African American Family On Beach


I’m not going to lie: with all that’s happened in our world over the past few weeks, it’s been hard to get into any kind of holiday spirit, much less plan and execute a fun family getaway. Who, after all, can think about respite when families are hurting and angry and taking to the streets in search of justice? We are grieving; fun hasn’t felt like an option since I announced to my daughters that we were going on a quick vacay to Kiawah Island as part of the Residence Inn #RIFamily program.

The thing is, self-care in the midst of turmoil needs to be a priority. Taking time to embrace family and celebrate life and create memories my children can hold on to is as necessary today as… air. Simply put: we needed to get away—to hold tight to what’s real and what matters to us. To find just a small measure of peace. To get to love. And so we did.

And what an incredible time we had.


Residence Inn Kiawah Porch Swing

We arrived to Kiawah, a small, privately-owned island off the coast of South Carolina in the late evening, after a six-hour drive. The country sky was filled with stars, perfect for star-gazing from the swing settee at the hotel’s entrance, and our girls wasted not one moment getting comfortable there, plotting our family time while Nick and I checked in. As hungry and anxious as we were to get to a restaurant with good food (for the family) and wine (for the adults who needed to unwind after the drive) we had a hard time pulling away from the gorgeous Residence Inn Kiawah (also known as The Andell Inn). Opened earlier this year, it is a feast for the eyes: beautifully appointed in lush, earthy colors and textures, with floor-to-ceiling glamour sparkling throughout, with a wrap-around porch, a pool with a posh cabana overlooking the lake, and a stately bar situated to provide the perfect view of the sunset. The kids had quite the time pulling me from the art-filled hallways, with museum-quality paintings, sketches and sculptures by local artists that made the walls come to life. Truly, it wouldn’t have been a thing for us to lounge around on the sofas in front of the roaring fireplace, soaking in the ambience while we watched the evening unfold.

Residence Inn Kiawah Lobby.jpg


Alas, as pretty as they thought the Residence Inn Kiawah is, Mari and Lila would have none of that sitting around. We had some exploring to do—and dinner to eat. We ended up at La Tela Pizzeria because… pizza. And pasta. Which was absolutely divine. And just a short walk from The Residence Inn Kiaway, making it easy for us to enjoy a leisurely dinner of chicken parmesan (for me and Mari) and pizza (for Nick and Lila) before enjoying the crisp night air on the way back to this piece of paradise…

Residence Inn Suite

That would be our suite at The Residence Inn Kiawah. It was every bit as lush as the common areas of the hotel, but with an intimate feel that made it just like home. Ours was a two-bedroom dreamland with a living room, two bathrooms and an eat-in kitchen stocked with everything we needed to prepare family meals: pots, four place settings, drinking and wine glasses, coffee and tea, a refrigerator and plenty of counter space to work it all out. Since we were on vacay, I warned everyone within the sound of my voice that I had absolutely no intention of cooking a doggone thing, but if I wasn’t being a lazy bucket, I could have easily hooked up something fabulous there. Instead, the girls spread out on the queen-sized beds in their room and tapped into the free Wi-Fi to watch some shows on Netflix, and Nick and I retreated to the king-sized bed in our room to pass out. We woke up to this…

Room View at Residence Inn Kiawah


A disclaimer: I’m not a nature girl. By any stretch. I do not dig the woods. I do not do bugs. I like dogs—specifically, my dog—but that’s about all the love I have for getting up close to animals. I’ve been on one outdoor camping trip. That was one too many. But this kind of nature experience? Where I can wake up in a super comfy bed and see the sun shining over a lake with all manner of beautiful bird swooping down on a manicured landscape? Oh. My. The sky, the trees, the water—all of it looked divine on our picture-perfect morning. From the moment I opened my eyes, I knew it was going to be a beautiful day. God deemed this so. Lila, who was in charge of plotting out what we would do for fun on our one full day on Kiawah, chose bike riding, so we got up and got ready to hit the road. But first, we headed downstairs for this…

Breakfast at Residence Inn Kiawah Island

That would be a full-on free breakfast in The Residence Inn Kiawah dining room. Waffles. An assortment of breads. Fruit, cereal and yogurt. Eggs prepared any way we wanted, plus sausage, bacon and grits. Coffee and tea. And mimosas. Mimosas, yo. They had it all. I couldn’t think of a better way to start off the morning than with a full, delicious breakfast that I didn’t have to prepare, that was included with our stay. *church wave* Then we headed here…

