Destination Birthday — The Inn at Kelly’s Ford: How to throw an overnight sweet 16 birthday party!

Who doesn’t love a good party? And a sweet sixteen at that!

When you add in a short drive to a beautiful and serene setting, what’s not to love! If you are looking to host or throw a destination sweet sixteen birthday party, read on! 

Let’s all face it, turning 16 can be lots of work for mama’s… especially for girls! Coming up with sweet 16 birthday party ideas that will not completely break the bank is tricky! Over the years, as my three kids were celebrating birthdays, many of the parties were done right at home (and even before Pinterest, yikes!). Wonderful memories indeed! But for my daughter’s sweet 16, after brainstorming numerous ideas, we decided to have a quaint destination party that she and her friends could remember for a long time.  We combined her love for horses and the outdoors, with the sun and pool and added in a photo shoot, food and lots of sugar! (What 16-year-old girl doesn’t like taking photos and eating candy?!).

The Inn at Kelly’s Ford was the perfect setting to accomplish all of our ideas. It was basically a two day, all-girl slumber party on steroids (I mean sugar)! Here are some of the highlights from her destination birthday party with ideas, and tips on saving a few bucks.

Choosing the location — The Inn at Kelly’s Ford is less than an hour from our home in the little town of Remmington, VA. Getting there was not an issue and the drive out is so pretty. No planes or trains, just automobiles to transport my daughter and her friends. Since the Inn has accommodations on the property, we booked a cottage for a night’s stay, basically allowing for two day’s worth of activities. The cottage had plenty of room for everyone and also gave my husband and me a room to escape all the girl talk!

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Activities, activities and more activities — There was no boredom going on here! Lots to do to keep everyone happy. When we booked our cottage, I also booked reservations for horseback riding and canoeing— one activity for each day. Since we had LOTS of open space, I created a scavenger hunt. They divided into two teams and searched the grounds for clues. The inn has a pool on the property… perfect for swimming and soaking in the sun.  The following morning, while I cleaned and packed away all the decorations and food, my husband made the canoe trek down the Rappahannock. (I wish I would have gone on that trip, but someone had to stay back and get all packed up!)

SAY CHEESE! — Since most girls love getting dressed up, and we had a perfect photo shoot setting, I took time with each girl to take photos as well as fun group shots. This was not only a way for my daughter to capture her party, but the photos were given to each of her friends as a takeaway… (Or to just use as a new profile pic!) It was nice for her brothers to stop by to wish her a happy birthday, which gave me a chance to snap a few of all three of my kiddos.

Dining Al Fresco — In keeping with the theme and not having to spend a fortune on a sit-down meal in the restaurant, we elected to order takeout food from Pelham’s Pub and have our own patio dinner decorated in, you guessed it… pink! I basically was the waitress, but at least I didn’t have to cook the meal! The Inn was nice to help deliver the take out to the patio where I set the table for the girls. The girls decided on a really fancy dinner… chicken tenders, onion rings and fries! I brought in muffins, fruits, juices, etc. for breakfast the next morning. No one’s going hungry around here!

Sixteen Candles — For many of my children’s birthdays, I have attempted to decorate cakes or cupcakes. Most times I even baked them too! (crazy, I know!) Since I wanted to get a little creative, but save time, I ordered a crumb crusted cake from the Harris Teeter bakery along with extra white buttercream frosting that I could color myself. I searched youtube videos on how to decorate.  It was fun and simple and paired perfectly with all the pink accents from the party!

Decorations — Since I envisioned lots of pinks and girly things, I decided to save money and purchase pink roses from Giant instead of ordering from a flower shop. I cut the stems down a bit and used mason jars as my vases. These definitely added a simple, yet dainty touch I was going for. (I picked up a box of mason jars at Walmart and used some for vases as well as drinking glasses.) Keeping cost down but making a big statement, I purchased pink tissue paper to make giant paper flowers. I shopped at Michael’s craft store for colored paper and stickers to make a “Celebrate” banner. They also had cute frames to display and the girls could take for their photos. I also wanted to display some old photos of my daughter along with her friends so I printed photos in various sizes and used ribbon and clothespins to display them throughout the room. For the sweet 16 candy bar, I found plenty of pink candy at Party City. I also purchased a small helium tank and balloons and blew them up once on site. One of my favorites was the personalized cookies from Baked by Rachel. I sent a photo of the invitation (designed by my best friend Jennifer) and Rachel matched them perfectly.  I think we accomplished having enough sugar and pink at this shindig!

Not gonna lie… I worked really hard to pull off this two-day party… Lots of planning and preparation, but in the end, I would do it all over again. (Shout out to the hubby too!) I loved every minute of it and I sure hope my daughter remembers this milestone birthday! It was a fun way to explore with friends, celebrate, and make lifelong memories! Would you plan and host a destination birthday party? If so, I promise it will be worth it!

 

*no endorsements here—just my opinions and recommendations. All photos property of Elisabeth Bryson Photography.

 

 

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Quick, pack your bags! We are going to Hawaii! 6 days exploring Oahu, Hawaii

ALOHA! We literally booked a last minute trip to Oahu, Hawaii on a Wednesday, – – and flew out on Saturday! But sometimes last-minute trips turn out to be the best family trips. Not a ton of planning to stress over, just dreaming of white sandy beaches with a breeze and palm trees.

So if you’re looking for a vaca where the city meets the mountains and ocean,

check out all that Oahu, Hawaii has to offer.

