The Very Best of Virginia

I like Virginia, it’s called “Virginia is For Lovers”. Ironically this is where I found the love of my life! We have been together for 3 years now, and going strong.  

 

It has a few great things to do; including the beach, mountains, hiking trails, beautiful scenes, plenty of different areas to have parties, and if you love history this is the place for you etc. 

 

Also, Virginia is a great place because you don’t have to depend on anybody unless you cant drive, you can use your car to go places. However, there are plenty of Ubers and Lyfts you can depend on. 

 

A beautiful place (and free!) to visit is Maymont park. There is an animal area which had goats, chicken, pigs, cow, and much more you can pet and feed. 

 

Science museum has great scenes outside and inside to look at and take pictures. 

 

Lots of malls you can walk around, shop, and beautiful picture opportunities as well. Including this fountain it has turf around where people just sit and relax or read and people watch (my favorite). 

 

Virginia Beach is a great to get some sun, relax, and walk on the board walk. They all kinds of pizza parlors, shopping stops, and almost 3 mile board walk; that also has a little fair every summer to ride ride’s and eat funnel cakes. 

 

Virginia always had a new restaurant getting built. We went to a new burger place a week ago and I can give them a 5 out of 5 stars! 

 

Gettysburg is a wonderful place to view the mountains. Including a get university James Madison University. 

 

Last but definitely not least, there is plenty of space to have a party. Whether it’s a birthday party, get together, or a wedding reception you count on somewhere to be available.  

 

Virginia has every season, during the summer it’s hot, fall it’s beautiful and breezy (my fav season), winter it’s cold and snows, and during the spring we have blooming flowers and just enough rain to make the leaves grow pretty. 

 

I would recommend visiting Virginia!!

 

Author Bio:

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Heyy guys I’m Ashlee from Virginia, and I write a lifestyle blog at ashleenicolexplained.com. I am also perusing my career by becoming a real estate agent, in school now, very excited to start selling houses. I have an amazing boyfriend who loves me for who I am, and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with him! I love meeting new people, makeup, fashion, food, and anything else that could possibly make people happy! 

Please follow Ashlee at:

 
 
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Ashlee thank you so much for writing about Virginia! Sounds like a great place to visit and I hope to get there someday!

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The Very Best of the US update

When I first started this blog series, I thought that I would have finished it by now. I have learned a lot about the different states so far, but we are still not finished because I want a guest blogger for each state to share! So, the ones that are finished are clickable and will take you to the state blog, but the ones that are not I am still working on getting guest bloggers or finishing them up. If you know someone that would like to write about one of the red states please share this with them!

Alabama

Alaska

Arizona

Arkansas

California

Colorado

Connecticut 

Delaware

Florida

Georgia

Hawaii

Idaho

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maine

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

Mississippi

Missouri

Montana

Nebraska

Nevada

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota

Ohio

Oklahoma

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina Part 1

South Carolina Part 2

South Dakota

Tennessee

Texas

Utah

Vermont

Virginia

Washington

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Wyoming

Thank you for reading! Please help spread the word that I am looking for guest bloggers for the highlighted states and the ones that are underlined you can click on and see all fun stuff to do at those states!

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The Very Best of Oklahoma

The great state of Oklahoma is known for its many casino’s and tornadoes, but I want to reassure you that it has so much more to offer than it’s very shiny, very flashy gambling facilities and unthinkable weather.

Oklahoma is the home much of our countries Native America history, it has some of the most beautiful state parks, museums and festivals full of so much history and yes of course, those casino’s everyone is talking about. I want to make sure that I give you a glimpse of some of the parts of Oklahoma that are not common knowledge, some inside local advice if you will.

Fun Facts About Oklahoma!

Let’s start off with some fun facts, shall we?

  • The world’s first installed parking meter was in Oklahoma City, on July 16, 1935
  • Okmulgee owns the world record for largest pecan pie, pecan cookie, pecan brownie, and biggest ice cream and cookie party
  • Garth Brooks was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He grew up in Yukon, Oklahoma.
  • At around 200, Oklahoma has more man-made lakes than any other state.

More than Casino’s and Tornadoes

Did you see that, Garth Brooks was born and raised in this amazing state. The rumor is Nashville the place to be, but in reality Oklahoma’s your best bet if you want to make as a country singer. Need more proof than the King of Country, well there is also Blake Shelton, Reba McEntire, Toby Keith, Carrie Underwood, Ronnie Dunn, and many more so hurry on over aspiring country singers were waiting for you! All joking aside I want to make sure that you understand how truly incredible Oklahoma really is.

How to Get Around

With a perfect combination of city and country, Oklahoma is a center spot to meet all personality types. Depending on which part of the state you choose to state can determine the transportation style you want to choose also. While, I highly recommend driving or renting a car while visiting Oklahoma because of the relaxed nature of the state, however there are some areas like Oklahoma City that have public transportation. Unlike some states, Oklahoma does not normally have a ton of traffic and we have plenty of parking, so that should not be a problem either.

Route 66

If you have ever wanted to take a road trip, Route 66 is one of the most well known historical routes in the United States. Oklahoma is right in the heart of this beautiful history. So you can enjoy a great road trip see some historical town and follow the best of Route 66.

State Parks

Oklahoma is home to many beautiful state parks, each with its very own unique charm that has a lasting affect on those who visit them. If you are looking for an unforgettable nature experience you can find an array of activities such as lodging, fishing, swimming, hiking, Kayaking and hunting at most if not all of the Oklahoma State Parks.

My families favorite Oklahoma state parks to visit is Beavers Bend.

Beavers Bend

Beavers Bend is a wonderful place for nature lovers of all ages and is located in the mountainous region of southeast Oklahoma along the shores of Broken Bow Lake and the Mountain Fork River.  It is a wonderful place to slow down, unwind and enjoy the beauty and nature that Oklahoma has to offer. Whether you enjoy the luxurious glam-ping experience or the one with nature experiences, you can find it here.

Beavers bend offers many different options for luxury cabin rentals. These cabins are beautiful, spacious and modern. Most offer a extra amenities such as hot tubs on the balcony, playground equipment for the kids, and full kitchens, which makes our stay so much more relaxing. We have booked our cabins through several different cabin rentals in the past, but our favorite, hassle free choice is Beavers Bend Adventures.

Beavers Bend also provides tent/RV camping, along with many other activities and rental services. Some activities that you can participate in are:

  • Biking
  • Canoeing/Rafting/Kayaking
  • Various children’s Programs
  • River Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Swimming
  • Tennis Court
  • Watchable Wildlife
  • Rock and Mineral finding
  • And More

For more information on activities, camping information and prices visit the Beavers Bend State Park Information website.

Places To Eat Near Beavers Bend

When you visit this amazing state park, you can always cook yourself, but if you want to enjoy some great dining experiences here are two of my favorite places.

The Grateful Head

This groovy pizza joint is a neat change of scenery. Their menu is fully loaded with oddly creative recipes that are worth trying. I recommend the “tree hugger” or the “funky chicken,” both are amazing! For the not so adventurous type, you can make your own safe pizza.

Blue Rooster

This is my favorite place to eat, it is not only a fun place, but the food and service has always been great. The Blue Rooster serves fried anything you can think of, family style. We always walk away satisfied. Another thing I love is that it is a great place for kids, they roll out a piece of paper to cover the table and the kids (and adults) stay entertained until the food is served. This is a must try!

