy to find. We took our own gear (snorkel and water shoes), but they do have rentals. We opted not to get wet suits, but you can for a more enjoyable time. The divers carry rank, so if there are divers present, you are asked to move to the side and allow them to enter. This can cause a back up, but we were lucky and didn’t have to wait too long. Best advice is to arrive early.
After Devil’s Den, we headed northwest to Seaside. Seaside is an adorable Florida beach town on the Gulf of Mexico. “30A” offers miles of beautiful white sand beaches, adorable shops and yummy food. Food trucks are all the rage these days and Seaside has some fantastic ones. One of my favorites is Five Daughters Bakery, a super cute airstream serving the best made from scratch, organic donuts. I discovered them in Nashville & was excited when I found out I could have one in Florida! Raw & Juicy is another one we love. They have a small cafe and an airstream. They make the best organic, raw, vegan juices and smoothies. Even my kiddos enjoy them! On this trip, we ate lunch at a local Seaside fav, Bud & Ally’s (Coastal Living ranked it one of the top 10 Best Beach Bars), breakfast at The Great Southern Cafe, Dinner at Harbor Docks (Destin) and lunch at Chairing (Grayton), In addition to Seaside, Santa Rosa, Grayton and Destin span along 30A and offer lots of accommodations (hotels, beach homes, campgrounds, condos, etc) and a ton of restaurants and shops. Best advice when visiting these beaches: bring your bike!
Bikes are a must, because parking is limited and well, you’ll look better on a bike in Seaside.
After a wonderful visit to north Florida, we headed south to Boca Grande for Easter. Easter is one of my favorite times on the island. The crowds tend to get larger every year, which is the only downfall of being on the Island this time of year. There is always a huge easter egg hunt downtown that the kids LOVE. Volunteers throw out thousands of pieces of candy and the kiddos rush out to fill their baskets. The Sunrise Service on the south end of the island is always beautiful and heart filling. I especially love how each denomination on the island is represented at this service. We have some super fun Easter traditions on the island that my family cherishes. As times change and the kids grow older, I hope they continue to love it as much as I do.
My family loves to ski. We try to make it out west at least once a year to hit the slopes and escape the Florida heat. This year, we tried a new mountain. My friend E and her son invited my son and I to travel with them to Park City, Utah. She grew up in Salt Lake City, so Park City was where she learned to ski. We were lucky to travel with a Utah native who knew the super fun runs, downtown hot spots and yummy eateries. I always enjoy going to places I’ve never been, so this was a treat. We flew Delta non-stop to Salt Lake City. I loved the fact that the ski resort was only 25 miles from the airport. Typically, when skiing in Colorado, we have a 2-3 hour drive, so it was nice to get to our destination within a half hour.
We stayed at a friend’s condo, but there are so many accomodations to chose from. Park City Resort offers ski in, ski out and there are several rentable condos just steps from the lift. We purchased our lift tickets ahead of time and saved about $75. We rented our boots and skis from Jake’s Ski Rentals and they were great. Very helpful and steps away from the lift. For me, the first day on the slopes is always the hardest. Because I only ski once a year (and getting older), it takes a little while to get my legs working properly. Like riding a bike, you never really forget how to ski, but it’s nice to loosen up on a few green runs before heading down some blues. The views were breathtaking. The runs were fun and some were challenging. Luckily, mother natured dumped an enormous amount of snow a few days leading up the the trip. It snowed for the first 36 hours we were there, so conditions were phenomenal. After the snow stopped, the blue bird days that followed were perfect.
We made some great memories and laughed a lot. Traveling with friends is fun. Traveling to new places is fun!
We had dinner at Chimayo; a fabulous Mexican/Southwest restaurant on Main Street. I’m pretty sure we ordered at least 5 different items, all of which were wonderful. The house-made sangrias were superb! High West Distillery was also a neat bar/restaurant. They operate a full service distillery and restaurant in an old, rustic building. If you google Park City, High West is undoubtedly mentioned. E said the High West Maple Syrup was a must buy and she was right, it’s yum! No Name Bar had a cool vibe as well…a must-see if in town. Perfect view of the city at night from their roof-top bar. Lots of adorable stores, art galleries and boutiques downtown. We tried Five5eeds for breakfast one morning, but it got mixed reviews from the 4 of us. It was decent, but not a place I would try again.
