There are so many wonderful places to discover and experience locally. Last year, I heard about this tulip flower farm in Johnston, RI. I was so excited to check it out. Tickets are sold online only. We were lucky to get one day in last year to visit with my husband and then-two year old.
This year, it was just my son and me. He had his 3-year old well-visit at his pediatrician’s office, which is located in Johnston, RI.
So, we decided to pack a lunch and have a picnic after his doctor’s appointment. Then pick flowers, take pictures, and have some fun in the sun.
My son just turned three at the end of April, so his ticket was free. I just had to pay for my adult ticket, which came to $17.28. This ticket includes 10 U-Pick tulips.
When you enter, you check in with the people under the white tent and they give you a token for the 10 tulips. You also have the option to purchase more tulips if you decide to pick more than 10.
Picking the Tulips and Picnicking
Upon entering, there were people under the large umbrella to ask any specific questions. There were baskets and large red buckets for patrons to carry their tulips in. The ground is bumpy and a bit rocky, so it’ll be tough to roll a stroller. But, it might be helpful to have one if your kids get tired.
Off to the side, there are picnic tables set up (some under a shaded pavilion) along with trash cans and porto potties.
We brought along a blanket, which we laid down to have more room. I also left my lunch bag on top of the blanket after lunch so I didn’t need to carry it while we picked tulips.
My three year old son enjoyed running up and down the rows of flowers. And, I had a wonderful time snapping pictures of him.
In addition to the U-Pick tulips, the flower farm has a show are that is limited to viewing and taking pictures. There is no picking allowed in this show area. On display is a lovely assortment of flowers.
This is a popular area for those selfies and “glamour” shots:)
It was such a beautiful Thursday afternoon when we visited! If you’re ever in the RI area during the spring, usually anytime between the middle to end of April until about the middle to end of May, you should check out Wicked Tulips! They have their “Bloom Report” available online so you are able to check when U-Pick time is!
Thanks for reading about our mini excursion:) Happy spring, everyone!
Yes there are so many ways to entertain your kids! Nowadays with technology right at your fingertips…not to mention the accessibility of cellular devices, tablets, and portable gaming consoles.
Sometimes we lose touch with human interaction when we are so involved with the latest social media notification or when bombarded with emails and text notifications.
Our family recently took a road trip from Rhode Island to Miami, Florida with stops in D.C. and Myrtle Beach. Along the way we tried out a few different car games with our 2.5 year old son.
Play Guessing Games in the Car
Michael and I both realized that our son, Kai, enjoys playing guessing games! Below are some guessing game suggestions and ideas for you and your family to try while at home, on road trips, or waiting in line at an amusement park or simply when you have time and are bored with your toddler.
I Spy Guessing Game
This is a classic childhood car game that brings back memories! The object of the game is to guess the thing(s) that are a certain color.
Example: mommy says, “I spy with my eye something that is the color green.” Toddler replies, “trees?!”
We found that focusing on objects that are seen for longer periods of time proved to be better for us, since our toddler’s reaction time isn’t the quickest, especially when driving 60 MPH.
This game doesn’t usually last us a long time, unless we also focus on items INSIDE the car. Then we can play for a little while longer. Also try and change it up and ask your child to ask the adult or other siblings what he or she spies!!! We have fun guessing too:)
Guess the Animal
Not sure if this has another name, but that’s what we call it in our family! Objective is to guess the animal.
Example: daddy says, “baaaa”, and asks children to guess what animal. Child replies, “sheep!”
This game is fun and the child also had a blast getting involved in mimicking animal noises.
Guess the Color
As the name of the game provides a wonderful explanation of objective, which is to guess to the color of what is being described.
Example: grandma asks, “what color am I thinking of? Apples, stop sign, cherries, raspberries, roses…” child replies, “red!”
We have tried playing this game when our toddler was a bit overtired and let me tell you it was an epic failure! He would not concentrate AT ALL and would constantly laugh 😂 which would make me laugh even harder! It was hilarious!
Guess the Item
This game can be played several different ways depending on the children’s ages. The way we have played is fairly simple. Example: grandpa says, “I am thinking about something, this something is the color red. You can eat it. It is sweet. It is a fruit. It’s crunchy. You can pick it off a tree in the fall. You can make pie with it.” Child says, “apple!?”
The adult can go on and on and provide detailed descriptions of the item he or she is thinking about until the child guesses correctly. We have found that, depending on your child’s comprehension and vocabulary level, it might be best to start with very simple things.
When your children grow older you can start doing the role reversal so they can ask you to guess the item they’re thinking of.
Imagination and Reading to the Rescue!
In addition to occupying your children’s time with guessing games, another form of entertainment we have found to be fun and stimulating is your imagination.
