This post is a little bit overdue. Life has been so crazy since the kids have been doing virtual school, I feel overdue on several things. Back in September we finally took a little break from life and had a wonderful long weekend on Cocoa Beach. We didn’t do any of the “touristy” things as we are still keeping our distance but we still had fun.
We arrived on Friday to our hotel, The South Beach Inn. It’s about 2-3 miles from the pier where the “hot spots” are. When we go on vacation we always look for places that have a kitchen. Even without COVID we prefer to cook our own meals, not just because it saves on money, but dining out isn’t enjoyable for us with small hyper kids. This place had a kitchen, a bedroom, sofa bed for the kids, and was right on the beach. It was extremely clean and super affordable! It had a nice yard and place for grilling and having get togethers, a deck with plenty of chairs and benches to relax that is lighted at night, a shower to wash off the salt and sand before you go back to your room, as well as beach gear (boogie boards, chairs, etc) you could borrow if needed. The staff was friendly and very helpful when needed. The hotel is an older hotel and has character to it, regardless I would definitely recommend it if you are looking for an affordable place on Cocoa Beach.
We arrived during high tide on Friday, the waves were brutal on the beach. If you are a surfer, you would have loved it! If you are a family with smaller kids, probably less love for the waves. Even for me, after being in the water for 5 minutes, I was over it! The waves were so high and smacked me so hard that it rolled me under water and dragged me thru the sand back to the shoreline several times. The boys didn’t go out as far as I did and it was actually worse for them closer to the beach. So, mostly we made sand castles on Friday. Saturday and Sunday were not to bad during low tide. We had a lot more fun with the boogie boards and playing in the ocean. High tide started coming in between 3-5:00pm, so we had pretty much the whole day to play in the water.
We drove to the pier on Saturday just to see what it was all about. Parking is $15 for the day and since this is where all the shops and restaurants are it was very crowded. We decided it wasn’t worth it, went to Publix and spent $15 on some chicken wings and wine then headed back to the hotel for lunch and walked to the beach.
Another great thing about this beach is there are a lot of sea treasures to be found!
All of us enjoyed our long weekend at Cocoa Beach and will definitely be back. Next time I hope to be able to check out the Kennedy Space Center and see one of the rocket launches.
Tennessee is blessed to have so many wonderful family destinations. I hope to be able to visit Nashville, Memphis, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Lynchburg when this crazy pandemic is over. Actually, it’s not a bad idea to take 2 weeks and just drive around Tennessee seeing all of these places. Hmmmmm, I’m going to look into that.
Where I have been is Chattanooga. I have been to Ruby Falls, Tennessee Aquarium, and Rock City/Look Out Mountain a few times in my life. I have visited them as a child and now with my children. Both times really fun, just from different perspectives. Well, it was a little better when I was kid. I didn’t have to buy the souvenirs! At that time I was a kid the internet was non-existent which made a big difference. Especially with Ruby Falls. It wasn’t so commercialized and crowded.
We visited Ruby Falls and the Tennessee Aquarium when my boys were about 5 years old, so it’s been a few years but I remember it like it was just a few weeks ago. We started the adventure at the Tennessee Aquarium. We have been to several aquariums, Georgia, Miami, SeaWorld, and Tennessee. Tennessee is unique from the others as it’s a fresh water aquarium and focuses on the critters and fishies of the Mississippi River. I really enjoy this museum as did my kids and husband. You start by walking through a butterfly garden where you become basically a moving tree for all of the butterflies. They made me a little jealous because they were all over my husband while we were in there. They thought they could just flutter their pretty wings and take him over. You are aloud to linger in these area for a long as you want; they have a really nice set up and they also show the different style of cocoons for each of the species that flutter there.
When you walk out, you begin your journey through the aquarium on the top floor and as you walk you wined down back down to the bottom. There is a lot of space so it doesn’t feel crowded and little ones can go at their own pace and see all the cool fish. There are a lot of interactive stations and things to see and do here. This is a must do when in Chattanooga and won’t be disappointed. Unless you are expecting dolphins and orca shows, then you might be. My husband was expecting it to be more salt water and it took him a few to get into it, my bad for not warning him.
Ruby Falls is beautiful and unique and something that I feel should be experienced once in your life. If you didn’t get to experience it before the internet then you won’t feel as disappointed as I did when you visit now. I will explain why.
In the 90’s was the first time I went to Ruby Falls and all of the other attractions of Chattanooga. The tour starts by getting in an elevator and descending 26 stories or 1,120 feet into the Earth. When you get down there you are guided through some pretty awesome caverns until you eventually reach the very beautiful and amazing underground waterfall, Ruby Falls. That part hasn’t changed at all. The difference is the amount of people and it feels very commercialized now and no where near as personable. Yes they have cheesy tour guides still, but there is section of the tour where the cavern opens up and everyone can gather around, in the 90’s the tour guide would tell you the story of Ruby Falls and how it came to be. Today they use televisions all over and pre-recorded movies.
But that’s not my biggest disappointment. There isn’t much space 26 stories down inside the Earth. Before there was a small group of people 20-30 at most at scheduled intervals. These tours (back then) were scheduled so 1 group had enough time to get to the end and start working back before the second group came down. This way you really go to enjoy the different structures, ask questions, kind of take your time. Plus, when you got to Ruby Falls, you were able to spend 10 minutes just walking around it. We were able to go behind the waterfall and had plenty of time to get amazing pictures. No, they still do about 20 people in a group, but the groups descend every 15-20 minutes. There are so many people down in the caverns that you are constantly having to stop and move to the side so previous groups can get out. You can’t stop and enjoy the stalactites, and stalagmites because there is an army behind you and another army trying to pass you. When we reached the falls, they closed off the walk ways that went around the waterfalls and you are only allowed 5 minutes. You have to contend with 20-40 other people for the perfect picture and soak in the moment and beauty of what you are trying to get a picture of before the tour guide takes off. Because there are so many groups down there, it’s not just yours at the waterfall. Then you make the rushed journey back squeezing around people.
