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Race In for Fun: Captiva Crab Races

Honestly, my kids are not enthusiastic about many things, but there is ONE thing in particular that gets them excited every time—the Captiva Crab Races.

Every Monday and Thursday at 6 pm at the onsite Crow’s Nest restaurant, you can join the silliness and help raise money for the United Way. (There is also a show at 9pm but it is for adults only.)

No reservations are required but you will need cash to choose a rental crab and you’ll have to give it a name. (Since ‘SpongeBob’ was already taken, my son named his, um, “Stinky Britches.”)

Choosing the right crab from the bowl is tricky! You want one that will leave the other hermits in the dust, so don’t let the sleepers fool you. After all, there are awesome prizes at stake. You can win goodies like a Captiva Crab Races t-shirt, the ever-popular kazoo, and cash.

Once everyone is signed up, the qualifying races begin. Your host, Commissioner Tim, sounds the kazoo, lifts the custom crab starting gate (a wire basket), fires his trusty squirt gun, and they’re off!! You will be on the edge of your seat cheering!

During the crab races, the full menu is not available, but you will find items like pizza, pasta and chicken fingers. There will be something to please most everyone.

The Crab Races at ‘Tween Waters Inn have been a tradition for 25 years and have raised over $180,000 for charity. Commissioner Tim will tell you, “It’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever seen,” but I bet you laugh. And Stinky Britches came in 3rd place –we donated the winnings and kept the t-shirt!

Innsider Tip: Arrive early! During season, get there at 5pm to secure a table and start the crab registration process.

A quick thank you to my friend, Lauren Tjaden and her husband Paul, for the video.

My kids LOVE the Captiva Crab Races. Come early for a seat.
My kids LOVE the Captiva Crab Races. Come early for a seat.
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Sunrise Walks at ‘Tween Waters Inn

Beautiful shells found on my morning walk on Captiva Island.
Beautiful shells found on my morning walk on Captiva Island.

It’s no secret that moms don’t get much time for themselves, so I wanted to share how to sneak in some free therapy while you’re staying at ‘Tween Waters Inn with your family. These magical moments of solidarity happen early in the morning but are so worth getting out of bed for. Before the sun rises, slip into your shorts and water shoes and head to the beach. Behold the beauty! Stars are still twinkling in the pre-dawn sky, the beach has no footprints but yours, and the seashells are waiting for you to scoop them up. You can walk left or right, it matters not. You could potentially walk for miles. (One morning, I walked two miles to Blind Pass and found a rare lion’s paw shell on the high tide line!

The early bird gets the lion's paw seashell!
The early bird gets the lion’s paw seashell!

Sunrise walks are not only an easy way to sneak in some exercise, but are simply good for the soul. And for those who are nature-lovers, keep your eyes and ears open! You can see all kinds of birds including ospreys, egrets and herons; dolphins hunting for their breakfast of baitfish; and the pink hues that paint the sky are spectacular.

You'll love having the beach to yourself in the early morning on Captiva.
You’ll love having the beach to yourself in the early morning on Captiva.

If you’re on the hunt for manatees, walk to the marina. They tend to hang out there, especially in the winter months. The winter months also bring in more seashells, if that’s possible! I recommend getting a mesh, shelling bag to hold all of your treasures. You can purchase one at the marina or any local grocery store. I hope you get to experience a sunrise walk at least once while you visit. If you do, post your photos to our Facebook page! I’d love to see your morning memories.

You never know what you'll see on your sunrise walk.
You never know what you’ll see on your sunrise walk.
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‘Tween Waters Inn Tree Lighting Ceremony

Christmas Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony

Can we do this every year, Mama?” asked my youngest son as we stood on the beach with sand between our toes. It was 2012, the fiery sun had just set and the sky was turning dark — which meant it was finally time for the grand lighting of the ‘Tween Waters Inn Christmas tree! Families were cheering, live music was playing, and kids were dancing right out of their colorful Crocs. The excitement was contagious!

If you’ve never experienced the ‘Tween Waters Inn Tree Lighting Ceremony, it happens each year on the Friday night after Thanksgiving (and it’s not just the huge Christmas tree that officially lights up, it’s all the holiday lights at ‘Tween Waters Inn), you simply won’t ever want to be anywhere else on that evening. Ever.

The entire event has a Disney-like quality with the synchronization of music and lights, the festive atmosphere, stately palms wrapped in green twinkling lights, the jolly man himself (Santa in a golf cart!), and a sea of joyful faces. Oh, and the fireworks! This is why my answer was, “YES, son! We can definitely do this every year!”