Here are some of our favorite family adventures in Oahu, Hawaii.

  • Sunrise at Makapuu Point — If you are flying from the east coast to Hawaii, chances are you will be up earlier than the sunrise, so you might as well go enjoy the sun rising over the beautiful blue ocean. It is definitely worth the hike up to Makapuu Lighthouse to see this beautiful sight. Check the sunrise times and allow enough time to drive, park and hike the one-mile trail to the lookout. (The lighthouse is off limits). Since the gates may not open until after sunrise, park on the road outside the gate (like the locals) and hike on. The elevation is 500 feet, so a water bottle comes in handy. Breathtaking views of the sunset await you!
  • Do go chasing waterfalls! We stumbled across the beautiful Hamama waterfall in Kaneohe, Hawaii found on private property that is owned by the Board of Water Supply. It was a beautiful one hour hike to reach the falls (4 miles round trip). A moderate, slippery and rocky hike, but well worth it. There are posted signs so be mindful and stay on the path. The state asks hikers to obtain a permit first, though not mandatory.  A nice well kept secret and not a tourist trap…just park legally on the street. Take water, and bug spray. Wear your bathing suit as you will want to jump in!
  • Chief’s Luau — Highly recommend this Luau! Even though this luau is set in a water park, you quickly forget your surroundings once the show begins. The entertainment is on point with Chief Sielu Avea…funny, talented and a world champion fire-knife dancer. And, if it’s your anniversary, be prepared to be amazed and treated to a sweet moment with your spouse. The Hawaiian feast was really yummy, and the Mia Tai cocktails were refreshing. I really enjoyed the quaint setting and we were really made to feel like ohana (family). If you would like a flower lei, then be sure to book the Royal experience, or you can also purchase one as well.
  • Hike Diamond Head  —  Lace up your tennis shoes, grab a bottle of water and your camera, and head out to see the 300,000-year-old crater, Diamond Head. The view from the top of Diamond Head State Monument is worth the hot hike and when you return, chances are you will be able to refresh with a shaved ice or a pineapple smoothie. If you are pregnant or have health concerns, please note there are steps and steep inclines to hike. Also, depending on the time of day and year, most likely the trail will be crowded with others tourists. Allow two hours round trip. But a must do when in Oahu!
  • Turtle Bay — When we arrived at the north shore we spent a few hours at Turtle Bay Resort snorkeling and looking for sea turtles. (free parking, beach is public)  Definitely, the place to find sea turtles. And plumeria flowers were falling from the trees which meant we could enjoy a little Hawaiian flair in our hair!
  • Food trucks at the North Shore— if you are staying at the north shore or choose to take a day trip there, you need to pull over and have a picnic at one of the many food trucks. If you like seafood, you’re in luck with the fish tacos, but if you’re like me and not a fan, you can also find a refreshing smoothie. It was nice to support the locals and the food was really good!

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  • Ted’s Bakery at the North Shore — Great coffee and yummy treats! Ted’s bakery was a great find on our drive to the North Shore. Too many items to rave about, so be sure to stop in yourself and take a peek/bite!

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  • Dole Pineapple Plantation — Since we spent more time at the north shore, we didn’t allow time to explore the plantation, however, a trip to Hawaii would not be complete without tasting their famous Dole Whip. So Dole Whip it was! If you do have time to stop by the plantation, hop on the train that will take you around the plantation, walk through the gardens and the get lost in the world’s largest maze!
  • Deep Sea Fishing — The boys boarded Maggie Joe for a day of deep sea fishing (while the girls hit up the spa!) If you are looking for a guided fishing experience be sure to check them out. Successful day on the deep blue sea!
  • Shopping and eating at Waikiki Beach —  Whether you are a shopaholic or just a dreamer, you will find high-end stores like Tiffany’s & Co., Kate Spade, Rolex to name a few! Visit Duke’s  — one of our favorite restaurants. But, rest assured, it will most likely be packed. Making reservations in advance is recommended. Looking for a few gifts to take to friends? Stop by the Honolulu Cookie Company. You can even sample the flavors! Whatever you are looking for, you will most likely find it in Honolulu!
  • Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon— Ten years prior to this trip, we actually stayed at the Hilton Hawaiin Village (located beside the lagoon, more expensive, oceanfront, but highly recommend). This trip we stayed at the Ala Moana Hotel (less expensive, not ocean front)… we had a car so we drove, parked for free, and enjoyed the beach and lagoon each day. Parking was free at the Ala Wai Harbor (section with free parking, otherwise metered parking). If you’re looking to save money,  be sure to visit the Zon (Amazon) before your trip and purchase a float and snorkel kit to use each day at the beach, or pick up one at the local ABC Store. Amazing views of Diamond Head while enjoying the beach. We purchased two beach mats at Walmart and they were perfect for our family of 5! Hanging with my family at Waikiki Beach in Honolulu meant time to relax, talk, float and look for sea turtles.

 

Other must do’s that we have done in the past are Pearl Harbor and the Polynesian Culture Center.  Oahu has so much to offer …definitely worth the 14 hour travel time!

As my children grow older, I find that quality time is greater than quantity time. We are always going in 50 million directions so when the stars aligned to got to Hawaii, I packed my bag and counted my blessings! Until we visit again, Hawaii. Aloha!

*NOTE: No endorsements here! Just my thoughts and recommendations from my personal travel experiences. I have traveled to the Hawaiian Islands four times and visited Oahu, Maui, Hawaii, and Kawaii.