Having a loved one turn 90 is an occasion that happens once, if ever, in most families, so we wanted to celebrate our mom’s big birthday in a big way. Here are ten tips we learned from planning a family reunion for a hard-to-please matriarch, maybe one like yours.
Evoke Nostalgia with the Right Destination.
Like a chameleon, the ever-evolving Miami Beach wraps itself in the latest fashion and thus, appeals to all ages. It was a nostalgic choice for Mom and a place of happy memories. She could also say that Miami Beach was celebrating its 100th birthday, while she was only turning 90.
Memories are Forever. Pick the Right Hotel.
A chic Art Deco beauty, The Cadet Hotel is just two blocks inland from the beachfront boardwalk, which the teens and fitness buffs loved. During WWII, it housed Army recruits led by Captain Clark Gable; Mom loved saying she might be sleeping in his bed!
Explain Your Needs to the Hotel, They Want to Please.
Giulia Loiacono, GM of the 38-room Cadet, could not have been more helpful in booking adjacent ground floor rooms. The homey Cadet was small enough that Mom could easily navigate to her room. The staff, young and energetic, largely Latino, had enormous affection for elders and helped her at every move.
Provide Activities for all Ages.
Having a variety of options and events is crucial when your reunion includes disparate ages. Some family members ignored brunch; my son skipped a walking tour of Little Haiti; my brother took Mom shopping on Lincoln Road.
Bring in Familiar Elements like Friends.
Our reunion was close to Mom’s home in Boca Raton, so we invited many of her friends to dinner. Including her peers meant a lot– as much as she loves her family, she was delighted to share her celebration with good girlfriends.
Maximize Diversions, Minimize Walking.
Mom is still a doer, so finding activities that didn’t require too much walking or physical exertion was important. A sightseeing boat like the popular Miami Pirate Duck Tour is an ideal outing for mobile seniors. It takes just a few steps to board the craft and the broad bench seats are comfortable. There’s a canvas top to block the sun, and open-air sides that let in the breeze. No one felt the least bit seasick.
Make New Memories. Experience is a Lasting Gift.
Everyone was onboard the amphibious vehicle for a 90-minute guided tour that went from the Art Deco District into Biscayne Bay. We sailed around several islands lined with stars’ homes; Julio Iglesias’ house drew the most ooohh’s and aaahhh’s. With Captain Ralph at the helm and the very knowledgeable, frisky Pirate Kenny entertaining us and teaching the latest dance moves, it gets a big thumbs up.
Splurge on a Celebratory Meal.
The Cadet Hotel’s restaurant, Pied a Terre, is a truly gourmet, fine dining restaurant where we held our Birthday supper. Every season, a Michelin-starred chef from France is invited to spend 10 days at the hotel and suggest new dishes. Once restauranteur Patrick Marc Gruest has made his selections, the visiting chef tutors the house staff and leaves behind a special menu. Our private party for 10 was held in the garden and, paired with Patrick’s selection of wines and a Tiramisu birthday cake, was outstanding.
Big Gestures Mean A Lot.
A dozen birthday balloons decorated Mom’s room, annoying but catchy. A stretch limousine was our mode of transport, a thrill. Champagne arrived with birthday cake, a perfect finale.
Commemorate the Experience.
Once the weekend was over, the real work began. We are currently editing a photobook as a souvenir that Mom can reread or show off to others. Until then, there are plenty of memories and a number of witnesses to share them with!
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