Uncategorized

Visiting Blairsville (North Georgia)

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I recently took a camping trip with my family to Vogel State Park.  Downtown Blairsville was just a short trip down the road from our camp site and I just loved how quaint and charming it was.   We decided to venture out and explore the area around Vogel. While we were exploring, we tried a local spot for lunch.  We had been to go to “Hole in the Wall”, but we realized it only took cash so we decided to checkout the “Saw Mill Place”.  It had a nice little store inside and I really loved the decor.  Their menu looked yummy and decently priced. I was pretty hopeful, but unfortunately when my food arrived, the chicken was dry and the breading was soggy. The mashed potatoes were pretty good but everything else was just alright.  I would compare it to a nicely decorated, upscale Cracker Barrel.  The things I picked were hit and miss but not bad at $9 including my drink, just not as good as I had hoped. They also serve breakfast and I would recommend trying it if you’re in town, but I wouldn’t call it “can’t miss” or anything.

 

 

The morning before we headed back home, we went into town to gas up and stopped by a nice little coffee shop I had heard good things about.  I absolutely recommend “Cabin Coffee Co.” and would label it a “can’t miss place”.  The inside is so cute and clean, I love the fireplace and all the homey cabin type furniture. I also really liked the friendly employees, my coffee and the amazing cinnamon roll!  They serve made to order food and several patrons had ordered breakfasts that looked really good (we had already eaten breakfast at our campsite but I couldn’t resist ordering a cinnamon roll to split).  I’ll definitely be back when we’re in the area.

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One of the things I really wanted to do while in Blairsville, was to stop in at a store called Mountain Crossings. It’s a haven for people hiking the Appalachian Trail, in fact, the A.T. actually goes right through the property, it’s the only covered part of the trail. This store has everything one would need for hiking, but also has A.T. patches, cool stickers, magnets, shirts, books and gifts.

All of their employees are former hikers and have extensive knowledge of the North Georgia area. The property also has a hostel for hikers and has an area with picnic tables and a gorgeous view.  Definitely, don’t miss out on this store, just a short drive from Vogel State Park.  Make sure you “hike the width of the Appalachian trail”, bring a camera to get a picture of the view and grab some awesome souvenirs.

 

Bell Mountain, while technically in Hiawassee and not Blairsville, is a short trip from where we were staying in Vogel State Park.  We asked our Camp Host about places to check out while we were in the area and he told us to “get some spray paint and go up to Bell Mountain”. We thought surely he must be crazy, there’s no way we wouldn’t get in trouble for painting on the side of a mountain. He gave us really bad directions (luckily we found it on our GPS) and completely failed to mention the “road of death” you must travel to get up it.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever been that scared in my life.  We traveled straight up a one lane road with steep drop offs and blind turns.  I was praying and closing my eyes, white knuckled and basically having an anxiety attack all while hoping we weren’t going to die or have a head on collision.  We finally made it to the top and it was almost worth it.  The views of Hiawassie and Lake Chatuge are amazing, some say better than Brasstown Bald, and the experience of being able to spray paint on the rock is one of the coolest things we’ve done on our travels. I was really skeptical but there is actually a sign that encourages you to paint on the rocks, as long as you don’t write anything vulgar.

 

Here’s the view overlooking Hiawasse and the sign that encourages rock painting.

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The sign says “Painting on rocks is permitted, NO vulgar language, DO NOT Paint Platforms, Steps, Fence or Asphalt, Destroying this Public Property which is under surveillance is subject to Criminal Prosecution in Superior Federal Court.”

I guess not everyone followed the rules unfortunately but it is a really cool place (although the road to get there is extremely scary) and I highly recommend you go if you are a daredevil and aren’t afraid of dangerous roads.

 

 

 

Helton Creek Falls is another out of the way beautiful attraction.  If you blink, you might miss the turn off with the sign for Helton Creek Falls.  I kind of thought it might be right there, shortly after we turned on the road, nope! Follow a one lane back road (that is also scary!) with steep drop offs for over 2 miles before you have to hike,luckily a fairly short and beautiful hike, to get to the lower falls, then go up steep stairs to get to the top. My husband said it wasn’t worth the trouble of the drive and hike but we had just experienced the craziness of the road to Bell Mountain and had some recent stress with our camper. Looking back, I think it is worth it, because it is so secluded and beautiful. It’s just good to know that there is quite a drive and small hike.

