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Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

We’ve gone on a lot of Disney vacations over the last year and a half. While that never gets old (to me) I’ve really started looking forward to other places we could visit. This especially now that we have a more flexible homeschool schedule.

With my husband’s schedule and shift work it’s possible to get away two nights during his three days off a week. But we don’t take advantage of that very much. Hopefully this is the start of a new series of adventures.

Soon we’ll be heading to DC, and just before school started we took a road trip down to the coast for a South Padre family vacation.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

My husband and I have lived in Texas for eight years now, but we had yet to visit the coast. I’d asked friends over the years which beaches they liked. I’d heard Port Aransas, Mustang Island, and a couple others but most people told me South Padre Island was their favorite. It was also one of the furthest away from us.

About a six hour drive with breaks, I worried someone might not survive the trip down there. Three and a half hours to Dallas was the furthest we had driven with them before so we didn’t know how they’d handle almost double that distance.

It’s absolutely beautiful driving onto the island and if I wasn’t half asleep (I can not stay awake on car trips for the life of me) I would have tried to take a picture of the long bridge from the Texas coast out to this little island.

During Spring Break I imagine this place is packed and crazy, but it felt nearly deserted and the beach was beautiful.

So if you’re thinking of heading out there with your family at some point, don’t think you can’t have fun in what’s commonly known as a party town.

On our way down we drove through Harlingen, TX and stopped at a Mexican bakery called Laura’s Bakery that sold this delicious sweet bread called mollettes. They only take cash but everything is very inexpensive. We actually went to an ATM only to find that we had enough change for what we wanted.

After that last pit stop we went straight to our hotel at Holiday Inn Express South Padre. We partnered with Intercontinental Hotel Group and booked the room using IHG Rewards points they hooked us up with which are as good as cash.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

I feel like I’m terrible at using rewards like frequent flier miles because I rarely get to take advantage of them before they expire. Other programs like pizza or take-out rewards (ok, or most anything involving food) I rock at and often get free meals.

IHG Rewards work similar where you earn points every time you stay at one of their participating hotels. That’s not just Holiday Inn Express but any hotel that’s a part of the Intercontinental Hotel Group.

My kids, especially my daughter are really fascinated with hotels. The continental breakfast, big fluffy beds, the elevators… It’s all just too much to handle.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

Their reaction when we walked into the room would make you think we walked right into Magic Kingdom (I have video proof coming soon). They busted open the refrigerator, checked out the bathroom, extra sink, and the view outside the window.

Naturally jumping on the bed was next.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

After we settled in for a bit, we changed and headed out to the beach. The people who got us all checked in were so kind to point us in the direction which was really just a quick walk outside the side door.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

We spent the rest of the afternoon out there. I didn’t realize how long some sand and waves could entertain my kids and shoot… Myself.

It was so relaxing laying there and listening to the water, and just watching my kids have fun. I feel like I can get down with the beach vacations. Big T was more scared of the waves (I think he’s seen The Good Dinosaur one too many times) but Lil’ J, my water baby, was in heaven.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

We asked the woman who checked us in at the hotel for food recommendations and she gave us a long list of places to eat, including some family friendly places.

Since we had a long drive in and were pooped from the long day we ordered takeout from Gabriella’s, a yummy Italian restaurant.

My kids had never slept in the same bed before and I worried my son might fall out (not enough to actually share a bed with him myself) so I lined the floor next to him with some of those comfortable pillows just in case.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

He didn’t fall out. Thankfully.

The next day we woke up shortly before breakfast ended. The kids got their fill from muffins and juice and my husband and I enjoyed omelettes, bacon, biscuits and gravy.


We decided to explore the island in the morning then head to the beach for the rest of the day. We drove around and stopped by an interesting looking store called Jaws… Easily noticeable from the street because of the giant shark head entrance. There was a lot of overpriced stuff in there but also some weird dead baby sharks in a jar. I took a snapchat photo but my phone didn’t save it… Probably a good thing cause it was really weird.

We considered going to a popular water park called Schlitterbahn, but decided against it since the weather was iffy and our kids aren’t into water thrills.

