My family is always looking for great day trips from the Tampa area. I recently had the opportunity to explore Sarasota, and I am so excited to share some of their amazing attractions with you. My drive from the north part of Tampa was only about 90 minutes, which I consider the perfect distance for a day trip. If you’d rather make a weekend of it and explore further, I have a great recommendation for accommodations!
St. Armands Circle
Fun fact – my family and I lived in Longboat Key when I was six years old. My school bus drove through St. Armands Circle every day, but at only six years old, I did not appreciate the draw of this great area. St. Armand’s is boasts luxury shopping and delicious restaurants, and hosts unique events throughout the year. When I visited in November, the 30th Annual St. Armands Art Festival was underway with large crowds, but an impressive 175 artists and craftsman displaying their work.
Do not miss St. Armands’ restaurants when you visit! We enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Tommy Bahama Restaurant (yes, that Tommy Bahama!), where we ate their World Famous Coconut Shrimp, Filet Mignon Flatbread, incredible Pina Colada Cake, and so much more! Want to enjoy a taste of Tommy Bahamas at home? Check out this recipe for their Happy “Huladays” Cocktail!
I loved our visit to The Ringling! Initially, I thought the museum was simply going to display the history of the Ringling Circus. It turns out that circus life is only the focus of the Circus Museum portion of The Ringling. While we did begin our tour by viewing scaled models depicting every detail of circus life in the fictional Howard Bros. Circus, then walking through artifacts from the circus life, The Ringling itself has so much more to offer. When I return with my family, we could very well spend all of our time viewing and experiencing the circus displays, but there is so much more to see!
The grounds are also home to Mable’s rose garden, John and Mable Ringling’s 56-room home Ca’ d’Zan on Sarasota Bay, and the impressive Museum of Art. Ca' d'Zan was the winter home of the Ringlings, one of America's richest couples. The opulence has to be seen to be believed, and there are various tours available to view different areas of the home.
I truly had no idea the Museum of Art had such an extensive collection. I was reminded of my visits to European art galleries with pieces ranging throughout history.
The location of The Ringling is itself a beautiful setting. I am eager to bring my family back to the grounds to leisurely walk along the paths among the banyan trees. For more information about The Ringling and ticket information, visit their website: https://www.ringling.org/.
Sarasota has an amazing selection of hotels and resorts to enjoy your stay. My top pick for an easy trip to explore the area is Lido Beach Resort. Their rooms are comfortable and clean efficiencies with kitchenettes, and the gulf-front location can simply not be beat. They have a beautiful quiet beach, lovely lush grounds, and one of the best brunches in the south according to Southern Living! We enjoyed their shuttle service to St. Armands just a few minutes away, and we weren’t far from The Ringling in Sarasota.
More Ideas for the Day
If you've attended one of our Tampa Housewives in the City Girls Night Out events, there is a great chance you have already met our Leading Lady, Wendy Carlston of Tampa Cruiseplanners - Travel Bum Vacations. You can always find her with the amazing, tropical table display while she's wearing her gorgeous smile! I am excited to share more of Wendy's story with you here today, and the next time you see her at one of our monthly networking socials, be sure to say hi!
If you'd like to contact Wendy directly to book your next land or sea vacation, you can reach her at:
Tell us about your business and how you became the successful business woman you are today.
As a full-time single parent I was looking for a business to start up that combined my passion with the ability to manage my own schedule around my child's needs. I love that I can work from virtually anywhere. There are a lot of hours involved but time flies when you are having fun and I absolutely love helping others plan their vacations.
Describe yourself in three words:
Energetic, outgoing, reliable
What do you consider your greatest professional achievement?
Being ranked #1 in my franchise of new startups in my first year of business
What are your professional goals for the next six months?
Expand my business by hiring new agents who possess the same love of travel as I do. I could use the help :)
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I've always wanted to be a professional race car driver..lol
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
As a single parent it's my biggest challenge. Each and every day I have to be aware of how much time I'm devoting to my work/life balance. It's a work in progress.
What websites do you visit every day?
