Published on Huffington Post, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and adoring Wife to Superman and Mom to older kiddos. She shares "How-To" plan the BEST family vacations in the South with travel reviews and insider travel secrets that Women REALLY want to know!

☕️ It's THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

Posts by this author:

Islamorada Florida Keys Family Travel Guide (Florida Beaches Tour #3)

Islamorada Florida Keys is a vacation destination I’d always wanted to visit. It seemed as if it was a little more laidback and lesser known than most of the other Florida Keys and Key West. I was right and you know I’m all about beach seclusion!  So consider this your personal family travel guide to Islamorada Florida.  It also happens to be part #3 in our Florida beaches series.  If you missed them, catch up on the beans I spilled about the 7 things to do in West Palm Beach and Miami Beach with kids!

Family Travel Guide to Islamorada Florida Keys - aerial of Islamorada

Islamorada Florida Keys Guide

If you’ve been keeping up with us lately, then you know that we set out to compare the sand and surf of several beaches along the east coast of Florida – all the way to Key West.  At this point, we’ve made it to Islamorada Florida Keys.  I can’t wait to share how adorable Islamorada, Florida really is.  I’ll share all about it with the experiences that we enjoyed as a family. Thank You to The Florida Keys & Key West Visitors Bureau and the brands below for hosting us.  As always, my opinions are my own.

An Islamorada welcome

When we drove past Key Largo and into Islamorada, Florida, it was as if we entered a small beach town with a natural habitat that just happened to be surrounded by water on both sides. I immediately fell in love with the laidback vibe of this fishing village that had everything we needed (and nothing more) in close proximity with one Publix grocery store, a handful of attractions, many diving and fishing shops, low-key resorts and restaurants.  The following are the Islamorada points of interest that we visited:

World Wide Sportsman by Bass Pro Shops 

When my husband mentioned that there was a Bass Pro Shop in Islamorada, I may have rolled my eyes.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy walking through the gorgeous Bass Pro Shops when we visit large cities, but I couldn’t picture one of those huge stores that are normally full of hunting gear on a Florida Keys island.  What I didn’t realize was that it was a smaller store and it was all about sportfishing.

The property was so beautiful and wowed us immediately as we pulled in the parking lot. We were beckoned by the Bayside Marina and Boardwalk out back before we entered the store.  The store was gorgeous and even included a massive boat display to represent Ernest Hemingway’s fishing boat (if you didn’t know, Hemingway loved fishing the Florida Keys and his house is in Key West).

What a beautiful place!

If you visit Islamorada in the Florida Keys, make this one of your first stops.  You won’t be disappointed!

Family Travel Guide to Islamorada Florida Keys - Bayside Marina & Boardwalk at World Wide Sportsman

Theater Of The Sea 

Family owned and operated since 1946, Theater of the Sea is also the world’s second oldest marine mammal facility.  Not only are there opportunities to swim with bottlenose dolphins, sharks, and sea lions, you can also interact with stingrays and learn about sea turtles, birds, fish, sharks, alligators and marine invertebrates.

This marine facility is unlike anything we’d seen before with its tropical gardens and three-acre lagoons.  We enjoyed the dolphin, sea lion, parrot and guided marine life shows, the bottomless boat ride around the dolphin lagoon, and then the private lagoon-side beach where you can snorkel, sunbathe, or just relax.  Then we were privileged to swim with two Atlantic bottlenose dolphins for about an hour in a natural, salt-water lagoon.

It was incredible!

Family Travel Guide to Islamorada Florida Keys - Sea Lion Kiss at Theater of the Sea

Family Travel Guide to Islamorada Florida Keys - Swim with dolphins at Theater of the Sea

Marker 88 Restaurant & Beach

We had no idea how much Marker 88 was going to be a part of our Islamorada vacation!  Our experience with this waterfront property started when we arrived for dinner on our first evening in the tiny fishing village.  The food, service and the views were outstanding.  We dined inside but many opted for the quaint outdoor dining tables with umbrellas and tiki hut bar.

Of all the Islamorada restaurants, we know that we found a jewel with its true Florida Keys vibe and a must-stop spot since 1967.  We enjoyed steaks and sweet potato fries but they also offer some of the Keys’ freshest seafood.  After dinner, we enjoyed taking pictures of the sunset and walking along their boat dock (where several had arrived by boat).

Just to the side of the outdoor dining area, we were delighted to find an adorable natural beach.  When the manager graciously came out to make sure our dinner was pleasing, he was incredibly friendly and we chatted about his history with the restaurant and he told us we were welcome to return the next day to the Marker 88 beach.

The next day was Sunday morning when we arrived and noticed a sign that mentioned a five-dollar charge for the beach.  However, we were the only ones there and enjoyed sunbathing and snorkeling to ourselves with the option of lunch choices right next to us at the restaurant.

