Archive for ‘Travel’

April 12th, 2012

10 Places I Want My Kids To See

Boys at HSVBG

Budget Travel just released their list of 15 places kids should see before they are 15. We’re lucky to have several of these places within driving distance – and one right here in Huntsville! If you’ve never been, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center should be on your list. It’s everything cool about NASA, rockets, space exploration, and science – all rolled into one. And they have an IMAX theater!

The Budget Travel list got me thinking about the places I’d like our kids to see before they turn 15. That’s eleven more years for Declan, but only six for Alex. We need to get a move on!

1. Tokyo, Japan – I’ve talked with Alex about visiting and he has little interest in it – he just wants to move there!  Rod and I have both been to Tokyo and absolutely love it the people, the city, and the food.  I’ve never felt safer in a completely unfamiliar place as I did when I was exploring the city on my own.  Truth be told, we would love to move our family there, even if it’s just for a few months.

2. Schloß Neuschwanstein, Bavaria, Germany – A visit to mad King Ludwig’s castle was the highlight of the trip my high school German Club took to German-speaking European countries way back in 1994.  We’d studied German every day for four years and it seemed like the many photos of this place in our classroom represented everything we learned.  It’s also the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle, and you can’t go wrong with Disney references!  I distinctly remember there was a TON of walking involved on this stop, so we might need to wait until the boys are a bit older for this one.

3. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco – The Golden Gate is on Budget Travel’s list, too.  It’s an engineering marvel and, honestly, really cool!  The boys have never seen the Pacific Ocean (or the Atlantic, come to think of it) and this would be a great stop.  San Francisco seems to be a great family destination and I’m sure we could find plenty of ways to have fun!

4. Löwendenkmal, Lucerne, Switzerland – This was also a stop on the German Club trip in 1994.  It hadn’t been high on my list when I saw it on our itinerary, but it should have been.  This monument is one of the most beautiful pieces of art I’ve ever seen.  It was created to pay tribute to the Swiss Guards who were massacred during the French Revolution, as they protected the palace in Paris.  I’m not sure the boys would really understand the significance of what the monument represents, but it’s an amazing thing to see, even without that understanding.

5. Kauai, Hawaii – I think Hawaii should be on everyone’s list!  We are not a huge beach family (the fair skin makes that pretty difficult), but Rod and I enjoyed our stop in Kauai when we were on our honeymoon.  As touristy as Waikiki is, Kauai is not.  There are even feral chickens roaming the island as a result of some tossed chicken houses during a storm many years ago!  The island is full of natural beauty – beaches, waterfalls, flowers, and birds.  There was a pretty cute fabric shop we stopped at last time, too.  I wouldn’t mind going back there for a visit, for sure!

6. Grand Canyon – This is one destination that everyone should see, right?  I still haven’t, but hopefully I’ll get there soon!  It’s only a day trip from Las Vegas, right?  Maybe that would be the best way to do it?

7. New York City – Another one that everyone should see!  Shortly after I graduated from college, I was relocated to New Jersey for work.  My office was just outside of the city and we could see part of the skyline from our parking lot on clean air days.  I was only there for about 9 months and my one regret from that time was that I didn’t take advantage of my proximity to the city more.  There’s so much to see and do with kiddos, though, so I’d like to do that with Alex and Declan!

8. Smithsonian – I think all of the museums under the Smithsonian umbrella would be great for the boys to see, but I think they would especially enjoy the National Zoo, Air and Space Museum, and Natural History Museum.  When I was looking at the long list of museums, I noticed the Postal Museum on there.  I had no idea there was a postal museum!  It says it’s dedicated to the history of America’s mail system and the hobby of stamp collecting.  Did I ever tell you that I was a stamp collector?  I am!  This one is going on my list for me, too!

9. Niagara Falls, Ontario – We’ve actually been here a few times with the boys.  It’s only a short drive to Niagara Falls from where I grew up, so we sometimes go for the day or a short stay when we visit in the summertime.  (You can read about our most recent vist here.)  I want the boys to remember how special and cool this place is, so I want to make sure we go back often!

10. Williamsport, PA – This one might seem like an odd addition to the list, but it’s a place that’s special to me.  I went to college in Williamsport and have a lot of great memories of the city.  I want the boys to be able to have a point of reference when I talk about things that happened when I was in college and maybe a memory of a visit to Lycoming will do that.  Plus, it’s the home of the Little League World Series and that is one of the best sporting events in the world!

What about you?  What places are on the list for your family to see?  Is there anything that I should have on our list and don’t?

March 28th, 2012

Go Fly a Kite!

