Helen McCall Park

We love this park! It’s off 98 in Santa Rosa Beach, right near 30A, and the playground is well-designed.

I have written about two other playgrounds that we frequent in the Destin area. This one is not as visible. When I first heard about it, I knew it would be good because when I asked a 6 year old on our neighborhood playground the location of other playgrounds nearby, he told me about it.

There is a toddler section of the playground that is completely shaded. Much of the playground is shaded, offering respite from the bright sun.


Across the playground is a larger structure, complete with rock walls, ladders, slides, and bridges. It is nice because when toddlers graduate to this side of the park, the structure is built for various developmental stages and stimulates different levels of growth.



The swings, rope tower, and see-saws keep the kiddos moving. My son never tires of this park, and it is our favorite.

The park also has a picnic area and bathrooms that are kept clean, so it’s perfect to bring lunch, snack, or to plan a child’s birthday celebration.


One of the best features is the splash pad. As most splash pads, it only runs when it’s warm. This park is wonderful for a morning, or afternoon, of playground time and then a cool-off in the splash pad.

Play hard,

J.

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Gulf Coast Surfing

Yes. Yes, you can surf the gulf coast.

I started surfing when I was 30 years old on the East Coast of Florida, Cocoa Beach. I was living in Orlando, 45 minutes from Cocoa Beach, single, and ready to take charge of my life in a brand new way after some personal discoveries. Surfing had been a lifelong dream and taking action was a result of inner change.

For the first time in my life, I now live two minutes from the beach. Two minutes! I still can’t believe it. It’s the result of ten years of hard work and sacrifice by my husband. I am thrilled to live closer to the water, knowing I have more of an opportunity to play on the water. Before we moved over here, I figured I’d get to surf occasionally, when there was a storm in the gulf. In the meantime, I’d learn to paddle board, and I’d body board, play and swim. It’s the ocean – my place of peace on this earth.

My dad grew up in Tallahassee, and I used to hear him tell stories of surfing in the ’60s on the gulf coast. It was always fascinating to me – a dream world of adventure and fun. There was the most exciting story about a shark. Dad was out surfing, and all of a sudden all of his buddies on shore were jumping around and waving at him to come in. He turned and saw the shark and never paddled so hard in his life to get into shore. We talked about surfing together, but being two hours away from the nearest surf  spot before the internet existed made surfing more difficult. Dad taught me how to swim and how to body surf and ride waves; he gave me a strong foundation. He also was thrilled when I started surfing. Unfortunately, he only saw me surf on video since he was in the last years of fighting cancer and we lived 4 hours from each other. That video was of me surfing waves at Big Island, Hawaii. Pretty epic.

Thanks to my friend, Cliff Millender, I surfed the panhandle gulf years before I moved here, but it was when I came up from Orlando and a bunch of us piled in the car and drove together from Tallahassee. The first time I surfed the gulf, it was different surf than East Coast and what I was used to. The waves were more mush than even the east coast. Cliff’s so good, he got barreled several times because he’d been surfing for 12 years or more at the time and got outside to the cleaner waves. I’d been surfing less than a year, then, and I was happy to ride the wash. 

A beautiful thing: living here, having the ability to view the beach daily, I know how wrong I was. Again. This place has frequent and decent surf, and I don’t have to wait for storms. With the jetties around, there is almost always a place to catch a wave.


So, if you love to surf and you want to make your home in a beautiful area of the country, don’t forget about Florida’s gulf coast. Pristine, crystal water, friendly folks, and nice waves.

Aloha.

The Village of Baytowne Warf Playground

Located in the Grand Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, The Village of Baytowne Warf is the hub for fun, family-friendly activities.  Our first holiday and third day after we moved here, October 31st, we put on our Winnie the Pooh and friends costumes and went to the Halloween festival for a reprieve from moving and boxes, and we had a blast! Each holiday, the Village is brightly and beautifully adorned. We have enjoyed celebrations and parades there since. Most events are family-friendly and free. If you are a new resident or are vacationing, here is a link to the Village’s calendar of events.

img_1623-1When you enter Grand Sandestin Golf community you’ll need to ask for a parking pass to Baytowne Warf at the gate. The playground here is an adventure of activity from toddlers to ten year olds, and the occasional big kid, like yours truly. The red and white lighthouse stands as a beacon: the promise of curiosity and fun for the energetic child.

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Nautical themed in structure and decor, the playground inspires the imagination of swimming underwater with sea creatures to climbing into the lighthouse as a keeper or sailor.

Safe! I love how this playground is built and how safe it is, especially for the young and adventurous toddler. Many taller structures make me a little nervous as Mac is a daredevil (karma sucks) since so many of them tend to have wide open gaps at the tops of ladders and rock walls. Here, Mac can walk up the wide steps to the lighthouse tower and go down the slide without encountering those high gaps. Climbing ladders is a skill he has acquired but isn’t totally comfortable with, especially if the ladder is high. Here, I feel confident he can practice that new skill with 4 or 5 rung ladders within small passages.

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The higher walls can limit visibility, so while I feel the structure is safer than many, to keep an eye on Mac on some parts of the playground, I am usually right behind him on the otherwise hard-to-see places; it makes me feel a little like a helicopter parent. That’s really the only downside I’ve found to this playground. Darn, I get to climb and play with my kiddo. That’s tough. 😉

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Half the playground is lower and spread out, structured for blossoming toddlers. The mulch is rubber from recycled tires. There are only two swings – a baby swing and a chair swing. The tunnel, slide, and climbing stairs are great for little legs.

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Toddler zone
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A view from the very back of the playground. The toddler section is at the back of the playground, seen here.

Next door is an ice cream shop which is nice for a fun post-playground treat. Also, around the back of the ice cream shop are the nearest public restrooms.

 

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If it’s near lunch, The Baytowne Melt is across from the playground, and offers a variety of grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s a convenient and inexpensive lunch, especially for the little ones. Grilled cheese sandwiches are Mac’s favorite.

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There are plenty of other fun activities at Baytowne Warf, including an arcade, putt putt, a shooting gallery, ropes course, rock wall, a bungee trampoline thingy, and my son’s favorite – a carousel complete with horses and other fantastic creatures. One of the best features is a simple green grassy hill in front of the stage, by the fountain where children can run, run, run!

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View crossing over the second footbridge, going toward the carousel and rock wall.

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Rock wall.
Don’t miss a tour of the impressive marina just a short walk from the playground. You’ll find a few, fun tree houses along the way. My husband was very impressed when he saw a Nordhaven docked on our first visit. There are several restaurants to satisfy your taste, including places with seafood, pizza, sushi, and wings. Do you like dualing pianos? Check out Rum Runners. Want a little late-night fun? Stay past 10 pm for this sweet beach town’s local nightlife. It’s fun, yet low key, and the area is clean and safe.

Baytowne Warf is full of entertainment for kids, and adults. I recommend adding it to your rotation of Destin activities, whether you’re a local or a visitor.

Enjoy!

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Mardi Gras golf cart parade at Baytowne Warf, 2017.

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img_0730Mac and I dancing to  a little live Dixieland jazz at the Mardi Gras parade. My hubby dancing with him, too. No we didn’t plan to wear the same thing. That’s how our Mardi Gras happened to work out. 🙂