Birthday and JT Concert

January 31, 1986 was the day I was born! Now, I do not remember that day, but I celebrate it every year! This year my husband and son got me a gift that I will always remember.

Once I got home from work I was told to sit on the bed and open up my gift. I first opened the 2 cards from them and then I opened the box that they handed me. Inside the box was a balloon that I had to pop to see what was in it.

Photos above are from my birthday and photos and video’e below are from the concert!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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:

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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

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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.

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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.

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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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The Very Best of Iowa

Why I Will Always Love My Home State

I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to talk about my home state of Iowa. There is so much more to the great state of Iowa than meets the eye. It is not all about cornfields, cows, and flatlands.

I was born and raised in Iowa but have not lived there for almost 20 years. However, despite residing in several different states over the years, currently in New York, Iowa will always be home to me. I miss Iowa and I love telling people about the state that is so different than the stereotype it endures.

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The Food

Iowa has some of the best food in the United States and not just burgers, steak or corn. There is a wide variety of fabulous cuisines and restaurants you can’t find anywhere else. Some Iowa staples include pork tenderloin, kettle korn, corn dogs and Iowa’s famous Maid-Rite loose meat sandwiches. The latter is an Iowa specialty, with several locations making their sandwiches a must have when visiting the state.

Along with unique food, Iowa also has a slew of ethnic restaurants that rival those in New York City. Zombie Burger & Drink Lab has over 20 unique burgers inspired by The Walking Dead. Their Dead Moines burger is a fan favorite with smoked Gouda, prosciutto, ham, and truffle mayo.

Tumea & Sons restaurant serves up the best Italian food in Iowa, in the country in my opinion. The restaurant is an old school family run restaurant bringing, family dishes all the way from Italy. It was voted Best Italian restaurant in the Iowa by MSN.com.  Come enjoy the delicious food and stay for a game of bocce ball because everyone is family Tumea & Sons.

Other must-try restaurants include Americana, Tequila Restaurant & Cantina, George The Chili King, Christopher’s Whitey’s Ice Cream, Jethro’s BBQ and The Waveland Café.

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Fun Activities

Iowa is full of fun activities for adults and kids. Lake Okoboji is the best family getaway. Everyone can enjoy fishing, motor boating, water skiing, jet skiing and of course swimming. It is a natural body of water making up part of the Iowa Great Lakes. Rent a cabin, bring your camper or rough it in tents, there is plenty of space for all experiences.

There are a few iconic spots everyone must check out in Iowa, which have been featured in Hollywood blockbusters. The Field of Dreams, yes the one in the film, where you too can play on the baseball field Kevin Costner did in the flick. The Bridges of Madison County are the most beautiful and historic covered bridges in the country. People were enjoying the bridges long before Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep made them famous on the big screen.

Clear Lake Iowa and the Surf Balloon were made famous by tragedy. Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and “The Big Bopper” J. P. Richardson, were killed in a plane crash outside Clear Lake on February 3, 1959, after finishing what would be their last performance at Surf Balloon. The crash site and ballroom have become tourist destinations, including an annual event held at Surf balloon every year in honor of the talented men gone too soon.

Other fun activates to check out, Prairie Meadows and Casino where adults can watch live horse racing, play slots and tables, as well as enjoy a good meal. Nearby is Adventureland Resort, a water park and amusement park that will keep the kids busy all day and night. Boone Speedway and Knoxville Raceway are perfect for those who love to watch live car races.

The Grotto, Effigy Mounds, Spook Cave, The Brucemore Mansion, Basilica, Fenelon Place Elevator, and Mississippi River Museum, Grout Museum and Lost Island should also be added to the list.

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Special Yearly Activities

Iowa is full of unique activities that occur once a year. The Tulip Festival in Pella is a great way to kick off the spring season. It is a celebration of Dutch Heritage and is a three-day event full of parades, food, Dutch performances, craft beer and the one of a kind Tulip gardens. The festival happens every May.

Ragbrai, which stands for Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, is a state-wide bike ride that occurs every July. People from all over the country come to participate. The route changes each year, so all cities in Iowa benefit from the annual event, which brings over 8500 riders. It goes east to west and has become such a popular event, there is a lottery drawing for those who want to participate in the ride.

Finally, the best thing to see in Iowa is by far the Iowa State Fair. On over 300 acres of land, people come from all over the country every August to enjoy the 10-day event. It features various competitions, shows, musical guests, all types of animals, a midway full of games rides, as well as game and most importantly food. The fair is famous for its different but delicious foods, mostly on a stick. Corn dogs, tenderloins, pork chop on a stick and giant turkey legs are just a select few of good eats. There are too many amazing foods to mention so you can get the entire list here.

