The Very Best of South Carolina Part 1 of 2

While most people think of South Carolina as a gold mine for pristine beaches, there is so much that my home state has to offer from the midlands of the Columbia area to the Blue Ridge Mountains of the upstate. I have lived in both these areas for quite some time, so here are my bucket list things to do in both the midlands and the upstate.

The midlands region of South Carolina is home to Columbia – the capital city. Columbia has an exceptionally vibrant history and still has many historical attractions to visit for all ages. One of my personal favorites is the South Carolina State Museum.

What I like most about the state museum is the fact that there are so many interesting parts of history everywhere you go inside this museum. Some of these exhibits go way back to when dinosaurs ruled the world, and some are much newer, like the very first iPhone and some of the old flip phones that were popular when I was in high school. There is a plethora of South Carolina history wrapped throughout your visit there, including some colonial paintings and lots of information about what life was like back during early years in South Carolina.
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Outside of the museum, one of the of the most popular tourist attractions in the entire state of South Carolina (and especially the midlands) is the Riverbanks Zoo. Located in the heart of Columbia, it’s one of the top zoos in the entire southeastern United States.

Every time I visit the zoo, there’s always something new to see. During my last visit at Riverbanks, there were lion cubs. I had no idea that one of the lions had even had babies until this visit!

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Aside from the lions, other typical animals, and the many ongoing activities, the Riverbanks Zoo has just about everything I can think of while catering to every age group. But don’t worry if you don’t have kids – there is a “Brew in the Zoo” event every year at the zoo, obviously catered toward adults. I have yet to attend this, but it’s definitely on my list of things to do in Columbia!

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Although I’ve already discussed my two favorite tourist attractions in Columbia, the University of South Carolina and the SC State House are also great places to visit if you like to see those kinds of things. Both of these places have been around since the 1800s and have been through a tremendous amount of historical events – one being General Sherman’s March To The Sea during the Civil War. Again, if you’re into history, you’ll definitely want to give these runner-ups a shot!

Another great thing that I should mention while discussing Columbia and the surrounding area is the South Carolina State Fair. If you’re in South Carolina in the month of October, it’s a fun place to spend a day. I’m not much of a fair person, but the SC State Fair made an appearance on Carnival Eats, a popular TV show that focuses on wild carnival foods. Upon checking it out, I was thoroughly pleased with my experience and all the food choices there. The fair is known for its wacky food, like this donut burger. (I didn’t like it but there are HUNDREDS of food choices aside from this burger, so it’s well worth it if you like carnival-style foods!)

As you travel further north and away from Columbia and the midlands, you’ll eventually run into the upstate. The upstate is home to Greenville, which is one of the most up-and-coming tourist locations in America. Greenville has an estimated five million visitors each year, according to Greenville’s tourism office. The city has also been recognized over recent years by many different popular magazines and companies (including TripAdvisor, Travel + Leisure, and National Geographic Traveler) for being one of the best places to visit in the entire US.

As a Greenville native, I can definitely vouch for the downtown area. If someone would’ve told me as a child that Greenville would be a tourist hot spot, I wouldn’t have believed them in a million years. I don’t know the exact cost of renovations that the city has put into the downtown area, but now there is so much life in Greenville that was never there before the last ten to fifteen years came and passed.

Downtown Greenville, again, is a must if you choose to visit the upstate. There is a nearly endless amount of delectable restaurants within walking distance from everything. These restaurants range from Ruth’s Chris and other upscale, five-star dining to a grits/brunch bar at Nose Dive and cultural foods to please every palate.

If you’re more into nature, the upstate is the perfect place to satisfy all your outdoor needs. In under an hour, you can easily reach many different waterfalls and mountain hiking trails, like Caesar’s Head State Park or Table Rock State Park. However, the most popular waterfall in the upstate doesn’t actually involve a hike at all. It’s located at Falls Park on the Reedy in downtown Greenville. This is hands down the best and most popular tourist attraction in Greenville, and it’s very clear as to why.

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Greenville is the perfect location, whether you’re young, old, or anything in between. The food is seriously top-notch and the atmosphere of the downtown streets is like no other place in the South. It is a must-visit location, even if I am biased since Greenville is my hometown.

South Carolina is a wonderful state to visit and learn about, from the history of the midlands to the mountain views in the upstate. I hope you find this guide helpful when it comes to traveling throughout my home state. Thanks, y’all – enjoy!

Author Bio:

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Hey y’all! My name is Megan and the creator of my lifestyle blog, Megan Cecilia, where I talk about motivation tips and living your best life through the power of positvity. See you there!

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Megan thank you for sharing South Carolina! It sounds like a great place to spend time. I would for sure go on the hike and see the beautiful waterfalls. Love the photo of the baby cubs! How neat!

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The Random Generator Challenge

Thank you Gabrielle for the tag! Please go check out her questions and answers, here.

RULES OF THE CHALLENGE

1. Accept the challenge.
2. Go to https://www.tagquestions.net/get-to-know-me-tag/
3. Ask your virtual assistant (Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa) to choose a number one to 371.
4. Answer 22 questions.
5. Tag 3 people to do this challenge after you!I’m sure someone’s done something similar to this, but this particular one is my creation! If you wouldn’t mind tagging me in all of your posts so I can read them to, that would be great!

1. What is your biggest fear?
Dying. Sad, but true. I don’t want to not be alive and live everyday with my family.
2. What is your best physical feature?
My eyes!!
3. What is your favorite color?
Pink!
4. What is your favorite ice-cream flavor?

Vanilla with mini chocolate chips! Yummy!!

5. What is your favorite physical activity? 
Swimming.
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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
6. What was your favorite TV show when you were a child?  
Full House or Saved by the Bell!
7. Are you more likely to avoid conflict or engage it head-on?
I hate conflict! I don’t like not getting along with people and it makes me frustrated when other engage or do it for fun!
8. What is good about how you are living your life right now?
Everything is good. I am living life right now. I know who I am. I will not change for anyone. My family is my world and I am happy and looking forward to whatever the future might hold for us.
9. Who is the first person you call when something exciting happens?
My husband.
10. What is at the top of your bucket list?
Hawaii!!
sunset beach palm trees hawaii
Photo by Thomas on Pexels.com
11. How difficult is it for you to forgive someone who refuses to apologize?
I don’t forgive easily. I actually HATE the saying forgive and forget because you never forget.
11. Where would you want to retire to?
On a beach!
12. What is the first thing you do when you get home?
Take off my shoes!! BYYYEEEEEE
close up photo of adidas shoes
Photo by Bogdan Glisik on Pexels.com
13. What is the first app you check when you wake up in the morning?
Weather!
14. What is the last thing you watched on TV?
Teen Mom.
15. What is the hardest part of your job?
Generally it’s not hard, but sometimes people get frustrated and angry at you for no reasons when you are only trying to help them. In those cases I have to remind myself that not everyone has the knowledge to know what they need to do. That person just doesn’t know why they need to do whatever it is they need to do.
16. What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was in first grade I wanted to be a waitress. Then wanted to be a grade school teacher.
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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
17. If you had 1 year left to live, what would you do for you?
Travel the world with my family.
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Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com
18.If you inherited $100,000 right now, how would you spend it?
I would pay of my debt and then go on a vacation.
19. If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy?
Beach house.
20. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation where would you go?
Hawaii
21. When was the last time you got in a fist fight?
I have never gotten into a fist fight, but one time I hit someone on top of the head and scratched right below their eye because they were picking on my sister. I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. They called my sister a name and I wasn’t takin it!
22. Would you rather have a live-in massage therapist or a live-in chef?

I think I will take the chef because my husband can massage pretty good! 😉

food kitchen eat cooking
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Thanks for reading!

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The Very Best of North Dakota

Does North Dakota exist?image5

 

This is a top Google question when searching for information about North Dakota. Despite what maps and traditional education have to say on the matter, it seems some people aren’t sure if the state even really exists.

 

I grew up in North Dakota and spent the majority of my life within a couple hours drive from my hometown before moving to Iowa. (Though, most of us from the Midwest would agree that 6-8 hours is still pretty close and definitely drivable.)

 

Now that I have moved away and have a family, I have the genuine pleasure of taking my kids and my husband to great places from my childhood. I get to share experiences with them that not only spark nostalgia and old memories for me, but create new memories for my entire family.

 

I love so many things about North Dakota and the list of places I would recommend visiting could go on and on, but l promise to distill it down to my top spots, including a little fun for everyone. I would recommend visiting these spots like the locals do, by driving. This way you will get a chance to really soak up that huge prairie sky and maybe get a little tired of the wide open horizon.

 

Fargo (All Ages)

For someone who is visiting North Dakota for the first time, Fargo is a great destination. It is the most populated city in the state and offers a wide variety of outings and experiences.

