September 2022 Adventure Date – Hocking Hills Old Man’s Cave Lower Falls and Chapel Cave

This past weekend, three of us were able to get away to Hocking Hills for the day. Living only about an hour away from Hocking Hills has been so wonderful – we try to make it to the park at least a couple times each year. My favorite time to be in the woods is Fall with all the beautiful colors, followed closely by Winter when everything in white and frozen. It is still very much Summer, but we have to go when we have the time. I’m hoping for another trip this Fall, but we will have to wait and see.

We started out at Old Man’s Cave. The new Welcome Center has been standing for a few years now, but with COVID restrictions, it was never open when we were there. So, we were excited to check it out before hiking. We did not wander the whole place, but we did enjoy the upstairs space, and I am sure we will be back to check out the gift shop soon. It is a really beautiful building and I love the enormous map on the wall by the help desk.

We have been to Old Man’s Cave recently, but we’ve stuck to the upper falls area for the past several years. So, we decided the time had come to return to the lower part of the area. It was super crowded and there were so many people on the trail until it split – most people went to the actual cave part of the trail, so we decided very quickly to take the other way. We continued on down to the lower falls where it was actually not too hard to get photos without people for a change. It might be because it was a bit cooler (although still really humid), so no one was swimming under the falls. I know that I sound like an old “keep those kids off my lawn” stick in the mud, but I believe in following trail signs. If it says no wading or swimming, I stay out of the water. If it says stop, no hiking beyond this point, I stop. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun, but I also want these parks to be open to the public for everyone’s enjoyment for a long time to come.

After we had that hike under our belts, we headed to a completely new-to-us area of the park – the Rock Climbing and Rappelling Area. It is very near to Conkle’s Hollow – one of my favorite parts of the Hocking Hills Area. The area is not well marked, especially if you are coming from inside – the signs all point the other direction, so we ended up having to turn around and back track. Once we parked in the gravel lot, we did not cross the street to get to the actual Rock Climbing and Rappelling area, we instead followed the bridle trail located at the far end the parking lot. Being that it was a bridle trail, we had to constantly be watching where we stepped – the horses in Hocking Hills are apparently very well fed. Keith and Charlotte wished they had put on bug spray, but I did not have any problems. We did encounter A LOT of mud, and we had to do some creek crossings, so waterproof hiking boots are a must if you choose to do this hike. I did not take photos of the worst parts of the trail, but here are a few photos of the not so bad parts.

We followed the orange blazes and then the white blazes. Pretty soon, we saw a sign that said “No horses beyond this point.” I took that as a sign that we were supposed to take the trail up, but it turned out that it was a more difficult and roundabout way that would have led to a double waterfall if there was more water in the creeks. Keith has pretty much told me he will not hike this again (he hates mud and mess), so we will not be seeing the Twin Falls near Chapel Cave. We did eventually come to the cave, though. When we arrived there was a group of people on horseback in the cave, so we communicated with them about where we should be to make their horses feel safe. This cave is also called 21 Horse Cave because you could supposedly fit 21 horses in it, so it was kind of cool to get to see horses here.

After we explored the inside of the cave, it was time to head back. On the way back, we accidentally took a different path through one of the really, really muddy parts and Charlotte ended up stuck in pretty deep mud – not quite over her boots. I found a path around to help pull her out, and thankfully her boots stayed on her feet. She waded in the water a bit to clean off the mud, but then her socks and boots were pretty wet. So, we headed for the car as quick as we could to get her cleaned off a bit. Thankful for wet wipes and napkins and a stash of plastic bags in the back of the car! Obviously this put an end to our hiking for the day, but we were all pretty ready to go home and shower anyway.

Our reviews of this one were a little mixed. I loved the hike because it was challenging. Keith hated the mud and bugs. Charlotte loved the adventure and was happy until the wet boots at the end. I am going to give it an 8/10 just because I can see how it is not the perfect hike for everyone.

Have you ever been to Hocking Hills? What is your favorite area of the park? Have you been to Chapel Falls? Let us know in the comments! 🙂

August 2022 Adventure Date 4 – Magic Kingdom with Disney Enchantment Treats and Seats Dessert Party

When we decided to do the Disney trip, Keith told me he really wanted to surprise me with a fireworks dessert party on our anniversary, but he wasn’t sure he could. It turns out, I wasn’t sure we could get reservations until mid July – they did not release the seats for a long time. Perseverance pays off, however, and we were finally able to snag a table at the Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant for Disney Enchantment Treats and Seats Dessert Party. That is, of course, not how this story starts. This story starts with me, once again, waking up at 6:30 to get Genie + and get our first ride booked – Jungle Cruise after lunch. And also to make sure our daughter was up for school. Both pretty important goals. After we got up and around, we headed towards Magic Kingdom. Somehow there was a bus driver shift change at our resort while we were waiting – that’s right, if you are keeping track, that is 3 times. I am a little bit in awe of our luck there. This one was pretty quick, though, and they we were on our way to the Happiest Place on Earth. It makes me happy cry a little just thinking about it. 🙂

When we arrived, our plan was get breakfast and then to knock out some of the rides and attractions we skipped or that weren’t open during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. So, we headed back to Fantasyland to get cinnamon rolls at Gaston’s Tavern. It was enormous and pretty delicious. A little overwhelming, so I am glad we got one to split. We also decided that we would like a Big Thunder Mountain RR lightning lane for before lunch and we snagged Individual Lightning Lanes for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train for that evening after the fireworks.

