Phoebe’s first writing assignment in school was to write about her summer. I thought it’s high time I did the same. We went to Florida and San Francisco in July and I’ve been having a hard time getting about documenting it on the blog. Between the job search and the start of the the school year I never have the time to sit down and blog.
The view of the beach from our condo
We went to Longboat Key near Sarasota. We chose this area because it is not overly crowded, has beautiful beaches as well as other things to do. It’s important to us to be able to explore the area and visit local museums and sights. If you are looking for a family-friendly area in Florida for your next vacation, I highly recommend Longboat Key.
How to get there:
There are several options to get to Longboat Key. Sarasota airport is within less than an hour drive. We chose to fly to Tampa though because we were able to find a direct flight from Austin.
It was an easy and short-ish flight
We rented a car and drove to the condo we rented. It wasn’t a bad drive and we got to see some of the area.
Where we stayed:
We stayed at the Turtle Crawl Inn resort. It is a small resort with a direct access to the private beach. The direct access was a must for us. We were glad to have the beach almost all to ourselves on most days. There are several public beaches in the area with shared access but you have to cross a busy road to get to the beach but lugging all the beach gear and a 5 year old did not sound appealing at all.
From the resort website: “Ignored by spring breakers and devoid of garish attractions, this island is one of the quietest on the Gulf Coast – and all the more beloved for it.” We found the area very peaceful and relaxing.
The condo where we stayed was not fancy but decent enough, clean, and affordable.
Taking a break from swimming
The beach was perfect: clean water, white sand, no trash, and plenty of shells to collect and birds to chase. Phoebe had a blast.
What we did:
I had done my research and had planned an activity, other than the beach, for each day. All activities were a short drive from Longboat Key. Here is what we did/saw:
This museum is located in Bradenton, a short drive from the Longboat Key. It is the largest natural and history museum of Florida’s Gulf coast. There are exhibits covering prehistoric life all through present-day Florida Gulf region, as well as an Aquarium, manatee rescue, and a Planetarium. We got there just in time to see a show “Passport to the Universe” which was created by American Museum of Natural HIstory in New York. The shows are played in the multimedia theater which is shaped as a dome with the screen located above the audience. To see the show you have to recline in your seat and look up. It had a very dramatic 3-D effect.
From the website: “In an unforgettable experience, cutting-edge science creates images of unprecedented realism and accuracy as viewers begin to understand the true enormity of the cosmos.” It makes you visualise and appreciate the enormity of the cosmos, and see the Earth as just another little star in the universe. It put things in perspective, in a “we are but a speck of dust” kind of way…
Museum exhibit: A wild beast, female, age 5
A small courtyard off of the Aquarium and Manatee rehabilitation Center
This museum has several exhibits located in different buildings: Museum of Art, Circus Museum, and Ca’d’Zan (the Ringling winter home). We didn’t make it to the winter home, Phoebe was running out of gas by then. She had never been to a circus before so we were not sure how much of the museum would be interesting to her but she did good.
The miniature 3-D reproduction of the circus grounds was fascinating. This is a large display with a ton of high quality detail including different parts of the circus set up, the animals, the circus men and women rehearsal and changing quarters, the kitchen, etc.
Her favorite display was a TV recording of a clown putting on make-up.
When we were done with the circus museum, we walked to the kids’ playground and let Phoebe run around before heading back to the condo.
The Children’s’ Gardens are styled to be miniature “Alice in Wonderland” meets fairyland, meets pirate land type of place. It is small and we covered everything in about an hour. They have several themed zones that are fun to explore: a dress up station, a pirate ship, a maze, a house of the Seven Dwarfs, etc. It was a little too hot and humid that day but we still had fun.
Can’t help it with the faces
Where we ate:
We didn’t eat out much during this trip. We had a kitchen with a fridge and a stove in the condo and bought some sandwich meat, cheese, and vegetables to make sandwiches and wraps for lunch. For breakfast we had eggs and toast, yogurt, and oatmeal. One night we had chicken thighs that Brian grilled on the condo grill, with some oven roasted cauliflower. Yes, I cook when I am on vacation 🙂 I like to have a couple of healthy home-made meals when we travel.
We did eat out once at this ridiculous little restaurant. They desperately try to pass for a fancy place but they have a long way to go. The pace has a lot of good reviews on Tripadvisor which, it turns out, can be misleading. Brian and I were pretty annoyed at the quality of the food and service for the price, but in the end we just laughed it off — it was a rather pathetic experience. When we asked our server about the wine selection, we were told “they only have good wine… none of that cheap stuff”. Very “professional” for a fine dining establishment.
The last night of our stay we went out for dessert to Settimi’s Gelato. They have the best gelato I’ve ever had! I managed to pack down three scoops and didn’t regret it.
All in all the trip was all we had hoped for. If we decide to have another vacation in Florida, Longboat Key will be our first choice.
What are your favorite vacation spots in Florida?