August 2, 2018

Favorite Historic Hotels For Families In The U.S.

Historic hotels are unique places to stay on vacations, especially when traveling with kids. I’ve been lucky enough to stay at some Midwestern historic hotels that were very accommodating to families – some with a pool, one with a great kid’s program, and all with enough interesting details to encourage kids to explore more. Other travel bloggers have had similar experiences. So, I reached out to my friends and asked them to share their favorite historic hotels for families in the U.S.

Happy travels!

Top Recommended Historic Hotels for Families

The view of the Grand Hotel from the lawn. The Grand Hotel opened on Mackinac Island in 1887.

Grand Hotel

Where: Mackinac Island, Mich.

Why go there: Built in 1887, the Grand Hotel is a National Historic Landmark on an island that’s completely car-free. It’s a throw-back to another time, with dress codes for dinner, tea time, and an expansive porch that encourages you to slow down.

What kids will like there: This hotel has been ranked among the top all-inclusive hotels for families for a reason. There’s a large outdoor pool, daily kids programming, and kid’s menus at restaurants.

What’s nearby: Mackinac Island is small, so technically everything is nearby. You’ll want to rent a bike from the hotel to explore the island or take a horse-drawn carriage tour. Fort Mackinac is within walking distance, too.

Read more about Grand Hotel here.

The historic lobby of the Amway Grand Plaza had a fountain my daughter liked to watch. The hotel was built in 1913.

Amway Grand Plaza

Where: Grand Rapids, Mich.

Why go there: Construction of the original hotel, Pantlind Hotel began in 1913. In 1925, it was called “One of the 10 Finest Hotels in America.” Decades later, the hotel underwent serious renovations. The rebirth of the hotel as Amway Grand Plaza is credited for revitalizing downtown Grand Rapids.

What kids will like there: The grand lobby of the original hotel is stately and has a fountain that draws kids in. However, it’s what in the newer tower that is the biggest hit: The pool area. There are two hot tubs, and access to a rooftop area to play tennis, corn hole, and ladders.

What’s nearby: This hotel is nicely situated in the downtown area, within a short drive (or if you’re ambitious), within walking distance to several museums including Grand Rapids Public Museum, Grand Rapids Children’s Museum and Grand Rapids Art Museum. There are also a few great (family-friendly) breweries nearby.

Read more about taking kids to Amway Grand Plaza here.

The Millennium Knickbocker in Chicago is recommended as a unique and family-friendly historic hotel in the U.S.

The entrance to the Millennium Knickbocker Hotel in downtown Chicago. Photo courtesy Melissa Scwartz

Millennium Knickerbocker

Where: Chicago, Ill.

What makes it special: Originally opened in 1927, the Millennium Knickerbocker has maintained quite a bit of its 1920s elegance. During Prohibition, Al Capone’s brother Frank ran a speakeasy in the Knickerbocker and the stairwell the patrons scurried down during a raid still exists which is a fun element.

What kids will like there: Kids will love discovering the historic elements of the hotel making it pretty unique compared to more modern hotels. Kids have quite an eye for finding things like mail chutes that are not in modern hotels. If you have the opportunity, take a peek inside of the Crystal Ballroom. The crystal chandeliers, gold gilding and light up dance floor are awe-inspiring to all ages! Melissa, who recommended this hotel, said her daughter was totally in awe during our visit and felt like a princess.

What’s nearby: While staying at the Millennium Knickerbocker, you will be a block away from the excitement of Michigan Avenue! Nearby Water Tower Place is home to American Girl, the Lego Store, the Chicago Sports Museum and more. For older children, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago includes a rotating range of uniquely engaging exhibits some even with participatory elements. Of course, fun Navy Pier with its amusements and incredible view is nearby as is the Chicago Children’s Museum!

Read more about Millennium Knickerbocker in this post by Melissa from A Little Time and A Keyboard.

