Monday, September 9, 2013

Trip Out West 2013
By Emma Murphy, Age 13

                This summer my family took a long two-week vacation to the western part of the U.S.A. We ventured to Mesa Verde National Park, Durango, Ft. Collins, Grand Canyon National Park, and ended at Cherokee Park Ranch. I was able to see so many neat places that were so different from other vacation spots. When most kids (and some adults) hear the word “vacation” they think of a beach. But there is so much more on this earth to see than palm trees! This was such a diverse trip, and I loved it!  Below you will find my western adventures.

                To start out our Murphy family vacation, we had a wonderful 18 hour drive to Aurora, Colorado. Yay. Driving through Kansas.  SO exciting. Anyway, we arrived in Aurora, spent the night there, and then drove to Durango. It’s such a cute little town! There were so many small shops and restaurants; it was just a charming, quaint place. We spent the night at the Double Tree hotel. I was very happy with this particular hotel. The service was good, there was a jogging path right behind the hotel, and a small river was floating by. Plus we got our signature Double Tree cookies: Yum! After our short stay in Durango, we headed to Mesa Verde National Park. It was amazing! When we arrived at the park, we decided that we would do the Balcony House Tour. This tour was so fun! It had such great views, our tour guide was phenomenal, and I learned a lot of really nifty stuff. I would not recommend this tour for small children because we did climb a few pretty tall ladders. I would also not suggest this tour if you are uncomfortable with heights; the tall ladders are on the edge of a canyon (it sounds crazy but it was really awesome and beautiful). We spent the night at the Fairview Lodge, which is inside the park. The rooms were extremely simple, but they weren’t dirty or disgusting. Just simple. There was also a restaurant and a lounge. The food was very good and the lounge was a great place to just hang out and listen to music. I was content with Fairview Lodge. We then made are our way to Grand Canyon National Park. I must say, this was the most breath-taking drive I think I have ever had. The scenery was gorgeous, with the magnificent plateaus all around. I had never seen anything like it, and it was just so unique. Once at Grand Canyon, I had the privilege to witness yet another wonder of nature. I swear it wasn’t real. It looks exactly like the photographs and it really could’ve been a painting. It was so scenic and gorgeous. Then I noticed the people. People everywhere. It was so crowded and kind of ruined the picture for me. I usually don’t mind big crowds, but this one really bothered me. Few people seemed to really appreciate how cool this whole thing was. The next day, we solved that problem. We hiked down into the Grand Canyon. There weren’t as many people, and the people we did see were kind, and seemed to be enjoying themselves. These were where the real outdoorsy people were, and they valued and respected nature. This was my image of the Grand Canyon before I arrived, and I am very pleased that I was able to leave with that picture in my mind.  I felt that two days in the Grand Canyon was plenty, and we soon left for Ft. Collins, Colorado. I had been to Ft. Collins before, and it continues to be my favorite city in Colorado. It’s so cute and charming, with all of its little shops and restaurants. After a quick stop for lunch and ice cream in Fort Collins, we headed toward the crux of our trip: Cherokee Park Ranch. We would be staying at the ranch for a week (which was so not enough!). Cherokee Park Ranch was amazing! We rode horses, swam, fished, hiked, ate really delicious food, met some wonderful people, and so much more. If you are thinking about going to a guest ranch, I would highly recommend Cherokee Park. There is so much to do for all ages and all skill levels of horseback riding, and there is such a variety of activities to participate in every day. Some of the activities include white water rafting, a van trip to Laramie Wyoming, cookouts, a visit to the neighbor’s art gallery, square dancing (one of my favorite parts) and rodeos. The staff members are wonderful; they really make the week so enjoyable and entertaining! I loved Cherokee Park, it easily was one of my favorite places I’d been to, and I really want to return back! As you can see, this was a pretty awesome trip. I encourage you to broaden your variety and try a Colorado vacation. All of the above places mentioned are wonderful and adventurous and I recommend that you spend some time in said places if you choose to vacation out west.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

