What’s Pi Day?

Today is Pi Day, I recently learned. It’s named for the Pi you learned in math class. The value of Pi is a constant 3.14, and today is March 14 (3/14). Seems kind of nerdy, right? It is a little bit of a geeky observance, with activities usually organized by science museums or math teachers. But you can have a lot of fun with it, incorporating pizza and pie into the otherwise educational celebration.

I blogged about how to celebrate Pi Day in Pensacola in my latest blog post for Visit Pensacola. It covers places to go like the Pensacola MESS Hall, which is helping to organize the first ever Gulf Coast Science Festival this week, as well as some yummy eats to try around town. This was a fun one. Hope you enjoy Pi Day, wherever you are today!

MessHallexhibit

The Pensacola MESS Hall features exhibits and “mess kits” for individual exploration of math, engineering, science and stuff (MESS).

 

Advertisements

Vacation Reads for the Whole Family

InterContinental Hotels Group invited my family to the Holiday Inn Resort at Pensacola Beach for a complimentary breakfast with Clifford the Big Red Dog and pool passes. I was not asked to write this article and opinions are my own.

One of the most important decisions I make when going to the beach is what book to toss in my beach bag. I love a good, juicy beach read.

In fact, we’re all avid readers at my house. My youngest daughter learned to read this year, and the rest of us frequently have our nose in a book. As a working mom, it can be challenging to find time to read, but I do enjoy it when I can (often that’s on vacation), and I love that my children like reading. My husband and I read aloud to them throughout their preschool years, which can be so beneficial for a child’s learning and development.

Clifford

When I heard about Holiday Inn and Scholastic teaming up to encourage kids to read while they’re on vacation, I was immediately interested because it’s the intersection of two things we enjoy: books and family travel. Through the Summer of Smiles program, Scholastic book characters like Clifford the Big Red Dog and Geronimo Stilton (He’s an adventurous mouse journalist, I learned) are greeting guests at select Holiday Inn hotels during breakfast events.

GeronimoStilton

In addition to photo opportunities, there are book character-themed coloring and craft activities for the kids. At the event we attended, children were offered a free book. Afterwards a small lending library was set up in the hotel lobby so that young guests can borrow books to read, or parents traveling on business can borrow a book to read a virtual bedtime story to their children back home. It’s a neat concept and my daughters enjoyed the experience.

IMG_1158

I’m all for anything that encourages reading and gets kids and parents to unplug from their electronic devices, especially on vacation. At the Holiday Inn Resort at Pensacola Beach, the breakfast with Clifford and friends was one of many perks offered for kids.

sign

We were able to explore the pool area, which includes a lazy river. I hadn’t floated along a lazy river in years and this was a first for my girls. We had so much fun doing this together, and I lost count of how many times we went around.

lazyriver

I enjoyed lounging by the pool, too, while the girls met and swam with a mermaid, who makes daily appearances at the pool. Pirates also visited the pool on the day we were there, and a “dive-in” movie was scheduled for the evening. And what kid doesn’t like a snow cone bar?

snocones

We left the hotel with snapshots from the meet and greet with Clifford, and I took several photos around the pool. I only regret not being in any of the photos myself. (We have to make a point to get out from behind the camera, moms!) Regardless, it was a memorable day spending time with my daughters. Happy travels and happy reading to all this summer!

holidayinnresort

What are you and your family reading this summer? Leave us a comment.

It’s Taste of the (Pensacola) Beach Time Again

taste-of-the-beach

Pensacola Beach’s annual Taste of the Beach event is Friday-Saturday, September 18-19, 2015.

Friday is a ticketed, VIP event with celebrity Chef John Besh. You may know him from his highly acclaimed New Orleans restaurants: August, Besh’s Steak House and others; or you may have seen him on one of several cooking shows on TV.

Saturday is the day to go and take the whole family. Check out the schedule of events here. Chef Besh is sure to bring an impressive showcase of culinary skills to the live stage presentation. There are surfing lessons and all sorts of activities for the kids. You can sample the best food and drinks Pensacola Beach has to offer at affordable prices, hear from Chef John Besh and even get a chance to meet him during the meet and greet. A fun 80s band, the Molly Ringwalds, closes out the evening with live music.

I wrote about my experience at last year’s Taste of the Beach. It was a lot of fun and I hope I get to make it out to the beach this weekend for round 2! Yum!

taste-of-the-beach-tshirt

Breakfast with the Blues at Pensacola Beach

All eyes were on the sky this morning at Pensacola Beach as the Blue Angels practiced high-flying stunts above the sand and surf. The U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration squadron, which calls nearby NAS Pensacola home, is preparing for its annual air show over Pensacola Beach.

pensacola-beach

Officially, the air show is Saturday, July 11, but for beach-goers who can’t wait for the weekend or just want to avoid the larger crowds, there are a couple of opportunities to catch a glimpse of the jets in action a little early. The first, known as “Breakfast with the Blues” happened today at 8 a.m.

