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/.
We are so lucky here in Florida. Finding a resort for a beach vacation is as easy as picking a beach and checking for the good reviews. We have the beauty of the Panhandle's beaches, the excitement of the Atlantic beaches, and the tranquil setting of the Gulf beaches. However, while it is easy to FIND resorts to visit, it is not easy to CHOOSE which resort would meet all of your needs and create lasting memories for your entire group. Luckily, I'm here with an amazing resort to put at the top of your list to please everyone you are traveling with. The Resort at Longboat Key Club has it all, and the staff puts your comfort and pleasure first in all areas of the resort.
FUN IN THE SUN
Like many gulf beach resorts, The Resort at Longboat Key Club recently faced the issue of a shrinking beach space due to erosion. I spoke with the general manager, Jeff Mayers, and learned that the resort chose to bring in sand from a Citrus County mine, rather than dredging in the Gulf, making it more environmentally friendly. The powdery white sand is the perfect setting for their queen cabanas and lounge chairs, along with any beach activities your heart desires!
GOLF AND TENNIS
The Resort at Longboat Key Club is set amidst their highly-rated golf courses and is a golfer's dream! Not an avid golfer but want to try it while on vacation? Build on your skills with their instructional golf programs!
Golf has never been one of my interests, but I was so excited to experience a tennis lesson while staying at the Resort! The Resort at Longboat Key Club has been named the #7 top tennis resort in the world by Tennis Resorts Online in its highly competitive annual listing. The lessons on the Har-Tru court were individualized for my skill-level (I haven't held a racket in about 15 years!) and a perfect way to get some exercise during the trip. I highly recommend spending time on the courts!
You will not have trouble finding delicious food - this AAA Four-Diamond resort boasts eight exceptional Sarasota restaurants featuring fresh ingredients for all tastes. I had the pleasure of dining at Portofino at the marina for amazing Italian food, Sands Pointe for a perfect filet, Tavern & Whiskey at the pro shop for a fresh lunch (order fries, you won't regret it!!), and room service for a relaxing breakfast in my room. I'll let the photos speak for themselves!
Last time we visited SOBE Miami, we had the pleasure of experiencing Drinkhouse Fire & Ice, an awesome bar that indulges your senses with both a room made of ice and also a room with fire dancers. If you are looking for a unique date night we highly recommend giving this place a try, you will not be disappointed!
First you will bundle up with a fur coat and boots to visit the arctic bar where you can drink out of glasses made entirely of ice and sit on a throne fit for Jack Snow himself!
After you have the opportunity to warm yourself in the main bar area with a variety of exciting elixirs and entertainment.
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
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!
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.
Yesterday John and I made the short trip from Orlando to Tampa to explore another theme park this area has to offer – Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Most of you know already that John and I are originally from Virginia, so Busch Gardens Williamsburg was always our “go-to” place for fun growing up; I was an annual passholder for most of my life. I had visited the Tampa location a few times when I was vacationing in Florida as a child, but that was a long time ago. John had never been to the Tampa location, so I was very excited to bring him with me and experience the fun together!
For those of you that don’t know the difference between the two parks, the Williamsburg, VA location is themed as European countries (imagine a European Epcot, if you will). The Tampa, FL location is themed as Africa, and has tons animals!
I recently had the opportunity to stay the newest hotel on Hutchinson Island, located in the part of Florida known as the Treasure Coast in Martin County. This resort and spa is great for a weekend getaway with your girlfriends or your spouse or even as a family vacation...which makes it a well rounded hotel meeting the needs of everyone.
The Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa is part of the Opal Collection, one of my favorite hotel chains in Florida. The first new beach resort to be built on Hutchinson Island in 20 years, Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa opened in 2017. This relaxing beachfront hotel features two oceanfront dining spots, two swimming pools, a spa and beautiful coastal inspired guest rooms.
On May 5th, John and I got to attend the media day at LEGOLAND Florida for the unveiling of LEGO® Star Wars™: The Force Awakens MINILAND Model Display and LEGO® Star Wars™ Days. This display and event will be taking place on May 5-6, 12-13, 19-20 ONLY – so be sure to visit while you can!
CELEBRATE LOVE AT FONTAINEBLEAU MIAMI BEACH
Iconic Miami Beach Resort Offers Spa Packages and Unique Gifts for Valentine’s Day
Fontainebleau Miami Beach is playing Cupid this Valentine’s Day with packages and monthly specials available for guests at the 40,000-square-foot Lapis Spa, unique gifts from the hotel’s boutiques and lavish dining options. Spa-goers can book full-day packages to enjoy with their special someone or take advantage of a list of deals, including massages, facials, scrubs and discounted treatments available throughout the month of February.
At Lapis Spa, guests enjoy two-levels of restorative and renewing relaxation, paired with mineral-rich water journeys through mist, rain and steam experiences and a co-ed jetted pool and lounge area. With 30 private treatment rooms, including two couple’s oceanfront massage suites that feature a shower and soaking tub for two, and two spa suites that feature a Vichy shower, tub, private shower and relaxation and dining area, couples and singles alike can choose their ideal room or suite to relax this Valentine’s Day.
A full list of packages and specials include:
My Funny Valentine Certificate | $169++ per person
This certificate is valid for use from February 19 through December 21, 2018, My Funny Valentine Certificate includes the following:
Blackout dates may apply. This service is subject to availability. Tax and service charge is not included. Certificate will not be replaced if lost or stolen.
A Day at Fontainebleau For Two | $369++ per couple
A Day at Fontainebleau For Two invites guests to relax, bask in the sun and swim, and includes the following:
Tax and service charge is not included. Discounts and promotions may not be combined. Must be taken by the same person, same day. All services are subject to a 6-hour cancellation or change policy. A 20% service charge is applied to each service.
February Spa Specials
Offered during the month of February, guests can enjoy the following spa deals in celebration of Valentine’s Day:
*Terms and Conditions:
Specials must be requested at time of reservation and are subject to availability, change and/or cancellation without advance notice. Discounts and promotions may not be combined. Must be taken by the same person, same day. Specials valid for groups of eight (8) or less. All services are subject to a 6-hour cancellation or change policy. A 20% service charge is applied to each service.
To purchase or for reservations, please visit: https://fontainebleau.com/packages/miami-beach-spa-packages or call (866) 750-4772.
About Fontainebleau Miami Beach
A spectacular blend of Golden Era glamour and modern luxury, Fontainebleau Miami Beach merges striking design, contemporary art, music, fashion and history into a vibrant guest experience. A revered landmark and symbol of style and sophistication since its opening in 1954, Fontainebleau Miami Beach boasts 1,504 guestrooms and suites appointed with lavish amenities; the world-renowned LIV™ Nightclub, 12 restaurants and lounges including two restaurants from Chef Michael Mina – StripSteak and Pizza & Burger; two AAA Four Diamond signature restaurants, Scarpetta by Scott Conant and Hakkasan; the 40,000-square-foot Lapis spa with mineral-rich water therapies and invigorating treatments; a dramatic oceanfront pool-scape offering lush cabanas; and is home to BleauLive, the innovative concert series that combines intimate performances with memorable weekend escapes.
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.
Looking for a new destination for a girls getaway, couples retreat, or family vacation?
Check out where we've been!