The Autism Friendly Tradewinds Island Resort

Location

The four-star Tradewinds  Island Resort famous for its motto ‘Just Let Go‘ is located in Saint Petersburg, Florida and features 585 rooms and suites.
The resort compiled of two sister hotels–the Guy Harvey Outpost and the Island Grand  Resort, overlooks the Gulf of Mexico and is feet away from the sandy beach.

The Autism Friendly Tradewinds Island Resort lake

Guests

The resort is quite family oriented, but couples and other groups of travelers will have a great time too.
As an autism- friendly hotel, this hotel has hosted the National Autism Annual Conference for several years and is a favorite with families with special needs kids.

The Autism Friendly Tradewinds Island Resort lobby

Decor

We stayed at the Tradewinds Island Grand Resort where a tropical vibe dominated the resort’s public areas with the design continuing in the guest rooms.

The Autism Friendly Tradewinds Island Resort buildings

Our Room

We stayed in the Breckenridge building that has the option of connecting rooms useful for travelers with larger families.
Our standard room (with free Wi-Fi), 5613 on the fifth floor, was spacious and comfortable with good view of the beach, property’s pools and the hotel’s giant inflatable water slide.

The first thing I noticed upon entering the room was the round dining table with four wooden chairs. The ample seating was a welcome touch since no one had to sit on the bed or the floor like in other hotel rooms we’ve stayed in in the past.

The room furniture was a pleasant mix of rosewood and rattan that gave it a neutral feel. Continuing the resort’s  island theme our room drapes, pillows, and chair cushions were decorated in muted orange and tan hues while the bed coverlets and carpet sported tropical patterns.

Our room boasted two queen sized beds separated by a nightstand that held a phone, alarm clock, a standing lamp and the TV remote. Across from the beds, there was a large flat screen television on top of a large dresser that contained a well-stocked mini bar, complete with a variety of drinks and snacks.

Tradewinds Island Resort: room

Furthermore, closet space was ample, and the two luggage racks supplied adequately held all of our suitcases.We were glad to discover the room safe was large enough to accommodate my laptop as well as several tablets.

We enjoyed the sitting area with the cozy chaise upholstered in a seashell pattern and a matching footrest, next to the window. A nearby wall outlet made it comfortable to sit and work on the laptop while watching the ocean waves. A decorative standing lamp and framed artwork complemented the room furnishings.

Our standard room had a kitchenette, which is useful for families needing to prepare or warm food during their stay. This well-equipped area included a microwave, a mini fridge, coffee pot, a toaster, dishes, glasses, silverware along with dishwashing soap and dish towels for easy clean-up.

The bathroom was on the small side but functional. It had the usual facilities; a commode, a sink, and a combination tub and shower with multilevel shelves for storing bath supplies.
An assortment of toiletry items and mini makeup mirror were standing on the granite countertop. It was disappointing to discover there was no hand held shower head, but we appreciated the powerful shower water pressure.
The Autism Friendly Tradewinds Island Resort bathroom

Service

The Tradewinds Resort reception desk is open 24/7, and its employees have all undergone the specialized autism training awareness program by C.A.R.D.
We were impressed by the printed ‘social story’ booklet that the hotel is handing out to its guests with autism.
Visitors can also benefit from the top notch concierge service provided including a compiled list of attractions to visit with kids both indoor and outdoors around the resort area.

The Autism Friendly Tradewinds Island Resort pool

Activities

Along with its unbeatable location on the beach, the Tradewinds  Island Resort is famous for the plethora of family oriented seasonal activities offered.

The Autism Friendly Tradewinds Island Resort slide

Aside from five pools and two whirlpools, the resort offers multiple complimentary events for families like fishing lessons, poolside movie nights and pirate bonfire parties.

The Autism Friendly Tradewinds Resort trapeze

Hotel guests can enjoy water-based outdoor activities like parasailing, pedal boats, stand up paddle boats and land-based sports like volleyball, mini golfing, ping pong, and tennis for a charge.

The Autism Friendly Tradewinds Island Resort boats
Thrill-seeking travelers should give the trampoline, Gyrator, Jetlev or the ‘Rumfish’s ‘  aquarium with tropical fish swim option, a try!
Our son loved the high tide 200 feet long water slide and was disappointed to hear he had missed the chance to see the resort’s complete inflatable waterpark; which is only available during the summer months.

The Autism Friendly Tradewinds Island Resort fire

Dining & Entertainment

The resort offers eleven dining options for families from fast food (Pizza Hut) to upscale venues like the ‘Palm Court’ Italian Grill,  ‘Bermuda’s’ for steaks and seafood and the ‘Rumfish Grill’ for fusion cuisine.
During our weekend stay, we sampled the ‘Palm Court’ Italian Grill one evening and the ‘RumFish Grill’ located on the resort’s sister property the following day.

Tradewinds Island Resort, Dining

We found the ‘RumFish,’ with its Guy Harvey art and the giant fish aquarium a more kid-friendly venue but slightly noisy for people with autism.
The resort also has several stores that sell snacks and some fast food items that can be taken back and consumed in the rooms.

Dining & Entertainment The Autism Friendly Tradewinds Island Resort

Autism Travel Tips

  • If your kid tends to wander away, remember to ask for the hotel’s “Safety Kit” that includes a hanging door alarm!
  • Our room included the appropriate grab bar and bath mat for the shower and safety locks for the window.
  • All the resort food venues have gluten free options that are helpful for travelers with gluten allergies.
  • The resort kids club has unique sensory activities geared for children with autism – parents should call in advance and make the appropriate arrangements.
  • Parents need to be aware the resort does NOT provide lifeguards for the pools.
  • Families traveling with service dogs should know that The Island Grand has several pet-friendly rooms and a secure Pet Play Zone.

 The Autism Friendly Tradewinds Island Resort sunset

Taking your kids with Autism to the Cracker Barrel Restaurant

As a family living in California, we officially refer to ourselves as ‘Cracker Barrel’ -Deprived since the chain doesn’t have any restaurants in our home state.
To fuel our obsession with the family-friendly chain, we make a point of visiting every Cracker Barrel restaurant we pass, even if it means in some cases driving out of our way.

Last month we were delighted to discover a branch right next to the hotel we were staying at the time, the Kalahari Resort in the Wisconsin Dells and, needless to say, our kids insisted on having lunch there.
If you have never been to the Cracker Barrel and want to know what the buzz is about; here are our six reasons why we love the chain and keep returning for more.

Six Reasons Why We Love the Cracker Barrel Restaurant outside

The Price

You simply can’t beat the price for a sit-down lunch or dinner!
For under $30 a family of four can enjoy a hefty lunch or dinner with large portions, two vegetable sides orders, unlimited soda drinks and corn muffins.And if a guest isn’t too hungry, he or she can order off the kid’s menu.

The Taste and service

We just can’t get enough of their fried country cooking!
True, it isn’t very dietetic, and I probably wouldn’t recommend eating it on a day to day basis, but still; their fried chicken and apples are pretty much to die for in our book.
For a venue with such turnaround, it is pretty surprising that their staff is still always so patient and friendly.We’ve been to many locations and have yet to encounter rude, or slow service.

The Rocking Chairs

Our son saw the rockers and was immediately hooked!
In fact, the first time we ever dined at a Cracker Barrel back in Houston, Texas, he had to be bribed into even entering the restaurant since all he wanted was to sit outside and rock.
Nowadays, he looks forward to eating his fried apples but still insists on a twenty-minute stint on one of the display rockers in the front of the store either before or after a meal.

Six Reasons Why We Love the Cracker Barrel Restaurant food

The Store

The store next to the restaurant is a ‘tchotchke’ exploration cove you can spend time (and money) in.Our son with autism never gets tired of finding new items to buy and candy to sample.
The store carries most of the old-fashioned games, candy and CD’s one can think of as well as country inspired home wares and even clothes.

The Country  Decor

Perfect to occupy our son when he gets bored or antsy, the country inspired artifacts displayed on the wall have always added to our overall dining experience.The old fashioned advertisements and memorabilia are not only fascinating but make patrons feel like they are visiting older family members.

