Traveling with current social distancing and masking requirements was daunting. Having a preschooler and an infant along for the trip more daunting. Having been quarantined and social distanced for almost a year, and caving in to pressure from my Husband, I decided to take the plunge. We traveled for an extended weekend (thurs-mon) to Florida for some safe, family fun in the sun.
Why travel to Oldsmar
Well before we looked into this vacation, we had never heard of Oldsmar. I wanted to be closer to the beach and was willing to pay a premium, but my husband talked me out of it. We had other plans for our trip to the area and knew that out of 4 nights we would only spend one or two at the beach.
Many of the Clearwater hotels charge a parking fee and even as a guest of these hotels you have to pay extra to rent umbrellas, cabanas etc. on the beach. So we chose to stay outside of the clear
The Flight to Tampa
We flew from Newark to Tampa. Oldsmar is about 20 minutes from the Tampa airport. I used to travel a lot for business, I’ve been to tiny airports where standing in one spot you can see baggage claim, boarding gates, and rental cars…Tampa is not one of those airports. There was an Air Train from the gates to baggage claim, another trip on the air train to rental car terminal, not as big of a headache as Atlanta airport, but it does take some time to travel through the airport.
We stayed at the Residence Inn in Oldsmar. It is EXTREMELY pet-friendly. We were not traveling with a pet. We passed someone with a dog every time we left the room. There were dog biscuits, leashes and other pet gear on display at the front desk . Our room was on the first floor near one of the back doors, at around 3am folks would start walking their pets. The jiggling of leashes, and slamming of the doors stirred my 3 year old the sofa in the living room, but I could not hear the noises from the bedroom of our suite.
If I was travelling with a pet, I would probably stay there again. To be honest when we visit the area I will look into a different suite style hotel, or if I stay in this Residence Inn I would request a roof further away from the elevator.
Activities in and around Oldsmar
Mobbly Bayou Beach Park
We arrived late afternoon and fortunately, we were able to check in to the hotel a few hours early. After being cramped in the house for a few months in New Jersey we wanted to get some sand on our feet. A Quick google search turned up Mobbly Bayou Beach Park. It was a quick drive, less than 10 minutes from the hotel, and exactly what we were looking for. We did not get into the water, but there were two other families wading in the water with little ones nearby.
My kids enjoyed playing in the sand listening to the waves break. It was a nice way to pass the late afternoon before dinner. We were there for about an hours. There are a few picnic tables in the area. There was a meter to pay for parking, I believe it was about $5 for the entire day.
There is probably more to see at Mobbly Bayou Beach Park, but to be honest we drove right in, parked and found exactly what we were looking for.
R E Olds Park
R E Olds Park is a short (less than 5 minute) drive from Mobbly Bayou Beach Park. We wanted to let our 3 year old burn of some energy and he had fun. One thing to note about R E Olds park, the slides are high, like super high. My husband is about 6’4″ tall and the slides were much taller than him. We noticed not many children were making use of the slides. This park is a cute playground and something fun to do with the kiddos.
There were plenty of benches around where I was able to sit and watch my husband and 3-year old have a great time.
Monster Jam at Raymond Jones Stadium
My 3 year old is a huge monster jam fan, and this was the main reason for heading down on this trip. The trip from the Residence Inn in oldsmar was about 20-30 minutes. I chose not to take my 11 month old to Monster Jam because it seemed to be a bit much for him…it was a good call. Monster Jam is LOUD and even with hearing protection it took a little while for my 3 year old to get into the action.
The drive to Clearwater beach without traffic is 20-30 minutes…March is peak season for Florida so there was PLENTY of traffic. On a Saturday around lunch time, it took us an hour to get to the beach in Clearwater. Once we arrived, many of the parking lots were full. While the beaches are free, there is very limited street parking. We ended up parking in the lot for the Hyatt, and walked over to the Cabana we rented near the Hilton hotel and met my father-in-law.
My father-in-law was familiar with the area and arrived around 10am to reserve a Cabana in front of the Hilton hotel. I’m so glad he was able to scoop one up for us. The cabana we rented came with a covered bed, and two lounge chairs out front. At 10am when my father-in-law arrived there were only 2 available. Had he not arrived we would not have had our cozy beach real estate for the day.
Again, this is was peak season on a Saturday, so during the week or on an off-season will probably be a little less hectic to get a setup for the day.
Since, it is protected by barrier islands, Clearwater beach is beautiful and calm. Perfect for a family gathering. Pier-60 is nearby so the Hilton, so there are activities available. However we just chose to stick to the beach for the day.
On Sunday we headed to the Clearwater Aquarium. They have a huge dolphin tank which is the main feature of the aquarium. Normally I’m not a big fan of Aquariums or Zoos (animals in captivity for display purposes only don’t sit right with me) but Clearwater is a marine animal hospital first…fan attraction second.
Most of the sea creatures at the aquarium are local to the area. Their goal is to nurse marine animals back to health and release them safely back into the sea. There are circumstances where the safest option is to keep the animals in captivity (like Winter the subject of the movie Dolphin Tale) in that case the Clearwater Aquarium or another suitable aquarium can become their home.
We took a boat ride that was offered through the aquarium (for an additional fee) and got to see some dolphins out in the open sea. The tour guides are Marine life enthusiasts and know Clearwater extremely well. The boat ride was a highlight of the trip for me, we got lucky and saw plenty of dolphins on our trip out to sea. The guide warned that some trips don’t see any dolphins.
Dining and around Oldsmar
This was my favorite local eatery on the trip. We had breakfast here twice, and I wanted to go back a third time to try the lunch/dinner menu…but hubby had other plans. The first time we went I had chicken and waffles and it was delicious. The chicken was juicy and fried to perfection. The second time we went, I had the Crab Benedict. Everything about it was perfection, the sauce, the eggs were cooked perfectly, the crab was tender and delicious.
The staff was also super friendly. My son wanted a lemonade, refused apple juice or any other juice on the menu. I was shocked when the waitress came back with a fresh squeezed lemonade made just for my son. She handed it to me so that I could make sure it wasn’t too sweet for him.
The menu was varied without being overwhelming. It really was a true gem.