How I Will Spend My 2014 Spring Break

 

Kite FlyingIt’s a new year and only a few short months to the Spring Break season. Thousands of visitors will ascend on the Gulf Coast for a much needed break from work and school. One of our travelers recently booked her Spring Break vacation and out of curiosity, we asked her how she will spend her vacation. Does this sound like a vacation itinerary you would entertain?

“Our family has traveled to Destin, FL for Spring Break almost every year for the past 5 years. Each time we go, it’s different since the kids (5 and 10) are getting older and we are able to try new adventures. Our budget for our vacation is slightly higher this year because of my husbands raise and holiday bonus. We were able to book a nicer property closer to the beach opposed to a hotel last year. We chose to stay at Ariel Dunes in a 2 bedroom condo. The condo is close to the beach (a short walk) and it’s in a gated resort with many amenities. My husband and 10 year old son will enjoy golfing while my younger son will hang out at the beach or pool. For a 5 day stay, we booked through TripShock for under $1,000 total. This included some freebies such as dolphin cruise tickets (We did this last year and had a blast) and a complimentary beach service.  We plan on going to a few nice restaurants this year since the kids are older and appreciate better quality food. We are looking at checking out McGuires in Destin and of course Harbor Docks (our favorite) this year. Both have high ratings online so I’m sure we will be pleased! As far as attractions go, my husband and son are going to try a fishing charter for the first time. Since we don’t know a lot about deep sea fishing, we thought we would try the less expensive charters (party boat charters) since they are in our budget and offer a intro to the sport. If the boys like it, then we can always do something a little more serious during our next visit. We are also going to do some horseback riding since we love horses and always wanted to do it. They don’t ride on the beach, but that’s ok as we don’t mind riding in the forrest. We will spend most of our time laying out on the beach and just relaxing at the resort. We can’t wait for our vacation! Thank you Tripshock for making it so easy for us to plan.”

-Kay Trumble

 

Travel Tips for Visiting the Gulf Coast in Fall

Relaxing in Lounge Chair at BeachFall on the Gulf Coast is the perfect travel season. Crowds are fewer, weather is less hostile humid, and rates drop dramatically. Gulf Coast destinations have plenty to offer those willing to travel during the off-season. So, here are five tips for going coastal this fall.

1. Attend a fall festival. Municipal websites from Destin to New Orleans post information on major events and festivals to aid travelers with planning. Hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues often partner with municipalities to offer discounts and city passes for the duration of your stay. Fall on the Gulf Coast is chock full of seafood festivals at nearly every stop on the map, making it easy for out-of-towners to enjoy local culture and feast on the freshest seafood around.

2. Enjoy perfect weather. Fall weather on the Gulf Coast can change from day to night, so dress accordingly. Expect to take your morning coffee while wrapped up in a cozy sweater, only to shed layers for a warm afternoon on the beach. Low humidity keeps hair frizz at bay, and the obscene temperatures of summer are long gone. In short, it is the perfect time of year for an extend stay in the South.

3. Take in local flavor. Locals have a lot more time on their hands, as many of their jobs are super busy during the summer season. Take time to ask them where their favorite restaurants and beach accesses are. Getting to know locals makes for a deeper travel experience and provides insight into their culture that you may not have gained otherwise.

4. Ask for upgrades. During summer, the best accommodations go fast, but fall gives savvy travelers a chance to upgrade. Since hotels and vacation rental companies have plenty of availability during fall, inquisitive guests can get higher quality accommodations at rates that would never fly during summer.

5. Go fishin’. Fall brings fishing rodeos galore for anglers looking to catch the big one, and fishing charters operate year round. For those who believe in second chances, a supplemental red snapper season opens October 1, giving hope to those who missed out on the haul this summer.

Scales and Ales to Benefit Audubon Aquarium of the Americas

Scales and AlesNew Orleans’ Audubon Aquarium of the Americas will host its 4th annual Scales and Ales benefit on Friday, September 20 at 8pm. Tickets to the adults only party start at $45, and all proceeds go to research and outreach programs at the aquarium.

Abita Brewing Company, the exclusive beer sponsor of Scales and Ales, will be serving an array of craft beers. Moreover, 30 local restaurants will offer up unique New Orleans cuisine to supporters of the Audubon Aquarium. Simply Irresistible of Atlanta, GA, and the Sirens of New Orleans will entertain partygoers. Food, drinks, and entertainment are included in the price of admission.

