Push Away the Screen: Staycation at the Gaylord Palms Resort

Recently my family had the opportunity to Push Away the Screen and spend 2 nights and 2 full days at the beautiful Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee, Florida. We had been once before, back in 2009 for their winter ICE Festival, but we had no idea what other amenities the resort offered.

Upon check-in we were told that we would be staying in a Ground Level King Suite with an adjoining Queen Suite. Say what?? Traveling with a family of 5 usually means that we are crammed for space and overwhelmed with "kid clutter" every where, but not on this trip!

There was no way I could even get one room in the camera shot, so I didn't even bother! And besides, we weren't there to spend time in our room, we were there to relax and unwind with our family while being active and pushing away the screen.

We arrived at the resort around 7:30pm and we were hungry and the kids wanted to swim. We all quickly changed in to our bathing suits and with a map in hand, Ronin led us to the Cypress Springs Family Fun Water Park! On our way to the pool we passed through all sorts of beautiful gardens that had us excited to explore when the sun came up!

Once at the pool the kids were disappointed to see that the water slides were closed, but I had warned them in advance that they wouldn't be open on the evening when we arrived. I think they must have thought I was joking. But what did keep them entertained was Madagascar 3. Yes, we were there to #pushawaythescreen, but with a Dive-In Movie, we made an exception and the kids frolicked and played, stopping every few minutes to catch a glimpse of the movie.

I stayed with the trio and James went off to find us some food. He came back with take-out from Wreckers Sports Bar. A wonderful Cesar salad for him and I, and fish and chips and chicken tenders for the trio. The Cesar salad was made by the dressing. It had to have been homemade. It was SO GOOD with a lot of garlic. Yum.

After a quick dip in the pool, I was ready for an adult beverage so I wandered over to Wreckers (which was the only spot open at this time of night) and got us each a libation. The beer was for me. Wink

Upon our return to our room we had this lovely welcome tray and note waiting for us! The Gaylord Palms motto of "Consider it Done" certainly rang true for us this entire staycation, and this bit of personalization was the icing on the cake.

They also stocked our fridges (yes, we had 2) with sparkling water Smile The kids were very excited for a fun Saturday at the pool, so went right to sleep.

We woke up and since we had reservations to eat Villa de Rosa for buffet dinner, we opted to not eat buffet for breakfast and headed to the Java market for a quick bite to eat. We wanted to be at the pool soon after opening! It's uncanny how James and I think alike for on this morning we both ordered a Greek salad...FOR BREAKFAST! The kids each had a breakfast sandwich. We ate in the St. Augustine atrium, and then James decided he needed a nap, so while he went back to the room the kids and I headed to the Cypress Springs Family Water Park.

You must show your room key, and give your last name when you check in at the park. Apparently it is quite common for locals to try to get in to the pool area on the weekend. When we checked in we were informed that we had a POOLSIDE CABANA!! SWEET! We were given towels, our cabana number and headed down to Cabana 17! I knew James would be quite happy to learn we had a cabana because he is quite sun sensitive! And I was right! He spent quite a bit of time in the shade reading It Starts With Food. Our cabana had a fridge stocked with water, plus 2 chaise lounges, and a dining table with 4 chairs. We also had chaise lounges right outside our cabana.

The kids had an absolute blast! They participated in poolside games! Ella did the hula-hooping contest (see Haley in the water cheering her on!!) and came in 3rd place.

And all 3 of them did the cannonball contest and Haley placed 2nd overall! Very proud of my big splashers!

 

The games took place on the top of every hour beginning at Noon. From 10-Noon my gang just had a blast going down the slides and swimming in the pool!

 

 

And James enjoyed the slides too! Look at that splash he made!

And you better believe that I enjoyed myself as much as the kids did!

But in typical Florida fashion, the storms rolled through at 1:45pm and closed down the pool. We hadn't eaten lunch yet, so we headed back in to the resort to the Key West area (where our suite was also located) and let the kids have a bite to eat at Sunset Sam's. We sat in the sailboat, had a few drinks, and the kids snacked on calamari. If you look closely you can see James in the left side of the photo!

It was pouring rain outside, and though we were inside, it felt like we were outside. It was amazing! The kids had so much fun exploring and before we knew it, it was time to head back to our room to get ready for dinner.

I brought along a great selection of dresses from Gwynnie Bee and decided to wear this one! I loved it. It was so comfortable, and the colors really popped!

Along the way we had time to explore all of the different eco-systems represented in the resort. The Florida Everglades was Ella's favorite! Ella loves snakes and this was her "I'm excited to see snakes" face.

And we walked though a brick area that had the name of every Florida county of them! We took our pictures next to the three that hold the most meaning for us! James is from Tampa so that's Hillsborough County, I'm from Venice, so that's Sarasota County, and now we live in Land O' Lakes, so that's Pasco County.

