Viva Las Vegas (Part Two- Exploring)

My husband and I loved Las Vegas so much we had to go back.  On our second trip we had time to do whatever we wanted since it wasn’t work related.  We vowed to explore more of Las Vegas while also keeping some of our favorites on the schedule.  We stayed at the Wynn again in the same type of room and had the same amazing views as before.  Before booking though, I used the advice I had seen floating around the web to book a lesser room and then when checking in give the clerk a $20 bill and ask for an upgraded room.  We were a bit skeptical if this trick would actually work, but it did!  We got boosted up one room category which was nice.

This time around our trip fell on my husband’s birthday so we booked a couples massage at a highly rated place, Boracay Massage.  The ladies did a wonderful job and we will go back there again the next time we are in Vegas.  On the way there we really got a chance to look at the surrounding mountains and made the decision to visit Red Rock Canyon.  Red Rock Canyon isn’t too far out of the way and had good reviews so we set aside some time to check it out ourselves.  It was beautiful.  I think one thing that drew me to it was that it was so different from what I am accustomed to.  I saw people walking down into caves and crevices, but we just drove the loop in the park and found that we were able to get some beautiful pictures and enjoyed ourselves immensely.  I had many more pictures but I lost them when changing phones so the three below are from my husband’s phone; hopefully you can get a good idea of the beauty.

Las Vegas, Nevada: Red Rock Canyon | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada: Red Rock Canyon | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada: Red Rock Canyon | www.adventuresquared.com

After visiting the park we headed back to the Wynn to get ready for dinner.  For my husband’s birthday dinner we chose to dine at Top of the World.  The restaurant rotates in a complete circle as you eat, giving you views of every angle of the city.  The truly stunning part was when the sun was setting and the lights of Vegas started lighting up the night…

Las Vegas, Nevada :Top of the World nightview | www.adventuresquared.com

We also got to see people jumping off the side of the building in front of us as we ate.  Such a neat experience and the food was very good.  It was nice to have both good food and a beautiful view as we celebrated my husband turning one year older.

Another awesome thing that happened this trip was that we were able to completely pay for it with our winnings.  We are not huge gamblers, mainly playing for fun.  We went into this trip with a set budget- $100 for slots and $500 for sports bets.  We made enough at the sports book to pay for our plane tickets and hotel stay so it was like we never even went on vacation.  Slots paid dividends because we walked away with $300 and a ton of food comps in the hotel.  It was a lot of fun but we are always sure to set a budget and stick with it no matter what.  We were willing to lose that $600 but no more than that.  Also, for some people, gambling can become a serious problem- know yourself well enough to know if this is you and stay away.

One last nugget of information: Halloween is interesting.  We saw so many costumes- even a pope and nuns!  We spent Halloween sitting in a restaurant in the hotel just watching people.  You can really see some bizarre things in Las Vegas on Halloween.  We had so much fun and I can not wait to go back!  Next time we have plans to visit the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park.  Vegas really can’t be beat since there is something different at every turn.

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Maui, Hawaii (Part Two)

For Maui, Hawaii (Part One) click here.

If I thought the scenery of Maui was beautiful at the resort, I was in for a real treat when we hit the open road.  The camera can’t really capture how breathtaking the views really are.  On one side of the road there are these rolling mountains in the most vibrant shade of green, while on the other side of the road you see the ocean and other islands in the distance.  Driving was difficult because the views distract you from what you are doing.  Thankfully we found some places where you could pull over to see the view and take pictures.

Maui, Hawaii | www.adventuresquared.com Maui, Hawaii | www.adventuresquared.com Maui, Hawaii | www.adventuresquared.com Maui, Hawaii | www.adventuresquared.com

We took the pictures above on our way to visit the Maui Ocean Center.  The Maui Ocean Center is basically a small aquarium and we were excited to go check it out and see some native fish species.  We got through it all pretty quickly, I’d say it took us an hour at most but we really enjoyed ourselves.

Maui Ocean Center Maui, Hawaii | www.adventuresquared.com Maui Ocean Center Maui, Hawaii | www.adventuresquared.com Maui Ocean Center Maui, Hawaii | www.adventuresquared.com Maui Ocean Center Maui, Hawaii | www.adventuresquared.com

Maui Ocean Center Maui, Hawaii | www.adventuresquared.com

We were hungry by that point so we set out to find some deliciousness and landed ourselves at a food truck called The Shark Pit.  Sadly, I failed to get photos of The Shark Pit and the food they served.  I can tell you that it was the best thing I ate in Maui and all of the food I ate was good.  The Shark Pit serves fish tacos and burgers.  We went for the burger because they had run out of fresh fish for the day and while I wish I could have tried the tacos, the burger was outstanding.  I didn’t really know what I had gotten myself into when my burger arrived complete with a purple bun, but I wasn’t disappointed.  The burger easily made its way into my top five burger list.  The Shark Pit also gets bonus points because of the customer service.