New York City

New York City
By: Emma Murphy, Age 12

I am a typical almost teenage girl. Therefore, when deciding where my thirteenth birthday vacation would be, the obvious choice was, of course, New York City. I couldn't be happier with this choice. Sure, we did all of the touristy attractions (which you will hear all about later in this blog), but honestly, the overall experience made this vacation so special. I mean really, Girls Trip to NYC for your 13th birthday with all the shopping and craziness: BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT EVER!!! Below you will find my amazing experience in the Big Apple.
We arrived in NYC with no problem and a driver from Six Star Car Service was waiting for us (We also used this car service when leaving; I would recommend it.) We drove to the Renaissance Hotel on Times Square, and that was when it hit me. I AM IN NEW YORK CITY! With all the bright lights, crowds of people, street venders, and taxi cabs, I felt like I was in a movie. The Renaissance Hotel was wonderful! The service was perfect, the hotel itself was gorgeous, there was a modern lounge/ restaurant/ bar that over looked Times Square, and I felt like a princess! We unpacked, and started our search for lunch. Our stomachs lead us to John's Pizzeria, where we stuffed ourselves with delicious pizza and garlic rolls. It was delicious and the inside of the restaurant had a very cool mural on the wall. After eating, we decided to go find discounted tickets for a Broadway show. The concierge at the hotel was most helpful! My mom asked about getting tickets and she handed us her business card and a piece of paper with two names written on it. She told us to take it to the discount tickets place on Times Square and ask for the two people on the slip of paper. So we did! We walked are way over to a massive line for the Broadway tickets. It was huge! My aunt asked for the names, just like we had been told, and the man took us to guy, who took us to another guy, who took us to the front of the line, where we got our tickets in less than ten minutes. Crazy right? We never did find out if guys with the names on the paper actually existed or if it was some sort of code name, but I felt like a princess for the second time in the first hour of being in New York. After buying tickets in a super-spy fashion, we found our way to Magnolia Bakery, were there were delicious cupcakes, brownies, pies, cakes, and ice cream. I enjoyed some yummy peanut butter brownie. All were satisfied with our little treat. We also went to NBC Studios in Rockefeller Center to buy tour tickets for later in our trip.  We went back to the hotel, got all dolled up and headed to enjoy Mama Mia!  It did not disappoint!  There was lots of dancing, singing, and humor. It was hilarious and fun-filled; the whole audience was singing and dancing by the end of the show! I definitely recommend it, but the story line is a little mature, so make sure you know what you're getting into before taking younger kids to it.
To start off our second day in the Big Apple, we headed to the Evergreen Cafe, on recommendation from the concierge. I would not go back this cafe. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't great. Maybe we ordered the wrong meals, but I was not impressed with the Evergreen Cafe. After eating breakfast, we went back to Times Square to buy double decker bus tour tickets. We bought the two-day tickets, so we were able to tour the city on both our second and third day in New York. I felt that the hop on/ hop off bus tour was a great way to see the city. It was not my absolute favorite part of the whole trip, but I think it would be a great fit for anyone who wants to be able to see a lot of places in a short amount of time. On the first day of the bus tour, we took the downtown loop. We ended up hopping off at the 9/11 Memorial. It was the quietest part of the city, and the memorial was very touching. We didn't do the whole shebang; we just saw Freedom Tower and walked around the area. After hanging around the Memorial, we took a cab to the Staten Island Ferry. It was really neat to see the Statue of Liberty! I thought it would be so much bigger, but it looked tiny compared to all of the ginormous skyscrapers! From the Ferry, we took a cab into Chinatown. Chinatown was probably my least favorite part of the whole trip. If you want knockoff name brands for low prices though, I would recommend visiting. I say it was my least favorite part because it was kinda gross in my opinion. Everything just seemed dirty, and there were way too many people packed in a small area (and this is coming from me: I LOVE HUGE CROWDS!) So if I think there are too many people, you know that there are a massive amount of bodies around! We ate an authentic Chinese meal at Big Wong King. It was decent. Nothing to get super excited about.  After a very late lunch, we got back on the bus tour and went to Times Square, did a little bit of shopping at the M&Ms World (a must do), and went to see if there were any more discounted Broadway Shows. All of the ones we wanted to see were sold out or not discounted, except for Cinderella. So we were like, "Sure, let’s go to it. Why not?" And it completely blew our socks off! Cinderella was amazing! The sets and costumes were phenomenal, it was funny, and the acting and singing was great! Best. Musical. Ever. I highly encourage you to see Cinderella if you go to NYC. I was shocked at how wonderful it was! And the night just got better from there. After Cinderella, we went to Ellen's Stardust Diner. All of the waiters and waitresses want to eventually make it to Broadway, and while they are serving you, they sing! All of the waiting staff take turns serenading you... can it get any better than that? Ellen's was a princess moment! It was so fun and entertaining, and the people had really good voices. And also, to add to the amazingness of this restaurant, the food is delicious too! Double bonus! You have got to go to Ellen's Stardust Diner when visiting New York.