 

If you’d like to check out my post about camping at Vogel State Park, click here.

Southern Travel

Exploring North Georgia: Vogel State Park

img_8031              The kids had a week off school for Thanksgiving so we decided to make the most of it and a book an RV site for a few days of camping and exploring in North Georgia.  I’ve been wanting to visit the beautiful North Georgia mountains, so I decided to book a campsite at Vogel State Park. We hadn’t been before but I’d heard a lot of great things about it and it was high on my list of state parks I wanted to visit.  We arrived at dusk, right before their general store closed and were able to check in and get a bundle of wood.  I’m glad we arrived when we did, because I wouldn’t have understood the “choose your own site” system they have.  You basically have an area of sites to pick from and just find an open one you like, park and hang up a little tag they give you.  The sites were pretty roomy, you definitely have people around you but not too close.  No sites really had what I would consider a “nice view” but they were pretty and surrounded by trees. The camp hosts stopped by shortly after and were very helpful in answering in questions we had and letting us know what site they were at in case we needed anything.   There was a concrete picnic table, fire ring and charcoal grill located on our site. We had electric and water hook ups but no sewer, which we were not prepared for! I thought I remembered reading that the sites were full hook-up, they are not.  There are dump stations at the front of the park so that was convenient.  In the morning we figured out that we were right next to some slightly hidden bathrooms/showers. There weren’t any signs for them and we were only able to find them because of the map they gave us at check in.  The restrooms weren’t the greatest, just two showers that are a little old and dingy and I definitely recommend shower shoes.  There were several dead bugs in one shower stall and a live and very large spider in one of the bathroom stalls (eww). There are other bathrooms in the park we came across but they had shower curtains instead of locking doors and I’d rather have a dingy locking shower than a nicer shower with only a curtain. There is also tent camping and cottages located in the park, if you want to check it out but don’t have a camper or RV.  And FYI, the roads there are a little scary so beware if you aren’t fond of curvy roads with steep drop offs. We actually encountered that several times in our travels in that area, you can read more about that here

 

 

We went during the fall, but there is also a sandy beach and kayak, paddle board and peddle boat rentals that you can take advantage of if you are there during the warmer months.  Besides the amazing view at the lake, my favorite thing had to be the waterfall.  There aren’t a lot of signs for it, but its a pretty easy walk. You just follow the trail around the lake, headed away from the parking lot and you’ll come to a path near the spillover in the center.  You just follow that a short little ways and it will bring you straight to Trahlyta Falls.  It’s about a mile round trip and the skill level is listed as beginner so it’s pretty easy and is something that all people of all ages and activity levels can enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Overall, it was a really great experience but I don’t know that I would go there just to camp if you weren’t planning on doing activities around town.  I’m not sure there would be enough to keep you entertained, except maybe during the Summer when you can swim at the beach and rent things to play in the water. There wasn’t a lot offered at the campground except a playground and a mini golf course, but it was pretty cold when we went so not very conducive to those kinds of things. Also, not having a sewer hookup was a big turn off. We’re a family of 4, so just using the sink to wash our hands and rinse our dishes off uses a fair amount of water.  I did love the area, and do plan on coming back for a visit, if you want to read more about the area, check out my post about Visiting Blairsville. We passed a fair number of other campgrounds, so I might check into places that are a little nicer for our return trip, but I will definitely stop in at Vogel State Park to hike around the lake and visit the waterfall!

 

Recipes

Secret Apple Pie Recipe

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While my husband was in the military, we lived at Fort Riley, Kansas for a while. Each year they host an “Apple Days” festival where they open up the Army post and have a huge community event. Usually around 7,000 people show up and there are vendors, people dressed up in historic costumes, activities and games for kids, but the main draw is the fabulous apple pies that they sell to raise money for their Historical Society.  Now, I’m typically not big on apple pie, but I was there and thought I would see what all the hype was about and WOW, it really was amazing! There’s something about the crumbly topping that really takes it up a notch. Now, their recipe is top secret. They reportedly use a 150 year old recipe from Libby Custer, General Custer’s wife who lived at Fort Riley and used apples from apple trees on post to make pies for here husband and his soldiers.  Each year one or two “Pie Queens” are picked and they are the only ones allowed to see the full recipe. So, since there is no way to make know their exact recipe, I took to the interwebs to see if I could find something similar.  I came across this recipe on Pinterest, it looked similar and was also from a “secret recipe” so I thought I would give it a try.  Now, I’ve since moved a half dozen times and haven’t had one of the famous pies in a while but I have to say, this recipe is as good as I remember theirs being. I hope you guys love it as much as we do!

