One suitcase packing

For our weekend trip to Nashville, I used our new Marie Kondo style of folding and managed to get all of our items in one suitcase. That’s right, four people, three sets of clothes, pajamas, and toiletries all in one spot. Here is how I arranged it:

The bottom layer was all of our clothes, then extra shoes, our noise machine, and my jewelry bag.

Then on top of that I placed our large toiletries bag, a smaller bag for hair items, my cosmetics bag, tissue box, and the pajamas I almost forgot for A. That plus a snack bag, and the boys’ backpacks were the only things we brought, and it was amazing! It was great to take a trip where it didn’t feel like we were taking half the house with us when we went!

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Fire Tower Trail

This is an easy incline trail on Monte Sano that we have connected through several times, but we’ve never done the entire trail on its own. Over Spring Break we headed up one afternoon to hike the trail, and roast hot dogs and marshmallows back at the State Park when we were finished. The trail is about 2.4 miles (that’s round trip), and as I said it’s a fairly easy hike. At the end of the trail (before you walk back out) is the impressive fire tower, that was used for spotters to look for fires, way back in the day. Unfortunately, we couldn’t walk all the way up because someone had graffitied inappropriate symbols all over the bunkers surrounding it. Luckily, B noticed that before the boys did and turned them around to head back out. Overall, it was a fun hike and a great way to spend the day with the boys!

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Three Days in Nashville

We took a little trip up the road to Nashville over Spring Break for some sightseeing and retail therapy (mainly me). I had big plans to go to some local eats, but our schedule didn’t match up this time, so I’m saving them for our next trip. We started out at Shake Shack:

Then visited the Tennessee State Museum:

 

The capitol:

The Supreme Court building:

And then wandered through The Opryland Hotel (where we stayed):

And had dinner at Jack Daniel’s Barbecue:

The next day we visited the Nashville Zoo:

 

 

Checked out the exhibits at the Frist Art Museum:

 

Went to Opry Mills:

And ended the day with gelato at The Opryland Hotel:

And finally on our last day, we slept in:

Then went to Nordstrom to get some Spring sandals and new sunglasses for me:

And then headed home!

It was a relaxing, easy trip. We only live about two hours from Nashville, so we can go up and back in the same day, but it was fun to stay a little longer and enjoy more of the city. The boys love museums, so we spent a good amount of time at both the Tennessee State Museum (which is free), and the Frist Art Museum (which is free for kids). Staying at The Opryland Hotel was perfect for the boys, there is lots to see (and lots to do, there is a massive indoor water park that we didn’t do this time), tons of places to eat, you could just stay there the whole trip if you wanted. The only issue I had with the hotel is that you do need to pay attention to the resort and parking fees, as it does increase the initial room rate quite a bit. Our room was very nice, but be prepared to do quite a hike when you get there initially, as the resort is spread out. Also, make sure to walk through the hotel at night to see the lights:

It’s gorgeous! Happy travels!

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Orlando Stopover before Disney

We’re a good ten hours from Disney World, which means that it’s either one very long driving day, or we split it into two days. We’ve made various halfway stops on our trip down, but on this particular trip we drove almost all the way in, stopping at Lake Buena Vista. We ate at Shake Shack for dinner (one of my favorites):

 

One of my life quests is to get the unique concretes (ice cream) at every Shake Shack. I’ve got three so far (DC, Austin, Orlando):

Then we marveled at the huge (and I do mean huge) Ferris wheel, at the outdoor entertainment venue where Shake Shack is located. There is also an awesome pirate themed miniature golf, that we decided next time we should take into consideration!

We stayed at The Embassy Suites Lake Buena Vista, which was very nice. It does always make me laugh that B wants to get a suite because most of the time the boys end up wanting to sleep in the same room as us instead of taking the pull out sofa in the separate room.

This would be a great option if you were visiting both Universal Studios and Disney World! However, our sights were set for Disney!

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Be Our Guest

This was one of our most highly anticipated dining reservations, in part because when we went to Disney in 2017 we had to cancel our reservation due to the boys getting sick. We rebooked it for this trip, and it’s definitely one you want to get a reservation for. The standby line to get in the restaurant was long. Let me re-emphasize that by saying that was the line to be put on a wait list, not the actual waiting time. Anyway, we ordered ahead through mobile order (one of the few restaurants right now that requests you do that), and then walked up to an outside stand and got a rose, that we then brought inside, and then you pick a table. Somehow they know how to find you, even though I think we returned the rose. We picked the room with the dancing Belle and Beast because that seemed like the obvious choice:

The paintings on the wall were also lovely:

We waited about ten minutes and then our lunch arrived. I got the roast beef sandwich with consommé:

B got a carved turkey sandwich:

And the boys got assemble your own pasta, which they loved:

It was all very good! This is one of the pricier quick service meals (let’s face it, part of the reason you’re eating here is to see the inside of the Beast’s castle because it’s the only way to see it), but we all really enjoyed the food, and the boys liked that it comes on a fancy cart straight to the table. I would definitely add it to your trip list for these reasons and because I wouldn’t be surprised if it eventually becomes table service for lunch.