When we were finished with breakfast, we headed to one my favorite rides – It’s a Small World. I love the song – even had a Mickey watch that played it with world flags instead of numbers. I know that some people do not appreciate it as much as I do. Those people will be happy to know that the song seems to barely be in the queue or the ride anymore. I took so many photos, but I am going to leave you with the clock and two of the countries Keith and I have visited during our marriage – I don’t think there was a Canada section…

Our next stop was Mickey’s PhilharMagic. I don’t remember all of the old show – it has been about 10 years – but I love that there are newer movies represented now. Definitely a fun time. And we had to stop in the gift shop where we actually picked up 2 gifts and a photo of Mickey and Donald.

Feeling like we did everything we wanted to do in Fantasyland, we headed over to Liberty Square. On the way, we got some photos done with the castle. It was kind of crazy, while we were in line, there was a lady there with a toddler that gave the photographer her phone and then put her child down to get photos of just herself with the castle. And then said she would pay more for more photos and tried to just let one group in line go and then jump back up herself for more. I admit that I don’t know her story, but it must be very different from mine. I love the leaf magic shot that photographer did here. And yes, I know it is still summer. It was just nice to think about fall while we were sweating buckets in the 93 degree heat and humidity.

We decided the time had come to do Hall of Presidents. Partially because it was so hot and sunny outside, partially because we wanted to see the updated show. It was different that the presidents didn’t all talk with each other, but we thought the new movie part was good. And the Lincoln part was true to the origins of the attraction which was nice.

Our next stop was for something that we had never tried before – Dole Whip! I love that there are non-dairy options, and Keith enjoyed being able to mix fruit flavors with vanilla. He got the Fritz Freeze and I just got a Pineapple Dole Whip cup. So yummy and enjoyable on a hot day! After that, we headed into the Enchanted Tiki Room. I feel like I saw this attraction when I was there with my parents in elementary school, but Keith is certain he has never seen it before. So, another first. We enjoyed it, and it was the perfect length before our lightning lane at Big Thunder Mountain RR. While we were in line at Big Thunder Mountain RR, I was able to get a lightning lane for Space Mountain for after our Jungle Cruise lightning lane.

Our next stop was lunch. Our first day at Magic Kingdom together, all the way back at their 25th anniversary, we stumbled upon Liberty Tree Tavern as a place to eat. We loved the characters – especially when they used to have Meeko from Pocahontas – and the food and have been back every trip since. We were a little sad that the characters hadn’t returned, but I was able to surprise Keith with a Mickey cake for our anniversary, so that was wonderful. And they have fresh brewed unsweet tea, so that was a very welcome thing. The food was awesome, too. Nothing like Thanksgiving at Disney World. 🙂

After our lovely lunch, we headed to Adventureland to ride the Jungle Cruise. This is where Keith and I have a disagreement. I swear that we have ridden the ride together with Maddie. He swears he has never ridden it. I will definitely look through scrapbooks to discover the answer, but not quite yet. Either way, we rode it together this trip and it was just as campy as I remember. 🙂

We left Adventureland behind us to head to Space Mountain next. While in line there, we got a lightning lane for Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor right after, which was really perfect. While we waited there, I snagged a lightning lane for Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, thus completing our tour of Tomorrowland attractions for the day. We then headed back to Liberty Square for a lightning lane at Haunted Mansion to complete our pre-fireworks attractions. I’m telling you, we have been so spoiled by the Genie + system that I don’t think I will ever go back to waiting in stand-by lines all the time.

At this point, it was time to make our way to Tomorrowland Terrace for the Disney Enchantment Treats and Seats Dessert Party. We were seated in a fantastic spot right by the railing and we got some delicious wine and desserts. We were also pixie dusted by the cast members – they brought us a special plate of Happy Anniversary desserts from Mickey. In fact, two different cast members came and gave use a plate of Happy Anniversary desserts from Mickey. He must have thought we don’t like to share? Seriously, though, it was very sweet – figurative and literally. We enjoyed snacking and sipping and then the fireworks started. It was a great view and when Tinkerbell flew, she went right over our heads. Definitely a fun way to celebrate 23 years of wedded bliss. ❤

These pictures don’t do it justice – it was so beautiful and so nice to just sit and not be crowded. After the fireworks, we knew we wanted to see if they were doing lantern photos in Fantasyland by the Tangled bathrooms. We knew we had time before our individual lightning lanes at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and we have always love the lantern photos. We ended up being line in front of another couple from the UK and really enjoyed talking to them while we waited. We had a group in front of us and we honestly weren’t sure how big it was until they got the the front and everyone in their family arrived. They ended up taking forever with individual and group shots – 18 kids and adults. I’m not going to complain, though, because I think it was totally worth the wait – I love the photos!