 

The Fargo-Moorhead Visitors Center is a great stop for information on anything going on in the Fargo area, including activities and places of interest. You can also tell your friends you went to North Dakota, toured a grain elevator and took a picture with the famous Fargo woodchipper. (You know, from the movie.) The visitors center is a great starting point for a family Fargo adventure. www.fargomoorhead.org

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If you’ve seen photos of Fargo, you most likely have seen the Fargo theater sign, beautifully lighting the street and brick buildings surrounding it. This historic theater is only part of the appeal of downtown Fargo. On or near Broadway, you can find local restaurants (I would recommend rooftop pizza eating at Rhombus Guys), eclectic local shops, art museums, live music, a beloved comic book shop, and historical buildings. For an adults only experience, visit one of the amazing local breweries like Drekker Brewing Company. Parking is free and walking is the best way to explore, so get out there! www.downtownfargo.com

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The Chahinkapa Zoo – Wahpeton, ND (All ages)

I admit to some bias, but I think this cozy, riverside zoo is the best zoo in North Dakota. They have 70 species of animals, from bison to kangaroos, and they offer inside looks at training and classes for all ages.  If you are visiting with kids, check out The Prairie Rose Carousel, featuring 20 unique horses. There is a campsite available as well as some cabins available by reservation for those who would like to stay close to the zoo. For information on prices and exhibits, check out their website. www.chahinkapazoo.org/plan-your-visit

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Fort Ransom State Park (Older kids, teens, adults)

For travelers who love the outdoors, I recommend Fort Ransom State Park in the beautiful, wooded Sheyenne River Valley, Southwest of Fargo. This remote expanse of campgrounds, hiking and equestrian trails, and natural waterways is perfect for those who want to get away from the rush of the city. The park offers both modern campsites, primitive campsites, and cabins, making it perfect for even those who don’t really like camping.

 

While you’re in the area, stop by the picturesque town of Fort Ransom and eat at a local favorite, The Lunchbox Eatery, or trek up what looks like a hill but feels like a mountain and take a picture with a 25 foot tall Hilltop Viking Statue. www.parkrec.nd.gov/fort-ransom-state-park

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National Buffalo Museum – Jamestown, North Dakota (All ages)

While the main attraction of this stop is visible from the Interstate, if you see a 26 foot tall buffalo statue, it might give you cause to stop and see it. The World’s Largest Buffalo Monument is not all the Jamestown has to offer. In the National Buffalo Museum, you can learn about the history of buffalo in the plains and see buffalo remains, Plains Indian artifacts, and see the live buffalo herd. You may even get a glimpse of Dakota Miracle, the herd’s treasured white buffalo. www.buffalomuseum.com

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(As a side note, if you are like me and love giant statues of animals, you should also visit Salem Sue, the World’s Largest Holstein Cow, near New Salem, ND.)

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Bismarck (All ages)

The capitol city of North Dakota offers visitors a chance to learn about the state’s rich history. Visit the State Capitol grounds and tour the 19 story capitol building which was built in 1933. Relax in the Legislative Hall alcoves, stand in the state Senate and House of Representatives Chambers, and visit “The Monkey Room” to see faces in the grain of yellow California walnut wood that lines the space.

 

Also located on the Capitol grounds, visitors can enjoy the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum to learn more about the state and the land and people that lived there long before it was a state. www.nd.gov/omb/public/state-capitol-information

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Badlands Dinosaur Museum – Dickinson, North Dakota (Older kids, teens, adults)

For dino lovers of all ages, visit this museum to see fossils, casts and real dinosaur bones, including a Triceratops skull. You can see the laboratory at work and learn about the process in the field and how fossil research is conducted. www.dickinsonmuseumcenter.com

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Medora (All ages)

If North Dakota makes you think of cowboys and the Old West, Medora might be for you. This historic town is set against the stunning backdrop of the Badlands and Theodore Roosevelt National Park. A vacation in Medora has something for everyone. Shop and dine in historic Medora, camp or find a cozy bed and breakfast, golf at the rugged Bully Pulpit Golf Course, and enjoy the Medora Musical throughout the summer. www.medora.com

 

I would also recommend visiting the Chateau De Mores, a 26 room hunting lodge built by the French Marquis De Mores in 1883. It’s a great stop for those who love historic sites. www.history.nd.gov/historicsites/chateau/

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International Peace Garden (All ages)

To celebrate the peace and friendship of The United States and Canada, the International Peace Garden was established between the two countries at North Dakota’s Northern border in 1932 and remains an enduring place of amity and reflection. Located in the heart of The Turtle Mountains, the Garden provides space for picnickers, bicyclists, hikers, and nature lovers alike. Visiting the International Peace Garden doesn’t require a passport, even though it is shared by both countries and you can technically stand in both places at once. This scenic, serene destination is well worth the trip. www.peacegarden.com/

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Thank you for sticking with me on this brief tour of vacation spots in North Dakota. While this isn’t a comprehensive list of what North Dakota has to offer, I feel like all of the places listed here are worth visiting. I hope you’ll go visit some day, if for no other reason than to prove to yourself that it does, in fact, exist.

 

About the Author: 

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Leslie Karns grew up in rural North Dakota and now lives in Iowa with her husband and three children. She works free time and in her free time (what free time?) she writes poetry, fiction, and occasional blog contributions. Find her on twitter @Karns_LM

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Leslie some day I will have to visit North Dakota and check out those dino bones! It looks like a super neat place. All of the places you listed does. I totally think its neat that you can be in two countries at once at the Peace Garden!

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The Very Best of Oregon

Oregon is my all time favorite state. Although it’s not as famous as its neighbor to the south, there are no shortage of gems to discover in this nature-rich state. Oregon caters to a variety of tourists; nature lovers, beach goers, beer enthusiasts, theater fans, and that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what Oregon can offer.
Over the next 7 days I will take you on my ideal vacation through the state and suggest activities and tips that I hope you find useful.
(This article may contain some affiliate links).

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(Otter Crest Beach, courtesy of @oysterdork)

Day 1

Portland

The first stop on my ideal vacation would be Portland, Oregon, which is the largest city in Oregon. It’s known for its greenery, quirky citizens, amazing eats and inspiring the Emmy award-winning series, Portlandia. One thing I love about the downtown area of Portland is the compactness and how walkable it is (seriously, check out the downtown walkability score!)

Even though I’m someone who generally loves major cities (New York City, Los Angeles, Seoul, etc.) one thing that you won’t find in those places is a sense of calmness amongst locals and their warm demeanor. That’s not to say that any of the places I mentioned aren’t capable of those qualities, but rather the locals in Portland seem to take more time to enjoy their surroundings and shun corporate culture. The “rat race” culture is nowhere to be found, which could be attributed to the nature-focused peaceful lifestyle many citizens have.

Historic Landmark City of Portland Oregon Old Town Sign
Historic Landmark City of Portland Oregon Old Town Sign

(The iconic Portland Oregon sign courtesy of Deposit Photos).

If you love books, you MUST hit up Powell’s City of Books. As the world’s largest independent bookstore, Powell’s prides itself on remaining a success despite competition from mega companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. This four-story shop is so large it literally covers an entire block and houses approximately 1 million books. I already own way too many books for my own good, but as far as addictions go I figure owning books isn’t too bad of a habit to have. Personally, my favorite genres are travel and autobiographies.

pasted image 0 (8)(Image courtesy of Powell’s Books)

An undeniable fact about Portland is that it is foodie heaven. Vegans, carnivores, omnivores and everyone in between can easily find something that will not only suit their palate but leave them craving for more.

A few reasons could be attributed to why the food is so dang good. The proximity to the ocean allows people to eat the freshest caught seafood. In some towns fish is caught and prepared that same day. Additionally, the state is fortunate enough to have fertile, moist soil that makes an ideal environment for growing produce that can thrive.

One restaurant that stands out is Pok Pok. Pok Pok was founded by Andy Ricker, a chef who trained in Northern Thailand and brought the cuisine to the Pacific Northwest. This isn’t your run of the mill Pad Thai or green curry joint. As someone with Northern Thai ancestry it makes me overjoyed to see dishes I grew up with on a menu be made accessible to Americans. Items like som tum and khao soi rarely get the attention they deserve, which is a shame because these foods were staples when I was growing up and I wish everyone could try them. If his name sounds familiar chances are you watched him and Anthony Bourdain on Parts Unknown, trying out local cuisine in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

51890441_297918110888111_1520524464592957281_n(Khao soi noodles, photo courtesy of @pokpokpdx)

Day 2

Portland

A trip to Portland wouldn’t be complete without spending time in nature. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest has left me spoiled for beautiful scenery and lush forests. There are endless opportunities to explore the outdoors in Oregon but for the sake of this article I would recommend you spend your time in Forest Park, which has over 80 miles of trails. While entrance to the park is free, you must adhere to the park rules and be mindful of your surroundings. This means not staying past the 10pm closing time and keeping your dog on a leash at all times.

