You have taken a beating lately about the number of vacations you have taken and your choices of holiday destinations. It has come to my attention that you are planning a short trip to the gulf coast, fulfilling a promise made earlier in the year. A most excellent choice. Being a lifelong visitor to the northwest Florida and Alabama coasts, if I may, I’d like to suggest a few pointers to help you have a good time and do a little salt-of-the-earth PR fence mending at the same time.
1. DO NOT go to Seaside, The Beaches of South Walton, or even Destin. We’re trying to project an image here. You COULD do Grand Isle (they have suffered the most) or Gulf Shores (FloraBama!), but I would suggest the perfect compromise: Fort Walton Beach. It’s a good combination of classy and tacky, and is a military town to boot!
2. You could get a nice condo on the island, but I’d suggest the Four Points Sheraton . You can’t miss the place, it’s the first one you see after you cross the Brooks Bridge. The Holiday Inn is nice, too. Much better than the old Playground Motel in town (don’t ask me how I know).
3. Make sure to walk across the street to Fudpuckers (the original). Order a Fudburger and Bud (let’s skip the Heinies and Blue Moons this time), and I’d suggest an Ultimate Fish Pucker for Michelle. There is a wonderful menu for the kids as well. Make sure to grab a "You ain’t been pucked till you’ve been Fudpucked!" T-shirt for Malia. Her classmates at Sidwell Friends will love it!
4. You probably don’t own any plastic flip-flops or inflatable dolphins, but there is a Wings souvenir shop on just about every corner. If you MUST go high-rent, try Alvin’s Island.
5. Visit the Gulfarium to see what’s left of the gulf sea life. It really is a fascinating place.
6. While Michelle and the girls are gathering sea shells and tar balls, give a visit to the Green Frog. (wait – I’ll bet Bill Clinton’s already told you about that one).
7. Instead of chartering a boat, throw a line off the Okaloosa Island Pier. Take Rahm and bring a case of Bud, because the fishing stinks this time of year there. Strike up a conversation with the little old Vietnamese ladies with the live bait. They could teach you a thing or two about patience.
8. After a long day drinking beer at the beach and throwing down a few more with your dinner at Pandora’s, make a 2am run to Waffle House. Knowing what "scattered, smothered, and covered" means is worth 2 points in the polls. Actually eating it is worth 3.
9. You’ll learn this pretty quickly, but you have to walk Emerald Coast sand barefoot. The sand is far more fine and powdery than anywhere else, especially Martha’s Vineyard. Also, you will be getting it out of your limo, Air Force One, and various body parts for months to come. Fort Walton Beach sand is the gift that keeps on giving.
10. Sasha absolutely, positively MUST get a henna tattoo.