Good day! I’m Laura and I’m so excited to share a day in the life of a mom in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. My husband and I both grew up in Chicago. In the 15 years since we’ve been married, we lived in Baltimore, D.C., New York City, Fez (Morocco), and Kabul (Afghanistan) before landing in St. Thomas. I wished you a “good day” at the very beginning because a formal greeting of “good morning,” “good day,” “good afternoon,” good evening,” or “good night” to every person you encounter is an important part of life here in St. Thomas. It is polite and expected, from a casual passing on the street to a business meeting, and every interaction in between. It was the first lesson I learned when my husband and I relocated to St. Thomas five years ago, and it has served me well, both on the island and in bringing a touch of grace and goodwill to my interactions when on the mainland.
I’m a classical singer and my job has me traveling off-island a great deal. My husband is a lawyer and first came to the island for a clerkship with the local court. We stayed when he took a position as an attorney with a law firm, right around the time our daughter Elizabeth (now almost three) was born. Incidentally, I was three months pregnant when the Zika virus scare first erupted, and the Caribbean was NOT a place for an anxious first-time expectant mother. Out of an abundance of caution, several of my pregnant friends and I chose to leave the island to avoid the disease. I returned from my self-imposed exile with a newborn nine months later. Thankfully, Zika seems to be a worry of the past. According to local officials and the CDC website, no cases of the virus have been reported in St. Thomas in more than a year.
An additional hardship we’ve had to overcome during our time living here was the arrival of two category five hurricanes (Irma and Maria) in September 2017. I won’t sugarcoat it: the experience was terrifying and the months afterward were very difficult. I could write an entire book about that period, but in the interest of brevity, I will say that I have been amazed at the way people in this community banded together to lift each other up. I witnessed so many humbling acts of kindness and bravery. Recovery is an ongoing process, and many people still live with damaged homes and deal with issues related to job scarcity, but there was a major push to bring the tourism industry back on-line as quickly as possible and we have been open for business again for over a year. Notwithstanding everything I just said, it’s a wonderful and amazingly beautiful place, and there are so many reasons we’re glad to call it home. We love having visitors!
8:00 AM–Beach-bound at Magen’s Bay Beach
By 8:00 AM, we’ve already been awake for 2-and-a-half hours. Elizabeth’s internal clock is perma-set to 5:30 AM. I’ve never been a morning person, but one of the positives to being awake early every day is seeing the sun rise over world-famous Magen’s Bay from our front porch with a home-brewed cup of Virgin Islands Coffee Roasters coffee in hand. Elizabeth’s favorite place is the beach. I like to take her there as early or late in the day as possible to avoid the worst of the sun’s punishing rays. As our favorite beach–Magens Bay Beach–is just a seven-minute drive from our house, it doesn’t have to be an incredibly time-consuming outing. If I feel like I need another caffeine infusion en route, my two favorite coffee shops are Scoops and Brew (Crown Bay Marina) and Sibs Mountain Café (Northside). For my toddler, I like swimsuits with full-coverage, like the Mott 50 Mini Mila (they also have matching ones in adult sizes!). We pair that with a sun hat from Janie and Jack or Flappy Hat, as well as Think Baby sunscreen on her face and other exposed skin. Reef-safe sunscreen is very important to us on the island. I appreciate that it comes in two forms: lotion (easier for arms and legs) and stick (easier for face).
We don’t drag along an elaborate beach array: just beach towels for sitting on, an IKEA bucket and shovel for sand play, and a basic Body Glove puddle jumper vest for added safety for my pre-swimmer. The bay beach waves are gentle and easily navigable for a toddler. The water is clear and sparkling turquoise, and even an hour at the beach feels like a vacation in paradise. I think everything we own has a little bit of sand on it, and my car is a virtual sandbox on wheels. We head home to shower. Elizabeth then enjoys playing on her plastic Little Tykes gym and coloring with sidewalk chalk on our back patio until lunch. As the weather is generally pleasant here year-round, we live a very indoor/outdoor-fluid life.
LUNCH–Eating out in the historic downtown district Charlotte Amalie
When we are in the mood to eat out, these are a few places located in the historic district of downtown Charlotte Amalie we venture out to:
Royal Dane Mall
They serve delectable local Caribbean dishes.
Yacht Haven Grande
Wonderful menu and dockside location. See fabulous yachts and massive cruise ships up close! If we’re in the mood for a nicer-than-everyday dining experience, this place is my go-to.
24A Honduras, Rue de St. Barthelemy
Delicious sandwiches. You can eat in their dining room, but I usually take my orders to go. Perfect fare for an easy beach picnic.
3 PM–Off to the Virgin Islands Children’s Museum
Elizabeth still naps like a champ from 1 PM to 3 PM, but she wakes up with tons of energy and the best place to take her to get her wiggles out is the Virgin Islands Children’s Museum. An annual family membership is very reasonably priced, and it’s the best money I’ve spent as a mom. Not only do they have tons of fun activities and an indoor playground, but it’s also air conditioned! Electricity is so expensive here that most homes do not have air conditioning. It’s usually not a problem, but in the middle of the day in the summer, when the heat is at its most oppressive, the VICM is a welcome haven of coolness.
As about 50,000 people live on St. Thomas, there’s a small-town feeling and we almost always run into other families we know when we visit the museum. Other activities that are close to the VICM that you might enjoy trying if you’re visiting are the Pirates Treasure Museum and the Sky Ride mountain tram. There’s a casual-fare restaurant at the top called Paradise Point that’s great for kids, and the views are unparalleled. If I need an afternoon caffeine pick-me-up, Barefoot Buddha (across from Havensight Mall) and Stir it Up (Port of Sale Mall) are steps away. If we want a sweet treat, we head over to Suga Mama’s Bakery (Raphune Hill), where we also might make a quick stop next door to my favorite gallery for local art, Mango Tango. Another place that we visit frequently is the Phantasea Tropical Botanical Garden on the north side of the island. It’s a peaceful property on which to trek hilly trails and take in the stunning local flora. A stroller would not work here–baby-wearing non-walkers are ideal. Given my strong interest in orchid cultivation, I always leave with a new plant to add to my collection.
Dinner–Keeping It Casual at the Hull Bay Beach Hideaway
We almost never go out for dinner, but if we do, we go to the Hull Bay Beach Hideaway–a super casual kid- and dog-friendly outdoor bar and restaurant right on Hull Bay Beach. It’s a great choice any time, but they also have specific family nights during which they show Disney movies on a large screen over their open lawn. They frequently have live music. Watch the sunset over the ocean while chatting with friends and letting the kids run and play between bites of food. It always makes for a magical island family night.
After a shower, Elizabeth is in bed by 8:30 PM. I usually take an hour to tidy up and catch up on emails (and let’s be honest–social media) and then head to bed myself by 9:30.
That Magens Bay sunrise awaits.