After the photo line, we headed straight to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I really didn’t know much about it, but it was a super cute, pretty fun ride. I would definitely ride again. And then it was time to leave – always so sad. We got some beautiful shots of the castle as we walked out, though.

I know that we will be returning – we both had such a magical time. Here’s hoping it won’t be 10 more years.

Have you ever done a fireworks party at a Disney Park? Which one? Would you recommend it? Let me know in the comments. 🙂

August 2022 Adventure Date 3 – Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Another really fortuitous thing about our trip is that they have stretched out the Epcot Food and Wine Festival for several months this year, so we were able to participate in some food/drink tasting. That was not our sole focus, however, as we had several rides we wanted to ride and a reservation on Teppan Edo for lunch. I had bought Genie + for the day on the way home from the Halloween Party the night before, so we were good to go with that when I woke up the next morning. I logged into the My Disney Experience App at 6:55 and opened the Virtual Queue section. I clicked Join Virtual Queue button and then at 6:59 I kept repeatedly refreshing the page until I got the button to join the virtual queue for Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind. We ended up in Boarding Group 83 – that’s how quick it goes. I felt very lucky! I was then able to book us into an 11:45 lightning lane for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. Then I tried to go back to sleep for a bit before ultimately just getting up and taking a shower. Keith took one the night before, so he was able to get up and get ready when I got out. I also applied our Magic Your Band skins to our magic bands – I had cute daisies and Keith had a Tron themed one. Both were glow-in-the-dark and so much fun. Also really easy to apply. Here’s what they looked like thanks to a very random thought by a PhotoPass photographer.

We arrived at the park before 9 and immediately went to get our Remy’s Hide and Squeak gameboards. Because we asked if they had all 4 cups available and the lady had to check the back for the Remy cups, she ended up signing our boards and giving us our cups then and there. We chose the Remy and Tiana cups as our “prizes.” Next, we headed to get some food. Although it was Food and Wine Festival, not much was open so early, so we ended up eating a Mickey Pretzel and a Fruit and Cheese tray as breakfast. It was actually pretty filling and tasty. We sat at tables in Sunshine Seasons and then decided to walk on Living With the Land as our first attraction of the day. We also caught Soarin’ Around the World while we were there. We really enjoyed both and we waited in line very little time, so it was a great start to the day.

Our next stop was Spaceship Earth – we were trying to do all of our front of the park things before heading to World Showcase, but that didn’t really work out. While we were in line, I snagged lightning lanes for Frozen Ever After for after lunch. Spaceship earth was great – I love the new narration by Dame Judy Dench and the new ending where you answer questions and then get some animations was pretty fun. Definitely would ride again every time we are at Epcot.

At this point, we were pretty thirsty, so we headed to World Showcase to try some Food and Wine Festival drinks on our way to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. I started with a Frozen Rose from The Alps and Keith got the Copperpoint Brewing Company Key Lime Kolsch from Refreshment Outpost. The Rose was refreshing and just a bit sweet – we both liked it. The Key Line Kolsch was a little bitter – it was nice to try, but being that I am not really a beer drinker and Keith prefers stout beers, it was not our favorite beverage. At that point, it was time for our Remy lightning lane, so we headed towards France. You can’t really get photos on the ride, but I thought the rat cars were super cute. 🙂

After we got off Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (which was the best new Disney Imagineering we have witnessed in quite a while – Wow!), we headed straight to the Japanese Pavilion and Teppan Edo. Somehow, both of us were expecting a fancy sit down restaurant, so when it was a hibachi restaurant we were momentarily unsure. But we were also hungry, and it ended up being the best hibachi show and the best food we have had from a hibachi grill. I quite frequently walk away from hibachi food feeling very full and slightly queasy, but this time we felt great! We did a bit of shopping while in the Japanese Pavilion and then headed back to the front of the park because our boarding group was called to come get in line for Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind.

The queue for Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind is all inside and it was nice to be out of the sun. We got to see some fun models of settlements and ships and there was a funny interview show happening that you could watch. Disney does a really good job of making sure you are never too bored when you have to wait in line. The ride was amazing! I absolutely loved it, and we got the Earth Wind and Fire song September which was perfect. We had so much fun dancing to the music while we rode and tried to understand the plot of what was happening. I admit, I was a bit lost, but it was still super fun! I did not, however, enjoy going up and down steps immediately after getting off the ride. Truth be told, I was quite dizzy for about 15 minutes afterwards, and really had to hold the hand rails and take another Dramamine. I would take the second Dramamine before the ride next time. Still, no regrets, 10/10 would do again!

After Cosmic Rewind, it was once again time to hit the World Showcase. We headed to Norway for our Frozen Ever After lightning lane. It was a pretty cute ride, but I am also glad we did not wait in a long line for it. Definitely gave us Maelstrom vibes, but we appreciated the updates. 🙂

Now that we were finished with our lightning lanes, we headed back to the Food and Wine Festival fare. We got an Italian Red Sangria to sip and it was so good we forgot to take a photo. Our next drink was the Hana Fuji Apple Sake from the Japanese Pavilion. This is our top pick from everything we tried – very smooth and refreshing. Probably dangerous because you want to keep drinking it. After we were finished sipping, we headed to France. We were really wanting to try crepes from La Creparie de Paris and we were also intrigued by the Strawberry Rose Mimosa from the France Booth. We decided to divide and conquer since both places had such long lines. We had separate adventures – I spotted lizards with the little girl in the stroller in front of me (that mom asked for straight champagne in her Mimosa, lol) while Keith made new friends with a bachelor party participant trying to win a bet. It was a fun time. Keith did get a free Merlot out of it, so that was something. We also got to try amazing crepes – Sugar and Red Berry – and sip Mimosa and Merlot whilst watching the Skyliner glide by – it was quite lovely actually. Made me feel almost like we were at a French cafe. 🙂

We could feel the weather brewing up a storm as we ate, so we decided our next stop would be shopping and then heading to the indoor Appleseed Orchard booth located in the Canada Pavilion. We decided to try the Apple Crumble Tart and the Frozen Apple Pie, thus making this the only Food and Wine booth where we ended up buying food. I’m as surprised as you are about that one. We really liked the tart but the drink was just okay – it was hard to drink with the crumbles on top and we ended up with apple pie filling sludge at the bottom which was not super enjoyable.

At this point, we donned our rain ponchos and tried to head out to Journey Into Imagination With Figment. It was closed due to technical difficulties, however, so we grabbed a lightning lane for Turtle Talk with Crush and headed into The Seas with Nemo & Friends. We basically walked from one to the other and it was an enjoyable way to spend time when it was raining. We especially liked Turtle Talk with Crush – our group had some really funny kids. ❤

When we emerged, we spent some time shopping and then split up for drinks. Keith got a Guinness Baileys Coffee Shake from the Ireland booth and I ended up getting a Starbucks Green Tea with no sweetener because I just needed an unsweet iced tea. It is my favorite and near impossible to find in Florida. We met up to watch the fireworks show, and then immediately decided that we did not want to stay and headed towards the front of the park. (I was struggling bad after 2 days of 12+ miles of walking with my heel spurs and several blisters. I am not happy that my feet were letting me down, but it’s the truth.) We were able to catch some great photos of Spaceship Earth and the fountain on our way out.

Now I must tell you a cautionary tale. Do not, under any circumstances, think that it will be faster to take a monorail to Magic Kingdom during fireworks and take a bus from there. This play is faulty because you have to change monorails at the TTC and that means you arrive at Magic Kingdom just as fireworks are ending. Also, there is a change of shift for bus drivers at around 10 – yes, we just have super luck. Do not be like us. Just get in line for the bus at Epcot. Trust me.

We made it back to our resort in time to get some beignets, so that was wonderful. Make sure you check your order before going all the way back to your room, though. We had to trek back down to the cafe to get the other half of our beignets. My feet were not pleased, but my tastebuds sure were. Yum! I personally liked the strawberry sauce, but Keith had the chocolate cherry sauce and it was also pretty good. In case you wondered, we also got kids meals from the Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory to make it not quite dessert for dinner. 😉

If you have made it this far, thank you for reading! I am really enjoying sharing our trip with you. Have you ever been to Epcot Food and Wine Festival? What is your favorite thing from the booths? Let me know in the comments.

August 2022 Adventure Date 2 – Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

Shortly after we decided to book our Disney trip, the dates for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party were released. We attended Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 18 years ago when we took Maddie for her first trip (I was 6 months pregnant with Charlotte, so technically she was also there ;)), but the Halloween party was not offered this early in August the year we took both kids right before school started. I immediately started researching and joining Facebook groups to make sure we could make the most of our party time. Our priorities were rides, parade, fireworks, and some photos. We thought about getting in line for Jack and Sally since we do love that movie, but in the end decided that it wasn’t worth the time we would lose.

We spent the morning and early afternoon at Animal Kingdom, then caught a bus to Port Orleans French Quarter to pick up our luggage (it was transferred for us) and get checked into our room. We took quick showers to take off the first layer of sunscreen and sweat, got our party outfits on, and caught a bus to Magic Kingdom. It should be noted that bus drivers have a shift change between 2 and 3 (at least at Animal Kingdom) and if one doesn’t show up on time, it can definitely make the wait to get to your resort longer. I’m just sharing in case that planning info is helpful for others. It really didn’t impact our timeline too badly.

We got to Magic Kingdom without further incidence by a little after 4. There was a pretty big line to enter, but it moved pretty quickly. After that, we got our wristbands and were sent to the right to get our treat bags and first treat station – full size Crunchy Sugar Cookie M&Ms. After that, we rode a couple of rides that Keith had never been on before – Carousel of Progress and the People Mover. We also used our Genie+ to book lightning lanes for Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and then Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

When we were in line for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the weather took a pretty drastic turn. We were in the queue and would have been on the second train to arrive when the ride shut down. It was raining sideways and there was quite a bit of lightning and thunder, so we understood. We ended up hanging out for about an hour until the storm lightened up a bit. The radar and weather app showed that it was supposed to continue storming through 10 pm, however, so we were concerned. We made the decision, which we somewhat regret in hindsight, to go and see if they were issuing refunds for weather. We stood in line for a bit and were helped by some very kind and patient people that encouraged us to give it a go and see if the weather held.