The Gathering Place

Not too long ago, Facebook went crazy about a place called the Gathering place in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The reviews were amazing, the captions read that it was equivalent to Disney World, but free. I want to tell you, it is a pretty amazing place. We recently went and our kids had an amazing time and I highly recommend it.

There is something to do for all ages, and I mean ALL ages. I found my husband in the play area’s, “testing” the safety of the slides several times.

We got to the park at 9 am and the park was relatively empty. We did not have to fight large crowds of people to enjoy any part of the park. We spent the day climbing ropes, playing in the sand, making tornadoes, climbing in sitting pods and swinging on zip lines, the possibilities were endless!

From a Mom’s Point of View

It was definitely the place to be full of fun and excitement for all member’s of the family. As as a mom I value some parts of the park that my kids or even my husband would never have thought about. There were several bathrooms throughout the park and the were so CLEAN. My children visit the bathrooms a lot, I am certain we went to them all and everyone of them were very well maintained.

The parking was plentiful! now it appeared to get a little busy when we were leaving in the afternoon. Even then though, there were many parking options, unlike some places that you visit. This is always a nice way to start off your trip.

The play area’s were themed and backed by education. I LOVE when my kids are learning while they play. There is an interactive part of the park where you can make tornadoes, learn about music, sounds and echos… We spent quite a bit of time in this area, just trying to figure it all out. The coolest part is that it was designed into a maze, so that alone kept my children busy.

The Thought Behind It

I was fascinated with the amount of thought that was put into creating such an amazing park. The toddler area was not only size appropriate, but the color schemes, the theme and deliberately placement so that parents can see their children was mind blowing and quite honestly, relieving. There was a sand are where toddlers could play and a soft padded ground area.

The bigger play areas had the same thought behind it. The themes were so uniquely interesting. It was not something you have seen over and over again. They put forth the effort to match the theme to the play. The crazy slides were located at the “inventors” play area, the green hanging pods where located in the tree play area, the maze was the theme of the arts and science play area… They put a lot of effort into making sure it was a great experience.

Other’s Amenities

We spent most of our time in the play areas, but there were several other amenities as well. There was a skate park, kids activities and so much more.

They also have a couple eating options with plenty of healthy options that even the kids will love. They have an option to eat outside on the lawn, on picnic tables and inside in the cafe. The prices were a little higher than we normally like to pay, but for free entry they have to make money somewhere.

They do allow you to bring in coolers and outside food. We brought snacks and a small cooler full of drinks and a lunch for my dietary restricted daughter in to the park and had no issues.

In conclusion…

Oklahoma is a great place to visit if you are looking for a slower pace relaxing visit. It is not only full of so much history, culture, nature and fun. I highly encourage Oklahoma as a place to visit for all ages.

Danielle Farrington, MBA
Impossibly Imperfect
 
 
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The Very Best of Indiana

Protected: The P-47 Thunderbolt State

Indiana State Capital Building
Hanging Rock

Most commonly associated with basketball, corn and the Indy 500, Indiana is so much more than a pit stop on your way from coast to coast. You can visit towns that look like they are frozen in a bygone era. There are oddities such as Hanging Rock and Mt. Baldy.

Mount Baldy

In the north you can sit at the edge of a freshly picked field and see for miles, but in the south you can hike hilly terrain that makes you feel like you are in the foothills of mountains. Along with the change from north to south comes a change in the dialect of English that you hear as well.

Brown County in southern Indiana
Across a field in northern Indiana

Spending the majority of my life in the Hoosier state, there are so many phrases that define us. Just a few are: “If you don’t like the weather in Indiana, just wait an hour.”, “Hey, would you look at that, Indiana mountains. *points at the clouds in the distance*”, and one that I came up with throughout the years, “You know how you can tell if a town is to big for a small town person? When you wave at someone and they don’t wave back.”.

Plymouth flood 2018

All though Indiana may not be the prettiest state, it sure has some heart. As evidenced in February of 2018 when a catastrophic flood hit several major cities in northern Indiana. One town in particular gained national recognition from FEMA for its efforts to clean up its town after the disaster. That town was Plymouth. I might be a little biased towards this community, but it has molded an Olympic athlete, holds one of the largest festivals in the states on a yearly basis, developed musical talent and showcased what it means to look out for one another in times of dire need.

So you might wonder why I called this state of mine the P-47 Thunderbolt state? Well, I have lived here my whole life and I just found out today that my state has a state plane. Who knew!?

So as the Crossroads of America, I would ask you to not simply cross through this state of mine without giving it the fair chance every state deserves. There might be long stretches of road in between us all, but you are only a short drive from a place that you can call home here.

About the Author:

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My Background

I grew up in a small town in northern Indiana and have lived there my entire life. In my childhood years I struggled with who I was and why I existed. Writing was something of a hobby for me in my younger years. It would eventually grow into a very relaxing way for me to get out of my mind for a short while. Having been raised by parents who are Christ followers and regular church attenders, I came to faith as well when I was eight years old. During my entire childhood and up into my teenage years I was home-schooled. My graduating class was as large as my footprints, but that was okay with me. Since graduation from high school I have attended seven years of college at three different universities. Having this vast amount of time in the collegiate realm has given me unique perspectives on the world around me.

What brought me here?

Some things just cannot be discussed in a healthy fashion on social media. This realm of open thought allows me to express what I feel I should share. Some of the things I discuss may be hard to swallow, but it is my goal to help hand you a glass of water when your throat is dry. I want my writing to refresh your soul and help you see life as the amazingly beautiful thing that it is. Every day should be the best day of your life. Every day should be another day in which you can go on an adventure, say yes to hanging out with an old friend, see a baby smile, hear of something that brings you tears of joy to your eyes and most of all, you should never live another day with regret. Do not simply be someone who hears of great things, be the doer of great things. I hope you enjoy reading my content!
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Thank you for writing about Indiana it is much more than a corn state I can see! The Mount Baldy and Hanging Rock look BEAUTIFUL! I believe that it is not too far from Missouri either! Might be a good weekend trip!
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The Very Best of Illinois

My Home State, Illinois!

I was born and raised in Illinois, and I’ve always been proud of where I’m from. I’ve visited and stayed at places from the southern tip of the state all the way to the north. Illinois is way more than just Chicago, and I hope to convince you of that in this post. If I were to visit my fair state as a tourist with a week to spare, I’d split my visit up into three parts:

  • 3 days in Chicago
  • 2 days in Springfield
  • 2 days in Southern Illinois

I’ll tell you about each area in more detail, and why I recommend them so highly. First, we’ll talk about the best way to get around Illinois.

Getting Around Illinois

Illinois is a big state – over 200 miles wide, and nearly 400 miles long. If you arrive in Chicago and are venturing anywhere outside the city, it’s best to have (or to rent) a car for the duration of your stay. Driving in the city can be a hassle at times, and parking is expensive. But if you’re going anywhere outside the metro area (city and close-in suburbs), there’s really no good transportation. Amtrak travels to Chicago and Carbondale 2-3 times a day, but you’re on their schedule.

Trust me – get a car. You won’t be disappointed. And the money you spend will be worth it.

Chicago

As the largest city in Illinois and the third largest in the US, Chicago is truly a world-class city. It’s got everything you could want: great restaurants, nightlife, family-friendly activities, and great sports teams. It’s not easy to see the entire city in three days, but I’ll recommend some activities you should check out.