On our third day, we just went to Starbuck's for breakfast. After eating, we got back on the bus and took a tour of the Uptown loop. It was a lot nicer than Downtown (except for Harlem). We did the whole loop on the bus, and then we hopped off at Central Park, which is very close to Dylan's Candy Bar. So naturally, we stopped there. It was three stories of sugar heaven! There were chocolate bars, lollipops, fudge, cupcakes, and basically any other sweet you could think of. It was so fun! After Dylan's, we walked around and found a little outdoor cafe called Burger Heaven. I'm sure the burgers were delicious, but we all just got salads and loved it. I would go here if you are looking for a cute, casual place to eat. There were a lot of choices to choose from, and it was good, healthy food (at least the salads were). Following lunch, we walked back to Central Park. On our way there, we passed by the Puerto Rico Parade, which is one of NYC's largest parades. It was crazy how many Puerto Rican people there were in one place! I'm very glad that I had a chance to witness this different culture. Once in Central Park, we took a carriage ride through the park. It was yet another princess moment for me! Right across from Central Park is the famous F.A.O. Schwarz. That place was nuts! We saw everything from puzzles to tic-tac-toe toss to $2000 stuffed animal hippopotamuses. My mom bought a cool puzzle of Times Square.  We then went to NBC Studios for our tour. It was such a neat experience to see where shows like Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and SNL were taking place. The tour guides were wonderful and I would definitely do it again! When walking back to our hotel from NBC, we walked right by Radio City Music Hall. We were lucky enough to be passing it the night of the Tony Awards! The red carpet and all the TV anchors were so cool to see, and I had another princess moment! (I mean really, a red carpet! So awesome!) Once we got back to the hotel, we were struggling finding a good place to eat. My mom was using the app Yelp (very helpful when traveling, check it out if you don't already have it) and she saw that the small little lounge at our hotel had four and a half stars. This was the restaurant/bar/ lounge that overlooked Times Square that I spoke of earlier in the blog. We decided to try it out and I'm so glad we did! The view was beautiful and the Tony's were playing on the big screen, so we could watch it all from the lounge. We just split a few appetizers and the food was delicious! When we finished eating, we saw a man right outside our hotel, doing Caricatures. My cousin and I got one done of ourselves, it was adorable! After getting our faces drawn, we took a taxi to the Empire State Building. I was in heaven! We went up to the observation deck, which is on the 86th floor. The view was just like the pictures that are on the internet and in movies. Princess moment! I took a ton of pictures and it was just really gorgeous seeing the city all lit up at night. We then went back to the hotel with plans of getting up early to go to the Today Show.
Remember, I said PLANS of going to the Today Show. That didn't actually happen. The alarm went off at 6:00am and everyone was too tired and thought it was too early. So we rolled over and went back to sleep. My point in telling you this is so you know: if you plan on going to the Today Show, you need to A) be a morning person or B) really, really want to go so the thought of not going is completely out of your mind. It is a VERY early morning if you want to get in the front and actually have a chance of getting on TV. Once we slept in a little, we were hungry and needed breakfast. I really wanted to go back to Ellen's Stardust Diner, because I enjoyed it so much the 1st time we went. The others agreed. I had a totally unhealthy, delicious breakfast of some marshmallow fluff and banana stuffed French toast. It was heaven on a plate I tell you! Sadly, our last day the big city was pouring rain. We finished up buying souvenirs and went to the Museum of Natural History. I personally just wanted to go so I could see all of the stuff from the movie Night at the Museum, but there were so much more cool things to see! Sure we saw the Easter Island Statue (more well known as "Dum Dum"), yet the old Indian artifacts were really interesting and exotic too. And yeah, we saw "Rexy" but all of the animal skeletons were neat also. I highly recommend the Museum of Natural History to all ages, adult or kid, especially if it's gross out and you want to be inside. After the museum, we sadly had to go back to the Renaissance Hotel and pack up. We left New York City with happy hearts and we had a great time. NYC is a wonderful vacation spot, even if it isn't a beach, and I am so glad that I had the opportunity to travel there for my 13th birthday!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Spring Break 2013