Beyond the hauntings, there are many reasons to visit the historic Stanley Hotel. Photo courtesy Megan Bannister

Stanley Hotel

Where: Estes Park, Colo.

What makes it special: While the Stanley Hotel is arguably most famous for its haunted happenings, its rich backstory and role in Estes Park’s development are equally fascinating. The hotel welcomed its first visitors in 1909 and helped spur much of the development of the town of Estes Park—it was even the first hotel west of the Mississippi River to have electricity.

What kids will like there: The Stanley Hotel has lots of nooks and crannies to explore! The original elevator and the hotel’s movie memorabilia are especially fun.

What’s nearby: There’s lots to see in the town of Estes Park. From shopping to restaurants, there’s something everyone is sure to enjoy. The hotel is also close to Rocky Mountain National Park, which is the perfect place to opt outdoors and explore all of the natural beauty Colorado has to offer.

Read more about Stanley Hotel in this post by Megan from Olio In Iowa.

The Hotel Boulderado opened in 1908 in Boulder, Colo. Photo courtesy Erin Klema

Hotel Boulderado

Where: Boulder, Colo.

What makes it special: Opening with an elegant New Year’s Eve gala in 1908, the hotel continues to celebrate New Year’s in style with an annual celebration. The first luxury hotel in Boulder, it is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Over the years, well-known politicians, entertainers, and other public figures—including Louis Armstrong, Robert Frost, and Helen Keller—have stayed at the hotel.

What kids will like there: Kids will enjoy riding in the original Otis elevator, sipping fresh water from the Arapahoe Glacier at the lobby drinking fountain, seeing the beautiful and colorful stained glass ceiling in the lobby, and seeing relics from years gone by on the self-guided history tour around the hotel.

What’s nearby: The Hotel Boulderado sits in the heart of downtown Boulder, only a short walk from the pedestrian-friendly Pearl Street Mall full of shopping and dining. Tea-drinking families can go on Celestial Seasonings’ free factory tour or sip afternoon tea at the Boulder Dushanbe Tea House. Boulder is also a very bike-friendly city, so families can rent bikes and peddle the Boulder Creek Path. Sitting at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder also offers visitors plenty of opportunities to get outdoors.

Read more about Hotel Boulderado in this post by Erin at The Epicurean Traveler.

The Millennium Knickbocker in Chicago is recommended as a unique and family-friendly historic hotel in the U.S.

The Hotel Julien

Where: Dubuque, Iowa

Why go there: The Hotel Julien is a historic landmark hotel that is not only decorated in the highest quality of finishes, but the small high-end touches will make any guest feel extra special.

What kids will like there: Kids will love the views of the Port of Dubuque from their room along with the impressive swimming pool in the basement. Ice cream across the street will make any kid happy too!

What’s nearby: Nearby, you’ll find the Fenlon Place Elevator, the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, and Eagle Point Park!

Read more about The Hotel Julien in this post by Katy from Katy Flint & Co.

The Black Hawk Hotel is a historic hotel in Cedar Falls, Iowa

The Black Hawk Hotel in Cedar Falls, Iowa dates back to 1870s. Photo courtesy Travel Iowa

Black Hawk Hotel

Where: Cedar Falls, Iowa

Why go there: Built in the 1870s, it retains its old world charm with new world amenities.

What kids will like there: Kids will like the old fashioned lobby and look of the hotel.

What’s nearby: Kids and adults alike will love the John Deere tractor museum in the nearby sister city of Waterloo.  

Read more about Black Hawk Hotel in this post by Cindy from Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl.

 

The Peabody Memphis has a twice-daily duck march through the lobby. Photo courtesy Peabody Memphis

The Peabody Memphis

Where: Memphis, Tenn.

What makes it special: In 2019, Peabody Memphis celebrates 150 years in business. It is THE place to stay in Memphis, and has hosted celebrities, royalty and American presidents. The rooms are luxurious, and the location can’t be beat. Thursday night rooftop parties offer the best view in town, plus live music, good food and cool drinks.

