Holidays in NYC

Do you just love when the first cool front blows in and all things autumn start? It is by far my favorite season! It brings pumpkins, good food, and family. I have to stop myself from dragging out all the decorations before the official day of fall. If you are anything like me then spending the holidays in NYC will blow your mind! We have been blessed to experience Thanksgiving and Christmas time in the Big Apple. Plus when the weather is cool you can’t smell the stinky streets! HAHA Let’s talk about the amazing things to see and how you can get there on a budget! By the way don’t judge my 2011 photos! Cameras and my skills were not the best! 😉

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

We went to one of the first parade streets to watch. When you watch from the streets it is different than what you see on television. The floats and balloons are continuous with no pauses for performances. I was okay with that because really it’s the magnificent floats that I wanted to see up close and boy are they gigantic masterpieces! You will also see lots of well known celebrities on floats.  We went in 2011 during the 75th anniversary. We are really hoping to return for the 100th. It was cold for me so I strategically placed some hand warms in pockets and shoes to help me survive the wait. We got to our location about an hour and a half  prior to the start of the parade and we were able to stand about three rows back. We had a great view and it wasn’t overly crowded. After viewing the parade, we walked down the street to a diner to grab breakfast. We are able to watch the parade again on TV while we relaxed and ate! By the way, Macy’s is the only thing closed on Thanksgiving Day so do not worry whether you will have things to do after the parade.

Radio City Rockettes

Thanksgiving night we attended the Radio City Christmas Spectacular with some friends. The performance was phenomenal and so festive. I truly feel there is no bad seat in the place.  It is a beautiful display of the holiday spirit. It is a story line with awesome dancing numbers and a visit from Santa. The performers are the best of the best and nothing compares!

Rockerfeller Christmas Tree

When we went for Thanksgiving the tree had scaffolding around it and we decided we had to return to see the tree in all its glory! They light the tree the Wednesday after Thanksgiving so we planned a trip in 2015 for the second weekend of December. Be prepared for tons of people!  It is gorgeous and breathtaking and worth the mass amounts of people.

Santa Land at Macy’s

The Santaland at Macy’s is a whimsical display of the North Pole. I would highly advise getting there early! The line for Santa gets very long and even though the displays are eye catching, kids only have so much patience. After you visit Santa you must go to their Christmas section to wonder through all the Christmas tree displays and find unique ornaments.

Ice Skating

You can either visit the Central Park skating rink or The Rink at Rockerfeller Center. They are both beautiful. Of course, be prepared for the crowds and lines but if you attempt to go during off times you may be able to avoid the lines.

339515_604221264341_1753456087_o

Window and Street Displays

You have to wander down 5th Avenue to see all the holiday window displays and then head to Macy’s for their iconic window creations. Near Rockerfeller Center, you can see over-sized Christmas lights and ornaments. At night, Saks Fifth Avenue puts on a mesmerizing light show on the side of a building that you cannot miss!

Christmas Markets and Grand Central Station

During the holiday season Bryant Park and Union Square have street markets where you can get some one of a kind gifts to take home. You can try out some festive eats while you wander around. Grand Central Station has gorgeous displays and some pop ups with great little stocking stuffers as well.  We did more shopping than taking photos. 🙂 20151213_164127_2.jpg

The Plaza Hotel and Kid Stores

If you want to channel your inner Kevin McCallister, then you have to stop by the infamous Plaza Hotel. They actually offer some kind of package to get the full experience but last I checked it was over priced. The hotel does not exactly look the same but if you know the movie well you can see similarities. It is still beautiful and has holiday displays to get anyone in the spirit. Sadly FAO Schwarz and the Time Square Toys R Us are no longer there but they were so fun to visit. You can stop by the American Girl Store, Disney, Dylan’s Candy Bar, Macy’s, the Lego store, M&M World, Hershey’s Chocolate World, and Godiva. The opportunities to bring out your inner child are endless.

NYC Budget Tips

Lodging can be very pricey. The first time we went we were lucky enough to stay with friends but the second time we went we stayed in a Country Inn and Suites in Queens. It was one stop past Manhattan and very close to to the subway. We paid $100/night and it included breakfast. We ended up having an amazing view of Manhattan! This area has several hotels to choose from, with affordable pricing.

20151212_203147_2.jpg

Flights and Transportation

We flew into Newark, NJ both times and it ended up saving us tons of money. Once you land you will ride the Amtrack to NYC and exit at Madison Square Garden. Children 6 & under ride the subway for free! The subway is really the only way to get around unless you plan on paying tons of money for taxis. If you have the Google Maps app (tutorial video) it is very easy to navigate your way around on the subway. Also, if any thing is only a few blocks away, WALK! Don’t waste money on riding the subway! Now with Spirit and Frontier airlines, it might be possible to fly right into NYC affordable. Unless you are trying to go to the tree lighting or parade I recommend going the second or third week of December to save money.

