Destin Florida Food, Lodging & Spa

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Our 15th Annual Great Mother’s Day Adventure took us to Destin, Florida this year. The Mecca for Southern sun worshipers.

My daughters, Mandi and Candi, along with Candi’s children, Shelton (13), Jewel (10), and Jesslyn (3) and I loaded up into Candi’s Chevy Tahoe with one of those luggage racks suspended from the hitch to hold our excess. With bathroom and food breaks, the 8 hour drive took us about 10 hours.

There was a good bit of road construction on the main drag in Destin, and Sandestin, the resort area that I had chosen for us, was located on the far end of the strip. We didn’t notice it as much that night, since we had no idea where we were going, but it took about 45 minutes to go the final 5 miles.

We were thrilled when we found The Residence Inn at Sandestin. Parking was easy, the place was clean and safe, and we felt welcomed from the moment we arrived. We arrived too late for the evening get together, but were amazed when we got to our room.

I had contemplated for weeks whether to do an Air BnB, a For Rent by Owner Condo, or a resort. We finally decided on the Residence Inn because it had the full kitchen that we needed (food allergies and special dietary restrictions) plus free evening snacks and a full breakfast for everyone else. The room had two bedrooms and two full baths, a roll away, and a sofa bed. We all unpacked and had plenty of room to spread out and not be all up in each other’s space, if you know what I mean.

There was a basketball court, a room with board games, a kiddie pool, regular pool, hot tub and small gym. The breakfast area was large and plenty of food was supplied for both breakfast, and evening snacks. The property is located a block from an upscale shopping center, Grande Boulevard, and right on the outer edge of Baytowne Wharf.

I follow a Keto diet and had plenty of food with spinach, a variety of cheeses, eggs and breakfast meats. There were containers of unsweetened Greek yogurt, boiled eggs, and strawberries, too. The kids enjoyed waffles and granola, and the girls had biscuits and gravy, and there was a selection of muffins and pasteries, as well as grits and oatmeal. Juices, teas, coffee and other beverages were available, too. A little better than the usual hotel breakfast fare.

The evening social was fabulous. Grilled chicken “burgers” with an Asian slaw, wine, craft beer, draft beer, soda and water was available. The second night there was crustini and chicken kebabs. The went over and above our expectations. The food was wonderful, tasty and plentiful.

The kids swam, played games and basketball, and we even got to watch the fireworks from Baytowne Wharf from our window. If we go to Destin again, we will stay at The Residence Inn. They even gave me a nice cold bottle of water upon checkout. www.marriott.com/sandestin

I made separate posts about our two largest excursions, Henderson Beach State Park and Baytowne Wharf, both of which rate 5 stars in my book.

We did have a few meals out, some good, some ok, some not so good. I am addicted to Chick Fil A lemonade…they forgot my grilled nuggets, but I got my diet lemonade, so I forgive them.

Grimaldi’s Pizza was in the Grande Boulevard Center. It was an expensive huge disappointment. Cold, tasteless pizza and an OK salad. Two thumbs down.

Acme Oyster house was as expected, not great, not bad. None of us wanted more, no one died. I went off of my diet for that meal, and I would not do it again. The New Orleans location is much, much better. It was expensive, but we expected that, too, so no big deal.

The Village Door in Baytowne Wharf was our only disappointment in Baytowne Wharf. Food was cold, old and dry/hard. Service was lacking. We spent about $200 for the majority of us to spend the rest of the afternoon in the restroom.

The service at Mary’s Kitchen was good, the food was ok, the place could be a little cleaner. My salad was good, pork chop not edible. Everyone else enjoyed their meals, for the most part. They were ready to close and made us feel a little rushed. I guess they are only open for lunch.

Our field trip to Whole Foods was pretty uneventful. The smallest Whole Foods that I have ever seen in my life. I was bummed that there was no olive bar. I did find some scrumptous strawberries, and everyone found a treat or two that they enjoyed. The store was clean, the service was good, and we were thankful that it was there.

I always try to plan the GMDA to have something special for both the adults, they are still my kids, and the children. Baytowne Wharf was the “it factot” for the kids, and Surfside Spa was it for the adults. I was so thankful to find a plave that would take us last minute. I had been looking and trying to book for days, but no one could get us all in the same day. Aveda had no massage therapist, and the Hilton Spa never returned my calls or e-mails. Surfside booked Mandi and Candi for the following morning, and me for the afternoon. All 2 hour appointments with facials and massages.

By morning, Candi was still so sick from The Village Door (or the cupcake place) that she could not go to her appointment. I went in her place, and she took my afternoon appointment. Our appointments were at 9:30, and we arrived around 9:15, as is customary in every other spa that we have visited.

The door was locked. The receptionist let us in,mand a few therapists came in shortly after. It was a little chaotic, but as a spa owner myself, I fully understood. I had asked for separate rooms, but they had started setting up a double room, and the owner stopped them as they were bringing us in. Mandi stayed in that room, and my therapist brought me into the first room behind the reception area. She had Mandi’s forms, rather than mine, so everything that I had specified was not available. (no nut oils in lotion, do not massage head or right foot) I then got a massage that focused the first 15 minutes on my head. I just wanted to get up and leave, it was a miserable experience. The talking from outside the door (I thought it was Mandi’s therapist, but it was not) and being turned on full blast time after time, after time, just made me want to cry. I just knew her experience was ruined, too. The therapists switched rooms, and Mandi got her massage, and I got my facial. Nothing was prepared and she keot having to go in and out of the room, and even had to go back into Mandi’s room to get supplies. She talked so much. I just wanted her to shut up. Finally it ended.

I had to go out in the un-air conditioned hall, past the large gym to use the restroom, the spa does not have one. Turns out the couple who came in after us had their services screwed up, too, because they put Mandi in their double room, so one of them had to wsit an hour for their service. I would give them 2 stars.

They offered us champagne and a piece of chocolate after, and we paid. Mandi enjoyed hers, but they were rushing us out, offering a to-go cup, before we could even take a second to sip on what they gave us.

Mandi loved her facial, and her massage, and her experience. She could not hear all of the talking and banging and water from her room. I was so thankful that she enjoyed her experience. She would give 4.5 stars.

Candi had a different therapist, and the same person did her massage and facial, but she was in the samevtiny, loud room that I was in, so it took her the first 45 minutes to be able to relax. She enjoyed her facial and massage and would give 4 stars on that, and 2.5 on the experience due to the noise level and loud talking. They did not offer her chocolate or champagne.

The place is in a run down beach condo building, and the halls, stairs and elevator are filthy. The spa itself was relatively clean. If the staff had been quieter and respected the guests, and the appointments themselves been more organized, it would have been a much better experience. If we were in Destin again, and no one else had appointments available, and they were able to accommodate us, we would book again. I think their staff is just a bunch of on call people who don’t work there regularly, and that was the cause of all of the chaos. The receptionist and the owner, as well as everyone else who we came into contact with were friendly and professional. Overall, 3 stars.

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  • Domonique Read October 24, 2018 at 1:04 PM

    With thanks! Valuable information!