Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of "all things calm & cozy home."

She shares "how-to" plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It's THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

Posts by this author:

Best Weekend Getaways For Fall Foliage & Family Fun This Year

Best Weekend Getaways for fall foliage overload, dreamy drives, & fairy tale hiking trails - Fall Color WaterfallAutumn is in the air and you’re wondering where the best weekend getaways are for fall foliage overload, dreamy drives, and fairy tale hiking trails. AmIright? Nothing gives us the warm fuzzies more than surrounding ourselves with crisp cool air and scenes of pumpkin patches, beautiful waterfalls, and fun family activities and family vacation ideas are my jam!

Best weekend getaways in the south

Check out the best fall weekend getaways in the south below with contact information for each activity at the very end.


The Blue Ridge Scenic Parkway meanders 469 miles through the spine of the North Georgia Mountains and you can take a heartwarming boxcar ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway that travels 26 miles round trip with stunning views along the beautiful Toccoa River and into Tennessee. Downtown Blue Ridge, Georgia holds its Harvest Festival on Sunday, October 28th and it will delight all ages with games, live music, interactive displays, carnival snacks, costumed characters, pumpkin painting and much more.

Spooky Savannah tours are available for those thrill seekers that want to see beautiful Savannah, Georgia’s spookier side.  Take a creepy walking tour through Bonaventure Cemetery, where you are guided by a master storyteller past the graves of famous people and every-day Georgians or go on a spine-tingling candlelight walking tour to hear chilling tales of this Gothic town’s most famous ghosts and local folklore. If you dare, stay at the Marshall House Inn, formally a Civil War hospital, where rumors abound of soldier and child ghosts running in hallways and turning on appliances.

Best Weekend Getaways for fall foliage overload, dreamy drives, & fairy tale hiking trails - Georgia Pumpkin Festival

Stone Mountain Pumpkin Festival, James Emery, cc

Experience the all-new Play-by-Day and Glow-by-Night at the Pumpkin Festival of Stone Mountain.  During the day you can soar to the summit on the Skyride, ride the Scenic Railroad around the mountain, meet and greet Spookly the Square Pumpkin, and join in storytelling with Mother Goose, pie eating contests, and tea party games with the Mad Hatter.  Get ready for a world of ginormous glowing pumpkin displays, a glow-along party parade, costume contests, and more glow-in-the-dark family fun.

Visit the Rock Ranch Festivals as one of the best weekend getaways for family fun on Saturdays that include hot air balloons, “not so scary” Halloween fun, and National Pumpkin Destruction Day!  Built by the late S. Truett Cathy of Chick-fil-A, this 1,500-acre working cattle ranch located about an hour south of Atlanta was founded by Truett to “unite families to the land and each other.”

South Carolina

The Beaufort Fall Festival of Homes & Gardens is a delightful way to spend a fall afternoon in October.  Pick a day out of the three offered for a private stroll through historic homes and plantations in the Beaufort National Historic Landmark District and surrounding Lowcountry.

The South Carolina Pecan Festival in Downtown Florence is a fabulous spot to experience fall in South Carolina for one of the best weekend getaways.  Enjoy eight different stages of live entertainment, over 200 Arts and Crafts, Non-Profit, and Food Vendors, the “Run Like a Nut” and “Bike Like a Nut” events. This is the 15th year for the festival of great activities, entertainment, and family fun.

Best Weekend Getaways for fall foliage overload, dreamy drives, & fairy tale hiking trails - South Carolina Mountain

Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, South Carolina,  -ted, cc

Head out for a family hike at Spoonauger Falls with its easy terrain at just half a mile to the beautiful 50-foot falls and a shallow pool at the bottom that the kiddos will adore.  Table Rock State Park offers even more impressive fall foliage views but the payment is it’s strenuous 3.6-mile climb up 2,000 feet of mountain to reach the top of the granite dome.  Table Rock also has two lakes, a campground, mountain cabins, and a historic lodge.