Kid Conveniences

We tried the stroller thing for a couple hours and soon realized it is difficult! We used our baby carrier for the rest of the trip. Everything in NYC is cramped and tiny, so strollers do not fit in restaurants and the streets are so crowded it is hard to maneuver. Most things that you do allow children under 5 in free!  Dress them comfortable and have snacks on hand for subway rides. Check the weather! When we went in 2011 it was cold and in 2015 it was a pleasantly cool. No jacket necessary! The cute little UGG boots people in Texas like to wear are not a good idea! Wear a duck boot or a boot with a rubber exterior to keep feet dry from water or snow. Also, our little one was able to nap in the baby carrier so we didn’t have to trek back to the hotel mid day.

We, of course, ventured over to all the other regular NYC attractions but that will be another post! I really hope you consider visiting NYC during the holiday season. I only scratched the surface with all the things it has to offer, it really is a one of a kind experience!

20151213_103445_2.jpg

Not Feeling Yourself

This isn’t my usual post but I felt like God was tugging at my hear to share. When you become a mother so many people tell you that you will never be the same. You will be tired, stressed, anxious and so on. I bought into this so deeply. I would write off all the things I was feeling physically and emotionally because it was just how it was when you have a kid. Well, DON’T do that!

I was recently diagnosed with hashimoto’s disease which is an autoimmune disorder that affects your thyroid. If you know me then you will know that my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer this past May. It took this life altering event for me to finally go to a doctor and say I’m not sure if something is wrong with me but can we check…

After I had Quinn 4 years ago I felt very tired and couldn’t sleep through the night but I wrote it off as being a side affect of having kids. I had digestive issues, and it became difficult for me to get back into a normal workout routine due to muscle weakness and exhaustion. Again, I wrote it off and kept going. Even at the doctor I couldn’t express the way I was feeling well enough and usually they would say yeah being a parent is hard. When Quinn was a year and a half I was able to start running again but after most runs my muscles would be so exhausted and I sometime ended up with a headache. I ran beach to bay, it took me 2 days to recover, was but outside of my husband people didn’t know because I hid it well.

When Quinn turned 2 we decided we wanted to have another baby. We were blessed with Reese and the pregnancy was harder this go round but she came ,happy and healthy, and I thought all was well. I recovered quicker and she was an easy baby so in my mind things were better. Once I went back to work, when she was around 4 months, it went downhill from there.

I was getting 4 hours or so of sleep due to waking up so frequently (my kids sleep through the night), by the time I got home from work I couldn’t do anything else. I had muscle weakness, joint pain, headaches, digestive issues, my hair never stopped falling out, brain fog and anxiety. I felt deep down this was not me, I would have moments of clarity and think why is it like this? How do women function? How do people have so many kids and still have energy? BUT again I tried to tell my doctor but didnt know how to express myself without sounding crazy. I did not want to be labeled.

I have always been one to make mostly healthy choices when it came to food because I had stomach ulcers when I was 20 but after my mom was diagnosed we decided that it was time to get serious. We got on the Keto diet and after a couple months I was feeling better but I knew I needed to go to my doctor because of my family history. My brother and mom had been diagnosed with hashimotos so I knew I should atleast get checked.

GUESS WHAT…..I had it, all of the symptoms I have talked about were from this!I had just been to my OBGYN the week before and when I told her about being checked her response was, we would have seen it when your were pregnant. WRONG…I was not CRAZY and they had only looked at my regular thyroid panel which did not catch it. If you have not felt like yourself tell your doctor. I also had low vitamin D which they checked only because I asked. Low vitamin D has tons of side effects, look it up.

I started my research and now I take magnesium, iodine, vitamin D, tumeric, and a probiotic as well as a thyroid medication. With autoimmune diseases you body is attacking itself based on what your eating. I’ve felt a million times better on keto because I stopped eating food that cause inflammation in the body. I now eat anti inflammatory foods and stay away from grains, processed sugar, and vegetable oils. I am not cured and am still working through everything but I’ve had so many people tell me “Wow, you look great.” I just finished my first week of school and worked out 4 out of the 5 days after school.

I read that thyroid conditions are very under diagnosed. If you do not feel yourself do not write it off! I hope this helps someone and if you need someone to talk to, I am here!

