Last weekend we took off for my eldest to audition at a college ballet program in Indianapolis. We were expecting COLD weather and snow, but somehow luck was on our side and the weather was about the same as it was here when we left – about 37 to 34 or so. (Didn’t even have to break out the new long underwear we’d bought!)
The younger ones and I toured the Indianapolis Museum of Art
while she did her audition. It was free
! We even got free parking because our art museum here has reciprocal membership. Fantastic museum and we only got to see two floors before we had to meet back with dad and Emily at Butler. It was a beautiful campus and the people are so incredibly nice. Now to wait and see if she gets in!
After Indy we drove to Chicago for a fantastic welcome weekend for prospective students at SAIC (the art institute.) She was accepted there with a pretty good scholarship, and being one of the best art schools in America we decided it was worth the time. I’m so in awe of the school! I wish they had dance also, BUT Jeoffry Ballet and Chicago Ballet are within walking distance so I think she’d be able to take some classes if she decides to go there.
Chicago was not bad as far as weather goes either and we got to walk around a bit and hit some of the top kid spots (Science Museum, Millenium Park, Lego store…)
We stayed at another Historic Hotel
, the Palmer House Hilton. We try to stay in Historic Hotels (if they have rooms large enough for the six of us) wherever we can. The prices are usually not any more than a “box” hotel and you get a totally different experience.
No matter where she chooses, it was a fun trip!
The end of September/beginning of October my kids had a week off for Fall Break and we took off for New Orleans on a spur-of-the-moment, long weekend trip!
The cotton was being harvested on the roads from Arkansas to Louisiana. I always love seeing the cotton come in. So beautiful.
We stayed at a Hyatt Place hotel, close to the Convention Center downtown in the warehouse district. It was close enough to everything that we didn’t get our car out of the parking deck until we left.
New Orleans is so friendly and fun. So many interesting people and gorgeous weather in the fall. I absolutely adore it.
Fun things we did:
- Ate beignets in Jackson Square at Cafe du Monde
- Visited the Audubon Aquarium (Fun if you haven’t been, but we visited the aquarium in Atlanta this past year and this one paled in comparison, probably pass next time.)
- Walked in the French Quarter *
- Ate at Mother’s (This is our favorite restaurant in New Orleans! You have to be prepared to order when you get to the front of the line though!)
- Listened to live jazz on the street *
- Ran in Jackson Square *
- Visited the St. Louis Cathedral *
- Toured the French Quarter on a Carriage Tour
- Visited the World War 2 museum (we could have spent two days there- amazing)
- Walked through the Farmer’s Market *
- Toured the Old U.S. Mint (*Neat museum of money, history, and musical history. We also happened on a swing dance/band festival! All the real NOLA jazz is in that area of the city now, the FQ is mainly a tourist attraction. Lots of great places to eat or listen if you park close to the Mint at the end of the Market.)
- Toured the old cemeteries *(we didn’t do an official tour, just parked down by Cemetery #2
*All the starred things are FREE!!!
Trip wasn’t too expensive, except for food. If you get out of the tourist areas you’ll get better deals. For attractions look for coupons/deals online before you go. There were some really cool places to eat and hang out down in the warehouse district that I’d like to try next time. With a baby that was tired by the time we stopped to eat we didn’t try any of the fancier places.
On the way home we drove down to the ocean and stopped at a beach in Pass Christian, Mississippi. Beautiful little town and they happened to have a church shrimp festival going on that was fun to walk around. The kids had a great time playing in the sand at the beach before the long trip home.
This summer we wanted to take a road trip that consisted of touring colleges that my daughter is considering next year, with some fun thrown in.
The plan was to make a giant loop and hit every school from here (central Arkansas) to DC and back with good dance programs- BUT of course with only one week to do it, we ended up with a MUCH smaller loop… (only 1300 miles… so glad we opted for the small trip!)
We made it to Memphis by lunchtime and stopped by the Memphis Zoo
|Goofing off with the Panda bears at the zoo
|Boys +5 years at the zoo
Next we headed a few blocks over for a quick tour of the beautiful
|“Rhodes looks like Hogwarts!”
We pushed on and got to Nashville for the night. (I’d made reservations as we drove in the car on hotels.com
. We stayed across the street from Vanderbilt
|Vandy @ night
We’d made arrangements to tour Vanderbilt after lunch, so we visited the Parthenon in nearby Centennial Park
. My kids are huge Rick Riordan
fans (author of the Percy Jackson series) and we like to make “Percy Jackson” stops when we travel. In Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief
, Percy and the gang stop by the Parthenon to obtain a magical pearl. The museum inside the Parthenon even has some notes from the movie
and props, which the boys loved.
After a quick lunch at a quaint old diner (place was cuter than the food was) then headed to Vanderbilt for the tour.
What a gorgeous campus. No wonder it’s so expensive!
The tour was fantastic in itself.
|This is a DORM @ Vanderbilt
After the tour we hit the road. Emily’s Butler tour was Thursday morning and we had to make it to Indianapolis!
Part 2 of Fall Break Fun with a Mouse!