North Carolina

Ken’s Korny Corn Maze is North Carolina’s longest-running corn maze and it’s easy to see why.  Not only is there a 10-acre Fall playground, but also 2 1/2 miles of paths in their corn maze.  Truly a family-friendly venue, your family can enjoy rubber duck races, a corn tunnel, wooden ship, picnic area, hay barn, miniature golf, and a hayride.

Best Weekend Getaways for fall foliage overload, dreamy drives, & fairy tale hiking trails - North Carolina Corn Maze

Peanuts™ The Great Pumpkin Patch Express is a Great Smoky Mountains Railroad narrated trip (of the Charlie Brown story) that boards at the Bryson City Depot and travels to the pumpkin patch.  Kiddos will be greeted initially for photo ops with the Peanuts gang and then they’ll enjoy layover time at the patch to enjoy campfire marshmallows, a bouncy house, hayrides, and more!


One of the best weekend getaways during fall in Tennessee is to visit the Smoky Mountains National Park area and plan a day hike with the family around Cades Cove.  Twenty-seven miles from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Cades Cove has numerous old churches, a working grist mill, barns, log houses, and many other eighteenth and nineteenth century structures along the route. There are short and long hiking trails to choose from.

If you are looking for a variety of family activities in one gorgeous Tennessee mountain town, Chattanooga is your spot!  Chattanooga, Tennessee is unique in that its lively downtown hub is surrounded by easily accessible mountains and rivers and more scenic beauty than you can shake a stick at!  For instance, you can park that family car and explore the vibrant Downtown District by walking or catch a free electric shuttle or Grayline Chattanooga Hop On/Off Trolley.  Starting in September, your fam can enjoy the fall colors by foot on breathtaking vistas (Lookout Mountain, Raccoon Mountain, Sunset Rock, Lula Lake Land Trust, Prentice Cooper State Park, Point Park) by boat, train or bike!

Best Weekend Getaways for fall foliage overload, dreamy drives, & fairy tale hiking trails - Tennessee Fall Colors

Smoky Mountains National Park

The Mid-South Barbecue Festival is on its 10th year running and they say you can smell their “butts” for miles! Take the family to see what all the hoopla is about at this KCBS sanctioned barbecue competition. Fill up on endless samples in Downtown Mount Pleasant and enjoy entertainment, vendors, a classic car show, a free zone for kids, and a kid’s Halloween costume contest.


One of the best weekend getaways is the delightful working farm in Hillard Florida known as Conner’s A-Maize-Ing Acres.  Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” Conner’s corn maze was chosen for “The Great Pumpkin Patch” transformation! Not only do they have an out-of-this-world corn maze, families can enjoy tumble bug races, barnyard animals, a corn box, corn hole, a cow train, and horse train rides.  Don’t miss this adorable place for family fun in October!

Best Weekend Getaways for fall foliage overload, dreamy drives, & fairy tale hiking trails - Florida Fall Festival

Step back in time when you arrive this October at the historic McIntosh 1890s Festival along Hwy. 441 between Gainesville and Ocala, Florida.  Bring a blanket and a picnic to enjoy all day, free entertainment as residents walk among you in their 1890s clothing, children playing in the park, and the backdrop of Victorian homes underneath the canopy of 100-year old live oak trees.  You and your family can also stroll along the park and check out over 280 arts, crafts, food, and antique vendors.


Check out the Fall Farm Day Festival in Dothan, Alabama where the fam can see how peanuts were harvested in the Wiregrass region nearly 100 years ago. You’ll get to indulge in the sights, sounds and sweet smells of cane grinding, syrup making, butter churning, soap making, and other traditional farm activities. There will be fun music, antique tractors, wagon rides and the largest quilt display in the entire Wiregrass area.

The best weekend getaways in Alabama start with the Covered Bridge Capital of Alabama, Blount County.  There is an amazing Fall Color Trail, but be sure to take in the scenery of Oneonta/Blount County and enjoy the color from Horton Mill, Old Easley or Swann covered bridges and Palisades Park during the weekend of October 27th and attend the delightful Covered Bridge Festival.