Like I said, if you didn’t know it then, you will probably be more impressed than I am with Ruby Falls. I still think you should see it, it’s still interesting and beautiful. I just don’t think it’s worth another visit. Unless they start limiting how many tours happen simultaneously.
Rock City Gardens and Look Out Mountain
The best for last. This is my favorite place in Chattanooga. We recently went back this past January. We were there January 1st, 2020. I thought that by spending the first day of the year having fun and traveling as a family, meant that’s how I would spend the year. Guess 2020 didn’t get the memo.
It’s magical. More magical than Disney World. I’m probably one of the few who have that opinion, but Disney has a lot of people and long lines and is overpriced and usually super hot. Anyway, that is a different post. Rock City Gardens has a fairy tale theme to it. As you walk the path to Look Out Mountain and then back around to the beginning you will see sneaky gnomes, Rainbow Hall, and story book characters hiding in the walls. When you reach the top of Look Out Mountain you will see seven different states and have all of the time in the world to take in the moment. It’s not over crowded or maybe it’s just open enough it doesn’t feel that way. My whole family agrees that this is the best place in Chattanooga. I will let the pictures do my talking for this one. Save this one for last if you go and see these 3 family fun places. Also before you go, check and see if they have any special events. I would really really like to go back and see their winter fantasy of lights. Being there at night though makes me nervous because it’s on a mountain. Driving down a mountain at night sounds deadly for this South Florida momma. Hotel arrangements and uber with be necessary if we ever do that.
Oh, also all of these places are near each other so driving is very minimal and they are easy to find.
If you are looking for some peace and quite in South Florida, this is one of the best places to go. On the south west side of the state and part of the ten thousand islands, this is an ideal location for kayaking and paddle boarding. We enjoy packing a cooler full of cold drinks, some sandwiches and launching our kayaks at Everglades National Park. Typically, my husband enjoys fishing more than I do, I am more into paddling around and soaking in the sun, salt, and serenity; snapping pictures of all the amazing creatures. But from time to time, I will toss my line in and see if I get lucky.
I have never seen any alligators or crocodiles here, that’s not to say they aren’t around, because you never know, but I have never seen them here. Me and my young boys have no problem getting in the water and splashing and playing around. I am always on the look out and we don’t venture to far from shore when swimming, because hey, it’s Florida and there are numerous cold blooded animals that can eat you. But like I said, I have never seen them here, but I have seen dolphins playing in the water near the islands while kayaking, it is always a super fun experience when dolphins are around. I have also seen several different crab species, conchs, and a variety of bird species here. The water is brackish, it opens up to the ocean about 3 miles off the main shore, past the ten thousand islands. We always has the luck of catching salt water catfish, they are a very bony fish and eating it can be a little annoying. Usually we fry it up and most of the bones with the meat and it tastes really good. If you find yourself catching them be careful because their fins are like switch blades and hurt like hell if they get you, after being stuck a few times I make my husband take the fish off the hooks when I catch one! 🙂
Everglades City also home to Big Cypress National Preserve, air boat rides, kayak rentals, sea food festivals (when covid-19 isn’t a thing) and many other fun adventures. I highly recommend checking out Everglades City and all of it’s natural treasures. I have included the link below if you would like more information about this amazing place. Just don’t forget the bug spray and sunscreen!
If you are looking for a beautiful quite place to get away from it all, I highly recommend Suches, GA.
I hesitate to tell y’all about this place because I loved it so much. It’s a small town located in North Georgia with the windiest roads I have ever been on. I grew up in in Paulding County, GA but I have lived in South Florida for nearly 20 years. We only have 90 degree turns here that take you left or right. There is no up and down windy roads anywhere in these parts. These roads in Suches, made me a little bit nervous going into it for the first time.
We drove from South, FL all the way thru. It was about 12, 13,14 hours…….with the kiddos and stopping at Wal-Mart to stock up on food before we got into town, it was a long trip, I lost count of the hours. But it was worth it.
We rented a cabin from one of those rent your house apps, which isn’t as weird as some folks think. We have done it on a few trips now and have always had a good experience, (knock on wood), it had everything we needed. Seclusion, Jacuzzi, near-by River, and Mountain View. Basically PERFECTION.
I was able to teach my boys what Lightning Bugs (also known as fireflies) are and how to catch them and put them in a jar. We played in the rivers, went tubing down the Tocca River, they mined for Gems at the Lily Pad, I showed them all of the critters that hide under rotting logs like salamanders, giant centipedes and millipedes, night crawlers, rolly pollies, and beetles of all kinds. They destroyed all the beautiful mushrooms we found, after I took pictures of course, and really got to experience the simple life. The fact I got to show my kids this world without electronics, the world I grew up in, meant a lot to me.
Living down here, life is fast and expensive, and overall high demanding without any woods to disappear in, it can be stressful. Sure we have the Ocean and a lot of city and county parks, but it’s just not the same I love the ocean. But I think I love mountains and waterfalls a little bit more.
My parents and brother’s family still lives up that way, my dad and brother actually hunt and fish in Suches. It was a fun coincidence that they were there the same weekend we were. The kids got to play with their cousins and spend time with family. We went waterfalls, a suspended bridge, and the Chattahoochee National Hatchery where they breed the trout to restock the streams and rivers. I have to warn you though, getting to these places is a challenge if you’re not use to dirt roads up a mountain.
If you ever do find yourself in Suches, GA a few must do things that I have first hand knowledge are: