Where’s the best place to hold the family reunion this year?

That was the question for our family this year. For the first time in over 30 years, we decided to go south. Usually we go go to Ocean City, New Jersey with my Dad’s side of the family and we’ve always enjoyed it. But this year we’re trying something new. Everyone (27 people so far!) is coming to our reunion in Destin, Florida (which just happens to be where I live with my family).

We choose the luxurious, Gulf-front, condo complex, Villa Coyaba in Crystal Beach, Florida. We’ll have three condos – each one is spacious and comfortably sleeps ten people.  Villa Coyaba sits right on the beach and just 30 minutes away from the Destin Fort Walton Beach Airport.  My family chose me to plan this reunion since I have a background in Event Management, and was happy to help. I recently joined Your Friend at the Beach to plan our guest experiences so it made sense for me to plan the activities. So what will all 27 of us be doing? I’ll share the highlights with you.

Fishing Anyone? 
I booked a fishing charter for the men in the family (girls welcome too). I chose Charter Boat Destination; a privately-owned boat run by Stan Phillips. The boat fits 12 people, so I “maxed it out” for the six-hour trip. An added bonus is once you get back to the dock, Charter Boat Destination cleans and filets the fish right there for you. Much better than doing it in our shared kitchen! When we return home to Villa Coyaba, we’ll grill our catch on our outside grill and catch the sunset at the same time!

While some are fishing, others are going to be spending time at the stunning, infinity pool overlooking the Gulf and the beach.  We can enjoy the view of the emerald green water while floating in the large poo; and catching up with my cousins. The condo at Villa Coyaba is just a few steps from the water –  great for the little cousins who need afternoon naps. Your Friend at the Beach not only provides beach chair set-ups but also portable cribs for the little ones’ naps.

Golfing is a Must for our Family.  
We have many avid golfers in our family. There are so many wonderful golf courses along Destin and 30A to choose from but I picked Regatta Bay in Destin as it’s my Dad’s favorite. It’s just a few miles from Villa Coyaba and is a gorgeous course.  The greens overlook gorgeous lakes lined with pine trees and the occasional osprey drifting by. Another golf course we like in Destin is Kelly Plantation Golf Course. There are beautiful holes overlooking the Bay. Make sure you bring extra balls…just in case these water hazard gives you a little trouble.

Just twenty minutes from Destin on Scenic 30A, Camp Creek Golf Club is the favorite of me and my husband. It’s tucked away and feels very private but is right before Rosemary Beach (see last week’s blog for details on this charming village). Keep an eye out for wildlife though; there have been alligator spottings.

Shopping Away The Afternoon. 
For those who would rather not golf, we have so fun shopping experiences on the Emerald Coast.   One is the Destin Commons or The Commons as we locals call it is a place to not just shop but also relax in its village-like setting. The Commons has grown so much over the years and has shops that will please everyone. H&M, LOFT, Belk, Sephora, and Chicos…just to name a few. Destin Commons is only a mile away from Villa Coyaba – husbands you have been warned. It’s also my four-year old son’s favorite spot. He loves to run through the sprinklers in the childrens’ play area. This is Florida after all – he’ll dry quickly. All of the little ones enjoy the train ride around the Commons while the Moms enjoy an iced coffee at the outdoor patio at Starbucks.

What Would a Reunion be without a Family Photo on the Beach?
No family reunion is complete in our house without our traditional family photo. Everyone dressed all in khaki or white by the emerald green waters just before sunset is an image we’ll all cherish. We’ve already lined up Ryan Manthey of Pure 7 Studios. Ryan has been taking our family photos since I was a high school senior, for my wedding, our first babies’ pictures and now, the whole family. This year is especially important to capture all of us, as my 93-year old grandmother, Nanny Fox will be at the center of the photo.

A Beach Bonfire With S’Mores.
Won’t it be fun for the entire family to watch the sunset, maybe sing a few songs and enjoy a bonfire? You can have beach bonfires in Walton County – it’s just two miles from Villa Coyaba. Rent Gear Here does everything. They provide the chairs, start the fire and even bring the s’mores. Just don’t let your marshmallow fall in the fire!

Last But Not Least, Nightlife.
For the older cousins who want to sneak away for a few hours, Baytowne Wharf has always been a favorite of mine. It’s styled after New Orleans; so the atmosphere is always high energy and fun. One place we have to go is the Funky Blues Shack; they always have live music and great drink specials.  Plus, they have twenty-four beers on tap, twelve of them locally brewed.

Need help planning your activities for your family? Call me. This is just a small taste of what there is to offer in Destin and 30A. I’d love to be your family’s personal event planner at the beach!

Tori Fox Stapleton