If you’re more of a garden person, I recommend visiting the Portland Japanese Garden. My favorite time of year is spring when cherry blossoms are in full bloom. In fall you can enjoy lovely views of red, yellow and orange foliage.

Here are the admission fees straight from the site:

Adult: $16.95
Senior (65+): $14.50
Student: $13.50
Youth (6-17): $11.50
Child (5 and under): Free
Members: Free

Waterfall at Portland Japanese Garden in Oregon Panorama
Waterfall at Portland Japanese Garden in Oregon Panorama

Activities in Portland:

Family friendly- For families with young children, Playdate PDX is the perfect option for indoor fun. It’s a giant indoor playground for kids that also allows parents to relax and socialize while their kids have fun. One really nice thing about Playdate PDX is that after 5pm on Mondays admission is FREE, which is great for families on a budget. Adult admission is always free, on weekdays children ages 3 and under only pay $4 and children 4 years and older have a fee of $8. You can check up to date prices here.

Teen friendly- What teen doesn’t love an amusement park? For the adventurous types I’d suggest going to Oaks Amusement Park, located south of downtown Portland. Activities you can enjoy at the park include roller skating, mini golf, rides, and a variety of games. The park is only open for a limited time (spring to late summer-with the exception of the roller rink, which is open year-round). Activities range from .25 cents up to $41. You can check prices here.

Adult only- A must do activity for adults in Portland is Pedalounge. What is Pedalounge? Basically it’s a pub crawl on a large, collective bicycle. You pedal together with a group to go from bar to bar. No drinking is allowed on the actual bicycle (although this rule is exempt in some other cities). This highly-rated activity is great for bachelorette parties, birthdays or even just to sight see around Portland. At time of writing it cost $26 per person. You can book a session here.

Day 3

Bend

The next destination on the list is Bend, Oregon, located about 3.5 hours southeast of Portland. Bend is an adventurous town that packs a lot of punch. Many of my friends go to Bend to snowboard and ski at Mount Bachelor.

Mt Bachelor ski park near Bend Oregon
Mt Bachelor ski park near Bend Oregon

(Mount Bachelor in winter, courtesy of Deposit Photos)

I prefer outdoor activities in spring and summer. If I had a free day I’d hike South Sister. It’s a challenging hike and at 9.5 hours you know you’re going to be absolutely exhausted afterwards. As the third highest mountain in Oregon you can’t expect it to be easy, right? If you want to read a first hand account on conquering this summit, here is a blog post detailing one hiker’s experience.

A seemingly endless field of lava leads out to the Sisters near Bend Oregon
A seemingly endless field of lava leads out to the Sisters near Bend Oregon

(Three Sisters Mountain, courtesy of Deposit Photos)

Day 4

Bend

I’m not gonna lie, after a day of strenuous activity there’s nothing more that I want than a cold pint of beer. The only issue is choosing an establishment when there are about 22 breweries. That’s why I would want to book a tour with Beer Me Bend Brewery Tours.

Activities in Bend:

Family friendly- If your family loves to golf then Widgi Creek is up your alley! Amenities include a 18 hole championship course,13,000+ square feet of putting green and 5,000+ square feet of chipping green.
Rates start at $29, more info here.

If museums are more your thing then check out High Desert Museum. High Desert Museum offers interactive exhibits that explore the nature and cultural history of Central Oregon. Two exhibits that will guarantee to intrigue your family are the Autzen Otter Exhibit and Donald M Kerr Birds of Prey Center (in this center you can see a golden eagle, horned owl and other fascinating species).
Rates vary, depending on season: General admission starts at
$17, with Senior rates at $14. Additional rate information here.

Teen friendly- If your teen is a water baby they’ll love SHARC (Sun River Aquatics & Recreation Center). They have tubing, water slides, hot tub and disc golf (not water-related but still fun).
General admission starts at $16. More rates here.

Adult only- Do you love good beer? If so, chances are you’ve heard of Deschutes Brewery. Their beers are sold across the globe and taste delicious as well. If you want to know how this brew is made, I would recommend booking a tour with them here
(link is for 21+ only).

Day 5

Crater Lake

From Bend, Oregon I’d drive 2 hours south to Crater Lake. I’ve been to Crater Lake three times but I keep coming back because its beauty is unparalleled. Not only does the beauty make it enjoyable to look at, there’s also other interesting reasons as to what makes this lake unique. Enjoy my mini list!

It is the deepest lake in the U.S.
It’s Oregon’s ONLY national park.
The island in the middle of the lake is called Wizard Island and you can actually hike it!
There is no inlet or outlet to the lake.
There is a famous stump in the lake known as “The Old Man of the Lake”.

Activities in Crater Lake:

The main attraction in Crater Lake is, well, Crater Lake. It’s an attraction suitable for all ages but if you have young children please be mindful of them being near any ledges close to the lake and viewpoints.

While the lake is technically open year round, some entry points are closed due to heavy snowfall (because of the elevation there is always at least some snow at Crater Lake). The best time to visit is between July-September, when all the roads and facilities are open. If you visit Crater Lake I recommend bringing lunch as the lunch at the Crater Lake Village is pricey and honestly not too appetizing. Costs at time of writing range from $20-$55, depending on the type vehicle and pass you want to get. More info on Crater Lake can be found here.

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(You won’t regret traveling to see this view, promise. Image courtesy of Deposit Photos)

Day 6

Ashland

The last stop on my ideal Oregon vacation is Ashland, Oregon. Ashland is home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Lithia Park, and Southern Oregon University. I first discovered this charming town in high school, when I went on annual theater trips. I quickly fell in love with the shops and general vibe of the town (I also just really love banners).

Not to mention, the town has cute establishments such as the Tudor Guild Gift Shop (complete with Shakespeare head lollipops!) and Oberon’s Restaurant & Bar (an excellent place to grab a pint!)

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Ashland, Oregon – September 30: People walking to the shops with vehicles parked on the streets. September 30 2018, Ashland, Oregon

(Image of downtown Ashland, courtesy of Deposit Photos)

When I go to Ashland, a free activity I enjoy is taking a stroll through Lithia Park. The trails are easy and the scenery is peaceful (especially if babbling brooks are your thing).

After going to the park I like to window shop at local establishments. Ashland has a large variety of shops to satisfy everyone’s shopping needs. Here’s a directory of current shops around town. My favorites are The Music Coop and Renaissance Rose.

Day 7

Ashland

On my last day in Ashland I would definitely go see a play. The actors chosen for OSF are always top notch and trained at reputable academies. My favorite play I saw at OSF was “Vietgone”, a story about the play director’s parents and their story about falling in love at a refugee camp in Arkansas. It sounds like a sappy love story but I was laughing through most of the play as it was not set up as a tragedy, but as a tribute to the director’s parents’ journey. If it happens to be performing near you I would recommend it 100%.

Activities in Ashland:

In terms of activities, I always recommend going to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which takes place between March to October. Two things I love about the OSF: The intimacy of the theaters and the diversity, not only in terms of play genres but with the actors involved. At the time of writing this post, there is a show being put on about a Cambodian rock band

Some shows may have a limited runtime, so I’d recommend checking dates and booking early to secure a spot.

Other activities in Ashland:

Family-friendly- Scienceworks is a hands on museum that is enjoyed by family members of all ages. They have year round and temporary exhibits to keep things fresh and interesting at the museum. Kids have the chance to learn about painting, music, anatomy and a variety of other fascinating topics.
Hours of operation: Tuesday – Sunday, 10AM-5PM.
Admission cost direct from the site
$10.00 for kids ages 2-12
$12.00 for teens and adults
$10.00 for seniors 65+
Free for children under 2

Teen friendly- Teens can get their hearts racing by participating in exciting activities through figuring out clues at Escape Ashland. There are a few scenarios you can choose from, including a saloon or an audition theme. Games can accommodate 2-8 players. Larger groups should contact the company directly to discuss special arrangements.

Prices directly quoted from the site, “The Audition – Groups of 2: $40 adults, $35 students; groups of 3-5 $30 adults, $25 students; groups of 6-8 $28 adults, $23 students. We offer military discount the same as student discount.

The Ramblin’ Rogue – Groups of 2: $45 adults, $40 students; groups of 3: $35 adults, $30 students; groups of 4-5: $30 adults, 2 $28 students; groups of 6-8 $28 adults, $25 students. Military discount the same as student.” (https://escapeashland.com/faqs/, 2019). Complimentary cold drinks are included in the price.

Adult only- Head to Jackson Wellsprings to satisfy your sauna and spa cravings. This getaway located just outside Ashland is the perfect location to get some TLC.
Facilities include natural hot springs, private tubs, sauna, camping and even a Ladies Night. Some evenings are even clothing optional (please check here for more info). Cost is $10 for adults/$8 for seniors. Seasonal passes are available. More info here.

Transportation

The best way to see Oregon is via car. Larger cities such as Portland and Eugene do have some public transportation options like trams and buses, but just like the majority of the U.S. the most reliable method of transportation is having a private car. You can rent them at establishments such as Enterprise, Avis, or Budget.