For Spring Break this year, I took the kids to Florida and on a cruise.  My husband couldn't join us because of a new job.  So, it was a mom/child vacation that brought many amazing new experiences.  We started and ended in Fort Lauderdale with a  cruise in between.  The below is submitted by my kids to get their perspective.
The Norwegian Sky
Submitted by: Emma Murphy (age 12)

            The Norwegian Sky Cruise Ship was a wonderful experience! There was definitely something for everyone on this particular ship. Whether you are a college student looking for a reasonably priced, quick get-away, or a parent looking for a fun cruise for your family, this ship would be a great option. From swimming to Ping-Pong, with plenty of restaurants, the Norwegian Sky has much to offer. The service was very good; I was pleased with how smoothly everything went. This particular cruise was short but sweet; a nice three-day trip to the Bahamas. Below, you will find my experience aboard the Norwegian Sky.
            The process of boarding the ship went extremely smoothly. Once we boarded, we couldn’t get into our rooms right away, so remember to pack swimsuits and any other items you might want in a backpack. Then you can join in on the fun right away! There were two pools, four hot tubs, Ping-Pong tables, lounge chairs, and a basketball court. A library, a few large rooms where parties and games were held at night, a photo gallery, and a theater could also be found on the ship. Many fun activities were available to participate in during our stay. Some examples included: Deal or No Deal, Music Trivia, Family Feud, $5,000 Bingo, comedy shows, and many more. There were also parties every night for young adults and adults, and many art and jewelry shows.
            We stayed in a balcony cabin on the Norwegian Sky. I really enjoyed having that fresh air. Being able to just sit, relax, and watch the ocean without a ton of people around you was a really nice escape. It was very peaceful, and I would definitely recommend a balcony cabin if you like to have some quiet time!  
Quite a few restaurants were scattered around the ship. One thing that I really liked about this cruise was that there was freestyle dining, so we could eat whenever we wanted. They had two buffets, the main dining room, and a few bars that served food at dinner, a steakhouse, and an Italian restaurant. Both the steakhouse and the Italian restaurant were ‘specialty dining’ which means that you had to pay extra (the Italian restaurant was only specialty at dinner). Our first and only lunch on board was at the Italian restaurant. They didn’t have a wide variety of options for lunch (only pizza and pasta) but it was yummy. We ate in the main dining room the first night. The food was really good. For breakfast every morning, we just got food from one of the two buffets, so nothing spectacular there. I think the highlight of all the meals, had to be the steak house. The food was fantastic! Sure, it cost more, but it was well worth it! I was very pleased with the dining options on this ship.
This cruise, as I said before, is good for any age. But, there are more things for younger kids than the tween-early teen age. Since I am twelve, not quite a teen yet, they grouped me with the younger kids. I didn’t participate in the kids program because I would be hanging out with eight year olds. My point is, there is not a ton of organized activity for kids my age to do. This was fine by me. My ten-year-old brother felt the same way. Since it was such a short cruise, and we were barely on the ship during the day anyway, this didn’t bug us. There is still plenty to do, just not necessarily ‘organized activity’.
Both full days on the Norwegian Sky were spent in port. Our first day we spent lounging in the sun, snorkeling, and parasailing on Great Stirrup Cay (the cruise line’s private island). There was a ton to do! Snorkeling had to be one of the coolest parts of the island. You rented your gear for the day, and you could use it as much, or as little as you wanted. There was a ton of really neat fish to see! It was such a cool experience, and unlike anything that I had ever done before. Another exotic thing that I had the privilege to do was parasailing. It was amazing! My mom was surprised that I wanted to do it, considering I don’t like heights. But I would’ve regretted it if I had never tried. I highly suggest going parasailing. It is so relaxing and peaceful, unless you have a little brother, like me, yelling, “We’re gonna die!!!!” J Snorkeling and parasailing were just a few of the many options at Great Stirrup Cay. You could go jet skiing, rent rafts, play beach volleyball, and so much more! All in all, our day was incredible!

