My Favorite Family Tradition

Our favorite family tradtion: The family team!

My Favorite Tradition: The Family Team

Growing up, my family didn’t have a “team”. We didn’t go to sporting events together or even watch them together on TV. BUT, we do now! I know not everyone is a sports fan, but I’m a huge advocate for families having “their team”. As a matter of fact, my favorite family tradition is our “family team”.

There is a special bond that forms within a family when you are all rooting for the same team. I can’t even explain the feeling, but it’s special. Living in North Carolina, we are in the thick of the UNC- Duke- NC State rivalry. There are a lot of sports rivalries with very strong allegiances to “their team” around here!

My Favorite Family Tradition: The Family Team

EVERYBODY has a team!

And I’m so very grateful for it!! We all have clothing to support our team, we tail-gate as much as possible, we visit college towns and campuses, and try to attend as many events as our budget will allow. We’ve traveled all over the country to see our team play. We’ve traveled to tournaments, to Bowl Games, and yes even to the opposing team’s campuses to cheer our team on.

But most importantly, we do this as a family. In today’s busy go-go-go lifestyle, it can be hard to spend time as a family…and this is one way to accomplish that goal.

I hope one day when my children have their own families, they adopt a team of their own. Going to games or watching them on TV together, just cheer them on. My advice to my kids is if you end up with having a house-full of girls who hate football, then take them to a gymnastics meet or a soccer game. If you have a house-full of boys who hate baseball but love lacrosse…then go watch the lacrosse team. If you don’t end up having children, then make a tradition with your partner. So what if your alma mater doesn’t have any big sports teams! Then choose a local pro team. You could even follow an international team online…the beauty of technology!

Our favorite family tradtion: The family team!

Create traditions!

Live sporting events allow for traditions to be made like always buying popcorn at the game, visiting the student store after a game, or getting ice cream at your favorite ice cream shop down the street. Celebrating the events at home on TV, you can create traditions like making fun game-time foods, inviting the rival neighbors over, or all climbing into mom and dad’s bed for late-night games.

Best of all, it is a tradition that can be celebrated year round. AND it gives you another excuse to travel! What more can you ask for…getting to see another part of this incredible world while carrying out your favorite family tradition. (If you do plan to travel, make sure to check out another favorite family tradition…The Travel Pledge.)

There are so many ways to be a fan nowadays, so pick a team, any team…and cheer them on!

My Favorite Family Tradition: The Family Team

Do you have a family team? Share an example of your favorite family tradition? And as always, let me know what y’all think!

Go Tar Heels!

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Our Favorite Family Tradition: The Family Team

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The NC Chinese Lantern Festival- Winter Fun for all Ages!

NC Chinese Lantern Festival

The NC Chinese Lantern Festival

Looking for something to get you in the holiday spirit in the Triangle area?

Well, be sure to add the NC Chinese Lantern Festival to your list of things to do this winter! The NC Chinese Lantern Festival features a beautiful selection of over 20 lighted LED displays at Koka Booth Amphitheater in Cary, North Carolina.

NC Chinese Lantern Festival in Cary, NC

Last year, we attended on Christmas Eve and it was the perfect way to spend time together as a family celebrating the holiday! They have a variety of cultural performances scheduled as well. When we attended, the performances had already started but we were able to watch the last 15 minutes which we thoroughly enjoyed. We then walked through the amphitheater amongst the colorful displays and festive music. The children had fun running around and posing for pictures with each one. I swear I heard, “Mom, Look at this one!” on repeat. But hey…that’s half the fun!

NC Chinese Lantern Festival

Ticket Information:

  • The NC Chinese Lantern Festival runs Nov. 24, 2017- Jan. 14, 2018 (closed Mondays except for Christmas Day and New Years Day).
  • Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at Koka Booth’s website.
  • Ticket prices are $15 for 18 and older, $10 for ages 3-17, and Free for 2 and under.
  • Parking is free.

The NC Chinese Lantern Festival would be perfect for date night, an outing with the kids, or fun for an entire group!  For us personally, it is a little pricey to make this an annual tradition, but I’d recommend going at least once! I have heard in the past tickets were available on Groupon, in which case, I’d snag those in a hot second.