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Iowa is chock-full of fabulous things to see, do and eat. However, what makes the state genuinely different is the people. Although I miss doing and eating at all the places I mentioned, what I miss most about my home state the most is the people. There is a sense of community in the state that is unlike anywhere else. Describing in words is hard. You will just have to visit Iowa to find see what I mean.

http://www.zombieburgershakelab.com/

https://www.tumeaandsons.net/

https://www.iowastatefair.org/food/

https://www.iowastatefair.org/

http://maid-rite.com/

https://www.adventurelandresort.com/

https://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-news/stay-at-field-of-dreams-house

https://www.tuliptime.com/

Author Bio:

I am writer who is passionate about writing and talking about celebrity gossip, television, movies, women’s empowerment, fashion trends, and dogs. When I am not writing I enjoy spending time with my corgi Milo, watching and going to the movies or binge-watching TV, as well as spending time with her family and friends. I believe in spreading positivity through my writing that hopefully will entertain as well as inspire people.
I don’t have my own blog right now as I am writing for other companies but I would love for people to follow me on social media.
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Rachelle thank you for sharing about Iowa! Someday I will get there and the state fair looks to be like tons of fun!
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The Very Best of Maine

A Trip to Maine Vacationland

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Image: Sebago Lake, Maine

I was born and raised in Maine. Though I have had the pleasure to visit other states over my life time, Maine will always feel like home to me. Maine is nicknamed vacationland because it offers such a variety of options when planning a vacation.
Maine is a beautiful state made up of 16 counties each offering something special. They don’t call it Maine Vacationland for nothing. With such a variety of offerings there is always something for everyone. There are a variety of scenic options including beautiful spots for activities in all seasons. Water to swim or boat in in the summer, Mountains to climb, trails to hike and snowshoe or Ski slopes and snow mobile trails for the winter.

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Image: Bethel, Main

When you look at the already existing lists on the internet there are several places that are repeatedly mentioned in every list. The top places mentioned are Portland, Kennebunkport, Rockland, Camden, Acadia National  Baxter State Park, Mt Desert Island, Bar Harbor, Boothbay Harbor, OldPark, Orchard Beach, Castine and Ogunquit.

The Best way to take in the bulk of these top towns is by traveling on the Eastern part of the state along the coast on U.S. Route 1. Starting in the Southern part of the state If you like window shopping check out Kittery Trading Post and the Kittery shopping outlets. Heading over to Kennebunkport take in the view at Walkers Point and Ocean Avenue or Saint Anne’s Church. Then stop for a bite at The Clam Shack or go on the Rugosa Lobster Tours. If you want to stay a few days than Kennebunk has plenty of inns or even opt to stay in nature at Sandy Pines Campground.
Continue your travel along to the Nubble Lighthouse in York. Be sure to take the kids to York’s Wild Animal Kingdom. Continuing along the coastal beach tour stop in to explore Ogunquit. Along the coast there are so many beautiful ocean beaches to explore. Stop in at Wells, Kennebunk or Old Orchard Beach.

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Photo @ Wells Beach Maine

Old Orchard Beach is very family friendly. When visiting Old Orchard Beach parking can be difficult and we have had the experience of seagulls stealing our food.

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Though that was quite entertaining for us not everyone will think so. It is very much worth the stop in our opinion. Continuing a beach tour stop in to visit the beaches in Saco, or if you prefer an amusement or water park check out Fun Town Splash Town.

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Then when you get back on the road travel to Scarborough, South Portland and Portland there are endless sights to see in the Portland area. Depending on your interests check out Peaks Island, Portland Museum of Art, Victoria Mansion, Portland headlight. Allagash Brewery, the Old Port. If you are looking for a kid friendly stop check out the Children’s Museum. Along the lines of historic places visit the home of poet and author Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
There is also Casco Bay and Casco Bay Islands. I explored the Fort Allen Park one winter day in 2015. It was beautiful and worth a stop if you are in the area.

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Fort Allen Park, Portland Maine

When in Portland Bam Bam Bakery is a must stop if you have a family member with a food allergy. Continuing up the coast there are more spots to mention than I have time for in one blog post.
I want to tell you about our Favorite spot in the state. My husband and I like to head to the Northwestern section of Maine. We often stay in Greenville on the Moosehead lake area. I had my first trip up there as a teenager in the early 80’s. My oldest daughter has made this an almost annual trip with her children. We used to routinely camp at Casey’s Spencer Bay Camps and were saddened when they stopped operating. Lily Bay State Park, is a place I have visited and is a great family friendly campground. Seboomac Wilderness Campground is another great option. We stayed there for the first-time last year. They have many family friendly events and the campground was a relaxing and fun place to visit.