Packing Light

Have you ever gone on a trip and by then end of it you realize you didn’t wear half the things you packed? As you are lugging all the things you brought through the airport, have you wished you didn’t bring all this junk?  Have you sat at the baggage claim and wondered how much longer it is going to take for your luggage to show up? Well I have a solution for you!

Do You Really Need It?

You may think this girl must have to buy stuff all the time, or she must really know how to do with out. That is not the case….When I am packing I probably run through my head what I need to take a million times, especially with my kids! I will pack things and take them out and put them back. LOL The key to your success is when you are preparing for a trip make a list!

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What is the purpose of my trip?
  • What’s the weather like?
  • How many days will I be gone?
  • How many times a day do I change at home?
  • Am I really messy person? Like food on my clothes..lol
  • What can I live without?
  • Do I plan on purchasing things on my trip?

After you make your list then I want you to ask yourself…..What on this list can I live without for ___ amount of days? Then, take things off because I promise you will survive! It is recommended to wash your jeans, shorts, skirts after 4 to 5 wears, tops 1 to 2 wears, jackets 5 to 6 wears, with that being said do you wear the same thing often because you love it? Then why do you pack your suitcase like you are moving away? Be realistic with yourself with what you need rather what you think you want. My husbands packing mentality is what if I might want this when I am there. He packs a giant suitcase and then wears a third of it. After many years we have finally broke this habit and it has saved us tons of money!

How to Pack Small

I recommend finding out what is considered a FREE carry on for your flight. Frontier and Spirit allow backpacks but other airlines allow small suitcases.

  • 2 Gallon Freezer Bags
    • I either fold up or roll up our clothes and place them into the bag. Do not over fill. Once you do this seal it up almost all the way and then sit on it to compress all the air out. After you have compressed it seal it the rest of the way. Anything smaller than the 2 gallon bags do not work as well.

20180805_085230

I used 3 of these bags to pack mine and the girls clothes. You can see below the difference between the gallon and 2 gallon size.

20180805_085245

Packing List for 5 days:

    • 1 bathing suit              undergarments
    • 1 cover up                    1 pair sandals
    • 1 board shorts             1 pair of tennis shoes
    • 5 shirts                          1 pair of sleep shorts
    • 1 khaki shorts              1 yoga capri pants
    • 1 athletic shorts           2 pairs of socks
  • The Girls
    • 6 outfits each            2 pajamas
    • 2 bathing suits          undergarments/diapers
    • 1 cover up                  1 pair of Crocs

On flight day I wore the yoga pants, a t-shirt, socks, and tennis shoes. If you are taking jeans I would wear those to the airport as well as any bulky shoe you are taking.

20180711_204323
This bag has my clothes and my 2 girls clothes.

Bag #2 (Diaper bag backpack)

  • Toiletries
    • Shampoo bar              contact case
    • Conditioner bar          glasses
    • mascara                       travel size contact solution
    • 2 toothbrushs                 travel size toothpaste
    • small compact of blush/eye shawdow
    • face wash bar/ moisturizer bar
    • sunscreen

I bought my face wash, shampoo, conditioner, and moisturizer bar at Lush. I use them at home but they are also a great investment just for travel. If all of your things are liquid then they have to be 3.5 ounces or less (which is enough for 5 days)

20180726_090216

  • Other Necessities
    • phone/kindle charger                                    1 bottle
    • kindle                                                                 headphones
    • diaper rash cream                                          2 travel pillows
    • formula (Quart ziplock bag w/ scoop)        lightweight jackets
    • snacks (Gallon bag)                                         brush/hair ties
    • 25 diapers (we made it back without buying more but barely haha)
    • baby carrier ( I put this in the car seat bag haha)

My husband had his own backpack. I only had to make him take out one shirt and 1 of his 2 hats and he still managed not wear one of his shirts. 😉

We also took our 2 car seats and stroller. We take these things all the way to the gate but it isn’t necessary.  We always have because they can get throw around a lot by the baggage crew and we don’t want any damage to them. We also put them in a car seat bag so no straps get caught. I am overly cautious/paranoid and I don’t want to wait at baggage claim for them. If you take them to the gate, they will gate check them for you and when you land they bring them back up to the plane for you. You can purchase one of these on Amazon. They also have fancier ones.

JL Childress Gate Check Bag for Car Seats, Red

With every plane ticket you purchase you get some kind of a carry on. Whether its a backpack or a small suitcase, you can fit your stuff! If I know I need more space then I use the same techniques and only pay for one bag and fit my family’s items into the one checked bag. I hope you can save some money and time on baggage!

4 Days in SoCal

Southern California is a beautiful sight. We spent most of our time beach hopping down the coast. I loved the cooler weather and the mixture of the ocean and mountains. We flew into San Diego and then headed up the coast to Dana Point. We visited San Clemente, Carlsbad, Encinitas, La Jolla, and San Diego.