Best Weekend Getaways for fall foliage overload, dreamy drives, & fairy tale hiking trails - Alabama Covered Bridges

Scarecrows in the Park is a remarkable community tradition in the small town of Opp, Alabama.  Over 300 scarecrows spread along the trails of Lake Frank Jackson State Park’s three miles of walking trails every October and November since 2008.  Stick around at the gorgeous 2,050-acre Frank Jackson State Park for a picnic, fishing, or a leisurely walk along a pedestrian bridge to a lake island.

watch Scarecrows in the Park video 

Tell me in the comments which of the best weekend getaways listed here are you most excited to visit?

Info to know before your best weekend getaways

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway:  241 Depot Street, Blue Ridge, GA (877) 413-8724

Bonaventure Cemetery Tours:  415 Bonaventure Road, Suite B, Savannah, GA (912) 292-0960

Candlelight Walking Tour:  Colonial Park Cemetery 201 East Oglethorpe Ave, Savannah, GA (912) 604-3007

Marshall House Inn:  123 East Broughton Street Savannah, GA (912) 644-7896

Stone Mountain Pumpkin Festival:  1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd, Stone Mountain, GA (800) 401-2407

The Rock Ranch:  5020 Barnesville Hwy, The Rock, GA (706) 647-6374

Beaufort Fall Tour of Historic Homes & Gardens:  208 Scott Street, Beaufort, SC (843) 379-3331

South Carolina Pecan Festival:  324 W. Evans Street Florence, SC (843) 665-2047

Spoonauger Falls:  Burrells Ford Rd, Mountain Rest, SC

Table Rock State Park:  158 E Ellison Ln, Pickens, SC

Ken’s Korny Corn Maze:  3175 Benson Road, Garner NC

Great Pumpkin Patch Express:  45 Mitchell St., Bryson City, NC

Cades Cove:  107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN

Visit Chattanooga

Mid-South Barbecue Festival:  104 N Main St., Mount Pleasant, TN

Conner’s A-Maize-Ing Acres:  19856 County Road 121, Hilliard, FL

McIntosh 1890s Festival:  Van Ness Park, McIntosh, FL

Fall Farm Day:  430 Landmark Dr. Dothan, AL

Alabama Fall Color Trail

Scarecrows in the Park:  Frank Jackson State Park, 100 Jerry Adams Dr, Opp, AL


Best Weekend Getaways for fall foliage overload, dreamy drives, & fairy tale hiking trails - Tennessee Rapids


Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of “all things calm & cozy home.”

She shares “how-to” plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

How To Prepare For A Hurricane & Other Disasters Around The Home – Wife Edition

We prepare our homes around here for other things like decor and coziness, but we typically don’t think about how to prepare for a hurricane or other disasters until it’s emergency time.  Amen?  I’m guilty too, y’all, even though I know firsthand what it feels like to lose it all.  We recently visited the Florida Keys and saw recovery from a hurricane still going on a year later. Today I’m sharing quick ways that wives can prepare our homes right now that often aren’t thought of until it’s too late.

How To Prepare For A Hurricane & Other Disasters For Wives - Rain Boots

I’m sharing how to prepare for a hurricane & other disaster home tips from our own experiences.  Go through my list of things to do below before threats of a tornado, flood, hurricane or other disaster strikes to gain a little piece of mind!

How to prepare for a hurricane at home

There are so many things that we as wives can do around the house before the threat of a storm (or any other natural disaster) heads our way (hurricane supply list link near the end). The most important thing we can do is begin!

Preparing our home outdoors

We all lead incredibly busy lives and things to do to improve our home on the outside often get overlooked, so let’s take a stroll outside together to check it out and see how to prepare for a hurricane and other scary disasters.  With eminent disasters in mind, how does everything look?  I’ll ask some questions as we look around.

Are there lots of unnecessary objects in your yard that could be tossed around in dangerously high winds?  If you have a trampoline, figure out how to tie it down safety now before the threat of tornado causes more danger.  Remove random objects now that don’t serve a purpose (your place will look less cluttered that way too)!

How does the roof look?  Figure out how old your roof is and get the hubs or a professional to check it out for you.  This could solve a lot of leakage heartbreak in the future.