Facebook, Google, my booking platform
What are your top three favorite people/places/things to do in Tampa Bay?
I love the Brunchy flatbread and frose at American Social, The Riverwalk and I'm crazy about the South Pinellas beach area (I'm a beach girl at heart).
What is your goal for retirement?
We never know what the future holds once we reach retirement. Let's just say that life is short, I live with no regrets and my bucket list will be checked off by then.
Do you have any advice for women who'd like to start their own company?
Find your passion and just go for it!!!
Springtime in my house brought many changes, and even more stress. We bought our first house, did major renovations, moved, and my oldest son switched schools. My husband works in the education field so spring is his busy season, so we were constantly scheduling and rescheduling our commitments, and we were both exhausted.
I was given the opportunity to attend a trip to explore Santa Rosa County for Housewives in the City, and I honestly had no idea what to really expect. I grew up in Florida and my family took yearly vacations around the state. We visited Daytona, Cocoa Beach, Ormond Beach, Palm Beach, the Keys, Sanibel Island, Cayo Costa (see a pattern here… we love the beach!), and many other destinations in Florida. However, I had never heard of Navarre Beach or Santa Rosa County. I’d heard of the amazing beaches along our Emerald Coast in the Panhandle, but the closest I ever came was a quick stop in Destin during college.
After the stress of the spring, I was secretly dreading the trip. I didn’t know anyone else who would be there, and I’d be leaving my family but bringing plenty of mom-guilt along with me. What I didn’t know was that Navarre Beach claims a status as the “Florida’s Most Relaxing Place,” and I’m here to tell you, it’s true. I spent two days reconnecting with nature and found myself completely relaxed and at peace.
Things to Do
Visitor Center and Butterfly House
Navarre’s Panhandle Butterfly House is exactly the type of quaint attraction that forces you to slow down and look around. I’ve visited a number of butterfly gardens at museums or other attractions, but I’ve never seen as many butterflies as I did in Navarre’s Butterfly House. Admission is by donation, and in addition to the butterfly garden, the building has an amazing collection of gorgeous butterflies that are preserved and labeled.
Adjacent to the Butterfly House is the visitor’s center, complete with a playground and splash pad for the little ones. This would be a great place to take the kiddos in Navarre!
Address: 8581 Navarre Pkwy; Navarre, FL
Sage Paddle Company
Upon arriving at this adorable, picture-perfect rental outpost along the main drag in Navarre, I was immediately welcomed by the most amazing family. Sage and her parents want nothing more than to help you have a fantastic time with as little stress as possible. Our group chose to start with renting scooters, and Sage kindly and patiently trained us all to drive the scooters (none of us had ever driven before)! We took a gorgeous ride down to the Gulf Islands National Seashore, and I’m confident that this was the most beautiful, pristine beach I have ever seen. White sands, green water, sea grass – it was just perfect!
Sage will go to any length to ensure you and your group have a fabulous experience no matter what you rent – paddleboards, bikes, scooters, kayaks, etc, so be sure to meet her and plan a fun time on the island!
P.S. If you are as energized and empowered by young entrepreneurs as I am, take the time to chat with her. She’s an impressive young woman, and so much fun too!
Address (Free pickup and delivery available): 8228 Gulf Blvd, Navarre, FL 32566
When was the last time you spent hours in nature, just enjoying your surroundings? Heard the sound of a bubbling creek and a gentle breeze passing through the tree tops? In our hustle and bustle, it’s all too easy to look at screens and overlook the beauty around us every day. Jack Sanborn, of Adventures Unlimited, set out over 40 years ago to give families a place to enjoy North Florida’s natural setting and have fun. His passion shines through as he explains that children are growing up without the essential time outdoors, and he hopes to give them a place to visit where they won’t even think about checking their phones.
