Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

As the most wonderful time of the year approaches, holiday shopping budgets are in the spotlight, and a study from WalletHub lists Sugar Land as one of the top cities where Santa doesn't need a whole lot of help.

According to the personal finance website, the average holiday budget in Sugar Land is $2,793 per person, the 15th highest in the nation. As CultureMap previously reported, Sugar Land residents here make an average of $123,261; the average home price is $337,600.

Fittingly, Fort Bend, home to Sugar Land, was recently named the second-richest county in Texas.

As for Greater Houston, Santa's bag could be a mixed bag, with three suburbs in the top 100, but the urban center falling far behind:

  • Sugar Land, No. 15, $2,793
  • Pearland, No. 36, $2,172
  • The Woodlands, No. 71, $1,733
  • Houston, No. 366, $890

Each year, WalletHub calculates the maximum holiday budget for over 550 U.S. cities "to help consumers avoid post-holiday regret," the website says. The study factors in income, age of the population, and other financial indicators such as debt-to-income ratio, monthly-income-to monthly-expenses ratio and savings-to-monthly-expenses ratio.

Despite nationwide focus on inflation strains, holiday spending is expected to be healthy, and higher than last year.

"The seeming social upheaval in recent times may lead households to spend more in an attempt to take some control of the environment which they can control," says Robert Wright, University of Illinois, Springfield professor emeritus who was among five experts consulted for advice about holiday shopping.

Elsewhere in Texas, 10 North Texas cities landed in this year's top 100 heftiest holiday budgets:

  • Flower Mound, No. 3, $3,531 (The only Texas city in the top 10)
  • Allen, No. 17 , $2,670
  • Frisco, No. 37, $2,150
  • McKinney, No. 45, $2,070
  • Plano, No. 50, $1,999
  • Carrollton, No. 55, $1,837
  • Richardson, No. 58, $1,823
  • North Richland Hills, No. 81, $1,658
  • Lewisville, No. 90, $1,630
  • Fort Worth, No. 366, $890
  • Dallas, No. 401, $845

Spending in the Austin area won't be ho-hum with the Capitol City's budget of $1,705 ranked at No. 78. Two Austin suburbs, Cedar Park (budget $2,855) and League City (budget $2,541) ranked 14 and 20, respectively.

Things don't look too jolly for San Antonio, ranked at No. 431 with an average budget of $803 or Pharr, which was the lowest ranked city in Texas.

At No. 553 with a budget of $487, the Rio Grande Valley city came in just a few spots ahead of last place Hartford, CT with a budget of only $211.

Photo courtesy of Levy Park

Levy Park Holiday Festival

Levy Park’s 5th Annual Holiday Festival is a two-day event that will feature live music performances, adult and child-friendly concessions, and fun activities for all ages, including a photo booth with Santa Claus, holiday market, craft stations, and more.

Photo courtesy of M-K-T

Shop 'til you drop with stellar deals at M-K-T on Thanksgiving weekend

Shopping is my Cardio

Are you ready for M-K-T's Shop 'Til You Drop Weekend, November 25-27? Jingle and mingle your way through an epic weekend of retail therapy at the finest shopping, dining, and wellness destinations in Houston.

Its stores and boutiques will have spectacular deals, promotions, and happenings during Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Sunday Funday. Here's a peek at what you can score:

Clothing & accessories

The Pop-Up Co-Op
This eclectic fashion collective provides a curated selection of women’s fashions and accessories along with unique art and home decor. The collective specifically sources from local designers and artists and carries a strong focus on providing an outlet for female-driven businesses.

The Pop-Up Co-Op Photo courtesy of The Pop-Up Co-Op

Cariloha Bamboo
Driven by comfort, health, and an eco-conscious lifestyle, Cariloha Bamboo joins the style of the Caribbean with the spirit of aloha to provide the best in natural luxury. Cariloha is completely merchandised with products made of eco-friendly viscose from bamboo, and specializes in clothing, bedding, towels, and accessories all designed and developed for peak comfort and breathability.

Enjoy 30 percent of all bedding and bath November 25-27.

Cariloha Bamboo Photo courtesy of Cariloha Bamboo

June & Co.
This woman-owned and women's focused boutique offers a mix of loungewear, work-friendly attire, everyday essentials, and evening wear for every type of lifestyle and budget. After stepping inside June & Co., visitors can expect exceptional customer service and an honest eye for styling from boutique owner Annie, who loves making shoppers feel good with professional tips based on their style and body type.

Score 20 percent off store-wide on Small Business Saturday.

June & Co. Photo courtesy of June & Co.

Anjouil's is a Texas-based women's boutique that strives to make your day a little brighter by offering their customers contemporary apparel, cheerful gifts, and statement accessories. In need of something for date night, tailgating, or just lounging around? Anjouil's has you covered with their vast inventory of on-point and value-based lines, so that you have plenty of options under one roof.

On Friday, enjoy 40 percent off store-wide from 9-11 am and 20 percent off 11 am-7 pm, plus all day Saturday and Sunday.

Anjouil's Photo courtesy of Anjouil's

The Burdlife mission has always been to surprise and delight with unexpected, distinctive pieces for your everyday outfits and those very special moments. With each hand-made piece, they aim to provide the best quality jewelry and statement pieces to add to your collection and pass down for generations.

Burdlife Photo courtesy of Burdlife

Chloe Dao
Fashion designer, entrepreneur, and Season 2 Project Runway winner Chloe Dao has been a part of the Houston fashion scene for almost 20 years. Her expertise in understanding women’s bodies helps her create carefully constructed garments to flatter every body type, while her talent and her commitment to philanthropy has kept her a namesake in Houston. She has collaborated and partnered with local organizations and institutions that help our local communities. Her goal is to educate, elevate, and empower women. At M-K-T, Chloe calls her store her “design studio” where she compiles inspiration, sketches, and fabrics to create her one-of-a-kind signature wears.

Get 25 percent off store-wide on Small Business Saturday.

Chloe Dao Photo courtesy of Chloe Dao

Grace Loves Lace
Grace Loves Lace is the creator of some of this century’s most coveted bridal gowns and accessories. They are known to provide a tailored one-on-one bridal service with private bridal suites in a warm and relaxed space. At your appointment, you’ll be greeted by a friendly stylist before settling into your own private styling suite surrounded by your loved ones. There's no doubt you’ll find the perfect dress to complement your style, body shape, and wedding type.

Grace Loves Lace Photo courtesy of Grace Loves Lace

Soft, whimsical, and full of love and light. Tre' Sorelle is a Houston-based, women-focused boutique based on a dream and a vision to provide comfort and beauty to women of all shapes and sizes. This beautifully curated clothing store is filled with flowers and lace, not only on the clothes but also on the awe-inspiring mural walls and creative installations. Find women's dresses, sweaters, and tops along with some great keepsakes for the little ones in your life.

Take advantage of 20 percent off store-wide on Small Business Saturday.

Tre'Sorelle Photo courtesy of Tre'Sorelle

Born out of a mutual love for uniquely designed and well-made products, this brand is meticulous in their work, intentional in their designs, and obsessive over what makes the cut. TAFT’s shoes and boots are designed with boldness in mind to ensure all products are as unique and stylish as their customers. From the laces to the eyelets, they take the extras steps to ensure the product is perfect. Every pair is hand-cut and hand-painted using the best leathers from Europe. Your shoes will look beautiful right out of the box, and for years to come.

Get 25 percent off store-wide November 22-29.

TAFT shoes Photo courtesy of TAFT

Born out of necessity in 1937, Ray-Ban has been at the leading edge of developing high-quality sunglasses to protect pilots from the sun’s harsh rays. Since then, Ray-Ban has been the eyewear of choice for visionaries and cultural creators everywhere to express their fearless and most authentic selves.

From Thursday through Sunday, November 24-27, enjoy 30 percent off Ray-ban sunglasses, frames, and Stories. Some exclusions apply, see store associate for more details.

Ray-Ban Photo courtesy of Ray-Ban


Pedego Electric Bikes
A complete line of 19 premium electric bike models suits the needs of virtually anyone, especially those who refuse to settle for less. Their motto is "hello, fun…" because everyone loves to have fun, and Pedego Electric Bikes are certainly fun to ride.

Score big holiday discounts on ridge-riders, trail trackers, battery upgrades, and more through November 30th. Enjoy holiday financing deals and 0 percent interest for 12 months on electric bike purchases now through the end of the year.