Day 1 – Dana Point/Laguna Beach

I heard about a little tower built back in the 1800’s that was right on the beach and knew my girls would love it. It resembled Rapunzel’s tower and that was Quinn’s favorite movie. It is located on Victoria Beach and with a little trial and error we figured out how to get to that small portion of the beach. Because the beaches are next to cliffs and mountains, you cannot stroll along a really long stretch of beach. Rocks and cliffs separate the sand parts so you have to go up and around.

latour-thenandnow

https://www.californiabeaches.com/la-tour-mysterious-tower-laguna/

This is a then a now photo and you can check out the link to read the history about this cute tower.

 

 

 

We then headed over to dinner in Dana Point called Wind & Sea. We sat on the deck and enjoyed looking out at the boats on the harbor. We were very pleased with the food! The Ahi tuna was sooooo good!

Day 2 – San Clemente/Carlsbad/Encinitas

We stayed the night in San Clemente at Roadway Inn in the middle of town. All the buildings had this old Spanish town feel. We headed down to the San Clemente pier that morning. The weather was cool and the breeze was refreshing. Along the coast ran the train tracks. One of the things on my bucket list is to ride the Amtrack up the California coast. The train hugs the coast for some beautiful views. You can even ride it all the way up to Seattle for breath taking sites! Click here to check it out.

 

Across from the pier are some cute shops and fun little restaurants. We stopped in one and Victor got some Nitro brew coffee and the girls suckered us into some sweets.

 

On to Carlsbad, we spent a few hours at the beach and then had lunch downtown. This was Quinn’s favorite beach because of the rocks! WHO KNEW! 😉 While at the beach we got to watch all the military helicopters fly over the ocean.

 

We ate lunch at a restaurant called Campfire. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was very kid friendly! The girls loved the tepee and we loved the fact that they could run around without bothering others! After that, we walked around the historic downtown and found this cute courtyard where Quinn pretended to be a princess.

 

We continued down the coast towards Torrey Pines, which allowed our kids to take a nap. Torrey Pines is a state park along the coast where you can hike along the cliffs and see some amazing views. It is 20 dollars to park for the entire day and I recommend parking at the top of the cliffs. We saw some people parking at the entrance and then walking up the road which had to have been a mile…no thanks. If I’m hiking, it’s on a trail not a road.

 

 

We headed back to the hotel after this to shower and rest before we explored Encinitas for dinner. Encinitas is a popular little town with one of the best family beaches. Just a couple blocks up from the beach is a stretch of great restaurants and shops. After seeing the ridiculously long line at the famous Taco Shop, we opted for the Fish House. We were very pleased! We ordered five different types of fish tacos: yellow fin, halibut, swordfish, salmon, and mahi mahi. They were all so yummy! Then we headed down to the beach where they had a playground, fire pits, and volleyball courts. It was packed but no overwhelming. The girls loved the park so much we stayed until sundown.

 

Day 3-San Diego

ZOO DAY! We loved the zoo but we were worn out after that! Our favorite animals were the pandas, koalas, tigers, Galapagos turtles and polar bear.

 

I kept reading that you can’t see everything in a day, so I was very worried,  but if you take advantage of the bus and make smart choices you will see it all! I recommended heading for the pandas 20 minutes before their exhibit opens. We were there 15 minutes early and they actually let us in after 5 minutes because they came out. We didn’t wait in line and they were out and about, well as out and about as pandas get…they are natural loners!

We then walked one side of the park towards the entrance and ran into where you could feed giraffes..for a fee of course. ($15)

 

Next, we headed to the bus….ride the BUS! You will see so many animals and get a walking break! Then we rode the skyfari aerial tram twice. This was Quinn’s favorite! We were at the park from 8:45-2:30.

20180714_131408

After a nap break we headed to the Gaslamp Quarter. This is an area downtown with lots of restaurants and nightlife. The only thing we ended up liking was the Ghirardelli’s. The food is way over priced and as it started to get dark it was not kid friendly. As we were leaving though we walked by where the Padres play and got to see the field all lit up. Victor was excited about that 😉

 

Day 4 – Coronado Island/ La Jolla/ Mission Beach

We started out our day driving over the bridge to Coronado Island. We stopped for some coffee, juice, and donuts at Clayton’s Coffee Shop. They have a to go window and sit down seating. We opted for the to go window because so many people were waiting! It was convenient and we sat on the benches outside and enjoyed our breakfast. Then we headed to a park by the water where the girls could play. They view was amazing and the girls were entertained so win for us!