After eating we decided to explore the little town of Lahaina near our resort.  Lahaina is a very cute town and a great place to spend some time shopping.  We found a neat little area with shops of all different kinds.  I stopped into a shop where you can mix and match your own bath salts and had to make some really hard decisions on how much to buy because they all smelled so good.  Next door to that I found a local artist’s gallery and fell in love with his paintings.  You can see his work here.  I wish I had purchased a print while I was there but I didn’t thinking about fitting it in my carry-on.  After browsing the stores and buying a bracelet or two we were ready for something sweet and made our way to Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice.  I had read all of the reviews about this place before we arrived and it was one of my top things we had to experience.  There were so many flavors to choose from but we eventually narrowed them down and got our shave ice.  It was perfect.  Not too sweet and just the right amount of flavor.  Also, get the snow cap, you won’t regret it.

From there we spent the rest of the day hanging out at the resort and just enjoying life.  We began dreaming about how it would feel to live in Maui full time.  I think that was the point Maui had officially stolen our hearts.  Here are some more pictures of that beautiful island:

Maui, Hawaii | www.adventuresquared.com Maui, Hawaii | www.adventuresquared.com Maui, Hawaii | www.adventuresquared.com Maui, Hawaii | www.adventuresquared.com Maui, Hawaii | www.adventuresquared.com Maui, Hawaii | www.adventuresquared.com Maui, Hawaii | www.adventuresquared.com

One other really cool thing I noticed in Maui is that the ocean never looked the same from day-to-day.  One day it was deep blue, the next day it would be sparkling like diamonds, and yet the next day it would be more turquoise.  Same with the hills; one day there would be cloud cover and the next day it would be so clear you could see to the tops of the mountains.  Maui is stunning.

The fun didn’t stop there.  Be sure to come back to read about our experiences seeing the whales and going to a luau!

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Orlando, Florida (Part Two)

We spent our second day exploring Epcot in Disney World.  The weather was significantly better than the day before and we took full advantage of it. Once again, we chose not to adhere to the advice to arrive early and instead had a leisurely breakfast at the house.  We got to Epcot before noon, excited to explore.

Orlando, Florida Epcot | www.adventuresquared.com

We immediately started looking for rides and attractions; the following is what we personally got to experience:

  • Soarin’ This may be one of the coolest rides around.  There is a movie playing that your seat moves along with in a flying motion all while you can smell the scenery in the film.  The smell part is what made me love this ride so much.
  • Test Track We rode this one multiple times.  You get to design your car and then take a super fast lap on the track.  This was one of the most fun rides we came across.
  • Mission: Space If this ride is really an indicator of what it is like to go to space, I am not sure I’d want to.  There are two versions you can pick for this ride; intense (orange) or less intense (green).  We tried both and they were worlds apart.  If you have small kids I would steer clear of the orange side because when they say intense, they mean it.  The motion sickness was real.  Having said that, the kids loved the green version and asked to ride it again.
  • Living With The Land We took this gentle boat ride with no expectations, but we were blown away in the end.  We saw all manner of things being grown and learned a lot all while getting a break from walking.  It wasn’t overly crowded and ended up being one of our favorite things in the park.
  • Circle of Life This is another attraction we found by chance and enjoyed.  It is a movie about animals so if you like that kind of thing, this is for you.

We ate an expensive lunch in the France part of Epcot where we learned that all of the staff within that restaurant were French!  My mind was temporarily blown at this nugget of information; I thought that was a neat touch.  The food was good but not worth the money and we found that to be true of most of the places within the park.  Granted, we did not eat at any of the places I had on my list so it could be chalked up to poor planning on my part.  We ended our day with a delicious hot chocolate as we left the park.

Orlando, Florida Epcot | www.adventuresquared.com

The next day we went to the mall in Orlando with two missions in mind: 1. Find a reasonably priced princess dress and 2. Get Carly’s ears pierced.  We found a Belle dress that looked every bit as good as the ones in the parks but for about half the price.  We also got her ears pierced at the Piercing Pagoda and they did a wonderful job.  We have not had any issues with her ear piercings at all.  After wearing stick on earrings for months, she was so happy to have real earrings.

