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Travel Feeds the Soul
READ THOUGH MY TRAVEL ADVENTURES FOR INSPIRATION!
Travel Blog: Welcome
Myrtle Beach, SC
April 15-25 2022
Another fabulous trip to Myrtle Beach. Our last voyage down there was about 3 years ago when we visited in the month of June. Helpful hint: If you want to be on the beach without feeling like your eyeballs are going to melt, go in April or May when the weather is more ‘vacationy’.
Our trip this year was a tri-state trek beginning with an overnighter at an alpaca farm in Richmond, commencing with a trip to Grampa’s in NC and finally dovetailing into some mutual fanfare in Myrtle Beach where we got to spend time with our lovies – a dear family we love to the moon and back!
It’s not a short drive but I was equipped with my Irish festivities shirt and b-day sunglasses…my way of amping up for > 3 hours in the car with little ones (aka mini-monsters):
For this trip, we decided that we’re going to take almost 2 weeks off of work (gasp! o-m-goodness! what?! in America?? YES!! in America.) America needs way more vacation time and if we have to be the pioneers of that, so be it! Or so ‘beach’ it!
Here’s a snap of the room we spent on the farmhouse in Richmond on Night #1. Yes that is a dog and no, that’s not our dog. The owner of the farm seemed surprised to see her dog in our room, but we truly didn’t mind at all. They’re sooo cute.
The kids enjoyed looking at the alpacas. However, I’m not so convinced the alpacas enjoyed looking at the kids. I’ve been to enough alpaca farms to know the difference doggonnit! I won’t go into any more details about that one :).
We finally arrived at Grampa’s house after we survived (literally) the night on the alpaca farm. Yea, that was one of those ‘no regrets but won’t do again’ type of things so our smile for Grampa was truly earned.
Grampa loves his grandies – enough to let them pour Easter candy all of his floor and to enough to wear bunny ears to gear up for the egg hunt. You’re never too old to dress like a bunny.
Kadi also succeeded in charming her great aunties with her cute antics. She knows what she wants and knows how to get it:
A couple of nights of thermostat wars at Grampa’s were enough to send us packing to the Hilton Enclave in SC (very highly recommend). While it’s true that all hotel rooms look alike and could be a bit boring in that way, it’s also true that having someone else bring you clean towels and take out your trash is a more than even trade off! Also, the view was amazing, porch was huge, chaise lounge was my happy place and no car was required for any of the basics.
However, note that a great hotel is not enough to ensure fun. To enhance our kids’ fun and allow daddy some ‘guy time’….or more like ‘guy time with wife and kids’….we invited our friend who is a cop in SC to come in and visit the kids to pretend they were under arrest for possession of a nerf gun. It went over very well. All laughter, no tears.
We enjoyed pristine weather on the beach (maybe 3-5 degrees chillier than perfect before noon but otherwise ‘perfect’.) We played in the sand, ate ice cream, found jellyfish and even enjoyed a special blessing: a free cabana for a day. I believe it was just good karma. The previous day we chased a runaway umbrella casing down for a stranger while she wasn’t even there.
Hilton is right near an arcade (no fun for me but fun for the kids). I mean, fun for hubby and the kids:
There’s also a small amusement park. Actual footage of hubby on the teacups with Kadi. Real men ride teacups.
We went to a dinner theatre that was all about pirates! So fun and awesome food. Acrobatics and all:
We wrapped up our stint in SC (tear) by extending our time down there last minute (smile) with one of the only airbnbs still vacant just so that we could have a dinner bash with our lovies (smile). Yay for spontaneity! We stayed at Wyndham which I would highly recommend if you’re looking for a solid non-oceanfront option. They have shuttles! And I loved the art in the room:
Kadi had a great time with Auntie at the buffet (as did we all). Jacob got to ‘hollar at his boys’. As a mommy I felt such joy seeing Jacob play with his boys who he views as his big bros. They are so sweet:
It was truly hard to leave, but we were fortunate to find a vacant horse ranch to crash in on the way back. It was so peaceful and beautiful and the perfect bookend to another unforgettable trip:
Until the next time SC! Hopefully 2023!