 

Recipe Adapted from “Mom’s Crazy Cooking” blog found here

You will need the following:

1 refrigerated pie crust (I used Pillsbury)

Filling
4 to 8 apples (I used 4 large Pink Ladies)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Crumble
1-1/4 cups plain flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
6 tbsp butter, melted

Roll out your refrigerated pie crust, adjust it to fit in your pie dish, pinch the edges to create a design if you like.

Peel and core the apples, cut into small slices. I used a handy dandy apple slicer I got from Amazon.  Place sliced apples in a mixing bowl or large ziplock bag and add the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt to the apples, stir or shake bag to coat the apples with the yummy mix and set aside.

 

 

Heat the 2 tbsp of butter in a large saucepan until bubbling. Add the apples and cook at medium high heat for about 10 minutes until they begin to soften (yet still hold some shape). Your kitchen will smell amazing! Then, using a colander over a bowl, drain all  the butter juice from the apples, transfer the apples and shake to drain the excess juices into the bowl.

Transfer the juices back into the sauce pan and add the heavy whipping cream. Cook this mixture, stirring occasionally until it thickens, about 6 – 10 minutes.

While the sauce is cooking, add in the apples to the pie shell. When the sauce is finished, pour the hot syrup over the apples.

Lastly, combine all the crumble ingredients (the flour and both sugars). Drizzle your melted butter into the mixture and crumble with a fork until it’s well combined and the mixture resembles crumbs. Sprinkle this crumble over the apple mixture.

Cook at 375 degrees in pre-heated oven for about 40 minutes.  You want the apple pie to be hot and bubbly and the crumble mixture to be crispy on top.

Remove from the oven and cool for at least 30 minutes before serving. Do not be impatient (like me) and dig in almost immediately.  The pie will not be set and all the juices will run out.  You can also cool completely and freeze.  If you plan on doing this, it’s best too cook it in an aluminum pie plate.

Why not make your own crust you say?  Well… I have done that in the past. The original pie recipe I found calls for it but honestly it is such a pain, and mine always shrinks or looks wonky.  Feel free to make your own pie crust if you wish, I prefer to use the refrigerated ones.

 

 

Pro tips:

Do not forget to buy the heavy cream at the store!  I forgot this time around and had to use a substitute that wasn’t very successful.

Really do let the pie cool completely before serving if you want it to slice properly and be pretty.

The pie crust I bought comes with two. While your making it anyway, why not double the recipe and make and extra to freeze and use later or give as gift.

If you’d like to buy the same apple slicer I have, you can find it on Amazon here: http://amzn.to/2hrms7R

* this is an affiliate link and I do receive a small commission (at no cost to you)

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This is what the pie looks like when you have to scoop it out instead of slicing it (oops!) I added French Vanilla ice cream on the side, yum!

 

Disney

Great Gifts for Disney Loving Adults (All under 30 Dollars!)

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After researching and planning our family Disney trip last year, I realized, I seriously love Disney. I also realized, I’m not the only one. I’ve found out that I know a lot of other people just as Disney obsessed as I am. If you’re like me, when people ask what you want for Christmas, you’re answer is “I don’t know”.  Well, I’ve got you covered.  Here’s a list of items all under 30 dollars for the Disney obsessed.

 

Basin is a store in Disney Springs that carries the most amazing bath and beauty products. There are other locations and an online store, unfortunately they don’t have much Disney themed outside of their Orlando store but there are a couple of things online. Here are two I love:

Rose soap

 

Enchanted Rose Soap $5.99 This would be a perfectly pretty soap for any Beauty and the Beast fan.

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Villian Bath Bomb $4.99 With notes of vanilla, night musk and wild berries, your bath will be wickedly relaxing.