Orlando, Florida Ears Pierced | www.adventuresquared.com

After the mall we headed to Sea World.  We arrived there later in the day and it was hot, hot, hot.  The only thing we managed to do was walk around, eat, and catch the main show.  We sat in the dry area because we are boring.  The orca’s and the show were amazing!

Orlando, Florida Sea World | www.adventuresquared.comOrlando, Florida Sea World | www.adventuresquared.com

Stay tuned for Part Three!!

 

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South of the Border

My friend Selena and I kind of got into a fun routine of finding funky, unusual things and places to take our kids to see.  South of the Border is hands down one of the weirdest, most random places we happened upon.  Situated in South Carolina, not far from North Carolina (get it? South of the Border?), is a town that gives Speedy Gonzales a run for his money.  Picture this… You are driving along a typical southern highway, trees and road on either side; monotonous, really.  You round a bend in the highway and BAM!  Out of nowhere, this is what you see:

I can’t even lie, when I first saw it I was dumbstruck.  What is this place?  Why is it here?  I will admit that I wasn’t sure I wanted to get out of my car, but I am so glad I did.  We made memories that day that will last a lifetime (unlike the sombrero magnet I got as a souvenir that broke within the week).

Most of the attractions were shut down the day we went- not sure if it was the temperature, the season, or if they were broken.  No matter, there was still fun to be had.  We took the time to enjoy the many statues by taking pictures with them.

When we got hungry we went to the only place I could see, which was a small little diner.  It consisted of your basic, run of the mill hotdogs, hamburgers, and french fries.  The best part? The prices were out of this world.  I think I spent maybe $12 to feed me and two kids.  Unheard of.

After eating we made our way across the street to a beach store.  Beach store you may ask?  Yes!  A Myrtle Beach store to be exact, and being totally honest here, not a very good one.  Surprisingly, this is where we had most of our fun.  The kids found some interesting toys in there and in the back of the store there was a huge shark.  Very odd place to come across a beach store but that is part of what made it so fun.

After that we looked around town a bit more, played in an arcade for a little bit and eventually headed home.  If you live in South Carolina or some parts of North Carolina, this would be a neat trip to take for a quick getaway.  They had some rides and a reptile exhibit we were unable to see, but they looked like a good time.  I guarantee you won’t soon forget this place and you will definitely find some fun if you keep an open mind.  I’ll leave you with some more shots of this quirky town before I go…

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Viva Las Vegas (Part One- The Wynn)

If you are anything like me, not really a gambler or a party person, then you may be thinking that Las Vegas is the last place you would want to go.  I had that mindset; Vegas wasn’t even on my radar.  Honestly, when I thought of it I kind of had images of slummy, seedy parts of town with people that fit that description to go along with it.  I’m sure all of those episodes of Cops set in Las Vegas didn’t help.  My ideas about Las Vegas had to be pushed to the wayside when my husband won a trip to there through work. We boarded a plane, resolute in the fact we would be stuck on it for about 4 hours.

Las Vegas, Nevada | www.adventuresquared.com

I am not a person who gets motion sickness but on this particular plane ride I was sure I was going to be sick.  By the time the plane touched down my head was swimming and my stomach was rolling.  It took an hour or so for the feeling to completely vanish but thankfully it did.  After arriving we were taken to our hotel on a bus to check-in.  I should mention that at this point I was in awe.  This was my first trip out west and I don’t know what I was expecting, but the mountains that served as the backdrop to Vegas wasn’t it.  I had no idea Las Vegas had such beautiful surroundings.  We have mountains where I grew up but these were completely different; I am used to trees and these mountains were all rock.

If I thought the scenery was amazing, I was in for a real treat when I saw the hotel.  We were lucky enough to stay at the Wynn.  When we walked through the door the first thing that I noticed was the opulence of the place.  There’s rich, and then there’s rich.  This place was rich.  No detail had been overlooked in the design of this hotel.  From the floors to the ceilings, everything was tastefully, expensively outfitted.  I knew then that we were about to have a luxurious weekend.

Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com

Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com

We got a Tower room overlooking parts of the Strip and the views went on forever.  It was really something to be able to see the city with the mountains behind it.  I must have sat at the window taking it all in for 45 minutes.

Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com

Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com

We decided to go exploring in the hotel and grab some dinner while we were at it. During our exploration we perused the casino floor.  This was our first time in a casino so we were kind of dumb when it came to the ins and outs of everything.  We happened upon a slot machine with a Cleopatra theme and thought we would give it a go.  We put a $5 bill in the machine and pressed a button without knowing how the machine even worked.  I push of a button and we won $500!  I thought the machine was broken or lying to us at the very least.  However, after flagging someone down, we figured out how to print the ticket and take it to the window to get the cash.  We were very broke during this time in our lives and that $500 was a huge deal to us; we were able to pay a bill we weren’t going to be able to pay.  That was the only time we gambled on that trip- we took our money and we were happy.

Right to the side of the casino floor was my favorite area we found in the hotel.  It was what I call a flower garden.  The smells coming off of the flowers were incredible.  It really added a freshness to the atmosphere.  It really felt like something out of a fairy tale.  I have been on the hunt for a scent that mimics the scent those flowers gave off, but so far no luck.

Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com

During our exploration, we found a variety of restaurants that we ate at during the remainder of our stay.  Our favorite (no longer there) was a small cafe tucked away down one of the hallways; they served pizza and gelato, among many other things.

We ate at the following places:

  • Zoozacrackers Deli (permanently closed)
  • Terrace Pointe Cafe
  • The Buffet
  • The cafe I mentioned earlier and don’t know the name of
  • Old Homestead Steakhouse (Caesar’s Palace)

The food was delicious every place we dined at.  We got to eat mouth-watering food such as chicken and waffles, pork benedict, and steak and eggs.  The little cafe we found that served pizza had the best pizza; crunchy crust, gooey cheese, and prime pepperoni.  It was simple but delectable at the same time.  Getting full was not a problem here.

Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com

When we weren’t busy stuffing ourselves with food we were attending work related functions and sightseeing.  Vegas has a lot to see- just look!

Las Vegas, Nevada | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada | www.adventuresquared.com Las Vegas, Nevada | www.adventuresquared.com

We didn’t have time to see everything but we vowed we would be coming back so that we could.  If not for my husband winning that trip, I would never have discovered my love for Las Vegas.  It is such an unexpectedly beautiful place that is full of fun for anyone, no matter your individual preferences.  And before I go, what good would a write-up on Las Vegas be without any night-time shots of the lights?

Las Vegas, Nevada The Wynn | www.adventuresquared.com

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Myrtle Beach

The first beach trip I can remember was when I was four years old.  We went to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  I only have one distinct memory of the trip and that was of me swimming in the ocean while my family and the lifeguard stood on the shore screaming for me to come back in closer.  I had just learned to swim and the ocean seemed like a fine place to practice my newly acquired skills.  I did come back to shore and was chastised by my family and told not to go in past my knees.  Following that trip I have found myself at Myrtle Beach at least ten more times.

In the past five years, I have stayed at 3 different hotels in Myrtle Beach; the Landmark Resort, the Springmaid Beach Resort (now a DoubleTree by Hilton), and a Fairfield Inn close to Broadway at the Beach.  Out of those three, the only one I would suggest staying at would be the Springmaid.  The other two were outdated and the pools were, for lack of a better word, gross.  Since becoming a DoubleTree, the Springmaid has been off of my radar simply because pricing jumped from $99/night to $250+/night.  This year I will be going back to Myrtle Beach and staying at a new-to-me condo in the Sea Watch Resort– report to follow.  Regardless of where you stay in Myrtle Beach, remember one thing: If you like noise and partying head south, if you like peace and solitude with a more family feel head north.

One reason Myrtle Beach has become such a popular destination is because there is a never-ending supply of places to go and things to do other than play on the beach.  Rainy day? No problem, you will find plenty to do indoors.  Myrtle Beach is home to a myriad of Ripley’s attractions, dinner shows, and fun and unique places like Wonder Works.  I have been to the Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach and honestly I was a little bit underwhelmed, but most  people seem to really love it.  This year we will be making stops at the Skywheel, Wonder Works, and the Pirate’s Voyage Dinner & Show.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina | www.adventuresquared.com

Another fun (and somewhat tacky) thing to do in Myrtle Beach is shopping in the beach stores.  These stores are gold.  You can find clothing, souvenirs, and much more in these places.  Usually we spend a lot of time perusing them because it can be downright fun to try on different hats or read some of the things on the merchandise.  Word of caution: If you have kids that have begun reading and really grasping the world around them, be aware that there are some raunchy things inside most of these beach stores.  Be prepared to have your child ask you “Hey mom, what is this”?

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina | www.adventuresquared.com

After all of the activities, I am sure you will be hungry.  Myrtle Beach has a ton of dining options from seafood buffets to fine dining steakhouses.  There are 2 chain restaurants I visit every time I go; Cheeseburger in Paradise and Dickey’s BBQ.  The kids enjoy Cheeseburger in Paradise for the coloring activities and the ambience and I enjoy Dickey’s because the food is legitimately good and the prices are on point.