Virginia Beach, VA
Feb 19-22 2022
Two words: Whale watching! Thanks to reading a few travel blogs over the months, I discovered that whale watching could be done in VA Beach during the winter. That’s off-season, so you can pretty much stay at the Taj Mahal if you want – for the price of a latte! Or maybe a few lattes!
We did have an amazing time with Rudee Tours seeing the most friendly, amazing, sociable creatures ever – 35-ft juvenile humpbacks – during their retreat from the colder regions. I learned that they do a thing called ‘mugging’ which is a friendly sign where they come right up to humans and say ‘hi’ by putting their heads above water and gently nuzzling. (----> there's the video on the right side)
I found it interesting that we were among the only North Americans there. America needs to get out more!! But I enjoyed the cultural mix. Spain and France were in the house.
There was a moment of collective awe as one whale came right up to the boat for some mugging…I remember the electricity of ‘ooohs’ a ‘ahhhs’ as everyone made some type of noise that signified the feeling of wonder. It was cool to be a part of that.
I also learned that you can go whale watching in the Caribbean and Maui if you like, but it was good to know VA Beach was an option b/c it was a few hours drive and the perfect trip for a 3 day weekend.
We stayed with a Vrbo host who was super gracious. We got a huge place with a game room for the kids…and a radio that my 3yo daughter kept turning up at full volume and laughing hysterically as we all freaked out. That girl…
For food…when we got there I realized there was NO DoorDash, so our survival skills were tested (lol). Thankfully Instacart was up and running so we survived off of Wegman’s pre-made meals (which are actually pretty good).
Also, we got to go to the beach. I wouldn’t consider it warm, but it was about 55 and with proper attire, you can get a few hours out there to dig up some sand…we saw a group of Amish folks burying each other in the sand and laughing. That is truly the way to be. Free as a bird!
Lastly, we visited the VA Beach Museum and Science Center. I LOVED the cheesy virtual reality shark dive. It’s interesting that your mind actually creates the experience without actually being there physically. I also was glad to get this footage of a napping shark:
There’s also a cool glass tunnel where you can walk through the tank of sharks and sting rays. It’s super mesmerizing. I stayed there for minutes. My husband was like “Jen what’s wrong?”. I he thought I was off in space somewhere. Nope…just enjoying swimming with the sharks!
Oct 8-12 2021
In fall during the COVID pandemic (which, by the way, can kindly bite the dust), we decided to go back to one of Chris’ and my favorite not-too-far from DC locales: Williamsburg! When he and I first got married almost 8 years ago, we enjoyed a solo couples trip to Williamsburg VA complete with mind-altering soul food and southern hospitality, not to mention NO diapers, NO cleaning up playdough off the hotel carpet and also, no toys in the hotel toilet…so I guess we had associated Williamsburg with stress-and-work-free glee, and therefore went again with our 2 kids.
Well just like everything, we had the good and the ‘bad’, but like all of our travels, it got woven into our memory bank of quality time…most of the time!
We stayed at Marriott Manor. Highly recommend! We got posh for a not-so-posh price….ie a good deal and the Manor is very glamourous, comfortable, spacious and charming. I remember diving into giant bubble baths with my 3yo and she told me many stories, mainly about poop and unicorns. I remember stepping onto the screened-in balcony with a cup of cheap coffee at 8am just before the shouting “MOM I’m hungry” started. I remember ordering DoorDash so that we didn’t have to spend time driving around getting carryout or cooking….and I also remember having 30 minutes calls with the DoorDash drivers because the private entrance and cryptic parking lot situation didn’t make for a very intuitive delivery experience! They were so gracious though. I would have had coffee with one of the drivers if my hubby weren’t in desperate need of help keeping the kids from swinging from the ceiling length curtains (which they in fact did almost attempt).
For recreation, we visited Great Wolf Lodge for a day trip. Their waterpark is pretty spectacular and you get free….I mean ‘free with the expensive ticket’ wolf ears for the whole family. I stayed in the kiddie pool most of the day with my 3yo and a lot of other kids that probably peed on me. It was very relaxing though. I did get to go down a few water slides with my son..and broke my only hair clip in the process so had to walk around the rest of the day looking like a yeti with wet frizzy hair. It was actually a good look with the wolf ears which, interestingly, barely any kids were wearing but adults were wearing them everywhere. Kinda weird.