To Pump or Not to Pump

If you drive a car in the U.S. you’ve probably heard about Oregon’s unique law that forbid drivers from filling up their own cars with gas. As of writing this piece in 2019, this is the latest information I can find regarding the most recent pumping laws (disclaimer-I’m not a legal representative, laws regarding pumping are ongoing).
According to KGW8, citizens are exempt from this law if their vehicle only accepts diesel. Additionally if you have a motorized scooter you are allowed to pump your own gas. Lastly, populations of >40,000 are typically allowed to pump their own gas but in major towns such as Portland and Eugene you are still likely to encounter an attendant who will pump your gas for you.

Accommodation

In Oregon there are accommodation opportunities for every budget. From camping to staying in luxury hotels, the choice is yours. My preferred booking website is Booking.com, where I’ve not only booked hotel rooms but even cruise ship vacations as well.

Tips

-Oregon is stunning year round but the ideal time to visit is between June-September, when the weather is most pleasant. Check with weather.com to plan your trip accordingly.

-Oregon has countless festivals and fairs throughout the year. My personal favorite is the Oregon Country Fair near Eugene that takes place every July. The only way I could describe it is part Renaissance Fair, part circus and part Burning Man. Easily the best part of the fair is the people-watching, as many fair attendees love to ham it up for the camera.

-Yes, Oregon has a reputation for being rainy. While Portlanders may shun raingear that doesn’t mean you should come unprepared. My preferred rainproof wear comes from Columbia but other brands should be fine as long as there’s a strong outer shell.

-One major attraction of Oregon I didn’t get to cover is the Oregon coast, which is an absolute must see on a trip to Oregon. I’ve been fortunate enough to go on a road trip all the way from Brookings to Astoria via the 101 coastal route, which is home to some of the most pristine beaches in the U.S. If you’d like to ask further questions about traveling along the Oregon coast, please contact me here.

Author bio:

pasted image 0 (9)Laura K. Sayles works as a virtual assistant online and travel planner. Her travels have taken her through 17 states, 37 countries (and counting). She has also lived overseas in New Zealand, Thailand and South Korea. When she’s not working or traveling, she is most likely on a search for the best cup of espresso.

http://www.travelingtck.com
http://www.facebook.com/travelingtck
http://www.instagram.com/travelingtck
http://www.twitter.com/travelingtck

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Laura thank you for sharing Oregon with us! It looks BEAUTIFUL there! Wellspings sounds amazing right about now! I would love to have a ladies night there!

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The Very Best of Mississippi

The Very Best of Mississippi

Mississippi Gulf Coast

First of all, you can fly into Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. I’d suggest renting a car, so you can drive down the coast and see all that it has to offer. It’s actually very easy to get up and down the coast by taking Highway 90 (also known as Beach Blvd.). It runs right along the coast, and you can see the beach and the beautiful houses, so it’s a very scenic route.

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Area Attractions and Points of Interest

There are several hurricane memorials, two of which are in Biloxi. One is devoted to Hurricane Camille victims and the other is devoted to Hurricane Katrina victims. In Pascagoula, MS, there is a Katrina Memorial and Walking Trail that actually shows some of the wave action that occurred during the hurricane.

I’ve also heard a lot about Ship Island, and it’s something I would strongly recommend that you see. From Gulfport, there is a ferry that takes passengers to Ship Island and Fort Massachusetts (1858). The ferry ride to the island takes about an hour one way, but once you get there, you can enjoy swimming, shelling, birding, and sunbathing. Once on the island, you are able to rent chairs and umbrellas, and there is food service. For more information, visit this website: https://www.gulfcoast.org/listings/ship-island-excursions-gulfport/2715/

In Biloxi, you can also find Beauvoir, Jefferson Davis’s old home. We toured it, and it was very interesting! Here’s the website for more information: https://www.tripadvisor.com/AttractionProductDetail-g43686-d15098095-Beauvoir_General_Admission_Ticket-Biloxi_Mississippi.html

There is a waterpark in Gulfport, MS, and you can find more information at this website: https://www.gulfislandswaterpark.com/. There are also several places with splash pads for the kids. For example, there is one in Long Beach (https://www.gulfcoast.org/listings/long-beach-splash-pad/4710/) and Bay St. Louis (https://www.gulfcoast.org/listings/mcdonald-park-%26-splash-pad/4759/).

If you want to see casinos, there are lots! I would strongly recommend visiting the Hard Rock Casino in Biloxi (https://www.hrhcbiloxi.com/). We have been there and have enjoyed it. Also, if you walk along one side of the casino, we were able to see the boats docked alongside it and some were selling fresh shrimp straight from the boat!

In terms of music and nightlife, there is plenty of it! Here’s a list of bars and breweries along the coast: https://www.gulfcoast.org/things-to-do/music-nightlife/. Also, there’s plenty of restaurants, and you can find a list of those here: https://www.gulfcoast.org/things-to-do/restaurants/.

Honestly, we spent more time at the beach rather than doing much of anything else. We most definitely enjoyed the beaches, and you can find more information about the beaches along the coast at this website: https://www.gulfcoast.org/things-to-do/beach-water-activities/beach-information/

Hattiesburg, MS

Hattiesburg is about 90 miles from the gulf coast. It’s definitely a college town, as the University of Southern Mississippi is here (Jimmy Buffett was a student here!). There are some interesting things to do and places to eat.

If you love Southern BBQ, then the place to go is Leatha’s BBQ Inn. It is the best! This restaurant has been featured on an episode of Man Food Fire on the Cooking Channel. The other place to visit is Coney Island Café. We always get their hotdogs and french fries, and it’s the best! They don’t have a website, but they do have a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ConeyIslandCafe1923/).

One major attraction in Hattiesburg, MS is the Rails to Trails or Longleaf Trace. It is a running, biking, and equestrian trail that is 41 miles long. It extends from Hattiesburg, MS all the way to Prentiss, MS. Here’s the website for more information: http://www.longleaftrace.org/

In addition, the Hattiesburg zoo is an attraction here. Here’s the website: https://hattiesburgzoo.com/. They do have fun events throughout the year such as trick or treating at the zoo and the Sloth Experience. The Sloth Experience includes helping the zookeeper prepare the sloth diets for the day, as well as the opportunity to feed the sloth and be up close.

Tupelo, MS

Here, you can find Elvis Presley’s place of birth. You are able to tour his home, museum, and church. Here’s the website information: https://elvispresleybirthplace.com/

Baldwyn, MS

Here, you can find some of the last battlegrounds during the Civil War- The Battle of Brice’s Crossroads and the Battle of Tupelo/Harrisburg. The website for more information is here: https://www.finalstands.com/

Vicksburg, MS

If you are interested in the history of the Civil War, one must see is Vicksburg National Military Park. Vicksburg played a significant role in the war, and at the Military Park, you can find memorials, historic bridges, cannons, carriages, a visitor center, as well as 20 miles of trenches and earthwork.

The USS Cairo Gunboat and Museum is also in the Park. Here’s the website for the Park: https://www.nps.gov/vick/index.htm.

About the Author:

me

I am a mother of a 3 year old girl, and I am married to a football coach. I am a professor that teaches a lot of child development classes. Thus, I blog about parenting and how to enhance development. I hope to share my knowledge of child development in order to help parents along their journey!
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Thank you for sharing Mississippi with us! The Gulf is a beautiful place! I totally want to go to the sloth experience at the zoo!
Follow me at any of these places:
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The Very Best of Kentucky

The Very Best of Kentucky

Before moving to Kentucky, I always assumed this was a very country state. I actually never even thought twice about ever traveling here.

 

However, life turns out to be a funny one, because I got married to the love of my life, which just so happened to live in Kentucky!

 

So Ha Ha! Well played life!

 

Anyways, when I moved here I decided to find the most amazing places to check out, or at least brag about to all my family in the big cities.

 

Below are the places I definitely recommend you stopping by and checking out, if you’re in the area!

 

Churchill Downs

 

I’m sure you’ve heard of the famous Kentucky Derby, where they race horses, guess where it’s at? Yup, at the Churchill Downs.

 

When the derby isn’t going on they have many festivities and activities going on.

 

Children 12 and under are complimentary (except on Derby days).

 

They have a venue for weddings and special occasions as well, and it’s simply beautiful!

 

If you would like more info about this you may visit their website directly

at http://www.churchilldowns.com

 

Kentucky Bourbon Trail

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As the name suggests this trail was made to promote the Bourbon whiskey industry here in Kentucky.

 

It is a self guided tour/journey to Kentucky’s many different bourbon distilleries. This is a must if you enjoy strong alcohol.

 

Children’s are allowed, however it is more of an adults activity.

 

There are many different tours that guide you around this trail, and make it an unforgettable experience.

