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What do you do when it’s spring break and all the usual places are booked? You head off the beaten path and try someplace new. You may even discover a hidden gem along the way! That’s exactly what happened when we planned a last minute trip to Pasco County, Florida. From dolphin spotting to ziplining through the trees, find out why you should consider adding Pasco County to your list of Florida vacation destinations.
Thanks to everyone who took part in hosting our stay in Pasco County. As always, all opinions are my own.
I’ll admit it…we took a little too long planning our spring break. When we finally started looking into places, we realized that not only were all the places on our list going to be completely packed, the prices would be higher too. That’s when I remembered hearing about Pasco County and thought maybe we should check it out. Just north of Tampa, it was a quick drive, inexpensive and had lots to do, three things that made it very appealing.
Table of Contents
Where To Stay
First we had to find a place to stay. Since I had a great experience at Orlando’s Holiday Inn in Disney Springs, we decided to try the new Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Trinity. We checked in and one of the things we noticed first was that the rooms were very spacious. When you have four people in one room, that’s important! The room had everything we needed but I liked that it felt open and airy.
The view from our room was pretty nice too.
The outside area was pretty nice. There were hammocks, BBQ grills, cornhole, and a lounge area where we could relax and watch the kids enjoy themselves.
The pool wasn’t fancy but my girls didn’t care. It was heated and they had a great time splashing around. My hubby and I stuck to the hot tub.
Did I mention that breakfast was free? I always get excited about that because we tend to spend a lot on food when we’re on vacation. The selection was great too and included eggs, sausage, bacon, cereal, yogurt, fruit and lots more. Even the pickiest eaters would be happy here. My girls loved the pancake maker that produced pancakes with the push of a button. I think we need one at home!
Overall, we really enjoyed our stay at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Trinity. The rooms were clean and inviting, the staff was helpful and our kids were happy. Happy kids, happy parents, right?
Places To Eat
Gill Dawg Tiki Bar And Grill
Since we love dining by the water, we couldn’t wait to check out Gill Dawg Tiki Bar & Grill. Not only did we have plans to eat here, we were also planning to stay for some water activities. This restaurant/bar on the Cotee River offers kayaking, paddleboarding, boat rentals and more.
First we wanted to start with a little lunch. While the kids went with their #1 favorite, grilled cheese sandwiches, we decided to try the tacos. My husband chose steak and I went for the fish…both were delicious. The fish was moist and perfectly cooked, with just the right amount of seasoning.
While we enjoyed the food, we liked this restaurant most for the tiki bar atmosphere, the waterfront dining and the activities they offered.
Sam’s Beach Bar
Another tiki bar that we had to check out Sam’s Beach Bar. Located along Hudson Creek, you have to go to experience the sunset. They even have a handy sunset countdown on their website so you’ll know just what time to be there. The restaurant is family friendly and there’s a separate bar area and dance floor where the adults can go to have a little child-free fun.
As soon as were were seated, our waiter AJ took care of everything (you should definitely ask for him)! When he recommended we try the coconut shrimp, he knew just what he was doing. Not only were they absolutely delicious, my hubby decided that they were the best coconut shrimp he’s ever eaten (which says a lot coming from him).
While the kids menu had a decent selection, my girls don’t branch out much and ordered grilled cheese…again! Their food was served on what we thought were plastic plates, only to realize later that they were actually frisbees. Little things like this make my kids so happy and between the giant scoops of ice cream for dessert and their new souvenirs, Sam’s Beach Bar had two very satisfied mini customers.
My shrimp loving hubby went for even more shrimp, which got a big thumbs up.
My blackened grouper was juicy and seasoned to perfection. I tried not to eat to much but it was so good that I couldn’t help but finish the whole thing.
Not only was the food amazing, this was the view we enjoyed during dinner. It doesn’t get much better than that!
From the awesome food, the breathtaking views and the happy kids, Sam’s Beach Bar was a huge hit with our family.
Activities In Pasco County
We liked the all in one package that was Gill Dawgs. We could visit for lunch, then stay for the watersports. You can choose to kayak, paddleboard, taking a fishing charters or even send your kids to one of their camps. They also have a Sangria Sunset Tour that was right up my ally but unfortunately it didn’t fit into our schedule.
My oldest was excited to try paddleboarding and couldn’t wait to get started. She and my hubby took their own boards out on the water, while my five year old and I shared one.
I thought my weak arms might be a problem (I REALLY need to work out more) but paddleboarding was a lot easier than I expected. We only had issues when little Keira wanted to “help” paddle but kept whacking me in the head along the way. Luckily she only lasted a few minutes and decided it we more fun if mommy did all the work. It was a great way to spend a sunny afternoon.
What’s better than a sunny day spend boating on the water?! We grabbed snacks and sunscreen and headed out in an awesome pontoon boat from Windsong Charters. As we drove through the long canal leading out to the water, we had a lot of fun picking our future vacation homes! When we finally hit open water, we were excited to be able to check out several islands in the area.
This small, undeveloped island was like a mini paradise. We could have stayed all day watching the girls chase birds and hunt for beautiful seashells and other treasure.
We hadn’t been out on a boat for awhile and I’d forgotten what a wonderful experience it is! As if our day wasn’t perfect enough already, it got even better when we came across a family of dolphins. I think I was more excited than anybody and it was pretty spectacular to have them swimming alongside our boat.
I’m not sure if Keira liked the dolphins more or the fact that she got to drive the boat with daddy. She felt so grown up!
We’d had so much fun that none of us wanted to head back. Making memories like this is what a family vacation is all about!
We finished our trip with a visit to Treehoppers Aerial Adventure Park. If you or your family is scared of heights, you’ll probably want to skip this adventure. It not, you’re going to love it!
Once you’re strapped into your gear, you’ll need to complete a training session to get started on the course. The hardest thing to learn is how to work the harness, which took some extra practice for the little ones.
Once training is complete, you’re free to explore the main courses. While kids as young as five may do the easier courses, my own five year old had a hard time with it and finally gave up. She’s tall for her age but still had trouble reaching some of the ropes. Eventually we went back to the training course and she was much happier there. Once my husband completed the course, we traded kids and off I went with my 9 year old.
There were challenges every step of the way, some more difficult than others. That’s what made it so much fun! Ashling and I had the time of our lives stepping across floating platforms and ziplining through the trees. While I probably wouldn’t bring my youngest for a couple more years, nine was a perfect age and Ashling loved every minute of it.
I have to admit, I did too!
When you visit Treehoppers, you can also choose to make it as easy or as challenging as you want. There are several different courses with varying skill levels so you can keep going to progressively harder courses as you get more comfortable. While this might not have been the best choice for my youngest, the rest of us loved it and I can’t wait to go back!
There are so many more things to do in Pasco County that we just didn’t have time for. You can visit the Wild Things Zoo, a Giraffe Ranch, go horseback riding, enjoy samplings at the various wineries and breweries (I’m in!), take a hot air balloon ride and even go skydiving. I had no idea that Pasco County was going to turn out to be such a hidden gem!