Planning a Florida Family Reunion

By: VISIT FLORIDA staff

ADD TO FAVORITES
Florida's resorts, parks and hotels are the perfect place to gather the family from across the U.S.

Family reunions have a new meaning these days. No more kids getting bored with the “adult” activities, or moms and grandmas spending every second of the vacation cooking and looking after everybody. A family reunion deserves to be a vacation for all involved, and an opportunity to spend quality time all together having a blast. Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast offers something for everybody, “from babies to mid 80s.”

Hammock Beach Resort's luxury villas provided a comfortable atmosphere for the adults and a secure environment for the kids. "The clubhouse by the pool tends to become the gathering point for many families. Older folks who didn't want to be out in the sun could still be near the kids and watch them play and splash about.

The resort is a great spot to plan a pizza party all together, or even have a catered barbecue to enjoy a nice meal altogether without anybody having to lift a finger and risk missing out on any fun.

The Bay Beach Inn in Gulf Breeze (a Quality Inn property) for its convenient location. It gives everyone a place to meet and talk.

Independent exploration of local attractions was facilitated by the Pensacola Bay Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, which also supplied bags filled with brochures, coupons and maps. "The kids loved The Gulf Breeze ZOO," Hillsman said. "Everyone wanted to come back here again. But it's someone else's turn to plan next time!"

Sherry Woodson of Pontiac, Michigan took a hands-on approach to planning the 69th Deal-Sheppard-Coleman family reunion: she hopped on a plane to consult the Kissimmee Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"Whatever it took to make Sherry happy and make her reunion a memorable one, I did it," said Bertha O'Neill, then the coordinator of the bureau's Destination Services department. That meant a welcome letter, family banner, transportation arrangements and bags packed with goodies, including discounts at Old Town, Kissimmee's retro-themed entertainment park.

At the Ramada Gateway, two outdoor swimming pools, a half-court basketball court, pool table, mini golf, video game room and shuffleboard kept all 86 attendees entertained and interacting throughout their stay. "There wasn't a moment that anyone was sitting in their room with nothing to do," Woodson said.

A hospitality suite at the hotel came equipped with a full-size fridge and bar, giving Woodson a budget-wise catering option. "I did all the food myself, shopping at nearby stores," she said. Just when I started to ask if Jell-O was on the menu, she interrupted: "The chocolate fountain was fun-until one of the kids knocked it over."

Sounds like one of those stories that will be told for reunions to come.


An economical idea: Meet in a State Park

One of the most unique and inexpensive places to hold a family reunion event is in one of the Florida State Parks. From renting a picnic shelter to reserving a block of campsites, Florida's parks are sometimes overlooked as reunion hotspots. Not only are fees reasonable, but for families where heirloom recipes are the attraction, the ability to have an event without having to hire an
in-house caterer is a must. Your best bet: research your favorite state park and call up that individual park office to see about group events.

The Florida State Park system is one of the largest in the nation with 161 parks spanning more than 800,000 acres, 100 miles of beaches and more than 1,500 miles of multi-use trails. From swimming and diving in Florida's rivers and springs to birding and fishing or hiking and riding on natural scenic trails, Florida State Parks offer year-around outdoor activities for all ages.

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