With my coffee, camera and kids in hand, I made my way out to Casino Beach, the large public beach area that is the hub of activity on Pensacola Beach. We found a shady spot in the shadow of the Pensacola Beach Pier and stood in awe of the skilled maneuvers the Blue Angels are famous for. It is not for the faint of heart! If you’ve ever seen the Blues perform, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t seen the Blue Angels, you can catch them practicing again tomorrow, July 9, at 2 p.m. The dress rehearsal takes place Friday, July 10, and the Pensacola Beach 2015 Air Show is Saturday; on both days, civilian air acts begin at Noon, and the Blue Angels fly at 2 p.m.

blue-angels-pensacola-beach-pier

Many folks watch from hotels, condos or boats, but there are plenty of spots on the sand, too. For my money, I’d find a cool spot with shade, snacks and flowing beverages. Although I haven’t tried it yet, I have heard good things about Casino Beach Bar & Grille. It is right in the middle of the action at Pensacola Beach, located just east of the pier. They offer plenty of seating under umbrellas, as well as beach chairs and a covered bar area, and they have misting machines to help you stay cool.

casino-beach-bar-and-grill

Enjoy the Blues! And remember those pilots’ mothers, who I imagine have a hard time watching their flying aces perform heart-stopping, jaw-dropping aerial stunts and make it look easy.

Highlighter Tattoos and the Great Gulf Coast Arts Festival

Today, during our drive home from school, one of my children offered her sisters highlighter tattoos: peace signs, hearts, and butterflies all drawn in one of several fluorescent highlighter hues. These were not your run of the mill stick-on-with-water temporary tattoos. She would draw the tattoos on their arms herself – for a fee! She came up with a price list and wanted to charge them for her, uh-hem, artwork.

Trying not to laugh hysterically or worry how we will wash off this glowing ink from their fair skin, I decided to do what I thought any parenting advice article would tell me to do: relax, let them have fun and focus on the positive. My daughter was artistic, innovative and enterprising…what a bright (no pun intended) future she must have!?! Ha!

Coincidentally, I found this note inside her backpack, inviting us to see some of her work in the Student Exhibit at the Great Gulf Coast Arts Festival, which takes place this weekend in Downtown Pensacola’s Seville Square.

student-art

No word on whether the selected artwork has anything to do with her burgeoning tattoo business, but we’ll check it out along with the rest of the festival. Sneaky, but well played move, art festival people!

In all seriousness, the Great Gulf Coast Arts Festival is a popular and respected juried art show that takes place every year on the first weekend of November. More than 200 artists display and sell their work in this historic setting. It’s free and open to the public. Families will appreciate the Children’s Art area, with the student art displays and several opportunities for kids to get their hands dirty creating artwork somewhere other than your house. In my book, that’s a win.

If you’re visiting the area for the Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show or the Pensacola Marathon, you should make time to head over to the art festival. See you there!

Spooktacular Science in Navarre Beach

octobusWe had a fabulous evening at the annual Spooktacular Science by the Sea at the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station last night. Putting an educational twist on traditional Halloween activities, the Spooktacular event includes a sea creature costume contest for kids and a variety of stations set up to teach children about marine science.

Organized by local teachers and high school students who volunteer their time and talent, it’s an opportunity for kids to learn about native sea life and participate in hands-on science experiments. A haunted beach walk tops off the night with a stroll along the edge of the Santa Rosa Sound, where you’re sure to find a few surprises. Spooktacular Science by the Sea continues tonight from 5-9 p.m. CDT. Admission is $5 per person. Children ages 2 and under get in free.

If you’re going to be there after dark, it doesn’t hurt to bring a flash light along to make it easier to find your car in the parking lot when you leave. The Marine Park area surrounding the Science Station is not well lit.

It’s spooky good fun!

Navarre-Beach-Marine-Science-Station

A Not-So-Scary Boo at the Gulf Breeze Zoo

As a freelance writer, it is always exciting when I see my work in print. These days it’s often online only, but this weekend my byline appeared in real, hard copy newsprint. Serious, investigative reporting, you may ask? Well, not exactly, but it was fun to show the kids.

I originally wrote the article about Boo at the Zoo that appeared in the Pensacola News Journal for a Santa Rosa County, Florida tourism program, The Beaches to Woodlands Tour. Beaches to Woodlands includes dozens of events showcasing the diverse natural beauty and culture of the county throughout the month of October. Most (if not all) of the activities are family friendly, including Boo at the Zoo. So yesterday, we decided to check it out. We made our way to the Gulf Breeze Zoo, where we spent about two hours or so seeing the animals and taking part in Halloween-themed activities.