Then we were off to dinner! We were greeted warmly by the hostess, shown to our primo view table (which might have been located next to a quick release gate for children to easily depart to go explore the St. Augustine fort??) and the manager came over, introduced himself, shook my hand, and informed me that if there was anything we wanted to eat that we didn't see on the buffet, to please let him know and he would have his staff make it! Talk about the Consider it Done motto coming in to play again!

They had amazing healthy opitions, and here's a sneak peek of my plate(s). Yes, I ate too much. And I drank too much. But it's fine. It's not something that happens often, and I enjoyed every bite and have not one ounce of regret! Both of those plates went in my belly. Tongue Out

An alligator feeding happened at 6:30pm pretty close to where we were eating, so the kids and I hopped over there really quick, saw the show, and on the way back we ran in to Po!

 

And I'll be darned if it doesn't look like I am sporting a bicep!

We explored a bit more after dinner, but went to bed pretty early. I had to go and charge my phone, so went out exploring while the family was in bed and look who I ran across!

We had an amazing Saturday, and got to sleep in a bit on Sunday! The kids didn't wake us up until close to 9am! We did pretty much the same thing as the day before! Had breakfast at Java, James went to take a nap, the kids and I went back to the pool, got our cabana again, and just played until the rain closed the pool down at 3pm. That worked out perfectly because we had a late checkout at 4pm, so we came back to our room, took showers, packed and left.

Having a Staycation at the Gaylord Palms is more like a vacation! We never left the property! There was no need to go anywhere! We had plenty of food options, entertainment options, and of course the pool.

If you are looking for an amazing family getaway, I HIGHLY recommend that you check out the Gaylord Palms.

You can follow them on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest!!

Be sure to check out their webpage or social media channels for great promotions and of course their upcoming ICE show which this year will feature FROSTY the Snowman! I sure hope that they invite us back again because we sure loved being guests at the Gaylord!

Have you ever done a Staycation at a local hotel? What did you like best about it?

Push Away the Screen: Top 5 tips for Adventure Island

As summer vacation draws to a close, I had the amazing opportunity to Push Away the Screen and take my kids to Adventure Island.

Adventure Island is a 30 acre water park full of ways for you to have fun with your family while keeping cool!

From thrilling slides like Gulfscream and Riptide to the more laid back areas Splash Attack and Fabian's Funport, there is guaranteed to be something for everyone in your family!

My family really enjoyed the Rambling Bayou, a Lazy River offering a relaxing trip around the park, while riding on an inflated inner tube. You float through a  misted rainforest and a flowing waterfall. We did this "ride" both with and without tubes. My son enjoys "running" through the river, swimming, and being pushed by the current. With a maximum depth of 3 feet it's a great way for him to practice some of his swimming skills, and when he's tired, he can float on his back and be pushed by the current.

We also enjoyed a few "family style rides." The Calypso Coaster (which can be experienced by single or double riders) is a high speed open flume ride with twists and turns that dumps guests in to a 3' pool at the end. I rode this with Ronin, and my girls rode together. There were a few other family rides as well, but we didn't get the opportunity to experience them all on this visit as the park was very crowded and my gang is not much for waiting in lines.

Having been to Adventure Island a few times each summer (except for this summer, we only made it once) I have my top 5 tips to share with you!

  1. BRING YOUR OWN FOOD! Adventure Island allows guests to bring a 15X15X15 cooler in to the park. I was able to pack lunch and snacks for my gang. This meant we were able to steer clear of the typical theme park food, and eat our healthy foods! I also brought in my own chilled bottled water and that certainly came in handy!
  2. WEAR WATER SHOES! Not flip-flops, but real water shoes. I wore my Merrell River Glove Water Shoe and it was great! Lightweight, but kept the hot sand and pavement from bothering my feet! The ground at Adventure Island is very hot for my feet, and the bottom of the Lazy River can be hard on feet, too. My kids didn't want to wear their water shoes, and while they didn't complain there were quite a few times when they were hopping from one foot to the other due to the hot ground.
  3. GET THERE EARLY!! Getting to the park at least 15 minutes BEFORE it opens is key to finding your perfect spot to set-up for the day. Yesterday the park opened at 9:30am, and we arrived at 9:37am. By the time we had our bags checked, and picked up our tickets it was after 10am, and we high-tailed it to try to find a spot in the shade and we were lucky enough to find a place tucked in the shade of some oak trees. We managed to snag the last table and it wasn't much later that I noticed people setting up towels on the grass. Getting there early also means you can get on some of your favorite rides without much of a wait. As I mentioned earlier there were quite a few rides we didn't get the opportunity to experience simply because the lines were too long, and having a special needs child often means we physically can't wait in those long lines and Adventure Island doesn't offer a special needs pass like Busch Gardens.
  4. KNOW WHEN TO LEAVE!! Growing up in the Sunshine State, I've become pretty awesome at predicting summer storms. Even though it was only 2:45pm, and the skies over Adventure Island were blue and shining, I could see something brewing off in the distance, so I told my gang it was time to pack up. They weren't happy with me, but went about doing what I asked. By the time we got to the car it was 3:15pm, and we started our drive home. Within 5 minutes it began to sprinkle, but by the time we made it home we were in a full-out downpour, which eventually turned in to a severe thunderstorm complete with a tornado! So be smart when playing outside. Know when to hold them, know when to fold them. Tongue Out
  5. RELAX! With more than 50 lifeguards stationed throughout the park, roving security, ample life-jackets, it's a great opportunity to just let go and have fun with your kids. I'm not telling you to let the non-swimming toddler experience the wave-pool on their own, but you can allow your kids to be kids, and just enjoy watching them having a blast!

