School is out and although the calendar may disagree, it’s officially summer in our house! For us, that means lots of outdoor time, water fun, ice cream, later bedtimes, more adventures, and so.many.memories!
We were invited by friends to a park in Palm Coast. Yes, Palm Coast. I know what you are thinking: “why would I want to drive an hour when Jacksonville is filled with parks?” I was curious to check this place out and knew my boys would be up for the adventure! We made our way to James F. Holland Memorial Park on a Thursday, leaving Jacksonville around 8:45am. (We attempted to get out earlier but you know how that goes!) The trip was a straight shot and took us just under an hour. PARKING PRO TIP: Continue driving around the park until you see both entrances. I didn’t realize there were spots all around the park and those were better than where I ended up parking. Even so, it was an easy 5-minute walk to the entrance, so no harm done.
The park is HUGE! 26 acres to be exact. There’s a walking trail around the perimeter that spans under a mile. There is a 1.5-acre dog park with two separate play areas, (one for large dogs and one for small), as well as wash-down stations. The facility has three tennis courts and one junior-sized tennis court, two shuffleboard courts, two basketball courts, four striped pickleball courts, two bocce ball courts, two horseshoe pits, a sand volleyball court, and two large multi-purpose sports fields complete with coverings for shade! PHEW!!!! We didn’t get to explore all of this, but clearly, they have something for everyone.
We spent most of our morning at the splash pad area and one of the parks. It was a warm day, so we decided to just let the kids run between the parks without changing. This ended up being a great idea, as it was nice to go back and forth. Because it was warm, I could have left our towels in the car as we never used them. (One less thing to tow back/forth!) We left our things under one of their 10 covered pavilions. PRO TIP: Wear something you don’t mind getting wet. I wore dri-fit shorts, a tank top, and flip flops which were perfect for the splash pads. (Though I do wish I brought a hat.) To note, there is a bathroom (nice and clean), as well as a water refill station. This was particularly key on such a warm day, especially to prepare us for the long drive home.
There were two sections to the splash pad (open 9am-7pm); one for toddlers and another larger one for the bigger kids. Both splash areas had all kinds of sprays in a variety of sizes and heights coming out of the ground. Some were shaped like animals native to Florida, including dolphins, turtles, and octopus. The animals are large enough for the kids to climb on! One of the cool things about the splash pad was every couple of minutes some features will turn off while other features will turn on. They kids went nuts with this, running around chasing the ones that went on!
The playground’s design was inspired by the Bulow Plantation Sugar Mill, which I was not familiar with. (This park serves as headquarters to the Palm Coast Historical Society where you can learn why this mill is significant.) There are so many large structures, we didn’t even get to all of them! I couldn’t tell you the names of some of them, nor have I ever seen some! Top 3 kid-favorites among our crew were the zip-line, train-structure, and touch light/sound game. The majority of the playground was shaded! (APPLAUSE for those sunny June-August days!) There is a climbing wall, a tree house, sandpit and digging area. There are tons of slides, ladders, swings, and a hill that’s just asking for children to roll down. Can you see why there wasn’t enough time to explore it all?
We took a bathroom and snack break, and boy did they work up an appetite! We played for just about 3 hours before heading home. I packed a lunch and the boys opted to eat in the car on the way home. (Play > lunch!) We changed in the car and off we went. One final tip for those of us with kids who hate long car rides: 95 is a major trucking route, and I decided to use this time as an opportunity to teach my boys how to ask the truckers to honk their horns. (The well-known arm pull as you stare out the window.) This was hilarious! I haven’t done this in years, and with every loud honk, all three of us laughed loudly! A truck driver once told me how much they miss this unspoken tradition, so it brought joy all around.
What a great day we had! Was it worth the drive? Absolutely! Will we be back? Already have another date on the calendar!