If you’re a creative and imaginative person this is right up your alley! The object is to use descriptive words and tell a fun story.
Unfortunately my attempts at telling our son a story has failed on numerous occasions. It just doesn’t “flow” for me. Therefore, I rely heavily on resources that are available to us.
My default: the library! If you have a library card you most likely have access to borrow e-books and audiobooks.
Prior to our road trip or even during the long drive, I log into my online library account and search for some children audiobooks. I am able to download them right then and there through an app called Overdrive or listen to the book right through our browser. My son loves Curious George and Pinkalicious and enjoys listening to the audiobooks. I have also realized they seem to calm him down and put him to sleep (on a good day).
Similar to story-telling, but we are the ones in the “story”. My husband does such an amazing job with this game! Typically we do this at night when we are winding down from a busy day, and if we decide not to read a bedtime storybook.
Example: daddy says, “are you ready to go on a safari adventure? What animals do you want to see today?” Then he describes going into a Jeep and buckling up and seeing all of the sights with animal sounds and all! Being in a moving vehicle we could pretend we are in space and seeing all of the spaceships and other life forms go by us, as we are riding.
Other Activities and Ideas!
Here are some other suggestions and things we have tried with our toddler on our long road trips.
Sometimes bringing his favorite toy(s) are extremely helpful! If your child has a stuffed animal he or she can play pretend and feed it snacks and have fun. Kai enjoys playing with his “shark blaster,” which has lights and sounds.
Snacks & Food
Kai loves snacks! Eating and snacking on stuff keeps him occupied and entertained for a long time. I usually try and find some healthy snacks for him to munch on. His favorites include the following:
When all else fails, we do resort to playing movies or TV shows on his tablet. This is the one we have, along with the case we got for him:
Our sons enjoying watching certain shows and tends to fall asleep to the movie Moana, which was his favorite for a long time.
Some of the toddler games are very educational, but we have found that we need to sit down with him and show him how to play the games before we sit in the car. The games are a little complex for him to figure out all on his own after downloading them.
I recommend letting your child play games that he or she is already familiar with so they can explore on their own. Otherwise, you will have a toddler constantly asking you how to do this and that in each level or in each game.
Play Packs / Coloring Activity
Our son doesn’t typically have the attention span to sit for long periods of time, but when we are in the car he actually enjoys coloring and playing with some stickers. He has been rather intricate with his coloring nowadays…compared to just a few months ago he would just color a few lines and said he was all done.
We hope these road trip ideas are helpful for you and your family during long drives or when you’re traveling:) Enjoy!
Yes, we are Rhode Island residents. And yes, we don’t explore locally enough. However, once or twice a year, when our Cairn terrier needs to get groomed, we take the opportunity to spend some family time in the Newport, RI area.
Our Dog Groomer
Since our dog has a wire coat and my husband is very particular about how he gets groomed. And not a lot of places in the area offer hand-stripping dogs with a wire coat. We found one place and it’s located in Portsmouth, RI, called Perry’s Plush Pooch. They specialize in grooming show dogs. And while it is a hefty price to pay for our dog, it’s supposedly the proper way to groom a Cairn terrier.
Here’s some pictures of our shaggy Cairn…
and his post-groom look…
Castle Hill Lighthouse
Since our groomer requires he be brought to him by 8am in the morning and he be picked up around 3pm, we have typically gone for a day trip to Newport.
The first year we did this Kai was just getting comfortable with walking on uneven surfaces. So we just ended up taking him to a local playground and to Castle Hill Lighthouse. When we went it was a cool and beautiful day in early April, so we got some nice pictures by the lighthouse and walking on the empty beach. And, it wasn’t super crowded/full of tourists that time of year.
After the lighthouse excursion, we decided to do some shopping on Thames. Kai had his snacks in his stroller along with his milk, while walked around.
During his nap, we decided to go to a nice sit-down seafood restaurant, Mooring Restaurant. It worked out perfectly, and just as we were getting ready for dessert, our little one sat right up from his stroller looking SO ADORABLE with his cute/messy hair.
What a wonderful way to end our Newport, RI day trip before we picked up our dog.
After our action-packed first day and our first time boondocking at the Cabela’s in Maine, we drove up north to Medway, where we had booked three nights at Katahdin Shadows Campground.
The last ten minutes of the ride, Kai was not having it:( hence the crying toddler pictured above.
What made it worse was that Michael had to check into the campground and get all of our paperwork. So Kai wanted to see Daddy. Poor kid.
I did turn on an episode of Dino Dana on our Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet and that helped a lot! Kai loves watching Dino Dana. That and Curious George are two shows that definitely keep him entertained.