How are your windows?  If you have storm shutters, make sure they are in good working condition.  If not, make sure windows are leak proof and that dangerous branches nearby are taken care of.

How do your drains and gutters look?  Make sure both are clean and clear.

Do you have check valves on plumbing?  If not, make sure to install those (thank you, YouTube!) or get the hubs or a professional to do so.  Having these plumbing check valves installed will prevent backups.

Do you own a generator?  Make sure that yours is in working order but figure out now where it will be used that can be outdoors and away from windows.  It would be a good investment to own one if at all possible.

Preparing our home indoors

There are several ways we can check out how to prepare for a hurricane and other things inside the home as well.  Let’s have a look around the homestead, shall we?

Do you know where your insurance policy is It is a great idea to read through it quickly to see what is covered and what is not.  After doing so, put it and other important documents in a waterproof/fireproof place.  You can also create password-protected digital copies.

Do you have photos and descriptions of items in your home Trust me, this would have been an incredible blessing to us when we lost our home and contents to fire.  Take photos of all valuables and housewares that you will have to replace if you were to lose it all and have to start over.  Store images “in the cloud” or in a waterproof/fireproof container of your choice.

Do you have your most precious memories protected?  It’s not a bad idea to take a hard look at just a handful of mementos that can’t be replaced (most important photos, certificates, etc) should a flood, tornado or fire come knocking at your door.  Figure out the best way to protect these items that meet your family’s needs.  Safety deposit boxes, fireproof gun safes, digital scanners, indestructible containers, etc.

Do you have backup chargers for cell phones?  I’ve started a new habit of making sure my phone is close to a full charge and making sure my portable chargers are ready to go at all times too.  You never know when you might lose power and desperately need to be in contact with others.

Do you have your own wifey toolkit I realized a long time ago that if I wanted to put my hands on a hammer or screwdriver at a moment’s notice, I’d need to have my own toolkit.  My family gave me one as a gift so I wouldn’t have to keep hunting down where Superman had left his tools last (bless!)  We all need a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.  Duct tape could come in handy as well.

Do you have a working, battery-operated radio in your home?  Don’t rely on the internet or “Alexa” or the like. You can also get a hand crank radio with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) alerts.  While you’re at it, be sure to sign up for your local community’s warning system.

Do you have a shelter & evacuation escape plan in writing?  Talk with your family about the best plan in your home that would be the safest during a disaster (small, interior, windowless room or hallway on the lowest floor that is not subject to flooding is normally the best bet).  If you are called to evaluate your home, review the best evacuation route and shelter location written on paper to be stored with your emergency kit.

By the way, I’ve got my eye on this little gem…

Hand-Crank emergency radio with flashlight, beacon, & cell phone charger

General preparedness for wives.

You can find a basic survival kit supplies and/or an emergency preparedness list at the American Red Cross, or your state-operated emergency agency so I won’t put the exhaustive list.  But, here are a few bare minimum emergency preparedness list items that I’m working on personally to store in the closet that are easy and inexpensive (and less stressful) to gather now:

  • Matches
  • Manual can opener
  • Flashlight & plenty of batteries
  • Well-stocked kit first-aid kit
  • Plastic plates, forks, knives, and spoons
  • A seven-day supply of water & food for each member of the family

Moist towelettes, heavy-duty garbage bags, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, gloves, and plastic ties

you feel better about how to prepare for a hurricane & other disasters around your home?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!


How To Prepare For A Hurricane & Other Disasters For Wives - Lightening striking a house


Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of “all things calm & cozy home.”

She shares “how-to” plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

Key West Vacation Ideas Guide: 9 Top Things To Do For Families

Don’t miss this Key West Vacation Ideas Guide for families that I wish I’d had before our Florida beaches tour part #5.  Especially since I totally prejudged this city and I know a lot of other vacation-planning women do too.  I mean, Key West is nothing more than a bunch of bars and party animals, right?! Key West is so much more than that – families just need to know where to go and what to do! Check out my list of 9 favorite things to do in Key West for lots of family fun.

