We had planned on leaving first thing Wednesday morning. On Monday, Josh’s parents car had broken down and they had to tow it to the shop to get fixed. Come Wednesday morning, it still wasn’t ready. We decided that meant we had time for one more early morning beach run. We got up, ate a quick breakfast, and rushed out the door. We had scouted out this awesome LOVE wall on Tuesday, so we headed there first for the obligatory self-timer family vacation photo.
After we got our shot, we went to the beach. We didn’t take pictures this time since we only had about an hour and we had already gotten oodles of beach pictures. We saw dolphins swimming near the shore, we splashed in the waves, Lia played in the sand, and we collected seashells. The kids had been itching to get their hands on some seashells and were disappointed to see that this stretch of beach (just like all the others) barely had any seashells. We were in luck though, because the tide was bringing them in. All we had to do was reach down and grab a handful of sand every time the wave came in. We ended up collecting a decent amount of shells.
After our last beach adventure, we headed back to the hotel and everyone took a quick shower/bath. Then we started packing and loading the car. This is usually a really fast task for us, but we also don’t usually stay in one place so long. It took FOREVER to get packed up! Luckily, Max and Ava were good helpers. We finally got everything done just in time for Josh’s parents car to be done! We loaded up and headed out. Before we left town, we stopped into Moe’s Southwest Grill for a quick lunch. It’s similar to Chipotle and the food was great!
We ate our lunch and then got on the road. We decided to take a different route home than the one we took to get to Destin (as we always do). For a couple of hours, we were stuck on small roads and it seemed to take forever to get out of town! We did finally manage to though. The kids were going a little crazy in the car, so I checked the Roadside America iPhone app and came across the USS Alabama Battleship located in Mobile, AL. We decided that seemed like a good idea. It was $2/car to get in the park, where you could walk around and look at tanks, military planes, and see the USS Alabama (although you had to stand behind a fence). You could pay to tour the ship, but the tours take 2-3 hours and we didn’t want stick around that long.
So we just walked around. The kids were SO grumpy, we didn’t stay long. I was going to get them some foam airplanes from the gift shop, but they were really misbehaving, so we just loaded back into the van and kept driving.
Somewhere along the line, I got REALLY tired of the kids melting down over and over again, so I hatched a brilliant plan of bribery and gummy worms. We stopped at a gas station and I picked up two bags of gummy worms. The kids REALLY wanted some gummy worms. So I set a timer on my phone for 10 minutes. And whoever behaved for that ten minutes with no meltdowns would get a gummy worm. It worked surprisingly well! We managed to squeeze out an entire hour’s worth of kids behaving from two bags of gummy worms. I’d say that’s a success!
At some point, we ran out of gummy worms and had to make a pit stop for some M&M’s. We drove until we got to Jackson, MS and decided to stop for the night. I used my Choice points to get our hotel for free. Score! We rolled up at 10 till 9 pm and found out that they had a pool but it was closing at 9. We rushed to check in and then ran to the pool. Josh, Ava, and I jumped in the pool (fully clothed). We couldn’t get Max or Lia to join in the fun. Lia really had to go potty and was yelling at me and Max didn’t want to get his clothes wet. Maybe next time.
We got up the next morning and ate a quick breakfast. We packed up our stuff, then had our jumping on the bed contest. No road trip is complete without a jumping on the bed contest! (Note: it works best when you have two bed!). After our contest, we loaded the car and headed North on I-55 toward Memphis. The kids were going stir crazy so we made a quick stop at Wal-Mart to restock on activity books and Papa bought them each a small toy. Those kept them occupied for a good hour or so. We stopped at a Cracker Barrel somewhere near Memphis for lunch. I had voted for Gus’s again, but got vetoed. Everybody wanted pancakes.
Turns out Cracker Barrel was a good idea. I ended up picking up TONS of activity books for our July road trip! They had a huge selection of inexpensive and different books. After lunch, we drove and we drove and we drove. We really wanted to get home that day, but it didn’t really seem realistic. We ended up stopping for the night in Springfield, MO. We hit up a park for some much needed physical activity/fun/rolling down hills before we headed to Josh’s aunt’s house to crash for the night.
We got up the next morning and made the short drive home! And then we unpacked. I think that sometimes takes longer than packing in the first place! Our car was destroyed and I really wanted to get it detailed, but then I remembered that we’re going on really long road trip in July, so I might as well wait!
Tuesday morning we got up and headed out early. We tossed the kids and the boogie boards into the car and drove off in search of a good beach spot. Now, you may be wondering why we kept going to different beach spots. There’s a lot of coast in Destin and we wanted to see as much as possible! And each little piece of the beach we visited was different.
We found a good spot and spent the morning boogie boarding and splashing in the waves. I’m telling you, we just belong at the beach. We made lunch plans to meet some friends, so we had to drag ourselves away from the beach to go eat. We met up at Another Broken Egg Cafe for pancakes, Cinnamon roll french toast, and eggs. The food was yummy and we are always thrilled to meet up with new (and old) friends! Thanks for the invite Nichole!