On one of our ski days, we took the shuttle over to Deer Valley. This day was my FAVORITE. I loved the runs. The trees and winter backdrop were so beautiful. Lunch at The Stein Eriksen (a celebrity hot spot) was impressive where they served up the best grilled cheese and tomato soup I have ever had in my entire life. The boys enjoyed the buffet and had hundreds of items to chose from. Apres Ski was wonderful at the St Regis. A quick trolley ride up the mountain takes you to an amazing bar/restaurant with breathtaking views, great wine selections and delicious homemade hot chocolate.
On our last ski day, my son tried out the mountain coaster and zip line. He loved them both. After a week of skiing, the hot tub was a must each night. We made some great memories and laughed a lot. Traveling with friends is fun. Traveling to new places is fun! When it was time to head back to Florida, we headed back to Salt Lake and toured Temple Square. A beautiful area in the City rich with history. A great way to end the week. We headed back east exhausted, jet lagged and very grateful. Thank you, E & E for a super fun time!
There’s no better time for a Daytona post than the day after the Daytona 500. It was nice to see Austin Dillon in Victory Lane last night! I have been going to Daytona since I was a child and still visit quite often when NASCAR or a 1/2 marathon are involved. The City of Daytona is experiencing some major changes. Daytona International Speedway underwent a multi-million dollar renovation over the last couple of years. The surrounding area soon followed with One Daytona; an art, shopping and entertainment district. The Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott is now open and I was able to stay there during the 1/2 marathon on Feb 4th. Super nice and walking distance to the speedway, shopping, restaurants and the new Cobb Luxury Theaters. PF Changs (yes, a restaurant chain I do like) and Bass Pro were also nice additions. Free parking and wifi are added bonuses.
I’ve noticed a little change to the beaches as well. Although, it’s always hard to find a nice place to stay that isn’t in need of a total makeover, South Daytona/Daytona Beach Shores is trying to make a comeback. Up until recently, I wouldn’t given any hotel on the beach anything above a C+. I’ve been seeing some potential B- and that makes me happy. We’ve stayed at Coral Sands Oceanfront Resort, La Playa and a few I wouldn’t dare mention because they were so awful. Some restuarants on or near the beach I recommend are: The Chart House, Ronin Sushi Bar, Joe’s Crab Shack (on the pier), The Streamline Hotel (historic hotel and rooftop bar), Ocean Deck (very outdated beach bar and needs renovations, but still a tourist/local favorite. Also, Jake Owen shot part of his music video, Beachin’ there!). And, yes! you can still drive on the beach. The boardwalk/pier was revived when Joe’s Crab Shack was built several years ago. Much needed and so much nicer.
Most definitely some of the best times in my entire life were spent on those beaches and at that race track.
My friend MM introduced me to Daytona almost 20 years ago when we worked at Busch Gardens. She had connections with Anheuser Busch and we got to go to the Daytona 500 and Coke Zero 400 every year. We have endless stories and super special memories. The actual race offers the best people watching you will ever experience. We always got Fan Zone passes that would allow us access to the infield and pre race concert. I could write for hours about the craziness I experienced. Most definitely some of the best times in my entire life were spent on those beaches and at that race track.
In early February, I ran the Daytona Beach Half Marathon for the 2nd time (2016 & 2018). It’s always a tough race for me. I PRd the course this year, but no where near my best time. It must be the bridge us Floridians can never really prepare for. The course goes around the track, to the beach and back. The medals never disappoint. They’re always big and bold. They also give all finishers a beach towel. Packet pick up is a breeze and race morning is very well organized. As mentioned above, I stayed the at new Marriott in the One Daytona District, which was super convenient.
Daytona’s location on the east coast is ideal. An easy drive to St. Augustine, Jacksonville and even Orlando & Central Florida, making it a great stop on a road trip or even a long weekend or vacation destination.