By Erin Laytham Lentz
The much anticipated family vacation has finally arrived and Mom & Dad, the in-laws, the four kids convey a care-free attitude as they embark on their travel to the award-winning, foot-shaped sea island of Hilton Head. With the weather forecast looking good and the stresses of work and a busy home life in the rearview mirror, the family imagines their days making memories that will be cherished from year to year. Last year’s trip didn’t include the grandparents and the youngest had not yet made her arrival. The twins are now teenagers and their siblings, a toddler and a baby will be a handful. Suddenly the thought of pleasing everyone seemed like an impossible task. Could Mom and Dad sneak away some alone time? Would there be fun teen activities for the oldest two? How could the little ones find safe and age appropriate activities? Would there be family friendly activities that the entire group could enjoy together? We all love the entertainment value of Chevy Chase with his on-screen family all eye rolling as he attempts to drag them on his planned itinerary in the classic hit, National Lampoon’s Vacation. Those kinds of hilarious moments belong on the big screen but not in the annual family vacation memories!
If it is your first time visiting Hilton Head, you may not know about the abundance of unique destinations, programs and activities that specifically cater to vacationing families. Upon arrival, it is easy to see just how family-friendly this 12 mile wide barrier island is. There is a notable appeal that crosses generations. It is no surprise it is a favored vacation spot for destination weddings, avid golfers, young families and retirees. It seems everyone wants a slice of the summer fun that Hilton Head serves up. The infrastructure on Hilton Head was designed specifically to respect the nature preserves and its natural beauty. There are no high rises and roadside signage is kept to a minimum. The absence of commercialism has preserved a timeless feeling for locals and visitors to enjoy. Behind the veil of gorgeous sweeping oaks, plantations and lagoons are some hidden hot spots and local happenings that the whole family can dive into. Below are some suggestions of age appropriate things to do to keep everyone smiling:
Mom & Dad:
How about ordering pizza from Doughboys or coastal carryout from Seashack and let Grandma & Grandpa spend some time with the grandkids while you sneak away for some romantic, island fun! Let’s face it, parenting kids is exhausting even on vacation. If you are lucky enough to have your parents, in-laws or a baby sitter along… take full advantage and book some hot island date nights with your spouse or enjoy some daytime activities alone. You’ll get to experience some adventures that could not have been had with baby in tow! Places to dine include: Alexander’s, Catch 22, Bistro 17, Casey’s Bar & Grill, The Charbar, Reilley’s, The Lucky Rooster or Rockfish Seafood & Steak. Selections range from formal dining to fun venues with great food and live music! Schedule a mind-blowing aerial tour of the island with Hilton Head Helicopter Tours. Spend an afternoon getting pampered at The Fountain Spa, or The Sanctuary.
Building sandcastles with Dad might not be as cool as it used to be for your teenagers. While their little sister or brother happily plays in the sand, did you know your teens can take surfing lessons with Island Rec. Center right on the beach? They will also love cruising the island bike paths on Segway Tours or catching an afternoon thrill at Zipline Hilton Head, or Kayaking, paddleboarding and sailing adventures await at Waterdog Outfitters, Advanced Sail and H2O Watersports. All teens love going to the movies! For a fun evening activity drop them off at Park Plaza Cinemas with the most comfortable, state of the art reclining chairs around. You could even turn it into a date night and grab a meal or happy hour alone next door at Charbar.
Children are naturally curious and crave fun and new experiences. The area is filled with beach programs that incorporate science and ecology. Check with HH Island Rec Center or Outside Hilton Head for specific daytime programs and camps. Pirates of Hilton Head offers a unique attraction for kids aboard a pirate ship, looking for sunken treasure along with Stinky Pete! The little ones will also delight in a visit to The Sandbox– an interactive children’s museum. (an especially good rainy day activity.) No vacation is complete without playing a mini golf round at Pirate’s Adventure Golf or Legendary Golf and a scrumptious visit to Island Fudge Shoppe. Don’t forget to shop for some fun, color-changing souvenirs from Del Sol, located at Coligny Plaza. A sing along with Gregg Russell under the Liberty Oak in Harbour Town will surely put a smile on the faces of the littlest vacationers.
Discover the wonderful history of the Gullah culture with Gullah Heritage Trail Tours, an affordable and fun excursion that could be enjoyed alone or with the family. Discover the charm of a small town while sampling foods, shopping for local art and fresh produce at The Farmer’s Market every Thursday in Bluffton. Hilton Head is known for its great golfing, how about playing a round of golf at Heritage Golf, Rose Hill Golf Club, Eagles Point or Pinecrest Golf Club? Visit the sleepy town of Beaufort and take in the sights and sounds on a tour with Sea Island Carriage Company. The area is rich in history with its stunning, waterfront views. Old Town Trolley provides a similar tour experience in historic Savannah, approximately 30 miles away. You may even convince your teenage grandchildren to join for an evening ghost tour.
Rent family bikes at Bubba’s Bikes that will allow the entire family to get fresh air, see the island on the abundance of bike paths. Tandem bikes and child seats are available. If you are more adventurous, take them out and ride on the miles of beach right along the ocean. No vacation is complete without some dining out at the great local restaurants. You will love Cowboy Brazilian Steakhouse, Up The Creek, Crazy Crab or Carolina Crab Co. Stack’s, Skillets Cafe, Hilton Head Diner and Earl of Sandwich are some other casual family dining options for breakfast or lunch. Make sure you schedule a Dolphin Cruise with Calibogue Cruise or Vagabond Cruise-such family fun even for little ones.
There is no question that Hilton Head is the ultimate beach vacation for families. Whether you plan each day of your vacation before arriving or simply take each day as it comes, you will have a variety of activities to choose from for everyone in the family. And for those who want to do nothing at all, there are miles of sandy beaches and luxurious resort pools for sun, fun and relaxation.
Don’t miss out on spending a day with the locals. The nostalgia and ineffable feeling is one that cannot be found in a grocery megastore.
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