9 Top Key West Vacation Ideas for Families - Havana Cabana Lagoon Pool

Havana Cabana Lagoon Swimming Pool – Largest pool in Key West

Key West vacation ideas

How about all the details of the best things to do in Key West with kids with practical and memorable Key West vacation ideas?! I’m thrilled to share after my family traveled on a week-long media trip to the Keys for Okefenokee Living Magazine.  My thanks go to The Florida Keys & Key West Visitors Bureau for and the venues below for hosting us.  As always, my opinions are my own.

1. Stay at Havana Cabana Resort

As the name hints, Havana Cabana’s vibe plays on nostalgic influences from the culture of Cuba, 1950s era.  I’m a huge fan of retro, so I was thrilled to be greeted by a mid-century cruiser in the parking lot and to step back in time when we entered the gorgeous lobby of vintage furniture and oversized images, and two staircases leading to the second floor.

The Cabana part of the title couldn’t be more perfect because this resort is truly a lush escape from reality. The spectacular lagoon pool gives feelings of a tropical island retreat as sweet sounds of Flamenco guitar music wafts in the background.  We swam in that amazing pool morning, noon and night!  With the concierge assistance, free shuttle service around town (one of the best secrets!), and a couple dining choices, Havana Cabana Resort could be a fulfillment of a dream for all inclusive Key West vacations for your family too.

9 Top Key West Vacation Ideas for Families - Havana Cabana Hotel Room

2. Take an Old Town Trolley Tour

To gain the ‘big picture’ of a new destination, there’s nothing better than a tour of the city – especially with so many Key West vacation ideas to see and do.  An Old Town Trolley Tour, a sightseeing tour designed to let you hop on and off and explore at your own pace all day long, is the perfect way to see all the Key West attractions jam-packed into this lively city

With frequent free stops and pickups, this comprehensive, 90-minute tour on an enclosed bus was full of fun facts and entertainment by our driver with an elevated view of the 100 or so Key West points of interest. This may be one of your favorite Key West vacations ideas so that you don’t have to walk the entire city with the fam in tow.

9 Best Key West vacation ideas for Families - Old Town Trolley Tours

3. Eat at Turtle Kraals 

When it comes to the best places to eat in Key West Florida, there is one restaurant that we enjoyed a lot.  Turtle Kraals Bar & Restaurant has been a staple since 1980 and thankfully was right in the midst of the downtown action.  This energetic hot spot blends Key West’s colorful mix of food and culture and the food is influenced by generations of settlers from the nearby Caribbean islands.

Turtle Kraas’ lower level was alive with excitement and noise below, perfect for some, but we entered in the front by the marina and headed straight upstairs for a quiet table with an incredible waterfront view where we watched an infamous Key West sunset take place.  This upper deck is covered so it’s enjoyable rain or shine.  We received impeccable service from our waitress and learned a lot about the history of Key West and this historic restaurant from her.

9 Best Key West Vacation Ideas for Families - Table of Food at Turtle Kraas

9 Top Key West Vacation Ideas - Key West Sunset from upper deck of Turtle Kraals Restaurant

Our sunset view from the upper deck of Turtle Kraas Restaurant & Bar

4. Soak up best Key West beaches

I’d heard that Key West beaches were scarce and surrounded by rock.  Someone told even my husband that it was hard to get in the ocean.  My normal, stubborn side took over and I said, “Oh, there has to be a beach.  And this is a Florida beaches trip anyway.  We’ll figure it out.”  In my mind, one of the top Key West vacation ideas would be to find the beach!

As it turns out, we found the beach but I never got around to researching ahead of the trip so we wasted a little time, but there are definitely rumors that simply aren’t true.  There were several places on in Key West to visit beaches, but here’s my guide to three of the best to save you time!

Higgs Beach – The county-owned Clarence S. Higgs Memorial Beach Park has a pier and monuments from the site of a 1800s African slave cemetery, as well as “Salute! On the Beach” beachside café, and a beach concessionaire that offers water sport and beach accessories for rent including beach chairs, umbrellas, kayaks, and paddle-boards. This beach also has a tennis court, beach volleyball and a place for pickleball.  There is also a nice playground and a dog park with separate areas for small and large dogs.