What kids will like there: Kids are the VIP guests of the twice-daily duck march at the Peabody Memphis. Adults will have a hard time battling the crowds, but kids get to sit right along the red carpet as the ducks make their way to the lobby each morning, and each evening as they return to the penthouse duck apartment. Kids will also love the consistent duck theme throughout the hotel – from cookies to soaps, there are ducks everywhere!

What’s nearby: Beale Street is just blocks away, with live music and the best barbecue in Tennessee. You can walk to the Mississippi River for a paddleboat or kayak cruise. The Civil Rights Museum is also nearby. Downtown Memphis is very walkable, and the Peabody Memphis is centrally located. 

Read more about the Peabody Hotel and things to do in Memphis in this post by Leigh from Campfires & Concierges.

Wentworth by the Sea

Where: New Castle, N.H.

What makes it special: This Victorian wedding cake hotel was built in 1874 and once hosted the likes of Gloria Swanson, Annie Oakley, Harry Truman and Prince Charles, as well as being the spot where the terms were hashed out to end the Russo-Japanese War. But by the late 20th century, it had been long abandoned and looked more like a ghostly set in a horror film (it was: 1999’s “In Dreams”). Thanks to the joint efforts of a nonprofit and local hotel group, the Wentworth was restored to its former glory in the early 2000s and now boasts a 8,500-foot spa wing, indoor and outdoor pools, standalone suites overlooking the marina, a private country club and “Scottish links” style golfing, and chef-driven, sea-to-table dining.

What kids will like there: The hotel has both indoor and outdoor pools.

What’s nearby: It’s an easy walk, bike ride or drive to downtown Portsmouth, a vibrant coastal town filled with family attractions, including the Strawberry Banke Museum, a 10-acre outdoor history museum that immerses children in four centuries of American history; live performances all summer long at the Prescott Park Arts Festival; G. Willikers, a beloved local toy store that’s been family-owned for 40 years, and the (ahem) udderly delightful Annabelle’s ice cream.

 

Arrow Hotel was built in 1928 in Broken Bow, Neb. Photo courtesy Gretchen Garrison

Arrow Hotel

Where: Broken Bow, Neb.

What makes it special: Arrow Hotel in Broken Bow has been primarily been a hotel since the building was constructed by the townspeople in 1928. Due to being apartments for a short time, the rooms are larger and all have kitchens. Parents will like the small town atmosphere and the small town prices for all of that space. Everyone will like the delicious home style breakfasts.

What kids will like there: Many are suites which means multiple televisions. This worked well for a family with two tweens and two teens who could all watch their own type of show.

What’s nearby: Across the street, there is a wonderful playground and the Custer County Museum where there is a display on one of America’s most prominent pioneer photographers. The hotel is right on the town square which has numerous local shops. The hotel also has its own restaurant which has a separate pub area.

Read more about Arrow Hotel in this post by Gretchen from Odyssey Through Nebraska.

Recommended historic hotels for families in the U.S. #familytravel

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June 8, 2018

My Colorado Springs Bucket List

I’ve been daydreaming about taking the family to Colorado Springs lately. I’m thinking of an unforgettable summer vacation with a little adventure mixed in with breath-taking scenery. Lucky for me, Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau has asked me to share my Colorado Springs bucket list with you all. Think your family would like hiking, zip lines, waterfalls, and animal encounters in Colorado? Keep reading!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own. 

My Colorado Springs Bucket List

Gorgeous hikes – There are a ton of trails to choose from when visiting Colorado Springs. I’m eyeing ones that take me to a waterfall. Seven Falls looks astounding (entrance fee required). 

How could I go to Colorado Springs and not trekking around Garden of the Gods? I heard the visitor and nature center is fun to stop in first before going into the park. There are interactive exhibits and Geo-Trekker movie.

And of course, seeing Pikes Peak is a must, too.