 

Check time out at http://kybourbontrail.com

 

Louisville Slugger Museum

 

This is a museum crafted specially for baseball players. As they showcase the story of Louisville Slugger baseball bats in baseball and in American History .

 

From the moment you stand in front of it you will be greeted by their replica of Babe Ruth’s Own Louisville Slugger Bat.

 

This is an all day activity for the whole family! And for those that have little ones, children 5 and under go in for free!

 

You will actually get to see these bats in the making process, and can always buy your own customized bat, with your name and everything!

 

Https://www.sluggermuseum.com

 

Big Four Bridge

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The Big Four Bridge connects Louisville Waterfront Park to Jeffersonville Indiana, over the Ohio River.

 

You get to walk from one state to the other! It has certain parts of the bridge that has been customized with rainbow colors, enhancing the beauty of this bridge.

 

No pets are allowed unfortunately for all fur parents. However you can go biking with the family. It is definitely a must stop if you’re in the mood for a romantic date!

 

Definitely a must for pictures!

 

Http://louisvillewaterfront.com

 

Bernheim Arboretum And Research Forest

 

This is a personal favorite! It has trails, a fishing lake, public art, and even giants!

 

Yup, you read that right, Giants!

 

They constructed three giant sculptures throughout the arboretum using recycled wood. Mama Loumarie with her children, Little Nis and Little Elina, once you reach the first one, it’s up to you to find the other two, making this my all time favorite place in Louisville.

 

They have a canopy tree walk which is 75 feet above the forest floor! Do you dare take on this adventure walk?

 

They also have an Edible Garden, and a children’s play garden, making this the number one stop for families with children of all ages, as you will all definitely be entertained and amazed!

 

If you have to choose one place to stop by, let this be the place!

 

Http://bernheim.org

 

I know when yóu think of Kentucky, chances are you are like me, and automatically connect it being all country, however Kentucky has many things to offer, if given the opportunity!

 

Let me know if you check out any of these places and what you think of them!

 

Author Bio:

Dayma Garcia
My name is Dayma Garcia, born in Cuba, raised everywhere! I lived in Miami, then Georgia, and now I’m in Kentucky. When I am not writing,reading, working out, or researching, I’m a mom to a beautiful little girl, and a fur baby, along of course with being a wife to my handsome husband. Growing up I didn’t have the best childhood, went through a few experiences, which then led to anxiety and depression as an adult. This negative experience inspired me to create my blog in which I help you regain confidence in yourself, gain motivation to fulfill all your dreams and achieve your aspirations, and become best version of yourself possible! 
These are my links-
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Kentucky sounds like so much fun! I am sure my son and nephews would love to visit with Slugger Museum! Oh My Gosh, that bridge looks amazing! I would love to check that out! So many colors! Thank you for sharing Kentucky with it and I can’t wait to visit some day!
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The Very Best of Tennessee

joshua-ness-109309-unsplash-1440x960Photo by Joshua Ness

If you’re looking to plan a trip to the Nashville area, I’ve got you covered with some cool stuff you can do.

Just a quick note, I won’t be talking about any of the country music stuff because that’s what most people associate Nashville with and there’s way more to it than that. Also, I’m trying to talk about locations that people from out of state or across the state may not know about, or maybe have heard but have never experienced. I will, for the most part, avoid talking about tourist destinations.

I will also be showing you around my hometown, Murfreesboro! It is about 35 minutes south of Nashville, and is growing rapidly. It has a lot of its own fun places but with a more suburban feel.

All information is current as of March 2019. All times listed are in Central Time. All photos were taken by Jackie of The Vibrant Dreamer unless otherwise stated.

Getting Here!

Nashville only has one airport, BNA. It is located between all three major interstates in Tennessee. I would recommend renting a car or taking your own car.

Both Nashville and Murfreesboro have a bus transit system, but I’d still recommend driving yourself. The public transit system is… basically, not great unless you’re just going around downtown Nashville, in which case you can utilize the free Music City Circuit.

There are several lots in downtown Nashville that you can choose from; if you’re planning on visiting several different spots in a day I’d recommend figuring out which lot is best for you based on proximity to your hotel/AirBNB. Or, it may be cheaper for you to take an Uber. It’s really going to depend on what works for you. I am the type of person who prefers to just park once and be done with it, but I am also able-bodied and don’t have children.

Murfreesboro is a more suburban area, so most of the places that aren’t in the heart of downtown will have their own lots. If you are visiting the public square, most of the parking is free for 1-2 hours only. You can park for free all day in the public library parking garage located on Sevier Street, and there is also a parking garage at the Judicial Center located at 225 N. Maple Street.

Fun Activities in Nashville & Murfreesboro

Adventure Science Center – Nashville

(Open every day from 10am-5pm, except for some events)

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The Adventure Science Center is a multi-level, interactive science and technology museum. They feature various science/technology exhibits and also several activities for all ages. Some events are adult-only but most of them are for all age groups.

They also feature a planetarium with a variety of its own events and showings. The planetarium has a separate event list that can be viewed here. Also, on Monday mornings before they officially open, they have an Early Explorers event geared towards children 6 and under! For more information and the event schedule, click here.

You can plan on spending a long time there, as there’s a lot to do and see! It’s possible to spend several hours there and still not see everything, so this is definitely not something you’d want to rush. They do have a Subway restaurant inside, and you are permitted to leave the center and come back, as long as you keep your ticket receipt for re-entry.

Nashville Zoo at Grassmere – Nashville

(Open 9am-6pm: March 8, 2019 – October 10, 2019

Open 9am-4pm: October 11, 2019 – March 2020)

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Photo by Jacob Brogdon

I know zoos are not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you and your family enjoy them the Nashville one is a good experience.

The food at the zoo is tasty, but it’s expensive. If you are on a budget, I recommend bringing your own food– there are plenty of tables/benches to sit at to eat. Save your money for something from the gift shop if you are looking to spend money at the zoo.

A must-see exhibit is the Kangaroo Kickabout! It’s a quite popular exhibit, but absolutely worth it. You can go through the exhibit on a path where the kangaroos are just out, so you get to be closer to them than you normally would (but you still have to stay on the path). There are usually crowds, and last time I went there was a line… but it’s worth the wait.

They recently added a cool thing called the Veterinary Center… that I haven’t even been to yet, that’s how new it is! You can see how the animals are taken care of at the zoo, and learn about animal conservation and care as well.

It usually takes around 2-3 hours to see everything, but possibly longer with children.

Mewsic Kitty Cafe – Nashville

(Open Thursday-Sunday from 11am-6pm)

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Photo by Mikhail Vasilyev

Nashville’s first cat cafe!!! If you aren’t familiar with cat cafes, basically they are a place where you can get some coffee/tea/pastries and play with some cute cats who are available for adoption. You can get some much-needed cat therapy!

They will only accept walk-ins if there is space, so if you need a specific time slot a reservation is your best bet. You can book online up to three months in advance. The cafe does recommend that you arrive approximately ten minutes before your appointment.

Cheekwood Estate & Gardens – Nashville

(open Tuesday-Sunday from 9am-5pm; hours may vary by event and season)

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Photo by Joshua Ness

A gorgeous 1930s estate that now serves Nashville as a botanical garden and art museum.

They feature 55 acres of gardens for your viewing pleasure. Cheekwood also hosts several events throughout the year; their calendar is here in case you want to see if any of them coincide with your visit!

Honestly my favorite thing to do here is just… walk around and be in nature. This might be a good chance for you and your family / significant other to just unplug from technology and be outside.

Go USA Fun Park – Murfreesboro

(Open Sunday-Thursday 10am-10pm; Friday 10am-1am; Saturday 9am-1am)

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There’s something here for everyone– Go karts, mini golf, driving range, batting cages, and a pretty big arcade. You can easily spend hourshere, and if you have kids they probably won’t want to leave… that’s how I was when I was a kid, anyway.

Insider Tip: Take the entrance from Robert Rose Drive to avoid a traffic nightmare!

Stones River Battlefield – Murfreesboro

(open 8am-5pm)

One of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War occurred here in 1862. Today, it showcases several walking trails, guided tours (May-October) and a visitor’s center. They do also offer self-guided audio tours year round. Across the street from the visitor’s center is the Stones River National Cemetery, where over 6,000 soldiers rest.

You can also visit the remnants of Fortress Rosecrans, which was the largest fortification built during the Civil War. There are walking trails there that are also connected to Murfreesboro’s public walkway system, called the Greenway. The Battlefield itself also has some trails you can walk.

Cannonsburgh Village – Murfreesboro

(official hours vary by season; typically 9am-4pm Tuesday-Saturday)

Cannonsburgh is a historic village that represents what life was like in Tennessee in the 19th and early 20th Century. You can go on a self-guided tour for free and purchase souvenirs for your trip (such as post cards and t-shirts) in the on-site gift shop.

The official season is May-November; you can still visit the grounds in the off season but some of the buildings aren’t open. The grounds are occasionally rented out for private events, so if you’re concerned about that you may want to call ahead to be sure it’s available.