Bikes in Kiawah Island

This beautiful bike shop, just a short walk from The Residence Inn Kiawah, was the spot Lila chose for our bike rentals. It was perfect. We rented four bikes for less than $40—a steal—and, after a little wobbling on my part (hey, I hadn’t been on a bike in years), we took a two-mile ride through Kiawah Islands, past marshes, over bridges, through stately neighborhoods and along bike paths that led to the most beautiful, pristine beach I’ve been to in quite some time. Because it was late fall, it was much too chilly for anyone to spread out on the sand, so the beach was wide open for all manner of connecting with nature in the way that I love most: face to the sky, sun shining down, the sound of the ocean washing the air in its sweet melody. It was in those moments that we laughed and ran and hugged ourselves and each other and raced with the wind on our bicycles, enjoying one another in a way that I will never, ever forget. Truly, this was a treasure. A blessing.

Kiawah Island Beach

The Station was the perfect spot for a leisurely lunch after our glorious bike ride and dalliance with Mother Earth. Bellies full with hamburgers and Rueben sandwiches, we walked back to the hotel and promptly passed out on those comfy, squishy beds again (well, I did anyway, while Nick watched a football game and the girls giggled and danced in the livingroom) until the sun started to set. This was the view from our window…

Sunset at Residence Inn Kiawah Island

We headed into Charleston—just a 20 minute drive—for dinner at Coast, where we noshed on a low country seafood feast that was absolutely divine. Mari was responsible for picking the restaurants, and this one was a home run. While we dined on raw oysters, grilled tuna and seafood pasta, we couldn’t help but to talk smack, though, about what was about to go down back at the hotel—another event set up by Totally Lila. Cupcakes were involved. So was wine. And complimentary Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and rosemary popcorn the hotel left for us. And this here poker set…

Family Game Night at Residence Inn Kiawah

Yes, we put that living room and kitchen table to stellar use with a friendly game of poker. Which, in our family, is never really quite friendly. Especially when Lila and Mari clean their parents’ clocks. I just couldn’t get a good hand going. But I had not one problem consoling my losses with this here red velvet cupcake from The Cupcake Down South, a dessert cafe in Charleston…

Residence Inn Kiawah Snack

The next morning, Mari set us up for breakfast at Southern Kitchen, where the low country breakfasts made us happy happy, joy joy. My shrimp and stone ground grits with sausage and peppers and all manner of spices and southern goodness made me giddy. Just GIDDY. And, as if to provide the perfect punctuation to our much-needed getaway, after we pushed ourselves away from the table and packed our bags and bid farewell to the beautiful Residence Inn Kiawah, we stumbled across this…

The Angel Tree Panoramic

Family at The Angel Tree Johns Island

That would be the legendary Angel Tree. Located on Johns Island, the tree is estimated to be more than 1500 years old, making it is the oldest living organism east of the Mississippi River. It stands 66.5 ft tall, with a trunk measuring 28 ft in circumference, and enough lumbering limbs and leaves to shade 17,200 square feet. It is on land once owned by the Angel Family, which explains the name of the tree. But according to local Black lore, it was a slave lynching tree. Those with the gift can see their angel spirits guarding the grand oak. For our family, this sacred place was beautiful and heartbreaking. Our history. We whispered and walked gingerly around her, and prayed for the souls of our people thanked her for beauty and strength and life.

Indeed, this is exactly the message we needed as we ended our quick, affordable, fun getaway to The Residence Inn Kiawah Island. That time, however short, helped us steel ourselves from the trauma in our midst and really reconnect as a family in a space that felt like home. Like that Angel Tree, we saw beauty and life and lived it, too, giving us the strength to head back to Atlanta feeling refreshed and ready to… be.

* * *

This post was made possible by the Residence Inn Moms program in conjunction with Residence Inn by Marriott. Of course, all opinions are my own.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. Glad you had fun! This is such a beautiful place, it make me feel like taking a holyday (but I can’t!). And the bed was designed for having one of these long, restful nap.

  2. Glad you all enjoyed yourself. The girls are growing wonderful. What a beautiful family. This makes me miss Georgia and South Carolina.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.