The Garden of the Gods has to be on every Colorado Springs bucket list. Photo courtesy VisitCOS.com

Eat Good Eats – Every bucket list of mine includes restaurants I’d love to visit. I checked tons of posts about must-visit restaurants (I’m drooling over every suggestion in this Denver Zagat post) and, of course, scouted out the best ice cream (I’m thinking Josh & John’s Ice Cream). I’m also pretty sure I need to take the kids to The Airplane Restaurant – it’s in a real 1953 Boeing KC-97 tanker.

Royal Gorge Ride – I thought Royal Gorge was only a bridge you walked across, but now I see you can practically fly across the gorge. I think my family will stick to the calm aerial gondola ride instead of trying America’s highest zipline. Either way, we’re in for spectacular views. (There’s also a skycoaster ride if you really want to feel like you’re flying)

Colorado Springs bridge

Crossing the bridge at Royal Gorge offers families quite a view. Photo courtesy VisitCOS.com

Animals up-close – Zoos have become so much more than passive viewing attractions. I’d love to feed an elephant at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (see all the animal feeding times here). And since this is a bucket list, I think it would be the ultimate experience signing up for one of their Animal Encounters, which is a private enrichment opportunity for a small group with an animal of their choosing.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has up-close animal encounters. Photo courtesy VisitCOS.com

Thrill ride on the river – There are quite a few white water rafting outfitters in the Colorado Springs area. My goal is to find one that operates on a river that’s pretty kid-friendly while still offering a bit of a thrill ride. You know, something scenic with a low difficulty level.

Explore cliff dwellings – My son is big on history and architecture, so visiting Manitou Cliff Dwellings is a must for us. Summer is a great time to visit since there are American Indian dances and wolf encounters.

Colorado Springs cliff dwellings

Time a visit to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings to be in the summer where families can watch American Indian dances and view wolf encounters. Photo courtesy VisitCOS.com

Find the springs – To find the springs of Colorado Springs, we actually need to head to Manitou Springs. There are eight mineral springs to find there, and they’re free to explore. Bring a cup to sample the water.

Play old-school games I’ve introduced my kids to “Frogger,” this winter, so why not go to a place like the family-owned Penny Arcade in Manitou Springs, where they have games like “PacMan.”

Manitou Springs. Photo courtesy VisitCOS.com

Dream of sports greatness – Colorado Springs is home to one of the country’s Olympic training centers. I’d love to take a tour and see some of my heroes have trained.

Do everything at Cave of the Winds Mountain Park – When I say “Do everything at Cave of the Winds,” I mean I want take a cave tour (Cave 101 sounds incredible … and muddy) AND do the adventurous rides there. Check out what they have going on outdoors: The Bat-A-Pult, The Terror-Dactyl, and the Wind Walker Challenge Course. These are definitely rides for older kids.

The ropes course at Cave of the Winds has quite the view. Photo courtesy VisitCOS.com

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Want more ideas? I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to family adventures in Colorado Springs. Follow along for travel inspiration:

 

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December 17, 2017

5 Things To Do On Isla Mujeres

Friends, let me tell you about Isla Mujeres. You need it in your life. I went earlier this year with Mr. Wonderful and was, in one word, relaxing. Sound good? I’ve got an Isla Mujeres guide for you.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

This tiny island is a 20-minute ferry ride from Cancun, Mexico. It’s a breezy ride, and if you’re lucky, you might have some on-board live music (and if you’re really lucky, it might be good).

I’m not a huge fan of Cancun, but airfare can be cheap and that ferry ride to Isla Mujeres is quick. Seriously, look how cheap the airfare to Mexico is on CheapoAir!

Isla Mujeres is the place to go when you need to slow down. Sure, you could find some adventure there. But Mr. Wonderful and I planned a kid-free vacation to Isla Mujeres so that we could rejuvenate. I started with an Isla Mujeres Bucket List, and here’s what I learned from the trip:

  1. Research hotels and book based on your vacation goals.

Isla Mujeres is pretty small, but it has a ton of hotel, AirBnB, and resort options. Most will be the center of town on the north side of the island where the most of the restaurants, shops and tour pick-ups are. It’s close to the ferry port and the best beach (Playa Norte).