The Best Shopping & Entertainment Destinations in Nashville & Murfreesboro

Printer’s Alley – Nashville

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Historic Printer’s Alley is one of Nashville’s smaller entertainment districts with a more relaxed nightlife/bar vibe. The nightlife isn’t as “bustling” as the more touristy areas; it’s more of an area where the city is trying to preserve history, but you still get a slice of the old-school Nashville culture.

If you prefer a more energetic vibe, head a few blocks over to Broadway!

12South – Nashville

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Home to some trendy places and some iconic Nashville Murals. This is probably one of my favorite parts of Nashville. Plenty of great places to grab a meal (honestly… there’s enough options here for all three meals!), amazing coffee, cookies, and take pictures. It’s also the home of Reese Witherspoon’s clothing boutique, Draper James.

The Gulch – Nashville

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Super trendy neighborhood with a more urban feel. Home of the infamous “What Lifts You” mural… which, by the way, people wait in line to take pictures with! There is A LOT to see and do in The Gulch; from breweries to shopping… there’s something for everyone!

McKay Media – Nashville West

(Open Monday-Thursday 9am-9pm; Friday-Saturday 9am-10pm; Sunday 11am-7pm)

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Photo by Jonas Jacobsson

You can literally spend HOURS in here. They sell all kinds of used media and entertainment ranging from books to comics to video games to CDs to instruments to games to… basically anything of that nature you can think of. It’s two levels and there is SO much to see. If you’re a lover of books and entertainment, you should absolutely check it out.

Public Square – Murfreesboro

Murfreesboro’s public square and the surrounding streets have quite a few fun little shops, boutiques, bakeries, and restaurants. You could probably spend a couple hours looking around here. If you like theatre, check out what’s showing at the Centre for the Arts; they also have a gallery featuring local artists that changes each month.

Quinn’s Mercantile – Murfreesboro

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The best place to shop for unique gifts to take home to your friends and family, so they can have a slice of your trip as well! It’s near the public square, but slightly away from it so if you don’t know it’s there you might miss it! Don’t forget to pick something up for yourself, too.

Social Links

twitter: @1vibrantdreamer

ig: @thevibrantdreamer

pinterest: @thevibrantdreamer

blog: thevibrantdreamer.com

Author Bio:

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Jackie is a mental health and lifestyle blogger who wants to inspire others and help break the stigma around mental health. She currently lives in Murfreesboro, TN with her boyfriend and two cats.

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Jackie Tennessee sounds like an amazing place to visit! I like that you put so much in here that does not have much to do with country! While I do like country you are right everyone knows that there is country there. I totally want to go to the Kangaroo kickabout and cat café!

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The Very Best of Utah

The Best of Utah

 

I have lived in Utah my whole life and there is nowhere else I would rather live.  Though the weather can be confusing/frustrating (it can snow, rain, and be 75 degrees in the same week), there are so many things to do and places to go in the Beehive State.

Outdoors

Utah is full of famous National Parks and areas for hiking, camping, boating, skiing, etc.  Let’s start with National Parks.

Zion’s National Park

Zion’s National Park is probably my favorite national park in Utah.  If you have never seen red rock cliffs, be sure to bring a camera.  The landscapes are amazing and the possibilities are endless.  The hikes range from easy to experienced so a hike can be found for someone of any age.  Angel’s Landing is one of the most famous hikes from here.  If you are afraid of heights, do not attempt this one!  The final half-mile ascent you are holding onto a chain bolted to the rocks.  So Angel’s Landing is not for the faint of heart but the view is breathtaking!

Zion’s has two visitor’s centers with shuttles to the different trailheads.  There are weekly or annual passes and the cost is $35/vehicle for seven consecutive days or an annual pass is $50.  Check out Zion National Park’s website for discounts, open times, camping details, and places to eat.  My favorite place we ate at was family friendly, Oscar’s Cafe.

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Bryce Canyon National Park

Wind, water, and time have turned Bryce Canyon National Park into the spectacular place it is today.  Bryce Canyon is located in southern Utah, just 72 miles from Zion’s National Park.  Once you get to the park, you can take the free shuttle to all the must-see viewpoints and trails or drive yourself.  If you choose to stay for a while, you can camp or stay in the rustic lodge at the center of the park.  During your stay, you can hike, camp, ATV ride, go horseback riding, take tours, backpacking, and mountain biking.  Hotels, restaurants, and other accommodations are located in nearby towns, Tropic or Cannonville.

Weekly passes for Bryce Canyon National Park cost $30/vehicle or an annual pass for $35/vehicle.  Be sure to check out Bryce Canyon National Park’s website for further information on discounts, prices, and the best time of year to go.

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Arches National Park

Arches National Park is located in Moab, Utah.  The best way to get there is to fly into the Salt Lake International Airport and then drive 3.5 hours to the park.  At Arches, you will see natural rock structures as you’ve never seen before.  This is a very busy park with many popular trailheads.  Rather than try to find a parking spot, it is easier to use a taxi service or commercial touring company that drops you off and picks you up again.  The most popular hike you’ve got to do on is to the Delicate Arch.  If you’ve seen a Utah license plate with an orange rock on it, that’s Delicate Arch!

There are hotels and campgrounds near the park, not in the actual park.  During your stay you can do river rafting, camping, hiking, ATV riding, climbing, mountain biking, and visit the nearby Dinosaur park.  A weekly pass costs $30/vehicle or you can get a Southeast Utah annual pass for $50/vehicle.  The Arches National Park website has more information on discounts and prices.

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Other Noteworthy Mountains to Hike in Utah

Since Utah is part of the Rocky Mountain range, you better believe there are some noteworthy mountains to hike.  Mt. Timpanogos in Provo, Utah is a tough one, but one you won’t forget.  Two trailheads are used to reach the summit: the Aspen Grove trail and the Timpooneke trail.  The Timpooneke trail is the more popular one.  You pay a small fee to enter the canyon and park at the trailhead.  This hike is 15-16 miles round trip and can be done in one long day or can be an overnighter hike.

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My husband has hiked this mountain 11 times, I’ve hiked it twice.  One of the things we like to do is after you summit, continue hiking south along the ridge to the top of the snowfield or “the glacier.”  We take snow gear and slide down the mile-long glacier to get to Emerald Lake.  Visit Mt. Timpanogos’ website to see a map and further information.

 

King’s Peak, located in northern Utah, is Utah’s tallest mountain at 13,528 ft.  This is a strenuous, 23-mile hike and should be done over at least two days.  It is a LOOOOOONG and steep hike to the top but the views from up there are amazing.  There are different paths you can take to the summit and it is best to figure out your route and decide on camping spots on King’s Peak’s website.

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The hike up Mt. Olympus in the east part of Salt Lake City is strenuous because it is so steep.  The trail is easy to see and anyone can do it as long as you take it slow and steady.  The hike is 7.5 miles up and back and is well worth the trip if you make it to the top.  The summit is federally protected wilderness and is one of the prettiest areas you will see during your visit to Utah.

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Skiing

If you are a skier, you will love the many ski resorts Utah has to offer.  Since there are over ten ski resorts in the state, it is a good idea to compare the resorts based on what you’re looking for.  This website, allows you to compare prices, levels of experience, free skiing for kids, elevation, snowfall measurements, etc.  Be sure to check it out if you are coming to Utah to ski.

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Water Play

Even though Salt Lake City is the capital of Utah, the Great Salt Lake is NOT a good spot for water activities.  It does not smell good, it is swarming with bugs, and it’s just not pleasant.  But, Utah does have two very popular water areas, Bear Lake and Lake Powell.

 

Bear Lake is located in northern Utah on the Utah/Idaho border.  It is known as the Caribbean of the Rockies for its intense, turquoise-blue water.  It is the ideal place for boating, fishing, water skiing, swimming, and sailing.  You can camp at the lake or rent a condo during your stay.

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Entrance fees are $8/day/vehicle or $75 annual day-use pass.  Look at their website for discounts, further pricing on campgrounds and additional activities.

 

Lake Powell is actually a reservoir, not a lake.  But it is still a great place for water entertainment in addition to camping and hiking.  Check out Lake Powell’s website for more information on prices and activities to do.

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Other Iconic Places, Not Particularly Outdoors

Oh my goodness that is a lot of outdoor places and things to do.  I felt like I had to mention it though because Utah is known for its beautiful landscapes and mountains.  If hiking, camping, and those types of outdoor activities aren’t your thing, don’t worry!  There are still lots of other cool places you can visit while you’re here.

Nightmare on 13th

Nightmare on 13th, located in downtown Salt Lake City, is perhaps Utah’s most famous haunted house.  If you come to Utah around Halloween time, be sure to go here and get your scare on.  Ticket prices vary from $25-$45 but there are discounts for groups so check out their website for that.  You can still visit this place any other time of year because they turn the haunted house aspects into an Escape Room game.  You, and whoever you come with, have an hour to figure out puzzles, use your intuition, and escape to win the game.  Nightmare on 13th’s website has all the information you need to know about either activity.