The boys and I have travelled to visit my family in Pennsylvania for Alex’s spring break.  We try to come up here twice a year – once at Thanksgiving and once for the 4th of July.  Last year, though, my mom and her husband came to Alabama for Thanksgiving, so we thought we’d drive up for the week to see everyone we missed in November.

The weather here in NW PA is generally still quite chilly in late March.  When I was growing up, we would often use St. Patrick’s Day as our mark for the likely last big snow storm of the year.  That didn’t mean that it wouldn’t happen after that date, for sure, but it was a good way to remember that the end of the winter was near.  This year, though, they have had an unusually warm and mild winter, just like much of the rest of the United States.  The week before we left Alabama, it was 85 degrees for most of the week there and it was in the 70’s in Erie.  I looked at the weather for the next week when I was packing and it seemed that it would be a bit cooler, but still well above normal.  Apparently that changed while we were in the car on our way here because it was 24 degrees yesterday morning!  Holy cow, I was not ready for that!

The boys were going stir-crazy after 14 hours in the car and a day inside, so I decided that we’d head out in search of winter accessories and head to the beaches at Lake Erie.  We found gloves on clearance at Target, but also found kites!  It was perfect kite flying weather!

Kites at Presque Isle

That tiny little speck in the big blue sky is Alex’s kite!  He’s flown kites before, but I think that is the highest he’s ever had one go.  He was SO excited!  I need to remember how much fun this was so we can do it again.  The beaches will be way too crowded in July, but when we come back in the fall, it should be about perfect!

July 12th, 2010

Road Trip Mini-Vacation

Last week was our annual trip to Pennsylvania to visit my family.  I say “visit” because a trip to see family isn’t really a vacation.  There are always a ton of people to see, naps to be missed, and bedtimes that slip.  By the end of the week, I’ve found that our tempers are short and we need a vacation from our trip.  Hoping to avoid that this year, we decided to take a mini-vacation during our visit.  We packed up the boys and headed to Niagara Falls, Ontario, for an overnight stay.

Maid of the Mist

It’s less than two hours from where I grew up to the Falls, so I’ve been there many times.  One thing I never got to experience growing up was staying in a hotel that overlooks the Falls.  I thought it might be too expensive for our budget this time, too, but I searched the internet and was pleasantly surprised by the number of affordable packages right now.  We decided to go with the Family Fun package at the Hilton Fallsview.  It included the room, but also a voucher for $40 to Macaroni Grill (the first in Ontario) and breakfast at their amazing buffet the next morning for all four of us.  Plus, the Hilton has an indoor pool with a great water slide!

I can’t say enough about how wonderful our experience at this hotel was.  The staff were all genuinely friendly and knowledgeable and the facilities were first rate.  Chris, the gentleman that handled our check-in, even accommodated Alex’s request for a room as high up in the tower as possible.  We were on the 42nd floor, which made both Alex and Declan very happy.  Here are some views from our room:

View of the Falls from Hilton Fallsview

View of the Falls from Hilton Fallsview

The view at night is just as spectacular, but I wasn’t able to get any really good shots without a tripod.  They light up the water at night with different colored lights and it’s beautiful!  There are also fireworks displays on several nights and, in July and August, they do fireworks every Wednesday as well.

It was uncharacteristically hot the day we were there, so we didn’t do as many outside activities as we thought we might.  The room and facilities were well-suited for this, though.  We had two bedrooms, each with its own television.  There was also a fireplace in the room, but we decided against trying it out, even though the boys were VERY interested.  We spent a lot of time in the pool and I think my husband and Alex went down that water slide about 30 times.  Alex described the hotel as luxurious and I would have to agree.  The beds were so comfortable and the pillows were nice and fluffy.  We were sad to leave after only one night, but it was a great experience.  If you are planning a trip to Niagara Falls, I highly recommend the Hilton Fallsview!

June 24th, 2010

“Are we there yet?”


We are preparing for our summer road trip to Pennsylvania.  Google Maps suggests that it should take 13 hours, but we find that it varies between 14 and 16 hours.  It all depends on how restless the boys get.  Or maybe how many Chipotle restaurant stops we make.  It’s definitely one of the two.

One thing I’ve learned in the seven years we’ve been doing this (at least twice a year), is that the boys need to be distracted or things go downhill very quickly.  We allow them to watch movies and play on various gaming devices, but I really prefer that they do something that requires them to use their minds.

I was really excited when I found this Travel Bingo game the other day at Growing Tree Toys.  Alex will really get into the hunting and finding (and winning) aspect of it, while Declan will likely just make circles all over the bingo card.  Either way, they will both be engaging their brains and I will happy!

Does your family make long road trips?  How do you keep your kids from “are we there yet??” only 3 hours into the long journey?

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