Pedego Electric Bikes Photo courtesy of Pedego Electric Bikes

SANNA Baby + Child
Welcome to an oasis of unique children’s clothing and educational toys and games that are current with today’s trends and styles. SANNA is family-owned and operated in Kingwood, Texas.

SANNA Baby + Child Photo courtesy of SANNA Baby + Child

Go Easy
This self-proclaimed “self-care” outpost for women of all sizes, skin color, and sexualities carries over 35 brands that support small businesses from all over the country and focuses on natural solutions, including niche, upscale CBD offerings.

On Saturday, November 26, spend $100 and get 10 percent off, $200 for 20 percent off, and $300 for 30 percent off.

Go Easy Photo courtesy of Go Easy

Focus Refined Eye Care
This luxury eye care experience houses the latest technology and a curated collection of frames, from desirable high-end brands to uniquely crafted indie labels. Owner and optometrist Dr. Bimal Patel provides the best for his community and patients. He specializes in primary care and the diagnosis and treatment of ocular diseases. Through his experience at one of the country’s top refractive surgery centers, Dr. Patel has honed his skills in LASIK management and specialty contact lenses. He is also one of the few doctors in the Houston area certified to fit Orthokeratology contact lenses, which correct your vision while you sleep. Schedule your appointment online or by phone.

On Black Friday, score 40 percent off frames, 10 percent off lenses, and 15 percent off contacts.

Focus Refined Eye Care Photo courtesy of Focus Refined Eye Care

Semper Laser
Have you ever heard the phrase “jack of all trades, master of none?” Well, Semper Laser is proud to consider themselves a “master of one” when it comes to laser hair removal. By specializing exclusively in laser hair removal, Semper can bring you the newest technology, more laser units to decrease wait time, and exceptional service at the most affordable prices.

Semper Laser Photo courtesy of Semper Laser

Huemn is leading the human optimization revolution in Houston. They specialize in science-based recovery and pain management, which enhances energy, sleep, and performance while reducing inflammation for long-term health benefits. At Huemn, they believe that recovery by way of the body's natural systems is one of the most overlooked aspects of performance and health. All their services are designed to work synergistically with the body's natural systems, with the ultimate goal of creating optimal function and performance of the human body. Huemn's services include whole body cryotherapy, local cryotherapy, lymphatic drainage, compression, neufit, and photobiomodulation.

Starting now, receive 25 percent off bio-wellness service credit packages, 20 percent off beauty service packages and supplements, and holiday discounts on yearly memberships for cryotherapy, compression, photobiomodulation, and more.

Huemn Photo courtesy of Huemn

The Skin Clinic
This boutique medspa is where quality skincare, effective anti-aging treatments, and natural injectables converge.

The Skin Clinic Photo courtesy of The Skin Clinic

Treadwell combines men's grooming and wellness services in one shared place. Services include haircuts, shaves, facials, and hand and foot care, as well as wellness services such as IV drip therapy, cryotherapy, and an infrared sauna.

On Friday through Sunday, November 25-27, you can purchase a $100 gift card for only $75 and snag exclusive deals on three and six-month membership packages, while also receiving free B-12 injections with all gift purchases in-store.

Treadwell Photo courtesy of Treadwell

Union Studio Yoga
Union Studio Yoga believes in the power of consistent practice and helps their students create positive, healthy lifestyles by providing a variety of yoga and meditation classes with some of the best instructors in the city. Join Union Studio Yoga inside their studio for class sessions or sign up for their Yoga on the Lawn classes, held directly outside at the M-K-T Yoga Lawn.

Check out the curated holiday gift bundles, including a gift certificate for a class or series and products including eye pillows, sage, and mala bracelets made by local artisans.

Union Studio Yoga Photo courtesy of Union Studio Yoga

This is pilates redefined: a 50-minute, full-body workout that utilizes slow and controlled movements, designed to break down muscles to failure so that they build back stronger and leaner. It’s an immersive experience, with classes held under blue neon lights with energizing music, an encouraging coach, and a community of people joined together to create the strongest version of themselves. The workout is intense, but results are unbelievable.