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Lagoon

If you and your family aren’t used to large amusement parks like Disneyland or Six-Flags, you will have so much fun at Lagoon.  This fun amusement park has rides younger kids will enjoy like the Tea Cups, and rides that will really get your heart-pumping like Cannibal.  Gift shops and places to eat are located throughout the park.

Be warned, there is no stroller parking at each ride and you cannot take any bags, sunglasses, water, or anything on the rides with you.  All possessions must be stored in a locker at the entrance of the park or left with someone in your party while you ride the ride.  Season passports are $62/person.  An adult day passport is $64.95 and for kids older than two it’s $46.95.  Lagoon’s website has more information on discounts, ride requirements, and parking costs.

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Thanksgiving Point

Thanksgiving Point, located in Lehi, Utah, has a couple of campuses that consist of the Museum of Natural Curiosity, Farm Country, Ashton Gardens, Museum of Ancient Life, and the Butterfly Biosphere.  There are activities and fascinating things to see at each place, every day.  Thanksgiving Point’s website has calendars and detailed information about each place along with ticket prices for all of the activities.  This is a great place for kids to learn about history, animals, and science.  Adults will learn something too!

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Living Planet Aquarium

The Loveland Living Planet Aquarium, located in Draper, Utah, is home to over 4,000 creatures from around the world.  One of it’s coolest features is the 300,000-gallon shark tank with a tunnel where patrons can get an underwater view of the sharks, turtles, stingrays, and other water life.  I know this aquarium isn’t as big as some others you may see in other states, but it is pretty impressive for Utah.  Adult ticket prices are $19.95, teens and student ticket prices are $16.95, children tickets are $14.95, and under age two is free.  Their website has more information about discounts.

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Temple Square

You can’t come to northern Utah without visiting Temple Square.  If you are not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, you probably know Utah as the “Mormon state.”  You can learn about the early pioneers and church history right at Temple Square.  While only worthy members of the Church are allowed to go inside the Salt Lake temple, the temple grounds are open for anyone to walk around, take pictures, and learn.  The visitor’s center has exhibits, tours, informational videos, and just a bunch of neat things to see.  You can also tour the Conference Center which seats 21,000 people.  Going to these places is free, it is just asked that you be respectful of the grounds and the other people there at the time.

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Near Temple Square is the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.  You could spend a day there too but I wanted to mention there is a restaurant at the top of the building called The Roof Restaurant.  It has gourmet dining buffet food with views that overlook Temple Square.  It’s definitely a special experience.

Utah has Something for Everyone

Utah is a family oriented state with activities for everyone.  There are numerous things you can do outdoors or inside.  This beautiful state has a rich history and is full of great people.  As long as the weather holds up for what you want to do, I feel confident in saying you will not be disappointed with your visit.

About the Author: 

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Hi! Elizabeth here, thank you so much for taking the time to read what I have to say.  I am a stay-at-home mom to two rowdy boys.  My goal with my blog is to give you tips on things that I have realized or learned in my 28 years of life.  The topics I discuss will range from adult experiences to kids, to cooking, finances, and everything in between!

https://elizabethsepiphanies.com

https://www.pinterest.com/elizabethsepiphanies/

https://www.facebook.com/EEpiphanies/

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Elizabeth there is so much to do in Utah! I want to come visit soon! I enjoy hiking, but sounds like I would need to get in much better shape for some of them. HaHa! The photos are just beautiful so I could only image it is better in “real life!” I know just who I am going to tell about the Nightmare on 13th. I have a friend that is obsessed with Halloween! Thanks for writing!

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The Very Best of Arkansas

Touring Arkansas – the Natural State

I would like to take you on a tour of our great state of Arkansas. We will be traveling by car. because one of the greatest aspects of our state is that each place we visit, can be a day trip. First we would start in my hometown, Vilonia. It is located in the central part of the state, about 45 miles from our capital city, Little Rock. Vilonia is a close knit community which has endured two devastating tornadoes, one in 2011 and another in 2014. But through it all, the people of our small town stand together and help each other in every way possible.

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We would leave Vilonia and go to our closest town, Conway, which is the home of Toad Suck Park. I know that’s a strange name for a park but it’s based on the following legend:
“Long ago, steamboats traveled the Arkansas River when the water was at the right depth. When it wasn’t, the captains and their crew tied up to wait where the Toad Suck Lock and Dam now spans the river. While they waited, they refreshed themselves at the local tavern there, to the dismay of the folks living nearby, who said: “They suck on the bottle ’til they swell up like toads.” Hence, the name Toad Suck. The tavern is long gone, but the legend and fun live on at Toad Suck Daze.” * Each year on the first weekend in May, an event called Toad Suck Daze is held in downtown to raise money for local scholarships. Live music, food and craft vendors, carnival rides and yes, toad races fill up the fun-filled weekend.

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Our next stop on our tour would be Petit Jean State Park. It’s one of the 52 state parks in Arkansas. Petit Jean mountain is a wonderful place to hike and enjoy some of Arkansas’ natural beauty. You can hike to the majestic Cedar Falls or follow the Seven Hollows Trail to see natural bridges and caves. The legend of Petit Jean is:
“In the 1700s, a young French girl named Adrienne disguised herself as a cabin boy named Jean in order to follow her beloved to the New World. Because of her small size, the other sailors nicknamed her “Petit Jean,” French for “Little John.” At some point after arriving in Arkansas, Petit Jean became ill. Her identity was revealed. Unfortunately, she succumbed to the illness, died, and was subsequently buried atop the mountain now called Petit Jean. ”

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Petit Jean Mountain – Cedar Falls *www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net

Now let’s travel to the beautiful Historic town of Hot Springs. It is known for its natural hot springs. People travel from far away to experience the therapeutic healings from the natural springs and tubs. My favorite place to stay in Hot Springs is the Arlington Hotel. It was originally built in 1875 but was destroyed by fire in 1923. It was rebuilt in 1924. Many famous people have stayed there including Al Capone, whose favorite room was 443. He had the whole floor for his staff and bodyguards. He could look across the street from his window and see the activities at the Southern Club, now the Wax Museum. *

The Arlington Hotel – Hot Springs
*www.arlingtonhotel.comimg_8915

Now on to Northwest Arkansas, a favorite part of the state for many people. We will travel via “The Pig Trail”. It’s called this because it is the scenic highway leading to Razorback Stadium at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. We will head there first to enjoy a Razorback football game. Arkansas is famous for calling the hogs to cheer on their favorite team. From then, we would go to my favorite place to stay in the Northwest part of the state, The Lodge at Elm Springs. This Bed and Breakfast is amazing! It’s a beautiful place to stay, the owners are wonderful. You will be served a homemade afternoon dessert and wake up in the morning with a delicious hot home-cooked breakfast. Just right down the street is a fantastic eclectic-styled antique/flea market shop, The Mercantile at Elm Springs. Also, a great place to eat is Mama Z’s which serves the best Italian food around.

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Next we will travel to Murfreesboro to the Crater of Diamonds State Park. Arkansas if the only natural diamond producing state. In 1906 a farmer discovered diamonds in his field. Years after, diamonds are still being found there. Anyone can go to the 44 acre diamond mound and try your luck at finding that great diamond. Some have been very lucky. There’s also a cafe, water park and gift shop. I went last summer with my grandsons. We had fun digging in the dirt but we weren’t able to find any precious gems. Maybe next time!

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Crater of Diamonds State Park craterofdiamonds.com

Our last stop on this tour of the Natural State is the Buffalo National River. This natural river is a main attraction for spring and summer canoeing. There are many places along the river that offer canoe rental. We love to grab a group of family and friends and make a day of enjoying this beautiful river. There’s always something different around every bend. Beautiful landscape, large rock formations, wildlife and even places to stop and swim and enjoy the lunch you packed for the trip.

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I hope you enjoyed your tour of some of my favorite places in Arkansas. There are so many places to see and things to do for all ages in our beautiful state. It’s easy to see how it got the name of the Natural State.

About the author:

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I have lived in the great state of Arkansas my whole life. I have been married to my wonderful husband for 33 years. We have three daughters and now four grandkids. I have recently retired from teaching first grade for 29 years. My hobbies include: sewing, quilting and blogging. I have a part-time job at a local fabric shop where I enjoy meeting and being around other quilters. I am very grateful for my life and know that is only by the Grace of God that I have the life that I have now.

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Paula, thank you so much for sharing with us Arkansas! I visited Hot Springs one year with my family and had a wonderful time there! I would love to go visit all the places you listed, but that Diamond spot looks pretty interesting to me!