Family Travel Guide to Islamorada Florida Keys - Outdoor dining at Marker 88 Restaurant

Family Travel Guide to Islamorada Florida Keys - Marker 88 Beach

Family Travel Guide to Islamorada Florida Keys - Snorkeling in the bay at Marker 88 beach

Islander Bayside Townhomes 

There are only a handful of Islamorada resorts to choose from, nestled along the ocean or the bay and the one located at mile marker 81 captured our hearts.  This small community of townhomes on the bay was like a home away from home with its fully-equipped gourmet kitchen that had top-of-the-line stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops.  We enjoyed many meals in the comfortable seating areas, private balcony and front porch.

With all the comforts of home and luxurious touches at our private beach cottage, we didn’t want to leave!

I personally spent most of my time in the swimming pool or the master bedroom’s balcony with a view of the Florida Bay.  There were 14 boat slips as well at Islander Bayside, so it was fun to watch boating families come in after a day of fun on the gulf.

Guide to Islamorada Florida Keys - Islander resort

Family Travel Guide to Islamorada Florida Keys - Islamorada resort pool

Family Travel Guide to Islamorada Florida Keys - Islamorada resorts boat slip

Islamorada Beaches 

I wanted to provide information for those who stay at an Islamorada resort without private beach access.  Believe it or not, public access to these Florida beaches is limited.  One of the most popular Islamorada beaches on the oceanside was Anne’s Beach, but unfortunately, the erosion and damage caused by Hurricane Irma have it closed permanently for safety reasons.

Our plan was to visit Founders Park, located directly behind the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center, so we rode through the parking lot to check it out.  What we found was a beautifully maintained park with a mini beach on the bay that was hidden among the palms and mangroves.  There was clear, shallow water on this beach which would be perfect for small kids, relaxing, snorkeling and kayaking.  Nearby are public restrooms, a playground, and two Olympic-sized pools as well.

We never actually spent time at Founders Park beach. We opted for the complete seclusion of Marker 88’s mini beach as mentioned above, but Founders Park looked like a very lovely place to spend the day.  I also met a local that mentioned a very small spot of sand located along a mangrove channel (creek).  We never found the time to search for this, but the parks and recreation site list it at mile marker 81.5.

Watch video HERE

Which activity do YOU want to experience in Islamorada Florida Keys?

Places to visit in Islamorada Florida Keys

Islander Bayside Townhomes: 81450 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL

Theater of The Sea: 84271 Overseas Highway, Islamorada, FL

Marker 88 Restaurant: 88000 Overseas Highway, Islamorada, FL

World Wide Sportsman: 81576 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL

Founders Park: 86800 Overseas Highway Islamorada, FL

For more Islamorada Florida Keys information, visit The Florida Keys & Key West


Islamorada Florida Keys - snorkeling



Published on Huffington Post, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and adoring Wife to Superman and Mom to older kiddos. She shares “How-To” plan the BEST family vacations in the South with travel reviews and insider travel secrets that Women REALLY want to know!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

Find me on: Web | Twitter | Facebook

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review (Family Movie Guide #5)

I’d love to share The Man Who Invented Christmas movie review for those of you who are desperate for great clean family movies (like me!) for a family movie night.  I stumbled upon the fact that right now, it’s streaming for free on Amazon Prime, so I watched it immediately. Whether or not you are a Charles Dickens fan or not, you’ll see that the movie trailer alone is fabulous.  However, the storyline here turned out to be so much more than I ever saw coming.

Christmas Movie Clip

The Man Who Invented Christmas details

movie: The Man Who Invented Christmas

date: 2017

cast: Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce

runtime: 104 minutes

rating: PG

rating explanation: Parental Guidance Suggested

available to watch: DVD, Blu-ray & Amazon Prime Video

The following is the summary that Amazon gave this movie.  “The Man Who Invented Christmas tells the magical journey that led to the creation of Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), Tiny Tim and other classic characters from A Christmas Carol. Directed by Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day), the film shows how Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) mixed real-life inspirations with his vivid imagination to conjure up unforgettable characters and a timeless tale, forever changing the holiday season into the celebration we know today.”

available on DVD & Blu-ray

The Man Who Invented Christmas movie review

The Man Who Invented Christmas movie review that follows is a loose guide to the film and any subjects that may cause discussion with your people. I try to watch and listen closely, but the only way to guarantee that this movie is suitable for your family is to preview it yourself.

intimacy:  Nothing other than a couple marital kisses

inappropriateness: none

language:  There are only two words that I heard that might be considered colorful language.