Solidcore Photo courtesy of Solidcore

SMYL Dentistry
Imagine wanting to go to the dentist. Imagine a dental experience that's like going to your favorite local shop, where you run into people you know, the receptionist calls you by name, and you are always greeted with a SMYL. SMYL Dentistry created a practice that provides the highest quality of service with your health, wellbeing, and cosmetic goals in mind, staffed by a fun, energetic, and empathetic team that is dedicated to bringing you the best dentistry with a personalized visit every time.

SMYL Dentistry Photo courtesy of SMYL Dentistry

Venetian Nail Spa
The Venetian was designed to elevate your nail salon experience by offering high-quality work, stunning interior design, and impeccable service. Their innovative and industry-leading concept is an urban-inspired nirvana, offering leading technology along with environmentally friendly products and the best clean beauty practices to meet your beauty standards and to benefit our planet.

Venetian Nail Spa Photo courtesy of Venetian Nail Spa

Founded in 2013 by Keelan Baker, SHAMPU is a modern hair salon teamed with Houston’s best and mastered stylists and colorists. Cuts, styling, coloring, highlights, and balayage are all offered at the salon for both men and women and each service is by appointment only. SHAMPU is known for its cutting-edge techniques, exceptional hairstyle trends, and has perfected the art of making every client feel beautiful and confident with every appointment.

SHAMPU Photo courtesy of SHAMPU

Body20 is a boutique fitness studio that utilizes an FDA-cleared electro-muscle stimulation suit to deliver isolated muscle stimulation. It is coordinated with a one-on-one exercise program to produce incredible results in rapid time. In a 20-minute training session, your personal trainer will put you through a customized program, giving your body over 150 times more muscle contractions than a conventional workout without any need to pick up a weight or use traditional gym equipment.

Body20 Photo courtesy of Body20

Photo courtesy of Houston SPCA

Marvel at Neiman Marcus' holiday window displays — and the adoptable pets inside

Best Present Ever

Fluffy tails and wet noses will return to Neiman Marcus' magical storefront windows this holiday season. The luxury retailer has teamed up with the Houston SPCA for the 34th annual Homes For the Holidays pet adoption event.

When the official start to the holiday shopping season kicks off the day after Thanksgiving, shoppers will once again enjoy the thrill of viewing available pets, as the little felines and canines frolic inside the notable holiday windows.

Neiman Marcus will open its doors for shopping at 9 am on Black Friday to welcome all, from the young to the young-at-heart, to what has become one of Houston’s most cherished holiday traditions.

The storefront will be filled with adoptable loves at 10 am each participating date. Come and see these adorable faces every weekend from November 25-December 11, and then daily from December 16-December 23.

The premier retailer will once again generously gift $5 for every dog or cat adopted from the Houston SPCA during this event.

Many local animal lovers have made the Homes For the Holidays pet adoption event part of their annual holiday tradition for more than three decades. Each season, Neiman Marcus’ eye-catching storefront windows have helped connect hundreds of animals with loving homes, just in time for the holidays.

Each pet adoption package at the Houston SPCA is valued at around $500 and includes the pet’s microchip, spay or neuter surgery, up-to-date vaccinations, a free wellness veterinary exam at any VCA Animal Hospital, and a free sample-sized bag of Hill’s Science Diet.

While the available pets will vary at Neiman Marcus, all available pets currently at the Houston SPCA can be found here.

Photo by Brandon Martin/Rice University

Houston gobbles up spot among best U.S. places for Thanksgiving

talking turkey

Texans still looking for the best place to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast without breaking their banks might want to head to Houston. The Bayou City comes in at No. 53 on a new list of the best places to go for Thanksgiving.

The study, published by WalletHub, compares the top 100 largest U.S. cities across 20 key metrics, including the cost of Thanksgiving dinner, number of delayed flights, and even forecast precipitation.

In addition to the cities’ overall ranking, WalletHub revealed the cities’ rankings for the individual categories they were evaluated by. Five of those categories include Thanksgiving Celebrations and Traditions, Affordability, Safety and Accessibility, Giving Thanks, and Thanksgiving Weather Forecast.

The average American spends about $301 during the five-day Thanksgiving period, according to a list of Thanksgiving fun facts compiled by WalletHub. Annually, Americans as a whole spend an estimated $835 million on Thanksgiving turkeys, with 46 million turkeys killed for the holiday.