With our ponchos firmly over our clothing and backpacks, we headed back out determined to enjoy the evening. We headed back to Tomorrowland on our way to Fantasyland and the Mad Tea Party ride. I have had vertigo since about 2 months after we got married – not a fun surprise to wake up and think you have had a stroke, but I have developed strategies to avoid it flaring up. One strategy is to avoid spinning rides. But we wanted to experience the Halloween overlays on most of the rides (we had no interest in completely black Space Mountain). So, I took a second Dramamine pill and made Keith promise not to spin us. I am super glad to know that I can handle them as long as the others in my cup are kind. We were also treated to a fantastic sunset while in line for the Mad Tea Party – almost like the universe was apologizing for the weather. 🙂

Our next stop was Pirates of the Caribbean to experience the live actors. There were a couple that were interacting with people in line, and then a couple on one of the bridges inside the ride. It was a fun addition to the atmosphere and made the line seem to move faster. I believe that this was the longest line we waited in – about a half hour.

After Pirates, it was time to find a spot to watch the Parade and all pre-parade activities. We found a spot right behind a very kind family from the UK and spent all of our waiting time talking to them. That was lovely! While we waited, we got a couple of photos in front of the castle – including a party exclusive magic shot with Oogie Boogie. We were also very excited that the Headless Horseman was able to ride that night – even with the rain earlier – and we even got a glimpse of Max dressed as Powerline, although we were too far down Main Street USA to really have a good view. I walked down a bit to try to get closer, but it was pretty packed. We really enjoyed the parade itself, and I had an awesome interaction with Edna Mole – she pointed right at me! Definitely one of my favorite Disney Parades I have seen.

After the Boo to You Parade, we moved down the street a bit to have a good view of the castle. We did not try to get close enough to see Jack Skellington, but we probably could have. This was probably the most uncomfortable I was the whole time – people squeezed in around us giving us absolutely no personal space or room to move at all. The fireworks and projections were amazing, though. We thoroughly enjoyed it!

After fireworks, we went with a lot of the crowd around us to the Haunted Mansion. We basically walked straight into the stretch room – one of my favorite parts of the whole ride. I just love the trapeze girl! It was fun to ride at a Halloween party, but they live actors did not appear outside for us – maybe they had a parade to attend? Maybe the weather scared them off? Who’s to say?

After the Haunted Mansion, we made our way back to Fantasyland to knock out a lot of the movie-themed rides that generally have long lines. We rode Peter Pan’s Flight, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid before deciding to call it a night and head back to our room. It was a very long, but very amazing day!

Have you ever attended a Disney after hours party? Which one? What was your favorite part? Let us know in the comments – I think I enjoyed the short lines and the fireworks show the most. 🙂

August 2022 Adventure Date 1 – Disney’s Animal Kingdom

This month we celebrated our 23rd anniversary, but we have actually been together for 26 years now. When we started talking about taking a trip to celebrate, we were drawn to Disney and their 50th anniversary celebration. You see, we were at Disney for a day during their 25th anniversary. We have photos (somewhere, safely packed away) of the giant pink birthday cake castle. In the end, we decided that Disney deserved redemption for that horrible design idea and we went about booking a whirlwind, adults only weekend at Disney World.

We knew our flight would be getting in pretty late, so our awesome travel agent suggested that we stay at the All Star Sports Resort just for that night and then transfer to our other resort for the rest of the stay. Since there is really only one hotel near the Orlando airport (actually, in the airport) and it is pretty expensive, this worked out really well. We arrived around midnight and then caught a Mears bus to our resort. We had to sit and wait for people for a half hour, but eventually we were on our way to the resort. While we waited, I bought our Genie + for our first day since it was after midnight. We know it is controversial to get it for every park, but we also knew we were headed into a sold out weekend, so we decided it was worth it.

We arrived and got ourselves into our room (checking in on the app and being able to go straight to the room is amazing!) and ready for bed by 2. At 6:30, I got up and around so I could get our first Lightning Lane booked at 7 (Na’vi River Journey) and also book Individual Lightning Lanes for Avatar Flight of Passage since we knew we were leaving the park around 2 and wouldn’t have a lot of time to stand in lines. We then dropped our luggage off to be transferred to our next resort and hopped on the bus to Animal Kingdom. There are no photos from our arrival – my contact solution takes 6 hours to neutralize, so I had to wait until 8 to put my contacts in. I ended up putting them in while we were in line for our first ride of the day, Kilimanjaro Safaris – not ideal, but my glasses are about 3 prescriptions behind and I really wanted to be able to see… The safari was excellent first thing – we saw a lot of the animals and even to got to hear the lions “talking” to each other. Here are some of my favorite photos.