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas will hold a Fly, Drive, Stay raffle at their premier fundraising event. Supporters who purchase raffle tickets will be entered for a chance to win one of three grand prizes. Up for grabs are two round trip Southwest Airlines tickets and a $500 Hyatt Hotels gift card, a Mississippi beach getaway to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Biloxi, and a two-night stay at The Roosevelt New Orleans, complete with breakfast in bed, and a 60 min couples massage.

Over 1 million people visit Audubon Aquarium of the Americas each year, making it one of the premier facilities for aquatic research and education in the country. The Louisiana Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program alone has saved 200 sea turtles and 4 dolphins since 2010.

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is located on the Mississippi River, adjacent to the French Quarter. Main attractions include a walk through tunnel that immerses patrons in a Caribbean reef, a 400,000-gallon Gulf of Mexico exhibit, and rehabilitated sea turtles preparing for their return to the Gulf.

Visit www.auduboninstitute.org to purchase your Scales and Ales tickets in advance.

Labor Day Weekend Celebrations in Destin

Labor Day Weekend in DestinLabor Day Weekend on the Emerald Coast marks the last big hoorah of summer and ushers in the relaxed fall season. With several events taking place in and around Destin, visitors are sure to soak up every last ray of summer in celebratory fashion. Here’s a listing of Labor Day Weekend happenings in the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.

Harborwalk Village

Celebrate a weekend full of family activities, free concerts, food, and fireworks at the Endless Summer Music Series. A roster of singers and songwriters all the way from Nashville will provide entertainment Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. Guests will have two chances to view fireworks displays over the Destin Harbor: Thursday, August 29 and Sunday, September 1, both at 9pm.

Mattie Kelley Cultural Arts Village

Support the arts and celebrate the last weekend of summer at Concerts in the Village. The Cultural Arts Village will host Lava Lamp, a live music tribute to the sounds of the 70s. Tickets are $5 for members, $10 for non-members, and children under 12 receive free admission.

Sandestin

The Village of Baytowne Wharf will host Baytowne Art Walk, a three day festival of music and art taking place August 30-September 1. Visitors will enjoy live music by local musicians and a variety of regional art presented in an array of mediums. A fireworks display on Sunday at 9:15pm will close out the summer.

WaterColor

Marina Park in WaterColor Resort will host a Labor Day Carnival with free events open to the public. On Sunday, September 1, the resort is rolling out water slides, bounce houses, a dunk tank, face painters, and music. The fun for all ages event will take place from 11am to 2pm. At 8:30pm, a fireworks display will light up the sky over WaterColor’s beach.

Seaside

On Saturday, August 31 at 7:15pm, the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra will perform at the Seaside Amphitheater leading up to a fireworks show over the Gulf of Mexico. The free family event will mark a bittersweet goodbye to the Emerald Coast’s favorite season.

Photo Credit

 

Kitty Hawk Kite Festival on the Destin Harbor

Kite FlyingThis weekend Kitty Hawk Kites will host its 5th Annual Flying High on the Harbor Kite Festival at its Destin location in Harborwalk Village. The free event runs August 24-25 from 10am to 10pm and is open to the public.

Among the activities listed are kite flying demonstrations (with professional kite flyers performing stunts), kite making, cup stacking demos and competitions, ring toss games, yo-yo clinics, juggling lessons, stand up paddleboard demos, and a night kite fly at Norriego Point after dark. Guests are encouraged to bring kites and learn tricks from the pros. Kite flying demonstrations and lessons are scheduled from 10am-4pm and kids games and activities are scheduled from 4pm-8pm, weather permitting.

Founded in 1974, Kitty Hawk Kites is the largest kite store in the world. They sell children’s kites, power kites, stunt kites, kiteboarding gear, toys, and apparel. As a kite authority, Kitty Hawk Kites puts their products through rigorous testing to ensure customer satisfaction. With two locations on the Gulf Coast, visitors to Destin and Fort Walton Beach can experience kiting like a pro.

Situated on the Destin Harbor, Harborwalk Village is a favorite gathering place among locals and visitors alike. Harborwalk Village is home to the Emerald Grand Resort, world class shopping, indulgent dining, and a multitude of water activities. Visitors enjoy year round events, live entertainment, and seasonal festivals at this historic Destin landmark.

A few of Harborwalk Village’s highlights include dining at La Famiglia on the Harbor, a home-style Italian eatery overlooking Destin’s East Pass, relaxing at The Spa at Emerald Grande, shopping for locally made art, and strolling along the boardwalk at sunset.

So gather the family and enjoy this free and fun for all ages celebration while taking in the sights of the Destin Harbor.

