Are you looking for a Florida vacation destination where you can avoid the crowds but still have plenty of fun activities to enjoy? Pasco County, Florida may not be the first place that comes to mind, but with great waterfront dining, plenty of fun, family activities and great places to stay, this destination just north of Tampa is one of Florida’s best kept secrets.
When we were planning a last minute spring break getaway, we wanted a spot that had lots to do but wouldn’t be overrun with the spring break crowds. I’d met someone from Pasco County, Florida, a few months earlier who filled me in on all the great activities and restaurants that Pasco County had to offer. Located just north of Tampa, it seemed like the perfect choice.
Where To Stay In Pasco County, Florida
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Trinity
The first thing on the agenda was to find a place to stay. We chose the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Trinity. This new hotel is centrally located, making it easy to get to all the places we were planning to go. When we saw the room, the first thing we noticed was how spacious it was, perfect for our family of four.
We had a great view of the picturesque lake behind the hotel and went downstairs to check it out! Besides enjoying a pretty lake view, you can relax on the hammocks, cook out on their BBQ grills, lounge in the sitting area and even play cornhole.
The girls couldn’t wait to play in the heated pool and had fun splashing around while mommy and daddy hung out in the hot tub.
TravelingMom Tip: If you plan to spend a lot of time in the pool, you may want to bring your own beach towels. The pool towels at the hotel were very small, only slightly larger than kitchen towels.
Another reason to stay here? Breakfast was free! They had a great selection with eggs, bacon, sausage, cereal, fruit, yogurt and a lot more. The girls especially loved the machine that made pancakes with the touch of a button…I wouldn’t mind having one of my own!
Overall, we had a great stay at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Trinity. It was very clean, the rooms were open and airy, the staff was friendly and the kids were happy. Isn’t that the most important thing when traveling with kids?
Where To Eat
Gill Dawg Tiki Bar And Grill
We love dining on the water so that was a priority for us. Gill Dawg Tiki Bar And Grill fit the bill. I was looking forward to checking this place out because not only were we going to eat here, we were planning to participate in water activities as well (more about that later). Located on the banks of the Cotee River, it’s a casual bar/restaurant with a fun vibe.
We started by ordering the goat cheese spread and pita chips.
While the girls were happy to order grilled cheese off the children’s menu, my husband and I went for the tacos. All four of us gave the lunch a thumbs up.
If you want a nice lunch on the water, Gill Dawg is casual and fun.
Sam’s Beach Bar
Since we love tiki bars so much, we decided to check out Sam’s Beach Bar. It’s located along Hudson Creek and I love that their website features a sunset countdown every day.
From the minute we sat down, our waiter AJ took care of our every need! He recommended the coconut shrimp and he definitely knew what he was talking about. They were amazing! My husband went so far as to say they were the best coconut shrimp he’s ever had. Since he’s the biggest shrimp lover you’ll ever meet, that’s really saying something. I had to agree!
Once again, the girls ordered grilled cheese (do you see a pattern?). My hubby went for more shrimp and ate every last one.
I chose the blackened grouper and it was delicious. It was so juicy and perfectly seasoned, I couldn’t help but eat the whole thing!
As if the food weren’t good enough, this was our view towards the end of dinner…
The girls didn’t realize until they finished dinner that their plates were actually frisbees. Between that and the giant servings of ice cream, we had two very happy kids. Overall, Sam’s Beach Bar was a big hit. I’d eat here every night if I could!
What to do in Pasco County, Florida
The great thing about Gill Dawg is that you can go for lunch, then stay and enjoy all sorts of water sports. They offer kayaking, paddleboarding, fishing charters and camps for kids. They also have boating excursions and tours. I was very disappointed that the Sangria Sunset Tour didn’t fit into our schedule. I may just have to go back for that one!
My nine year old daughter wanted to try paddleboarding so we decided to give it a go. She and my husband each went out on their own board, and my five year old shared one with me. Ashling was excited to get going!
Paddleboarding was a lot of fun and the only problem I had was when my five year old wanted to “help” paddle and kept whacking me in the head. Luckily she tired out after a few minutes and preferred to just sit back and enjoy the ride. It was the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon!
Who doesn’t love a day boating on the water?! We packed some snacks and sunscreen and took off in a pontoon boat from Windsong Charters. Before we hit open water, we boated down a long canal lined with houses and were already picking out our vacation home! Once we cleared the canal, we went full throttle and made our way to one of several islands in the area.
It was a small, undeveloped island and so much fun to explore. The girls searched for seashells, raced along the shore and chased the birds.
I had forgotten just how much I loved boating. We were already having a perfect day, then it got even better when we saw dolphins! They came right up to the side of our boat and it was exciting to get such a great view.
Once the dolphins took off, it was time to head back. Keira took a turn in the drivers seat and it brought back memories of boating with my grandpa when I was a little girl. Now my girls will have fun boating memories to look back on too!
The grand finale of our trip was a visit to Treehoppers Aerial Adventure Park. This probably isn’t the place for you if you’re scared of heights. However, if you like adventure, you’re going to love it!
You begin by getting strapped into a harness and going through training. You’ve successfully “graduated” training when you demonstrate that you know how the harness works and can complete the training course.
Then it was off to the big courses. While kids as young as five can do the easier courses, little Keira got too frustrated and gave up. Though she’s tall for her age, she still had trouble reaching a lot of the ropes. After a few attempts, I took her back to the training course. When Jon was finished with the course, he watched Keira while I took a turn in the trees with Ashling.
TravelingMom Tip: While there may be some five and six year olds that are up to the challenge, I recommend taking children no younger than seven.
It was a blast! There were different challenges every step of the way, some harder than others, but that’s what made it so much fun. While I felt five was too young, nine was perfect and Ashling was having the time of her life.
Of course, no tree adventure course would be complete without a zipline and there were several along the way.
I loved Treehoppers; the great thing about it is that you can choose to make it as easy (relatively) or challenging as you want. They have a variety of courses with different skill levels. If you complete one and want to take it up a notch, you just head to the next course.
If you’re thinking of driving to Pasco County, you might want to check out the 2018 Ford Explorer. With built in wi-fi, automatic folding seats and loads of safety features, it’s perfect for a road trip!
These were just the places in Pasco County that we had time to visit. There are so many more that we may just have to take another trip.