Christmas Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony
Be a part of the magic at the annual holiday tree lighting ceremony at ‘Tween Waters Inn.

‘Tween Waters Inn annual Tree Lighting Ceremony will happen on Friday, November 28, 2014. The fun begins at 4pm and culminates at 7pm with their fantastic fireworks finale. This is a free event and it’s open to the public.

If you can’t make it to the Tree Lighting Ceremony, plan to visit any weekend in December to partake of Captiva Holiday Village. They’ll be golf cart parades, a lighted boat parade, sunset arias (live opera) on the beach, caroling, and much more.

‘Tis the season to experience all the sparkling wonders of Captiva and ‘Tween Waters Inn. Hope to see you there!

 

Tween Waters Inn Christmas Holiday
Don’t miss the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at ‘Tween Waters Inn.
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Fall Fun Around ‘Tween Waters

There is so much happening this month on Captiva and at ‘Tween Waters Inn. First of all, October is the start of the fall season and that brings great rates (like stay two or more nights Sunday through Thursday and get an additional free night)! October is also when the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge has its annual “Ding Darling Days.” It’s an entire week of FREE eco-activities like tram tours, kids crafts, hot dogs, life-size puppets with Heather Henson (Muppets’ creator Jim Henson’s daughter), scavenger hunts, wildlife encounters, and much, much more.

DDD_Silver_Logo
2014 marks the 25th anniversary of Ding Darling Days at the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge and ‘Tween Waters is proud to be a sponsor.

The ‘Tween Waters Inn is proud to be a “Great Egret Level” Sponsor of this event – celebrating its 25th anniversary this year! You won’t want to miss it.

Since the 2014 theme for Ding Darling Days is “Let’s Go Outside,” I wanted to share some of my favorite family things to do outside right here at ‘Tween Waters Inn. Of course, you know that you can hang out at the beach, swim in the Gulf, hunt for seashells and frolic at the pool. But here are a few things you might not know about that will get your kids excited to get outdoors, especially in this gorgeous fall weather.

Rentals like canoes, single and double kayaks, and even motorboats are available at the onsite marina. You can paddle in the bay and see all kinds of wildlife, including manatees, especially this time of year. These gentle giants will sometimes swim right alongside your watercraft! Keep your eyes open for dolphins, too. What a thrill!

Onsite rentals for canoes, kayaks, bike and motorboats are right onsite at 'Tween Waters Inn.
Onsite rentals for canoes, kayaks, bike and motorboats are right onsite at ‘Tween Waters Inn.

If you’d rather just sit back and let someone else do all the work, then Native Guides is for you (and me). Give them a call to schedule a few hours of fishing, snorkeling, shelling or a picnic on one of the out-islands—you just tell them what you’re interested in and they’ll make it happen. Best of all, it’s the same price for one person or six. It is truly an unforgettable way to spend time with your family—and oh that fall weather!

From my family to yours, we wish you a happy autumn and we hope to see you around Captiva soon.

 

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Family Dining at ‘Tween Waters Inn

If you have a picky eater in your group, we have something in common. My youngest son could live on chicken fingers and Cheerios, so that’s another reason why we love the ‘Tween Waters Inn.

For starters, breakfast is free for resort guests (score!) — just head to Captiva House for an all-you-can-eat buffet. Feast on homemade pastries (made onsite), bowls of whole and sliced fruit, assorted cold cereals, breads and bagels, yogurts, hot cereals and cheeses. A separate menu is available with omelets, huevos rancheros, pancakes and French toast, for a nominal fee. I happen to be a big fan of the oatmeal.

For lunch, no shirt, no shoes, no problem! The Oasis Pool Bar and Grill is open 11:30 am to 5 pm and the smoke from the grills will make your mouth water. Order at the counter or grab an open table. The menu offers sandwiches, wraps, gyros, hot dogs, burgers, and salads. The Char Broiled Grouper sandwich scores high marks with my teenager.

Dinner is a toss up between Captiva House and Crow’s Nest. Both offer a kid’s menu, but Mondays and Thursdays, we choose the Crow so we can participate in their famous Crab Races. “It’s the stupidest thing you’ll ever see,” but the 6pm show is family friendly and has raised over $225,000 for the United Way. They serve a buffet on these nights; every other night they offer a large menu. Our fav is the chicken barbecue pizza and ice cream sundaes but their ‘Gulf Shrimp and Grits’ is SO good, with shrimp, chorizo sausage and cheese grits. Yum!