         The second day of our adventure was spent at the Atlantis Resort in Nassau. We hung out at the famous water park the entire day. It was amazing! We went on so many cool slides, including the well-known ‘Serpent’, which sends you through an aquarium with sharks! There was a lazy river that flows all around the park and through a few rapids, and there were plenty of pools. Also, we didn’t swim with dolphins, but I did get to watch other guests play with them for a little bit. It looked super fun and it is definitely something that I would want to try. The Atlantis was huge! I felt like we walked a mile just to get inside of the water park! Something that really stuck out to me was how detailed everything was. The resort was just so pretty! I only had one thing to complain about the entire day: the guest service. This kind of surprised me because I know a few people that have stayed at the Atlantis and they all say how wonderful the service is and how nice the people are. I disagreed. Some of the employees that we encountered were just rude to us. That is my only complaint and it definitely didn’t stop me from having fun! We had a great time at the Atlantis, and if you decide to take this cruise, I recommend spending at least part of your day at the Atlantis Resort.
*One thing that you should remember if you choose to spend a day at the Atlantis: bring your credit card. They don’t take cash (we found this out the hard way)

            As you can tell, we had so much fun aboard the Norwegian Sky. I would recommend this trip to anyone who needed a quick, tropical get-away. I had an amazing time and this was such a great vacation! The Norwegian Sky was a great choice and I would be very happy cruising with the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) again!
The Lago Mar Resort, Fort Lauderdale
By: Liam Murphy(age 10)
The Lago Mar Resort was a great experience for my family. They had great service, and were very nice. At the resort they have two pools, a Ping-Pong table, a playground, two hammocks, a giant chess board (like in Harry Potter), and two beach volleyball courts, tennis courts, shuffleboard, and the ocean next to it all. It is a great place for kids; my sister and I really enjoyed it. Here’s how our days usually went: take a walk on the beach (it was beautiful!), swim, play ping pong, play chess, eat lunch, swim, walk some more on the beach, go up to our room and relax, and walk some more.
The Lago Mar Resort also has many restaurants. Our favorite was the Soda Shop. The Soda Shop was divided into three parts. One part was like a gas station. They had bottled water, soda, chip bags, candy, and things like that. The other part had the cash register and ice cream, which was delicious! The third part was the counter, where you could order food. The food tasted great, and we ate there for almost all of our meals! All in all, the soda shop was pretty sweet.
We also went to Mai Kai, which was a Polynesian restaurant. The food and drinks were delicious!  They had a wide variety of cool drinks for kids and adults. For dinner we had teriyaki beef, chicken, and shrimp. After dinner there was a show. In the show there were different Polynesian dances. They also did one fire dance where they threw up the sticks (which were on fire) and caught them. It was very cool!
We went to Luigi’s Coal Oven Pizza one night, too. It was a quiet, little place, but the food was great. For an appetizer we had the Caesar salad. We also had the pepperoni pizza which was delicious. We left Luigi’s happy, that’s for sure!
All in all, it was a great trip!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Biloxi, Mississippi/ New Orleans, Louisiana