 

We then walked along the water to the ferry and rode it over to the San Diego bay area. They have the USS Midway Museum and a beautiful memorial to the military.

 

We rode the ferry back to the island and played on the beach for while. Around the ferry area they have cute shops and restaurants as well as a small beach. On the other side of the island is a much bigger beach to enjoy as well.

La Jolla

20180715_153112

We went to La Jolla to see the seals and stayed to play on the gorgeous beach as well! The seals were so cute and we even saw one swimming near the beach just a few feet from people.

 

Mission Beach/ Belmont Park

This was by far the girls favorite part of the trip. We met up with some college friends for ice cream and then we rode rides at the cutest beach side amusement park until we couldn’t keep our eyes open. We bought the girls unlimited ride bands for $20 each and Victor and I took turns riding with them. It was totally worth the cost and we got to ride for free! Of course it was all kiddie rides but it was still fun! They have adult rides and hope one day we can return and ride them.

 

Day 5- Balboa Park

We had about an hour before we needed to get to the airport so we went to investigate Balboa Park. My only regret from the trip was not spending more time here. We had planned to check it out after the zoo but we were so exhausted that day we didn’t make it. The park is gorgeous and we loved exploring it so early in the morning because not many people were out. This area reminds of DC’s row of Smithsonian Museums. They have 17 museums to check out including an air and space museum. We went to DC not long ago so I didn’t feel like we needed to explore this but I would highly recommend it if you go! The girls loved the squirrels running around so close to us and the cool art they could climb on. The Japanese Tea Garden was beautiful and the outdoor organ theater was phenomenal. Someone was actually playing the organ while were walking by.

 

Final thoughts and tips

  • Parking is terrible at most beaches
  • Most tourist areas have extremely overpriced food
  • Most hotels we stayed at had a very lame idea of breakfast
  • The water was to cold for my taste but my husband and daughter loved it
  • We saw tons of very well kept old school cars
  • I would spend more time in the small beach towns
  • We could have easily spent another day in San Diego in order to see everything
  • They have Legoland and Sea World but we just wanted a beach/sightseeing trip
  • Let your kids nap in the car allows you to drive around and see more beautiful sights (through the window of your car)

Price Breakdown

$293.80 Plane tickets (97 each and baby is free)

$0 Baggage fees (we took 3 backpacks/stroller/2 car seats)

$292.00 Hotel (508.77 total but we used our free hotels.com night and credit card points) From my understanding the hotels were a little more pricey that normal because of big events going on that week

$0 Car Rental (189.00 total but again we used credit card points)

$585.80 Total trip cost for a family of 4

I didn’t track our daily spending but that honestly is going to be at your discretion. You can spend as much or little as you want. All of the beaches were free. The zoo is pricey but worth it.

 

 

 

 

10 Waco Hot Spots

Looking for a place that has something to offer for all types of trips? Whether it’s a girl’s only, a family affair, college retreat, or a man’s weekend, Waco has it all! Waco is known for Baylor and all things Chip and Joanna Gaines, but it has so much more than that! Spring break was my first girl’s trip, since having my second baby, and Waco was the perfect place to go! Lets talk about the top 10 things to do in this beautiful Texas town!

Be sure to click on the links in my post if you want further details about a place! Just move your cursor over the name of a place and click.

Downtown Waco

  1. Magnolia Market

You can’t go to Waco and not spend some time hanging out here. Not only can you find all things farmhouse but there is a bakery, green space to sit and hangout, gardening area, and food trucks! You do not have to love Fixer Upper to enjoy spending some time here. It can definitely get crowded and in the summer it gets pretty hot. Don’t worry, they have a juice bar and sweet tea food truck that can cool you down!

2. Austin Avenue & The Farmer’s Market

This is a street downtown loaded with cute shops and places to eat. We spent several hours just walking this street and hanging out at this cute candy shop. One place that I highly recommend checking out is the Hippodrome. You can see a movie, live performance or dine with them. If you want to reminisce about childhood or create some fun memories with your own child go to Hey Sugar! It is filled with all kinds of candy and a huge selection of specialty sodas. We even tried some very interesting ice cream mixtures. If you are in town on a Saturday, I highly recommend visiting the farmer’s market. We ate some tasty food and found some great take home items!

3. Suspension Bridge & Spice Village

The suspension bridge goes over the river and next to this beautiful park. You can rent kayaks or paddle boards or just take a stroll along the river’s edge. After spending some time at the park, head over to Spice Village for some great eats and fun shopping.

Things to Do

4. Dr. Pepper Museum

This is a great place to see Dr. Pepper memorabilia and have some fun soda themed treats! Check out GroupOn to get the best deal!