Table Fidgets

For years, our sons fidgeted with the salt and pepper shakers or squabbled in restaurants with no Wi-Fi.
But that was before we discovered the  Cracker Barrel. Nowadays, they spend their time playing with the connect four and giant chess sets available at the tables and always have a good time.

Have you taken your kids to a Cracker Barrel Restaurant?
What was your experience?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is the Magic Restroom Cafe Fun for Kids with Autism?

 

This week we got to visit the newest addition to L A’s restaurant scene – The Magic Restroom Cafe.
Modeled after  Taiwan’s Modern Toilet restaurant chain, the owner, Yo-Li, decided to open the first toilet-themed eatery in the US.Unlike some readers’ remarks on social media who expressed disgust with the idea of mixing potty and food; my son with autism thought it was ‘ totally cool’ when I asked him to tag along and check the venue out.

The drive

The restaurant is located in a suburb shopping mall in the City of Industry, about 25 miles from downtown, away from the major tourist attractions. So, unless you happen to be in the immediate neighborhood, travelers can expect a bit of a drive getting there.
In the hour or so it took us to get there, Jeff got the chance to sharpen his map reading and navigation skills on the busy L.A freeways.

 

Magic Restroom Cafe:Outdoor Shopping Area

 

 

Magic Restroom Cafe:Entrance 2 Cool Cafe

 

 

The decor

As the name suggested; the central theme of the eatery was restrooms, so we weren’t expecting to be surprised by the decor but still curious to see how it was all put together.
The first thing visitors see as they enter four commodes on the side and four urinals in front -all with their respective plungers making it an ideal area for antsy kids to play in.
The restaurant’s interior decor can be described as minimalistic and edgy with vibrantly colored walls, showerheads in place of pictures and ample seating on latrines and benches.
In our case, after trying to sit with the lid up and then down  Jeff decided he preferred it up as it felt more ‘authentic.’

Magic Restroom Cafe:Bathroom Drawings

Magic Restroom Cafe:Jeffrey Sees Around Is the Magic Restroom Cafe Fun for Kids with Autism?

The food

The menu (not on toilet paper like we envisioned) includes an array of Taiwanese-Chinese appetizers and entrees like fried tofu and mango katsu fish. However, the restaurant’s real highlights are the gargantuan desserts and assortment of green and black lattes.
My son decided to skip lunch altogether and ordered a magic rainbow ice cream after seeing one served at a nearby table. Staying true to the restaurant’s theme all food items are served in super cute porcelain dishes resembling either western (chair) or Asian (squat) commodes.

 

 

Magic Restroom Cafe:Real Cool Bathroom Signs

 

Magic Restroom Cafe:Restraunt Cool Decor

 

Biggest disappointment

They don’t sell the commode dishes as souvenirs-Jeff who was eager to add to his vast collection of tchotchkes did ask the staff repeatedly.

Magic Restroom Cafe:Rows Of ToiletsIs the Magic Restroom Cafe Fun for Kids with Autism?

Magic Restroom Cafe:Seats & TableIs the Magic Restroom Cafe Fun for Kids with Autism?

In case, you were wondering

Yes, we did stop to use their facilities before heading back for the long drive on the freeway.I’m happy to report they were clean and had nothing unusual about them except the eco-friendly murals advising the patrons to save toilet paper and water.

 

Magic Restroom Cafe:Dessert In The Toilet

 

Magic Restroom Cafe:Is That Fried Rice In The Toilet?

 

Autism Travel Tips:

The restaurant has padded bench seating for those who find sitting on the commode uncomfortable.
Most tables are pretty close to each other so should you and your family require a more private setting ask your server for a separate table.
Parents to antsy kids should bring electronics as there is free Wi-Fi.We didn’t see any coloring pages or crayons available.
If your kid doesn’t like spicy food make sure you mention that to your server when you place your order.
For picky eaters spaghetti and chicken wings are an option offered.
No Gluten free options available at this time.

Magic Restroom Cafe:Flushing The Meal Down! Is the Magic Restroom Cafe Fun for Kids with Autism?
Magic Restroom Cafe:Fried Food In The CanIs the Magic Restroom Cafe Fun for Kids with Autism?

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