By Wendy O. Dixon
Seaside’s family-friendly activities are packed with fun
It’s time to get into the swing of spring and have some fun in the sun. The season kicks off with the Seaside School Half Marathon and 5K, luring elite runners and enthusiastic walkers from throughout the country, then welcomes spring breakers eager to enjoy the time with family. Later in the season, Seaside celebrates Easter, during which the Seaside Amphitheater lawn is blanketed with thousands of candy-filled Easter eggs for the kids to hunt.
If you plan on taking advantage of the perfect spring weather, we’ve compiled a list you can use to make the most of your time in Seaside. “With an influx of visitors and a longer spring break period in 2019, our team and merchants have been preparing for months. For example, we have seven new restrooms behind our beloved post office,” says Kerri Parker, executive director of communications for Seaside Community Development Corp. “A lot of prepping will go unseen, as it should. Expect the extraordinary from our merchants. Keep in mind our maintenance and security teams are tirelessly working; monitoring all the facets that make for a seamless family experience.”
Here’s a list of fun activities to include in your to-do list this spring:
Classic lawn games never go out of style. With childhood staples like croquet and badminton, the whole family can spend hours outdoors. Check out the croquet lawn and badminton and volleyball court, located next to the Family Pool. Equipment is available for Seaside residents and guests.
The Pétanque Park, located near Bud & Alley’s Waterfront Restaurant, is also fun for players of all ages and skill levels, and is equipped with lights so players can enjoy it day or night. The game of pétanque is similar to horseshoes and bocce. The park is free of charge, though players must bring their own equipment, available at Central Square Records in Seaside.
Seaside’s tennis courts are top quality. Made of Har-Tru, a man-made clay of sorts, it is actually crushed granite that is treated with a bonding agent so that it binds when damp. There are many benefits to this surface, especially in the Northwest Florida climate. The courts are also HydroCourts, equipped with an underground watering system that allows players to have continuous play. Now, the tennis staff simply sweep the courts early in the morning, and play continues uninterrupted throughout the day.
Shop the Farmers Market
At the Seaside Farmers Market, open each Saturday, you can sample and buy locally grown produce, honey, homemade pastries, grass-fed beef and more.
Make the Most of the Beach
When you want some beach time, you can reserve an umbrella and chairs from Cabana Man Beach Service, which also has stand-up paddleboards and kayaks — both single and double — to rent by the hour. The Cabana Man team starts their day at 7 a.m., set up and ready for sunbathers by 9 a.m. Reservations can be made by calling (850) 231-5046. Club Cabana Man is a step up in accommodation, including towels, tables, and food and drink service. Pack a Frisbee, football and sandcastle molds, and you’re all set.
The waves of the gulf make this spot of the country an ideal place to learn to surf. Kids Surf & Beach Camp is open in Seaside beginning in March, depending on weather and surf conditions. Budding surfers or aspiring marine biologists can explore the waves and learn about tides, marine life and coastal ecology with the help of surf instructor Austin Magee. Sign up for surfing lessons with Austin Magee Surf School at amsurfschool.com. And check out his Facebook page for additional information, photos and rave reviews.
Put the Pedal to the Pavement
Seaside’s mode of transportation is your own two feet or a bike. You can rent a bicycle through the Seaside Transit Authority, located next to Great Southern Café. Beach cruisers and tandem bicycles are available, as well as tricycles, towing gear, and carriage seats for kids. Bicycles are available for daily and weekly rental by calling (850) 231-0035, or online at seasidetransitauthority.com.
Splash the Day Away
Seaside’s three pools — one covered for shade, one for adults only and one on the west side — means everyone can splash as they please. The largest of the three, the west pool has a Frost Bites small food kiosk that opens in March, open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Get to Know The REP
Each year, The Seaside Repertory Theatre (The REP) provides a multitude of entertainment options geared toward children and families. These performances are more than a sideshow, a break from the beach or a temporary distraction. Performance art inspires creativity in all ages and brings communities together at a central space: the stage. An elementary bedtime story or fairytale springs to life and makes something unreal, real.
The REP is busy this spring with activities to suit anyone who loves performance art, including Stories by the Sea, Improv Bootcamp, Huck & Lilly Kids Music Performance and more. For details including times and dates, see the Seaside events calendar on page 16 or lovetherep.com.
Explore the Town
Rosewalk, a tucked-away footpath, has tree-covered spots for a shady picnic or game of checkers, thanks to the tiled checkerboard on the table (bring your own checkers). Ruskin Place offers a shady place to rest, read a book or stroll the streets and pop into an art gallery or boutique. The unique shops, restaurants, landscapes and beach pavilions are also worth a gander.
Visit the Chapel at Seaside
The Seaside Chapel is one of Seaside’s most iconic buildings. Sitting on the north end of Ruskin Park (behind Central Square) the chapel hosts weddings and events along with weekly Sunday services. The chapel’s vaulted ceiling, white-washed board and batten construction make for an amazingly beautiful space, and was recently awarded a Historical American Buildings Survey Heritage Designation by the Library of Congress. The chapel is usually open during daylight hours and all are welcome to partake in its peaceful, meditative atmosphere. thechapelatseaside.com
See Seaside’s Most Famous Cottages
Seaside’s first cottage, known then as the Red House and now called Bella Vista, is a small square cottage with a pyramid roof and wraparound porch on Tupelo Street. When built in 1981 it served as the original sales office, a lone structure surrounded by little more than one paved road and a lot of imagination. It was here the “lemonade test” was invented. Many passersby would follow the modest sign on Highway 30A and stop for a brochure, but it was the ones who stayed to sip ice-cold lemonade and talk that Seaside founder Robert Davis knew would one day form the human fabric of Seaside.
The Truman House, made famous for the feature film, “The Truman Show” that was filmed in Seaside in 1998, is recognizable on Natchez Street. Directed by Peter Weir and starring Jim Carrey, “The Truman Show” tells of Truman Burbank, a regular nice guy who unknowingly stars in the most famous reality television show of all time. A film some would say was ahead of its time with the concept of reality TV, the film tells of a genre that was little known at the time the film made its début in the summer of 1998.
The cottage at 31 Natchez Street served as Truman’s home. The home was chosen partly because of its location — the west side of Natchez Street. The exterior was painted in bright hues, and a lawn was added, as well as a grill and some garden gnomes. The interior of the home was filled with different furniture, but the rest remained as the owners designed it. A replica of the interior was used off-site during inclimate weather. With no detail spared for the duplicate home, even the doorknobs were the same. When filming wrapped, as if by movie magic, the owners found their home just as they left it, as the production crew repainted the home in its original color and removed the yard accessories.
Toast the Sunset
A favorite Seaside tradition is to end each day on the beach watching the sun set as Bud & Alley’s Waterfront Restaurant’s vintage brass bell rings to signal that another perfect day in Seaside has come to a pleasant close.
During the weeks of spring break, Seaside will limit access to the beach after 8 p.m. to those under 21 or unaccompanied by a parent. And no backpacks or flags will be allowed on the beach.