On this trip, since we were doing things other than Disney,
we decided to only spend two days in the Disney parks.
We let the kids pick their favorites and they chose
The Magic Kingdom was having “Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party” on most of the nights that we were there, but we picked a night when it wasn’t happening so that we’d get to see the fireworks.
We chose not to go mainly because:
- For the party ticket it costs quite a bit more
- My kids are allergic to most candy and I didn’t want to fight them
There was a lot of construction going on in the MK, some was finished and new
areas were there since we’d been four years ago.
One new thing was the Beauty and the Beast castle and “Be Our Guest” restaurant.
I really was looking forward to eating there after reading some reviews-
Verdict? Not even the kids were impressed!
In their words:
“They don’t have it together yet.” (on ordering)
“Basically a cafeteria with GPS to get you your food.” (8 yr old)
“Cool ambiance but awful food.”
“Almost no options for vegetarians.”
“We waited for this and I’m still hungry.”
I’m excited about the new Snow White castle going in across from it- they will have a runaway mine car ride!
My oldest finally got to ride the Dumbo ride. She had been bugging me saying this was the third time she’d been and she HAD to ride the Dumbo ride (lines were too long the other times.)
Lines were non-existent and she got to ride it a couple of times I think!
It was so neat that all of my kids were old enough to ride anything- they had so much fun!
- The Pirate Adventure Scavenger hunt- very neat & interactive. (Gave us some time to drink something and put our feet up while they did that a couple of times.)
- Splash Mountain- youngest is making me read him the Uncle Remus stories now
- Tom Sawyer Island- they didn’t want to leave this part!
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (we were stuck on this one awhile but the game still worked so they were happy!)
- Space Mountain
Funny thing- we said we were jinxed because at least six of the rides we went on
got stuck when we were on them!
The second park the kids chose was the Animal Kingdom:
I secretly was hoping for Epcot since it was the Food and Wine Festival,
I do love Animal Kingdom.
It seems like a break from the rush of the other parks.
Very pretty and rides were great for older kids (and hubby.)
There were no lines at all in AK and they got to ride Expedition Everest probably 15 times in a row!
We ate in the Yak & Yeti restaurant and were disappointed again.
Think I’d do the fast food stuff there if I had it to do over.
One good thing was that this park closed at 5:30, which meant we had to take it a bit easy!
(And being pregnant I appreciated that for one day!)
|Getting souvenirs in Downtown Disney
My kids go to a “year round” school, which means we get a lovely break in the fall.
So, the last week in September/first in Oct. we took a trip to Orlando.
Our first outing was to Legoland-so much fun!
This new one in Florida
is located in the old Cypress Gardens park
so it’s not only fun, but
There were NO lines at all so the kids rode everything they wanted over and over.
Our next adventure was to Universal Studios
and then Universal Islands of Adventure
I wish we’d had more time to stop and pick oranges when we drove out to Legoland. There are beautiful U-Pick orchards and it looked like it would have been fun.
We ate in Mythos in Islands of Adventure which I’d heard good things about on Universal fan websites. It was better than anything else we ate in any of the parks, but the service was not the best. (Pretty much everywhere in Orlando the service was slack though.) The frozen butterbeer was a hit in Harry Potter World. My eleven year old was chosen at Olivander’s for the wand selection, which he’d been hoping for before we left. Made his vacation I think! (Hint, if you’re in line try to not get next to other eleven/twelve year olds as they pick those kids for the “chosen.”)
I didn’t get to ride much of anything being pregnant, but the kids rode everything they wanted at all of the parks multiple times because the lines were non-existent. The only time it took was the time it took them to walk to the front of the ride! Perfect time to go to Orlando!
Next time I’ll tell you about
the Magic Kingdom
Deals in Orlando:
*I found a smoking hot deal online on the Legoland website before we left- kids were free plus they got a free Chima Lego set which was over a $20 value.
*Plane fare from LR to Orlando? Try Allegiant Airlines, direct flight. Cheap- but we aware that they charge you to sit together and also for each carry on and checked bag. They are 1/2 price if you check bags at home online. Pack light!
*Universal Studios tickets were cheaper when bought online ahead of time. I printed them before we left and walked right in.
*Disney doesn’t give a discount for buying tickets ahead of time so we didn’t, and didn’t have any trouble buying them at the park. Their sales people are very helpful in figuring out which pass is best for you.
*Coupon in tourist book for Wonderworks which equaled over $10 off I believe. The kids loved that place.
*Be ready to spend lots of money for subpar food. Nothing besides chains really and service is horrific in Orlando. If we had driven I’d probably had taken a cooler and snacks/lunch to the parks. It’s easy to shell out over $100 just for fast lunch there. Next time…
*I found a great hotel deal on Groupon at the Embassy Suites Lake Buena Vista. Fantastic
price, cheaper than anything else I’d found and free breakfast, happy
hour, snacks, and movies in the pool! With a family of 5 the Embassy
Suites is a usually a nice choice. The location was fantastic too-
right by Lake Buena Vista so we were close to the Disney and Universal