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8 Reasons to Travel during the Off-Season

Endless SummerThe kids are back in school, but in the land of endless summer, the fun never stops. If you’ve managed to avoid the swarms of tourists all summer and are dying for a beach vacation, look no further for justification. Here are 8 reasons to travel to the Gulf Coast during the off-season.

1. Traffic is lighter: Beach traffic in the peak summer season could test the patience of Gandhi. It is much more fun to scoot around town and experience all that your favorite beach destination has to offer without multiple pileups and impatient drivers in the way.

2. Rates are lower: Hotels and resorts offer lower rates in the fall and winter to increase demand and fill rooms. Seize your chance for a quiet, cost friendly beach vacation by booking during the off-season.

3. Pace is slower: It is much easier to relax when your surroundings are peaceful. The off-season months from September to February (sans Labor Day weekend) are less hectic than their summer counterparts, making them perfect for chilling out.

4. Richer local experience: Off-season travelers encounter more locals with fewer tourists afoot. Quality interactions with locals can lead to deeper travel that uncovers secrets from the best cafés to the best fishing spots.

5. Fall festivals: Hit up a few local festivals during the fall months and celebrate the values that make up the destination of your choice. The Gulf Coast hosts several festivals during the fall, such as the Destin Seafood Festival, National Shrimp Festival in Gulf Shores, Voodoo Fest in New Orleans, and so much more.

6. Shorter wait times: Prompt service is generally a given during fall and winter at the beach, and competition for tips is fierce. You are likely to leave the restaurant feeling quite pampered.

7. Best room choice: Fall is prime time to rent prime real estate. Summer rentals go fast, but off-season rentals can be had with short notice and short stacks.

8. Longer vacations: With lower rates and better views, extending your vacation time is a no brainer. Travelers in need of solace can stay a week or two (or three) in a beach house overlooking the water without a soul in sight. With that much leisure and luxury, you can truly perfect the art of relaxation.

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Best Seafood Restaurants in Panama City Beach

firefly-main-dining-room1Dining on fresh seafood is a must do for any traveler on a beach vacation, and most people want a local seafood experience that cannot be found anywhere else. Here’s a roundup of TripAdvisor’s top ranked seafood restaurants in Panama City Beach, so you can eat like a local in the know.

Firefly: Locally renowned for excellent sushi, Firefly received TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence 2013. A tree wrapped in twinkling lights in middle of the dining room creates whimsical atmosphere. The chef’s menu suggestion is Sautéed Gulf Grouper, shallots, fresh corn, grape tomatoes, sherry cream and jumbo lump crab sauce with a haystack of potatoes.

“This place is one of our favorites. We ate at the Sushi bar this time and it was awesome. A must eat restaurant when you visit!” –TripAdvisor Traveler Review

Finn’s Island Style Grub: Casual Caribbean dining at its finest, Finn’s main draw is their excellent fish tacos. The food truck also whips up a Ceviche of the day, fresh citrus marinated fish served cold over salad greens.

“Don’t be hesitant to stop since this is essentially a food truck in a parked location…it’s worth the stop and the fish tacos were YuMmY!” –TripAdvisor Traveler Review

Saltwater Grill: Another recipient of TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence, Saltwater Grill creates a coastal atmosphere with a saltwater aquarium as the dining room’s main focal point.

Fried Green Tomato With Jumbo Lump Crabmeat (jumbo lump blue crab, sauce meuniere, and sundried tomato hollandaise) makes for a mouthwatering foray into the main course-Pan Seared Diver Sea Scallops with parmesan risotto, fresh spinach, tomato salsa, and extra virgin olive oil.

“Great service and really good food! Lobster bisque was YUM, as was my Mahi Mahi. Prime rib looked and was reported excellent, husband’s sea bass was delicious. When making reservations, ask to sit by the saltwater tank and if they can accommodate you, they will! It provided entertainment for us the whole meal. Even the artwork was nice. I would go back!” –TripAdvisor Traveler Review

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7 Ways to Relax at the Beach

Relaxing in Lounge Chair at BeachToday is National Relaxation Day, so do yourself a favor and fully commit. Here are 7 ways to relax at the beach, just in case you decide to turn ‘Relaxation Day’ into ‘Relaxation Week’.

1. Sleep in: After all, you paid for a beachfront condo with views of the water. Open a window and let the sound of the waves lull you into a deep sleep.

2. Lay on the beach: Never pass up the opportunity to get more rest, especially on the shore. Your condo rental should come standard with beach service. Let them set up your chair and umbrella while you keep on keepin’ on.