The Loop

The Loop is Chicago’s central business district and is also home to a lot of cultural and architectural wonders. It was originally defined as the area inside of the rectangular route of the Elevated Train system, or the “El” as we call it. I wrote a post on touring Chicago’s Loop on foot, so I’ll just hit a few highlights here.

Chicago El tracks

If you head toward the east side of the Loop (closer to Lake Michigan), you’ll encounter Millennium Park. The park is 25 acres and is full of beautiful landscaping, architecture and public art. It’s also full of fun, free and family friendly activities year-round. It houses one of my personal favorite sculptures: Sir Anish Kapoor’s sculpture “Cloud Gate,” which we affectionately refer to as “The Bean.”

The Bean

The Bean is one of the best-known sculptures in all of Chicago. It’s accessible 24 hours a day and draws visitors all hours of the day and night. It’s interesting by itself, and it also provides some unique reflections of the Chicago skyline. If you get the chance to see it, walk all the way around – including underneath it – to experience the reflections from all angles. It’s like a funhouse mirror writ large.

One final memorable spot I’d recommend in the loop is Buckingham Fountain. The fountain is just to the south of Millennium Park and is located in Grant Park. From the spring through the fall, the fountain has an active and fun light and water show going on continually. It’s surrounded by well-tended gardens and lots of sitting and relaxing space – all the better to take in views of the Chicago skyline.

Pride

During the summer, you can find free concerts and other forms of entertainment in the Millennium Park and Grant Park area. There are way more activities and wonderful sites in the park than we can cover in this short article, so be sure to check out ChooseChicago.com’s list of Top 10 Things You Shouldn’t Miss at Chicago’s Millennium Park Campus.

As big as the Loop is, this is just the tip of the Chicago iceberg. One other area I recommend highly for tourists – especially families – is the Lincoln Park area, located just north of downtown.

Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park is nestled between the Chicago River on the west, Lake Michigan on the east, and is between Diversey Parkway and North Avenue. It’s a very short bus or taxi ride from the Loop area and is full of family-friendly activities.

Lincoln Park Zoo

One of the most popular family activities in this area is the Lincoln Park Zoo. Opened in 1868, is one of the nation’s oldest zoos. It is also one of the few remaining zoos with no entrance fee. Hours vary by season and holiday, but the zoo is generally open from 10:00AM to either 4:30PM or 5:00PM most days. It stretches over 35 acres and contains well over 1,100 animals from over 200 species. It’s open 365 days a year, and has both indoor and outdoor exhibits.

Just past the north end of the zoo, you’ll find the Lincoln Park Conservatory. It’s a 3-acre conservatory and botanical garden containing a variety of species from many different climate types – from arid to tropical. The conservatory is open from 9AM to 5PM every day, and admission is free.

If you’re planning to be in Chicago in August, try to plan your visit around the Chicago Air and Water Show. The show is planned for the third weekend every August and is the country’s largest free air show. Both civilian and military aircraft fly in the show – everything from propeller-driven biplanes to our military’s fastest and most effective bombers and fighters. If you’re going to attend the show, check out my post on tips for attending and photographing it.

A Word About Chicago’s Food

Of course, you can’t visit Chicago without indulging in our decadent food choices. I recommend a few:

  • Garrett’s Popcorn: When out-of-town friends come in, Garrett’s is the number one most requested item. Their specialties are cheese popcorn, caramel corn, and what they call the “Chicago blend” – a mix of cheese and caramel corn. The blend of savory and sweet is to die for!
  • Lou Malnati’s pizza: I don’t care what New Yorkers say…Chicago has the best pizza, hands down. Chicago is the home of the deep-dish pizza, and Lou Malnati was a real Chicago chef instrumental in its creation. Of all Chicago’s many pizza places, this has got to be my favorite.
  • Italian beef sandwiches: I’ve never found these anywhere other than Chicago. It’s made of thinly-sliced beef marinated in a gravy with onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and a few other spices for good measure. It’s served on a French roll, often with peppers (sweet and/or hot). There are literally hundreds of fast food restaurants in the city that sell them. Portillio’s makes my favorite, but I’ve never had a bad one anywhere I’ve been to.

WHEW. That’s a lot to see and do in three days. But wait…Illinois has more in store.

Springfield

After three whirlwind days in Chicago, it’s time to take a trip south to Springfield. The best way to reach Springfield from Chicago is via Interstate 55. The drive takes approximately three hours.

Springfield is the capital of Illinois, and the place where Abraham Lincoln spent most of his time. It also has great architecture that’s worth a visit. We’ll cover a few key places you should consider seeing during your time in Springfield.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum

The Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum documents the life of our 16th President as well as the Civil War, which occurred during his administration. It is one of the most visited Presidential libraries in the entire United States.

In addition to documents covering the life and history of Lincoln, it also contains all his Presidential papers. The papers are preserved in a climate-controlled environment and are available to scholars and researchers from all over the world. The museum also contains records and archives on the state of Illinois, providing rich insight into the progress and events that have occurred since the state’s founding in 1818.

The Museum is open from 9AM-5PM daily, with exceptions for certain holidays. Check the museum’s website for current admission fees and schedules of upcoming events.

Lincoln Home National Historical Site

Lincoln_Home_1

The house in which Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln lived during their tenure in Springfield was the only home they ever owned. After falling into disrepair in the first part of the 20th century, the home has been lovingly restored to its former glory. It’s now a National Historical Site that can be toured during normal hours of operation. The Site also has ongoing living historical demonstrations: actors dressed in period clothes, doing activities and chores that people in Lincoln’s day would have done…giving you an insight into the history and culture of the time.

For hours of operation and fees, consult the National Park Service page for the Lincoln Home.

The Old State Capitol

old state capitol

The Old State Capitol building is a reconstruction of Illinois’ fifth capitol, and the first one located in Springfield. This capitol was an important site in Lincoln’s life as well as in the history of the United States. It was one of the spots for the Lincoln-Douglas debates prior to Lincoln’s election as President. It also saw the sad end of his tenure – it was the final location where his body laid in state after his assassination in 1863.

The building was rehabbed and modernized in the 1960s. Tours are conducted on a daily basis, explaining and demonstrating not only the architectural features of the building but also providing a glimpse into Illinois’ history.

Dana-Thomas House

dana thomas house

6The Dana Thomas House

There are, of course, things to see and experience in Springfield besides Lincoln-related sites. One of my favorites is the Dana-Thomas House. The house was constructed by world-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1902 for local socialite Susan Lawrence Dana. The 12,000 square foot home has been restored to its initial construction specifications. It contains many fine specimens not only of Wright’s architecture, but also his stained glass and furniture designs.

Southern Illinois

After departing Springfield, drive approximately three hours south. You’ll go past Carbondale, the home of Southern Illinois University (SIU). It’s a good college town and a good place for food if you need a stop. From here you’ll step out of the hustle and bustle of city life you experienced in Chicago and Springfield – and trade it for some real natural beauty.

Two sites you should definitely visit in Southern Illinois are Giant City State Park, and the western edge of the Shawnee National Forest.

Giant City State Park

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Giant City State Park, just outside Carbondale and within the bounds of the Shawnee National Forest, is a natural paradise offering a wide variety of activities for those who love the outdoors. The park offers hiking, camping, horseback riding, fishing and rappelling.

