Spring break meant a long overdue trip to Florida to visit my brother, sister-in-law, and two nephews. Their house is being renovated which meant no guest room, so we had to “rough it” at a hotel. Check out Jodi House’s blog on their renovation http://www.thehousehouse.com/wednesday-weekly-house-remodel-update-42016-floors-cabinets-and-more/
Kara and I have a thing for old historic places of lodging, you know, the kind of place where people stayed fifty to a hundred years ago; and will likely still be standing a century from now. We got engaged at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, I worked at the Lighthouse Inn on the Cape on summer, and we’ve visited a few other unique resorts over the years.
My brother lives in Naples, a growing city with plenty of brand new hotels, but we wanted to stay in a place there that epitomized the “old Florida,” and the Naples Beach Hotel and and Golf Club fit the bill and had reasonable rates. It is right on the Gulf of Mexico with a spectacular beach a stone’s throw from the rooms. The place is quintessential mid-century architecture on the outside, but completely modern inside.
We arrived at the hotel looking rather pallid after a long Connecticut winter, but a few days later, we sort of blended with the locals. This place was also great for families. When my daughter no longer wanted to kick the soccer ball around with her brother, there were plenty of kids from Wisconsin, Maryland and Michigan around to occupy his time. Kara liked the pink blocks used in the landscaping but not sure they’d work in Hartford.
Speaking of pink, after Naples we headed north to check out the Pink Palace, (top picture) officially called the Loews Don CeSar Hotel. It’s in St. Pete Beach, a town I’d only visited once before, when covering UConn’s historic NCAA championship win in 1999.
The Don Cesar is 88 years old, and served as a rehab center for veterans during and after World War II. My great-grandfather retired to St. Pete, and I have no doubt he saddled up to the bar back in the 50s and 60s.
At the risk of sounding like a cliche, they do not build them like this anymore. We stayed at a brand new part of the Don CeSar a short walk down the beach, that is ideal for families, because they are suites, complete with kitchens. I recommend this place for a romantic getaway with your significant other, or with the brood. My kids instantly made friends with kids their own ages on the beach, and my son tried to play with some sort of heron, who wanted no part of him.
Our quick stay at the Don CeSar was totally relaxing, just what we needed after days of cousin craziness in Naples and to prepare for the next leg of our journey….Disney!
As any parent knows, Disney can be daunting. It’s huge, and there are so many choices and options. It was a little easier thanks to Better Connecticut. Kara learned how to cook exotic meals from the experts who come on the WFSB lifestyles show, discovered a new cool way to fold shirts thanks to the show, and she also had the pleasure of interviewing a Connecticut woman who knows Disney inside and out and came on the show to share the secrets.
Kristin Guilmette runs Tink’s Magical Vacations out of Burlington, Connecticut, and Kara turned to her to book our trip. We decided to do just one day at the Magic Kingdom, but stay in Orlando for a few days and see some other things.
Kristin recommended we stay at the Art of Animation resort, a quick shuttle away to the parks. The place is amazing. Lion King, Cars, Nemo, the Little Mermaid are larger than life all over the place. My kids loved it, and I’m glad we stayed there now, because they likely will have outgrown it by the next time we go to Florida.
Kristin took care of everything, and her knowledge of all things Disney made navigating multiple parks and tens of thousands of people a breeze. Going to Disney? Contact Kristin: http://www.tinksmagicalvacations.com/ Best of all, her service is free. Disney pays her.
My only complaints: the smoking area of the Animation is too close to the outdoor dining area and the music outside comes on at 7AM to wake people up. Normally, that would have been fine, but not after a night that we returned late after a 13 hour day on our feet at the park. That’s me lugging a 50 pound son for well over two miles at the end of a long day at Disney. By the way, my kids got an unexpected souvenir: a Disney rain poncho. Yep, it poured for a little bit. That’s my brother-in-law with us, who was visiting the land of the mouse for the first time.
We also wanted the kids to see some nature, so while in Naples we spent a few hours with the Dolphin Experience in Marco Island, featured in National Geographic because of the humane way they conduct dolphin tours. These beautiful animals were in the wild, and actually followed our boat for a while, allowing me to snap several pictures.
My daughter really connected with the dolphins, feeling right at home when she threw on her mermaid tail, that she received as a gift but can’t really use in Connecticut…at least not until summer.