NC Chinese Lantern Festival

 

NC Chinese Lantern Festival

If you’re looking for other fun winter or holiday activities in the North Carolina Triangle area check out the shows at Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts or DPAC. We also personally love the outdoor skating rink in downtown Raleigh combined with a trip next door for some hot chocolate! Marbles Kid’s Museum always has a few special holiday events as well as Pullen Park. And the Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour is a perfect way to spend an adult evening out after dinner!

There are Chinese Lantern Festivals all over the world! Have you attended one in the past or have plans to attend one in the future? I’d love to hear about your experience!

Which display is your favorite? Both of my kids agreed the dragon was their favorite display…and trust me, they don’t agree often! Let me know what y’all think!

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NC Chinese Lantern Festival

 

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Your First Trip to Disney: 21 Practical Tips

First trip to Disney 21 Practical Tips

Your First Trip to Disney With Kids

I am not a Disney expert.

But, I am a Mom who has been to Disney World several times. And because I don’t want you to go through the same stress and anxiety as I have, I am offering up my best and most practical tips for your first trip to Disney.

Walt Disney World is certainly “the most magical place on Earth” and “where dreams come true”! It is also the home of stress, tears, tantrums, and A LOT of really gross germs!! Uggghhh!!

So…there are definitely a bunch of things you will want to know before you go!

21 tips for your first trip to Disney

My Disney tips can be broken down into 4 main categories:

  • Preparation and Planning.
  • Your Bag & What to Carry with You.
  • Know your Kid!
  • Relax & Enjoy!

You see…I made a ton of mistakes on my first trip to Disney. In fact, I’ve made mistakes on EVERY trip we’ve made to Disney. But what makes Disney different than every other family vacation is the pressure.

The Disney pressure!!

You will…and trust me you WILL put so much pressure on yourself to make this the best vacation ever for your kids. You will build it up in your mind and you will spend so much money and time planning that you won’t be able to help yourself.

First trip to Disney 21 Practical Tips

See…I even did crazy pre-Disney things at home before we went to Disney for the first time! (Truthfully I loved doing these fun things but a lot of people will find this a little cray cray.)

That is why…my number one piece of advice for every first timer to Disney is this: Prepare as much as possible and then just simply enjoy. You CANNOT do it all…so enjoy what you can do and let the rest go.

21 Practical Tips & Advice for Your First Trip to Disney

Prepare — Your Bag — Know Your Kid — Relax & Enjoy

  1. Prepare for the crowds and the lines. Even if you go on a week that is deemed to be less crowded…there will still be a lot of people there! It’s the “happiest place on earth” -of course everyone wants to be there!
  2. Familiarize yourself with the Disney App and FastPass. This will save you so much time in the long run. FastPass is fabulous technology and you will love it!
  3. Reserve character meals as far in advance as possible. Be willing to eat at random times…you’re at Disney and time becomes irrelevant anyways. So what if you have lunch at 2:30 pm or dinner at 4 pm. Just make it work so you won’t be so disappointed to miss that precious princess dinner or special breakfast with Mickey. Be prepared for character meals to take a long time…they are good about coming by to see every table and take a photo, but the process still involves some wait time.
  4. Take into account travel time. The Disney parks are huge…and it takes time whether you are staying within the park or not to get to the gates.
  5. Wear good comfortable walking shoes. That being said, also consider your shoes may very well get wet (from rides or rain). Nothing is more uncomfortable to me than walking around in sopping wet shoes.
  6. Consider a stroller. Even if your child doesn’t need one at home anymore, they may need one at Disney. We’ve clocked anywhere from 10-15 miles per day and I’ve seen many older siblings begging for that spot in their younger sibling’s stroller. They’re also great for holding drinks and bags and other random purchases! Mark your stroller before you go…there are a zillion and one in the stroller parking zones and can be hard to differentiate. You can also easily rent them at the park if you decide you need one after you get there!
  7. Germs- they’re everywhere. This is the appropriate time to be a germophobe. Wash your hands a lot, use hand sanitizer, and Clorox wipes. Just do it.First trip to Disney 21 Practical Tips
  8. It will rain. You can buy ponchos at the dollar store and they’re easy and lightweight to pack in your bag. Or you can spend $100 buying these absolutely adorable mickey ponchos in the gift shop.
  9. Bring snacks, drinks, and candy. This will save you so much time and heartache. In my experience, bored children are hungry children. A lollipop makes the line go so much faster and snacks waiting for the parade or walking between rides helps a bunch!
  10. Bring sunscreen and water! Being sunburnt or dehydrated is a quick way to ruin your vacation.
  11. Bring an extra phone battery or charger. Using your Disney App and camera on your phone will kill your battery pretty dang quick and that’s just a bummer.
  12. Put your phone inside a waterproof case (or in my world a ziplock bag). Rain and rides equal water and I don’t know about you but I don’t want to have to purchase a new phone after paying for this Disney vacation!
  13. Talk to other parents before you go. Do your research. Figure out which parks will be best and suit your child’s interests.First trip to Disney 21 Practical Tips
  14. Many children are scared of the characters…I mean think about this giant mouse or Darth Vader trying to take his picture with you?!?!
  15. Know your Kid!! Some kids may not be ready for the rides…figure out what suits them best!
  16. Some kids may be terrified of the fireworks…so plan to leave the park before they begin or bring some headphones…prepare!21 tips for your first trip to Disney
  17. A lot of kids do not have a clue who some of these “classic” characters are…just because you can name every character does not mean your child can!! Know your child! (My daughter had no clue who Snow White was…she just loved princesses in general.)
  18. Plan to go to the hotel pool! Your child will want to go and you may not want to spend your precious park time at the pool. So I’m going to save you some tears…just make the pool part of the plan!
  19. Schedule some downtime. You and your family will be exhausted. You will have walked waaaayyyy more than you are used it. And it really isn’t that much fun when everyone is cranky and tired and all you do is rush from one place to the next.
  20. It’s OK not to do it all. In fact, it’s impossible. Prioritize what’s most important and don’t over-promise!!
  21. Let go of YOUR expectations. Your child has very low expectations, if any, especially if this is their first trip to Disney. Don’t let your over eagerness ruin your vacation. Plan as much as possible and then just enjoy what you can do.