After we devoured our breakfast-for-lunch, we headed over to the Harbor Walk. We had been waffling for days about whether or not we should do a dolphin cruise. Most of the ones we had seen would have cost us close to $100 and we weren’t sure we would get that much enjoyment from it. When we headed out on Tuesday morning, we decided we just had to do one, so I started calling around until I found one that worked for us.
We ended up booking the dolphin cruise on the Sea Blaster. We got to the Harbor Walk a little early and got in line to get on the boat. Sidenote: I’m REALLY glad we did this. Because we were near the front of the line, we were able to snag seats in the front of the boat, which was THE BEST place to sit! So we got on the boat and I glanced over at the other dolphin cruise boat that was sitting three spaces over. In my mind, I thought, “oh, so that’s the difference between the $60 cruise and the $100 cruise… that boat has shade”. We were melting hot sitting at the dock loading. Once the boat got going though, it was great!
We took the 1 1/2 hour cruise and it was just perfect! The captain took us on a little tour of the Destin harbor and then we headed out to sea. Before we even got past the breakers, we found a dolphin family of five, including TWO babies!! We hung out for probably 10-15 minutes in that area watching the dolphins swimming around the boat. When the dolphins moved on, so did we. We went out just a ways past the breakers and saw quite a few more dolphins. The kids were beyond ecstatic and I was patting myself on the back for finding such a great dolphin cruise!
After we spent some time watching the dolphins, the captain drove the boat out into the wide open sea and let all the kids on board take a turn driving the boat! The kids thought this was just the most awesome thing ever! They had two guys on board that were in charge of drinks and they were hustling around almost the entire time keeping people’s beer, wine, water, & soda filled up. The service was excellent! They even had a couple of squirt guns that they randomly soaked people with. Overall, the experience was excellent and we would definitely do it again!
After our dolphin cruise finished up, Papa really wanted to let the kids ‘pan’ for gems. So we stopped in at the panning booth. (Sidenote: good thing I wasn’t paying! $26 for two bags filled with some “gems”, some “fossils”, and a whole lotta dirt! Yay for grandparents!) The kids did the panning thing and each scored a small bag of fossils and gems. Then we loaded up the minivan and headed to our friend Amy’s house for dinner and backyard fun. We spent the evening at her house, laughing and playing, and chatting. When it got to be way too late, we decided we had better head on back to the hotel. Josh was excited he got to play with Amy’s sweet Mamiya/Polaroid back combo (Josh’s note: I will own one of those cameras one day…so much fun!)
Note: last picture was taken/shared with my phone on Instagram. Feel free to follow me there…
Monday was a fabulous, fun-filled day! We started the morning off right with a dozen donuts from The Donut Hole. They were totally worth the calories, in case you’re wondering. We had planned on spending the morning at The Track, so we picked up our donuts and headed over there. It turns out they open at 10 am, not 9 am. So we camped out with our donuts and waited.
I had done my research, so I bought our ‘points’ online and saved 10%. We bought the 72 point package, which gave us just enough points to ride the smaller go kart track, the big wooden go kart track, the bumper boats, and one round of mini golf for the kids. Not bad for $60! The Track is AWESOME because the kids get to ride free if they are too little to ride by themselves (and all three of them were too little!). We made our $60 last about 2 hours. We almost melted from the heat during mini golf, but other than that, we had an absolute blast! We’ll definitely do it again!
We had 3 points leftover, so we got a few more so the kids could do the kiddie go karts. Lia was too little for the go karts, so she rode the airplanes instead. After our morning fun, we headed to the hotel to grab some lunch and rest. The kids weren’t too thrilled about resting, but I think it was good for them (and us)!
After an hour or so, we loaded everyone in the minivan and took off for the legendary Highway 30A. We drove and drove until we found the perfect spot to hit up the beach. We parked the car and the kids practically ran down to the water. We spent a couple hours building a sand castle and boogie boarding. The water is crystal clear and warm enough to play in, which makes for a pretty awesome day at the beach! There was a sandbar out off the shore, so we took turns taking the kids out there to catch the ‘big’ waves on their boogie boards.
Max and Ava were all about the boogie boarding, but Lia was a little leery. I knew she REALLY wanted to do it, because she kept carrying her board to the edge of the water and watching. But every time I asked her if she wanted to do it, she said no. I finally convinced her and we started off in the really shallow waves. Once she got the hang of it, she got brave and even went out to the sandbar a few times!
We stayed at the beach until we were all practically starving. The beach will do that to you. We knew we wanted to find some good pizza. I had done some searching and we finally decided on Bruno’s Pizza. Their website boasts ‘the best pizza on 30-A!’. I didn’t try any other pizza, but I have to say, I think they’re telling the truth! The pizza was SO good and so were the garlic knots!
After dinner, we headed back toward Destin on 30-A. We made a pit stop at the Grayton Beach State Park to do a little exploring. We walked along one of the dune trails, which led up into a really neat area with some really unique looking trees. We played around for a little bit and then decided to head on since it was getting dark and a storm was heading in. When we left, we made a beeline for the Blue Mountain Beach Creamery to get some tasty ice cream. We’d heard good things about this place and we scoped it out on our way to Bruno’s. The ice cream didn’t disappoint!
After we downed our dessert, we made the drive back to the hotel and crashed!
Josh’s Note: Last photo added because it somehow slipped through the cracks…I love my wife 🙂