Our kids are now 4 and 6 and are totally up for adventure! We're excited about this because we feel like we've been on hiatus from our long trips since they were born, yet we're still scared to take them on long car rides or airplane trips. That's why we were looking forward to heading to Jekyll Island after Thanksgiving! We were heading off on a fun adventure...in another state at that...yet it was only a short hour and a half car ride and minimal prep. We were excited to explore the Jekyll Island Club Resort, a historically designated property that started as a hunt club when it was built in 1879, changed to a private retreat for the nation's wealthiest in 1888 and went through a series of events from war, to abandonment, to restoration where it was opened to the public in 1987, especially during the holidays! Holly Jolly Jekyll is a great time to be on Jekyll Island and experience the festive fun from the home base of the resort, which is in the center of all the activities! From the Lighting of the Tree Festival, the cottages next to the resort all lit up and decorated for the holidays, Santa's arrival, and amazing local dining, it's definitely worth a stay at the club to experience the fun, or you could even just head up and enjoy a holiday day trip! Scroll down for 4 family friendly activities on Jekyll Island during Holly Jolly Jekyll!
1. Jekyll Island Skating Village
Yes, yes we can ice skate down south! Ok, maybe it's not a frozen pond...or even ice for that matter, but we sure can have the same amount of ice skating fun! The Jekyll Island Skating Village pops up before Thanksgiving and runs until a few days after New Year's (this year it runs November 17 - January 6, 2019). It has a synthetic material, which is great for kids so they aren't scared when they fall because their hands aren't cold and it's softer on the fall, and real ice skates. They also have ice skating walkers for kids to help them enjoy skating on their own and leaving the adults with a few minutes of hands free fun! My daughter loved this part of Holly Jolly Jekyll the most and asked about it constantly until we got there. At just $5/person, including skates, for 30 minutes of fun, it's a perfect activity for family and we loved the holiday decor and views of the rink overlooking the sound!
2. Historic Holiday Lights and Decor
We love driving to look at holiday lights and we had so much fun with the lights and decorations at Jekyll Island and the Resort! Holiday lights displays run from November 17 - January 6, 2018 and similar dates in other years. At the resort you can see lights on their beloved oaks on the Great Lawn where the whimsical Christmas Tree is lighted every night, they have huge Christmas Trees throughout the lobby and in The Pantry as well as in the check in areas, and the resort is light up at night! Also, Great Dunes Park and Beach Village has lighted displays in each parking area on the beach side of the island. It was so neat for the kids to see the historic buildings decorated and lit up - they loved the Christmas Trees and we loved relaxing in each lobby space!
3. Festival and Parade Fun
We were excited to visit Jekyll Island Club Resort on Thanksgiving weekend so we could experience the Tree Lighting Festival! It was fun to skip the shopping and hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping and concentrate on being with family and celebrating the beginning of the season. The Tree Lighting Festival is a free event that runs from 2:00pm - 8:00pm each year and has a shopping village, food trucks, a huge kids zone with bounce houses and small carnival rides (this area was an all access extra fee), free crafts, free candy cane hunt, the ice skating village is open for $5 skating, and a live band performed for the night. Once it became dark, Santa arrived at the top balcony of one of the cottages and asked the kids for help in counting down to light the Christmas Tree. Everyone counted and the band helped and once the tree was lit the fireworks began! We were so impressed with this event and would love to go back again! It's a must do for the Saturday after Thanksgiving and you can easily drive up for a day trip!
4. Dining at Jekyll Island Club Resort
By far my biggest highlight of our trip to Jekyll Island Club Resort was the dining and the fact that my children ate everything at EVERY meal! That is a huge thing for a parent - relaxing while EVERYONE is happily eating and knowing there will be no meltdowns from picky eaters later. In fact, if you ask my kids their favorite part of the trip, they'll say, "Eating at that restaurant on the water with the squid!" Yup, all three of our picky eaters devoured the fried calamari appetizer at The Wharf Restaurant! The food on Jekyll is so fresh and tasty! The fish, crabs, and Georgia shrimp are caught from right out on the sound daily, the beans and rice are sourced from local farms, and everything is cooked to southern perfection. We treated our family to dinner at the resort's The Wharf Restaurant, a seafood restaurant right on the water, right after the fireworks from the Tree Lighting Festival. The entrees were on the pricier side, but well worth watching the kids dive in for more and listening to the adults say, "Oh my gosh this soup is AMAZING you try some," and, "That fried fish and chips was better than anything in England - I'm eating the rest of yours," and, "These are the BEST fried shrimp I've ever had!" You'd think we weren't from a Jacksonville ocean side town with plenty of seafood options! Definitely try the clam and corn chowder and the seafood gumbo!
My daughter and I had a special mommy/daughter brunch buffet with tea at the Grand Dining Room at the Jekyll Island Club Resort. She loved the fresh biscuits and jams and I loved the cheese grits and sausage. The oatmeal was the most amazing concoction of smooth oats and heavy cream I'm sure and we loved the granola, raisins, and brown sugar toppings. Such an elegant space and memorable experience with my daughter!
We ate most meals at The Pantry at the resort where they had a la cart items for lunch and breakfast. The first night we were lucky enough to finish our pizza and lasagna dinner at Red Bug Motors Pizza and Pub where my kids ate my entire salad, my whole lasagna plate and a cheese pizza between the two of them (proud mom - the kids eating and happy!!) before the power went out to the entire island! This happens sometimes the entire back side of the island went dark. We had a fun adventure driving back to the hotel (who has a generator for these types of things and where everything was all lit up and working just fine). All the restaurants were full of people, yet completely dark with the only lights coming from smart phone flash lights as families finished dinner. We loved the dark starry night and seeing deer walking on the side of the road as we drove through the natural state park side of the island! Luckily my sister and her family were able to order in for room service and they had an amazing fish dinner in peace while their son slept peacefully.
We loved our holiday trip to the Jekyll Island Club Resort this Thanksgiving break! We'd highly recommend it as a destination for families. From the beautiful hotel to explore, to the holiday lights and skating village, to amazing dining options, we enjoyed every moment! Holiday festivities run through January 6, 2019 and you can find all the fun events, here. If you'd like more info on staying at the resort and various seasonal booking specials, visit their website or follow their social media channels below!
Jekyll Island Club Resort Instagram
Full disclosure: Our stay at the Jekyll Island Club Resort was complimentary as were the various activities while visiting the island. Our opinions are completely our own! We are grateful for this amazing experience for our family and are so thankful to Jekyll Island Club Resort for the experience!