Initially, we had planned this route because Michael and his guy friends were planning on hiking Mt. Katahdin on Saturday. His friends were supposed to drive up on Friday, camp that night and get an early start on the hike on Saturday, camp that night and leave Sunday.
I had found a family-friendly campground. They were having a Halloween-themed weekend, so I could bond with Kai and Stanley while Michael was away.
The week before our trip, his friends all backed out from hiking.
Guess that meant more family time! As you can imagine, Michael was overjoyed to spend HALLOWEEN weekend with us in JULY!
Prior to our stay, we were fortunate enough to get a call back from the campground a few days before we arrived. We were on a waitlist for a 50 amp, pull-thru site with a sewer hookup. We ended up getting it. That was such wonderful news.
I did read a review about the check in area being fairly steep for a big rig to pull into. We had no problems. But it was nice to have a idea beforehand.
The sites were all fairly close together at this campground. The playground is such a wonderful area and since it was Halloween weekend, the campground was fully booked. That meant a lot of kids!
I would definitely recommend this campground to families with young kids with an RV. It gets loud, but it adds to the community and excitement of it all.
It surely isn’t for the older couple look for a nice relaxing and quite environment or the young couple looking for nature hiking and biking; unless you are simply going to Baxter State Park for the day.
The staff and people here were super friendly! There are a lot of seasonal campers here and what’s great is there are also cabin rentals and just regular tent sites. Those are more private and tucked away. So, if you are someone who doesn’t have an RV and enjoy tent camping, this campground offers a very different environment, away from the noise.
That first evening, we decided to get some essentials: food. We asked the staff and they informed us of a local market at the gas station right down the road from the campground. It was called the Big Apple Store. They had the essentials. So, we were very happy.
We decided to take the bikes with us! Before we had Kai, we had Stanley, our cairn terrier. When we got bicycles for us, we also invested in one of these InStep bicycle trailers so that our little pup, Stanley could ride with us:)
Now that we have Kai, he can ride in it while my husband pulls him. It’s so perfect when we have sort of a long distance to go but would rather take our bikes to get there a bit faster.
In this case, we needed to purchase a gallon of milk, drinkable water and some other groceries! And we just didn’t feel like driving because that’s all we had been doing for two whole days.
The bike trailer is able to seat two kids, so it was just enough space to fit Kai and all the groceries we purchased:)
It was definitely a small town festival, but it was nice to participate in a local community event. There was live music, and Kai had fun at the bounce houses!
Stanley gets to rest in the Airstream while we go out:)
That weekend was fun. On Friday evening, we did a hayride with Kai around the campground. He loved being pulled by a large tractor. He loved playing with the kids at the playground!
Then on Saturday morning we brought Kai to an exercise trail about a half an hour south of the campground. It was in Lincoln, ME. We chose that particular trail due to its close proximity to Walmart. We had pre-ordered these truck mirror attachments, because Michael informed me that each state has different laws about having towing mirrors while we towed our trailer. Kai had fun on the trail.
We then went to a park with a playground and a beach at Mattanawcook Lake. Kai wanted to play with the older girls who were swinging, so we brought our lunch there and had a picnic.
That afternoon, we took Kai trick-or-treating on the campground after his nap. Michael and I took turns taking Kai and giving out candy.
On Sunday morning, we just ate pop-tarts, packed up, and were off to our next stop.
That morning we picked up a few last minute items from Walmart, ate lunch, and packed up the truck + RV for our 2.5 hour drive to Cabela’s in Scarborough, Maine. We had planned to boondock our first night out.
RV Parky is just a great website resource to use to search for places to park your RV. We love using the app on our smartphones too. That’s how we discovered free overnight parking at Cabela’s! I did call the store beforehand, just to confirm before we got there. The store associate told me that the store doesn’t manage the parking but there are a lot of trailers and trucks that park there overnight and don’t get bothered. So, basically, they don’t want to be liable for anything = totally understandable!
After we got Kai and Stanley loaded into the truck, Kai was already NOT feeling it. He must have either been over-tired. The days leading up to the trip were fairly routine. Michael had lots of work to wrap up the week before and during the trip. So, I spent a great deal of time with Kai and Stanley. We got to bond a lot!
Michael was home on Friday morning, and Kai just wanted to spend all of his time bonding with daddy. It was hard for Michael to ‘get stuff done’. It just felt like it took forever to “get going”.
It had already been a long day.
To top it off, I get pre-departure jitters/anxiety. So the night before, I couldn’t get to bed. I think I stayed up until 2:30am.
Yes, we were experienced at RVing, but this was a whole new beast!
Something was bound to GO WRONG. We just didn’t expect it to be so soon. The problem started before we even left.
After Michael hooked up the Airstream, we were trying to get our lights to connect so we could drive safely. The connection to our rearview camera was not working. And, we had preordered trailer cameras to be picked up while we were in Maine. So, we didn’t have those either.