 

 

Here are a few of my favorites on Amazon, just add one of these to your cart when you need something else to get free shipping 🙂  Then you can give yourself a present you’ll actually like…

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Mickey Waffle Maker Currently $29.69. My family loves it when I pull out this cute little guy for weekend breakfasts!

Pancake & Waffle Flour mix

Waffle Mix Currently $10.78 on Amazon. This is the Waffle mix that Disney World reportedly uses to make their amazing Mickey Waffles!

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Haunted Mansion T-shirt Currently $19.99. One of my favorite characters definitely  has to be  “tight rope girl” from the stretching room of the Haunted Mansion.  I love this shirt that features her.

 

NBC book

Nightmare Before Christmas Book Currently $12.71 this is a great item for anyone who loves adult coloring books, although I found mine too pretty to color on and plan on using the prints to hang on the wall.

*These items from Amazon are affiliate links and I receive a teeny commission from them (at no cost to you).

 

These next items are from the official Disney site. Sometimes, like all things Disney, their items are overpriced but some things are really a pretty good deal.

castle bangle

Castle Bracelet I have this (in silver) and love it! Alex and Ani bangle Currently on sale for $27.97

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Ursula Tote Bag  They have several other villains available and they’re all as equally beautiful and all are $19.99

Poison mug

Poisoned Apple Mug While $14.95 is quite a bit more than I’d usually pay for a coffee mug, I think this one is worth the splurge!

Mickey baking set

Mickey and Friends Holiday Baking Set This baking set is perfect for any Disney foodie. I love that it comes with several items for the $19.95 price point!

 

 

 

 

 

Camping and Campers, Travel

6 Websites Every Camper Needs to Visit

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Being a newbie to owning a camper, I’ve been trying to find some great places to camp near me. At first, I had no idea where to start.  As a frequent traveler and planner of weekend “staycations” I’m pretty familiar with what to do when booking hotels but had no idea where to start when I wanted to research and book a good campsite. Where should I go? What kind of campgrounds are there? Where are places that would interest me? To help answer those questions, I joined a few camping Facebook groups and slowly started putting together a list of places to find and reserve campsites. I hope you find these as helpful as I have!

  1. FreeCampsites.net

Frequently used by “Boondockers” or anyone looking for a free place to stop for a night or two, this site is a map based search engine.  You simply zoom in on the area of the map you are interested in or use your phone’s GPS to find camping near you.  It’s community based so there are lots of contributors and it stays pretty up to date. Many of the campgrounds and sites have ratings and list a price if it is not free. This website also lists amenities, activities and even a 5 day forecast!

2. Hipcamp.com

Like an Airbnb for camping, HipCamp is your go to site to find unique spots to camp.  Imagine camping on a beautiful ranch, breathtaking vineyard or a picturesque organic farm, these are the types of places you can choose from on this site which boasts over 285,000 campsites!

3. Campendium.com

Created by campers for campers, this site helps you search, review and preview over 21,000 campgrounds around the United States. Ask any Facebook group camping page about a recommendation and odds are they’ll direct you to Campendium. It’s also a top rated App, so a good it’s a good one to add to your smart phone.

4. ReserveAmerica.com

This is the “largest provider of campsite reservations in North America”, and is your go to website to reserve private, state and federal campgrounds including campsites from the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and Army Corpse of Engineers.

5. Recreation.gov

Want to check out Federal lands for camping and recreation? This site will help you search the largest inventory of federal land in America. Here you can build a trip, make a reservation, schedule a tour or even enter a lottery for limited entry locations. Click on the “Find Places and Activities” link to search for parks and campgrounds to check availability and make reservations.

6. Allstays.com

This site lets you search by state in U.S. (also by Provinces and Territories in Canada). Click on the State and then search through the cities, from there you will be given a list of campgrounds in that city along with location about where the campground is located and given campground details like the number of sites available, what kind of amenities it has and their website or contact information. This one is also available as an App.

Camper and Camping, Travel

Take a Peek Inside my Camper Makeover!