After the safari, we headed to Avatar Flight of Passage to get in the Lightning Lane line. Oh my goodness! – it was amazing! I was really glad I took Dramamine that morning, but it was such a beautiful adventure – highly recommended! Here are photos from inside the ride just before they have you empty your pockets.

Here are photos from outside the ride for your viewing enjoyment – Disney does such an amazing job of setting the scene.

We also paid for the PhotoPass, so we got lots of pictures of us together – I would definitely do this every time just to get photos with our whole group in them. They can also add some fun effects, called magic shots. We really enjoyed discovering exactly why we made those faces for the photographer.

After Avatar Flight of Passage, we headed straight to Festival of the Lion King since we knew it was starting soon. We saw this when we visited almost 18 years ago, so we were really happy to see that it was fully back in time for our trip. While we waited for the show to start, I booked our next lightning lane. I wanted to get Expedition Everest, but it ended up being down for the whole day (and half of the next we later found out). So, I booked us to meet Mickey and Minnie at Adventurer’s Outpost as our final attraction before leaving the park that afternoon. We also scheduled a mobile order for Satu’li Canteen to be picked up after Na’vi River Journey. Here are some photos from Festival of the Lion King.

After enjoying Festival of the Lion King, we had time to get a few photos before heading to Na’vi River Journey at our designated time. It was a beautiful ride full of surprises and amazing scenery. Here are a few examples of what you will see – although photos do not do it justice.

We headed straight to Satu’li Canteen to pick up our mobile order and it was pretty easy to navigate. I had the Cheeseburger Pods and they were really good. Keith had a rice bowl which was also pretty tasty. Here are photos of our food and also shots from a boat cavalcade we saw while walking between attractions.

Our next stop was the Wildlife Express Train to Conservation Station. We did the Animation Experience, but that is a whole separate blog post as it was our Create Date for August. Look for it very soon!

When we finished at Conservation Station, we had some time to shop and get photos, and then it was our turn to meet Mickey and Minnie! It was wonderful – they were quite impressed with our pins that said Celebrating 23 Years. And they gave the best hugs!

After meeting our favorite mouse and his gal, we had to head back to get checked in at our resort – Port Orleans French Quarter – and get ready for our next adventure – Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. But that’s a separate post.

Have you ever been to Disney’s Animal Kingdom? What was your favorite attraction? What animals were you excited to see? Let us know in the comments below. 🙂

July 2022 Adventure Date 6: Seattle Art Museum

Our last adventure for the month of July was a trip to the Seattle Art Museum. We had some extra time our last afternoon in Seattle, so 3 of us decided to use that time to explore the Seattle Art Museum. It was a really cool place and we wish we had more time to spend there.

After we bought our tickets and checked our bags, we headed up the escalator. The first exhibit we entered was Frisson: The Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis Collection. I’m not sure I would have liked to live with all of their art, but it was interesting to look at and read about. Here is our favorite view from that collection – my husband says this is exactly how sunflowers feel to him, and I just found it very striking.

Our next exploration took place up the next set of escalators. We were greeted with an amazing site at the top – so many masks! They were from many cultures around the world, and I was completely in love with the displays. Here are some favorites.

We went on to explore a few more areas of the museum. I really enjoyed the Porcelain Room and the Italian Room in particular.

By the time we made it through most of the collections it was time for a very brief stop in the gift shop and then heading out for a snack at Pike Place Market. I would definitely go back another time to explore what we may have missed. Definitely happy with the experience.

Have you ever been to the Seattle Art Musuem? What were your favorite parts? Let us know in the comments! 🙂

July 2022 Adventure Date 5: Seattle Underground Tour

When we were talking to some of our friends about our trip to Seattle, they told us that we HAD to get tickets for the Seattle Underground Tour. We didn’t really understand what that meant, but we obediently booked that tour for the last day of our trip. It wasn’t until our first walking tour, where we heard the story of the Great Seattle Fire that we understood just what the Underground Tour would entail. The story goes like this (the photos are from the Seattle Free Walking Tour and the Seattle Underground Tour. We saw different parts of this through both tours). In 1889, a carpentry apprentice was melting down some wood glue to be used in the shop. He got distracted and the glue overflowed into the fire, and a series of events that would burn down 33 blocks in Seattle was put into motion. Today, you can see the original site of the fire and the memorial they constructed to the fire.

After the fire, which miraculously killed no one, the people of Seattle realized that rebuilding with wood was a really bad idea. They were also really keen to do something about all of the plumbing and sewer issues they were having because the city was so close to sea level. So, they decided to build all of the buildings so that the second floor would become the entry floor eventually. They raised the streets first to install new plumbing that would flow down and not back up with the tide. They knocked down 2 of the original hills of Seattle for the fill dirt to raise the streets. While this was happening, there were ladders at each corner so people could climb up to cross the street and down to get to the entrances of shops. Here is a drawing of what that looked like along with a photo of the building our tour started in and photos of the underground first floor of that building today. I am also including a photo of a building that was constructed at that time to have the entrance on the second level, but then they ran out of hill to knock down, so the street was only raised about a foot, making the door on the bottom floor very short and the intended main entrance very high.