Giant City Lodge, located within the park, offers reasonable and comfortable stays while you’re in the park. The park also offers camping opportunities. You can reserve a spot head of time or take advantage of one of the “first come, first served” sites.

Hunting is also allowed in the park at certain seasons. The park is open year-round from 7AM to 10PM daily. For more information, consult the park’s website.

Shawnee National Forest

shawnee

We’ll end our tour of Illinois with a day in the Shawnee National Forest. The forest borders the Ohio River in the extreme southeastern corner of Illinois. Its 289,000 acres of forests, wetlands and rugged hiking trails are relaxing and beautiful – a great way to stay in touch with nature. A wide variety of plants and animals can be found within the park year-round. It also offers a wide variety of outdoor activities such as bicycling, hiking, fishing and hunting, horseback riding, and swimming.

A lodge and camp sites are available for visitors who choose to extend their stay in the Forest.

A Few Final Thoughts

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of my home state. A visitor could easily spend a week in any one of these places, but there are always tradeoffs to make with limited time. Hopefully you’ll enjoy enough of Illinois that you’ll come back soon!

Author Bio

Jim Jones is an award winning blogger and travel photographer. He’s been to all 50 states, over 40 countries, and 5 continents…and he’s not done seeing the world yet. He works to inspire people to visit great destinations and to start or improve their focus on travel, nature and landscape photography. As his site’s tagline says, he encourages people to “Go Travel. Take Photos. Tell Stories.”

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Jim thank you so much for telling us all abut your home state. I have been to Chicago before for a long weekend and loved it! Here is all about our stay. My son and husband have been talking about wanting to go back really soon for the pizza!

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The Very Best of Kansas

The Very Best of Kansas

 

When you picture Kansas The Wizard of Oz and tornado’s may be all that you can think of but there is much more to this midwestern state. From the vast plains to the rolling flint hills, Kansas has much to see and is a beautiful representation of the Midwest. I have done my best here to highlight the must see spots of Kansas that can be done on a round about road trip. If you hit all attractions on this road trip and spent a couple days in the major cities this would best be done in a couple of weeks. However, you could always split up eastern or western Kansas or major cities if looking for a less time consuming itinerary. Majority of the state is rural so a car is paramount for getting around. Also I will only talk about Kansas City briefly as I am sure this will also be covered in the Very Best of Missouri as most of KC is indeed in Missouri.

 

The cheapest way to get to Kansas and start your road trip through the state is probably to fly into Kansas City, Missouri then rent a car. Another option wound be to fly to Wichita however Kansas City is usually cheaper. Starting in Kansas City there is plenty to see and do some of which I will casually mention but again will likely be covered more in depth as part of Missouri.

 

Kansas City

 

One of the best things about Kansas City is there is literally something for everyone. It is easy to find something for the whole family, adults only, the museum or sports lover. If vacationing with kids don’t worry you will have plenty to keep kids of any age occupied. A few attractions for the whole family are the Kansas City zoo, Union station and union station science center, world of fun and oceans of fun. In contrast, if you are hoping to make this an adults only trip Kansas City is a wonderful place for a weekend or just a night out. Spend a night in power and light which has several bars, a central courtyard and during the summer a weekly concert series. Are you a fan of beer? Take a tour of the Boulevard Brewing Company on the Missouri side.

 

From Kansas City I would recommend heading next to Wichita. This is about a 2.5 hour drive on interstate. The drive will take you through part of the rolling flint hills which are perfectly lush green during the summer.

 

Wichita

 

Wichita, while not the capital, is the largest city in Kansas. It is the perfect blend of small town and city with a lot to do and see.

 

Wichita is nothing if not family friendly. Spend a day at the Sedgwick County Zoo or if you are looking for a little different experience visit Tanganyika Wildlife park (https://www.twpark.com). Tanganyika allows you to interact with the animals and even feed them. Next make a stop at the cowtown museum to take a step into the past with this old west town built on 23 acres. Make sure you also visit the exploration place with the kids for fun interactive learning. Lastly, make sure to witness the lighting of the keeper of the plains which occurs at 9pm.  Next, whether you are a young adult or an older couple looking to get away for some adult time ,Wichita is more than just a family friendly escape. With microbreweries popping up left and right you will not be disappointed with a stop to this Midwest city. Stop at River City brewing company then take a walk around old town to see the murals, unique shops and eateries. If you are a pizza lover Wichita Brewing Company is for you, with their unique wood-fire pizzas and hearty brews there is something for everyone.

 

If you still have time additional things to do include visiting the botanical gardens, catching a movie at the old Starlite Drive in theatre, try your hand at axe throwing at Blade and Timber or pickle ball at Chicken and Pickle. If sports aren’t your thing, you can always test your brain at one of the many breakout rooms.

 

From Wichita make your way northwest to Hutchinson, KS. About an hour from Wichita on the highway this is an easy drive to start your next day.

 

Hutchinson

 

Hutchison is a moderately sized town with some of the top state attractions. Along the way make a stop in the old Amish town of Yoder to enjoy amazing home made Amish foods. In Hutchinson you should be sure to visit the Strataca salt mines (http://underkansas.org) as well as the Cosmosphere (https://cosmo.org). These are both family friendly activities. This town also hosts the state fair every year so if visiting in late August, September make sure to take in the concerts, animals and unique foods that can only be found at state fairs.

 

After leaving Hutchinson you will be heading more rurally and away from the more major cities of eastern Kansas.

 

Dodge City

 

If you are into old Western history or movies Dodge City should definitely be a stop on your Kansas road trip. Once a town frequented by Doc Holiday and Wyatt Earp this town was an epicenter in the old west. See some of the old west figures in wax form at their wax museum before stopping a the Boot Hill Museum and Fort Dodge. Traveling without kids? Get in a little gambling at the small Boot Hill Casino. Lastly, if visiting in July be sure to check out Dodge City Days and one of the best PRCA rodeos.

 

From Dodge City make your way through Garden City then north toward Scott City. Now don’t let the names fool you while they have city in their name these are no large metropolises and are surrounded by vast rural plains.

 

Monument Rocks

 

Monument rocks are 80 million year old fossils out in the country between Scott City and Oakley (https://www.kansassampler.org/8wonders/8wondersofkansas-view.php?id=12). These unique rock formations attract thousands of visitors to the western plains for their uniqueness. To get here you will have to venture off of the highway onto dirt roads so watch the weather as a small rental car and muddy roads don’t bode well. If you get a chance to see these at sunrise or sunset I would highly recommend this!

 

From Monument Rocks keep going north to stop in the small town of Oakley. You can stop here briefly to visit the Buffalo Bill statue or stay for the night if you end up here later at night.

 

While heading back eastward there are several places you can stop along the way if you are looking to see the quirkier side of Kansas. If you are getting short on time or just not into weird roadside attractions skip on to Manhattan, KS. Heading back eastward from Oakley you can stop in Hays and visit the Sternberg museum before heading to Lucas to see the Garden of Eden. This unique attraction has sculptures of religious and political figures and is definitely a quirky attraction. Looking to see some more unique Kansas attractions? Next you can make your way to Cawker City which hosts the largest ball of twine.