Entry to the water from the shoreline here was full of shells, so water shoes are definitely recommended, but the area of clear, shallow water was fantastic. This beach was best for snorkeling and that made my crew very happy!

Smathers Beach – The sand and water were breathtaking at this location. The shoreline is only two miles long but was a popular spot for sunbathers and those looking to buy food items, drinks, chairs, and even rafts from vendors located there.  Parking is free in several spots and there are public restrooms and several vendors for renting water sports gear and equipment.

One of the top 9 Key West vacation ideas - Smathers Beach - Key West Beach

Smathers Beach, Ulla Moilanen, cc

Fort Zachary State Park Beach – This park and Key West beach are hidden gems. There aren’t big signs about this park and since it’s behind the Truman Annex, most people don’t even know it exists.  The admission is cheap and just beyond the beach sand, the Atlantic Ocean meets the Gulf of Mexico in a marvelous sight to behold.

One of the top 9 Key West vacation ideas - Fort Zachary Taylor Beach - Key West Beach

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Beach, Matt Kieffer, cc

5. Take Southernmost point & mile marker 0 selfies

You can’t travel all the way to Key West, Florida and not do two of the most popular Key West vacation ideas – take iconic photos with the southernmost point and mile marker 0. Be sure though, friend, to get your pictures in the wee early hours or in the dark to avoid standing in line with other tourists doing the same.

One of the top 9 Key West vacation ideas - Key West Southernmost Point Buoy

Southernmost point buoy in Key West, Florida, istolethetv, cc

6. Jetski around Key West adventure

One of the most memorable Key West vacation ideas on this entire trip was a Jet Ski tour that circumnavigated the entire island of Key West.  If your family wants to discover the natural beauty of Key West while also adding adventure, then you’ve found the perfect solution.  Barefoot Billy’s Yamaha Waverunners allow you to cruise around the island on a 2-hour guided jetski tour.

Barefoot Billy’s offered a free pickup and return to our resort.  Once at the adventure location, it begins with time for safety instructions from expert guides.  Next, it was adventure time on a 27-mile course lead by an expert guide, completely circumnavigating Key West.  Can you say, “Adrenaline thrill and beauty of a lifetime?”

One of the top 9 Key West vacation ideas - Key West Jetski Tour

One of the top 9 Key West vacation ideas - Key West Jet Ski Tour the island

7. Eat Key Lime Pie at Kermit’s

Kermit’s key lime pie is so famous that a St. Augustine, Florida local was talking about it while we were on a St. Augustine day trip recently.  You can’t travel to Key West and not try the key lime pie.  Even if you think you don’t like it, try some anyway!

We were greeted at the door of this adorable little shop and cafe’ with Key Lime pie samples. You can buy a little bit of key lime “anything” inside.  The pie was wonderful, by the way and the store had many key lime lover souvenirs!

One of the top 9 Key West vacation ideas - Key West Key Lime Pie at Kermits

There’s Kermit! We loved being able to meet him in person. Yes, this is him, not a statue 🙂

8. Shop & love history on Duval Street

Although “the Duval Crawl” refers to the multitude of bars of Duval, shopping in Key West is fun during daylight hours on Duval Street.  It’s fun to jump in and out of all types of stores, mainly trying to find the best souvenirs and mementos to take home from this memorable family vacation destination.

There were so many beautiful, historic buildings in this area and another great reason to ride the trolley tour first so you’ll know the story behind them all.  Just off Duval, you’ll find a lifesized replica of Marilyn Monroe’s famous post from her film, The Seven-Year Itch just outside the non-profit, Retro-style, Tropic Cinema.

One of the top 9 Key West vacation ideas - Key West Shopping on Duval Streel

view of Duval Street Key West shopping

One of the top 9 Key West vacation ideas - Key West Marilyn Monroe statue near Duval Street

A life-size statue of Marilyn Monroe outside the retro theater called the Tropic Cinema

9. Be entertained at Mallory Square

No Key West vacation is complete without a trip down to Mallory Square for the unique entertainment an. Definitely go right at sunset to see a variety of performers, people, and chickens wandering around.  Yes, chickens.  They are protected by the city too!