The view from our Isla Mujeres hotel. There was a tiny pool and a private beach.

We wanted to be away from the hustle, and while it’s a stretch to call anything activity on the island “hustle” – things pretty much shut down after 8 p.m. – we opted to stay on the quieter south end of the island.

The downside? Nothing was within true walking distance, except for the private beach at the hotel. Which was totally what we wanted, so not a downside for us.

It also meant we had to…

  1. Rent a golf cart.

It is cheaper to use taxis on Isla Mujeres, yes, but you don’t get that ocean breeze going through your hair inside a taxi. I recommend renting a golf cart for a day.

A popular way to get around the small Mexican island, Isla Mujeres, is golf cart.

We did it for two days, and that was pretty unnecessary in the end. We got most of our sight-seeing done in one day. Still, I loved cruising around in our little cart. If you have a portable speaker, pack it for your trip so you can enjoy music on the drive.

Research where you rent your cart, though. We got ours at the place billed as haing the fastest golf carts, but that came with the “expense” of going through two duds before we got one that didn’t die on us.

  1. Eat at these restaurants

For such a tiny island, Isla Mujeres has an abundance of great dining options, especially if you love seafood. The restaurants right on the beach, where you’re literally sitting there with your flip-flopped feet in the sand, are adequate, but the real good stuff is away from the beach.

Our most memorable dining experience was at El Veradero, a Cuban restaurant on the island. It had the best food, best atmosphere, and best live music.

There are three that were the highlight of our trips. The most memorable, by far, was El Varadero. This Cuban restaurant is on a port that attracts an international yachting crowd, but we arrived via taxi along a nondescript residential street. Everything about this place is the stuff of vacation legends: Off-the-beaten path restaurant with great food, great setting, great live music, and great people watching. 

My other two favorites were definitely designed to appeal to Americans looking for something a little familiar but not too touristy: Mango Cafe and Green Verde. Mango Cafe was a cute restaurant in the middle of the island, away from the super touristy area. The coconut french toast is a must-order, as is the fresh fruit. While you’re in the neighborhood, cross the street to an open-air church and charming lookout.

Green Verde had the best tacos on the island.

Green Verde was the only restaurant we visited twice…because the tacos were that good. I never order the same thing twice on vacation, but I had to get the chicken tacos twice in two days. So good. And, it’s a lovely place to relax.


Cheap Roundtrip Flights to Mexico!

  1. Get a massage…on the beach.

You can get a massage, on the beach, for about $30 an hour. It’s a steal.

The open air massage tents at one of the beaches on Isla Mujeres.

One caveat? It’s totally not private, at least at the massage tables at Playa Centro… and there’s a good chance music will be blaring since it is a beach and all. The tent probably has a couple tables, and if you’re not there in a two-piece, you’re going to pull some outstanding contortionist tricks trying to undress without flashing the world. It can be done, I promise.

It’s not my ideal setting, and I half-worried about closing my eyes for too long and having my purse walk off. But still. $30 an hour for a professional massage? Yes, please.

  1. Be smart about Avenida Hidalgo.

The main drag on Isla Mujeres is Avenida Hidalgo, a pedestrian-only street filled with souvenir shops and restaurants that appeal to tourists. If you’ve been to one like this, you’ve been to them all – the restaurants look inviting but the food is mediocre, the drinks are watered down, and the souvenirs shop employees will call out to you. It can be overwhelming for the uninitiated.

Avenida Hidalgo appeals to tourists because of abundance souvenir shops and restaurants.

Still, I wouldn’t necessarily say “Skip it.”

My recommendation is to grab a table on the sidewalk and order a cerveza, then enjoy the people watching. Don’t fall for the BOGO offers on drinks, though. In my limited experience, the mixed drinks were disappointing, and I won’t fall for it again.

Another good idea is to go to Avenida Hidalgo early in the day. We had a wonderful, low-key breakfast at Rooster (another one of those restaurants that appeal to Americans for the food, decor and music). We got there early and then walked a few blocks to Playa Norte afterward.

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Need more ideas for Isla Mujeres vacation? Check out my Isla Mujeres Bucket List!

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October 12, 2017

Direct Flights From Omaha

Updated: April 18, 2018

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.

In early 2018, Air Canada announced it would have direct flights from Omaha to Toronto starting in May 2018.

In the fall of 2017, Frontier Airlines announced it will be adding more direct flights from Omaha, with new destinations being Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Fort Myers (Florida). The flights won’t start until spring/early summer 2018.

An even more recent news came from American Airlines last week, who announced it would add a direct flight next year to Philadelphia. The airline already has nonstop service to Chicago; Charlotte, N.C.; Dallas; Los Angeles; Miami; and Phoenix.

I love this news of more non-stop flights from Omaha. I try to avoid layovers when traveling with the kids. I’ll gladly pay more for a direct flight.

You don’t have to pay more, though. Allegiant Airlines is a budget airline with direct flights from Omaha to sunny destinations, too. I’ve tried that airline a couple times, with a mixed result. Here are my tips on what to expect when flying Allegiant AirKim’s note: Since our travels, troubling reports questioning the airline’s safety have surfaced. See the April 2018 story by “60 Minutes” here. The CEO of Allegiant responded to story here.

Cocoa Beach is about an hour drive from Seminole County, Florida, where the Orlando Sanford International Airport is located. There is a direct flight to Sandord/Orlando via Allegiant Airlines.

But it can be done, and flying on one of these low-cost airlines makes for memorable trips! Read about my quick trips to Tampa Bay and Orlando flying with Allegiant. If you’re schedule is flexible, you just can’t beat the price.

Direct Flight Options From Omaha

Thinking back to those Florida trips makes me all wistful for winter vacation to a warmer city. Nothing is planned. Yet. But a travel blogger can dream. It doesn’t have to cost much. CheapOair has roundtrip fares for under $199. You can search flights here.

Here are a few of the warmer destinations with direct flights from Omaha that, I think, would be a great escape this winter:

Fort Myers, Fla.

Las Vegas

Miami

Orlando

Phoenix

Punta Gorda, Fla.

San Diego

San Francisco

Tampa

Here’s the complete list of direct flights from Omaha:

Atlanta

Charlotte

Chicago

Dallas

Denver

Detroit

Fort Myers, Fla.

Houston

Los Angeles

Las Vegas

Miami

Milwaukee

Minneapolis/St. Paul

New York City

Orlando

Phoenix

Portland, Ore.

Punta Gorda, Fla.

Salt Lake City

San Diego

San Francisco

Seattle

St. Louis

Tampa

Toronto, Canada

Washington, D.C.

This list only involves flights out of Eppley Airfield in Omaha. To see updates to the direct flight travel map, be sure to check here.

 

Where would you fly directly to if given the chance this winter?

 

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September 5, 2017

Visiting Grand Ole Opry With Kids

You can’t pass through Nashville and not visit Grand Ole Opry. It’s just not done.

My family was on our #ohmyepicroadtrip this summer and our path led us through this great Tennessee city and I had one stop, and only one stop, that I insisted we make.

Grand Ole Opry. 

The entrance to the Grand Ole Opry is one big photo opp. Bring your camera.

We did it. With tired kids who’d been in the car for several hours. We received complementary tickets so I could tell you all about the experience.