In addition this was our food reservation heavy day (we had three). If you want to go to several restaurants in the Magic Kingdom area, here is an idea of what we did:

  • Breakfast: Ohana 7:50 a.m.
  • Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • It’s a small world 
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Lunch: Be Our Guest 12:20 p.m.
  • Seven Dwarves 1:05-2:05 FP x 2 B & J
  • Little Mermaid 1:10-2:10 FP x 2 N & A
  • Carousel of Progress
  • Space Mountain 3:10-4:10 FP x 2 B & J
  • Tomorrowland Speedway 2:30-3:30 FP x 2 N & A
  • Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor 
  • Buzz Lightyear 4:35-5:35 FP x 4 
  • Dinner: Ohana 6:50 p.m.

This worked really well because it was on a Saturday and the park started off not too bad and then got really crowded. It was so crowded that after we had dinner at Ohana we headed back to our hotel because we didn’t feel like fighting the crowds again to see the fireworks. Happy trip planning!

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If you have two days in San Antonio…part 2

Knowing how hot San Antonio is in July, I started looking for some indoor options for our second day. We did one indoor and one outdoor activity and in retrospect we should have swapped the times, but the kids did great (just kidding, two of them complained a lot, one complained only slightly, one did not complain, and one did great…except for trying to run off a few times. I’ll let you figure out who’s who. That’s real life, friends). Anyway, our indoor activity was the Natural Bridge Caverns. There are actually two different tours you can take here (both 75 minutes each). We opted for the Discovery Tour where they do not turn out all the lights. We had about thirty minutes before the tour started, so we let the kids do the maze that they have.

Once we got started on the tour I realized I should’ve brought water, blah. We mooched off my sister’s family to keep J from complaining the whole time. This would have been a great place to have their camelback water backpacks. The tour is not super strenuous, but it is a bit of a hike to get out once you get in there. The kids liked the jellyfish formations, the bat nest markings, and the different cave formations the look like pancakes and eggs.

 

 

Afterward we grabbed some lunch at the snack shop:

And then headed to the zoo! If you go to the San Antonio Zoo after 1 or 2 p.m. they discount the tickets, so that was a nice bonus. Now, I know what you may be saying. If you’ve seen one zoo, haven’t you really seen it all? And yes, most zoos have similar animals there. However, depending on the zoo you’ll get a different experience seeing the animals and learn different things, which is why the kids love going. For example, we saw hippos underwater up close:

And J got to be face to face with a wild dog. You could pretty much consider his trip made by that point. He was so excited!

He really wanted to get in there with the wild dogs, especially when one came right up to the glass:

And they had an interactive dinosaur exhibit when we went:

Afterwards we headed back to the hotel and took showers because it was approximately one million degrees when we left the zoo. We then headed out to an Italian restaurant on the Riverwalk.

The boys got their full helpings of spaghetti, so they were quite excited.

And then the next morning we woke up super early and headed for home!

 

A few other restaurants and places to check out if you’re in San Antonio…

Children’s Museum

Lulu’s bakery and cafe

Mi Tierra Cafe

Gristmill river restaurant and bar

Texas Pride BBQ

The Magnolia Pancake Hauss 

Hot Joy restaurant 

And that’s it! Our Texas road trip (after a fifteen hour drive back) was done!

To see the other parts of our road trip, check out Waco, Austin, and San Antonio Part I.

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If you have two days in San Antonio…part 1

We arrived in San Antonio right at dinner time. We stayed at the Marriott Riverwalk (with a river walk view room) and I would highly recommend it. Although there are lots of other quality hotels in the area, you get a great view of the riverwalk, there’s a Starbuck’s in the hotel, and it is walkable to lots of the main San Antonio attractions (like The Alamo). We checked in and then headed to Casa Rio for dinner…

I got the green chile chicken enchiladas (which I forgot to take a picture of), and they were excellent. The boys got nachos and tacos. The margaritas were also excellent!

One of my favorite things about our hotel besides the view:

Was the fold out couch. We usually have a room with two doubles or queens, but it saves us many an argument for the boys to be in separate beds…

 

The next morning we enjoyed our coffee on the balcony:

Then headed to the Alamo!

I have to say we lucked out with our weather. Texas is hot (boardering on insufferable) in July, and we managed to get overcast days with slightly cooler than average temperatures. The boys loved the Alamo, and we did pretty much everything you could do, from watching the movie on Alamo history to listening to a speech on Alamo artillery.

