seaside recap

Anyone else get travel-envy from FB and Instagram?  It can’t be just me!   I’ve seen so many people vacationing to Seaside/Watercolor, Florida in the past 2 years or so that I finally took the plunge and booked our spring break here.  Let me tell you how hard it was to pull the trigger…. 1) the prices are SO expensive for rentals and I’m, well, cheap.    2) I overthink everything and try to plan out everything to be perfect.   I was too cheap to rent something oceanfront (Uhm.  hello $1300/night mmkaynothanks), so I knew we’d have to pick a “neighborhood location”.  Bring on the “what if”…. do we want to be close to this pool or that one?  Do we want to be closer to town via driving or bike trails?  What if the road we’re on is too busy?  What if it’s too busy to park downtown?  What if we’re too far away to bike?  Will the house be roomy enough?  Will the bedrooms be laid out well to suit our family?  Do we need a golf cart?   GAHHH!  Also… will the weather be crappy and we’ve spent a million dollars to go where it’s just as cold as the east coast??

Anyhow… I finally picked out 6 houses, outlined the pros and cons (hellooo green personality), and sent them to my mom, aunt and Ryan and had them each pick out their top 3.   House #6 was on everyone’s list so that’s the house I booked! It had a carriage house (aka mini studio apartment) above the garage that was perfect for my aunt to have some privacy away from our crazy, loud family! My mom and I escaped one night for a Truman Show movie night too!

Seaside is the location for the Truman Show movie, a fictional story about a man unknowingly starring in a reality television show in an idyllic beach town.

So… we stayed in the Lake District (green on this map).  We didn’t get to our house until 7pm, and the sun was setting.  We did get a glimpse of the neighborhood and it was so different than what I expected.   The houses were gorgeous, it seemed larger and busier than I’d expected and I felt like we were going to be so far away from everything.   I took a quick drive to “downtown” and OMG there were SO many people on bikes and walking, and nowhere to park, and everything was so close together!   I immediately thought “I’m going to hate this vacation.  It’s going to be busy, inconvenient and trying to navigate this with 4 kids is going to be a shit show” . BUT… I told myself “Nicole… you’re so lucky to be vacationing here.  The weather is beautiful and you WILL enjoy this week!  Just relax!”

(Let me remind you if you have followed our beach vacations at all… we typically go to the east coast beaches where we can stay oceanfront for cheap, though the weather is usually chilly, we still love the beach regardless, and there are NO crowds and no hotels/resorts.)

Well, friends… we have THOROUGHLY enjoyed this week!  So much that I really want to come back!!   Let me highlight some of the great things we’ve done:

Oh my word the beach is to die for.  Seriously it did NOT disappoint.  The sand is SO soft and white (it’s Appalachian quartz, ) , and the water is freaking incredible!  It *IS* however, much more crowded than the beaches we’re used to.  That’s the only downside.    We used the Seaside beach access right by downtown and looooved that Bud and Ally’s had a place to order drinks + food right on the beach and they’d deliver to you on the beach!  Convenience, YES PLEASE!   At the end of the week we realized that since we were staying in Watercolor, we had access passes to all of the private beach accesses along 30A in Seaside… so I took the girls to one at sunset to take pictures.   Another bonus is you can rent chairs + umbrellas at most of the beach accesses (it seems), although its pricey (the one by downtown was $75/day!  EEEK! We skipped that and brought a quilt from the rental house HAHA!

We biked literally everywhere!  Our house came with 5 bikes, and we brought Amelia’s bike and the bike trailer for Eloise.  It worked perfectly!  We were 2 blocks from the frog pool,  5 minutes from the bigger pool + basketball court, less than a 10 minute bike ride to downtown and 5 minutes from the grocery store.  There are bikes trails all over so you can take shortcuts and not go on the road.  Google maps made it seem like we’d have a long trip to downtown, but we found bike trails that connected us quickly!   What’s even cooler is that I felt so safe letting both of the boys ride bikes all around alone as well.   They both went on bike rides (usually alone) every day.  Porter would go play basketball, or to stop by to see some girls he ran into from school, and rode to the grocery store for us a few times.  He made a few friends throughout the week so a lot of the time he just went and did his thing, played basketball, went on bike rides etc and caught up to us at the pool or whatever.

We loved the frog pool the most, because it was heated.  HAHA!   It was also the closest.  We did go to Camp Watercolor (has a lazy river, 2 different pools and 2 waterslides) but the water wasn’t heated and it was COLD.  Plus, the big slide wasn’t open yet.   (Camp Watercolor JUST opened earlier this month).  If you stay in Watercolor, I think you get access to 6 different pools!   My aunt found the adults only pool on our last day and said it was amazing.   Next trip we need to bring a nanny with us to get some kid-free time 🙂

We rode bikes downtown a few times to go shopping.  There are some adorable shops downtown and right by the beach.   There’s a little something for everyone.   Heads up, most clothing stores are boutique and pricey!

