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
 
 
Follow me at any of these places:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/loveinjune16/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jrenfro99
 
 
 
 

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

gc

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.”

My social links are as follows:

Blog: https://travelstoriesandimages.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/storiesnimages

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/storiesnimages

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/storiesnimages

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/storiesnimages

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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!

Follow me at any of these places:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/loveinjune16/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jrenfro99

img_7753-2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

The Very Best of North Carolina

north-carolina-890632_1280

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.

img_20190119_104614446

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!

img_20181230_134832409

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.  

basketball-89829_1920

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!

jennettes-pier-4027214_1920

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

img_20170813_175725521_hdr

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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

Follow me at any of these places:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/loveinjune16/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jrenfro99

img_7753-2

 
Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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!

image2 (6)

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!

image1 (6)

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

Follow me at any of these places:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/loveinjune16/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jrenfro99

img_7753-2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

The Very Best of South Carolina Part 1 of 2

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

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

What I like most about the state museum is the fact that there are so many interesting parts of history everywhere you go inside this museum. Some of these exhibits go way back to when dinosaurs ruled the world, and some are much newer, like the very first iPhone and some of the old flip phones that were popular when I was in high school. There is a plethora of South Carolina history wrapped throughout your visit there, including some colonial paintings and lots of information about what life was like back during early years in South Carolina.
image9 (3)

Outside of the museum, one of the of the most popular tourist attractions in the entire state of South Carolina (and especially the midlands) is the Riverbanks Zoo. Located in the heart of Columbia, it’s one of the top zoos in the entire southeastern United States.

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

image6 (3)

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

image3 (4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

image8 (3)

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

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

Author Bio:

image1 (5)

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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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

Follow me at any of these places:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/loveinjune16/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jrenfro99

img_7753-1

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

The Very Best of Utah

The Best of Utah

 

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

Outdoors

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

Zion’s National Park

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

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

canyon-2179250_640

Bryce Canyon National Park

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

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

bryce-canyon-502026_640

Arches National Park

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

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

delicate-arch-4625_640

Other Noteworthy Mountains to Hike in Utah

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

pasted image 0

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

 

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

pasted image 0 (1) 

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

pasted image 0 (2)

Skiing

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

winter-4066634_640

Water Play

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

 

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

pasted image 0 (3)

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

 

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

lake-powell-50681_640

Other Iconic Places, Not Particularly Outdoors

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

Nightmare on 13th

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

pasted image 0 (4)

Lagoon

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

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

pasted image 0 (5)

Thanksgiving Point

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

pasted image 0 (6)

Living Planet Aquarium

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

pasted image 0 (7)

Temple Square

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

temple-square-780110_640 

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

Utah has Something for Everyone

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

About the Author: 

Headshot

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

https://elizabethsepiphanies.com

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

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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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

Follow me at any of these places:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/loveinjune16/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jrenfro99

img_7753-1

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com