For three straight summers during my grade school years, our family traveled from Dayton, Ohio, to the same hotel on St. Pete Beach, a quaint oceanfront property called the Normandy Inn. Though I had relatively little to complain about growing up in the Midwest—outside of winter waits for the school bus and being recruited to play Jesus in every Catholic school play because of my shoulder-length hair—the Normandy and its neighbors along Gulf Boulevard still felt like paradise found.
The hotel had shuffleboard, rooms that opened right onto the sand and a pool with underwater lights for nighttime swimming! A few doors down was Lums, where you could feast on a basket of butterfly shrimp for less than $2. And across the street stood Tussauds London Wax Museum, with its house of horrors chamber that gave me recurring nightmares until age 28.
What more could anyone ask for from a vacation destination?
As the team behind TradeWinds Island Resorts might suggest, plenty. Originally conceived in the mid-1980s, TradeWinds bridges past and present with a re-imagined complex composed of a handful of the smaller properties that once dotted that stretch of St. Pete Beach—including, much to my delight, the bones of the old Normandy Inn.
The resulting spread—anchored by Island Grand, a sprawling 20-acre ode to family-friendly Gulf Coast relaxation—manages to satisfy modern-day resort expectations without diminishing the warmth and familiarity that casts TradeWinds in such a throwback light. To be sure, this isn’t the W. But where ultra-contemporary resorts can feel too cool for school, TradeWinds (which includes neighboring Guy Harvey Outpost and its 5 acres, “only 200 flip-flops” away) encourages its guests to let their hair down, kick back and let the good times unfold.
At the 585-room Island Grand, that can manifest itself in any number of ways. The white-sand beach is host to a three-story inflatable slide and a mechanical bucking shark; just offshore, kids can frolic on a 15,750-square-foot floating water park; guests looking to sneak in some exercise can hit the fitness center, participate in beach yoga classes or play clay-court tennis; Body Works Salon & Spa offers some 25 treatments (like the $299 “Just Let Go” package that includes a facial, manicure, “pedisage,” full-body massage and lunch); guests also have access to five swimming pools, paddleboats for the property’s canal system, beach volleyball, and a full menu of water-recreation activities (from parasailing to WaveRunners) at modest prices.
When it comes to dining, there’s no need to go off-property in search of a Lums (not that you’d find one anyway, since the franchise closed for good in 2009). TradeWinds’ 10 restaurants and bars cater to a variety of culinary needs, from serious seafood fare at RumFish Grill on the Guy Harvey side to Mediterranean classics at Palm Court Italian Grill and sports-bar treats at Beef ‘O’ Brady’s at Island Grand.
One of the highlights at Guy Harvey is the 33,500-gallon aquarium inside RumFish Grill that was designed and installed by the team from Animal Planet’s “Tanked” show. More than 200 fish live in the tank—many of which you can see face to face as part of the “Swim with the Fishes” snorkel experience offered for guests ages 8 and up.
Then again, there’s something to be said for finding an empty cabana chair at Island Grand and waiting for that flash of green in the early evening as the sun dips below the horizon. Just one more experience to savor at TradeWinds.
TradeWinds is offering a four-night “Family Adventure” package that’s good for rooms at Island Grand or Guy Harvey Outpost. The details:
• Valid between May 1 and Sept. 5, 2017.
• TradeWinds Fun Venture card (good for a variety of activities) valued at $250.
• Guests receive a TradeWinds tropical beach tote with two 32-ounce souvenir cups that can be used for unlimited $1.50 soda refills.
• Total package pricing for two adults and two children (without tax) starts at $1,164 for standard hotel rooms, $1,684 for Gulf-front suites at Guy Harvey and $2,004 for Gulf-front suites at Island Grand.
• Call 866.587.8538 or visit tradewindsresort.com for information.