We also went to Busch Gardens….I gotta admit….I was not impressed, but unfortunately, they were short staffed and couldn’t keep a lot of the rides open. However, I was touched by the kindness of one of the ride attendants in the kiddie section who volunteered to help her colleague cover for longer even though it was her time off. It was so sweet and made the moment. Kids got on a few rides and their Sesame Place exhibit was pretty decent. I finally got a pic with Cookie Monster (this is significant because when we previously visited the actual Sesame Place in PA, I could not get a pic with Cookie Monster b/c he..or she….was heading off on break the minute it was my turn in line!).
Lastly, we spent a day in colonial Williamsburg and the Jamestown Settlement (a personal fav). Lotta walking and due to the pandemic, they didn’t have all the awesome street performers, but we still got some cute pics and ate ice cream (yay)…before nearly collapsing near the shuttle bus stop to get back to our comfy hotel! Another trip to Williamsburg! May be our last for awhile :). Definitely recommend if you’ve never been.
Sept 4-7 2021
We ventured down here b/c we were inspired by a friend’s Facebook posts where they took a trip to Calvert Cliffs State Park with their little one. The pictures made it look so enticing! And who wouldn’t love the prospect of finding a shark’s tooth on the beach (something that park is known for)?
Welp….ALWAYS ‘look before you leap’. Thankfully, we called the park before we went and they informed us that the beach at Calvert Cliffs was a 2-mile hike one way, and that it wasn’t stroller/wagon-friendly…and there were no bathrooms to boot! (booo!) However, we found out they have a ‘sister park’ where the hike is only .5 miles one way with nearby bathrooms. Sold! We were on our way to this cute little beach park where dodging jellyfish and collecting seashells became the name of the game:
What actually happened: the .5 mile hike on the way there was steep and downhill and before you were able to access the beach, you had to wade through ankle-high (yet oh so warm and soothing) water….so we pulled an ‘Oregon Trail’ (for those of you who are 80s babies) and ‘forded the river’- successfully! That part was definitely memorable…..as was the .5 mile incline on the way back and the long line for the footwash by the parking lot. I felt like I needed to get into Zen mode fast….let’s just say!
We also went to the Calvert Marine Museum (highly recommend) to climb in the lighthouse and let the kids dig for fossils in the indoor fossil pit. (Hint: go there instead of Calvert Cliffs if you really want to get a fossil…there is AC AND bathrooms and a 0 mile hike).
Another really cool thing about this museum was that we got to sing pirate shanties with the local actors on the dock….and I can honestly say I’ve never sung a real pirate shanty and I loved it!
Lastly, we went on the most awesome boat tour where we learned how the commercial fisher people do their thing. Our hosts were amazing and I’d definitely go again! Solomons Island Heritage Tours. They even let my baby drive the boat….truly unforgettable!
For accommodations….I care not to mention b/c let’s just say….the hotel was fine overall…but I had to jimmy a bedroom door open with a lollipop stick b/c my 3yo locked it and the hotel had no key on premises.
This was one of our most memorable trips. It’s not about perfection; it’s about adventure and embracing the story.
Bethany Beach, DE
June 10-15 2021
Bethany Beach is THE cutest-mini-family-friendly beach in DE (I think!). We liked it because it’s got a warm and friendly environment for the kids complete with a boardwalk full of food, fun and plenty of places to spend your paycheck on your kids.
The kids love the beach so the beach is always, well, a win! However….the beach patrol did not let us erect our pop-up tent b/c apparently the rule is that you must rent their beach umbrella or purchase one. Not a huge deal but we wanted OUR tent, not THEIR tent. Clearly, not a deal-breaker but still noteworthy!
Recommend the Turtle Cafe for anything coffee.
For accommodations, we chose a 2-level townhouse as the Sea Colony.
Pros: tons of space and able to stretch out after a long day at the beach. Cons: you gotta DRIVE to the beach (or bike). It actually isn’t that bad IF you know how to do it (which we didn’t but learned). Get a parking pass from the PD and if you’re going on a weekend, start your parking space hunt 3-4 blocks away. After all, who couldn’t use a little exercise when you’re otherwise lounging around consuming fried food, beverages and all things caloric!
