Friday, January 19th, 2018 – Travel to Disney’s Vero Beach Resort
We had just come off a fun-filled long week to celebrate Sawyer’s birthday at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge with Colonel and Kee. Since we had a few points in our Disney Vacation Club bank that we needed to use before the end of the month, we decided to head to the beach and stay for a couple nights at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. One of our favorite visits to Vero Beach was almost exactly five years ago when we celebrated Sawyer’s first birthday. I worked from home on Friday so that we could leave right after work and the boys’ final art class. The week in Florida had been an exceptionally cold one with temperatures reaching freezing or near freezing on a couple of occasions. Although the weekend wasn’t supposed to be hot, the temperatures were expected to be warmer than the week.
The drive was only about 90 minutes as the boys sunk into their iPads, and Emily and I enjoyed a quiet ride to the west. The sun was setting providing a picturesque backdrop to the late afternoon ride. The route was surprisingly quiet for a Friday early evening, but we didn’t complain. The most random thing happened as we were driving south on I-95. All of a sudden we heard a crackle, and then Emily spotted a 4 inch crack coming from the right side of the windshield, which grew to about 7 inches in the course of five minutes. The crackle didn’t sound like gravel or anything hitting the windshield, though. It just kind of spontaneously happened! Yay, adulting.
As a family, we have always, like many, been ones for tradition. Whether it is playing our favorite board games on vacation or making the same Christmas cookie each year, we enjoy our repetitive comforts. One of the traditions that Emily wanted to keep alive during our Vero Beach trip was to stop at the Ay! Jalisco Mexican Restaurant on our way in. She said it was for the food, I think it was for the margaritas (which she actually says are not that good there, but she gets amnesia about it every new time we go there). Although there are a few locations, we picked the one on US 1, giving us the opportunity to exit I-95 and drive up the coastline a bit as the sun was dropping in the sky. After about 30 minutes we arrived at the restaurant, along with everyone else in the greater Vero and Sebastian area. I picked up a couple beverages while we waited for our table, which was a shorter wait than anticipated. We were on a tight dining timeline because we wanted to be outside somewhere on the water for a 7:45 pm rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center. Emily and I got our standard steak tacos, while the boys got beef tacos and chicken nuggets (I will let you guess who was who). Sawyer loved the nuggets which was a rare compliment from the world’s pickiest eater. We wolfed down our food, wrapped up just after 7:30, and headed out to the car.
Based on Emily’s live website updates from spaceflightnow.com, we had roughly 7 minutes to find a place to stop the car to watch the launch. We navigated the car to the intercoastal waterway and drove south until we found a good spot to pull off. We happened upon a nice park/dock area called Fisherman’s Landing, which was directly south of Crab E. Bills Seafood restaurant. It was a wide open dock area where there were only two other people standing with cameras waiting for the launch. The timing and location were perfect, so we pulled over to get in position. As we got out of the car we noticed the two men had about five cameras that they were using to capture the night’s launch. They were in a white minivan with the door open so they could hear their Jimmy Buffet on the car stereo as they were filming. We grabbed a spot near them and got our cameras out to record the launch. It was really neat to see the launch over the water without any visual obstructions. After the rocket had disappeared into the sky we made some small talk with the two men as they were packing up their equipment. Sawyer whispered into my ear, “That looks like the creepy van of the two bad guys in Home Alone… make sure the guy doesn’t have a gold tooth.” This made me laugh out loud, but I was grateful that the guys didn’t hear him say it.
We hopped back in the car and made the remaining ten minute drive to Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. Emily and Hunter stayed in the car while Sawyer and I checked in. We got our room assignment, room 1424, and drove the car to the parking near our room. We took our first load of stuff to the room, and the boys and Emily explored a bit and got started on a batch of brownies. I unpacked the car just in time to enjoy some brownies and milk. The brownies made the entire one-bedroom villa smell absolutely amazing. Sawyer couldn’t stop saying how yummy they smelled. The taste delivered on the smell and they were the perfect ending treat to our first night at the resort.
Saturday, Jan 20th – Disney’s Vero Beach Resort Day
I am sure I have said this a million times but there is nothing like waking up on your first morning at a relaxing resort. Disney’s Vero Beach Resort has extra layers of window covering in order to block out the room light as to not confuse the sea turtles. The additional benefit this provides, of course, is to keep out the morning sunlight from the cozy bedroom dungeon. With my inability to sleep in, I awoke to find Hunter already up watching the iPad. Sawyer woke up shortly after him and their noise arose the fourth of the group shortly thereafter.