Trick-or-Treat-Trail

Part of the fun of Boo at the Zoo is the Trick-or-Treat Trail, which invites kids to wear costumes and visit stations set up throughout the zoo to collect candy. Our three – dressed as Doc McStuffins, a peacock and a mermaid – enjoyed the chance to don their costumes early and mingle with the likes of Elsa, Jake and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It was definitely a unique way to experience the Zoo, which spans 50 acres and includes a petting zoo, train rides and a chance to feed many of the animals.

Giraffe-at-Gulf-Breeze-Zoo

Tiger-at-Gulf-Breeze-Zoo

A budgie aviary was new since I last visited the Gulf Breeze Zoo. It was like stepping into a giant bird cage, surrounded by a few hundred of your closest feathered friends. The kids loved it. So did the birds that we fed, and the makers of hand sanitizer.

feeding-budgies

Some of the extra activities available during Boo at the Zoo include face painting, bounce houses and balloon-making clowns. At $12 per ticket (not including train rides), Boo at the Zoo is a little pricey for a family of five, but comparatively speaking fairly reasonable versus other zoos we’ve visited in the Southeast.

zoo-sign

Look closely: The last line of this sign made me laugh.

Boo at the Zoo continues next Saturday and Sunday, October 25-26, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. CDT if you want to go. For information on other Beaches to Woodlands Tour events, visit the official Tour website.

Panhandle Butterfly House in Navarre

panhandle-butterfly-house entrance

The Panhandle Butterfly House isn’t a big place. Drivers can easily cruise down Hwy. 98 through the heart of Navarre and not see the small, white house just west of the Navarre Beach bridge. What the butterfly house may lack in size shouldn’t discount its value as an environmental center and educational attraction.

orange-butterfly

My kids and I have visited on more than one occasion. Each time we’ve admired the beautiful flowers and plants and, of course, the butterflies. Each time my girls have learned about the butterfly lifecycle and observed specimens at each stage of the lifecycle. Volunteers serving as docents have talked with us about the gardens and butterflies.

DSC_1023There is a small gift shop area where you can purchase butterfly-themed souvenirs or make a donation to the Panhandle Butterfly House. When you are finished with your visit to the Butterfly House, you can walk out back and take look at the Santa Rosa Sound and the birds and turtles that have made their homes nearby. The Navarre Kids Park is also adjacent to the Panhandle Butterfly House property, which is a great place for younger kids to burn some energy.

This weekend happens to be one of the biggest of the year at the Panhandle Butterfly House. It’s the annual Monarch Madness festival, which celebrates the Monarch butterfly and its migration through Northwest Florida. It’s one of a few dozen activities going on this month in Santa Rosa County, Florida, as part of the Beaches to Woodlands Tour.DSC_1036

If you can’t make it out this weekend, put them on your list to visit next spring or summer, when they’ll reopen for 2015. Operating strictly on donations, admission is free but contributions are encouraged.

Beaches to Woodlands Tour “Tees Off” Bubba-Style

Fall has always been my favorite time of year on the Gulf Coast. For starters, the weather is pleasant – still warm enough to enjoy the beaches and outdoor activities, but not so hot you have sweat running down your neck the minute you step outside. Also, the beaches tend to be less crowded, which makes for a peaceful day in the sun, and you spend less time waiting at restaurants and popular attractions. For those who travel to the Coast, better rates are typically available at hotels and rental properties after Labor Day.

What’s not to love, right?

Well, this year, I’m even more excited about fall. Why? Because of the 11th Annual Beaches to Woodlands Tour, a month-long collection of events in Santa Rosa County, Florida. Santa Rosa County includes Milton and Navarre Beach, and it’s less than an hour’s drive from Pensacola and Destin. I have had the opportunity to cover some of the events as a freelance writer helping to promote the Tour. Although I am compensated for articles I’ve written, I am not asked or paid to blog about these events. I am telling you about them because I am truly excited about Beaches to Woodlands this year. It may be because my kids are now old enough to get out and enjoy some of the family-friendly activities going on throughout the month of October.

aerial-view-Bubba-Watson-corn-maze

One of the first events on the Beaches to Woodlands Tour is actually open this weekend through November 2, with the exception of Halloween. It’s the Sweet Seasons Farms Corn Maze. It’s been generating a lot of buzz because the corn maze, viewed from above, depicts two-time Masters Champion Bubba Watson swinging a golf club. Watson is from Santa Rosa County – a little town called Bagdad, to be exact. So the corn maze is a nice tribute to him. He’s tweeted about the event a few times already. Pensacola News Journal shared this video on pnj.com that tells a little bit about the making of the maze and what you can expect if you visit this year.

If getting lost in a corn maze is not your thing, there are other Beaches to Woodlands Tour events to suit a multitude of interests, including art, history, running, biking, and marine science. Take a look at thebeachestowoodlandstour.com for more information. It’s worth checking out if you are going to be in Northwest Florida this fall. Hopefully I can share some real, live photos and updates when we head out to experience some of the fun.