“It’s damned expensive being a gentleman”  is a sentence spoken by Charles about six minutes into the film as he walks along the sidewalk.  I didn’t hear it the first time I watched.  He has a British accent and the background noise makes it easy to miss.

“The Law is an ass.  I believe you wrote that” is said by Charles’ wife after he says he should have been a lawyer.  Those are the only ones that I heard.

violence/gross:  In Charles’ flashbacks, there is a scene of a young boy sitting a dead rat on a table in front of another boy and those boys also get into a tussle and one is punched by the other one in the face.

use of substances:  Champagne is ordered at his restaurant table and talked about.  His friend drinks one sip.

overall messages:  The importance of family, even in the midst of imperfections.  Forgiveness is the answer no matter how hard to accomplish.  Christmas can bring out the good in any of us – in all of us.

“How can I say, ‘No,’ if I can be useful – if I can lighten the burden of another?” ~Charles Dickens

I wondered why they chose the title like they did.  Now that I’ve watched the movie, I get it.  The Christian life and God are addressed and quoted in this movie.  What it is showing is how the way we react (as humans living among each other) was changed after the release of The Christmas Carol.

In one important scene of the movie, Charles is pitching his idea for a Christmas story about a selfish, miserly man.  His publishers tell him there’s not a market for Christmas books in London of the 1840s, saying, “Does anyone really celebrate Christmas anymore?  It’s more or less just a day to pick a man’s pocket every 25th of December.”

Charles’ reply is, “It’s a Christmas book because Christmas is, or ought to be, the one time of year when men and women open their shut-up hearts and think of the people below them as if they really were fellow creatures to the grave and not another race of people altogether.”


It was really nice to watch a blockbuster movie without any bad language or inappropriateness.  The main reason I’m offering The Man Who Invented Christmas movie review is that I want to spread the word about wholesome movies that still exist! If it wasn’t for the one scene of an incident between Charles and another little boy, there would be no violence to speak of either (this was mild and short-lived).


The movie plot begins as Charles Dickens is basking in his success of Oliver Twist in 1842.  A native of London, he decides to take a tour of America and is received as a literary genius at galas, receptions, dinners, parties, etc.

The Man Who Invented Christmas turned out to be such a deeper, more intense movie than I was expecting from the quirky feelings that I received while watching the movie trailer.

What is done beautifully in this movie is the movement through serious topics in this movie that smoothly transition to the silliness and hilarious personality that Charles Dickens did have in real life.  There was a scene in the movie where his wife says that it’s like he has two personalities, and that’s exactly how I feel as well.  The blending of these two things made the film so. very. interesting!

Without spoiling the plot completely, I wanted to offer a pause for those with young children.  Dickens’ memory takes him back to some sad and scary memories of his childhood.  These may be a little troubling to a young kid.  Charles is left behind as a young boy to stay in a dark and rat-infested workhouse.  As a grown man he confronts his Father about abandoning him and being good for nothing.  I would imagine some small or sensitive kids might be bothered by this.  Honestly, small kids aren’t going to enjoy this movie at all.

For someone not familiar with the storyline of A Christmas Carol or Charles Dickens might find the first half of the movie a little slow.  I’m a word nerd and literature geek, so knowing that this movie was based on the true story of this iconic Author made it all the better to me. My advice if you aren’t a literature lover is to stick with the movie anyway.  It has a great message – will be a great Christmas movie to watch this year – and is clean!

Once the storyline has Charles really involved in actually writing his new book, things get very interesting.  Certainly not for everyone, but for those who love biographies, behind-the-scenes, and Christmas stories, it’s a must-see.

Did you see The Man Who Invented Christmas?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!


The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review



Published on Huffington Post, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and adoring Wife to Superman and Mom to older kiddos. She shares “How-To” plan the BEST family vacations in the South with travel reviews and insider travel secrets that Women REALLY want to know!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

Find me on: Web | Twitter | Facebook

Miami Beach With Kids: How & Why To Take The Family For A Quick Peek

So you’ve always been curious to see Miami, but you aren’t sure if Miami Beach with kids is such a great idea. Take heart, friend, because I just visited with the hubs and one kid in tow and was delightfully surprised at how much I loved it.  This is part two in our Florida Beaches series, so if you missed it, check out the top 7 things to do in West Palm Beach.  Let’s dive into (see what I did there) how and why to take a peek at Miami Beach with the family, shall we?!

How and why to peek at Miami Beach with kids - Miami Beach AND high rise buildings in the backdrop

peek – pēk, verb
1. to look quickly, typically in a furtive manner.
“faces peeked from behind the curtains”
synonym: take a sly/stealthy look

I use the word peek because that’s all our family had time for.  As part of our Florida road trip to compare beaches along the east coast, the plan was to leave West Palm Beach bright and early to arrive in Miami, Florida mid-morning.  We wanted to spend just enough time to scope out the downtown and beach scene before heading to the Florida Keys.