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The Very Best of Arizona

The Best Of Arizona by Melissa Temple http://www.disableddisney.com

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When you are out exploring the country don’t forget to explore Arizona! Arizona has many beautiful and unique experiences to offer. We have a thriving metropolitan area in Downtown Phoenix with art, dinning and museums and there are many activities in Southern Arizona to explore and have fun. This article is going to focus on all the beauty and fun of Northern Arizona.

If you have a week to vacation in Arizona, you should definitely check out this vacation! For this vacation you are going to need a vehicle! If you are close enough to drive, I suggest driving. I use an app called Gas Buddy to check fuel prices. If you fly into Sky Harbor International Airport, you can rent a vehicle at the Airport. I like to use Enterprise. They are have very good customer service and I get a discount through my cell phone service.

For booking hotels I use Booking.com because I can pay at the hotel and get kicks through an app called Shopkick! You save the kicks and earn gift cards. So in my book it’s a win-win. There are a lot of great hotels in Flagstaff, Arizona, which is where you need to base yourself! I do recommend the La Quinta Inn and Suites! It’s easy to find where I-17 and I-40 meet!

Day 1 of this vacation starts by arriving in Flagstaff or flying into the airport, renting a vehicle and driving to Flagstaff. It’s about 2-3 hours North of Phoenix. It is really easy to get to. You just take I-10 West to I-17 North and that takes you to Flagstaff! So get to Flag as we locals call it, check into your hotel, and get something for dinner! Get a good night’s sleep tomorrow will be a busy day!

Day 2 I want to suggest you book a trip on the Grand Canyon Railroad! Go to TheTrain.com, that’s the website where you book passage to the Grand Canyon. It is a 65 mile daily train ride from Williams, AZ to the Grand Canyon. You have about 30-45 minute drive to get to Williams in the morning. The train departs at different times during the year but a typical trip could leave at 9:30am and gets to the Grand Canyon at approximately 11:45am. It departs back to Williams at 3:30pm and then you drive back to Flagstaff.

The Train operates 364 days per year closed on December 25. The trip on the railway includes a Wild West Shootout at the Williams depot before your train departs. Then during your journey there is entertainment and live action onboard! You will also be able to get a copy of Territorial Times, the Grand Canyon Railroads very own news publication.

While you are at the Grand Canyon, take lots of pictures! It is one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the World! While you are there you can take a 1.5 hour guided tour that is only open to the patrons of The Train. You can have lunch, check out the Grand Canyon Village, the Museum, and the hotels! This is an amazing site you should definitely check out and the taking the train is a beautiful and relaxing way to go! You can even have a seat in the panoramic dome and see the Kaibab National Forest.

(Photos Courtesy of Yourtravelhandbook.com)

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(Photo Courtesy of Lowell Observatory)

Day 3 of this Arizona adventure keeps you in Flagstaff. I suggest visiting the Lowell Observatory. It is 125 year old telescope.  They have programs for everyone to enjoy. They have daytime tours, evening activities and a special Jr. Astronomer Program for kids!

The daytime tours consist of three different topics. The first called the Lowell Tour takes you around the campus and discusses the history of the observatory. You also get to see the 24” Clark Refracting Telescope still in use today! It’s a little slice of history. On The Story of Pluto Tour you learn about the Pluto Discovery Telescope. And on the Lunar Legacy Tour you learn the history of the telescopes part in the Apollo Moon missions.

At night they have several programs. The Wonders Of The Solar System, The Lives Of The Stars, The Flyby, Galaxies And The Expanding Universe, Constellation Tour and evening viewing of the Telescope. You can also participate in 45 minute science demonstrations which are hands-on!

They have a museum called the Rotunda Museum and it is open during certain hours. It houses artifacts relating to the history of the Observatory. They also have a cute gift shop, called My Astronomy Shop. You can get souvenirs, telescopes and other space themed items!

The Jr. Astronomer Program is similar to the Jr. Ranger Program at the National Parks. Kids ages 5 and older can complete activities while visiting the Observatory and earn a badge. It costs $3 and is approximately 3 hours. It is designed for kids ages 5-13 but “kids” of any age can complete the program! So if you have ever wanted to be an astronomer you should check out this program!

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(Photo Courtesy of the Lowell Observatory Jr. Astronomer Program)

So after your day of hanging out at the Lowell Observatory you are going to want to eat. Flagstaff is no different then most cities and have plenty of chain restaurants or fast food restaurants if that is what you like. However if you want to try something new try the Flagstaff Brewing Company. You can pare craft beer or they have specialty whiskey also with your burger or sandwhich!  If you want a quaint diner experience try Downtown Diner 7 E Aspen Ave (they don’t have a website!). If you want a cool Route 66 experience check out The Crown Railroad Cafe.

Speaking of Route 66…it’s a historic roadway steeped in tradition and history. So check out the Historic Route 66 Walking Tour. They also have a Historic District Walking Tour and Haunted Flagstaff Walking Tour. I don’t know about you but I love to do these behind the scenes kind of tours!

Day 4 of your perfect Arizona trip is a drive out to Meteor Crater! It’s about a 45 minute drive from Flagstaff. This is another really big hole in the ground! But it’s beautiful and very picturesque. A definite must do in your Arizona itinerary. This crater was made long ago when a meteor hit the desert landscape. They have educational programs and you can learn all about how the crater was formed. They also have a cool exhibit about astronauts and a gift shop.

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(Photo Courtesy of Meteor Crater)

A guided tour is available and included with admission.  Admission information is available online. They do offer Military Discounts for active duty and retired. They have complementary RV Parking and Big Rig Parking if you want to do this trip in an RV which would be an amazing way to do this trip also.

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Day 5 is a trip to the Petrified Forest. It is about an hour and a half drive from Flagstaff but it is worth the trip! It is part of the National Parks system. They have a Jr. Ranger program for kids to participate in as well.  They also have guided tours if that is your thing. But if you are a little more adventurous they have backpacking, camping and horseback riding.

To backpack or camp you have to get a permit which is free. You can get this permit at either of the Visitor Centers. The area is very fragile and delicate so groups are limited to 8 people. There are a lot of regulations you must follow and abide by pack in and pack out rules. But it is an amazing experience.

They also have geocaching which you can find out more by clicking on the link. There is so much history and culture to learn about and take in, be prepared for this to be a whole day experience. Also do not take any plants, rocks or petrified wood!!! It is illegal and disturbs the land.

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(Photos courtesy of National Park Service)
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(Photos courtesy of National Park Service)
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(Photos courtesy of National Park Service)

Day 6 your trip is almost done! This day takes you to Sedona, AZ. It’s about an hour drive South of Flagstaff. This is a must for any Arizona trip. It’s where the famed Red Rocks are located. There is a thriving art culture in Sedona. If you like fine art, abstracts, bronze, kinetic sculpture, jewelry, Native American art, photography, ceramics or woodcarvings, you will find something to love! Please utilize the Sedona Visitor Center Information website to research and plan your day! I will of course be telling you about my favorite Sedona things to do!

I personally love Oak Creek Canyon. Which has hiking, camping and fishing. They also have a scenic driving route and if you love mountainous and curvy roads I highly suggest you drive the Canyon. They have a really great place during the summer called Slide Rock and it is a natural water slide. We used to go as kids with friends and it is such a fun family friendly activity! If you are going to be there just for one day there is day use area but if you would like to camp there for your Arizona trip they have tent and RV sites available.  The other activity I really enjoy in Sedona is Pink Jeep Tours.

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(Photo courtesy of VisitSedona.com)

With a Pink Jeep Tour they have full day adventures or even just a few hours. They take you to some amazing sights and you get to have a fun off-road adventure! There is also some tours that include hiking, lunch and shopping if that is what you like to do. They have tours for all physical ability levels from easy to adventurous. So no matter what you would like to experience they can accommodate your family.

Day 7 is always the saddest of the trip. This is your pack up and head home day. If you decide you want to stay and play for a while in Flagstaff, you can check out the downtown area or anything in the day 3 suggestions you didn’t get to experience yet. You can also utilize the Flagstaff Visitor information website to find out more of this beautiful Arizona destination.

After reading this, I hope Arizona is on your list of States or Areas of the country to visit. We really have an eclectic and picturesque State with all of our scenery, culture and history to learn and explore!

About the Author:

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Melissa Temple is a disabled wife and mother. She has worked in the medical and mental health fields. She loves to help people and volunteer in her community. She loves reading, crafts, Disney movies, and music. She blogs about disability travel and lifestyle with a very heavy emphasis on Disney related travel. She started Disabled Disney with her husband of 19 years, David. Disabled Disney has a website, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook and Patreon https://linktr.ee/disableddisney.

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Melissa thank you so much for sharing! Arizona looks beautiful and like there is a lot to do outside! I enjoy being outside! A jeep tour I would love that! We keep on going back and forth on if we want to purchase a jeep on not. I have never had one nor have I driven one. I am kind of afraid to go test drive one and fall in love and make a HAVE TO purchase. Haha! Hopefully someday soon my family and I can visit!

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