Expectation vs. Reality: Need to know before you go

Here’s the part where I talk about hits, misses and the surprises of the Key West vacation ideas that we experienced.

A. Festivals – Don’t go taking your kiddos on the last Saturday in October.  That’s when Fantasy Fest happens and trust me, it’s not for kids.

B. Chickens & lizards – I had no idea about the Key West chickens that roam the city and are protected by law.  There aren’t a ton of them, but sometimes we saw large iguanas as well, both minding their business.

C. Key West beaches – There aren’t waves and there are few natural beaches.  The sea bottom can be sharp on the feet when going in the water so water shoes at all times are advised. The clear shallow water that stretches out for quite a bit at these beaches and the lack of waves were actually great for snorkeling and would be great for young people.

D. Mallory Street –  To be honest, we weren’t sure what to expect from Mallory Street.  Surprisingly, it was really clean and the vibe was very chill.  I enjoyed it a lot.  The hilarious performer that was there during our sunset arrival was a hoot with his tricks and jokes. He made a couple innuendo that only adults would understand and I never heard him say anything inappropriate for kids. My advice would be to ride a free shuttle that your resort offers, like ours, or you’ll end up parking in crazy, tight, and expensive little spots.

Believe it or not, there are several more Key West vacation ideas like Ernest Hemingway’s home, the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, and the Shipwreck Museum, but there’s only so much one family can see and do.  I hope this travel guide is helpful in vacation planning your own Key West family vacation soon.

Which of the Key West vacation ideas are you most excited to experience? Do you have Key West tips to add?

More info for Key West vacation ideas mentioned

Havana Cabana Resort: 3420 N. Roosevelt Blvd., Key West, FL

Old Town Trolley Tours: 1 Whitehead St, Key West, FL

Turtle Kraals Bar & Restaurant : 231 Margaret St., Key West FL

Higgs Beach: 1000 Atlantic Blvd, Key West, FL

Smathers Beach: 2601 S Roosevelt Blvd, Key West, FL

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park: 601 Howard England Way, Key West, FL

Southernmost point buoy: Whitehead St & South Street, Key West, FL

Mile Marker 0: 501 Whitehead St, Key West, FL

Barefoot Billy’s: 700 Waddell Ave, Key West, FL

Kermit’s Key Lime Shoppe: 200 Elizabeth Street, Key West, FL

Mallory Square: 400 Wall St, Key West, FL

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


Key West Vacation Ideas Guide: 9 Top Things To Do For Families- Key West Sunset


Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of “all things calm & cozy home.”

She shares “how-to” plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

Top 4 Things To Do In Marathon Florida As A Family Escape

Of all the Florida Keys, I knew there had to be lots of things to do in Marathon Florida because I’d heard about it the most and we couldn’t wait to get there as a family.  This is part #4 of our Florida beaches series, so be sure to also read Things to Do in West Palm Beach, Miami Beach with Kids, and the family guide to Islamorada Florida Keys.  Keep reading to see which incredible things to do in Marathon Florida are best for families and the adventure we stumbled into.  Enjoy all the photography throughout and our adventure video at the end!

4 Best things to do in Marathon Florida - View of the ocean and boat dock and palm trees

Marathon, Florida Antoine Gady, cc

Things to do in Marathon Florida

We found the best things to do in Marathon Florida and can’t wait to share our travel secrets with you.  Marathon, Florida is a 10-mile-long, family-oriented island community conveniently situated right in the middle of Islamorada, Florida and Key West, Florida.  Marathon has a longstanding fishing heritage, an old-Keys lifestyle, unwavering seafaring traditions, and one of the Keys’ most marine-friendly cities with nearly 1,200 wet slips and 1,200 dry slips  We found it to be a low-key vacation spot with small hotels, beachside inns, and family-style resorts with waterside restaurants that harvest fresh fish, lobster and stone crab claws from local waters.

We stopped to discover Marathon as part of a travel article for Okefenokee Living Magazine.  Our thanks go to The Florida Keys & Key West Visitors Bureau and the venues below for hosting us.  As always, my opinions are my own.