Instead we visited an amazing place called Turtle Inc. It was right across the street from our hotel. It’s a rescue, rehabilitation and release facility for sea turtles.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

Of course your kids can’t touch the animals, but that doesn’t make them any less fascinating. You’re up close and personal with half a dozen of these beautiful creatures. We walked around and read about each one, why they were there and if they’d be able to go back into the ocean.

Merry Christmas was the most friendly. She swam right up to us and seemed to be waving hello.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

Lil’ J loved Maddie, who they actually lifted up and out of her tank to take back to the ocean while we were there.

This place is free to visit but asks that you leave a donation to help keep the organization going and we had no problem chipping in.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach again. We had our own little stretch of sand and attempted to build sand castles together. Lil’ J brought her mermaid tail and we FINALLY did part 2 of her Ariel photoshoot that we started back in December. I’ll post those in another week or so!

We really enjoyed the warmth and sand and waves. Although my son was more nervous about the water, he sat on my lap and let the water run over us together. It was amazingly soothing.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

When the sun started to set we took the short walk back to the hotel and washed off before going out to BurgerFi for dinner.

I hadn’t eaten beef since March since watching Cowspiracy. I gave in and bought a burger here and holy cow it was delicious. The kids enjoyed their grilled cheese and fries… The fries were wonderful.

We headed back to the hotel and watched a little bit of the Olympics before getting rest before our long drive home the next day.

During our journey back my husband said he’d love to go back there again.–An exciting statement since he’s not much of a traveler.

There are a couple of things I wish we had done that we didn’t on this trip.

Visit Port Isabel Lighthouse: I was barely conscious when we drove in and totally missed it. On the way back we were just starting our long drive and didn’t want to stop. Had I read the historical significance about it I definitely would have made a point to stop and get a photo.

Eat at Pirates Landing: We saw it on the “kid friendly” list that Holiday Inn Express handed us but we thought it was far away seeing as it wasn’t on the island. Turns out it was just directly off the bridge off the island and not far at all.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

When we go back again we’ll definitely be doing these things again:

1. Visit the beach: Duh! But maybe we’ll branch out and visit some of the other sides of the island. A reader told me the North Shore has some amazing shells.

2. Staying at Holiday Inn Express: The room was so spacious, the beds were comfortable, the staff was friendly, the pillows rocked, and I love that we had a microwave and fridge for leftovers. It worked out great since we were so close to the beach and we had some snacks to enjoy and reheat when we came back to our room.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

3. Visiting Turtle Inc.: Of all the places we saw, this place was the most crowded but I could see why with the educational aspect and beauty in the turtles you could watch, and it being such a great stop for families. We didn’t go watch the release of Maddie but I think that’s something we’d try to do next time.

I took so many photos and cute videos that I’m working on editing and I’ll share those in another post hopefully in a few days. I’m so glad we got away for this quick trip and explored more of this fun state we live in. I hope this is just the beginning of our journey exploring it together.

What family travel adventures have you enjoyed lately?

If you’re planning a last minute trip before Labor Day make sure you sign up for IHG Rewards. It’s free and you’ll get 65,000 bonus points plus a free night to share at one of their beautiful hotels (for reference, we used about 50,000 points for our stay). Aren’t going anywhere soon? Spread the love and share the points with a loved one with IHG’s Share Forever program.

I love making memories with my family and exploring more of this beautiful world we live in, which is why I partnered with Intercontinental Hotel Group on this post. All opinions are my own.

I sometimes feel like I’m reliving my childhood with Lil’ J. As I help her style her doll’s’ hair, or when she asks me to play dress up with her, I feel like I’m 7 all over again. Even as I see her enthusiasm for Disney movies grow, it brings me back to the joy I felt playing and watching movies with my sister all summer. It’s all fun, but has a twinge of deja vu. With my son, I’m experiencing a world I’ve never known. A reality that feels new and adventurous.