Here’s why you have to visit the Grand Ole Opry…even with kids:

  1. Everyone is in awe – The Grand Ole Opry is the radio show that made country music famous. If you’re a fan of country music, you kinda have to make a pilgrimage there. But if you’re not, you still get goose bumps there. It has that kind of power. Even performers get a little starstruck by the building. When Aaron Lewis was on stage, he admitted to being overwhelmed by the venue, in spite of having performed to far larger crowds.
  2. Variety of music – Country has a big umbrella and I wouldn’t lump most of the performers we saw on the night we attended into that broad category. My favorite performer, the lady I was most excited to see when I read the lineup, was the award-winning bluegrass star, Rhonda Vincent. The lineup thoughtfully balanced the variety, scattering hit-makers of today’s country radio among gospel, Western swing and what my father-in-law calls “Country Western,” the performers your parents grew up listening. Each play about three songs and most chatted a bit between songs. It is a live radio show, after all.

    My favorite performer of the evening was Rhonda Vincent, a Grammy-winning bluegrass singer.

  3. Snacks – When going anywhere with kids, this is important. Popcorn and a little heartier fare like pizza and hot dogs are available, as well as beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic). The prices, like it is at any concert venue, are more than you’d expect.
  4. Celebrities – You never know who’s going to be in the audience or a special guest on the show. On our night, a well-known race car driver was there. The likes of Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Stevie Wonder, and John Fogerty are among the list of famous people appearing there.
  5. Tours – I’m disappointed that our road trip was off-schedule and meant that we had to miss the afternoon tour of the Opry. This place has a storied history, and you can choose three tours to learn more about it, as well as visit Ryman. FYI, if you want to be on stage when that famed red curtain rises, book the VIP Tour.

 

About bringing children to the Grand Ole Opry

The Grand Ole Opry is family-friendly.

I brought two young children to the show and you may be wondering if it’s good for kids.

Totally. It is a radio show, so there isn’t much of a chance of hearing anything inappropriate, if that’s a concern. And you can come as you are. Some people dressed up a bit, others wore jeans.

BUT.

It’s an evening show and if you have small children who get tired easily, you may have to weigh the pros and cons of bringing them. Grand Ole Opry shows start at 7 p.m. My youngest was 5 and she started to get antsy and cranky before intermission. 

Expect the show to last about two hours, including the intermission. On the night we were there, there were four performers in the first half, and four in the second half.

FYI: Any child younger than 4 does not need a ticket as long as they can sit on your lap.

 

If you go

Grand Ole Opry House

Where: 2804 Opryland Drive, Nashville, Tenn.

https://www.opry.com

 

Disclosure: I was provided complimentary tickets to the Grand Ole Opry so I could write about it. I was not paid to write this post. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Opry With Kids

 

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July 17, 2017

My Outer Banks Bucket List

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

We’re headed somewhere I’ve never been to this summer: The Outer Banks of North Carolina. I’ve never been to that part of the country, so I’ve been excitedly making a wish list.

Let’s be honest: Being land-locked in Nebraska, it’s tempting to just write “BEACH” and be done with it. However, I’ve found a lot of fun things to do in OBX. If time and money were no concern, here’s a bucket list of everything we’d do there:

Hang Glide

We’ll probably head to the largest sand dunes on the east coast: Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head. Maybe I’ll be brave enough to try hang gliding (or if I chicken out, we could just fly kites).

Crabbing

What is more coastal than that? There are charters where families can go crabbing and/or shrimping, literally catching their dinner and having a totally and hands-on experience. This is definitely something new to us Midwesterners.

 

Climb a lighthouse

Check out the view from the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Photo courtesy Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and the Bodie Island Lighthouse are open in the summer for self-guided climbs.

See wildlife

There are a lot of options in North Carolina to view wildlife. If we’re feeling like getting a workout, we could head to Pea Island Refuge and take a guided Interpretive Canoe Tour or try a  paddle tour into the heart of Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. I’m pretty sure we’ll visit Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge anyway, since my kids are excited to do the red wolf howling on the trail.

And, you probably heard of them, but there are also wild horse in the area. I’m hoping we catch a glimpse of some.