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My husband and I recently purchased a 2013 Skyline Nomad. We decided to name her Norma since we were watching a lot of Bates Motel and “Norma the Nomad” seemed pretty fitting. Everything inside was like new (except the rotted out wall in the back that we weren’t aware of) and my husband didn’t want to change anything.  I on the other hand saw it as something to decorate and update :).  The “50 Shades of Brown” look isn’t really my thing so he begrudgingly went along with my re-decorating.  The first thing we did was rip down the corrugated wall to discover the extensive water damage (yikes). Then we had that repaired, placed down the small amount of vinyl flooring that we needed in the bathroom and started painting. I guess technically we painted the bathroom, then put down the flooring, then painted the rest of the camper but you get the picture.

 

Here’s the before and after and yes, that is carpet in the first picture (eww!).  I had a hard time deciding paint colors.  I went with a light gray and at first it looked white.  I had to go back and get the color adjusted.   I used a primer first and then used a paint with primer in it to make double sure my paint wasn’t going anywhere (there were a lot of complaints about paint not sticking properly on the RV interiors Facebook group I was following).

Here’s the bathroom all finished with a shower curtain (from TJ Maxx) and wall shelf (from Hobby Lobby). Here’s a link to the vinyl planks I used if you want to check them out: http://amzn.to/2xpxm0Limg_5087

Next, I bought some table cloths from Walmart and recovered the cushions with them (I used fabric glue because I may be good at a few things but sewing isn’t one of them). Then I used granite film I bought off Amazon to cover the table.  I think it brightened it up a lot, don’t you?

 

I also bought inexpensive foam mattresses for the 3 beds (for the bunks I bought a queen and cut it in half with an electric knife, it was much cheaper than buying 2!). Then new bedding for the big bed and a few rugs and little decor items. This is the mattress I bought, it actually sleeps really well: http://amzn.to/2gLzooL

 

I bought a new faucet that my sweet husband installed for me.  I initially bought one that didn’t fit from Walmart (oops!).  I ordered this one from Amazon and it’s held up pretty well so far. I love how it instantly updated the small “kitchen” area! Sorry it’s different angles but I had this picture on hand already. Find this faucet here: http://amzn.to/2gFtcv3

 

I also painted our little refrigerator with black chalkboard paint to break up all the brown.  Here’s a before and after view of the camper looking from the front to the back. Although I don’t “hate” the flooring, I think adding these cute little rugs breaks up all the brown.

 

We took Norma to a campground near Columbus, Georgia for her maiden voyage.  It was an adjustment to figure out how to make everything work and how to find a comfortable temperature between freezing with the A/C on full blast and sweltering when it wasn’t up high enough but it was lots of fun! Here’s a picture of the outside. I loved the little string lights!  They are plastic and made for outdoor use.  Get them here: http://amzn.to/2y7o51MIMG_5113

*Disclaimer* I do get a teeny tiny commission if you buy something from Amazon through a link on my site, but these are tried and tested products approved by me.  I would not recommend anything that I don’t personally love, although I can’t be held responsible if you don’t love it too Lol. If you need a little something extra to throw in your cart to get free shipping, I also love these nesting bowls: http://amzn.to/2iacMfn.

Thanks for checking out my camper makeover! Ya’ll let me know if there’s anything camper/ RV related you want me to talk about, maybe a packing list, essentials you should buy to stock or something similar? If you liked this, please take a sec to subscribe to my blog or check me out on my other Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

 

Southern Travel

Columbus Georgia

Columbus has to be one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities I’ve ever been to and as a military spouse I’ve traveled to a lot of places.  I fall in love with it a little bit more every time I go. There’s always a new place to visit, a new restaurant to try or improvements that have been made, but there’s also my old stand bys like my favorite coffee shop (in the country! And I’ve lived next to Seattle LOL)  and the coolest antique/upcycled shop I’ve ever seen.

From the charming and walkable downtown with beautiful river views to the amazing local restaurants, shopping, parks and museums it’s hard to experience everything. This list only scratches the surface. You’ll have to go explore for yourself to try to experience everything.

 

The Riverwalk: Take a stroll or bike ride, watch some paddle boarders, rent a kayak, cross the Chattahoochee on a zipline, the possibilities are almost endless.  If you have kiddos, don’t miss the park and spray ground!

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On Saturday mornings, you won’t want to miss the amazing market on Broadway.  Theres amazing produce, baked goods, jams, hand made items, local artists and more.