 

Have you been to Adventure Island, or any other water park? What tips do you have to share??

Push Away the Screen at Tradewinds Resort

 The kids and I had the opportunity to spend an amazing fun filled day at Tradewinds Resort on beautiful St. Pete Beach. I grew up on the Gulf Coast, attended college only a few miles from this resort, yet I had never been!!

Driving in to the resort was beautiful and I knew we were in for a special treat!! We checked in with their PR Dept and were given a special tote bag with a Tradewinds towel, and a stuffed BEAKER, the Tradewinds pelican mascot. We were each given a wristband that gave us access to all the amenities the resort had to offer; 7 Pools (including 2 adult ONLY), 3 Whirlpools, Splash Island Water Park, High Tide Water Slide, Beach Cabanas, Poolside Invasion (where I was the female swim winner during the adult race!!), Paddleboats, Mini Golf, Bungee Trampoline, Stand Up Paddle Boarding, and MORE! I also learned at check-in that Tradewinds is a certified Autism friendly resort. I honestly had no idea that there were even certified Autism friendly resorts let alone one nearly in my backyard!  Had I known in advance, I would have gone over the "Social Book" with Ronin and prepared him for what we were going to experience. We'll be heading back, hopefully in September, so we can do it then!

We were at the resort with some fellow bloggers from the Tampa Bay Bloggers, and Ronin immediately gravitated to Mindy and her son, Bryce. He loves hanging out with them when we go to events, and Mindy said she was happy to have Ronin tag along. This gave me the opportunity to spend some time with my girls. During the time Ronin was with Mindy he got to go on the Paddle boats, Splash Island and took multiple trips down the High Tide Water Slide. The girls played in the Gulf, went down the slide, and swam in the pool. And relished the time that they were "Ronin free."

GoGoSqueez provided us with a hospitality suite which gave us a private bathroom, all the GoGoSqueez you could eat, ice cold water, and a place to escape from the sun! It was so nice!

Tradewinds also provided us with a lovely sit down lunch. They had hamburgers, hot dogs, fresh fruit salad, icy cold drinks, grilled chicken and more! This was my lunch!

 

 

After lunch, I took my three kids for some "mama led adventures." They went on the Bungee Trampoline.

 We explored Pirate Island

Ronin went down the slide some more, exclaiming as he came off "this is the best day EVER!!"

 

And he was right! This was the BEST day!! As I hinted above, I participated in a swim race. Here are Mindy and I showing our CrossFit muscles before the race began. Thanks Tara for taking the photo!

We spent over 10 hours at the resort and never even came close to seeing all that it had to offer. My girls didn't get the opportunity to go on Splash Island. We didn't do mini-golf, I didn't go down the slide (or Splash Island) but what we did do was FANTASTIC! We had so much fun with our friends and I really want (and need!!) to go back and explore the resort and it's Autism friendly offerings!!  We need at least 3 full days and next time we'll also bring our Autism service dog, as the resort is dog friendly (though Matthew can come anywhere with us.) It was an absolutely perfect place to unplug and push away the screen.

Honestly, I think we would have stayed all night, but typical Florida thunderstorms rained on our parade and closed the pools down. Denise from RunDMT and her 3 kids, plus me and my 3 kids, and Marisa from Adventures of Tampa Mama and her 4 kids were the last 3 bloggers there, and once the outdoor activities closed down, we decided to cut our losses and head for home!

They do offer Florida Resident specials, and you can find more information on the Tradewinds Resort website.  They are also on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

 

Have you been to Tradewinds Resort? What was your favorite activity? Have you ever heard of an Autism Friendly Resort?

 

Disclaimer: Our family was invited to enjoy a free day of play at the TradeWinds Resort in exchange for a review, however all statements made are my own and were not influenced in any way.