3. Go to a movie: There’s something special about cuddling up in your favorite sweater in a chilly movie theater and catching the latest flick. Take advantage, and take advantage often. Parents of young children will understand this. Once you have Thing One and Thing Two running around, your spontaneous movie nights are over.

4. Get a massage: Jen Townsend of Mobile Massage Therapy in Destin will come to your home or condo and help you de-stress and unwind. She sets up in a quiet room or outside so the sounds and smells of the ocean can help send you into a deep state of relaxation.

5. Stand up paddleboarding: An active lifestyle has its relaxing perks, too. Paddleboarding is an easy to learn, non-strenuous activity that is both relaxing and exhilarating. To shake up your exercise routine, try stand up paddleboard yoga.

6. Pontoon boat rental: Step 1: Rent pontoon boat. Step 2: Take pontoon boat to Crab Island. Step 3: Commence to chill out and party.

7. Sunset sailing: Book a sailing charter and sip on cocktails while taking in the unparalleled beauty of an iconic Gulf of Mexico sunset. Watching the sun disappear into the ocean while gently rocking to the waves relaxes the senses and calms the mind. And a little alcohol doesn’t hurt either.

Photo Credit here.

Emerald Coast Poker Run 2013

Emerald Coast Poker Run SpeedboatBoat Week kicks off tonight on Okaloosa Island and ends Saturday, August 17 with the Poker Run Party at the Emerald Coast Conference Center. The Emerald Coast Poker Run, hosted by the Emerald Coast Foundation, is the largest boat poker run in the country. Proceeds from the poker run benefit youth organizations in communities along the Emerald Coast.

Here’s a rundown of the fun filled Boat Week events taking place in Destin and on Okaloosa Island.

Wednesday, August 14

Helen Back is hosting a Luau Ladies Night on Okaloosa Island. Boaters can park at the dock and enjoy a Hawaiian buffet beginning at 7pm. From 9pm to 12pm, ladies enjoy All You Care to Drink with the purchase of a $10 cup.

Thursday, August 15

The Swamp on Okaloosa Island is hosting the Miss Boat Week Bikini Contest, where one lucky contestant will be crowned Miss Boat Week 2013.

Friday, August 16

An exclusive Captain’s Party at AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar in Destin, FL will take place from 7pm to 10pm. Emerald Coast Poker Run captains and their crews will dine on oysters and seafood while checking out the competition.

Saturday, August 17

The Emerald Coast Poker Run will take place from 10am to 5pm, beginning in Destin and running along the beautiful turquoise waters to the final stop in Pensacola. Boaters will make their way to each checkpoint where they will collect cards to later test their luck for prizes at the Poker Run Party.

Locals and visitors alike are invited to the Poker Run Party at the Emerald Coast Conference Center on Okaloosa Island. The event is an all you can eat and drink party, including music, dancing and a silent auction. Tickets are available for purchase through local youth organizations. {Click here to learn how to purchase tickets.}

Photo Credit here.

Shark Fishing in Destin

Shark Fishing in DestinWe’re capping off Shark Week on the TripShock Vacation Blog with the ultimate man vs. beast showdown: shark fishing.  While planning your trip to Destin, be sure to jump on the opportunity to check this one off your bucket list. Book a Destin Shark Fishing Charter and catch the ocean’s top predator for the experience of a lifetime.

 

Destin Shark Fishing Charter

Travelers to Destin can book a private deep-sea charter and make their Shark Week dreams a reality. Experienced captains target sharks in the Gulf of Mexico with high success rates of locating and catching various species, such as Bull Sharks, Black Tip Sharks, and Hammerhead Sharks. The 22 ft pathfinder center console boat can take up to four passengers per trip.

Captains conduct safety briefings and provide hands on instruction for an optimal shark fishing experience. Trips last 4-12 hours, depending on customer preference, and bait, tackle, and fishing license are included. Customers are encouraged to bring a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, a cooler with ice, beverages and food, and a camera to capture the moment.

TripShock Traveler Reviews

Great Time Catching Shark
“Had a great time fishing with Reel Time. They knew exactly where to go so we could catch shark. It was a lot of fun!”

Good Afternoon Trip
“Wow, we can’t believe how crazy these sharks are! We battled one of the sharks for 20 minutes and finally got him in. Best of all we were able to release him without any harm done.”

Experienced Captain and Crew
“Our captain did a great job teaching us how to catch shark and finding them quickly. We caught a few smaller sharks, but I don’t think we could have handled a 6 or 7 ft shark. We were very happy with our experience.”