5. Mayborn Museum & Baylor University

They have exhibits for all ages! The locals say it is a definite must for families with children. After you wander around the museum take the time to explore the beautiful Baylor campus.

6. BSR Cable Park

This isn’t your average water park! They have the world’s longest lazy river, man-made beach, volleyball, and the Royal Flush slide. The slide is probably not what you are picturing in your head but more of an extreme sports, feel the wind beneath your wings kind of experience. You can bring your own food and GRILL to save money on food!

7. Waco Mammoth National Monument

We cannot wait to take our girls to check this place out. This a part of the National Parks System and you can see the actual dig site where a mammoth has been discovered. They did not remove what they found but instead they lead down into the dig shelter.

8. Cameron Park & The Zoo

The Park is beautiful, it is a great place to take a stroll or hike. They have trails for beginners or veterans hikers. Choose your level of difficulty and get back to nature! The zoo has a great variety of animals. You can get through the zoo in a few hours and they even have a time to feed the giraffes! This is a must if you are visiting with the family.

Great Eats

9. Magnolia Table

This was at the top of our to-do list and the very first thing we did when we got into town! Chip and Jo’s restaurant hasn’t been open long so of course it was filled with people but we were going to wait! My friends and I were kid free so we felt like we had all the time in the world! This is a breakfast and lunch joint that is closed on Sundays. We waited about an hour to be seated but they have a great outdoor waiting area that has refreshments and games to play. You can also check out the take-away area for gifts. You have to get the homemade biscuits and strawberry butter! It was so good that we purchased some strawberry butter to take home!

10. Sub Zero

You can see ice cream go from liquid to frozen in a matter of minutes! This place had a line out the door and once we got our ice cream I could see why. The Women’s March Madness was going on when we were visiting and while we were waiting, the entire Michigan team walked out of the shop!

More Yummy Eats

Waco is a hidden gem in Texas that is over-shadowed by some of the larger cities. I highly recommend this visit and we are definitely planning on going back with the kids! If this isn’t a place in driving distance then you will want to fly into Dallas (DFW) and rent a car. It is about an hour and a half drive. This can be it’s own trip or a stop along th way kind of place. Whatever you decide I highly recommend you check it out!

Beauty in Brevard

Do you ever wonder if those cute little towns in movies exist? For all you Lifetime movie, nature junkies, I have the perfect town for you!!! Brevard, North Carolina has more charm than one of those bachelors vying for a rose every week. 🙂 We were blessed a couple years ago to receive a Young Life camp assignment at Carolina Point, which is right outside of this gorgeous little town. We got to spend three and a half weeks soaking up the breath taking scenery and good eats Brevard had to offer.

Outdoor Junkies

Brevard is nestled in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This town is surrounded by beautiful waterfalls. This place is a hikers dream! If you’re thinking “I am NOT a hiker!”, don’t fear! There are waterfalls that require little to no hiking! My favorite waterfall was Triple Falls. One part of the Hunger Games was filmed here.

13697088_10100263239733021_2135273745759054452_n

We also visited Sliding Rock. This is a rock that has naturally made a slide that flows right into some very cold water! I hope that we can return here. The day we went it was overcast and began to rain, so the water was freezing. All I remember is sliding, thinking this is fun, and BAM! I got the wind knocked out of me. I hit the water and it was so cold that I questioned whether they trucked this water in from Antarctica. Thank the Lord above that the exit was only a couple feet from where I landed because I was gasping for air telling myself “just keep swimming”. As I get out, I see people running back to the line to go again….CRAZY…

We were able to hike to several other waterfalls and mountain tops. Every waterfall and mountain was gorgeous and a reminder of how amazing our Earth is. Here are more pictures!

  • Slick Rock Falls
  • Twin Falls
  • Looking Glass Falls
  • Hooker Falls
  • Sassafrass Mountain
  • Pisgah National Forest
  • Dupont State Forest
  • Gorges State Park

Downtown

After you enjoy the great outdoors, you must head in town and wander around the downtown! It has the cutest boutique stores and restaurants all located in walking distance of each other. We ventured into the cutest toy store, O.P. Taylor’s, that had a great selection of toys new and old. We even saw some amazing Ghostbuster collectibles! Victor had the great American barber experience at West Main Barbershop. It looked like it came straight from the 50’s. My favorite shop was Theophilus. It had the cutest things which included household items and clothes. I must have had so much fun downtown that I honestly didn’t snap that many pictures. Aren’t these the cutest little girls around. 😉