After the roads were all raised, the sidewalks were built over to the main entrances of the buildings. The underground remained – and sometimes still remains – intact underneath, which was actually quite convenient if it happened to be raining – you could go to several stores on the same block without going outside. They used manganese glass to make skylights to light the underground space. After a few years of sun exposure, the glass turned purple, so you will still see some purple glass in the sidewalks as you walk around Seattle.

It was really cool to walk around under the sidewalks. There were lots of stories, but I don’t want to ruin the tour. I did find it really fascinating that businesses could use their underground spaces for whatever they like. Some use it for retail or restaurant/bar space while some use it to store things leftover from renovations. One of my favorite things we saw underground was this elevator gear.

The tour ends at a little Seattle history museum with lots of photos of Seattle founders and important people. It was really interesting and I would definitely recommend this tour to anyone that wants to get a unique perspective on Seattle’s history. Our tour guide also had a really great sense of humor, so he made it super enjoyable to learn about plumbing and construction.

Have you ever taken an Underground Tour in Seattle? What did you think? Let us know in the comments. 🙂

July 2022 Adventure Date 4: Customized Tours Mount Rainier Day Tour

I have to be honest, I had picked out a day tour to Olympic National Park when I was planning the trip – it sounded amazing with waterfalls and mountains and so much more. However, by the time I could book our tours in May, that particular excursion was sold out. So, a Mount Rainier Day Trip was booked instead. I have very few regrets about this tour – it was breathtakingly beautiful to be in Mount Rainier National Park, and it was really nice to have someone that knew all the history and the best vistas to show us around.

The tour started bright and early when Customized Tours picked us up at our hotel – they also dropped us off at the end of the day which was perfect since we decided not to rent a car. About 45 minutes into the trip, we stopped at a grocery store to get lunch and drinks for the day – it was nice to be able to save a little money on lunch, and it was also the ONLY time we had Starbucks the whole time we were in Washington. (Not for lack of trying, but they were either closed or prohibitively busy the whole time in Seattle.) The bus driver even provided a cooler with ice and some waters for us to grab throughout the day, and he allowed us to keep some of our lunch and drink items in it as well.

Shortly after we stopped for food, we stopped for our first views of Mount Rainier at a very small community park. It was a quick on and off stop, but got us pretty excited to get closer looks.

As you can see, we dressed in layers in anticipation of some cooler temperatures up on the mountain. We were to be sorely mistaken, though, as it was 85 degrees at the highest elevations we reached. Even with the snow still on the ground. Alas, our trip did not end up being the cooler temps we had heard about and longed for…

We kept traveling through a few more small towns and finally made it into the National Park. Our first stop in the park was in Longmire to hike a short trail, see our first in park views of the mountain, and shop at the gift shop. Oh, and use the restrooms, a necessity if you are busy hydrating all day. The short trail was through some forest – the trees were tall and beautiful. It was a lovely walk, although we felt rushed when we realized we were only halfway through the hike and had 5 minutes before our bus was supposed to leave…

Our next stop was at a scenic overlook. We had to practically drag Charlotte back to the bus at this stop – she kept wandering further down the road to take photos.

A little further up the road we made the next stop – Narada Falls. It is a 188 foot drop, so it actually towers over Niagara Falls, and it has a beautiful rainbow from most angles. It also gave us a lovely misting when we went to the view area – very welcome in the unexpected heat.

How gorgeous is that?!? We were also supposed to see Christine Falls, but that parking lot was under construction, so we were unable to stop. No worries, our next stop was Paradise (no really, that is what it is called) and we got to hike up to another waterfall called Myrtle Falls. The views were gorgeous, we were able to make snowballs, and there was once again a gift shop and bathrooms. Practically perfect in every way.

After leaving Paradise, a sharp-eyed passenger on our bus spotted a momma bear and 2 cubs in the distance. If you look closely at this photo, they are the black spot that looks like a dog and the slightly smaller black spots in the distance. It was really cool to watch them from afar.

Our last stop in the park was at the reflection lakes area. It is a series of 4-5 different lakes that could be really reflective on a calm day. Our day the water was a bit rough, so this is what we saw – still gorgeous!

After the reflection lakes, we made 2 quick stops at a suspension bridge over the Nisqually River and then a stop at a Ukranian bakery on the way home for some amazing pastries. It was so good that I didn’t even pause to take a photo.

I mentioned above that I have very few regrets, but I did have 3. The first regret is that we did not wear shorts – it was so hot, but the forecast had not really predicted that when we left. The second is that I wish we had a little more time at a few of the stops – nothing that could be helped, it was a group tour that had promised some set things and needed to deliver. Those regrets I can 100% live with and take responsibility for. The third regret is that I did not have noise canceling headphones like the rest of my family for the trip home. On the way home, a German grad student (studying history with a focus on war) asked our tour guide for war stories because he had served in the special forces in the Middle East. The guide used the bus’s PA system to start with a story that then quickly went off the rails into conspiracy theories. I have no problem with people believing differently than I do, but I do not think that this was the proper use of the PA system on a bus with a wide variety of people on it. So, in summary, dress for the actual weather, be ready to cut things a little short sometimes, and take noise canceling headphones and you will have a marvelous time on this tour.