We chilled in the room for a bit, but once the stomachs started growling, I offered to head over to the Wind & Waves Grill to pick up some breakfast to bring back to the room. The morning was a bit brisk so I walked swiftly from our building to the main lobby area where the restaurant was. I placed my order and hung out near the lobby as I waited for the food, which arrived fairly quickly. I returned to the room with a B.L.T.E for Emily, Chicken and Waffles for Hunter, and a nice egg combination for myself (Sawyer had already eaten cereal). The newly renovated one bedroom villa provides perfect accommodations for enjoying meals in the room as we all sat around the kitchen table to enjoy. The food was absolutely delicious!
After breakfast, Emily got ready and the boys hung out and played spies in the room. I took advantage of the morning to do a quick tour around the resort to capture some photos and video. The weather was warming up a bit, but when I went out to the overlook of the ocean, the breeze was a bit chillier than I had planned for. I returned to the room, helped get the boys dressed and ready, and we headed out to explore the resort as a family.
Our first stop out of our room was this super cozy hammock that was along the walkway around the resort. The boys of course hopped right in and completely dispelled the rumor that hammocks were made for relaxing. We took some silly pictures and video of the boys hammock wrestling and giggling. After we had our fill of pushing a hammock, we made our way to our first official activity of the day, Eb and Flo’s for a competitive round of mini golf.
Mike helped us get set up with clubs and some balls. I can’t believe that Hunter is using the same length putter as I am, but I will get over that at some point. Our round of golf was a fun and silly one as Sawyer tried his best to knock his ball as far as his little arms could hit it. At the end of nine, dad was victorious with Emily a close second and the boys… well, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were still finishing their round as I write this.
We returned our clubs and checked in to see how many people were signed up for the Disney Pillows activity at 12:30, and it turned out, nobody was. The boys were interested so we signed up and had the place to ourselves. The pillows activity was led by Emily and Karen, two Recreation Cast Members whose job for the next hour was to help teach our boys how to make two pillows. The boys (Emily being a representative for Sawyer) picked out two patterned fabrics and two solid fabrics that would be tied together to form the outside of the pillow. Hunter picked a Star Wars pattern and Sawyer picked a Mickey pattern that reminded him of the Disney Cruise. Their next job was to lay the fabrics on top of one another and prepare to tie the similar strands together from the top and bottom layer. Emily of course was a pro at this, having made a blanket for Hunter when he was little with the same format. Hunter did a good job as well but had a little more difficulty keeping all of his tabs lined up. Once all of the knots were tied around the outside of the pillow it was time to stuff the inside with the stuffing. Hunter and Sawyer had a blast stuffing their pillows. Emily got the gold star for her meticulous pillow “stuff” straightening in Sawyer’s pillow. These Cast Members had never seen anything quite like this Pillow Perfectionist. Once completed, they tied off the last remaining ties that were left open to insert the stuffing, and the pillows were complete. It was a really fun activity, and the Cast Members were really great!
All this crafting had helped up work up our hunger and we were ready for lunch. Just prior to our crafting activity we had checked out the new Winds & Waves Market that had been completed with the most recent resort renovation. This place was really cool! It was located inside the main lobby area but facing the pool. Inside you could order an array of quick service options including sandwiches, burgers, nuggets, and much more. They also had a market area where you could purchase different produce items if you wanted to take them back to the room to cook, as well as a number of different snack and dessert options. It was the perfect compliment to the DVC offering. We got a few sandwiches and some fruit and chips to enjoy outside by the pool. Hunter even got to enjoy a giant pickle, which he loves! The food at the Wind & Waves Market was absolutely delicious and the perfect option for lunch.
After we had our fill of lunch we went headed inside to explore the lobby. After a quick restroom break, we spotted one of our favorite things from our most recent Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort stay, the DVC photo booth. In the lobby of both of these resorts they have a kiosk where you can scan a PhotoPass card and use the built in camera, and an array of camera effects, to capture a photo of you and/or your family. After the photo is captured you can select from a number of background and logo options and the photo prints out for you on the spot (like the old mall photo booths, but it’s free). The last time we were in Hilton Head we took about 50 of these photos as it quickly became one of Sawyer’s favorite attractions on the island. We snapped about a dozen different photos and poses before moving on to the store.
The store was yet another adventure as the three shoppers in the family had their way with the Disney merchandise. Lucky for us the first round only concluded with Emily’s purchase of some Mickey print, black and white sunglasses for our upcoming trip to California… she is planning ahead for how cool she needs to look. She kept pointing to herself and saying, “Hollywood!” The boys definitely had their sights set on a couple of things but didn’t feel the need to pull the trigger on any purchases at that moment.