Adventures Unlimited is situated in the northern part of Santa Rosa County, a quick 35 minute drive from Navarre Beach. They boast rustic but comfortable accommodations that allow you to enjoy their fleet of 250 canoes, 100 kayaks, 500 tubes and 10 stand-up paddle boards. We were treated to a taste of their Zip Line Tree Top tour. The guides were extremely knowledgeable, safety-conscious, and focused on our fun. Our tour was unfortunately cut short due to local storms (this is Florida, after all!), but we were able to start at their highest platform and make a couple runs to try it out. The views are breathtaking, and I highly recommend this experience! If you are feeling less adventurous, they also have river tubing, which is about as relaxing as it gets!
Address: 8974 Tomahawk Landing Rd., Milton, FL 32570
I am not much of a history buff, but our visit to Arcadia Mill proved that with the right artifacts and setting, history can come alive. This mill is set in a local neighborhood that has grown up around the mill property. The museum is modern and new, and I learned so much about the first and largest 19th century water-powered industrial complex in northwest Florida! This site is definitely worth a visit, and has an engaging area for children as well as a beautifully maintained boardwalk through the trees.
Address: 5709 Mill Pond Lane, Milton, Florida 32583
This 1,545 foot long Navarre pier is reported to be the longest pier in Florida! Plan a few hours to fish with the locals, or take a relaxing walk to watch the excitement as someone reels in a big catch! You can even see fish, turtles, and rays in the water from above. I saw a group of fisherman catch a few gorgeous mahi fish from the end of the pier.
Address: 8579 Gulf Blvd., Navarre Beach, FL 32566
Where to Eat
Windjammers on the Pier
It does not get better than dinner and a view. Our dinner at Windjammers was complete with a view of the Gulf of Mexico and a view of a cotton candy sunset. Having grown up and worked in beach restaurants, I came with low expectations of a restaurant adjacent to the pier, but I was pleasantly surprised by all of their offerings. Chef Johnny takes pride in sourcing local flavors in dishes such as gumbo, Mexican street corn, and fried shrimp. They even have live music to complete the relaxing vibe, not to mention ENORMOUS frozen drinks that are certainly big enough to share!
Address: 8579 Gulf Blvd, Navarre Beach, FL
Are you a sushi lover? Go to Slippery Mermaid! Do you shy away from raw fish, but love exploring new foods? Go to Slippery Mermaid! Do you have a sushi lover in your family but never let them indulge because you don’t care for it? Go to Slippery Mermaid!
I am not a fan of raw fish, and I don’t even really love seafood. I was thrilled to find a few offerings on the Slippery Mermaid’s menu that I could try, and they were simply amazing! I had a sushi roll with beef, and I am now on the hunt for something similar at home!
Address: 8779 Navarre Parkway, Navarre, Florida
Why I am Already Planning my Return to Navarre
I was treated to a fantastic weekend exploring so many attractions in Navarre Beach, Milton, and elsewhere in Santa Rosa County. I cannot wait to bring my own family back to enjoy everything with me! I expect to spend considerable time on the beach, but will bring them to all of the sites above to give us time to connect as a family and relax on vacation!
Meeting new friends as an adult can be a struggle. Other times, it’s like you’re meant to be! Mandy and I met on a media trip last year to Sawgrass, and we are bonding this year as she launches the new Ft. Lauderdale Housewives in the City! When she decided to join the HITC family, she decided it was a great time for her and I to get away together for a few days. It was like an HITC training intensive while also learning about some amazing places in Orlando.
We had a fabulous little work-cation (working while on vacation!) and I’m excited to share some of the fun we had.
The newly updated DoubleTree by Hilton Orlando provided everything we needed for our stay. We were able to tour their amazing new event space, spend time on their redesigned lawn and event area, dine in their restaurant, and relax by the pool. Since Mandy and I have kids, we made sure to tour the kids' areas to plan our return trip. From the arcade, play room, ping pong, bean bag toss, pools, and daily activities, this hotel is great for families!
Many time if you want to be close to major attractions in Orlando, you are faced with aging hotels that desperately need an update. The DoubleTree Orlando has an amazing leadership team that has really thought of guests’ experiences and want to make sure you are happy. We were impressed by the attentive staff and the thought and care that has gone into the updates to the property!