We made a call to Pete’s RV in Plainville, MA. I explained to them that our lights weren’t hooking up properly and that we had just purchased the Airstream from Pete’s RV in Vermont. They said we could bring it on by. THANK GOD! They did inform us that their service department technicians leave at 4pm. At this point it was just after 2pm. So we got there around 2:45pm.
The wire was damaged. Most likely from the way it was sitting up against the sway bars/hitch. So, the connection wires were cut.
Thankfully, on our drive there, Kai fell asleep. Much needed nap indeed! We didn’t anticipate them taking a long time to fix because they just needed to replace the wire and hookup. They said they would only charge us for the wire and no labor, which was super nice!
It was 4pm, and Kai woke up. We still had about fifteen minutes before they packed up.
Unfortunately, the fixed wire didn’t resolve our connection issue. One of the other technicians came out and discovered our Ford F-150 had a blown fuse! We called the closest Ford dealership in Foxboro, MA. They didn’t carry it. The only place in the state of MA that had one in stock was located in Quincy, MA.
Michael ended up just taking another fuse from a different part of the truck and replacing that, temporarily. So we didn’t have power in our center console. It was definitely more important we fix the trailer rearview lights. They also control the running lights for the trailer. So we wouldn’t be able to drive safely at night without them on.
Phew, it was already 5pm. Now we were hungry again! And, we had only made it to Foxboro, MA, from our home in Rhode Island!
Michael wanted to stop along the highway, but I just suggested we head to Olive Garden at Patriots Place, which was literally down the road. When I get over hungry, I get hANGRY.
Dinner hit the spot.
We left Foxboro, MA around 6:30pm, which was perfect because there was less traffic vs. during rush hour. Michael just kept on driving. We can cruise at 60mph comfortably while towing. We made a stop along the way so Kai could use the restroom. And, we have to find a parking lot large enough to accommodate the truck and travel trailer duo.
Arrival time: 9pm. Yay, we made it. And, it was time for bed. No shower for us that night. We had planned on it. Just had enough freshwater to brush our teeth, wash some hands, faces, and use the bathroom.
So we were back from our cruise and it was a straight shot up the coast to Savannah, GA. We had a 7 hour drive from Miami and we were only staying one night in Georgia. As we got into Georgia we had stopped to fuel up and noticed a gas station that had some magnets. As soon as we crossed the state border, we immediately noticed the drastic change in weather. It was several degrees cooler in GA compared to Florida, so we had to change our clothing to adjust to the quick change when we stopped. We picked up the Georgia magnet that we needed and low and behold there was a Tennessee magnet, Tennessee was the only state where we wee unable to find a magnet while we were there. After getting our magnet we were back on the road and not stopping until Savannah.
We arrived in Savannah around 4pm. We checked into the Mulberry Inn. It was a decent little hotel with clean rooms but a breakfast, which we found out later, that was lacking a bit. We dropped off our luggage into the room and knew that we had a few things to do tonight so we could head to the Carolinas the next day. Next on our list was to to find a cache. Luckily right near the hotel was a cache that ended up being fairly easy to find. We placed our frisbee and were on our way to dinner.
The hotel that we were staying in was on the north side of Savannah. Christina wanted to head into the downtown area to get some dinner. She actually found a Paula Dean restaurant that we thought would be somewhere good to try. We got into the downtown area and there was something big going on. There must have been a festival or something that day. Many of the streets were blocked off, there were police all over the place, and all of the parking lots were already full. After looking for somewhere to park for 45 minutes I decided to call it quits. There was a restaurant right next to the hotel that we were staying at that I had originally wanted to go to so we ended up heading back there. After another half hour drive back towards the hotel we arrived at the Sweet Tea Grille restaurant. The food there was pretty good and I think our favorite was the loaded chip appetizer. After dinner we decided to call it a night as we had to get up early and head north.
We woke up and packed up our luggage and car and headed to breakfast. We like to try and find hotels where they offer free breakfast but this one was just a bit of a disappointment. Everything seemed a little old and like it had been out for a while. We quickly ate a little bit of breakfast and decided to head out of there as our final destination for today was all the way up in Richmond, VA.
We started to head to Virginia and knew we needed to make a few stops along the way. We needed to visit North and South Carolina. North Carolina was pretty easy. We stopped at South of the Border. We were easily able to find a cache right there and or course they had a magnet. Luckily since this is on the border of North and South Carolina they also had a North Carolina magnet so we were able to pick up both of them. We also to decided to grab some lunch while we were there and make our way to North Carolina.
North Carolina was a little more difficult because we needed to find a cache and we didn’t have a specific location to go to. We pulled off the highway and I found a cache that seemed to be pretty close by. It was actually at a dentist office and it was about 2:30pm(two thirty) I thought it was pretty fitting.(Lets see who gets the joke). We searched of the cache for a while and finally just before we were about to leave I prevailed and found it attached to a tree in the woods. Victory! Only one state left.
We continued our drive to Virginia, our last state in the continental U.S. We arrived fairly late in Fredricksburg, VA and decided to get dinner and call it an early night. We headed to an Italian restaurant right next to the hotel, Vita Felice. The food was pretty good and we were really happy with our meals. The restaurant was showing some signs of age but we were able to over look that when our entrees came. We headed back to the hotel after dinner and rested up for our final drive.
We woke up early had breakfast at our hotel and had a couple of errands to run. First and most importantly was to find a Virginia country ham for Christina’s dad. We headed to the Made in Virginia Store that was near by. We knew they carried Edward’s hams and that is exactly what we were looking for. Edward’s are know for their salty country hams and are always raked amongst the top tasting in the country. We found a ham that fit what we were looking for and also grabbed our VA magnet. We only had one more thing to do. We searched nearby for a cache and found one just around the corner. It was a pretty easy find so we placed our frisbee and headed to New York.
After 7 more hours of driving we arrived in New York, completing our trip around the continental U.S.(plus Alaska). All that we have left is Hawaii and boy are we excited to go there.
T-minus 5 days until our wedding. Now we must switch from fun mode back to get things done mode.
We drove through Alabama and were on our way to Florida. Our first destination was Panama City in the Florida panhandle. We were staying at the Beachside Resort. The hotel was ok. It wasn’t the nicest but it worked. The big draw was the view. The hotel is right on the Gulf and just out the doors of the hotel were beautiful white beaches and crystal clear water. The first night we got there it was very windy and a little cool out so we headed down the road where there was a shopping center, Christina’s favorite. She wanted to get a few ore things for the wedding and there was an Olive Garden near by, also Christina’s favorite, that we headed to for dinner. The shopping center was Panama Pier Park; it was actually huge with all sorts of stores. It was on outdoor shopping area similar to what you find at most outlet stores.
The next morning we decided to head out to the beach. It was a little warmer and not as windy as the previous day. Christina relaxed on a large wooden beach chair that she had me lug from the top of the beach all the way down to the water. I had my fishing pole in had and was ready to finally get some fishing time in. I waded out into the water about waist deep and I could still see the bottom perfectly clear. I ended up catching on flounder in the hour and a half we were out on the beach. Although it was nothing big it fulfilled my urge to fish. Later that night we headed to find some souvenirs, as well as our Florida magnet, and to get some froyo and call it night.
The next day we were off to Cocoa Beach where we got a pretty good deal to visit a time share seminar. For $199 we got a 3 night stay in a Holiday Inn Express and after the time share seminar we would get $199 back in cash and a free stay for a night in another Holiday Inn. We knew what we were in for with the time share seminar and we made sure we were ready. It was a little late when we got to Cocoa Beach, It was a 7.5 hour drive from Panama City, so we decided to get dinner and call it a night. We headed to Papa Vito’s. Boy were we happy we did. Check out Christina’s review of the restaurant here!
The next day was our time share seminar. In the morning we headed out for a run and went back to the hotel to get ready. We didn’t have time to get lunch so we headed to a little shop right near the hotel, The Local Experience. We noticed a sign for smoothies so we decided to try them and they were great. The owner and employee working were also both great and very helpful. The time share company that this seminar was with was Holiday Inn Club Vacations. We were told this presentation was going to last 2 hours. They were exactly right. At two hours on the dot we were out of there. They did try to get us to buy a time share but their pricing didn’t seem very good. Although, we wouldn’t have gotten a time share anyway. Who wants to always vacation in the same place (yes, I know if you pay extra fees you can go to different locations). They claim these are “investments”, but they do not seem to grow in value.
After leaving the presentation we headed back to the Local Experience shop. We saw a pamphlet for a fishing charter and wanted to check it out. When we went back to the store they helped us call a few places to find somewhere to fish. We ended up going with Cast Away Florida who heads out on the Banana River and only cost us $65 per person for 4 hours of fishing.
We also decided to head to dinner at on of the restaurants that one of the locals recommended from the shop we were in, Baja’s Tavern and Eats. We headed to dinner and upon being seated Christina was already skeptical. There was a cat walking about in the out door seating area. We ordered our food and although nothing was bad nothing was really good either. The service that we had also wasn’t quite on par with what we expect from most restaurants, especially in this price range. You can also check out Christina’s review on this restaurant at her Yelp link here. After diner we decided to find a waterproof camera to bring to out fishing the next day and to bring with us on our Caribbean cruise. We checked Wal-mart, Sears, and Radioshack, before finally landing at Target just before closing and finding the camera we were looking for.
The next day we had to be at the boat dock for 8am. It was about a 10 minute drive from the hotel we were staying in. When we arrived to the dock we noticed the boat that we would be fishing from. We were on a decent sized, 24ft, pontoon boat with a captain and guide and we were the only ones on the boat. We caught a decent amount of fish, between the 2 of us we probably caught 30-40 fish. We caught a few pinfish, speckled trout, puffer fish, and grunts. In addition, I caught a very rare oyster, and Christina ended up hooking the biggest catch of the day: me! Yes, she hooked my ankle on accident, so I was the biggest catch. I was excited to finally get some real fishing in. After fishing we decided to go back to Papa Vito’s since it was so good, plus we had some coupons for lunch.
On November 6th we headed to Miami and checked in to our hotel in the afternoon. There was a Chinese restaurant that Christina wanted to stop by for dinner so we decided to head over there, called Wei’s Chinese Restaurant. We had hot pot for dinner, which is basically a pot of boiling broth at our table that you use to cook raw food that is given to you. Dinner was great and we were really happy that we decided to go over there.
Down in Miami we really feel like we are already down in the Caribbean islands. Everyone here is fluent in Spanish. Either they are native speakers or they have acquired it along the way. It seems mandatory down here if you are working in any retail or hospitality work. Also, Christina and I were very surprised to see the overwhelming amount of tolls we have to pay on the Florida turnpikes. We figured it’s going to cost us about $50 in tolls as we travel through Florida. I think we have spent over $30 so far.
The next day we needed to get a few final things for our wedding. Somehow Christina keeps finding a few more things we need to get. We headed to Miami International Mall and were able to find everything that we were looking for. Also, everyone seems to be on island time, especially in the mall. We also noticed a cache nearby. We were able to drive to a library just near the mall and find our cache pretty easily. After our cache we headed back to the hotel so we could get ready for our cruise and finalize some wedding tasks.
As of tomorrow afternoon our cell phones will be off for a week, and we will be on our way to the Caribbean. Woohoo! Can’t wait.
We made the decision to drive through Alabama the day of Saturday, November 1st, after leaving New Orleans. It was just going to be a quick stop. We were stopping through just to get a magnet, find our cache, and grab some lunch.
When we got into Spanish Fort, Alabama we stopped for some gasoline and headed to a Walgreens to look for a magnet. We found a magnet that said “Spanish Fort, AL” but not one that only said ” Alabama” So we decided to keep searching. In the Walgreens parking lot we noticed there was a cache. It was a quick find. We placed our frisbee and were off.
Christina had a couple of items that she had to return to Kohl’s so we headed one that was nearby in the town center. We were pretty hungry since we hadn’t eaten breakfast so lunch was the next thing on our list. We found a Five Guys Burgers and Fries, our favorite, so we had to stop there for lunch. After eating lunch we resumed our search for a magnet. we checked a couple of shops in the plaza we were in with no luck. One person recommended we go up the highway an exit and there was a “Tiger Pride” store that should have some.
We drove up to the next exit and found the store. To our dismay there were not any magnets there that we could use, unless we wanted one that was about a foot long. There was also another small gift store near by that we checked, and again we came out empty handed. The owner did recommend checking Barnes and Noble, Bass Pro Shops, and the Welcome Center. Barnes and Noble was just next door so we searched there and again, nadda.
We decided to go check Bass Pro Shop and the Welcome Center. The only problem was they were back at the last exit we just came from. So we headed back to the previous exit and headed to Bass Pro Shops. Im sure you can see where this is about to go. There were no Alabama magnets there. I did need to get some fishing line, which came in handy the next day, so the trip to Bass Pro was not a complete loss.
We rushed over to the Welcome Center. They must have magnets there we thought. We arrived at 3:15 sharp, only to find they closed at 3pm. What kind of Welcome Center closes at 3?
We made the decision that this was becoming very much a pain and headed back to Walgreens, where this all started and to get the original magnet that we found.
NEW RULE: When we find a magnet with a state name on it, we buy it. No searching around.
That was our trip to Alabama. Now, on our way to Panama City Beach.
Michael and I were very much looking forward to visiting New Orleans, Louisiana and since the beginning of the trip I had been bugging him to visit this city! I had heard lots of fun and exciting things about this city, and I was ready to take it on with my side-kick hand-in-hand.
We booked two nights, 10/30 & 10/31 at Hotel New Orleans Downtown, which was undergoing a $29 million renovation to become Le Meridien. The architects and construction was very much limited to one section so we did not feel bothered at all by this. This hotel was so nicely decorated and had that nice, refreshing hotel scent as soon as you walked into the lobby. Since this hotel only offered valet parking for about $45/night, we opted to park at Harrah’s Hotel & Casino, right across the street for $30/night. This saved us $30 for parking in total for the two nights. We did not want to gamble, but if we signed up for a Total Rewards Card and gambled for 30 minutes, we would have received one free night of parking. We’re not big on gambling anyways, so it was not worth the risk to us.
One of the main reasons we selected this hotel was the fact that it was right in the French Quarter, but it wasn’t too close to the main “party” area in city. It was just close enough to walk to and from, so we were happy with the location.
Cafe Du Monde
Cafe Du Monde
Cafe Du Monde
Cafe Du Monde
Cafe Du Monde
The first afternoon we checked in, we decided to walk down the Riverwalk all the way down the Mississippi River to Jackson Square to do a cache and also grab some famous beignets at Cafe du Monde. Along our stroll we saw so many painters, musicians, artists, performers, and homeless people wandering the streets. New Orleans has a very European atmosphere to it, and the buildings have such lovely balconies and architecture. Because it was the day before Halloween, it seemed as though everyone was gearing up for the occasion. It was neat to explore Jackson Square and stumble upon Pirates Alley where we did our cache. We were also instantly able to find a magnet with an over abundance of gift shops in this area, all along Decatur Street. We also got a chance to walk along Bourbon Street to be in the thick of things.
We stayed around the area until the Krewe of Boo Halloween Parade, which started at 6:30pm, securing a standing spot along the street across from the H&M. Crowds gathered in the area so we knew this was going to be a fun one. There were so many different people, groups, dancers, musicians, performers, speakers, trucks, tractors, and floats that went by. Some were throwing out freebies and we got some samples of some New Orleans Chewy Pralines from Aunt Sally’s, some ground coffee from PJ’s, a few different beads, plastic cups, a magnifying glass, assorted candies, and snacks.
For dinner, I was anticipating, craving and hoping there would be some spicy, cajun, and creole crawfish. Unfortunately, we soon realized they were not in season. They are, however, available in the wintertime, through February. I did manage to find some places with some crawfish in a few dishes. We decided to check out Huck Finn’s Cafe on Decatur Street for some southern grub. I ordered the Taste of New Orleans (Crawfish Etouffee, Jambalaya, Red Beans and Rice) and Michael got the Shrimp BBQ Po-Boy. Our entrees were both delicious and very flavorful!
It was Halloween the next morning, and we kicked off the day with a trip to the fitness center, which was on the fourth floor of the hotel. We had to walk passed the outdoor pool to get to the area. It was a nice gym filled with all sorts of weight and cardio equipment, so we took advantage of everything there, and we sure are still feeling the pain of our workout now. It was about 1pm when we got ready to go out for some brunch, and we actually decided on some sushi because we hadn’t had it since Michael’s parents took us out before we left. It was so yummy and definitely hit the spot.
We made our way to the French Market, which is home to many vendors. There were a decent amount of people shopping around and there was so much going on. I made Michael get me a “faux” diamond ring, since mine was getting rhodium-dipped in preparation for the wedding, and we figured since we were in the French Market, we might as well go with the with the theme:) I also had their version of a snow cone, which was some of the best shaved ice ever!
Because NOLA is known for its beignets, we knew that we could not just limit our tasting to the really popular one in town. So…we made our way to two more cafes famed for these scrumptious donuts. Our first stop was New Orleans Famous Beignets and Coffee, where there were barely any people=no crowds whatsoever! We were a bit hesitant, but we were going for it! As soon as the order came out we knew we were in for a treat. These beignets were a lot thinner than the ones we had at Cafe du Monde. They were piping hot, and oh sooo flaky! These really reminded both of us of a pastry sheet. There was just enough powdered sugar on these mamas, and they were so delicious that we were really happy to get to try these. The coffee on the other hand was blah. Price: $3 for 3 beignets
Next on the list was Cafe Beignet. I mean it has Beignet in its name! We were surprised to see this place had the widest assortment of food and beverages compared to the other two, which was so not reflective and indicative in its name. Michael placed the order at the counter, and we had a seat. These beignets were the most expensive at just over $4 for 3. They also definitely seemed to take the longest to prepare. When they came out, the gentleman had three other plates of food for other guests, and he had them stacked right on top of our order…so it left some imprints on the powdered sugar. These resembled the ones we tried at the first place, because they were much thicker than the ones at New Orleans Famous. Michael and I agreed that these were actually way better than the first place as well!
