Monday, December 31, 2018
Our arrival into Florida was at the tail end of dusk. I had finished my quest for all 50 states in the morning, but now it was Jeremy’s turn to finish his quest! Yay us!
The hotel Jeremy booked was amazing. Hampton Inn at Jacksonville Beach. The pool alone makes it worth a stop. Don’t those pool waterfalls look lovely?
As described in our post on accommodations, for some hotels there is an advantage to booking directly from the hotel website. In our case, we ended up with an upgrade to a beach-view room. You can’t see it from this picture, but the beach is just off the balcony.
On the way to the hotel we had bought some crackers, cheese, and other goodies to get us through the evening, so we enjoyed them on the balcony and watched a few groups of people set off fireworks from the beach. One of the groups had seemingly professional grade fireworks, so it was a real treat.
After the boys had seen enough fireworks, they decided that they really wanted to make it to midnight and that a late night swim was in order to help them stay awake. The pool closed at 10pm and we stayed until just before. It really was quite amazing. The waterfall alone was great, but add in the basketball hoops, the interesting design, and the hot tub tucked into a cute cove with a great view of the basketball hoop at the shallow end, and it was a really nice way to spend and hour or so. We could even see a few of the fireworks, although the view was a bit occluded.
Upon returning to the room, we enjoyed more snacks, more fireworks, and easily made it to midnight.
Tuesday, January 1, 2019
Happy New Year! Jeremy woke up particularly early, given our late night, and enjoyed the sunrise.
I’m a little jealous that I missed it.
After waiting a while, he ended up getting the rest of us up around 8:00.
We got breakfast at the hotel, then decided to wander the beach.
Reviews indicated that Jacksonville Beach isn’t great for swimming, but it is really nice for walking, so we spent our time until checkout wandering. The sand was packed really hard, so quite easy to walk on.
The kids found some nice shells and really wanted to play with some of the jellyfish carcasses, but the red tinge to many of them told us we should probably discourage the idea, and reinforced the idea that swimming really might have been a bad idea.
It was a wonderful morning!
We checked out a few minutes before the 11am checkout and headed towards Daytona Beach, about 1.5 hours away. We parked at Sun Splash Park, which gave us access to bathrooms, showers, and a short walk to the boardwalk. If you have small kids, there appeared to be a little playground above the beach, but we didn’t visit it. Pizza Hut was across the street, so we stopped at their buffet first, then headed down to the beach.
An unusual sight greeted us. A long line of cars were driving on the beach sand. Apparently this is fairly unique to Daytona Beach and is left over from the days when they would race cars on the beach. Now they use the Daytona International Speedway. After telling the kids to be careful crossing “the street,” we found a place to set up for the afternoon.
The sand was hard! I guess that is why cars drive on it, but still, don’t expect to be comfortable while lying down. Definitely not the best scenario for my sore back.
The boys had tons of fun!
The water was a little chilly, but not awful, particularly given that it is January.
After a while we decided to spend some time building a sand castle. I enjoyed watching the tide come in and gradually wash it away. The process made me think of these weird geological formations we saw at the Yehliu Geopark in Taiwan. James thought it reminded him more of Mon Saint Michel in France.
Jeremy decided to take a walk to the boardwalk. The car entrance to the beach was about halfway between the Sun Splash Park and the Boardwalk. Closer to the boardwalk, there were ice cream stands, shops, and a few other things. He was sad when one of the many sea gulls decided to drop a present on him.
The kids got sick of the cold water around 3:30pm, so we decided it was a good time to head towards our hotel in Orlando.
Orlando – Disney World
On the way to Orlando, we stopped for shakes, then arrived at the Fairfield Inn there around 5:30pm. The boys and I spent a little time in the pool, then came up to the hotel to rest. Since the shakes were rather large, we decided to simply finish our New Year’s Eve snacks, rather that go to one of the many restaurants in the strip mall across the street from the hotel. We decided to spend the evening journaling and researching a Disney World ride plan!