Submitted By: Emma Murphy, Age 11
To start out, this was a great vacation. It started out a little rough, but in the end it worked out wonderfully.
We had rented a beautiful house on St George Island, Florida for one week. I was absolutely ecstatic to spend a whole week in a gorgeous house with my family, in the sunshine state. We were about half way there, then it hit. Tropical storm Debbie ruined our plans. The entire island lost power, they had to evacuate, and they closed the bridge. I didn’t get too upset. I knew that somehow my wonderful mom/ travel agent would figure it out and we would get the dream vacation we had been planning for months. When we finally did enter Florida a big sign greeted us. It read, “Florida, the sunshine state”, as it is pouring down rain. The weather started to reflect my mood. We ended up staying in a Double Tree Hotel with the rest of my family in Tallahassee, Florida while we figured out what to do. We then found out that we would not be able to get on the island at all. So, the adults started a crazy session of brainstorming while the kids played tag and threw paper airplanes in the hotel lobby (I’m not kidding about the paper airplanes: It was nuts). Some adults wanted to go back home and bag the whole thing, others thought we should find a new place, and one crazy man (Hi Dad!) wanted to swim to the island and break into the house (he was totally joking). With some serious time on the internet and a lot of discussion the adults came to a conclusion: Biloxi, Mississippi. Here is how they decided…
1. Distance from Tallahassee
2. Weather
As you can see, we weren’t very picky. We just wanted some sun! The next day, we left the hotel and headed to our new destination hoping it would work out. My mom had found 3 condos to rent that would house us for the next 4 nights. They were set up in 3 towers right across the street from the beach. About an hour away from Tallahassee, I saw some sun! It was so nice to actually have a new view! It kept getting better from there on out. When we reached Biloxi, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We reached Legacy Towers (the condos) and saw the beautiful ocean and 2 decent sized pools. It was so great to go outside without getting drenched with rain! The condo my parents and brother stayed in was nice. It included 3 bedrooms (all with TVs), 3 bathrooms, a small kitchen unit, and a living room with a couch, 2 chairs, a TV, and table for eating. The condo where I stayed, on the other hand, was magnificent! It was much more decorated and modern looking. It wasn’t that the other one looked old, it just wasn’t as pristine. This was a 2 bedroom condo. My grandparents, cousin, and I stayed there. It had 2 bathrooms, a kitchen area, a dining area, and a living room. The bedrooms and living room all had flat-screen TVs along with a variety of different kinds of furniture. I loved how everything looked so new! It was awesome! The weather was FANTASTIC!!!!! It was mid eighties- low nineties everyday and totally sunny. The pools were great too. We stayed in primarily one pool the duration of the week. At the pool there were some palm trees and lounge chairs, and some tables with umbrellas. It was very relaxing, except when we had chicken fights of courseJ. In all honesty the beach wasn’t as great. It was a gorgeous view from the balcony as the sun was rising (according to my grandma at least. I didn’t get up before 10:30 all week) but when we went to swim in it, the water was disgusting. It was really fun to play in the sand and build sand castles but the water was just plain dirty! So, we spent most of our time in the pool. I’m pretty sure that we averaged about 6-7 hours per day swimming/tanning.
There was also a mall right down the street along with souvenir shops and some grocery stores. We ate at the condos every night except for one. There was a Bonefish Grill at the mall I mentioned earlier that we decided to dine at. It was delicious! I highly recommend it if you have never been there before. (It’s a chain restaurant) Another store we visited was the surf shop. I got a t-shirt and sweat-shirt there, both reading “Biloxi Beach”.
My grandparents were dead-set on finding a quaint breakfast place or coffee shop, but they couldn’t find one. Hurricane Katrina wiped out everything! And it showed. There were a lot of empty spaces where you could tell buildings had been and there were tons of empty parking lots that served no purpose. It was kind of sad thinking about all of the damage that the stupid hurricane had done.
All in all, Biloxi was a pretty good vacation spot considering where we started out. If you are looking for a small little beach town with lots of cute shops and diners with a nice house to stay in I would not suggest it, but if you just want to get away for a week and just go somewhere warm and sunny you should consider Biloxi, Mississippi.
After we went to Biloxi, we decided to go to New Orleans for a night. My dad had not been there since he was a kid and my mom, brother, and I had never been there. New Orleans is probably the most interesting and different place I had ever been. Now, I bet a lot of you are thinking, “What were her parents thinking bringing kids to new Orleans?” I can say that as long as you have kids out of the French Quarter by 9:00pm they will be totally fine. One of the things that I had really wanted to do in New Orleans was go on a steamboat tour because I had seen it in movies that had taken place there. It was pretty cool but my favorite part was listening to the jazz music aboard the boat. It was really hot so we couldn’t sit outside for long and in my opinion we didn’t see that many cool things anyway. It wasn’t the highlight of the day but I am glad I can say that I have been on a steamboat. We ate sort of a brunch at a restaurant in the French Quarter. I didn’t get anything exciting but my mom and dad split a po-boy. I had never seen such a big sandwich in my life! I mean, it was humongous! I took a bite of it and it was delicious! If you go to New Orleans I would definitely get one as long as you share or want to take home a box. One of my favorite parts was getting beignets at the CafĂ© du Monde. They were probably the tastiest thing I had ever eaten. Very messy, but mouth-watering. They are pretty much French donuts I guess. It was some sort of delicious dough thing covered in powdered sugar and they were still hot. I loved them! The powdered sugar got all over the place though and my brother’s shorts were covered. It was pretty entertaining trying to eat them without getting messy; especially because we didn’t have forks (we got them to go) I decided that you can’t go to New Orleans without getting a beignet. That night we went to mass at the St. Louis Cathedral. It is the oldest active cathedral in the U.S.A. and it was beautiful! The alter was so decorated and the ceiling was magnificent. In all I thought it was breath-taking. After church we went to eat at this restaurant called the Gumbo Shop. I got crawfish etufee. It was sooo good! Some real New Orleans food. Then we went to Preservation Hall. It is this cool place to listen to jazz music and is open for all ages. (Yes, there actually places in New Orleans that kids can go, pretty surprising right?) I was waiting in line outside with my mom while my dad and brother went to look for a Saints hat. We were just talking and then this lady in a tight little mini-dress came into view. She was totally strutting her stuff and was carrying a magazine in her hand. As she walked by us she smacked my butt with the magazine. She didn’t say a word and kept walking. I was like,”Um… what just happened? That was really awkward.” It was by far the weirdest thing that had happened throughout the entire vacation. And she didn’t look like she was drunk or anything! But I guess that is just New Orleans for you! When we got into Preservation Hall I was thinking, “What the heck have my parents gotten us into?” It was this little tiny room that had no air conditioning and it was around 100 degrees outside! Plus it didn’t help that they packed us in like sardines. I was so wrong though! It was the best jazz music I had heard and I really enjoyed myself. The lack of fresh air didn’t even bug me that much! It was great. Then we got out of the French Quarter really fast because by that time it was 9:00 and I didn’t exactly want to be there at night. We went to the hotel we were spending the night in, the Renaissance Hotel in the Art District. It was really cool. Because it was in the Art District, inside was very colorful and cheery. I really liked it. Then next morning we left to go home. As you can see, New Orleans was very entertaining and somewhat educational, (I will always remember to put by butt against a wall while standing in a line, and you never know what can happen in New Orleans!)
Clearly, it was a great vacation. I would definitely recommend both Biloxi, Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana for completely different reasons. I hope you have found this entry helpful!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