Atlanta, Georgia ranks No. 1 on the list, with Orlando, Florida; Las Vega, Nevada; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Gilbert, Arizona rounding out the top five.

Specifically, Houston ranked in the top 10 for Affordability but didn’t score highly in any other category:

  • No. 48 for Thanksgiving Celebrations and Traditions
  • No. 7 for Affordability
  • No. 88 for Safety and Accessibility
  • No. 58 for Giving Thanks
  • No. 43 for Thanksgiving Weather Forecast.

Other cities around Texas to make the list are:

  • Corpus Christi (No. 25)
  • Laredo (No. 31)
  • San Antonio (No. 32)
  • Austin (No. 33)
  • El Paso (No. 64)
  • Lubbock (No. 85)

Plano ranks No. 7 on the list, while Irving and Dallas took the ninth and 13th spots, respectively. Other North Texas cities that made the list include Garland (No. 24), Arlington (No. 44), and Fort Worth, which just barely makes it into the top 100, landing at No. 84.

Other Dallas rankings include:

  • No. 13 for Thanksgiving Celebrations and Traditions
  • No. 18 for Affordability
  • No. 93 for Safety and Accessibility
  • No. 37 for Giving Thanks

No. 32-ranking San Antonio has these rankings on the list:

  • No. 46 for Thanksgiving Celebrations and Traditions
  • No. 2 for Affordability
  • No. 66 for Safety and Accessibility
  • No. 85 for Giving Thanks
  • No. 26 for Thanksgiving Weather Forecast

The state’s No. 33-ranking capital, Austin, had an average ranking for each category:

  • No. 41 for Thanksgiving Celebrations and Traditions
  • No. 19 for Affordability
  • No. 42 for Safety and Accessibility
  • No. 82 for Giving Thanks
  • No. 36 for Thanksgiving Weather Forecast.

Fort Worth was in the top 5 for weather but hit the bottom 10 for safety:

  • No. 87 for Thanksgiving Celebrations and Traditions
  • No. 31 for Affordability
  • No. 95 for Safety and Accessibility
  • No. 52 for Giving Thanks
  • No. 4 for Thanksgiving Weather Forecast.

You can view the full list and find more information about the 100 best U.S. places for Thanksgiving here.

Arabia Shriners presents Feztival of Trees

Arabia Shriners will present a new holiday tradition, the Feztival of Trees, featuring a forest of beautifully decorated Christmas trees sponsored by different Houston-area businesses or organizations. Each artificial will be raffled off to the public. Each tree winner will receive not only their own uniquely decorated Christmas Tree, but also all the gifts contained on or under the tree.

Children will have the opportunity to sit on Santa’s knee and have their photo taken with him. In addition, there will be a holiday market, Christmas cookies, and other Christmas-themed activities.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Iconic Texas 'cowboy-style' BBQ joint's Katy outpost closure leads week's top stories

this week's hot headlines

Editor's note: It's time to recap the top stories on CultureMap from this past week.

1. Iconic Texas 'cowboy-style' barbecue joint's Katy location quietly closes. Sadly, the local outpost couldn't replicate the magic of the original in Llano.

2. Ken Hoffman urges Houston travelers to keep calm and enjoy the trip at the new-look Bush IAH. Our columnist explains why travelers might be in "for a big, pleasant surprise at Houston’s Bush-Intercontinental Airport."

3. Houston's most spectacular winter light shows and events dazzle for the holidays. We rounded up where to see dazzling lights with family, friends, and visitors.

4. Disgraced Theranos CEO and former Houstonian Elizabeth Holmes sentenced to 11 years for fraud. Additionally, Holmes faces a fine of $400 million.

5. Houston's NASA leaders 'giddy' after historic Artemis 1 moon flyby. The spacecraft cruised just 81 miles above the lunar surface.

Disney's Strange World is a visual stunner with too many story ideas

Movie Review

For a studio whose entire reason for being seems to rely on creating and sustaining familiar characters, Walt Disney Animation takes its fair share of risks. In the last 10 years, it has released nine films, seven of which were not based on pre-existing properties (the other two were sequels for two of those seven). That’s a lot of new stuff, most of which has succeeded mightily for the perennially-popular leaders in animation.