One next destination was to walk through the Peter Pan tunnel across the street to check out the Disney’s Vero Beach wilderness section of the resort. Before we did this we agreed we needed to go back to the room to get our tennis shoes on for the nature exploration. After making the proper attire adjustments, we headed back out and across the street to the lake area. This is a really neat area to explore if you are ever at the resort. There are trails to explore as well as a covered tiki area, lake complete with a dock and a fountain, and tennis courts if you are inclined to play. We checked out the area and finished up with a walk on the “treasure trail.” The treasure trail is a wooded walk complete with signs teaching you about the foliage and wildlife that you may or may not see along the trail. It was a really enjoyable walk, and the crisp air made it all that much more enjoyable.
After our fill of nature we returned to the lobby where they were clearly waiting for us with three trays of cookies just calling our names. We had our share of cookies and flavored water before returning for our second round of the Disney Vacation Club photo booth pictures (Sawyer just can’t get enough). As we were walking out one of the Cast Members was going to replace the tray of cookies, so he took what was left on the tray and gave them all to Sawyer who absolutely cracked up at the interaction.
The boys had a couple of items on their afternoon bucket list that they wanted to do before returning to the room for the afternoon chill break. The first stop was a game of Corn Hole that Hunter wanted to play. Sawyer just wanted to take the bean bags and do some Lebron dunks from two feet. Hunter had fun hurling the bean bags from across the Corn Hole court, missing his brother by inches with each throw. Because we didn’t want to go home to get Sawyer’s bike helmet for protection, we concluded the corn hole game. Emily took the boys to return to the hammock while I went to the bar to pick up our favorite Disney Cruise drinks, the Captain’s Mai Tai. Although the weather was getting chillier as the afternoon went on, we still were brave enough to power down our Mai Tai’s. This way, we could pretend we were on a little one day Disney Cruise, something we will always recreate if given the chance.
After our fill of afternoon activities we returned to the room so that we could all take a chill break before heading to dinner at the Wind & Waves Restaurant at 5:40. The break gave the boys some time to chill, Emily some time to do a few things online in preparation for our spring break trip to Disneyland, and me a chance to catch up on this blog. The time flew by, and it was time to get freshened up and head off to dinner.
The boys wanted to return to the store before our dinner reservation so we headed out a bit early to oblige. They finally settled on a special treat they wanted to remember their stay, a stuffed manatee. Both of them have loved stuffed animals ever since I can remember. Try as we might to convince them they might not need another furry friend, they were not to be talked out of it. Welcome to the family, Shelly and Seymour. They were excited to bring their new buddies to dinner as we rolled up just in time for our reservation.
Dinner could not have been more perfect! We had a great server named Chantelle who was just the right balance of sense of humor and service. She was really helpful providing recommendations from the menu, suggesting that Emily get the Gnocchi and recommending the Steak Frites for me. Sawyer got his customary chicken nuggets and Hunter ordered the cheeseburger with cheese and catsup, stating “nothing more, nothing less”. You could tell that Chantelle got a kick out of this because when she returned with his burger she repeated, “cheeseburger with cheese and catsup, nothing more, nothing less”. We made quick work of dinner agreeing that we would forgo dessert for the leftover brownies and a cupcake that we had purchased at the Wind & Waves Market.
We ate our respective desserts, Sawyer’s of course being his beloved sour worms, just before our family game night of Camping Bingo. Each of the boys got an opportunity to be caller for a game but we agreed two games was just enough. After game time concluded we spent some time snuggling with the boys and watching Big Hero 6 before we all agreed to retire and go to sleep. Although the weather wasn’t ideal we still had a fantastic day in Vero Beach!
Sunday, January 21st – Disney’s Vero Beach Checkout
After a cool Saturday we all had our fingers crossed for nice weather on our final day at the resort. I arose before the rest of the family (except my spirit animal son Hunter) so I decided to take advantage of being steps away from the beach. My weather app indicated that it was in the high 50’s so I threw on my sweatshirt and headed out for a morning walk on the Atlantic. They have been doing work around the resort to restore the beachfront after the beating that it took from hurricane Maria. They were still working on the beachfront on the north end of the resort but the south end of the beach was open for use. I was one of a half dozen people who were crazy enough to be out on the beach on this chilly morning, but the walk was quite refreshing. I saw a bunch of Portuguese Man-o-War that were washed up by the tide on the beach. I captured a photo of one of them above.
I returned to the room as the rest of the Hayes clan was rubbing their eyes from a nice resort night’s sleep. Hunter was a little slow to get up due to a headache and not feeling his best. Emily encouraged to boys to have some cereal while I headed to the Winds and Waves Restaurant to pick up some breakfast for Emily, Hunter, and I (yeah you read that right, Hunter normally has at least two breakfasts a day these days).