Miami Beach with kids

Miami Beach, especially South Beach, has quite a reputation of being a party spot for the rich and barely dressed. Since my youngest is a teenager, we knew it would be fine.  Even with the worse case scenario… we’d leave if things weren’t cool.

The funny thing is that we didn’t see anything risque whatsoever.  Zero.  Zilch.  Not even a skimpy swimsuit. My disclaimer is this: I’m not sure what it’s like other times but we ended up there on a Sunday morning.  People were laying in the sun and playing in the water like they do on any other beach.  But it the sand and ocean colors were clear and gorgeous!

Where to park in Miami Beach

Parking is at a premium in Miami Beach with many cars and people walking the sidewalks.  After seeing all of the choices, the place we believe is the best place to park is a parking lot adjacent to the Hilton Cabana Miami Beach Hotel.  There were many parking spaces with parking meters. I’ll include the address at the end that can be used for a GPS reference if you want to retrace our steps.

What is wonderful about this parking spot is that it was a gorgeous area with super close beach access and what looked like a park nearby.  I loved how everything was so stinking clean and how there were so many pedestrians and joggers in the area.

We walked down to the ocean through the fluffy, white-ish sand and noticed the Caribbean blue color and clarity of the water.  There were rows and rows of lounge chairs and umbrellas for rent and a fair amount of people to be so early in the day.

How and why to peek at Miami Beach with kids - rental chairs and umbrellas

How and why to peek at Miami Beach with kids - white sand and ocean of Miami Beach

What to see in Miami

Just like most beach towns, the roads parallel and closest to the beach are where the action’s at.  My jaw literally dropped when I saw the upscale but retro, Art Deco Historic District.  It was so lovely.

We spent most of our time cruising Collins Avenue, Ocean Blvd, and 14th Avenue (along the beach) before parking near the Hilton Cabana Hotel.  On our way back from the beach to the parking area I mentioned, I talked my crew into taking a peek inside the ultra-glamorous Hilton Cabana Hotel.  Wow, it was unbelievably art deco, yet modern at the same time.  The only problem with taking a gander inside is that my girl is now asking me if we can return and stay there a few nights.

Near this beach access area, you’ll find an assortment of restaurants of all types.  The Tavern is a traditional breakfast and brunch joint with indoor and outdoor patio seating.  New York Bagel Deli is a great place to grab an espresso, iced coffee, fresh bagels, or sandwich and head to the beach. New Camp Argentino is a steakhouse restaurant with a menu consisting of pasta, pizza as well as traditional Argentinian food.

Before you leave town, you must check out Flamingo Park, a 36-acre park built in the 1950s that’s been renovated to perfection.  Don’t miss the aquatic center’s 8-lane lap pool and a zero-depth entry water play area, the climbing wall, and the dog park.

So as you can see, we had a nice little Miami Beach with kids day without incident.  I definitely recommend a stop!  Don’t miss the fun video of our adventures in Miami below.

Can’t view? Watch HERE

Click here for my hotel suggestions for Miami Beach, Florida

Must-See Miami Beach Spots

Art Deco Historic District:  1001 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, Florida

Flamingo Park:  11 Street & Jefferson Avenue, Miami Beach, Florida

The Tavern Restaurant:  located inside Oceanside Hotel, 6084 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL

New Campo Argentino Steakhouse:  6954 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL

New York Bagel Deli:  6546 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL

Hilton Cabana Miami Beach Hotel: 6261 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, Florida

When do YOU want to visit Miami Beach with Kids? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!


How and why to peek at Miami Beach with kids - Art Deco buildings of Miami Beach


Published on Huffington Post, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and adoring Wife to Superman and Mom to older kiddos. She shares “How-To” plan the BEST family vacations in the South with travel reviews and insider travel secrets that Women REALLY want to know!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

Find me on: Web | Twitter | Facebook

Top 7 Things To Do In West Palm Beach Florida With The Family This Year

It’s true, our family loves to explore beach towns and we’re on a mission to check out the best things to do in West Palm Beach and other South Florida beaches on the way to our week-long road trip to Key West, Florida.  Actually, I’m on magazine story assignment but I’m also sharing a series of posts of the good and the don’t-waste-your-time Florida beaches we encounter on the way to the southernmost city.  Since there aren’t online articles containing what women want to know about these Southern destinations, it’s my mission to provide them for Y’all.  Let’s start with the seven best things to do in West Palm Beach, shall we?!

Seven best things to do in West Palm Beach - Palm tree lined Worth Avenue

Thank you so much for hosting us, Best Western Palm Beach Lakes! We had a blast with you.

