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.

Advertisements

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.

img_1637img_1632
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.

img_1646
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. 😉

img_1633
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.

img_1644
Toddler zone
img_1643 

img_1648
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.

 

img_1649
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.

img_1625
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!

img_1655
View crossing over the second footbridge, going toward the carousel and rock wall.

img_1656
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!

img_0733
Mardi Gras golf cart parade at Baytowne Warf, 2017.

img_0745

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. 🙂

 

 

Destin Commons Playground and Shopping Area

When I moved to the Destin area, I was thrust into a temporary stay-at-home mom life. My busy two-year old needed outside time and playgrounds and kids…and I needed adults. I searched online in the Destin area playgrounds and didn’t find much. I asked neighbors and explored and found great playgrounds, which were a life-saver. This is the first review of my playground series for the primary playgrounds in my rotation for those new to the area and those visiting on vacation.

If you are new to the Destin area or you are visiting and need a fun, physical outlet for your kiddos, the playground at Destin Commons is fantastic. From a 2 year old’s perspective, everything is happy pirate and nautical. Mac loves the colorful pink and yellow ray he calls Mr. Ray, from the movie Finding Nemo, the boat because…it’s a boat, and the cannonball pile from which he thankfully still has not jumped off the very top. I keep waiting for that one.


The playground equipment is typical of what one sees at many malls these days: soft foam sculpted structures that are bright and colorful. The ground is padded as well. Pirate and nautical themed benches surround the border of the playground and there is a clear view of all play structures – very open. 

Mac was able to handle most playground equipment at the Destin Commons playground very well, so I have been able to sit, watch, and relax and not have to follow him around. It’s nice for quieter days after there’s been a lot of activity and we need a day to recoup, yet he still needs entertainment and activity.

If you’re visiting and want to go to a movie, there is an AMC directly across from the playground. A children’s train runs most weekends, and tickets are $4, although that may have changed during season. There are plenty of stores to tempt: Pandora, Brighton, Sunglasses World, Sephora, H&M, Guess, Hollister, Build- A-Bear Workshop, Bass Pro. It’s an outdoor mall, so there is an abundance of shopping, including some adorable boutiques. You can visit the Destin Commons website here


We moved here in October. Leave it to us to move to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and not be able to go in the water because of cooler weather. Yes, this is north Florida and temps can get into the teens. We love the water and often say we would live in the ocean if we could. Despite the colder weather, we did log in plenty of beach time on a few of the rogue, warmer days.

When the weather is rough, we loved going to visit Bass Pro, let Mac climb in and out of boats and on the side-by-sides, and dream of future warmer days.  (Please always attend your child if they’re on any equipment for their safety, and to teach them to respect property.) Mac loves to see the fish – they have an enormous Grouper he loves, a huge Red, and three Jacks. There is a cool doamed window kids can sit in and feel like they’re in the water with the fish. Bass Pro in Destin Commons is two-story wonderland of fishing, hunting, and camping goods and other outdoorsy merchandise. We like to visit the playground when the weather permits, and then we may stop at El Jalisco for lunch, but that’s when we’re there in a weekend family outing.

Last week we had more warm weather after a cold front had passed through. When I took Mac to Destin Commons, We approached the playground and I heard it before I saw it: water! The splash pad was up and running! It’s spring break, so tourist season is in full swing. I knew he wouldn’t leave dry. I had no bathing suit for Mac and no towel in the car. Hadn’t I figured that out by now? Toddler life in a beach town? Have bathing suit, have towel, will travel? Come on, now, Janie.

My kid. After I told him we would go to the playground, first, and then maybe the splash pad, he agreed and ran to the playground. He played for ten minutes- maybe fifteen. I had my eyes on him the entire time, and I saw it. The stop, the little blond head turned toward that rushing water, and he darted to the water. All I wanted to do was remove the shoes and socks for which I had no replacements! Like a slow-mo action sequence in an action film, and I bolted after him…the shoes! Take off the shoes! I jumped from the bench, leaped across the playground, dodged children, yelling his name. Did I actually think I would catch him? We had other errands to run and planned on meeting my husband, Mac’s daddy, “AP” for lunch. I did have a spare change of clothes and a pair of his sweatpants, which substituted for a towel. 


He had a blast, of course. A dozen or so other children were politely playing on the playground. My child was chasing the sprouts of water, soaked through, head to toe, having the time of his life. We later went about our errands and lunch, and he got carried everywhere. I now have a spare pair of flip flops in his clothes bag.

If you visit the playground during the spring and summer months, be prepared for spontaneous water escapades and enjoy.

Love, J.