Iron Bank Coffee, located at 6W 11th Street, this is somewhere I make sure to stop  every time I visit Columbus.  I love their decor, fresh pastries and most of all, their iced coffees!  Farmer’s Tan and Monkey Business are two of my favorites.  I almost always  have to have one of their amazing chocolate chip cookies to go too.

Junque Yard Antiques at 513 14th Street is probably one of the coolest stores I’ve ever been to.  I try to  stop in every time I even get near the place and have an extra minute (or preferably an hour) to see what’s new.  I almost always come away with a few treasures.

The National Infantry Museum: Named by CNN as a museum that “every military enthusiast should visit” This free and interactive museum is a must see while your in Columbus. Reflect on wars of the past along with current conflicts while browsing artifacts, monuments, exhibits and videos including the new Global War on Terrorism Memorial, “honoring all who have served their country since 9/11”. NIM*photo courtesy of the National Infantry Museum Facebook Page

 

The Columbus Museum (of Art), is another amazing and free museum. This was one of my favorite places while living there. Their installations rival almost every museum of any major city I’ve been to. Their interactive children’s area is the best I’ve seen anywhere, ever, seriously I can’t say enough…. I still can’t believe it’s free! This is definitely a must do, especially on a rainy day. Don’t miss the small but fun “Bradley Olmsted Garden” beside the museum.

Museum-Front-768x437*photo Courtesy of The Columbus Museum website

 

In the area is Little Grand Canyon of Georgia aka Providence Canyon State Park. Located a short drive from Columbus, this natural wonder is something to behold.  Most people I’ve spoken to that lived in the area had no idea that this gem is nearby.  This is definitely a must for hikers but is easy enough terrain that my kids (and my out of shape self) fairly easily conquered the walk down into and subsequently back up from the canyon floor. It can also be viewed from above if you aren’t interested in the hike.  Check it out for a small $5 per car parking fee. img_5225

The food: It would take almost a whole book to talk about the amazing food and restaurants Columbus has to offer. Here are a few of my favorites:

Epic: For a romantic dinner or for and upscale meal, you can’t beat the awesomeness that is Epic! It’s a true food experience.

For fried chicken and amazing Southern food done right, visit Minnie’s

If you’re looking to for some awesome Korean BBQ, check out Koreana

In the mood for a sandwich?  Stop in at Momma Goldberg’s (the location on Broadway is my favorite).

Let me know if you think I’ve missed anything.  If you’ve been to Columbus, GA, leave a comment with your favorite spot.

Disney

Disney World Cheat Sheet

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I watched hours of YouTube videos, researched countless Disney websites, combed through Pinterest and spent months researching my Disney trip.  Here are some of the tips that I found most helpful.

 