April 15-19 2021
We stayed in the Massanutten resort in unit 91, where apparently 20 feet past the back porch a cute, fat, bold little gopher lived. He saw us eating breakfast and wanted to partake. Us, being the animal lovers that we are, gladly passed the little fatty a few biscuits through the door. (Bojangle’s biscuits, mind you.) Needless to say, he joined us for breakfast…….and every other meal where he ‘caught’ us starting without him – for the duration of the trip!
We also took our 2yo and 5yo to the Massanutten indoor water park. If the park had a motto, it would be “Great fun for kids, and tons of hardcore physical labor for parents.” (haha). It really is a great place for the little ones to splash around and there’s no water that’s deep – not even in the water slide area. There’s tons of room to run around and get splashed and all that good stuff. But look, if you’re a parent, here’s my best advice: volunteer to work in the baby pool for the day or just brace up and get comfortable with the fact that YOU WILL BE RUNNING and you will not sit down and rest unless you have a battalion of nannies with you. But hey anything for the LO’s right?
Luray zoo! Go to it! It’s a rescue zoo that houses animals who couldn’t quite make it on their own. We love a place that has a heart! Petting farm included. Not to mention a gift shop where, if YOU have a heart like the zoo owner, you’ll get a few exotic animal figurines or a stuffed koala for yourself and/or your family. Proceeds to go keeping the zoo awesome.
Lastly, we went to a farm where sadly, I forget the name but there were tons of cute baby animals that were brilliantly arranged in one area where parents could actually relax for a minute while the kiddos pet and played with the little fuzzies. They even had a staff member dressed as a giant chicken to boot! (Dang I really wished I remembered the name of that place.) They had a super long slide and huge play area which we appreciated because it gave both kids and parents a break from our semi-urban small-yarded yet still very blessed life!
October 15-19 2020
First of all, who goes to Doylestown? Is that even a real place? Yes. It is. Sesame Street is apparently also a real place, which happens to be located in Langhorne, PA – just a hop, skip and a car ride from Doylestown.
Before we went on this trip, my kids informed me that Sesame Place was real and that they wanted to visit. Given that we spoil our kids, we said ‘OK’ and packed up the truck and went.
Off to Doylestown we went! We stayed there because the Hilton is there and we’re fans (fully equipped kitchens and space for the kids), plus there were other attractions in the vicinity such as a pumpkin farm with animals, a train ride through history, and um…..yea that’s about it. I wouldn’t recommend for going for more than a long weekend (lol).
What made this trip memorable?: Well for starters, my 2 year old made a b-line for the hotel potty and dropped her toys in there within 60 seconds of checking in. She thought it was a pool for her toys. (I don’t blame her). Then, on the day we went to Sesame Place, we actually did see ‘real Elmo’ popping out of a window near Hooper’s Store. It was crazy; I don’t think there’s anywhere else on Earth where you’d see so many people excited and taking pics of a 2.5 foot tall furry red animal held up by a pole. But I admit, I was just as excited as anyone else there to see Elmo (bucket list?…nah but still fun). Lastly, we learned that you should NEVER partake in free continental breakfast unless it’s NOT served in a box located behind the front desk. Again, thank God for DoorDash. We still recommend the Doylestown Hilton and we certainly don’t hold the yucky cold eggs in a box against them.
Jacob and Kadi petting goats. She absolutely loves them because they are gentle.
Me and Jacob posing outside of Snipe’s Farm (highly recommend).
The train ride. The commentator was absolutely hilarious.
Ocean City, MD
June 24-28 2020
Most years after the kids were born, we have journeyed over to the east coast of MD for some much needed beach-time! Sometimes we go alone and sometimes with other family. Either way, it’s always a good time basking in the sun on a beach we’ve been to seemingly 500 times, as it never really feels old or boring. Each experience is new in some way. This particular trip was unique because it was our then 1-year old’s first time going and we had a few other little cousins join us for some amplified play time (for both the adults and the kids)! What’s not to love about a beach that’s only a few hours away by car, and where each time you go, you add another ‘patch’ to the quilt of experiences collectively known as our annual trip to ‘the beach’. It’s warm, it’s comforting, and we’ve gained some useful knowledge along the way, such as: there is no such thing as a beach cart that is actually able to carry cargo through sand easily…and…that getting a room on ‘poolside’ may be a good idea if you like the whole prison bars look and feel. Go oceanside top floor or go home! We recommend the Hilton Suites.