 

Manhattan

 

Coined the “little apple” Manhattan is the home to Kansas State University (K-State) and is a fun and proud college town. Get outdoors at the Tuttle Creek State Park or Konza Prairie or learn more about the flint hills at the new Flint Hill Discovery Center (https://www.flinthillsdiscovery.org). For the adults there is plenty of night life to be found in Aggieville with a several block stretch of bars and eateries. You can also stop in at Tallgrass tap house for a fresh brew. Grab a bite at Coco Bolos, The Chef or Little Apple Brewing Company for local eats. If you are looking for a fancier dining experience make a stop a Harry’s.

 

On your way to Topeka, my next recommended stop, you can choose to stop at the small town of Wamego which is home to the Wizard of Oz museum.

 

Topeka

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The capital city of Kansas may not be the biggest but it does have its charms. Topeka is rich with history and is trying more and more to build up its downtown and things to do. The capital building has a beautiful dome and can be toured for free. Make sure you also take in the history of the Brown vs Board museum where segregation was challenged in schools. If you are looking for a little more fun with the kids or by yourself check out Gage park for its zoo, train rides or beautiful green spaces. Lastly, take in the Topeka art scene with a visit to the quirky NOTO arts district (https://explorenoto.org). This is a few block stretch in North Topeka of shops, eateries and art galleries. Here you will also find great wall murals for photos and the monthly first Friday art walk which attracts thousands.

 

Some of my favorite places to eat include Blind Tiger Brewery, The Iron Rail, The Wheel Barrel and the Burger Stand.

 

Lastly on your way back to Kansas City to head home I recommend stopping in Lawrence.

 

Lawrence

 

Lawrence is home to KU and the nationally known Jayhawks. This town is one of my absolute favorites in Kansas because it is so quirky and relaxed. I would consider this to the be most eclectic town the state has as it has a little something for everyone. Take a walk down Massachusettes (Mass) Street to take in some of the best food, entertainment and shopping. There are so many amazing food and drink options here you can’t go wrong. If visiting in September make a fun trip out to Grinter Farms (https://www.facebook.com/GrinterFarms) to take in the free sunflower fields.

 

So there it is…some of the best things to see on your Kansas road trip. Now, if I didn’t live here I probably wouldn’t pick it as my top destination either but there are some amazing things to be witnessed by visiting Kansas. If you are from a city and haven’t been rurally much you will be amazed at the clear starry nights of perfect sunsets you can witness on the plains. The people are usually very friendly and the history of the old west and the days of the first settlers can still be found.

A little about the author

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Morgan Martin mostly grew up in rural western Kansas on a 17,000 acre nature preserve and later moved to eastern Kansas for schooling. Now located in the capital city of Topeka she works full time as a physician assistant but has a passion for traveling. Recently starting a travel blog she shares her tips, tricks and destinations to inspire wanderlust in others. While Kansas is where she resides she considers the world her home and loves any chance to see more of it.

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Morgan thank you for sharing about Kansas! I should visit there more since I am not too far away! Hopefully we can make a long weekend trip someday soon!

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The Very Best of North Carolina

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Though I’ll be sharing a huge variety of activities for you to enjoy in my beautiful state, I am an outdoor lover, so I’ll start with one of the best budget-friendly and family-friendly activities you can enjoy anywhere in North Carolina – our state parks!  This year, NC State Parks have continued the NC 100 mile challenge where the goal is to log 100 miles of outdoor activity over the course of the year.  This can be hiking, walking, running, biking, swimming, or kayaking and you can earn badges and prizes along the way.  This is a wonderful initiative to encourage physical activity with the whole family (including furry friends) while exploring the 27 state parks.  Fun fact – ask for a passport at any of the state parks and you can request a stamp at each park you visit. Once you have visited all 27 parks you will earn a reward, so it’s a fun challenge for those who are ambitious and want to hike portions of the Appalachian Trail and/or Mountains To Sea Trail.

One of my favorite parks is Hanging Rock State Park which is up near the Virginia border and offers a nice variety of trails as well as places to camp.  We love bringing our Cattle Dog Mix (Sasha) along for our outdoor adventures.

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Now that you’ve seen some of what the state parks have to offer, let’s delve into the major regions of North Carolina and what each one is famous for.

The Piedmont Triad

First, we’ll start with the Piedmont Triad, which is the north-central region where I live.  The Triad is made up of Greensboro, High Point, and Winston Salem and has a lot of kid-friendly activities.  Just north of us, you can visit the home of Andy Griffith in Mayberry!

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Greensboro

  • We boast a large variety of public artwork throughout the city as well as student-created Jeansboro sculptures due to the large influence of Wrangler in this city.
  • Along with Charlotte and Raleigh, Greensboro was a resettlement city for Montagnards so you will notice many Lao and Vietnamese restaurants and markets due to this population.  I love the ethnic diversity in Greensboro!
  • Stop in for the best dessert of your life at Maxie B’s and be sure to grab a hot dog at Yum Yum.
  • Take your pooch to The Barking Deck where you can enjoy some brews while they play with other dogs.

High Point

Winston Salem

The Triangle

Next up is the Triangle which consists of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.  You may be most familiar with this area of the state because it is basketball central.  

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Raleigh

  • The beautiful State Capitol building is definitely worth a visit
  • The train station was recently revamped and is quite modern and clean.  We love traveling via train here for New Years and other holidays.
  • Check out the NYE celebration here with the Acorn drop.

Durham

Chapel Hill

The Coast

Any beach lovers out there?  If so, North Carolina has some gems for you in that category.  When we were first married, my husband and I lived in Wilmington for a few months, which is right on the coast.  Thankfully it is recovering from the recent hurricane damage and is starting to flourish once again. There are so many nice coastal cities, it was hard to narrow it down!

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Wilmington Area

  • Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach and Kure Beach, along with Topsail are all wonderful places to enjoy the sun and sand, as well as fishing.  You can even stay in a shipping container for a unique accommodation just 2 blocks from the beach in Carolina Beach!  We stayed here recently and it was a blast. It’s also pet-friendly!
  • Visit the Riverwalk, Battleship NC, and enjoy some volleyball at Capt’n Bills or Dig and Dive.
  • Visit Fort Fisher’s Aquarium.
  • Check out the Venus Flytrap Trail to see some carnivorous plants.
  • Try to locate all the Bear statues in nearby New Bern.
  • Enjoy fresh sushi and home-made sake at Genki.

Outer Banks

  • This area has a less touristy and more untouched feel than most beach areas since it’s a little harder to get to, but it’s definitely worth the trip!
  • Make sure to see the lighthouses – Hatteras, Bodie Island and Ocracoke are my favorites.
  • Ocracoke Island is just a short ferry ride away from the mainland and is the perfect spot for a romantic getaway with your significant other.  They have plenty of Inns and B&B’s on the island.
  • Enjoy seeing wild horses in Corolla
  • Visit the original Duck Donuts.  Maple Bacon flavor is legit.
  • Stop by the huge sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park and visit the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills.

Maybe the beach isn’t really your thing and you’d rather spend time in a big city with plenty of options for shopping, professional sports, the arts, fine dining, etc.  Charlotte has a lot of options for you if so!

Charlotte Area Attractions

  • Pro sports – go watch NASCAR or see the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, Charlotte Knights or Charlotte Checkers play.  
  • IKEA – even if you don’t need to buy anything, it’s a fun activity to just walk through.  Be sure to try the Swedish meatballs and chocolate cake.
  • Indoor Skydiving at iFLY
  • US National Whitewater Center – this place has EVERYTHING!  Rafting, music festivals, SUP, ropes courses, mountain biking, trail races, rock climbing, kayaking and much more.  It’s also pet-friendly and you can bring your own hammock to chill in.
  • Enjoy a night out in NODA enjoying some shopping, music and the arts.
  • South Park Mall – if you just want to shop at a posh mall that has all the top shelf stores, this is your place.

