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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How to Survive When You've Had Enough Sun!!!

As I've mentioned before, we used to vacation on South Padre Island for at least 15 years before we moved to the area nearly 5 years ago.  One of the problems I always encountered (being the freckled, white skinned girl that I am) was what to do when I couldn't take any more sun and everyone else was still going and going like the Energizer Bunny!

Over the years I have found a few activities that those "less than sporty" and "shade loving" individuals can use to occupy time in the area!  This is not the place to look for all those fun-in-the-sun activities.  Check out the links on South Padre Live for loads of THAT kind of information.

1.  Visit Paragraphs on Padre Blvd.  - Our wonderful independent book store is at 5505 Padre Blvd. in a lovely turreted building on the West side of the main street.  Booksellers Joni and Griff will welcome you warmly and offer you a comfy chair and cool a/c to while away some time browsing books, playing a game of chess, checkers, or scrabble... or just having a nice chat.  They often host book signings, poetry readings, book discussions, and writer's workshops.  See what's on their schedule while you are in town!  One of my favorites.

2.  Get up early or go at sunset to the bird walk, butterfly garden, and water feature by the convention center.  We were so delighted the first time we went to stand and watch the birds at sunset as they flew in by the droves to bathe and forage and prepare for night.  The sunset is glorious out over the bay.  Take a camera...you won't be sorry.  It's free! (Don't forget to check out Wyland's Whaling Wall #53 on the convention center)


3.  Sea Turtle, Inc. - I can listen to their informative lectures time and again.  Hearing the history of the facility, visiting all of the turtles living there or in rehabilitation, actually going to a hatchling release during the summer...the possibilities are endless...and shady for the most part!  Please make a donation so their excellent work may continue.  Buy an eco-friendly turtle souvenir in their shop!

4.  The Dolphin Research and Sea Life Center in Port Isabel (next to Pirates Landing) is an educational opportunity for the whole family and always worth a walk-through visit for a nominal donation.  Touch Tank, aquariums, rescued animals...you never know what you might encounter.  Take time to view the video and the posters about "Dolphin Whisper" Scarlet Colley's work identifying and loving the local tribe of bottlenose dolphins.  I've taken an excursion with Scarlet and the joy of a dolphin sighting is up there in my "best life experiences".  She always seems to know where to go to make sure there's some dolphin love to be had.  Schedule an excursion by contacting Scarlet at the number listed on their website.

5.  The South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center provides an additional opportunity for viewing flora and fauna of the area.  I've enjoyed cool morning walks (and hot afternoon walks) and had the opportunity to experience a wonderful variety of birds.  Small fee for this one - not too much shade either - so pick your time wisely.  We've gone at different times of day, different times of year...always walk away amazed and happy.

6.  Sabal Palm Sanctuary is an exceptional place to visit - no place else quite like it in the United States!  It's located in Brownsville, right on the Rio Grande.  I can't say I've ever visited in the summer, but Winter visitors will find this a cool and refreshing nature walk easy for all, even those not so fit :-)  Wear sturdy shoes.  I accidentally wore Crocs...it limited my exploration!  Take a camera.  There is a donation fee - well worth it!

7.  Rent an umbrella and lounge chairs!  It was a necessity, not a luxury, when we used to vacation...it allows those prone to sunburn to enjoy the coastal breezes in the shade.  Cool off in the waves then scurry back to your lounge chair and let the breezes blow across your moist skin.  Heavenly!  Check with your rental company or condo to find out who the authorized vendor is for your area of the beach. 

8.  If you are used to going to waterparks and having to stand in long, sun-searing lines on asphalt paths....visit Schlitterbahn at the Beach.  The lines are primarily in the water.  With a hat, a long sleeved shirt, and lots of sunscreen, I could usually make it through the day.  My kids always wanted to be there when the gates opened and not leave until they closed.  I could handle that by finding and staking claim to a table and chairs under a shady palapa seating area.  You can take your own food and drinks (no glass containers - your ice chest will be checked!) into the waterpark but be careful not to leave food out (even chips in packages).  The gulls and grackles WILL peck open a bag of chips and eat them in your absence.  I've seen it every time I've been to Schlitterbahn!  People are always so shocked when they return to see their big bag of Lays ripped to shreds.  Secure your belongings, and that includes food!  I'm no longer enthusiastic about riding the inner tubes and sliding...but I enjoy getting wet swimming in portions of the lazy river or the wave pool, then returning to whichever side of the big Sand Castle is shady and sitting with my feet in the water...then I return to the palapa and read a book.  It manages to be a fairly enjoyable visit, every time I go to Schlitterbahn.  It doesn't hurt that they have cocktails and beer available too!

9.  Schedule a morning or late afternoon Sand Castle Building Lesson with Sandy Feet.  She is the best and has the patience of Job.  Check out her website... we've taken her classes over and over.  We own the book, the tools, the DVD...Incomparable!

10.  Check out classes at South Padre Island ArtSpace...or just stop in and shop!  Located at 1817 Padre Blvd., a unique and lovely group of local artisans sharing their skills and selling their creations.  It's wonderful!

11.  SHOP - there are a plethora of souvenir shops if that is your thing...but if you'd like a slightly different shopping experience, head to places like Ship Shape, Desert Cactus, or Isla.  You'll see the difference when you walk in the door.  The staff are all friendly and courteous...the inventories are very nice.

12.  Schedule some personal spa services at my favorite, Venus Nails & Spa.  The team is friendly and attentive.  Appointments or walk-in.  Located at the intersection of Padre Blvd and East Amberjack.  Excellent service in a relaxing atmosphere.

13.  Do the Lighthouse Square shopping round while in Port Isabel.  ArtSea, The Rusty Pelican, and Coastal Winds are some of my favorite shops in PI...but there are many more around the square well worth investigating.  If you have the energy to climb to the top of the lighthouse (not cool, but it is shady!) you will find the view beyond compare.

14.  Head off the island and enjoy the wonderful zoo in Brownsville.  Gladys Porter Zoo is an outstanding zoo full of a surprising wealth of information and exhibits.  It was more than I had expected and a jewel in our little area of the country.

15.  If you are in town on a Friday or Saturday evening during the Summer - find yourself a spot to watch Friday Night Fireworks on the bay or ocean or Saturday Night Fireworks on the ocean.  Our preferred place for Friday night on the bay is a table at Louie's Backyard, stuffed full of their buffet meal and margaritas OR Laguna BOB's with a bowl of ceviche and a beer.  Grab a place early and eat slow...slightly after 9:00 p.m., you'll see a wonderful fireworks display from a barge in the bay. For ocean fireworks viewing Friday and Saturday nights, find a spot on the enormous deck at Clayton's.  Either bay or ocean...both provide a perfect beginning or end to a wonderful summer vacation!

Timing is everything.  Hit the beach early, come in for lunch and a nap, do an activity from the list above, head back to the beach in the late afternoon... I like to time afternoon on the beach when the condos throw shade onto the beach (OK - let's say early evening).  Then, when the sun is dropping low, shower off and head out to eat, then back "home" to sleep like a baby...get up and do it all over again the next day!

Have fun and Bon Appetit Y'all!!!



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