So who took the lead in this challenge? Well, I know Michael was really a big fan of New Orleans Famous Beignets and Coffee, as was I. But, I was really torn on whether or not I enjoyed the larger ones at Cafe Beignet. Because there is so much hype with Cafe du Monde’s beignets, we were both really surprised these were the most difficult to eat and chew. These were really dense, and more consolidated/doughy compared to the other two. The thinner ones at Famous were really flavorful but overly oily. Yes, we really enjoyed the Famous ones, but I would vote Cafe Beignet as a close second.
New Orleans Famous Beignets & Coffee
New Orleans Famous Beignets & Coffee
New Orleans Famous Beignets & Coffee
After the beignets, we decided to head back to the hotel to freshen up for the parade and dinner. That evening, we were really not impressed with the parade. It was much shorter and the participants of this parade did not seem too enthusiastic about it, even though everyone was dressed up.
One huge revelation occurred when we were eating dinner on Halloween evening at New Orleans Hamburger & Seafood Co. was that mayonnaise typically does not need to be refrigerated!!! WHAAAT?? My first thought was “EW!” I saw the squeezable mayo bottle (pictured below) with a strong focus on “NO REFRIGERATION NEEDED”. I was aware that if the bottle was newly opened, it does not need to get refrigerated, but once the seal gets opened, I assumed it was necessary. I guess not. Well that was news to me. Apparently Michael had known this all along, but failed to mention that to me. I wanted to confirm this notion, and sure enough…it’s true! Even after knowing this, I will still most likely keep it in the fridge…it just creeps me out for some reason.
Overall, The Big Easy really had a lot to offer, and the best part of it all were its beignets: I mean how can you go wrong with fried dough sprinkled generously with powdered sugar?
We are happy to report that we found a city, Oklahoma City, with it’s downtown area actually in the state of Oklahoma! After some research we noticed the hip area in town was the downtown Bricktown area, that’s where went after checking into our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express Oklahoma City Southeast I-35. It seemed like a newer construction hotel, so we were really happy that.
It only took us 5 minutes to drive to KD’s Southern Cuisine, which was right next to Toby Keith’s: I Love this Bar and Grill. We read some Yelp reviews about both restaurants, and decided to go with the southern comfort food. For some reason we had no knowledge this restaurant is actually owned by the basketball player, Kevin Durant! It was decorated with sports memorabilia, and the restaurant itself had such a high-end metropolitan feel to it. One small detail was the menus that lit up when you opened them. Lighting was dark to set the mood, so lit menus were a uniquely modern yet practical way to read the text.
Food was served quickly, as we started with the skillet cornbread and ending with the banana cream pie in a petite mason jar. For our main courses, we did something never done in the Ho-Falcon Relationship: order the same meal! Yes, we went through with it, as it was bound to happen. Honey chicken it was! Of course, I had to give him my pitch before we both went for it: I wanted to split the Jambalaya and the chicken, but he was not feeling it there we have it. The meal was so delicious! We had to be a bit different, as I got the green beans and mashed potatoes and he got the mac & cheese instead of the green beans as his sides.
After dinner, we packed up my leftovers and headed to the car to place them in Tupperware containers in the large cooler we keep in the bed of the truck. Surprisingly there is a cache located right in the parking lot about 300 ft from where we had parked. With a Mini Frisbee and pen in hand we were ready to dodge any muggers and get to our goal. This was a relatively easy one!
Waterways served as an artistic divider between streets of shops and restaurants. We followed the water, which led alongside the back outdoor patio of KD’s and were happy to snap a few photos along the way. One of the first things we noticed was the relatively large building which just so happens to be Sonic’s headquarters! As you may or may not know, Michael is obsessed with Sonic, ever since his Florida days where it was right around the corner to driving to either Peabody or Connecticut to get his munch on. Nowadays we regularly come across them!
Around the other side of the building there is an actual Sonic dine-in restaurant. This was odd, we thought. The only Sonics we had ever seen had “America’s Favorite Drive-In”. There were no cars parked in this setting. Rather people filled the indoor and outdoor seating that was provided. Oh and they have $0.99 corn dogs on Halloween! (No, they did not endorse us to say that). We just think it’s a good deal.
Along our casual stroll, we noticed a couple of ducks that were on a date, and we captured their romantic stroll.
There were smaller shops and restaurants, and we stopped in a few gift shops. On the way back to our truck, we passed the baseball field, which featured notables such as Mickey Mantle. We noticed a few photographers capturing smaller details of the pathway, and we wanted to share some of the pictures along our stroll:
Before our departure from the downtown area we had to make a stop at Bass Pro Shops! Michael perused through fishing equipment while I looked at the Christmas display items towards the front of the shop. He ended up purchasing his very first foldable fishing net for his future fishing finds.
This concludes our brief, yet satisfying stay in Oklahoma City, OK. We are off to the big state of Texas!!!