Most Valuable Season

October 20, 2017

Beach-side family bonding in The Palm Beaches, Florida

I love summers in Florida for two big reasons: my much-beloved 10-year-old niece, Maggie, comes to stay with me, and it’s the ideal time for a getaway in my home state. Snowbirds return home, there are fewer tourists and special promotions abound. I invited my friend Jenna and her nine-year-old son, Alton, to meet us in South Florida. This year’s destination? The Palm Beaches.
 
The Palm Beaches are more than world-famous Palm Beach. It refers to the entire stretch of beach towns in Palm Beach County on Florida’s Atlantic Ocean coast—47 miles of fun between Jupiter and Boca Raton. The region is distinguished for sun, sand, food, shopping, natural beauty and an abundance of attractions.
 
A slice of paradise
 

Places to Stay in Delray Beach

We stayed at the gorgeous Delray Sands Resort in Highland Beach. The sophisticated yellow and white exterior welcomed us into a lobby that balanced elegance with comfort.
 
Our room was spacious, had high ceilings (complete with crown molding) and glass doors that led to a small balcony. Our balcony overlooked the pool, courtyard and breath-taking ocean. I absolutely loved the way the resort combined luxury with laid-back Florida charm.
 
We wrapped up the evening at the pool, playing until the kids looked like raisins, and we were all exhausted.
 
Bonding on the beach
 
After a great night’s sleep, Maggie and I met Jenna and Alton for breakfast at the resort’s on-site restaurant, Latitudes. They had outside dining right alongside the shore, and the ocean breeze and swaying palms amplified that sense of being on vacation. I could have spent hours sipping coffee on that gorgeous patio, but the kids were raring to go, so Jenna and I showed our parental flexibility by taking our lounging ways to the beach.
 
It was a really great day. Jenna and I rented a couple of reclining chairs and an umbrella from the resort, and relaxed and chatted. Maggie and Alton had been shy around each other, but as soon as they hit the sand, they became buds, running, splashing, building sandcastles and laughing. I could practically see the tension leaving Jenna’s body as she put her phone down, settled back and let the sun and ocean work their magic. She may have seen the same in me.
 
A fun find
 
The next day, we headed out to Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach. Atlantic Avenue is a lively and vibrant place, with tons of cute shops, restaurants, parks, plus a beach. The atmosphere was a balance between a laidback coastal hangout and a classy spot to rendezvous and retail. Families, couples and individuals alike strolled the brick sidewalks, rode bikes, or dined alfresco. It was clearly a happening place to spend the day. This time we had a specific attraction in mind, though.
 

Things to Do in Delray Beach

At the hotel, Alton had discovered a flyer for the Silverball Museum, which is a pinball museum and arcade just off Atlantic Avenue, and the kids asked if we could go. Jenna and I agreed it was just as much their vacation as ours, so why not? I knew the kids would have a blast, but I didn’t expect I would, too.
 
When we walked in, I was immediately struck by all the colorful lights and sounds. There were rows and rows of pinball machines, more than I’ve ever seen in one place. I appreciated not needing to deal with quarters; we just paid admission, and could play whatever we wanted.
 
In addition to the pinball machines, they had Skee-Ball, foosball and vintage video games. Jenna and Alton had a major battle on the Frogger machine that inspired what we called our “epic tournament,” where we rotated through four machines vying for the highest score on each. It was definitely one of the trip highlights.
 
Everyone loves a good sale
 

On the last day of the getaway, I finally got my chance to linger over coffee and breakfast, while Jenna took Maggie and Alton down to the beach. When they returned, we headed south to Town Center at Boca Raton.
 
A high-end shopping mall, Town Center satisfied my retail craving in every way. From the moment I handed the valet my car keys when I arrived, to the moment he politely closed the door behind me as I departed, I felt like royalty. Frosted-glass chandeliers brought warm light to the spacious, corridors. Alongside happy chatter from shoppers, fountains created a peaceful watery babble. We explored luxury stores, including Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co. and Cartier. Jenna found a great deal on a pair of fabulous, blue, tortoise-patterned sunglasses at Oakley. With Christmas in mind, I picked out a few trinkets from Brighton. The kids made fast friends with a GameStop employee, through discussion on the best game consoles, concepts and characters. It was then that I noticed one more key distinction of Town Center—I hesitated even using the word “employee.” At every shop, they felt more like hosts, and we were the guests of honor.
 
We closed out the excursion with a stop at the mall’s Photo & Go store, where we were able to upload vacation pictures from our phones and get them printed. It was a blast going through each other’s pics of goofy faces and action shots. Digital pictures are great, but it was nice to get actual prints to take home as keepsakes, and I knew Maggie’s parents would love it.
 
New perspective
 
After saying goodbye to Jenna and Alton, Maggie and I hit the road. The drive home began like most of our trips do—me driving and listening to the radio, and Maggie playing Minecraft on her phone.
 
Within about half an hour, though, Maggie leaned forward between the seats and picked up the printed photos, which were on the passenger seat next to me. She started flipping through them and reminding me about her favorite moments, and things that had made her laugh. After a while, there was a pause in her cheerful chatter.
 
Then she piped up again, “Aunt Kelli, I love summer!”
 
I had to agree.
 
Find more ways to play as a family in The Palm Beaches.
 

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