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
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!
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
An old shoe factory that’s been converted into the most awesome artist colony you’ve ever
seen. Artists have turned empty spaces into a magical wonderland for both children and adults.
Your imagination can go crazy (and so can the kids!) Plan to spend an entire day here. This is the most expensive thing we do in STL and it’s around $13 a head I think.
There are lots of clubs and restaurants in this area also so you won’t be bored!
My kids want to live here!
Inside the “caves” 15 story slide!
Opera Poster exhibit I adored
Waiting to hear it play
2. Forest Park (Home of the 1904 World’s Fair)
So many things to do IN the park (and many for FREE)- We’ve been in the summer and rented bikes there- that way you can explore the park and go from attraction to attraction.
St. Louis Zoo (FREE, and as my happy husband said “They have BEER!” If you park in the zoo’s lot it costs $10, but you can also park along streets in park for free.)
St. Louis Science Center (free)
Grand Basin (or the grounds where you can fly kites, picnic, or just let the kids run- and free)
We happened upon a nice guy flying a kite so high up you could barely see it. He let us all “fly” it for a bit and talked about the science of kite flying.
My family visiting the second silver tree in a week- second state!
Missouri History Museum
St. Louis Art Museum (free)
Dear Old St. Louis
3. Fitz’s American Restaurant
In the DelMar loop- A fun family place to go after the park, Fitz’s makes their own Root Beer and soda right there. You can see the bottling plant working while you eat.
Be warned- This is a float SPLIT in 1/2!
4. The Gateway Arch (This was the first time we didn’t stop to see it. You can ride up to the top, or just explore the park and the Museum of Westward Expansion under the arch which is free.)
5. Anheuser-Busch Brewery
(We didn’t visit the brewery this time either. It’s a neat FREE tour of the factories and stables for the Clydesdale horses. I find the history and actual factory very interesting. Some like the free sampling and snacks at the end of the tour… Kids like the horses the best I think.) Grant’s Farm is also supposed to be a really neat place to visit but it wasn’t open this trip due to weather.
My honey had to work the next week so our plan was for us to drive up and stay til Sunday morning, and he’d fly back the following week after working at his company’s office there.
However, Mother Nature had other plans! Snow started Saturday night and by Sunday morning this was our view from the hotel…
Snow Dancers Outside the hotel
12 inches of snow by the time it was over!
Another day of vacation is never a bad thing, right?
On the way back we stopped at Lambert’s Cafe “Home of the Throwed Rolls” in Sikeston, MO.
Really a fun place for kids- they actually yell “ROLLS?” and if you want one you raise your hands and have to catch them. Really hot, good, homemade rolls. Wish the butter was real…
The kids liked the giant drinks and all through the meal they come around asking if you want this or that. Make sure you’re hungry or share a meal. We shared and still had leftovers for days. Oh, and they don’t take credit cards…(this is when a teenage daughter who doesn’t spend money comes in handy- Thank You, E.)
For more fun in St. Louis check this out: They have a great food festival Labor Day weekend that’s FREE and fun! St. Louis in Fall