Being the official hotel of SeaWorld, this property also offers some great perks, including but not limited to Quick-Queue front-of-the-line access at SeaWorld, and complimentary transportation to SeaWorld, Aquatica, and Discovery Cove.
Given our close proximity to SeaWorld, we made sure to enjoy an afternoon there. We were treated to the Dine with Shamu buffet lunch that included a wealth of information from their trainers to explain the impressive efforts that SeaWorld offers its animals. Their orca show will be discontinued this year, but they shared information about their care of these animals. Animal experts at SeaWorld have helped more than 31,000 animals in need – ill, injured, orphaned and/or abandoned – for more than 50 years. More information can be found at SeaWorldCares.com.
Mandy and I also made sure to try out all of the adult rides! Neither of us get to experience theme parks without our kids, so it was a ton of fun to ride the roller coasters! MAKO is Orlando's tallest fastest, and longest roller coaster, and we even rode it twice! My other favorite coaster was the Manta, which puts you in the gliding position of a ray. It's an experience unlike any other!
Of course I can’t avoid Disney when in Orlando! We spent an amazing evening at Homecomin’ and I splurged on the fried chicken and donuts. What a delicious southern spin on chicken and waffles! Chef Art Smith highlights local ingredients and farm-to-table cuisine and it's all delicious!!
We also headed over to Amorette’s Patisserie to try their newest Millennial Pink drink, then did as bloggers do, and photographed it all over Disney Springs!
Discovery Cove is one park I have never visited. You may know the real reason behind this… I’m afraid of fish. Not in that cute “oh isn’t that funny” way, but heart pounding, “get me out of the water” fear. I was nervous I wouldn’t find much to enjoy in the park that boasts its own reef and all kinds of tropical fish, but I was so wrong! Our day at this all-inclusive theme park included floating through the lazy river, visiting tropical birds with the option to feed them, watching the dolphins, and I did enjoy watching the fish from above the reef. Mandy snorkeled and was amazed by the fish in the reef, but I decided to take her word for it. Discovery Cove was a welcome change from the bright blue waterparks that my boys love. We were able to enjoy time in the natural setting and experience many types of wildlife and fish that would not normally be visible all in one place.
Recharging Your Mom Batteries
I’m a huge proponent of self-care. This trip that allowed Mandy and I to catch up and chat about Housewives things was also a great chance for me to have some time away from being Mom. I have a fabulous husband who completes our parenting team, and he was so supportive in my quick getaway. I missed them all terribly, but it was so wonderful to come home after two days away and be fully charged! With Orlando being such a quick drive from Tampa, it was the perfect destination for this brief work-cation, and I can’t wait to bring my family along for my next visit!
When the Rose Gold trend took off at Disney World, I missed the boat. I see those rose gold Minnie ears all over the parks and have basic girl envy, but feel a little hip knowing I didn't get on board with the trend.
Well, friends, it's all over now. When on a quick girls' getaway with Mandy from Ft. Lauderdale Housewives, we stumbled upon the new millennial pink champagne (though actually not Champagne but sparkling wine) in Disney Springs. Offered at Amorette’s Patisserie, this pink dream is made of bubbly and has A HAT. Not just any hat, it has Minnie Ears made of chocolate. Dusted in millennial pink sparkle. This is what basic girls dream of, and I loved it!
Look at her, in all her millennial pink glory. The sparkle, the bubbles. Made with an exclusively Disney Fairy Tale Celebration Cuvee from Iron Horse Vineyards. How can you pass it up? And if you're like me, you will buy it, giggle with excitement when the cast member expertly mixes the wine with Chambord and Hibiscus, and snap photos until you can't resist tasting it!
The next time you're in Orlando, own your love of all things pink, and head over to Disney Springs for the Millennial Pink Celebration Toast, and take all the pictures, giggle excitedly, and just own it!
My family and I recently had the opportunity to stay at the new Marriott dual-branded Residence Inn and SpringHill Suites on Clearwater Beach and LOVED our experience! We spent one night in the Residence Inn side of the property and my boys are already asking to return.