Amazing Eats

We had a variety of great foods during our stay! While downtown, Rocky’s Soda Shop is a must! When entering you feel like you have traveled back in time to the 50’s. They serve awesome shakes, burgers, specialty hot dogs and much more! We also enjoyed The HobNob, Marco Trattoria, and The Square Root. I loved that most downtown eateries had outdoor seating. The majority of our stay, we had gorgeous weather so we opted for outdoor eating most of the time. Being from Texas we are pretty picky about our BBQ but you can’t visit North Carolina and not eat their version. They had great pulled pork. Their BBQ sauce is vinegar based which is different that what I’m usually accustomed to, a tomato base. They have a tomato based BBQ sauce but I’ll tell ya to stick with what they are experts at. 😉 Our most frequent stop was Dolly’s Dairy Bar! They had the most amazing ice cream options. I tried something different every time and was never disappointed!

Places to Stay

Brevard has a variety of places to stay. They have chain hotels, local inns, houses, camping, or cabins. Prices range from super affordable to luxury. It just depends on what needs you have. Questions you may want to ask yourself, “What do I want to be near?” “Do I want the option of cooking for myself?” “Do I want to get the entire outdoor experience?” “How large is my group?” “Continental breakfast?” The biggest thing I would suggest is do not wait to book. We had friends come visit us last minute and the prices became outrageous. I would recommend doing your research and checking a variety of booking websites like AirB&B, Vibro, Hotels.com, and Home Away. Check this website for your camping options.

Surrounding Towns and Adventures

Here is a list of more adventures in Brevard

  • Crystal Mountain Gem Mine
  • Silvermont Mansion
  • Sherwood Forest Golf Club
  • Headwaters Outfitters, river rentals
  • Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education (feed the fish!)

If you want to venture outside of Brevard you have great options! Hendersonville is about 30 minutes away and has it’s own amazing tourist options such as Flat Rock Play House, Hands on Children’s Museum, and many hiking options. If you continue another 17 miles past Hendersonville, you can visit Chimney Rock. This is one of the most iconic travel sites in the state and has been featured in movies! We weren’t able to make it over there but I am anxious to go back and hike to the top of this rock!

Another option is to head north and spend some time in Asheville. This is a larger city and is home to the famous Biltmore Estates. They offer tours but in my opinion, they are a little pricey. For an adult it is 40 dollars. No matter what you decide you will have an amazing trip!

Visit Brevard’s tourist website for more information! Here are more pictures in case you are questioning whether this place is amazing! 😉

The Secret to Disney

Disney World…you HAVE to go! Everyone feels differently about vacations, but this place no matter who you are will always bring joy to your heart. This company works so hard to make this the happiest place on earth and honestly I never leave without some beautiful memories. I even recommend going at different stages in your life. Hopefully your parents were able to take you as a kid, you should go in your 20’s without kids, then return with your own kids, and probably go with your grandkids but that would be a convo for my parents, not me. 😉 I have been 6 times in my life and plan to keep on going!

16174748_10100344512846051_2495776601647764013_n

Saving Money at Disney

You have two options when it comes to planning a Disney trip. Do you stay on property or find outside accommodations? Some people swear by getting the whole package and I don’t doubt it’s amazing, but the parks themselves are “wow” enough for me budget wise. If you are wanting the whole package and are willing to plan a year or TWO in advance, there are people who know how to save hundreds of dollars. I follow SMART Moms Planning Disney and the woman who leads this Facebook group knows how to make it happen. I am not a coupon clipper and I do love to plan things but I am also impatient so I just can’t. With that being said, here are my money saving tips….

  • Go with a group and share an AirBnB (So many GREAT places to stay)
  • Stay at a hotel that will take you to Disney or rent a car with your group so you only pay parking once (My mom rented a 15 passenger van and that thing hauled the mail!)
  • Go with someone who can get you military tickets
    • We were able to take advantage of this when Victor was in the Air Force and it saves tons of money
    • We could buy up to six tickets so we always took family with us.
  • Do you know someone who works at Disney? They can get up to two people in for free on certain days! (Not peak days)
  • Kids under 3 are free
  • Make and take your own food into the parks. Take a water bottle and ask for cups of water they are free!
  • Do not purchase the park hopper option..seriously you need all day to enjoy each park
  • The more days you go the cheaper the daily ticket gets. You need a 4-day pass to hit every park.
  • Buy certain souvenirs from the local Walmart, Target, or discount Disney Store
    • When you walk into these stores you think you are at a Disney gift shop! SO MUCH DISNEY STUFF!
    • Only buy things at Disney that you can’t get any where else
      • Mickey ears
      • Christmas Ornaments
      • Exclusive Park Toys (We bought Quinn the Rapunzel Tower)
  • You can pay for anything with Disney gift cards so ask for those as gifts for Christmas or birthdays!