For Christmas this year, we decided to give the kids a trip to Universal Studios! They are both HUGE Harry Potter fans and we were all anxious to see what the "buzz" was about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We were not disapointed! I guess I should first give a disclaimer that if you are going to Universal expecting Disney, you won't find it there. Universal, while not as big or extravagant, is very fun and offers something different from Disney. We stayed at the Lowes Royal Pacific resort. This is an on-site property at Universal. We loved the resort. The staff was very friendly and helpful. My kids loved that everywhere they went people said, "Aloha". The pool was fantastic and heated(major pluss when going in the winter). There were several restaurants onsite and we are big fans of Emril's. The biggest selling point is that by staying onsite you have early access to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We had an entire hour before regular park guests were allowed. Also, there is an Express Lane to every ride, but two, where we were able to walk right on and not wait. This is different from Disney where you have to get a Fast Pass. This is a seperate line. We LOVED this benefit and would not do it any other way!
There are 2 parks at Universal; Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Islands of Adventure hosts the Wizarding World of Happry Potter. You walk in to find yourseld standing in Hogsmeade, complete with snowcapped houses. We loved Olivander's wand shop and the presentation from Olivander himself to match a child fromt he audience with the perfect wand. We drank butterbear every day and ate at Three Broomsticks. The main attraction, The Forbidden Journey is an exciting ride that is not for anyone prone to motion sickness! The best part was the line to wait for the ride wound through Hogwarts Castle, with stops at Dumbledore's office and the Defence Against the Dark Arts Classroom. Other higlights at Universal included the Jurrasic park area, Men In Black and the 8th Voyage of Sinbad Stunt Show. I think Universal is definately worth a visit. For those going to Disney, it would be a great one day visit to see Harry Potter. It was a perfect long weekend get-a-way in the winter to be somewhere the kids could run around, swim and be outside!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bar Harbor, Maine