We tried a few different places this week.  Here are my reviews:
Our favorite was probably Pizza by the Sea (go figure) . It was DELISH!  We ate there twice.  Get the pepperoni rolls (I think its a side dish).  SO GOOD.
Bud and Alys:  We mainly used them for lunch on the beach.  They have an amazing Lemonade Thyme Vodka drink that is MMMM.  And their sweet potato fries.  DELISH!
Five Daughters BakeryThis was practically the first place we ate at in Seaside… delish donuts!
Crepes du Soleil
Going to be honest… I wouldn’t typically choose a savory crepe to eat but after 2 different orders at the hot dog food truck for Amelia and Hudson, the line for the Meltdown truck was really long and everyone else already had their lunch and was eating so I decided I’d try something new.   I had the Poulet crepe and a Frose and they were both delicious!  I wish I’d tried the Mousse au Chocolate… maybe next time!
Meltdown on 30a:
Ry, the girls and my mom ate here and I had a bite of their sandwich and it was DELISH!  (Ry got the Smokin’ Turkey)
Pizza by the Sea
Shrimp Shack: This was a cute little building right near the beach.  I don’t care for seafood, but my mom and aunt wanted to eat there so I got a Hot Press Cuban that was SO GOOD!  My mom and aunt agreed (they got the Lobster Roll I think? and said it was good!) . What was even better was the outside seating area… you walk through the sand a little and sit up in this covered porch with an amazing view of the ocean!
Dawson’s Yogurt of Seaside:  Soft Serve Ice cream (or fro yo??) was soo delicious and creamy.  I’m an ice cream snob.  Must.  Be.  Super. Creamy.  The chocolate was SUPER rich, but the vanilla/chocolate twist was perfection!
Heavenly’s Shortcakes & Ice Cream:  We had gelato here one day and MMMM it was SO good!
AJ’s Grayton Beach: My mom, Hudson, Amelia and I had a day out where we had lunch, went to Shard Shack (more on that in a minute!) and then got ice cream. We picked this place because it was super “beachy” themed outside and was called AJ’s (like… Amelia Jane… we call her AJ). The atmosphere was great, service was great, but the food was… meh. Onion rings had no flavor. Fish was decent. Hush puppies were good.
Blue Mountain Beach Creamery: More ice cream… I know!! HAHA! I think we had ice cream almost every day on vacation. This place makes their own waffle cones and ice cream. It was delicious! They had a big fence kids could write on with chalk, along with some tables to sit and eat at.

AJ’s Grayton Beach
View from Shrimp Shack

We hadn’t planned on surfing lessons for the kids, but we went out to the beach on Thursday and saw 2 girls getting a lesson so we went over and asked about it.   Hudson and Amelia wanted to do it (along with our friends’ son Eryx), so we signed them up.  Austin Magee and his dad Gary were awesome with the kids and the kids had SO much fun! I highly recommend Austin Magee’s Surf School!   (It’s recommended to call ahead, especially if you have littler kids so he can bring smaller wet suits if the water is cold in the spring/fall)

Amelia was infatuated with the mosaics at Disney this January, so when a friend tagged me in the Shard Shop on Facebook I knew we had to do it!  My mom, Hudson, Amelia and I spent a day in Grayton having lunch and making glass mosaic type pictures.   It was such a fun experience!  It was a bit pricey (It was something like $265 for all 4 of us EEK) so I felt a bit of pressure to pick something meaningful to create!   Of course, Amelia picked a horse (in which I’d anticipated it looking something like this, except it ended up looking like a bunch of neon aquarium rocks on a canvas HAHAHA!).    While I understand it was probably more for liability, I was kind of bummed the kids had to stick with these little glass beads vs being able to use actual glass chunks to create their pictures.   (I think Hudson would have been totally fine, and I could see Amelia being okay with it if I were cutting the pieces for her and letting her make her shape/picture).

So…. let me explain Seaside and WaterColor.   I was so confused about if they were the same thing or not.  Seaside is a small town (80 acres) created in 1981 and began the New Urbanism movement (creating a town where walking and biking is encouraged and all necessities are somewhat centralized and easily available to the community).  There are somewhere around 400 homes now in Seaside, many of which are rentals.  Seaside has shopping, dining, a post office, a school and a market- all the necessities for a town.     

While Seaside is the ‘original’ and kind of “hub” of the area, WaterColor offers a ton of additional amenities.   WaterColor is a 499 acre resort somewhat “surrounding”  Seaside.   If you stay in a WaterColor property (either a house, condo, or inn) you’ll have access to the resort’s complimentary bikes, tennis courts, three private golf courses, and fitness center. You’ll also find six resort pools scattered throughout the property, and private beach accesses requiring a key card to access.

When we first arrived, I thought that maybe next time we’d scoot down the beach further away from Seaside and stay oceanfront, and just ride bikes into Seaside a few times during the week. But… after spending the week in WaterColor and having all of the amenities and bike trails, I’d definitely go back and stay in a house in WaterColor again!

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