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Photo Moosehead Lake @ Seboomac Wilderness Campground

Ironically in looking back through memories we discovered that this campground was the first one I ever camped at though it was under different ownership in the 80s. This will be our new favorite campground on our annual camping vacation.

This is just a sampling of our state. To find more information check out these sites…
https://visitmaine.com/
https://www.mainehistory.org/house_overview.shtml

26 of Maine’s most beautiful places (to see before you die)


https://www.atlasobscura.com/things-to-do/maine

About the author:
Laurie Harmon. Laurie is a stay at home mom and Grammy of many. Blogger at Seekingserenityandharmony.com I love to share posts about simplifying life, saving money, spending more time with family.
You can find me at:

https://www.instagram.com/seekingserenity2001/

https://www.facebook.com/pg/seekingserenityandharmony

https://twitter.com/harmony2001

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Laurie thank you for sharing Maine with us! It looks like a beautiful state!

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The Very Best of Colorado

Colorado is a tourist hot spot, especially during the winter months when travelers from across the country flock to our mountain towns to hit the ski slopes. However, a summer trip to Colorado to bask in the mountain sunshine is what I would recommend. One week is not enough time to explore and take in all the beauty and excitement that this outdoorsy state has to offer, so I have done my best to compile an itinerary that I believe would help you maximize a Colorado vacation. The state does lack an efficient public transportation system outside of its metro areas, so you will need a rental car, preferably with four-wheel drive, to complete this 916-mile road trip.
Day 1: Arrive at Denver International Airport (DIA) Denver Metro
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Denver is the bustling metropolitan state capital of Colorado with endless excitement and entertainment options. Home to the Denver Broncos, the Colorado Rockies, the Colorado Avalanche, and the Denver Nuggets, sports fans can always find an event to attend while visiting. If you are more of a music lover, check out the concert schedule a the Red Rock’s Amphitheater. Just outside of Denver in Morrison, CO, Red Rocks is a world-renowned open-air event venue carved into the Red Rocks State Park. You can take your rental car to the venue where there is usually plenty of parking or, for those 21 years of age and over, you can cut back on emissions and board an adult beverage and 420 friendly party bus that will drop you off at your concert and pick you up when it ends.

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For the entire family, be sure to find out if your vacation will land during any of the 2019 Colorado Free Days. The Zoo, the botanic gardens, and various museums in the surrounding areas frequently allow the public to visit their facilities completely free of charge!

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Denver is also home to Elitch Gardens and Lakeside Amusement Park, both of which can offer hours of fun for people of all ages, but especially teens and thrill seekers.

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Day 2: Manitou Springs
Approximately 76 miles south of Denver on I25, you will come into Colorado Springs, CO. There is a lot to stop and see in Colorado Springs, including the Garden of the Gods and Cave of the Winds, but I recommend that you make your way just outside of town to Manitou Springs. This quaint destination is a must see for people of all ages. Finding parking in the area can be tough, but once you have a spot you can take the free shuttle anywhere in town. The free shuttle will even take you and your family to the base of the Incline Trail. This trail is no leisurely mountain hike. It is an intense fitness challenge with an elevation gain of just under 2000 feet. While this is a great way to wear out antsy teens, the steep climb is probably not safe for young children.

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In the town’s center, children and all family members can soak up the nostalgia of the Manitou Springs Penny Arcade. Be sure to bring plenty of coins (pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters) so you can enjoy classic arcade games such as Pac Man, Ski Ball, Donkey Kong, etc., to your heart’s content. Manitou springs is also a great place to do some souvenir shopping. Their picturesque downtown shops offer a little something for everyone. Be sure to stop by one of their most popular shops, Christmas in Manitou, serving up the Christmas spirit any time of year.
Day 3: Alamosa
South on I25 and then west on highway 160, Alamosa, CO, rests in the heart of the San Luis Valley. Home to the Great Sand Dunes, Alamosa area has a lot to offer visitors.