The brand-new property opened in the summer of 2017 and boasts oversized guest rooms with a coastal vibe, flexible living, working and sleeping space, stunning views of Clearwater Bay and a wide array of shared amenities. Both brands stay true to themselves: SpringHill Suites offer stunning décor from West Elm and comfortable features, while Residence Inn offers a kitchenette and ample space for extended stays and families. They share the lobby, pool, business features, and exercise room.
Our family of five was very comfortable in the Residence Inn room. My husband and I were able to share the king sized bed, and our boys enjoyed the sofa bed. We still had room for the Pack n Play for our baby too. We had a beautiful view of Clearwater Harbor and the Intracoastal, and were just across the street from the beach.
We started our evening with an appetizer and drinks in the lobby. The wings were delicious – we ordered 10 and asked for a box when they arrived… then we didn’t need the box because we ate them all!
I was worried that the kids would be unwelcome in the beautiful lobby, but there were numerous families and the staff was particularly accommodating. Cecil at the front desk even taught us a new trick to keep my son’s shoelaces tied (a double bow instead of double knot!). We decided to pick up a pizza for dinner and were referred to King’s Pizza just a block away from the hotel. We walked there and brought it back to our room for a delicious pizza picnic! With it being the holiday season, we used the in-room Smart TV to access our Netflix account and watch Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It was the perfect ending to our evening!
The next morning we enjoyed a delicious hot breakfast in the lobby. The staff did a phenomenal job of keeping up with the Sunday morning high-demand, and we all enjoyed our own breakfast choices. They offer scrambled eggs, both pork and turkey sausage, make-your-own waffles, toast, yogurt, fruit, juices, and more! I was especially impressed by the coffee bar with a selection of flavored syrups to add to your coffee.
After breakfast, we took a walk on Florida’s award-winning Clearwater Beach, just across the street. Our stay was during the coldest weekend in December, so we bundled up and went exploring. Living in Tampa, it sometimes is easy to forget how lucky we are to live so close we to these beaches. We will be planning many more return trips!
SpringHill Suites Clearwater Beach
Residence Inn Clearwater Beach
The properties share their address:
309 Coronado Dr.
Clearwater Beach, FL 33767
Residence Inn/SpringHill Suites provided me with a complimentary stay in their hotel in exchange for this blog post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
General Admission tickets are $65 per person, per day. All guests will receive a limited-edition wine glass, custom tote bag and enjoy the Grand Tasting Village with unlimited tastings from 1 to 4 p.m.
VIP Access is $95 per person, per day. Guests who purchase a VIP ticket will also enjoy one-hour early admission to the Grand Tasting Village and exclusive access to the Spirits Pool Lounge at the Wyndham Grand pool deck from 1 to 5 p.m. to sample exciting and intriguing crafted libations.
Want to score General Admission tickets at a discount?? Use the Clearwater Beach Uncorked promo code CLBU17 to purchase tickets for only $40 each (savings of $25 per ticket!!).
Purchase tickets: http://www.etix.com/ticket/v/10756/clearwater-beach-uncorked
For more information on Clearwater Beach Uncorked 2017 or to purchase tickets, visit http://clearwaterbeachuncorked.com/.
Follow Clearwater Beach Uncorked on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
I am receiving tickets to Clearwater Beach Uncorked through my relationship with the event. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
In June, my husband and I took advantage of his work in the DC area to enjoy a couple of nights to ourselves in Downtown Washington D.C. While it would have been easy to find a major chain hotel that would have provided nice accommodations, I was excited to come across the Kimpton boutique brand of hotels in DC. We spent two nights at the sophisticated Kimpton Donovan, and I would definitely return!
A major consideration when staying in our nation’s capital is the location of the hotel. We knew we would only have a short stay, so we wanted to be close to the major attractions like the National Mall and White House, and having a nice view would be a bonus. The Donovan’s location on Thomas Circle off of 14th Street could not have been more convenient or scenic.
The Kimpton Donovan outdoes itself with the sleek, welcoming décor. I saw men and women who were traveling for business, and I also met families who were vacationing in DC. It truly works for everyone.