Things to do in West Palm Beach

I’d heard of West Palm as a luxury shopping destination but this is the first time we were able to spend family time in the area. We rolled into town mid-morning and checked-in to our hotel room before exploring the city.   More on this fabulous hotel in a moment, but let’s just say that it couldn’t have been in a more central location to all the fun things to do in West Palm Beach, Florida.

West Palm Beaches

The clock tower showed up on a google map along Ocean Boulevard when I was researching beach accesses so that became our beach destination. The beach was about four and a half miles from our hotel.  We got on I-95 S for 0.7 miles, then continued on FL-704 E (Royal Park Bridge) to Hammon Ave for 3.8 miles, which led us to S Ocean Blvd.

As soon as we crossed the Royal Park Bridge toward the beach, the posh-factor increased by leaps and bounds.  My jaw literally dropped at the multitude of luxurious homes and manicured boxwood hedges that led us to Ocean Boulevard.  All we wanted to do was find the beach and little did we know that we had landed smack dab in the midst of the “Rodeo Drive of Florida.”

Seven best things to do in West Palm Beach - Clock Tower is the start of Worth Avenue


West Palm Beach Celebrities

As we were crossing the bridge to the beach, Superman mentioned that Donald Trump had a resort home in the area.  Remember the iconic clock tower that we parked by?  I realized when we returned to the car to hunt for celebrity homes that we were but mere miles from Donald Trump’s Mar a Lago Estate, his winter “white house” with 58 bedrooms and 62,000 square feet.  Of course, we had to take a ride to gander at it.  Other West Palm Beach celebrity homes include those of Ivana Trump, Rush Limbaugh, Rod Stewart and Venus and Serena Williams.

Worth Avenue Shopping

If you find the clock tower in Palm Beach, you’ve literally found the start of Worth Avenue, “the Rodeo Drive of Florida.”  World-renowned as one of the most upscale shopping districts in America, it includes for the designer boutiques and luxury department stores such as Tiffany and Co, Jimmy Choo, Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Valentino and Neiman Marcus.  Many upscale restaurants and a history tour truly make it one of the must-see things to do in West Palm Beach since it’s truly the crown jewel of shopping for the state of Florida.

Outlet Shopping

A few hundred feet from our hotel room was a gorgeous Target shopping center – complete with a lower level, covered parking garage, and escalators for people AND shopping carts.  We were very thankful for the covered parking because we were in the midst of a rain shower at the time of our shopping trip.  This Target was even better than most (I mean, who doesn’t adore Target?) because of all of the beachwear it contained.

Directly across from our hotel and Target we found the Palm Beach Outlet Mall. This outdoor, luxury shopping center has close to 150 stores like

  • Nike
  • Ulta
  • Adidas
  • Yankee Candle
  • Columbia
  • Vera Bradley
  • Under Armour
  • Polo
  • Talbots
  • Steve Madden
  • Justice
  • Hurley
  • Gap
  • Anne Taylor

Seven best things to do in West Palm Beach - Palm Beach Outlets

As you can see, the Palm Beach Outlets are diverse and they are beautiful.  We really enjoyed our time shopping at this spot.

Okeeheelee Park 

One of the unexpected things to do in West Palm Beach is a visit to the large premier park, Okeeheelee, with many available outdoor activities for families.  There’s more than enough to choose from with kayaking, canoeing, hiking, water skiing, bike trails, picnic pavilions and a dog park.  What a fun place!

Free Manatee Lagoon

Another unique treat for the family that’s worth a stop is Manatee Lagoon.  This clean and contemporary educational center has free entry, tours, and parking and is set up with an aquarium or museum-like layout.  Take a self-guided tour if you’d rather go at your own pace than follow the 30-minute tour with a guide.  If you visit during winter or early spring, you just might see manatees is the beautiful lagoon as well.

West Palm Beach Hotel time

Located at Exit 71 east of I-95, we greatly enjoyed the Best Western Palm Beach Lakes as our relaxing home base right in heart of all the exciting action that West Palm Beach has to offer.  When I say exciting action, I’m talking about close proximity to the beach, shopping, and the best restaurants.  A Target was located literally steps away from our hotel room and the Palm Beach Outlets Shopping Complex is located right across the street! Also nearby is the chic Downtown CityPlace, the Palm Beach Convention Center, Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, the Norton Museum and the Rapids Water Park.

Honestly, we’d never stayed in a Best Western hotel and I was thoroughly impressed with this one.  Our king suite room was especially roomy and super clean.  We only had one of our kiddos with us and the pullout couch bed was perfect for her.  I loved how there was an actual bedroom and living room/dining room setup.  Another perk was how our room faced the tropical courtyard area with the pool. You can tell in the video below how gorgeous this place really is.