As you can tell, Charlotte isn’t lacking for things to do, but it can get rather hectic and congested with traffic.  For a more relaxed setting, why not head to the mountains? I must admit, growing up I was a total beach girl, hated the cold and didn’t appreciate the mountains.  Then, I married a mountain man who went to school in Boone, and he has slowly won me over and showed me just how much there is to love about the colder temperatures and stunning scenery.  Some of our favorite mountain towns are below, but you can’t go wrong with any of them in NC!

Mountain Towns

Boone

  • Named after the famous pioneer Daniel Boone, it is home to Appalachian State University, Appalachian Mountain Brewery and countless outdoor activities for both winter sports and water sports in the warmer months.
  • Not far from Boone is Blowing Rock where kids will love the Tweetsie Railroad.
  • Nearby Banner Elk is a fun stop and is famous for the Wooly Worm Festival.

Asheville

  • Probably most famous for The Biltmore Estate and the Blue Ridge Parkway, this eclectic hippie town is home to countless breweries and a huge selection of restaurants.
  • Our favorite restaurant/brewery is Bhramari Brewing!  Just around the corner from Wicked Weed and much less crowded.  
  • If you visit in warmer months, be sure to check out Sliding Rock and the many swimming holes and waterfalls in the Pisgah National Forest.  
  • You can save money by camping at Lake Powhatan which is a short drive to downtown Asheville or by staying at Airbnb’s just outside the city.

Chimney Rock, Pilot Mountain, and Grandfather Mountain

  • These all deserve a visit as well, but beware of the crowds – it’s best to visit very early in the day or in the off-season in order to find parking and not be grouchy.

Other Unique Sites in NC:

Lastly, don’t you dare leave North Carolina before trying our vinegar-based BBQ.  You can find this in many cities, but my absolute favorite place for this is located between Charlotte and Greensboro in a famous restaurant called Lexington BBQ.  No frills, just amazing flavor and friendly service.  After having mustard based BBQ while living in South Carolina and tomato-based BBQ while living near Kansas City, I can confidently say vinegar based has won my heart, forever and always.

Thank you so much for reading about North Carolina, and please let me know if you have any questions or need any more information on any of the places I’ve mentioned.  I’ll be glad to help if I can!

Author Bio

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Emily is a nutrition and movement coach certified by The Institute for Integrative Nutrition who has made it her goal to plank in as many new places as possible.  After struggling with serious health issues for several years, she learned the importance of embracing healthy living both at home and on her travels. She started her blog The Planking Traveler as a way to share her passion for wellness with others and offer them support in their own health and fitness journeys.  Through sharing her planking adventures, non-toxic living tips, and free fitness opportunities, she hopes to inspire you to embrace enjoyable movement and optimal nutrition as a sustainable lifestyle instead of just a temporary fix to lose weight.  

You can follow her on the following social channels:

Facebook

Instagram

Pinterest

Twitter

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Emily thank you for sharing North Carolina with us! I have been there to the Outer Banks and it is beautiful! I hope to visit again sometime.

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The Very Best of Minnesota

The Very Best of Minnesota

Minnesota – the land of 10,000+ lakes and more

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I’ve called Minnesota home for 25 years, and here are a few must-see-and-do experiences from a local’s perspective. All destinations are appropriate for most ages except where noted, and all accessible by vehicles.

Mall of America offers more than shopping

MOA Escalators

If you‘re a first-timer, the Mall of America (or MOA as we locals call it) can be daunting and overwhelming as the 5.6 million-square-foot mall features more than 500 stores. Located in Bloomington, Minn., it’s only a few miles from the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.

Nickelodean Universe Dora Ferris Wheel

 

Then there’s this seven-acre amusement park in the center – Nickelodean Universe – the largest indoor theme park in the U.S. In all, the Mall of America features 27 rides and attractions, including the Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium.

How to get there: It’s drivable and offers plenty of parking. Or you can take the blue line on the light rail from Minneapolis or the MSP Airport.

 

Go jump into one of the 10,000+ lakes

Lake Marion Geese

 

With 11,842 lakes, you’ll never be at a loss on water activities from fishing to boating to paddleboarding to tubing to swimming. Here are few popular lake destinations.

Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park – Located right in Minneapolis; this park includes Brownie Lake, Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles, Bde Maka Ska, and Lake Harriet, with trails connecting them.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area – Looking for a place to completely unplug? This is the place. Located in the northern part of Minnesota, this wilderness area covers more than one million acres and features 1,200 miles of canoe routes and 12 hiking trails. This is a fairly rugged area so probably not suitable for younger children.

Lake Minnetonka – At more than 14,000 square feet, this is the largest lake in the Twin Cities metropolitan area that boasts fun activities for the entire family.

Lake Mille Lacs – a popular family vacation destination, it’s one of the state’s largest lakes where you can enjoy activities year-round

 

Miles and miles of bike and hiking trails

 

 

Minnesota offers 4,000 miles of paved bike trails with many created from former railroad beds in scenic areas. Check this rails-to-trails site for locations, trail terrain, length and reviews. Hiking trails are also quite abundant with various degrees of difficulty – from paved paths to steep rocky climbs. Check this site for details on everything from easy daytrips to multi-day backpacking adventures. These resources are also good in determining age-appropriateness.

 

Stroll through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Spoon and Cherry

 

The iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture is just one of the many works of arts you’ll find at the Minneapolis Sculpture GardenDownload the interactive self-guided tour experience.

 

Take a nature break at Minnehaha Falls

Minnehaha Falls

 

One of Minneapolis’ oldest parks features the 53-foot Minnehaha Falls waterfall right in the heart of the Twin Cities. And if visiting late spring to early fall, be sure to stop at the nearby Sea Salt Eatery, one of my favorite al fresco restaurants.

 

Take the scenic drive along the North Shore to Gooseberry Falls

Gooseberry Falls

If you love waterfalls, take a three-hour drive north of the cities along Lake Superior and visit the beautiful Gooseberry Falls. The whole family can enjoy an easy hike on a paved trail around the falls top to bottom.

 

Tour the historic Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse

 

Drive seven miles north of Gooseberry Falls to tour the beautiful and historical Split Rock Lighthouse that sits above Lake Superior in Two Harbors, Minn. If you don’t mind stairs (there’s a lot of them), you can check out the lighthouse from the shores of Lake Superior. Take caution especially with small children as it is very rocky and can become dangerous during inclement weather.

 

Lutsen Mountains offers year-round activities

Lutsen Gondola

 

Take a scenic road trip another 45 miles north on the North Shore and visit Lutsen Mountains. This area offers year-round activities including hiking trails, a gondola ride, alpine slide and skiing. The gondola ride is especially incredible during leaf-peeping season.

 

Duluth – the gateway to Lake Superior

Aerial Lift Bridge Night

 

I could write an entire blog series on all the great things to experience in Duluth, one of my favorite places in Minnesota. My son attends the University of Minnesota-Duluth (Go Bulldogs!) so we visit often (about a 2.5-hour drive from the Twin Cities – depending on weather and construction, of course).

Here’s an abbreviated list of things to do in Duluth.