Your kids will love the sundaes at Crow's Nest.
Your kids will love the sundaes at Crow’s Nest.

Captiva House is the top rated restaurant on Captiva by TripAdvisor but don’t let that scare you from dining here with kids. By day’s end, my little one can be crabby, but we LOVE the food here, so we make reservations early, before the meltdown. Many times, there several other families dining right alongside us. Blue crab bisque, bouillabaisse, twin lobster tails…oh my. Instead of dessert, we have Devon (my youngest) throw a few dollars in the piano player’s tip jar. It’s a nice way to end the evening.

I hope you’ll try these onsite restaurants on your next visit. Let me know what your favorite dish was!

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Family Friendly Accommodations at ‘Tween Waters

Sleeping arrangements can make or break a family getaway. For my family, I prefer the boys to have their own space, and Michael and I have ours. Of course, there are times when budget doesn’t allow for more than a guest room, but I’m a firm believer that space is invaluable, especially for a mom’s sanity.

You have plenty of accommodation options at ‘Tween Waters including newly refurbished studios and guest rooms, but I’m going to focus on the roomier options, including the 19 sherbet-hued cottages and the luxurious, multi-bedroom suites.

Sit a spell on your private porch and enjoy the views.
Sit a spell on your private porch and enjoy the views.
Meals and snacks are easy with your own full size kitchen.
Meals and snacks are easy with your own full size kitchen.

 

About The Cottages

With their aesthetics and comfort, these freestanding cottages truly offer a slice of island life, like nothing else on the island. Each boasts its own inviting décor and each one has a unique name, symbolic of the island, like Hibiscus, Snook and Ding Darling. You can stay bayside, gulfside, or in the midst of everything with a courtyard view, and you can choose a one, two- or three-bedroom, with a full kitchen, even a fireplace. Reserve in advance for an authentic Captiva experience.

The Suite Life

These one, two- and three-bedroom suites are so spacious and offer so many extras, you won’t ever want to leave! The full kitchen is perfect for preparing your own snacks and meals; the enclosed patio brings the outside in and provides the perfect place to enjoy your morning paper, or a nightcap; and separate bedrooms with flat screens provide comfort and privacy. It’s a home-away-from-home setup that’s ideal for families. For a quieter stay, choose a bayside location.

Interactive Tools

To help find the type of accommodations that will suit your family the best, click the accommodations link. You can view photos of the décor, layout, and furnishings.

Innsider Tip

Be sure to ask about any Internet or seasonal specials (like stay five nights, get one free). Most of all, have fun!

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How to Keep Cool with Hot Family Fun at ‘Tween Waters Inn

'Tween Waters Inn Captiva Island Pool Hotel

It’s summertime! For our family, that means it’s time for Michael and I to pack up the kids, and several bottles of sunscreen, and head to the ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort & Spa. With its location on a barrier island that jets into the Gulf, the average high temperature is 85°F, but come June, July and August, that number creeps up to about 90°. Although the Gulf breezes keep things comfortable, there are plenty of ways to keep your cool around the resort.

Poolside, Gulf side, bay side – what’s your pleasure? After hitting the free breakfast buffet, my boys Dustin and Devon beg us to take them over to the beach to swim and hunt for shells. The Gulf of Mexico is warm and welcoming in summer and depending on the wind, you could find yourself jumping waves or floating on shimmering water as smooth as glass. Many times, we’ve seen dolphins right off shore. Love that!

If your gang is more adventurous, you can rent stand-up paddleboards and kayaks right onsite and paddle on the bayside. You might just find yourself alongside a manatee, or three.

Fresh water fans can head to the Olympic-sized pool that just happens to have a full-service pool bar and grill at the deep end. Here’s an Innsider tip: purchase a ‘Tween Waters Tervis tumbler at the resort and have it filled at the pool bar with your favorite frozen concoction for free. Devon prefers a strawberry daiquiri, virgin of course. Tervis tumblers (non-breakable, guaranteed-for-life drinkware) make the perfect souvenir. They’re easy to pack, lightweight and you’ll use them forever.

The newest addition to the pool deck is the shaded toddler wading pool. Your little ones can splash for hours without fear of sunburn. Now that’s a bright idea.

Sunny regards,

Jill~

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COMING SOON!

Look for Jill Martin’s Family Fun Innsider tips July 14.

Jill Martin joins ‘Tween Waters “Innsiders” as a former family correspondent with VISIT FLORIDA, and currently serves as travel writer for Fodor’s. With her growing family, Jill can guide you to the many ways you can most enjoy your beach vacation — on the beach, in the water, under the sun.

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