Best Western Palm Beach Lakes Hotel

West Palm Beach mentions

Worth Ave Shopping:  Worth Ave, Palm Beach

Palm Beach Outlets: 1751 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd West Palm Beach

Beach access:  423 S Ocean Blvd, Palm Beach

Okeeheelee Park:  7715 Forest Hill Boulevard, West Palm Beach

Manatee Lagoon:  2578, 6000 N Flagler Dr, West Palm Beach

Best Western Palm Beach Lakes:  1800 Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard West Palm Beach (561) 683-8810

Seven best things to do in West Palm Beach Florida - shopping!




Published on Huffington Post, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and adoring Wife to Superman and Mom to older kiddos. She shares “How-To” plan the BEST family vacations in the South with travel reviews and insider travel secrets that Women REALLY want to know!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

Find me on: Web | Twitter | Facebook

St Augustine Day Trip – Top 6 Family Friendly Favorite Things To Do

We had yet another St Augustine day trip on our way to a recent press event at Marineland Dolphin Adventure.  I say “yet another” because our family has been to weddings and other events and I was even invited by a historic hotel during the annual Nights of Lights celebration, but couldn’t stay due to other commitments.  Because Saint Augustine Florida is such a fascinating city, we never hesitate to visit every chance we get. I’ve compiled a top 6 list of things to do in St Augustine with your people when you are nearby – even if it’s for just a few hours.

St Augustine Day Trip - Top 6 Things to Do - Bridge of Lions Statue

St Augustine Day Trip Ideas

St. Augustine, Florida is unmatched in Spanish colonial architecture as it lays claim to being the oldest city in the U.S.  Not only is this incredibly walkable city full of stunning historical structures at every turn, there’s also the fabulous waterfront, shopping, food and quirky museums. What more could you ask for on a St Augustine day trip with the family?


One of our favorite attributes of St. Augustine is the walkability and layout.  This colonial planned city was laid out in a logical grid pattern with a gorgeous town square in the center.  Surrounding the town center are lovely views of the statues, the Bridge of Lions, unique shops, and churches.  The narrow, brick-lined Aviles Street and its counterparts are my favorites because you can just envision the bustling colonial life of years past as you stroll along them.

St Augustine Day Trip - Top 6 Family Friendly Things To Do - Aviles Street

St Augustine Day Trip - Top 6 Things to Do - Aviles Street Shops


During busy seasons, driving around the blocks a couple times may be necessary to find a parking space.  This time around we easily pulled into the small parking lot on Orange Street – close to Cordova Street.  I love how many historical buildings and attractions there are to see in such close proximity to each other.  For instance, I spotted four cool things to do immediately upon exiting our car in the parking lot.

Right in front of my eyes was the Potter’s Wax Museum, a stop for the Old Town Trolley Tour and the Tolomato Cemetery Tour.  I immediately walked over to the cemetery to check it out.

Nearby our coveted parking spot we found Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest wooden school house, the colonial quarter and the first parish of the new world, Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, to name a few.  It’s so neat to learn in a fun way about St. Augustine’s rich history in becoming a city that truly changed America.

St Augustine Day Trip - Top 6 Things to Do - Oldest Wood School House in the USA

St Augustine Day Trip - Top 6 Things to Do - Castillo de San Marcos Fort

St Augustine Day Trip - Top 6 Things to Do - Cathedral of St Augustine


I don’t know about you, but one of the things our family looks most forward to is searching for the best food when visiting new places.  Another great thing about the place we parked is that we noticed a super cute burger joint on our way into the city.  After walking through the historic treats and stopping in for fudge and salt water taffy samples, it’s was time to have lunch.

We really enjoyed our sitdown meal at Burger Buckets on Cordova Street.  Our meal started out with fried dill pickles and very yummy burgers and fries.  The menu boasts some pretty crazy burger combinations and a fun kick-the-bucket eating challenge.  One of the waiters let us try a free key lime pie slice (shipped in from Key West), so we were stuffed, to say the least.  My advice is to sit in the front room unless you want to be in the warmest spot and in a dog-friendly area.

Save on your hotel -
We stumbled into a neat little store that was down one of the narrow streets called Olde Town Jerky that had the tagline on their sign, “A real taste of the Old West.”  We were able to choose a jerky sample from all sorts of meat/game choices: beef, buffalo, elk, or alligator.  They even had jerky made from rattlesnake and rabbit!  The cool thing is that they are made the old-fashioned way without preservatives or MSG.

Lastly, since it was warm weather, we started to get a little toasty and in need of refreshment.  We decided to stop at a little kiosk-type stand named Likit Dole Whip on George Street so Superman and Princess could get some dole whip soft serve ice cream.  Although this cute little counter service place served lots of choices, E and I only wanted a couple sodas.