  • Lake Superior Lakewalk and Boardwalk – a paved 7.5-mile trail where you can enjoy lake views, shopping and restaurants; and can walk up to the harbor lighthouse during the summer
  • Aerial lift bridge – Duluth’s most famous landmark – stay long enough to watch it rise to let boats and even ships through (here’s a ship schedule)
  • Glensheen Mansion tour – this historic two-acre estate overlooks Lake Superior and features gardens, bridges, and a 39-room mansion
  • Great Lakes Aquarium – features animals and habitats found within the Great Lakes Basin as well as animals from other freshwater ecosystems such as the Amazon River
  • Scenic drives – Duluth offers several beautiful drives in the area
  • Brewery tours (21+) – if you’re a fan of craft beer, check out one or more of their local brewery tours
  • Bentleyville Tour of Lights – America’s largest free walk-through lighting display during the winter holiday season

 

Take a family day at the Science Museum of Minnesota

Science Museum Girls

 

The Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul is one of our favorite places to visit especially when my two young nieces visit (elementary school), but we adults also love it.

 

Minnesota Zoo – from tigers to exotic fish to butterflies

Butterfly Garden

 

Open 365 days a year, the Minnesota Zoo is a fun family destination. And while the zoo features many animals, birds and sealife from around the world, my favorite is the Butterfly Garden. Another endearing exhibit is Farm Babies, open March 22 through April 30 – so much cuteness! The Minnesota Zoo is also a great way to eliminate cabin fever during the winter months.
These are just a few of my favorite things to experience in Minnesota, and is not an exhaustive list. For more amazing destinations, refer to Explore Minnesota – a great resource to discover Minnesota.

 

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Bio: Karen Mellott-Foshier (aka kmf)

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A former hockey mom midway through my third year as an emptynester, I recently resigned from corporate life after 25+ years as a journalist, corporate communications manager, writer, and editor. I’m excited to focus my energy on two of my passions – writing and traveling – and sharing travel tips and destination inspirations for emptynester, family, solo, and girlfriend getaways.

Would love to connect with you on social. Here’s where you can find me

Facebook.com/kmfiswriting

Instagram.com/kmf_116

Twitter.com/kmf116

Pinterest.com/kmfiswriting

kmfiswriting.com

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Karen Minnesota looks BEAUTIFUL! I would love to visit when the leaves are changing! Thank you for sharing with us!

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The Very Best of Maryland

Did you know that Maryland has the reputation of being “America in miniature?” Excluding the desert, almost every naturally occurring feature can be found somewhere in Maryland. Because of this, there truly is something to peak everyone’s interests when visiting the Old Line State.

Note that if you do plan to visit each of the cities/towns I’m mentioning in this Best of Maryland post, it is best to rent a car or drive your own. They are about 1-3 hours away from each other, and the public transportation options aren’t the greatest. You can save yourself a huge headache by driving yourself.

ocean city pier

Ocean City

Days 1-3

I’m a big fan of starting slow on vacations, so my first recommendation is spending three days in Ocean City. Many of my summer (and even winter!) nights and days were spent in Ocean City with family and friends. While the beach is great–and rest assured that you can always find a spot of sand–the real fun is on the boardwalk.

There is nothing better than cruising the boardwalk on a summer night with a tub of hot and delicious Thrasher’s boardwalk fries in your hand. It is absolutely vital to stop at one of their three locations every time you visit Ocean City. Trust me, when you smell them cooking, your nose will guide you right over anyway!

Aside from having easygoing restaurants and kitschy but cute stores, the boardwalk also has two areas for rides and carnival style games, both of which are located near the inlet. Trimper’s Rides is very family friendly, with all of the indoor rides and games geared toward smaller kids. Just a few yards away are the outside rides meant for bigger kids and adults, although there are some kiddie rides too. Riders can purchase single tickets (75 cents), sheets of tickets ($23/sheet), or wristbands ($28) which allow unlimited indoor and outdoor rides for the day of their visit. Jolly Roger at the Pier, located just a few steps away, keeps thrillseekers on their toes with even more rides and games. Here too little kids and big kids alike can hop on rides to their hearts’ content, and catch some great views of the ocean while they’re at it. Jolly Roger at the Pier offers guests various points packages that allow riders to board rides that cost $26.99-$145.99.

You’ll also want to check out Jolly Roger at its 30th St. location. Here you’ll find more rides for riders of all ages, carnival games, fun mini golf courses, and Splash Mountain, Jolly Roger’s water park. With a ton of huge water slides, a water playground, lazy river, wave pool, and the Splash Mountain mermaids, you are sure to find a million fun ways to beat the summer heat.

And after you’ve had enough of the sun and sand, head out in the evening to Seacrets for a lively night out. Located right on the water, you can hang out inside for the live music and dance floors, or move the party outside to their beach stage.

Staying in one of the hotels right on the beach is ideal, although it will be more expensive. Hotels on the bayside and just outside Ocean City proper will be your best options if you are looking for something more affordable.

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Annapolis

Day 4

The 4th day of your trip will take you away from Ocean City to just over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to spend some time in Maryland’s capital.

One of the biggest draws of Annapolis is the US Naval Academy. Visitors can take a public guided tour of the academy’s grounds, gain insights into the training midshipmen receive at the Academy, and visit the USNA Museum.

Just outside the Naval Academy is Ego Alley, a marina filled with docked boats. I’ve noticed during past visits that owners are so eager to talk about their boats. If you’ve ever wondered about anything boat-related, Ego Alley is definitely the place to get your questions answered. This area is also a prime location for people watching, grabbing a bite to eat from one of the many restaurants, or shopping for some Annapolis gear in one of the boutique shops.

After you’ve eaten, take some time to appreciate the cobblestone streets and colonial buildings surrounding you. Then, make your way to the Maryland State House (pictured above), where you will take a self-guided tour to see the assembly room for both houses as well as the room where George Washington delivered his final speech as President. So much incredible history is tucked away in the exhibits! (Fun fact: For a brief moment in our history, the Maryland State House was the nation’s capital.)

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Baltimore

Days 5-7

For me, Baltimore feels like a cozy city. Each neighborhood has its own unique vibe. To really get a feel for how interesting Baltimore can be, I strongly recommend making the American Visionary Art Museum one of your first stops. It is easily identifiable on Key Highway by its mirrored facade, the mirrored tree (pictured above) next to it, and a mosaic school bus parked alongside its entrance. While it features works of artists from all over the world, the environment “feels” very Baltimore. Each artist featured in the AVAM is self-taught, and walking in with this knowledge makes you appreciate the talent behind their pieces.

There is also a slew of other interesting museums located in or near the inner harbor including the Maryland Science Center, the Baltimore Museum of Industry, the historic ships, the Baltimore Civil War Museum, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, and the National Aquarium. Each is worth taking the time to visit.

After museum hopping, head over to Fell’s Point for more cobblestone streets and trendy restaurants and bars. Cute boutiques can be found in this area too, if you’re looking to do some shopping. You could even opt to do a ghost tour if you’re feeling up for something spooky.

Nightowls looking for somewhere to socialize and experience the city can head to Power Plant Live!, an area where they will find a wide variety of bars, restaurants, comedy clubs, and night clubs. And if you’re still not ready to head home after last call, you could always head over to the Horseshoe Casino to try your luck.

Maryland has so much more to offer

. . . but if you only have one week to spend here, these three stops are your absolute musts. If you haven’t already visited Maryland, I hope this sparked your interest!