  1. Each Disney park has a first aid station. They have band aids, and medicine that they will give you for free.  We had to utilize the station at Epcot and I got headache medicine for both me and my daughter (they had liquid for the littles).  The employees are super friendly.
  2. Get to the parks before opening!  They will be at their least crowded so you’ll be sure to get to walk on a few rides, you’ll also get a fairly close parking space if you’re driving and it’s great for less crowded photos. We always get there early, leave around or right after lunch and return in the evening. We get a chance to rest during the busiest and hottest part of the day and come back when crowds are lower.
  3. Go to a Disney Outlet. If you want Disney souvenirs with a significant savings, check out the Disney Outlets aka Character Warehouses. There are 2 near Disney World, one is located right next to Disney Springs and one is a short ride down the highway next to Universal.                                                                                                                               They are located at: 8200 Vineland Ave. Orlando, FL (near Disney Springs) and 4969 International Dr. Orlando, FL (near Universal). I went to both, the one near Disney Springs, before we went to the parks (I wanted to get autograph books for the kids and they luckily they had some really cool ones for cheap) and I went to the one near Universal right before we left Orlando.  My tip is to go to the one near Universal if you only want to visit one.  It is easier to get in and out of because you can park in front of the store and walk right in (unlike the Vineland Ave one where you have to park in a lot and wander until you find it.)  and the one near Universal was much less crowded when we went.
  4. Bring Ponchos!  If you carry a backpack (which I highly recommend bringing one, you can take it on all the rides and it’s great to store your water bottles, snacks etc.) buy a few ponchos from the dollar store or Walmart before you go (I’ve heard you can even get Disney ponchos at Walmart near Disney World for pretty cheap) It almost always downpours at least once during a trip and you will be prepared and won’t have to spend $10 a piece for the ponchos at the park. It’s also a good idea to pack a plastic grocery bag to stuff all the rainy, wet ponchos in.
  5. Visit Disney Springs.  Especially if you have some non park days planned.  It’s beautiful and has so many great shops and activities.  You can go to the movies, go bowling at Splitsville, take a ride in a hot air balloon, create your own snack at Goofy’s Candy Co., dine at one of the amazing restaurants or just relax at a table and take in the beautiful scenery.  Here are the stores I put on my “Must go to” list: Basin (has bath bombs and soaps, similar to Lush but actually cheaper and they have Disney themed items!)                                                                                              Uniqlo (Similar to H&M, they have quality clothes for a great price include really nice Disney shirts for around $15 for adults and $10 for kids)                                   World of Disney (because who would want to miss out on the biggest Disney store?)                                                                                                                                 Goofy’s Candy Co.(here you can customize your own caramel apple or rice krispy treat, pick out a cute Disney themed cake pop or cupcake and spend your remaining dining plan snack credits on bags of treats to take home.
  6. Research Dining Options. Disney has some amazing food (and surprisingly some of it is very reasonably priced). Research what dining options there are in the park and see what you might be interested in trying.  I had several items on my “must try list” like the Carrot Cake Cookie at Hollywood Studios and “The Grey Stuff” at Be Our Guest in  Magic Kingdom . I also kept a list of potential restaurants for each park and would pick from the list depending on which restaurants we were close to when the kids got hungry.
  7. Hydrate! Disney will give you free ice water at any of their restaurants or snack stations as long as it isn’t one that only has bottled items.  Bring a reusable water bottle to fill in the morning as you go into the park and so you can save anything leftover after a food stop.
  8. Buy your own glowing items from the dollar store or other discount store.  When it gets dark in Disney, the very expensive glow things appear and everyone wants one.  The Dollar Store even has Disney brand glow wands/bracelets etc. that you can sometimes find.  Make sure to pack some to bring out for fireworks and night time fun.  Bonus, it helps you keep up with your kids or others in your party in the dark.
  9. Wear comfy broken in shoes. Bring and extra pair in case they get soggy and aren’t able to dry overnight (we learned this the hard way). It’s also helpful to “train” for Disney.  We averaged almost 10 miles a day so it’s good to be prepared by doing some walking with the family to prepare for your trip.
  10. Check the schedules. The first time we went to Disney World, I had no idea when the parade was, what time fireworks started or that certain night time shows were offered.  There’s all kinds of fun free shows that are put on in every park on a daily basis.  It’s impossible to make it to everything but it’s good to check the schedules for the park on the day you are going so you don’t miss out.
  11. Have fun but remember to relax! Make a plan but don’t be too rigid or no one will have fun. Schedule in time to go to the resort pool and time to just rest. We had park days every day we were there but I wish I had planned one down day to relax at the resort.

I hope these tips were helpful and maybe some are new and helpful to you.  Let me know if you have any tips I left out and have a magical day!

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Uncategorized

Georgia’s Secret Canyon

"How have I never been here?!" I asked myself when I finally made it to the breath taking Providence Canyon. I lived in Georgia growing up and even lived about 30 minutes from the canyon for a few years while my husband was stationed at Fort Benning and I had never even heard of it. It started popping up on different "top places to visit" lists on the internet and I knew I had to go see it in person! I definitely wasn't disappointed (except by the fact I hadn't visited sooner), even my usually unenthusiastic kids loved exploring the "caves" (crevices in the canyon) and climbing on some of the lower hills.

There's a pretty steep hike down and of course back up for about a quarter mile but it goes by pretty quickly and is completely worth it. We went during a rather hot part of Summer but it was the perfect temperature down in the canyon. The ground is sandy and wet so make sure to wear the right shoes (preferably ones you don't mind getting muddy).
There are canyons numbered 1 to 9 to hike to, we opted to go to 4 and 5 as recommended by the staff at the visitors center. These are said to be the best views with the least amount of hiking and since we had our kids with us, we opted for easy, although I'd love to go back and explore all 9. Make sure to bring along plenty of water maybe even pack a picnic to enjoy at their picnic tables (located at the top). There aren't many restaurants, or really anything, located in the general area with the exception of a pretty cool local brewery. Speaking of which, the Omaha Brewing Company is a good pit stop if you're a beer drinker, it's family and pet friendly and you can try out some of their tasty beverages on tap for a small fee. The beer is great and the employees are super friendly, they even offered gave the kiddos bottled water while they played board games.