Phew! Are you tired already? I am…just kidding!

BONUS tip…Consider going with another family. I realize this isn’t practical for everyone but when we have done this in the past, we actually found that having another family made our trip more enjoyable and actually easier!

A few months after we returned from one of our Disney trips, we took our kids to Busch Gardens. It was just a day trip, a two hour drive from home and back.

And we had the BEST time.

It was then and there that I realized WHY I enjoyed that particular day so much. Because there was no pressure. No pressure to make it the best day ever…no big deal if we didn’t make it on all the rides…no tears because we didn’t see or do something. It was just fun. And that is why I am writing this post…for all the other A type mamas out there who are making themselves crazy over their first trip to Disney.

So, relax, plan, prepare, and then go with the flow! Of course The Disney website is the place to go for specific Disney reservations and a lot of other details. The Travel Pledge is also our family favorite way to get kids into a travel state of mind.

Trust me…in the end it will still be the best vacation ever!

Have you been to Disney? What is your number one tip for first timers? Let me know what y’all think!

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21 Practical tips for your first trip to Disney!

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and my friends over at Two Traveling Texans for #TheWeeklyPostcard!

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Why the Best Trips in California Include a Stop to See the Redwoods!

Best trips in California Big Basin Redwoods National Park

One of Our Best Trips in California

Me: We’re going to see some really big trees.

Kids: Really Mom? Why?

Me: Because you’ve never seen anything like them.

Kids: OMG (growning)

A few hours later…

Kids: Mom, that was really cool.

Me: I know.

Road Trip!

We always have the best trips in California.

Seriously… some of our best family memories!

This particular trip from Monterey to San Francisco included a little detour through Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Big Basin is about an hour and a half from Monterey and an hour and a half to San Francisco.

The California State Park system is awesome! And their website is fantastic. (Especially for not so outdoorsy moms like me.)  I love that it includes things like: what you can do if you only have an hour…or half a day…or a week! So Big Basin was the perfect destination for us to check the famous redwoods off of my bucket list!

Big Basin is the oldest state park in California and has the largest continuous strand of ancient redwoods south of San Francisco. There are more than 80 miles of trails, several waterfalls, and trees 2500 years old!

Best trips in California- Big Basin Redwoods National Park

Can you fit your family in a tree??

The Redwood Loop Trail

We chose to walk the Redwood Loop Trail since we only had an hour. It’s a little over half a mile trail that is stroller and wheelchair accessible. This may be a short trail but it packs a big punch! They have a self guided tour pamphlet so you can follow along on the trail.

Nature is so cool y’all.

The highlights were definitely the Mother of the Forest and Father of the Forest…two of the oldest and biggest beauties.