Me and Kadi in the kiddie pool. She absolutely loved it.
My hub and son eating on the balcony. Thank God for DoorDash.
Kadi strutting her stuff with the elephant outfit I got her.
Ocean City, MD
June 16-21 2022
This was our 3rd annual family trip to Ocean City with some of our cousins. It's been interesting to see how the whole trip changes form as the kids get older. I can remember our first family trips when the kids were all in diapers and in a lot of ways that didn't feel like vacation except for the presence of the beach. But this time, we could actually do some things like water gun fights and even swimming without having to go change a diaper.
We stayed at the Sea Watch condos. I would recommend simply for the location and adequacy relative to the other beachfront options in Ocean City. Right across the street there was a TJ Maxx and a drink store, both of which we ended up frequenting. That TJ Maxx was a gold source for some cool new beach toys and other items that mommy forgot, namely my underwear. Oops! Our cousins condo failed to mention that they would not provide linens, so TJ Maxx basically saved our vacation. My only gripe about our condo was that the vertical blinds kept falling down when we opened them, but I still gave them a 5 star review with a friendly message to 'fix the daggone blinds!!'.
Our condo also had some cute touches like this WiFi password setup:
Here's a good pic of hubby in the surf with the kids:
This year my daughter was more more privy to getting into the water, and my son would practically swim with sharks if we let him. Overall, the scene above also happens at home with Chris chasing the kids around the house while I put my feet up with my coffee and travel blog. Good man!
This one is just cute:
Here's a pic of my daughter trying to win a toy in one of those claw-grabber machines. Don't ever trust those things with your money!
Let's just say she gave that machine a piece of her mind after not winning, and the whole arcade saw and heard.
Here is the fearless foursome:
So we definitely buried some more good memories in the sand and carried them with us in our hearts.
Here is one memory that I'd rather just leave in the sand: my kids insisted on getting these super ugly 'huggy wuggy' dolls from a local toy store on the boardwalk. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry:
Till next time ocean!
Easton & Lebanon Valley, Pennsylvania
Sept 8 - 13, 2022
This was our 'back to school' trip. My son was entering 2nd grade and we wanted him to go into the new school year with a vacation. To be honest, the kid works harder than I do most days :).
So we had a 2-legged trip: Leg 1 = Easton PA just to go to the Crayola Experience. Leg 2 = Lebanon Valley so that we could stay in a nice place located centrally between Hershey and Dutch Wonderland.
We spent 1 night in Bethlehem near Easton at a Marriott in a 1 King bed + sofa bed suite. Never trust a sofa bed. They are not real beds but hotels still try to sell them like they are. As fate would have it, we all ended up in 1 bed that night, much like what happens at home. Are we really that cuddly? Yes, we are.
I would very highly recommend the Crayola Experience. Not so much Easton but definitely stopping through this one of a kind indoor adventure. Even the parents had fun!
There were these photo printer thingys that let you color yourself happy:
There was an over-sized Scribble Scrubbies area which my daughter played at for over an hour:
This lava lamp thingy was a super cool sensory experience:
from hippo coloring to puzzle-making:
to giant climbing structures:
to wax-ring making:
to dancing through colored virtual rain-paint:
I can honestly say the memorability factor for this place was a solid 5 stars!
After that we headed to our Vrbo rental in Lebanon which was amazing. It was a renovated 1900's house with some cool touches and tons of space:
We were excited to visit Dutch Wonderland, which proved to be highly impressive for the little kid crew. All the equipment was in working order and we went on a day with short lines.
Also, the games were designed for the kids to win and the prizes were generous, unlike other amusement parks where no one wins b/c the game is rigged to be impossible, and if you do win you get a dinky prize that you don't want. Here's Kadi fishing her way to the top of the prize shelf:
Here's Jacob home with his wins:
As we drove to a little town called Lititz, we got to enjoy views of the sprawling countryside:
There's not much going on in Lititz, but it IS home to a pretzel bakery which predates waaay back. We got to have a tour and get a hands-on pretzel twisting experience to become certified:
And then of course there was Hershey World, which, needless to say, is delicious:
There's a mock-tour of an actual chocolate factory which you can ride through:
You can design your own chocolate bars:
You can pose with the characters:
And that's pretty much a wrap!
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