They have plans to expand into a distillery, concert venue and more. They host live bands with food trucks on Saturday afternoons, and although we didn't get a chance to attend, I can tell by the atmosphere and people that it would be a lot of fun. Check out their Facebook page before you go to see what kind of events they have coming up.

While you're in the area, I highly recommend taking a good amount of time to spend in Columbus. Park downtown and visit some of the retail shops, restaurants and take a stroll on the beautiful Riverwalk. Stop by the riverfront playground and let the kids run through the free spray park if it's warm then hit up one of the ice cream or froyo spots within walking distance. There's lots to explore in beautiful Columbus but that's another post all together!

Happy travels!

Disney

Disney’s Fort Wilderness (Cabin Review)

 

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We recently had the pleasure of going to Disney World and staying on property at a cabin at the Fort Wilderness resort. I was not compensated or discounted in anyway by Disney in exchange for my review (unfortunately!).  This is my honest opinion of our experience.

 

I absolutely loved the cabin.  There were 4 of us, but it sleeps 6. There is a queen sized bed in the main bedroom, along with 2 bunk beds that the kids really enjoyed (they have their own lights, so cute!). The couch also pulls out to a bed but we didn’t use that feature during our stay.  The beds were really comfortable and I loved the theming of the decorations, although they could have been a little more “Disney.”

 

One of my favorite things were the hardwood floors.  I always feel a little germaphobic when walking on “hotel floors” but I didn’t feel that way there. The  rooms were very tidy and Mousekeeping did a great job of cleaning everyday (although we did have to ask for extra towels a few times).

 

I loved the table,  we could all fit during meals and we loved the comfy couch and chair that were provided in the living room. While not super spacious, it felt like we had much more room than a typical hotel.  It was very cozy but there was also plenty of seating and room for us to maneuver around each other.  I would have like to have maybe an extra half bath, sharing one bathroom was a little difficult when trying to get out the door early in the mornings but the bathroom was really nice and spacious.

As far as the resort goes, I feel like we really lucked out on our cabin assignment.  We were right next to a bus stop and about a block from the smaller swimming pool. On the downside, you can’t really get around the resort easily with a car.  There are no parking spots for cars pretty much anywhere besides your own cabin. To get around the resort you either have to rent a golf cart or ride the bus and we never quite figured out the bus situation. There were 2 different types of busses, ones that stay on property and ones that go off and they don’t really run on a specific schedule.  Most of the employees seemed a little confused by the bus situation too. When I called the front office they said a bus comes by every 20 minutes.  They didn’t seem sure what time the buses stopped where, all they could tell me is that “One will be by in 20 minutes or less.” The best advice I got was, “Just hang out at the bus stop and wait, a bus will be along shortly. Ask the bus driver where they are going.” Which didn’t always help when the bus drivers are new and haven’t heard of the quick service restaurant before.  That was really our only issue with the Fort Wilderness .

I loved the woodsy feel of the resort and we saw plenty of animals roaming the grounds including, deer, turkeys and bunnies.  It was very relaxing and felt like you were far away from the craziness and crowds of the parks. The kids really liked the playgrounds and the swimming pool we visited. We only ever visited the “smaller pool” which was actually pretty big and usually had only a few people (maybe because we were there in February?) but the hot tub was nice too. I was surprised at the lack of towels at the pool.  Make sure to bring your own, just in case they don’t have them (they didn’t when we were there). The walking trails looked nice and we saw a lot of people jogging and biking, but we did mostly park days so didn’t really get a chance to enjoy them.  There is also a lot of activities at the resort like a campfire sing along with Chip and Dale where you can make smores (available for purchase) and a free movie every night along with other things like horse back riding, fishing, kayaking/canoeing, archery and arcades. Overall our stay was very enjoyable and I would definitely recommend it.