Have you ever been to Mount Rainier? Did you go with a tour or on your own? What was your favorite part? Let me know in the comments.

July 2022 Adventure Date 3: Seattle Terrors Extended Tour

I have always loved ghost stories and watching ghost shows on television – Haunted Travels Week was my Shark Week before all the streaming services. I do not like horror movies, but tell me about a ghost that might be in a hotel and I am all ears. So, when I was booking our tours for Seattle, I knew I wanted to find a ghost tour of some sort. Seattle Terrors Extended Tour was exactly what I was looking for!

Our tour guide met us by the Four Seasons Hotel in Seattle (spoiler alert – the Four Seasons is not part of the tour), and they were fantastic. They knew a lot of history and made it just spooky enough to be interesting, but not spooky enough to give my nightmares. There were serial killer stories, information about the first elevator west of the Mississippi – which was not used for the living, lots of spooky ghost stories, and ties to a couple of cults. We thoroughly enjoyed it! The tour was largely centered around Pike Place Market, but there were several other stops as well. I do not want to give too much away, but here are some photos from that evening – the market signs are amazing when it is dark!

Overall, I would definitely recommend this tour. We enjoyed the whole thing, including the extended tour stops. I would warn anyone wanting to do the tour that you will go up and down a lot of steps and hills – it is not for the faint of heart. Even the girls really enjoyed it, though, which is saying something.

Have you ever done a ghost or haunted tour? Where were you? Would you recommend it to others? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

July 2022 Adventure Date 2: FRS Clipper Whale Watching Cruise

When we decided to travel to the Pacific Northwest for our vacation, I knew there were 2 things that I wanted to do above everything else. The first was to go on a whale watching tour. I have always loved dolphins and whales. I wanted to be a Marine Biologist (until I found out how few get to work with dolphins and whales) and I even adopted a humpback whale named Pepper when I was in college. I found the FRS Clipper Whale Watching Tour and immediately knew that it was the one. They have a guarantee on their site that you will see whales on their tour (with an asterisk, because really, whales are wild creatures and can’t be controlled or completely predicted). Anyway, it was the first of our activities that I booked after we had our flights and hotel.

We arrived at the pier for our tour and had not problems getting aboard and seated. I sprung for the first class deck to give us each a little more room, and I made sure we all had forward facing seats. It was a beautiful day – you could even see the mountains, which I’m told is often not the case. Mount Rainier was on one side and the Olympic Mountains were on the other, and it was just gorgeous to be out on the water and see so much green on the shore. Here are some scenic shots of Mount Rainier, the Olympic Mountains, and some cool suspension bridges we went under (you have probably seen video of one of the bridges twisting and turning in the wind – that is why there are 2 right next to each other).

We hadn’t been traveling very long when Charlotte and I decided to get spots on the top deck. I am so glad we did, because pretty soon we were told that a humpback whale had been spotted. It was so exciting to see it come to the surface a few times in a row to breathe and then do a full dive with its tail coming up. We got to watch this cycle twice before we left in search of the Orcas. I was also really excited when I went through the photos at home and saw I captured the tail twice. 🙂

We traveled about another hour to get to the area the Orcas had been spotted. I do want to point out that I know that Orcas are actually related to dolphins and not whales, but they repeatedly called them Killer Whales, and I am fine with it. It was amazing to watch the pod of Orcas interact. We got to see them traveling and hunting something. There was one mature male and several females and juveniles. You can tell the mature male because his dorsal fin sticks straight up and much higher than the others. We were also a little amazed at how close people on jet skis were to the Orcas – I would not have been comfortable with that. Here are my favorite Orca shots.

I could have watched them for hours – it was so cool! I am completely thrilled with our tour and have no regrets. Having said that, I do have 2 things I would suggest to others looking to book this cruise.

First of all, I think that the people on the lower deck had better views of seal life. Our seats were well above the water, so we did not see the porpoises and other sea life that those in the lower deck were able to see. It also got extremely hot and stuffy on the second deck on the way back to the pier. If I did it again, I would get seats on the first deck. They also had better access to the front of the boat view area, the galley, and the bathrooms.

My second advice directly relates to this obstructed view. As you can probably see in my photos of the humpback whale, there were towers and bars and equipment on the front of the boat which obstructed the view from the top of the boat at times. We chose spots with a clear view almost everywhere except 11 o’clock (if straight ahead was 12 o’clock and straight behind was 6 o’clock). I figured that we would be able to see almost everything with a clear view. I was wrong, of course. The boat pretty consistently turned to keep the whales at 11 o’clock. I don’t know if it was because of some track equipment or what, but it was definitely a theme. So, choose your spots on the top deck with care so you can see at 11 o’clock.

I would 1000x do this again. It was exciting and the good far outweighed the bad for me. Have you ever been on a whale watching tour? Where were you? Would you recommend it? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