Pirate Site-Seeing

My son is obsessed with pirates right now. There’s a very good chance we’ll do quite a few things on this four-day Blackbeard itinerary. For sure, we’ll head to Ocracoke, site of Blackbeard’s last stand, where we’ll find a pirate-y shop and Blackbeard museum called Teach’s Hole. I hear that island is quite lovely to explore, so we’ll check out the village and beaches, too. The Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach was named “Best Beach in America” by Dr. Beach in 2007. Beaufort looks like another pirate-y place we’d love, especially the NC Maritime Museum and Port City Tour’s The Legend of Blackbeard walking tour. A little more kid-oriented is Pirate Adventures of the Outer Banks, and my kids are determined to go on their pirate ship.

Beach time

I’m looking forward to visiting a few beaches in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This is a shot of Coquina Beach at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Photo courtesy Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

There are outfitters to rent body boards, surf boards, SUP boards, kayaks and who knows what else to add some more activity to our beach days. We’re staying an a vacation rental that provides beach gear like that.

Watermelon Festival

I love seeing what special events coincide with vacation. In the case of our great road trip, will be in the Outer Banks during the Watermelon Festival. Sounds like good summertime fun!

 

H2OBX Water Park

There’s a new water park in the Outer Banks called H2OBX. After the fun the kids had at their first visit to a water park, they’ve become fans of water slides and wave pools. This place looks exciting!

Horse ride on a beach

I think a horse ride anywhere is a great addition to trips, but imagine the view and the peaceful feeling of a leisure ride along a beach. Of course, this would have to wait until the kids are old enough.

Cruise with a dune buggy

This sounds like so much fun. I tried scooting around town on a golf cart once while on a vacation, and the looks of the Outer Banks buggies make me think this is a lot faster.

 

Wright Brothers National Memorial

The Wright Brothers National Memorial is in Kitty Hawk, NC. Photo courtesy Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

How could we go to the Outer Banks and not visit Kill Devil Hills to see the Wright Brothers National Memorial, commemorating where the first controlled heavier-than-air flight took place? The memorial allows visitors to walk to the First Flight Boulder and Flight Line, which mark the location where the Wrights first flew. The memorial is undergoing quite a bit of construction, but it sounds like by Fall 2018, there will some new interactive exhibits worth checking out.

Free fun

Many towns in the Outer Banks have weekly events in the summer, like Duck, where they have interactive performances for children on Tuesday mornings, a family-friendly film that night, a free magic show on Wednesday mornings, and live music on Thursday nights.

Elizabethan Gardens

An aerial view of Elizabethan Gardens in the Outer Banks. Photo courtesy Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

I don’t know what it is about gardens, but my kids love visiting them on vacations. This one looks particularly beautiful, and on some weekday summer mornings, there’s a themed kids activity included with admission.

First Flight Adventure Park

This one may or may not appeal to my kids, but I have an adventurous spirit, and the ropes course looks like fun. Challenging, yes, but way fun.

Satisfy the sweet tooth

More than a few people have mentioned Duck Donuts once they heard I was going to the Outer Banks. Photo courtesy Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

What’s summer without ice cream and treats? I’m thinking we’ll stop by Forbes Candies, for sure. And, I’ve heard lot of good things about Duck Donuts.

Roanoke Island Festival Park

Knowing my kids, they’d love visiting Roanoke Island Festival Park for one major reason: Touring a 16th-century sailing ship. Ok, not a real ship from that long ago, but a representation. The park and cultural center shows visitors what 16th century settlements were like, with costumed characters to greet you and answer questions. The ship, Elizabeth II, is only one area in the park with re-enactments and hands-on activities for kids; there’s also Settlement Site and American Indian Town. We’d have to stop at the Adventure Museum while there, as well.

Getting there

Check flights and package deals at Cheapo.com, where they have roundtrip flights for a ton of destinations for less than $199!

Your turn!

What should be included on this bucket list for the Outer Banks? Share your favorite restaurants, beaches, attractions, etc. I’d love all the tips you can give!

 

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I love a good bucket list to inspire travel! Check out some of of the other destination bucket lists here.