St Augustine Day Trip - Top 6 Things to Do - Dole Whip Soft Serve Ice Cream Cups


On this recent trip to St. Augustine, Florida, us girls really hit as many shops as we could.  There were so many unique shops with one-of-a-kind items.  There are many little nooks and crannies to duck into along the Colonial Quarter, but we found some new favorites alongside the St Augustine City Square Plaza on King Street.

First, we met an inspiring woman who worked for two of the side-by-side stores, So Mermazing and Artsy Adode Boutique.  She shared that her Grandfather had been instrumental in building Marineland eighty years ago.  Both of these stores were just delightful and had us all smiling.  Be sure to look for a coupon book in the front of the Artsy  Abode Boutique when you visit.

The winner of our favorite store of the day definitely went to a charming little shop called Two Sparrows.  Y’all.  This store is not only stunning but it’s one of the most peaceful places I’ve had the privilege of walking into.  After viewing many of the beautiful clothing and houseware items, my daughter-in-love called me over to see something special.  She was giving me one of those looks that meant, “You aren’t going to believe this!”  It was a lovely prayer wall where visitors and locals to St. Augustine can leave prayer requests and/or praises.  The staff said they pray over them daily.  If you shop nowhere else on your trip to this historic city, you have to check out Two Sparrows.


If you followed The How-to Guru for long, you know I always suggest taking some sort of “big picture” tour around a new city as soon after you arrive as possible.  There’s no better way to get the lay of the land and get your bearings as a city tour.  During tours of new cities, our family makes mental notes of which spots we’ve like to discover later on foot.  For a St Augustine day trip, you can take a fun trolley tour from one of the two companies!  There are also two wax museums in the city for those that enjoy quirky family attractions.

St Augustine Day Trip - Top 6 Things to Do - Trolley Tour


Not only are there are the family friendly activities listed above for a St Augustine day trip in the downtown area, the St. Johns River and Intracoastal Waterway is nearby too.  There are many things to do on or near the water like fishing from the pier, chartering a boat, or riding on jet skis.

I purposely left off the option of a St Augustine day trip to the beaches near the top of the list for two reasons.  Firstly, some people don’t enjoy going to the beach for just the day and leaving with sand all over them.  The second reason is that I haven’t visited St. Augustine beaches yet (but I have many friends that ADORE St. Augustine beaches)!  I’m excited to report though that we will have our toes in the sand of St. Augustine beaches within days and I’ll be sharing all of that with you as well.

Things to do in St. Augustine 
Saint Augustine, Florida is one of those lovely places where there is always more to do than you could ever accomplish in one trip.  Every time we spend time in the area, time flies faster than we desire and it’s always sad to say goodbye.  One last travel tip for a fabulous St Augustine day trip is to visit the St. Augustine & St. Johns County Visitor Information Center as soon as you roll into town for loads of help and possibly some discounts too!

Location: 21 King St, St Augustine, FL 32084


What are your favorite things to do on a St Augustine day trip?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!





Published on Huffington Post, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and adoring Wife to Superman and Mom to older kiddos. She shares “How-To” plan the BEST family vacations in the South with travel reviews and insider travel secrets that Women REALLY want to know!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

Find me on: Web | Twitter | Facebook

Marineland Dolphin Adventure: Don’t Miss The 80th Anniversary Celebration

Honored to be invited to a month-long 80th Anniversary Celebration that started with the Historic reopening ceremony of the Marineland arch entrance, I can tell you that there’s no better time to visit Marineland Dolphin Adventure than right now! Gone are the days for visitors to passively watch performances at this dolphin conservation center located just south of St. Augustine along scenic A1A in Marineland, Florida.  Now a part of the Georgia Aquarium, Marineland Dolphin Adventure is a beautiful facility where families can have physical and emotional connections with playful dolphins through interactive programs and tours.  There are plenty of reasons to soak up the sun and fun at this iconic attraction of Florida.

Visit Marineland Dolphin Adventure - 80th Anniversary Celebration

Thank You, Marineland for tickets in order to facilitate press coverage of this event!

Marineland Dolphin Adventure

My traveling family was ecstatic to visit Marineland Dolphin Adventure for the first weekend of the 80th Anniversary Celebration.  We spent the day getting up close and personal with these beautiful creatures and learned so much about them.  Did you know that dolphins can swim at speeds of 35 miles per hour and that Nellie the dolphin lived to be 61 years old while living at Marineland? You can watch a touching tribute to Nellie HERE.

There’s so much more to see and do any month of the year but especially during this month of special events and activities for the whole family.  You do not want to miss all the reasons to visit Marineland, Florida this year.