So cool.

Best trips in California Big Basin Redwoods National Park

The root structure of a giant redwood that fell in 1983!

Best trips in California- Big Basin Redwoods National Park

A new meaning to group hug!

Best trips in California- Big Basin Redwoods National Park

Although it’s an easy walk, I’d still recommend wearing better/more appropriate shoes!

Best trips in California- Big Basin Redwoods National Park

Chimney Tree- A redwood hollowed out by fire completely to the top!

Tips for Visiting Big Basin:

  • These are mountain roads leading to and from Big Basin. If you or your kids get car sick…be prepared!
  • There are a few little places to eat on your way to the park in Boulder Creek (15 minutes) or Ben Lomond (20 minutes).
  • Wear walking shoes (unlike me…what was I thinking?).
  • There are actually really nice restrooms at the beginning of the trail.
  • It costs $10 to park at the Headquarters area of the park. Our “walk” was definitely longer than the 0.6 mile trail since parking was limited, but that was not a big deal to us.
  • They give you this nifty little form to fill out and leave on your dashboard to let rangers know what your plans were if you don’t return to your car. Kinda cool/ kinda scary! Safety first people!Best trips in California Big Basin Redwoods National Park

We have had some of the best trips in California! I would definitely recommend adding a stop to see the redwoods to any California road trip itinerary. There are several other places to see them if Big Basin isn’t along your route. Here is a good resource for other places to see the redwoods in California.

I personally loved Big Basin because it was a super easy stop without feeling like I had to spend the day hiking or camping. Don’t get me wrong, I do like hiking… I just don’t feel like that always fits into the itinerary without devoting an entire day to it.

You can read more on our California adventures HERE (San Francisco) and HERE (Napa Valley with kids!)

Have you seen the giant redwoods in California? As always, let me know what y’all think!

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Best trips in California Big Basin Redwoods State Park

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How to Enjoy a Day in Napa Valley with Kids!

Napa Valley with Kids

Napa Valley with Kids!

Napa is just for adults.

Or so you thought.

Don’t get me wrong. Napa Valley is certainly on top of my “I’d like to go back without my kids” list. Because, well…wine. But, it is possible to have a ton of fun in Napa Valley with kids.

I promise.

Our day in Napa was jam packed to the brim full of fun activities for both the kids and adults to enjoy. Napa was on the tail end of our epic California road trip and I honestly thought when I was planning our day in Napa that the kids would be miserable. I actually scheduled the following day at Six Flags amusement park because I was trying to make up for dragging them through wine country.

But, boy was I wrong!

The Jelly Belly Factory Tour

We started our day at the Jelly Belly Factory. They offer FREE self guided tours starting every ten minutes. We arrived early, but still had to wait about fifteen minutes. We weren’t the only ones excited about jelly beans! In the meantime, we admired all the Jelly Belly art and got our trusty (required) hats ready for action.

Did you know it takes 7-14 days to make a Jelly Belly bean? We all thoroughly enjoyed learning about the Jelly Belly bean life cycle but maybe enjoyed the free samples a bit more! Yum!

(Side note for any allergy-friends out there: Jelly Belly are gluten free, dairy free, peanut free, and vegetarian friendly.  Certified kosher. Yay!)

Napa Valley with Kids Jelly Belly Bean Factory

The Napa Riverfront

Next up on the agenda was the Napa Riverfront. We strolled through the super cute little shopping area and stopped at Lucero for an olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting. Not all tastings in Napa have to be wine tastings!! And believe it or not, the kids really enjoyed sampling all the different flavors. We even purchased a few and had them shipped home.

Since fine dining wasn’t an option with kids, we just walked past the acclaimed French Laundry restaurant before grabbing a quick sandwich and some sweet treats from Bouchon Bakery. We ate alfresco in the attached courtyard which was a perfect compromise with the kids.

Sadly we didn’t have time to explore the Oxbow Public Market which I’ve heard is fantastic! It’s definitely on my must-do list for the next visit!

How you can enjoy a day in Napa Valley with kids.

Kid- Friendly Wineries

Wineries in Napa Valley with kids??

Yep! No problem! We had two wineries in mind that during my research appeared to be kid-friendly. Our decision was made for us since Sterling Vineyards’ aerial tram was closed for maintenance the day we were in town.

Castello di Amorosa was the destination!