Tricks to Have the Time of Your Life

DOWNLOAD THE DISNEY PARK APP IMMEDIATELY

  • FAST PASSES
    • You need to sign up for them 30 days in advance or 60 days if you are staying on property. We stayed one night at Disney’s Art of Animation this last time so we were able to sign up for Fast Passes 60 days in advance! 🙂 DO NOT wait…Seriously, on your 30 day mark wake up at 6 AM and get to work.
    • You can initially sign up for 3 passes at one park per day. (You do this using the Disney Park APP) Once you are at that park and after you use your passes, go on the app and sign up for more! We had 8 fast passes one day and never waited in line!
    • Whatever you do, if you do not get a fast pass for a certain ride, head straight for that ride right at opening to avoid long lines. Not all rides need a fast pass. Do your research!
  • WHEN TO GO
    • Check out a peak time calendar to know when to go Disney
    • If it’s in the “slow season” the tickets are cheaper! (Click here to view the website)
    • June and July are miserably hot and busy
    • Christmas week…NOT WORTH IT
      • We went the week before Christmas and the first week of January both were good.
    • Making it part of a work trip saves money (Thanks Victor 😉 )
  • RESERVATIONS
    • The sit down restaurants at Disney are pretty amazing but can be pricey. You must plan that out and you can make reservations up to 180 days in advance. (You can’t walk up to the restaurant and ask for a table. That won’t go well with the people who’ve reserved their spot up and are waiting in line. They’ll look at you like you’re crazy. 😉 ) The character dining is fun with kids! Research the prices because it can get up there!
    • Be Our Guest is one of Magic Kingdom’s newest sit down restaurants. If you go during lunch it has more affordable options and you must try the grey stuff! If you go to the Enchanted Tales with Belle and then the restaurant it is almost like character dining with out the price tag. 😉
  • MEMORY MAKER
    • Purchase this with your group! We went with my family (15 people, hence the 15 pax van) We all linked to my account so it made the price worth it. Disney has people everywhere ready to take your picture. They will scan your ticket or magic band and it is all saved to one place. At the end of your trip you can download all of your images. They took around 500 pictures of us on 4-day trip.
    • If you want to save money they will also take pictures with your camera for you!
  • CHARACTERS
    • Talking Mickey is at Magic Kingdom and you can get a Fast Pass for him
    • Epcot is a great place to meet a lot of characters
    • Take an autograph book
    • Use the App to find out times and places for characters
    • Disney Junior characters are only at Hollywood Studios
  • Ask any store at the park for your FIRST visit button (also, birthdays and anniversary)

20180203_1606451433626935.jpg

  • Go to Disney Springs (it’s free) and it has lots of shops and eateries
  • Plan well but don’t over do it! You cannot do everything so figure out what is a must for you and stick to it! It is easy to get distracted by all the amazing things.
  • Get a Dole Whip at Magic Kingdom and try as many different foods as you can in Epcot
  • Most rides do not have a height limit and you can even ride those when you are pregnant!
  • Take a stroller…Do not torture yourself or your children…
  • Go early and stay late..the lines are the shortest. Take it slow in the middle of the day. Let your kid nap in a stroller while you ride big kid rides. Disney has child swap for anything with a height requirement.

BEST PARK STUFF

Magic Kingdom – Plan around parades and rides

Rides: FP=A must fast pass

  • Peter Pans Flight FP
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train FP
  • Space Mountain FP
  • Splash Mountain
  • Buzz Lightyear FP
  • Dumbo
  • The Little Mermaid
  • Winnie the Pooh
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Big Thunder Mountain
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle

Shows:

  • Night Parade
  • Fireworks

Epcot- Plan around the food and characters

  • Frozen Ever After FP
  • Nemo
  • The Soarin’ FP
  • Test Track FP
  • Mission Space

Food

  • The World Showcase

Hollywood Studios- Plan around the shows

  • Tower of Terror
  • Rock n’ Roller Coaster FP
  • Toy Story Mania FP
  • Star Tours FP
    • Toy Story Land is opening summer 2018 and Star Wars Land summer of 2019

Shows:

  • Disney Junior Show
  • Frozen Sing Along
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Indiana Jones
  • Fantasmic
  • All things Star Wars (if that’s your thing)
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Animal Kingdom- Check out all the animals

  • Dinosaur
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris FP
  • Expedition Everest FP
  • Avatar FP

Shows:

  • Lion King Show
  • Nemo Show
  • River of Lights

I hope this is helpful information and PLEASE message me because I could write 10 pages about all the things you need to know!