They’re at it again with Strange World, which takes place in an unknown country/world known as Avalonia, where Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid) is a famous explorer whose only desire is to find a way over, around, or through the imposing mountains surrounding the land. His son, Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal), doesn’t share his enthusiasm, and an early discovery by Searcher of a unique energy source leads to a rift between father and son. Jaeger continues onwards, while Searcher returns home with a plant they call Pando that creates harmony throughout the land.

Years later, when the plant shows signs of failure, Searcher is recruited by Avalonia leader Callisto Mal (Lucy Liu) to help in an expedition to find the source of whatever is attacking Pando. What they and others – including Searcher’s wife Meridian (Gabrielle Union) and son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White) – find in their travels certainly lives up to the title.

Co-directed by Don Hall and Qui Nguyen and written by Nguyen, the film is a visual stunner. The quality of animation in Disney movies rarely fails to impress, and Strange World is the latest and greatest example. Whether it’s the humans, the landscape, or the innumerable weird creatures that populate the film, there is almost nothing that doesn’t deserve to be stared at and admired.

It’s odd, then, that the story does not come close to matching the graphics. There are a variety of reasons for this failure. Nguyen is the sole credited writer, and he stuffs the film full of big and small ideas, probably too many for this type of project. Searcher’s family and the world of Avalonia and beyond are diverse in multiple ways, to the point that it feels like Nguyen was trying to include everything he could think of in case he never got another shot.

The bigger sin, though, is how quickly the film advances through its plot, often bringing up new things out of nowhere. While Searcher and his family make for an interesting group, the side characters never make an impact. There are also multiple instances where the story takes a turn that makes no sense, either in the world of the film or a storytelling manner.

This includes the final act of the film, which features a significant twist that is presented and accepted in a way that doesn’t fit with the rest of the film. It adds on yet another message in a movie that contains a lot of them, but in a way that even those inclined to believe in what it’s trying to say may wonder why that part is there at all.

The science fiction element of Strange World is a bonanza for the filmmakers and animators to go as wild as they wanted in the visual department. But all that splendor is in service of a story that just doesn’t measure up, making it one of Disney’s less successful offerings in recent years.


Strange World is now playing in theaters.

Photo courtesy of Disney

Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal), Jaeger (Dennis Quaid), and Ethan Clade (Jaboukie Young-White) in Strange World

New Galveston-area beach club and RV resort opens with Texas-sized pool, restaurant, dog parks, and more

happy campers

Beach lovers, campers, and Houstonians getting away from it all now have a chill new option to waste away. Camp Margaritaville RV Resort Crystal Beach is officially open, following an ongoing renovation and ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Formerly known as Bolivar Beach Club & RV Resort, the 150-acre beachfront location on the Bolivar Peninsula boasts a resort-style, camping experience with unique amenities that make the RV resort a memorable vacation spot.

RV drivers/users can rest easy knowing that electric, water and sewer hookups, complimentary Wi-Fi, dog parks, a gym, and facilities for showering and doing laundry await at the site.

Fun includes a beachside concert venue, a Texas-sized pool with a swim-up bar and 50 private poolside cabanas, large turf playing field, and the aforementioned RV accommodations. Renovations will continue into next year, promising the Fins Bar & Grill Restaurant, sand volleyball courts, pickleball courts, a bar called License to Chill, and more.

Another huge draw: The resort offers close access to 27 miles of beaches along the peninsula. (Ahh.)

Crystal Beach is the fourth location within the Camp Margaritaville brand, and joins the company's existing Margaritaville Lake Resort, Lake Conroe. The lake resort, which rebranded and opened in the summer of 2020, includes 335 suites, an 18-hole golf course, a three-acre waterpark with a lazy river and outdoor pools.

"We’ve seen incredible success and excitement around our existing Camp Margaritaville RV Resort locations and are thrilled to expand our presence in the state of Texas,” Margaritaville COO Brad Schwaeble noted in a statement. “As more and more people are finding new ways to travel and explore, Camp Margaritaville Crystal Beach will provide everything needed for a getaway for all ages.”

Those interested in camping out can book stays, get updates, and more information at the official site, on Facebook, and on Instagram.

Camp Margaritaville RV Resort Crystal Beach/Facebook

The pool is a major draw for the resort.