Y’all…it’s a castle…a full fledged Tuscan style castle smack dab in the middle of Napa Valley. And it’s beautiful. You can roam the grounds for free but to go inside you have to pay…there are several different options depending on which type of wine tasting or tour you prefer, but we just did the basic general admission ticket. We had access to two floors, sampled five wines, and the grounds.

You do also have to buy a minor ticket for children, but it includes a grape juice tasting which my daughter thought was the coolest thing ever!! (Side note: they do not allow strollers inside the castle.) We weren’t the only ones with kids there either, so we didn’t feel out of place or anything.

The castle was very busy. This isn’t the place to go for an intimate romantic date. This particular day, they were setting up for a private event later that evening so there was a full orchestra practicing…it was pretty cool! But that was even more entertaining for the kids, well…actually us too.

Oh and the wines were quite lovely. We are far from wine experts. It was more about the experience for us. We did order a bottle or two (or a case) to be shipped home!

So see…Napa Valley with kids is possible!

How you can enjoy a day in Napa Valley with kids- Castello di Amorosa Winery

Worth Mentioning

We also stopped by Stags’ Leap Vineyard. We had wanted to purchase a special gift for my father in law and knew he was a fan of their wine. This is definitely a more upscale winery and not so much for the kids. BUT, they were so kind and patient with our children as we talked, sampled, and made our purchase. They even brought the kids water in wine glasses while they were waiting. Kindness goes a long way people!

How to enjoy a day in Napa Valley with kids!

Old Faithful Geyser

There’s an Old Faithful in California? Say what?

Yep. Apparently there are three geysers in the world with the Old Faithful designation. Who knew, right?

We rolled up to Old Faithful in Calistoga, California in the early evening catching the tail end of her eruption. She goes off about every 30-40 minutes for around two-six minutes. And she’s incredible. You most likely have heard so much more about Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, but in my opinion…this one is better.

Why?

There was one other couple there. That’s it. And we actually hung around after the first eruption and watched again…

ALL BY OURSELVES!!

It was very cool. We hung around the 40 minutes or so and played bocce ball, read about the geyser, meandered the gift shop, and hung out with the goats and llamas. Yep! It was the most peaceful evening. If only I had packed us a picnic dinner too.

Yes, Yellowstone does shoot higher and may seem mightier, but there are huge crowds. HUGE! There are so many people there and you have to stand back really far from the geyser and may have people standing directly in front of you. In Calistoga, you were right up close and personal with Old Faithful. It was just a different experience all together. One that I will remember for a very long time and would highly recommend.

Napa Valley with Kids- Calistoga California Old Faithful Geyser

I most definitely think an adult trip to Napa would be epic. But, when you’re in the area, there’s absolutely no reason you can’t do Napa Valley with kids…and ENJOY it! I didn’t even need that silly day at Six Flags after all.

You can read more about our time in the San Francisco area HERE.

Have you been to Napa? Let me know what y’all think!

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How you can enjoy a day in Napa Valley with kids.

Linking up this week with #TheWeeklyPostcard and Two Traveling Texans…be sure to check them out too!

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Visiting the World Trade Center Memorial in NYC

World Trade Center Memorial

Where were you on 9/11/2001?

I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing as I’m sure most people my age do. There are few events in my lifetime I remember such vivid details about. I was hurrying to get to my meeting on time and putting on a final swipe of mascara when my attention was grabbed by the breaking news on the television.

Visiting the World Trade Center Memorial in New York City was a profound experience for me. I think the only other time I’ve ever felt such raw emotion was when my husband and I visited the Mauthausen Concentration Camp Memorial in Austria.

Chills.

That’s the best word to describe it.

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San Francisco’s Mission District: Where I Fell in Love with Street Art

Mission District Street Art

MISSION DISTRICT STREET ART

I went to the Mission District for a burrito.

Seriously.

It’s no secret I have an obsession with pretty much all things Mexican, including the food. So of course, I had to have a burrito in the birthplace of the burrito!! (well the mission style burrito was born there…but you know what I mean!)

So we asked around and were told we had to go to La Taqueria for the most authentic and best burrito. It’s a small, no frills, cash only restaurant with a line out the door and family style seating. There’s not a lot on the menu, but that was ok…we were only there for one thing. Burrito time!!! And it was fantastic! I loved it! (Side Note- you should definitely try the agua fresca!! It was outstanding!! All for of us were all fighting over it!)

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