#1  Discover the famous Seven Mile Bridge

For the love of all things holy, make sure to travel the seven-mile bridge at leisure so that you can take in all its beautiful glory.  Completely surrounded by water and part of the Overseas Highway, the seven-mile bridge is a beauty to behold.  The modern bridge includes room to pull over and capture many glances, photos, and video of the perfectly green water.  The old seven-mile railroad bridge can be viewed from the modern one and is a great reminder that dreamers can certainly make things happen.

4 Best things to do in Marathon Florida - Car on seven-mile bridge

Seven-Mile Bridge Herb Neufeld, cc

#2  Be a beachcomber at Sombrero Beach

Since we were on the hunt for Florida beaches along the east coast on this trip, we were dying to see what Marathon, Florida beaches were like.  A local told us about Sombrero Beach and told us it was part of a nice, clean city park.  Located in the midst of what appeared to be a very nice residential area, we found Sombrero Beach to be a slightly bustling little place with a family-friendly vibe.

One of the best things to do in Marathon Florida is to take the family to Sombrero Beach as early in the morning as possible before everyone else arrives.  This sandy beach is open from 7:30 a.m. until dusk and has handicap accessibility, picnic pavilions, restrooms, and showers.

4 Best things to do in Marathon Florida - Sombrero Beach in Marathon, Florida

Princess enjoying Sombrero Beach

#3  Visit Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters

Our of our very favorite things to do in Marathon Florida is spend the day at Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters.  Seriously, our time there was so relaxed yet heart-pounding, safe but thrilling that I honestly didn’t want to leave.  This aquarium is a marine life facility with diving, snorkeling & feeding activities, with touch tanks, tours & even its own cafe.  It features a stunning coral reef exhibit and a predatory fish habitat housed in a 200,000-gallon interconnected saltwater aquarium.

Visitors can enjoy an immersive, interactive experience where they can touch, feel and feed reef fish, invertebrates, stingrays and even sharks.  Like us, you can interact with sea life like stingrays, tarpon, starfish, queen conch, horseshoe crab and then hand feed sharks!

4 Best things to do in Marathon Florida - Aquarium with black tip sharks

courtesy of Aquarium Encounters

4 Best things to do in Marathon Florida - Florida Keys Aquarium Encounter Tiki Hut Entrance

The entrance of Florida Keys Aquarium Encounter

#4  Enjoy Marathon Restaurants

Dinner at the Lighthouse Grill at Faro Blanco in Marathon, Florida was a special surprise.  We enjoyed exceptional service from a fabulous waiter and a delightfully unique waterfront atmosphere. In the shadow of the historic Faro Blanco lighthouse, the marina view as the sun set behind the palm trees in the distance was breathtaking.  I couldn’t wait to walk the gorgeous property including the lengthy boardwalk of the marina.  It’s true… there’s something special about a sunset in the Florida Keys.

4 Best things to do in Marathon Florida - Lighthouse Grill dinner with a waterfront view

4 Best things to do in Marathon Florida - Incredible Lighthouse Grill sunset

I hope this list of 4 things to do in Marathon Florida has been helpful and assists you in planning a family vacation in the Florida Keys of your very own. You’ll find our adventure video below and links to all places below.  Enjoy!

watch video HERE

Which things to do in Marathon Florida are you most excited about?  Have you been to Marathon Florida Keys?  Share your thoughts below!


Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters: 11710 Overseas Highway, Marathon FL

Lighthouse Grill at Faro Blanco: 1996 Overseas Highway, Marathon FL

Sombrero Beach: Sombrero Beach Rd, Marathon, FL

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


4 Best Things to do in Marathon Florida for families - Lighthouse


Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of “all things calm & cozy home.”

She shares “how-to” plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

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 HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of “all things calm & cozy home.”

She shares “how-to” plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

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 HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of “all things calm & cozy home.”

She shares “how-to” plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

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 HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of “all things calm & cozy home.”

She shares “how-to” plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

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 HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of “all things calm & cozy home.”

She shares “how-to” plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️