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Often, guests get so caught up in the majesty of the dunes sidled on the Mountain’s edge, that they miss out on other great tourist destinations in the area, including the Zapata Falls. The Zapata Falls is a hidden gem whose parking lot sits so near the Great Sand Dunes that many stop there to take in the views of the dunes. The falls are only a half a mile from the parking lot, but the short hike is still very adventurous and will keep the entire family entertained. When you are nearing the falls, you must wade through the icy water to enter a cave where the actual falls are housed. This is much less intimidating than it sounds. The rocks are slick, and you do have to be careful, but this is a hike that I have completed at every age level of my life, and I do not fancy myself a great outdoorsman. In other words, if I can handle it, most anyone can!
Also, in the area is the Colorado Gators Reptile Park. In areas where natural hot springs bring geothermic waters bubbling to the earth’s surface, many business men decide to open soaker pools and spas. In the 1970’s Erwin Young decided that he would purchase alligators instead. Locals are glad he made this decision as the gator park is now a thriving educational tourist destination where people of all ages can visit the “largest alligators in the west”. However, speaking of hot springs pools, a relaxing way to end you day of hiking and gator viewing is to take the whole family to the Sand Dunes Swimming Pool. This naturally heated pool is open until 10PM with swimming for people of all ages and an adults only section where cocktails are served while you soak.
Day 4: Antonito
A short 28 miles south of Alamosa, Antonito, CO, is home to the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad. This railroad offers full or half day trips through beautiful southern Colorado, all the way into New Mexico. Trips include meals and offer education on the railroad system that once ruled the west. A half day trip will leave you with enough time to visit other attractions in the area. A local favorite is Cano’s Castle. This structure really does stand as a testament to the statement that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. While erecting an entire building of beer cans and other trash may seem odd, it is certainly a feat of architecture that one must see to believe.
A final spot of interest in the area that I recommend you visit is The Lady of Guadalupe Parish Church, also known as Colorado’s Oldest Church. While adults may appreciate the history more than their younger counterparts, this beautiful parish gives all guests a look into Colorado’s history.
Day 5: Grand Junction
The stretch of road between Antonito, CO, and Grand Junction will be your longest. The 272-mile drive will take you a little under 5 hours to make. I recommend an early start on this day so that you can arrive in Grand Junction around 12PM for an afternoon on the water.

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White water rafting is an experience that you will find across Colorado, but Grand Junction is a premiere location for this adrenaline pumping sport. It is a great, heart pounding adventure for teens and thrill seekers of all ages. If paddling through river rapids is not your idea of a good time, maybe a restful, scenic innertube float from Grand Junction to neighboring Fruita, CO, will be more your pace.
You can wrap your day on the river up with a nice stroll through the Down Town Grand Junction Creative District. Grand Junction is known for their vibrant art scene. Home to the Western Colorado Center for the Arts, Grand Junction boasts numerous local art studios and shops as well as the year round, outdoor sculpture exhibit, Art on the Corner.
Day 6: Steamboat Springs
As your Colorado vacation winds down, day 6 is a great opportunity for some rest and relaxation. Steamboat springs is 192 miles north east of Grand Junction and will take a little over 3 hours in your vehicle. Once you have arrived you can take in the views from the top of Mt. Werner. No, I am not sending you on another physically demanding hike. All you must do to enjoy these views, is kick your feet up as you and your entire family sway up the side of the mountain in your spacious gondola. Scenic Gondola Rides are an amazing way to enjoy the mountaintop sights, with none of the hassle. Sad news, though: Steamboat’s scenic gondola rides will be closed during the 2019 summer season for renovations, so next summer may be a better time to plan a trip in this area. They also offer Sunset Happy Hour gondola rides for those who want an up close and personal view of the skies turning pink and purple as the sun dips below the surrounding mountain peaks.

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You can then further wind down from your Colorado road trip with a dip in the Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs. Like the Sand Dunes Swimming Pool, these pools are naturally heated with geothermal waters; however, the pools at strawberry park are more rustic, having kept more of their natural features intact. Their facility includes three large pools, all naturally occurring with earth floors, but with each being a different temperature. The cooler pool and medium temperature pool are great for children to swim and horse around in while the hottest pool is better suited for adults to soak aches and stress away. If the sun is up, people of all ages are welcome in the pools, but be aware that as the sun sets the pools become clothing optional and most opt to leave with their children before the adults start shedding their swim ware in the fading light.
Day 7: Return to DIA for Flight Home
You will have a 156-mile drive from Steamboat Springs back to where you started at DIA. While the airport is not usually anyone’s favorite part of their vacation, I recommend that you take a free tour of the Denver International Airport if you are able to before your flight. DIA is shrouded in mystery and rumors and will offer family members of all ages one last educational experience before your board your plane.