I am not exaggerating when I write that this is the cleanest hotel I have ever stayed in. The bathroom is boldly white, which would easily show any sort of dirt, and I was so impressed by how pristine it all was.
Kimpton goes out of its way to make your stay as comfortable as possible. In addition to a standard mini-bar, they have a variety of snacks for purchase in your room.
Their lobby provides many comforts that other hotels overlook. There is a hosted wine hour every evening from 5 – 6 pm in the lobby (which I sadly missed), morning coffee and tea, and fruit-infused water available all day.
The Donovan has a unique focus on wellness and they provide in-room yoga mats for your use. What a novel idea! It aligns with their luxury Atelier Bloem bath amenities and in-room spa services.
Find the complete list of amenities on their website.
Drinks and Dining
We did not have a chance to enjoy their adjoining Zentan restaurant during our stay, but they feature authentic Japanese fare. The rooftop lounge DNV has amazing views and even a rooftop pool! I was able to peek in our first evening there and the lounge was full of DC professionals and hotel guests. Music added to the fun, and I was disappointed I couldn’t stay.
Overall, if you are looking for hotel accommodations in DC, the Kimpton Donovan is a wonderful choice. Its sleek, stylish furnishings provide a comfortable and convenient location in the heart of DC. Our two night stay was not enough to experience all that this wonderful hotel had to offer, and we would love to return!
Visit the Kimpton Donovan website for rates and more details.
Our stay was part of a media partnership as a guest of Kimpton Donovan.
As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own!
All photos are my own.
My first stop was for a donut and coffee of course! Have you ever had a donut from Duck Donuts? Ohhh emmm geeee. It’s a good thing for my health that they didn’t open the store next to my gym in Virginia until after we moved to Florida. Try the Cinnamon Sugar - it's amazing!
I fit in some wonderful time with my matron of honor from my wedding and another close friend of mine. They were my first friends in Virginia when I started teaching, and we share many memories together.
I next spent the afternoon getting my car serviced. This may sound like a terrible way to spend my first afternoon of freedom, but I didn’t have any kids with me, I had free wifi, and they included a complimentary car wash!
Next, I made sure to include a stop at my favorite nail salon for a little pampering before an evening catching up with a great friend.
Well, Day 2 was a little less about me than Day 1. I did a lot of work and emails for Housewives, had lunch at the AMAZING Warehouse in Alexandria with a contact for a Girls Night Out here in Tampa, and had some work done on my computer. It was a little about me when I was working because I used workspace at Wegmans, the best grocery store ever. I’m happy to debate about how it stacks up against Publix. I made sure to fit in another meal and wine time with my awesome, hospitable friend who hosted me at her home in the evening.
Wednesday morning started with an amazing cycle class with one of my favorite instructors in Virginia. I have a couple great classes in Tampa, but this one felt like home.
I spent the afternoon with my friend (and sort of boss!) from the school system I do some work for. It was great to catch up and connect!
That evening, I was so excited to pick up my husband at the airport! A few days apart and time spent on our own left us refreshed and ready for a couple of days in Virginia without our kiddos.
What I Learned
Of course, time away from my family left me with some pretty intense mommy/wife guilt, but I struggle to explain how important this time was for me. I didn’t go on an exotic vacation. I simply spent a few days being me. Just me, not a wife, not a mom, just me. I know those roles of mom and wife are an important part of who I really am, but I want to know that I can fill my days without that too.
Would you ever take a little vacay for yourself? What would it look like?
Now that we have a one year old, my husband and I knew this trip would be a little different. Rather than try to entertain him, we decided it would be best to drive overnight so he would sleep in the car. I’m not going to lie here, it was rough. Baby boy didn’t love sleeping in the car, so he woke up often, my husband was exhausted from taking the overnight shift (thank you!!), and my older boys were ready to see their cousins in New York. My oldest asked if we were in Pennsylvania yet before we even made it to Jacksonville.
Hi! I'm Diana. I love the beach, my family, chocolate, coffee, and meeting new people. I host monthly events in the Tampa area and cannot wait to meet all of you!