I never owned a train set. I don’t recall ever having any toy dinosaurs, or even knowing the difference between a steam engine, a freight train and a monorail. My son is proof that we are who we are no matter our parents influence. I may have some impact, but this kid who came from me and my husband (who also isn’t into Dinosaurs or trains) is finding his way and his love for world in ways I’ve never even tried. Not to mention his personality… That’s something new too.

Though we don’t share interests naturally, I’ve realized I love what my kids love. Or rather–I love seeing the look in their eyes when they’ve discovered something that ignites their passion.

I can trace my son’s love of dinosaurs back to the day I was trying to sneak and watch Jurassic World on TV. His sister was at school and he was distracted watching train videos on YouTube Kids. Or so I thought. Any time the suspenseful music picked up and or the sound of mauling filled the air he looked up, determined to see what was happening, even when I would try to fast forward or cover his eyes (yes, I realize I should have just given up and watched it later, I’m a bad mom, I get it). I’ve since found a few more age appropriate dinosaur videos he likes to watch.

After that he started to play with dinosaur toys at the babysitter’s house, and now even goes into nursery at church willingly because there are a couple of small dinosaur toys to play with. I knew I wanted to do something special involving this interest of his.

I love surprises. My husband is awesome because he knows this and surprises me with the littlest things like sparking cider on Bachelor Monday, or chocolate covered strawberries delivered on Valentine’s Day, or something I’m not expecting every Christmas. My love of surprises goes both ways though. I love surprising my husband but it’s really hard to do, so I default to surprising my kids. A lot!

I was telling a coworker about some of my spring break plans when he mentioned a dinosaur park in Texas with life-sized dinosaur statues. I knew this would be the perfect surprise for my dino-loving boy.

T-Rex at Dinosaur Park Texas

We planned our visit on a day my husband was off so he could also see the look on our son’s face when he realized where we were. I told Lil’ J and Aunt Kim to keep it a surprise as we drove out for a day trip to Cedar Creek.

“Don’t mention dinosaurs!” I told them.

As we turned into a parking lot Big T yelled from the back seat.

“I see a dinosaur!” He saw it before the rest of us. An unpainted statue behind a building. He couldn’t get out of his car seat fast enough. The moment we set foot in the entrance for admission, he went straight to the tiny dinosaur toys. He had no idea what he was in for.

We purchased our wristbands and stepped outside. To the right was our good friends waiting for us on the playground. To the left were two huge brontosaurus-looking statues. My daughter ran right, my son ran left.

A lesson in raising a son and learning to love what he loves. Our trip to Dinosaur Park Texas

“Mommy and daddy dinosaur!” He bound to them and looked up in awe and wonder. I held back tears as my son gleamed up at the statues. This is his thing.

We walked through the park and saw all sorts of dinosaur replicas.

My daughter enjoyed herself too, but my son was in HEAVEN.

A lesson in raising a son and learning to love what he loves. Our trip to Dinosaur Park Texas

A lesson in raising a son and learning to love what he loves. Our trip to Dinosaur Park Texas

Sadly I don’t remember many of these dinosaurs by name besides the T-Rex, Triceratops, and Stegosaurus. I’m sure that will all change in time if my son continues to be interested in them.

A lesson in raising a son and learning to love what he loves. Our trip to Dinosaur Park Texas

Then sooner or later, I’ll know more dinosaur names than Disney characters. Because that’s what true love is all about.

A lesson in raising a son and learning to love what he loves. Our trip to Dinosaur Park Texas

A lesson in raising a son and learning to love what he loves. Our trip to Dinosaur Park Texas

A lesson in raising a son and learning to love what he loves. Our trip to Dinosaur Park Texas

A lesson in raising a son and learning to love what he loves. Our trip to Dinosaur Park Texas

A lesson in raising a son and learning to love what he loves. Our trip to Dinosaur Park Texas

A lesson in raising a son and learning to love what he loves. Our trip to Dinosaur Park Texas

Hi! I’m Jennifer Borget

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I'm a part-time journalist, full-time wife and mother striving to make the world a better place and inspiring others to do the same. This is the space where I share my journey in making the most of every day.

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