Social links:

Twitter: @changing_laines

IG: @changing_laines

Pinterest: @changing_laines

Blog: changinglaines.com

Author bio:

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Elaine is a lifestyle blogger passionate about helping people live their best lives on a budget. She currently lives in Baltimore, MD with her husband, two cats Poppie and Jelly, and two dogs Kimchi and Shrimp.

 

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Elaine Maryland has sparked my interest for sure! I would love to visit there someday!

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The Very Best of Georgia

Ray Charles said it best, I’ve got Georgia on my Mind, ya’ll!  From mountains, to cities, historic sites and beaches, Georgia’s got it all!

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  1. North Georgia is home to the Blue Ridge Mountains and boasts peaks near 5000 feet above sea level. Our favorite mountain town is Helen, which sits in the north east corner of the state. Covering just over two square miles, Helen boasts more charm and packs in more fun than most larger cities! Visitors will be captivated by it’s Bavarian inspired architecture and picturesque downtown. There are plenty of stores for shopping including boutique gift shops, galleries, and even a handmade toy shop. While there are several fine dining options located along the Chattahoochee River, there are several more family friendly options for authentic German cuisine including Bodensee’s and Cafe International. Don’t forget to save room for dessert at Hansel and Gretel’s candy shop! If you’re looking for adventure, go tubing down the Chattahoochee, ziplining through the mountain range, or take a paved hike to Anna Ruby Falls. Anna Ruby Falls is a personal favorite for my family! It’s made up of twin waterfalls and is the perfect photo op. The half mile hike to the falls is scenic, paved, and accessible for everyone. When you’re ready to wander off the main path, choose from several other hiking trails on site or within Unicoi State Park. Unicoi State Park and Lodge offers offers hiking, biking, swimming, canoeing, and overnight accommodations. Visitors can stay in their hotel-like lodge, cabins, or campground. For more more information on the activities mentioned, visit Explore Georgia.pasted image 0 (11)

 

2. Atlanta is the state’s capital and is a financial and international transportation hub. It’s also an amazing tourist destination with too many attractions to list! Here are a few of our family-friendly favorites:

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The Georgia Aquarium is the largest in the U.S. and is a must-see for children and adults. Get up close with a whale shark, attend their sea lion presentation, and be awed by their dolphin celebration. You can even go “Behind the Seas” for $15 to see how the aquarium cares for these amazing animals.

Travel 15 miles east of Atlanta and you’ll see Stone Mountain. This massive mountain spans 600 acres and boasts a historical carving that covers more than three acres. A natural playground, Stone Mountain offers a plethora of kid friendly activities. Start by taking a cable car to the top of the mountain to enjoy scenic views including the downtown Atlanta skyline. Later take a 5 mile train ride along it’s base on a genuine 1940’s locomotive or test your limits on Skyhike, their tree-top adventure course.

Did you know Coke was invented by an Atlanta pharmacist in 1886? All the more reason to visit the interactive, multimedia Coca-Cola Museum! You’ll be greeted in the lobby with a complimentary soda before learning about their history and production process through a series of galleries and exhibits. And our personal favorite: taste more than 100 beverages bottled by Coca-Cola from around the globe.

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  1. Savannah is a historic city that lies on the east coast of Georgia.  It is an iconic, charming southern city; filled with cobblestone streets, moss laden Oak trees and antebellum homes.  While the list of things to do in Savannah is quite extensive, we’ve narrowed it down to our favorite must-dos!

 

Forsyth Park is the largest park in historic Savannah.  This family friendly 30 acres of land makes it the perfect spot for jogging, sports, concerts and relaxing.  Don’t forget to snap a photo at the famous fountain!

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Fort Pulaski is National Monument located between Savannah and Tybee Island.  During the civil war, the fort was taken by Union troops, and even used for a prison for Confederate Officers.  Today, visitors can tour the ruins (self-guided or guided tours also available), picnic on the grounds, or hike one of several trails.

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Bonaventure Cemetery is located in Thunderbolt, Ga, just East of Savannah on the Wilmington River.  This beautiful, historic cemetery (originally a plantation in the mid 1700s) became famous with the success of the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  Bonaventure is the final resting place of many confederate soldiers and other veterans, singer and songwriter Johnny Mercer, and Little Gracie, a well loved little girl who passed from pneumonia shortly before Easter in 1889.  The Bonaventure Historical Society offers free guided tours, appropriate for all ages.pasted image 0 (16)

 

The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist is located in the historic district, on Lafayette Square.  After the slave rebellion in Haiti in the late 1700s, the cathedral became the primary church for free black and immigrants.  The historic church is adorned with gold trim and stained glass, and is the mother church for the Roman Catholic Diocese in Savannah.

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Paved in cobblestones, River Street is the most famous street in Savannah!  As the name implies, it’s located along the Savannah River, and is home to many restaurants, pubs, boutiques, art galleries, and my personal favorite, River Street Sweets (Try their famous pralines)!  River Street is lined with historic buildings that once served as cotton warehouses, and also a holding place for incoming slaves.  It is said to be one of the most haunted places in Savannah.  Be sure to park your car and wear comfortable shoes to see all this street has to offer!

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City Market is located just 2 block from River Street.  The market once served as a meeting ground for residents to buy, sell and trade food, goods and services.  It is now filled with restaurants, galleries and shops. You can grab some of the city’s best pizza here at Vinnie Van GoGo’s.

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How to get around:

 

Savannah is a very walker-friendly city with tons to see and do!  If possible, you will want to choose a centrally located hotel or inn.  The Hyatt, East Bay Inn, and the River Street Inn are all excellent choices located in the historic district.  

 

With so many sights to see, many tourists opt for a guided tour.  Tourists can choose

From carriage tours, trolley tours, walking ghost tours and haunted pub tours.

 

Where to eat:

 

Savannah is known for some seriously amazing cuisine!  If southern soul food is what

you are looking for, Mrs. Wilkes or Paula Deen’s Lady and Sons will hit the spot.

The Pirate’s House is a historic restaurant in downtown Savannah.  Built in 1734, it is the oldest building in the state of Georgia.  It became an inn and gathering place for sailors, travelers, and pirates!  Perhaps the most intriguing part of The Pirate’s House is the underground tunnel that runs from the building out to River Street.  Legend says men would enjoy one to many drinks at the bar, and wake in the morning on a ship, forced to work at sea! The tunnel is now covered, but a portion is still visible to guests in one of the dining rooms.

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In the mood for seafood?  Savannah Seafood Shack has been featured on the Food

Network, The Cooking Channel, and the Travel Channel.

 

  1. Beaches  Georgia’s coastline boasts of hundreds of beautiful beaches.  Dive into nature with a

Camping trip on the natural, undeveloped beaches of Cumberland Island (you may even catch a glimpse of the wild horses!), or take trip back in time on historic Jekyll Island.  No matter what your family fancies, lasting memories are sure to be made on Georgia’s coastline.pasted image 0 (21)

About the Authors:

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Welcome to The MOMBOX! We’re Tori and Sarah, a couple of stay at home moms with a passion for faith, family, food and fitness. We are each military wives, and moms to 4 amazing little ones! We believe being Strong: Body, Mind and Spirit makes us better moms. Join us along our wellness journey!

You can find us online at themombox.net, on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest!

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Thank you for sharing about Georgia. I want to go there so bad an see the aquarium.

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