Wilderness Explorers

Hidden among the rides and animals:

Is a lesser advertised adventure full of animal information:

The Wilderness Explorers!

The boys picked up a Wilderness Explorers guide on the way in the park and they literally took us through the entire park. The only stops we made were for lunch and our fast passes, but other than that they were collecting “badges” (stickers) learning about all the different wildlife.

They found each of the guides and learned about animal habitats, conservation, and how animals help us every day:

In addition to all the information, I think they enjoyed that they were taking us through the park, instead of us leading the, from place to place. We really enjoyed it because we were able to sit! And chat with each other off to the side while the boys worked on their badges.

This to me is the true uniqueness of Disney, that you can be among all these rides and attractions, but also have a calmer more laid back experience. Which truly makes it more of a vacation, rather than a trip you need a vacation from after you get home!

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Behind the seeds

Over the boys’ fall break, we went to Disney and along with rides, parades, and shows, we also did a few extra things that ended up being the boys (and ours) favorites from the trip. First up, was the Behind the Seeds tour. This is located in The Land pavilion in Epcot. It’s about an hour long walking tour and I’d read that your tour guide makes a big difference. Our tour guide was awesome! She had loads of information, was super interactive with the boys, and answered all their questions patiently.

We got to see how they grow the plants from leaf & steam (they don’t start them from seeds which we learned on the tour!):

To rows of baby plants:

We viewed the different lighting strategies they use to grow the plants:

We got to try the fresh cucumbers grown in house:

And learned about their hydroponic system of growing plants (all water! No dirt!):

Our tour guide discussed how they work on plants growing upwards to prevent pests, ground rot, etc.:


We saw some extraordinary fruits and vegetables, like this huge zucchini:

And these lemons that just one makes an entire pitcher of lemonade:

There were bananas that taste like vanilla ice cream:

And these gourds that are all growing down (and some into Mickey ears!):

Oh and while I’m talking about Mickey, did I mention we saw the only unlisted hidden Mickey on propert?? Here it is:

And you can only see it on the tour! It’s not visible from the land ride.

We also learned about the sustainability and careful attention they pay to fish farming:

And saw a date palm that’s trying to actively make its way out of the building:

The amount of herbs, vegetables, and fruits that are grown to feed people at restaurants around the property and the animals at Animal Kingdom is overwhelming and the boys loved every second of learning about them:

This tour was right up our boys’ alley. It does require patience, listening, and there are items that cannot be touched, stepped on, etc. There were mainly adults on the tour, so it wouldn’t be one I’d recommend for toddlers. For our kids it was the perfect age and they came home full of ideas for our next garden!

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Why we “vacation”

When you have kids you always use the term “vacation” in quotations because it means something very different than the typical image of someone lying on the beach, relaxing endlessly with their toes in the sand. However, as we have learned over the past eight years, “vacations” are necessary. They cost too much, the travel is too long, somebody is going to get sick, and you may have to bribe a kid with endless cookies, so they don’t melt down and get you kicked off an airplane…or out of a Barnes and Noble. But we do it anyway. Because vacation time for us means a chance to disconnect from endless emails, work requests, and the full time nature of our jobs. Instead you have ice cream a lot, try out the Mario Maker levels your eight year old has been working on, and “bear-row” your five year old in the sand over and over at his request. And when your kids declare it the best week ever and ask when we are going on vacation again, you know that despite the fact you may return home just as tired as when you left it’s a different tired. A good tired. And you sigh, turn your computer back on, and start back to the everyday. And you start planning the next “vacation”.

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Cincinnati Children’s Museum

With a sweeping view of the Cincinnati landscape, the Duke Energy Children’s Museum is a menagerie of learning spots, activity hubs, and interactive experiences.

We started out by piecing together some puzzles:

And taking a few measurements:

Then we experimented with energy:

Then we climbed through tunnels:

And a human size ant farm:

We also tested the waters:

Before it was time to check out:

And we were off to the next adventure:

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Star Wars Costume Exhibit

The Cincinnati Museum at Union Terminal is under construction, but they still have exhibits and their children’s museum open to the public. When we found out that our days in Cincinnati coincided with a traveling Star Wars exhibit we knew we had to put that on our list.