Marineland Dolphin Adventure - interact & swim with dolphins - 80 year celebration


Marineland Dolphin Adventure was created as an underwater film studio in 1938 who wanted to introduce undersea life to audiences nationwide. The most well-known classic movies created at “Marine Studios” in the 1950s are Sea HuntCreature from the Black Lagoon and Revenge of the Creature, who starred a talented bottlenose dolphin named “Flippy.”

Marineland Dolphin Adventure - interact & swim with dolphins - Creature from the Black Lagoon

Through the decades, many movies continued to be shot on location here including Benji Takes a Dive at Marineland. A brand new movie called Bernie the Dolphin was filmed here earlier this year starring big names like Kevin Sorbo and Patrick Muldoon and will hit theaters in December 2018.

Watch Bernie The Dolphin filming 
The movies that have been filmed at Marineland Dolphin Adventure are:

  • Marine Circus (1939)
  • Port Sinister (1953)
  • The Sea Around Us (1953)
  • Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
  • Revenge of the Creature (1955)
  • Secrets of the Reef (1956)
  • Sea Hunt (1958, TV)
  • Zaat (1975)
  • Sea Dream (1978)
  • Benji Takes a Dive at Marineland (1981, TV)
  • The Flamingo Rising (2001, TV)
  • Bernie the Dolphin (2018)


Every day in June 2018 is at two different time slots, guests have an opportunity to learn about dolphins and see the highly skilled trainers interact with them.  It’s no wonder that scores of young people leave Marineland every week with visions of being a trainer themselves.

Marineland Dolphin Adventure - interact & swim with dolphins


Sundays and Mondays are fabulous days to visit for Florida fun and discounts.  Each Sunday in June from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., you’ll find a Farmers Market with live entertainment waiting there for you.  Sunday also means fun days for families with children’s events, face painting, eating contests, animal touch pools, and more.  Two kids get a free admission with a paying adult!  On Mondays in June, Marineland is offering Buy one – Get one for general admission and the “Behind the Seas” tour.


Join the beach cleanup effort called, “Save Our World Ocean” on June 8th that will begin at the boardwalk adjacent to Marineland.  Live music will entertain those as they clean and volunteers will receive free passes.

Save on your hotel -


During our ‘Behind the Seas’ tour, we learned that there are 15 dolphins onsite – one fella that’s over 500 pounds.  We also fell in love with Betty – the sweet 50-year-old gal!  Since there’s more than dolphins at Marineland, we were also able to see lots of other sea life including a 5-foot long moray eel!

On June 10th, visitors have the chance to learn more about Marineland history, dolphin research, and conservation.  Visitors that attend the lecture will learn from experts Dr. Kathleen Dudzinski, John Anderson, and Matthew Denny.

Marineland Dolphin Adventure - Green Moray Eel tank

I spy many marine animals – do you?

Marineland Dolphin Adventure - interact & swim with dolphins - octopus in Behind the Seas Tour

He was sweet enough to give us a “heart” pose!


There’s a special 5k on June 16th!  “The Gratitude America 5k Run” starts at 8 a.m. at Marineland and will benefit our USA Veterans.


An unforgettable evening is planned for June 16 at 7 p.m. as Heisman Trophy winner Steve Spurrier will be on-site to feed dolphins and reenact an experience he had at Marineland during the 1960s.  This event will be followed by a movie that was filmed at Marineland, along with food and beverages available.

Marineland Dolphin Adventure - interact & swim with dolphins - Marineland sign


Don’t miss the big celebration of the official anniversary of Marineland’s humble beginnings on June 23rd.  There will be proclamations, special guests, food and beverages, a silent auction, and a free souvenir booklet.

Not only is Marineland Dolphin Adventure a one-of-a-kind facility for the care of marine life, it’s also situated smack dab in the middle of one of my favorite areas of Florida.  If time allows, take the family 30 minutes north to St. Augustine or south to Beverly Beach.

Warning: Please don’t confuse Marineland Dolphin Adventure with attractions of the same name in Canada or Grand Cayman Island.

Location: 9600 N Ocean Shore Blvd, St Augustine, FL 32080

Marineland Dolphin Adventure - interact & swim with dolphins - posing with anchor

Our girls!

watch video of our family travel adventure in Marineland, Florida
Click Here For Great Hotel Options In Palm Coast, Florida

Visit the official Marineland Dolphin Adventure website to start planning your trip now.

I’m glad to help with any questions about Marineland Dolphin Adventures that you may have.  Ask away in the comments or contact box below!


Marineland Dolphin Adventure - interact & swim with dolphins - Behind the Seas Tour


Published on Huffington Post, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and adoring Wife to Superman and Mom to older kiddos. She shares “How-To” plan the BEST family vacations in the South with travel reviews and insider travel secrets that Women REALLY want to know!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

Find me on: Web | Twitter | Facebook