I enjoying my walk to to the Winds and Waves Restaurant as the weather was slowly working its way towards warm. I placed my order with one of the servers and decided to take advantage of my waiting time by heading to the back of the resort and setting up a timelapse video with the GoPro. The sun was showing its face for the first time of the weekend and was casting a beautiful light on the back of the resort. The timing worked out perfectly as the food was ready just as my video was completed.
Back at the room, Emily and I enjoyed our breakfast, but Hunter was not feeling his best. He had just tossed the bowl of cereal he ate, but for some reason was up for the pancakes and bacon I brought. I would have said he was up too late partying the night before if I didn’t know any better! After wrapping up breakfast the boys chilled while Emily and I got the room packed and moved out to the car. There were no available luggage carts, so I definitely gave my Fitbit some morning stair stats.
Since the weather wasn’t great yesterday on our first day at the resort, I asked Sawyer if he wanted to go in the pool and swim today, and he sounded super excited. Hunter still wasn’t feeling his best, so Sawyer and I suited up while Emily and Hunter stayed in their street clothes. We all headed down to the pool area, and Sawyer and I made our grand entrance into the pool via the slide, while Emily and Hunter looked on from their cozy deck chairs. After a little while of watching Sawyer and I splash around, Hunter seemed to recover rather quickly and asked Emily if she would get his swim suit from the car so he could change and join us in the pool. Emily was kind enough to accommodate, and Hunter spent the better part of the late morning and early afternoon playing with his brother in the pool. The two had a great time splashing in the water and taking their turns down the lightly populated water slide.
After we all had our fill of swimming, we changed into our day clothes to partake in a few more activities before we were to leave for the day. Our first mission was to play another round of mini-golf. The rest of the gang was still a bit sour at me for my unbeatable run the prior day so they wanted their revenge. Just before we got our putters Sawyer tripped on his flip-flops and Emily’s feet and skinned his knee pretty bad. After a few tears and half a box of band-aids we were back in action and ready to play. I wish I could tell you that they beat me on the second round of golf but that just wouldn’t be true. The early afternoon weather could not have been more perfect for our round of golf.
Tummies were growling after our round of golf so we agreed that we wanted to enjoy one more visit to our new favorite Vero Beach location, the Wind & Waves Market. Hunter, who somehow found his second wind, really wanted to eat his special turkey and bacon sandwich that he had gotten the day before. Emily and I each enjoyed half sandwich/half macaroni salad again, and Sawyer got a beach bucket of chicken tenders and fries. As if that wasn’t enough, we also got a Mickey pretzel and a couple muffins to take home with us. We sat outside overlooking the pool and enjoyed the poolside tunes played by the DJ while we consumed our lunches. It was such a beautiful day.
Although Emily and I had planned to be on the road right after lunch, at this point there were still a few activities that the boys wanted to do before we left. The first activity was at the request of Hunter, who wanted to play ping pong. We had tried our hand at ping pong on our last Disney Cruise but it was a little difficult to play as the ship was moving and the winds were blowing. Today was the perfect opportunity to give it a go again. It turns out we stink at ping pong both at sea and on land. Hunter really just wanted to bash the ball around, appearing to be competing against the wall of the column next to the table. We had a lot of laughs but few, if any, volleys.
After our ping pong swat-fest, we met Emily and Sawyer in the lobby to capture a few more photos on the PhotoPass selfie machine. This has become one of Sawyer’s favorite things in the world as he loves selecting the different photo effects and capturing images of himself with his family. His favorite theme these days is spies and “spy cam” setting was used more than once. Not sure how we got away from that machine without requiring a paper refill but we managed. We grabbed our photos and said goodbye to the lobby area.
Our last stop before getting in the car for our drive home was the hammock that was near our room. The boys had fun the other day swinging on the hammock so we agreed to swing for a few minutes before we left. Well, a few minutes was all it took to bring Hunter right back to his ill feeling from the morning. Did I mention he lucked out getting his dear old Dad’s motion sickness? (Editor’s note: after these suspicious symptoms spread out over a few week’s time, he was diagnosed the next day with strep, for the second time in six months.) We made quick work of the hammock, got in the car, and drove home.
Although the weather wasn’t perfect on our full day, we had a great time at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. We really enjoy this place as a not-too-distant getaway from home. It is such a relaxing location with dining and activities right on property, thus not requiring you to have to go far for anything. Sawyer enjoyed his continued Birthday Fest and we all enjoyed some relaxing family time. Can’t believe that Sawyer is turning six in two days. Be sure to check out the post from Sawyer’s sixth birthday!