They had everything from a light saber battle:

To Hans Solo and Chewbacca:

There was Boba and Jango Fett:

And many more costumes from both sides of the force:



For Star Wars enthusiasts like my boys it was very cool to see the actual costumes and all their detail, especially Darth Vader:

And per our usual, the boys watched every single video on costume production from beginning to end:

The exhibit itself is not very long, however, the boys extended it by watching the videos, and there was a really cool set of allusion mirrors at the end where you could dance like a storm trooper, C-3PO, and Darth Vader. It wasn’t an exhibit that I would have driven a long distance just to see, but it was definitely worth going to since we were in the area. My favorite part was seeing the interweaving and details of the designs, and the boys liked the interactive (light saber controlling, short film) parts of the exhibit.

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Cincinnati Zoo

By far one of the largest zoos we’ve visited, the Cincinnati Zoo is one that you really need two days to see everything. However, we only had one day to spend, so we skipped a few of the exhibits (insects, specifically), but the boys were troopers and most of it we did see.

It was hot, but the zoo does a good job of providing lots of shaded areas and walkways.

There were also several areas in the zoo where you can interact with the animals:

And get very close to them:

If you can’t tell from that picture, J is sitting under Flash (the sloth):

And there’s just a stretch of (heavy) glass separating you and a Komodo dragon:

Who meandered over towards J as he was examining him:

And even animals lounging in the shade can eventually be spotted:

There’s also a large savannah area with okapi, ostrich, pelicans, and vultures:

This is reminiscent of the set-up at The Animal Kingdom Lodge in Disney World. You can also walk almost 360 degrees around the savannah, which gives you great views of all the animals.

We’ve wised up over the years with our boys and we always do three things. 1. Eat lunch early (we ate right at 11), which avoids crowds and stops them from saying they’re hungry over and over. 2. Plan a snack treat two hours after eating (obviously our boys function better with food):

3. Let them read all the signs and don’t rush them through stuff.

We managed to get a few pictures of all of us:

And treated the boys to matching red pandas (their pick) at the end of the day!

It was definitely worth the trip!

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Zoo adventures in Nashville

Zoo adventuresWe had a pretty quiet Fall Break, which was lovely! Towards the end of the week we took a day trip to Nashville with the boys and just spent the day exploring and wandering the zoo. We all really enjoyed the zoo, J’s favorites were the giraffes and monkeys, and A loved the bamboo forest. Here is a bit more from our adventure…

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Trail blazing

I’m here to share photos, not the experience because I didn’t attend this hike. B, my brother-in-law, all of our boys, and my cousin’s husband went on a hike while we were in California. A 4.25 mile hike. If you can’t believe that my four year old was able to hike that long, you’re right. They carried the younger boys a good part of the way. I had to share how gorgeous the California trails are (despite the drought), and this one even had a farm on it! So fun!

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They capped off the trail by heading to Five Guys (yes, I know what you are thinking…why not In & Out Burger? However, I’m pretty sure by the end of the hike they were trying to find food as quickly as possible):  Trail BlazingI still can’t believe they hiked for that long! The air is a lot dryer there and cooler, so it makes it a little easier to do the longer hikes. The boys said they had a great time, but were super tired by the end!

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California 2016

California LoveSo for the first time in I don’t know how long (twenty years maybe??), all of my family traveled to California for my cousin’s wedding. This picture is of all the grandkids (there are twelve of us). I didn’t take a lot of photos during the trip, so I’m grateful that my cousins did and posted them on Facebook, so I would have some more to share! Here are a few photos from our reunion…

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Friday Favorites (Disney Edition!)

Friday FavoritesSince Disney is on our vacation list this year, I thought it’d be fun to do a Disney themed Friday Favorites. This is a round up of all the articles and websites I found useful (or just fun) while planning our trip, plus a couple of throwbacks (including this picture) to when we took A to Disney six years ago. Enjoy!

Of all the restaurants we are visiting Ohana is the one that if you tell people you are going there they immediately respond with “one of the best restaurants on the property.”

The best sequined Minnie ears.

In case you want to go total avant garde Star Wars.

The tsum tsum video that is the reason J wants a goofy tsum tsum (to save him, of course!).

The boys are looking forward to finding hidden Mickeys.

Tips on dining with young kids at Disney.

I got almost all of my touring plans and fast past set-up ideas from using WDWPrepSchool site. If you haven’t planned a Disney trip in a long time (like us), this is essential.

Our trip to Animal Kingdom with A and what I learned.

Some tips and tricks of traveling to Disney World.

For our family a food bucket list is required. Mickey ice cream sandwiches are one of my favorites.

And finally, I don’t think you can set up a Disney trip without help. Our Mickey Adventure agent, Missy, is awesome. Not only did she set up our reservations and all our fast passes, but she has sent us so much essential information that was really helpful considering we hadn’t been to Disney World fully in ten years.

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