These two were the best listeners of the whole bunch:

And you’ve got to find the House cat:

We thought it was just a stray cat, but they have stuffed animals that match it in the gift shop, so apparently it is a house cat. After we left the Alamo we went to the river walk mall to escape an incoming rain shower, had lunch at the food court, then headed back to the hotel’s activity room:

We kept it pretty low key, which was great for the kids. Some sightseeing mixed with downtime is essential for avoiding meltdowns! We headed to County Line on the Riverwalk for dinner:

Their brisket and black eyed peas and bread were delish:

Afterward we headed out on the riverboat tour of the Riverwalk, which was fun:

A enjoyed it, despite contrary tween facial expressions. The boat tour is a great way to see and hear about the history of the city. And to see buildings like this:

It looks like there is no side! A cool optical illusion, with an interesting back story (I won’t spoil it). After the boat tour we headed off to bed with a cavern and zoo in our sights!

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If you have five hours in Austin…

On Sunday we were headed to San Antonio by way of Austin, so we spent a brief five hours in Austin. We headed straight to lunch at Shake Shack (because if there’s a Shake Shack near me, I’m going to it):

 

 

And then headed to the Capital building. This was a great choice because 1. It’s free and 2. There’s huge (not working obviously) cannons outside. Oh and 3. Lots of stairs to wear the kids out.

 

 

 

They also have several really cool libraries that weren’t open when we were there (Sunday) but I think they are open during the week:

After the Capital we headed to Barton Creek Square Mall because the boys requested to go to a Lego Store…

And I found nothing at Nordstrom despite my best efforts…

And we left at four and arrived in San Antonio in time for dinner!

Other fun spots that we had on our potential Austin list were…

Texas History Museum

Any of the many hiking trails

The bats at dusk

Cosmic Restaurant

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If you’re in Dripping Springs for a wedding…

As I referenced in my Waco post, our Texas road trip idea began because my youngest cousin (I have ten first cousins), was getting married. After we went to Waco we headed to Dripping Springs for the wedding, which is about twenty minutes outside of Austin. If you’re ever in Dripping Springs for a wedding, the Holiday Inn Express has a good pool…

And some nice nearby playgrounds…

But we were really there to hang with my family, and see my Grandparents:

And climb a few trees…

And go to a wedding…

We’ve been to quite a few weddings with these two. My tips are lollipops and iPad time bribes. Obviously they behaved:

J accidentally broke the corner of his iPad, and we are trying to keep it from dying completely, so I replaced it with this cover and have been really pleased (especially because it fully covers the broken corner). We were so excited to celebrate with our family…

And then we were headed out again with Austin in our sights! Stay tuned!

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If you have a day in Waco…

On the Fourth of July, while everyone else (literally everyone…no one was on the road!) was celebrating the holiday, we headed out on a week long road trip to and through Texas. My youngest cousin was getting married, so my sister and I planned a family trip that sandwiched the trip to Austin for the wedding in between Waco and San Antonio. We definitely didn’t have time to do and see everything, but we had a blast, and we fit in quite a bit for eight days with driving time, five kids, and a wedding included. I’m starting in Waco as it was stop number one. We had one full day to spend in Waco before we had to head down to Austin, so here is what we did!

We arrived in Waco at lunch time and made a beeline for In and Out Burger, where J declared he no longer eats burgers (tip to note: they have a secret menu with grilled cheese that you can order). This is the kid who ate burgers up until Thursday, July 5th…

Then we headed over to the Dr. Pepper museum (a great reprieve from the July heat), and spent a good hour and a half (you can definitely tour it in less) letting the kids wander, and enjoying Dr. Pepper floats.

The sweet kiddo next to J is one of my cousin’s daughters. Blonde hair does actually run in our family!

A now has a thorough knowledge of how Dr. Pepper is made, ask him anything! After the Dr. Pepper museum we headed over to Magnolia Market and Silos (as you might expect).

However, as you might not know my maternal great grandparents are from Waco. And Silos Baking Company? My Great Grandfather helped build the original building.

We used to go to Waco almost every summer, but I haven’t been in almost twenty years. It has changed quite a bit since our last visit! At Magnolia Market and Silos we wandered the grounds, the kids got slushies, and we bought a few souvenirs.

 

 

Then we headed to see the Baylor Bear. We wandered just a bit of Baylor’s campus (one of my cousins played baseball there), and J declared he definitely wants to play baseball there when he grows up.

He picked out a Baylor Bear souvenir and we headed down the street for dinner. We ate at Coach’s Smoke and the food was great and the staff was super helpful and kind.

Our landing spot for the night was the Homewood Suites. It’s not as close to downtown as other hotels,  but it’s perfect if you’re headed out the next day to Austin, which we were!

Other notable spots to check out if you have more than a day are:

The Wooly Mammoth Park

The Texas Rangers Museum

Other fun food places to try would be:

Torchy’s Tacos

Twisted Root Beer Company

Magnolia Table

Next we headed to outside Austin for a wedding! Stay tuned…

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