When you walk into your suite at Innisbrook, A Salamander Resort for the first time, you won’t fully grasp all that’s before you. The full kitchen, dining room and living area will be pretty obvious, sure, but once you make the left down the hall, you might need a map.
On one side, you’ll spy a bathroom and, on the other, two bedrooms. Keep on going and you’ll reach a third bedroom and another full bath. All in all, the 1,000-plus square feet of fun make for a perfect family getaway.
But this Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Palm Harbor, Florida, property isn’t just a joy because of apartment-like accommodations. With a recently re-envisioned golf course, swoon-worthy seasonal dishes and a long list of holiday activities, the timing could not be better for a winter trek down to the Sunshine State.
Stay “fore” the golf
We’ve made some great memories on Innisbrook’s Island Course, but the next time we bring our clubs with us to the resort — don’t worry, December highs average around 70 degrees in Tampa — we’re playing the North Course, a beautiful layout that just reopened in early November after a four-month restoration.
Thanks to a no-till form of turf replacement, the Larry Packard-designed course has been transformed into a sleeker, firmer incarnation of its former self. Bunkers have been re-conditioned, too, but that probably won’t help errant shots on the 17th hole. And even with the expanded greens, if your approach on 10 isn’t just right, you’re still going to have a lot of work to do to salvage par.
Once you finish a round on the North Course (or any of the resort’s three other championship greens, for that matter), grab a bite at Turnberry Pub. You could probably get full off the warm energy of the place alone, but we’d understand if you wanted to supplement your chuckles with a chicken panino or bratwurst.
Try the food
Thankfully, the tastiness only begins at the pub. Market Salamander Grille is a great place for families to gather any time of day — we especially appreciate morning delights such as the French toast, huevos rancheros and the fluffily divine buttermilk pancakes.
Come dinnertime, Packard’s Steakhouse takes center stage. The resort’s signature restaurant has a vintage feel that’s only heightened by white tablecloths, wine bottle displays and wood and leather accents. Couples celebrating anniversaries (or just a quiet weekend) can be seen sharing red curry Gulf grouper at one table while, at another, a kind server is overheard asking a five-year-old girl if she wants chocolate sprinkles on her ice cream.
If you’re visiting the restaurant in December, you’re in luck as an array of holiday-themed meals will be prepared. The three-course Christmas Day feast, for instance, features seasonal delights such as a baby green and Granny Smith apple salad, a rack of lamb and white chocolate cheesecake. And trust us, if the kitchen plans on preparing the Cajun-style rib-eye that night like it did the New York strip a few months earlier, your taste buds will be in heaven.
Bask in the holidays
Salamander properties love the holidays. With some big dates on the horizon, Innisbrook is pulling out all the celebratory stops through the new year. On December 16, the Loch Ness Pool — already one of our favorite water playgrounds in Florida — will turn into a winter wonderland with a gingerbread-making workshop, a trim-a-tree race and a “snowman”-building contest.
On December 24, the resort will celebrate National Egg Nog Day with a $6 special on a spiked version of the classic at Packard’s and Market Salamander Grille.
And then on December 31, Innisbrook will put on its finest Times Square impersonation with family-focused festivities (kid’s balloon drop, snowball toss, team race) at Loch Ness and a three-course meal at Packard’s that will deliciously ring in 2018.