I am embarrassed at the time lapse between posts. I often get so caught up in life and traveling that I forget to write! This summer, I took a second trip to Bar Harbor Maine in the past two years. While this trip was specifically for a wedding, my husband and I were able to take advantage of several adventures with friends. This was an adults only trip, but Bar Harbo has SO much to offer the whole family. We stayed at the Harborside, which is right in the middle of Bar Harbor. We had gorgeous views of the water and it truly is a lvoely resort. Since Maine was unseasonably warm while we were there, we were able to take advantage of cockatils poolside several days as well! Our first day, we did a 3 hours bike tour in Acadia National Park. It was a great way to see the park's carriage roads and take advantage of that fabulous Maine air! While I wouldn't suggest this tour for small children, those of you with older children would have a blast together! See
Day 2 provided a wonder ful hike for my husband and friends. Just touch base with the welcome center to get a map. You will be rewarded with some amazing views! That evening we took a sunset cruise of the Harbor on the Margaret Todd. This is a beautiful schooner and your can even test your muscles by helping lift the sails! We had a lovely cruise, very romantic and peaceful. A couple of restaurants to note- breakfast at Cafe this Way or Jeannies are great and lunch or dinner at The Parkside or Stewmans for lobster!
Lastly, while we didn't get to go this time, a trip to Bar Harbor is not complete without going to see Diver Ed! This is the higlight of any trip.
Bar Harbor can bit a bit difficult to get to, but worth every minute.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Baby Friendly Cruises

I was just reading an article today about the top 5 "baby friendly" cruise lines. You can find the article at:

The top five listed were:
Disney ( No surprise)
Royal Caribbean

There are a lot of things to consider when taking little ones on a cruise!