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We hope you’ll come back and see us again. This travel guide barely scratches the surface of what Colorful Colorado can offer as a vacation destination!
About the Author:

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Sage Parsons is a Colorado native. Born and raised in the San Luis Valley, she has lived with her husband and their fur-children in the Denver Metro area since 2013. She works full time as Probation Officer and manages her blog Be Well, Lovely, on a part time basis. Developed from her experience in a helping profession, her blog is made up of stories, recipes, and tips to increase wellness in herself and her readers.

Twitter: @BeWellLovely1
Insta: @bewelllovely

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Sage! We are going to go to Colorado this summer, I hope! Thank you for the great suggestions!

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The Very Best of Washington

Best Places That You Must See When in Washington State

Washington State is an amazingly beautiful state to visit and live in. It is like the unknown gem of the United States. Whenever anyone thinks of Washington State, they only think of Seattle. Although Seattle is definitely the main tourist attraction in the state, there are a few more must-see places to visit throughout the rest of the state.

Seattle

To start, Seattle is a really great place to visit in Washington State. There are a ton of things for you to do there. The main attractions in Seattle are Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, The Seattle Aquarium, the Seattle Zoo, the Seattle Kids Museum, and the Great Wheel. Picking a hotel in the downtown area is a good idea as well because driving in Seattle is not too fun, especially if you are staying out of town.

It is important to know that the downtown area at night is not all that safe, so just be cautious about how you spend your time downtown. It is a great area during the day, but make sure you are in a group before you decide to walk anywhere at night. You can also take some great day trips from Seattle to Portland, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Saint Helens and Port Angeles (where Twilight is filmed). There are tons things to do in this area, so make sure you plan it before coming so you can get to everything. Another great trip would be visit Vancouver or Amazon Go! If you have never been to an Amazon Go, this would be a fun way to experience it! Lastly, when visiting in Pike Place Market, make sure to wait around for the throwing of the fish! Don’t know what that means? Here is a YouTube video to help get an idea. It is a Seattle tradition.

The weather in Seattle can be iffy, but if you get a good day, it is beautiful!

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Leavenworth

Another great gem tucked away in the middle of the state is Leavenworth. Leavenworth is a Bavarian town in the middle of Washington State in the mountains. It is great to visit this town at any time of the year. If you are visiting in the summer, you have great weather to go hiking, swimming or catch a festival in the town. In the winter, they decorate the whole town in Christmas lights and it’s quite a spectacular event.

Leavenworth gets all types of weather. With it being in the middle of the state, rain is not an often occurrence during the summer and it also snows a ton. With no humidity, it makes for a great location to go camping too. You can also go off the beaten path and take a trip to The Gorge for summer music festivals and camping. Do you love yoga? They have some great choices for yoga retreats in the area too!

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Spokane

Another amazing gem in the state is Spokane. Spokane is on the east side of the state and usually gets forgotten because it is 5-hour drive from Seattle. The best way to visit Spokane from Seattle is to take a flight over. It’s a 50-minute flight at the most and you fly low enough to see the views of the state. Once you get to Spokane, there are a few things that you can do. Hiking, boating, floating the Spokane River, visiting the carousel downtown, are all great things to start with.

If you want to pick a certain time to come, in May they have Bloomsday, a community walk/run that many participate in. Make sure to check it out. Also, you can come in June for Hoop Fest, the biggest 3 on 3 basketball tournaments in the area. Speaking of basketball, Spokane is home to the famous March Madness team, Gonzaga. Check out their campus and get yourself a Gonzaga Bulldogs shirt!

The weather in Spokane is extremely different from Seattle. There is a ton of snow and in the summer, it is hot and dry. There is no humidity and it only rains in the spring and fall. Mostly the rest of the days through the summer are sunshine. Because of it, there tends to be more forest fires on this side of the state, so you might want to avoid coming around Labor Day, as that is the height of fire season.

Final thoughts

Overall, no matter where you go in Washington, the whole state is beautiful. Make sure to get to both sides of the state though, as they are totally different. From Spokane, you can drive 20 minutes to Idaho. From Seattle, you can drive 30-40 minutes to Oregon. Both are worth visiting. Spend about one whole week in the state driving across. It will be worth your time. Keep in mind though, nothing is close! So, you will be driving quite a bit. Make it a worthwhile road trip and enjoy the views.

Author Bio:

Jennifer is the owner of TWL –  a Blogging Community for Working Moms. This is a community with a passion for writing and being a working mom. Along with blogging + freelance writing, she is a mom, army wife and full-time teacher. Jennifer lives in Washington State and is a born + raised New Yorker. In her spare time, she loves traveling, yoga, the beach, writing, listening to books and drinking coffee.

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Jennifer thank you for sharing Washington with us! I would have to visit sometime when there is NO snow! I do not do well in the old. haha.

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