We tried out Crabby Mike’s Seafood Buffet last year and while the food was pretty good, the atmosphere left a lot to be desired.  For money saving and to make it easier when the kids are with me, I usually have breakfast and lunch at the hotel.  This past year we utilized the free breakfast at the hotel.  After having fun at the beach we came back to the hotel, made sandwiches with fruit and chips, and then the kids swam for hours.  We always have dinner out because who wants to cook on vacation? Not me.

So, as you can see, Myrtle Beach is ripe with possibilities.  If you guys know of any places I need to see or eat at on my upcoming trip let me know in the comments.  I would love to try some new places.

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Nashville, Tennessee

A change of heart resulted in a family trip to Nashville, Tennessee.  My daughter who was a finalist in the South Carolina State Pageant had been invited to Nashville for a modeling/acting workshop.  We initially agreed and bought the plane tickets in preparation.  However, one discussion led to another and we decided that the modeling/acting/pageantry lifestyle was not one we wanted for our daughter.  So there we were, left holding plane tickets to a place neither of us were very jazzed to see.  I had been to Nashville before and while it was fun there was really nothing calling me back.  My husband said we might as well put the plane tickets to good use, so we did.

We booked a lake house on the outskirts of Nashville in Mount Juliet, TN.  The rental we booked through VRBO.com is no longer available.  However, it was a very nice place to stay and the only mishap we had was that the bed broke while we were sitting on it.  This happened the night before we checked out and we ended up staying at a beautiful hotel in downtown Nashville while the others in our party stayed at the rental.

Nashville, Tennessee View of the city from the hotel | www.adventuresquared.com

Nashville, Tennessee View of the city from the hotel | www.adventuresquared.com

The house we stayed in was large, having two living areas and multiple rooms to choose from.  Downstairs was the place to be, complete with a gas fireplace, pool table, and television overlooking the lake.

Nashville, Tennessee/ Mount Juliet, Tennessee Lake views from rental house | www.adventuresquared.com

Nashville, Tennessee/ Mount Juliet, Tennessee Lake views from rental house | www.adventuresquared.com

We were able to pack quite a bit of activity into our short stay.  We visited many places, including Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and we saw the Rockette’s perform.

At Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage we took the candlelight tour.  We learned a great deal about both the man and the property itself.  Two fun facts: 1. Andrew Jackson was a tight wad. 2. The main house on the property was used as a field hospital during the war.  We enjoyed our candlelight tour so much that we returned to see the property during the daylight on our last day in town.

Nashville, Tennessee Andrew Jackson's Hermitage | www.adventuresquared.com

Nashville, Tennessee Andrew Jackson's Hermitage | www.adventuresquared.com

At the Country Music Hall of Fame there was a lot to take in.  There was clothing and costumes worn by famous country music stars, Elvis’ cars decked out in gold accents, and even a place to try your hand at being a recording artist.

Nashville, Tennessee Country Music Hall of Fame | www.adventuresquared.com

Nashville, Tennessee Country Music Hall of Fame | www.adventuresquared.com

Nashville, Tennessee Country Music Hall of Fame | www.adventuresquared.com

No trip to Nashville would be complete without a visit to the Gaylord Opryland Resort.  The hotel is massive and in the center there are shops, restaurants, and impressive water features! We had lunch at one of the restaurants and we were not disappointed.

Nashville, Tennessee Gaylord Opryland Resort | www.adventuresquared.com

Nashville, Tennessee Gaylord Opryland Resort | www.adventuresquared.com

Nashville, Tennessee Gaylord Opryland Resort | www.adventuresquared.com

We also managed to fit in a Radio City Rockette’s show before we left.  It was very good; the kick line was hands down the best part.

Nashville, Tennessee Radio City Rockette's | www.adventuresquared.com

Nashville, Tennessee Radio City Rockette's | www.adventuresquared.com

The amount of fun we had on this trip really surprised us all.  Nashville just seemed kind of boring to me, but the places we visited and the things we did were anything but boring.  Having had such a wonderful time, I would definitely return if the opportunity presented itself.  There was much more there to get into, we just didn’t have the time.  Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage was the highlight of the trip for our whole family- so when you are in Nashville be sure to drop in and see it.  Also, in the comments, feel free to let me know if there are any must-see’s in Nashville for my next visit!

 

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Maui, Hawaii (Part One)

There was a game I used to play as a child called MASH.  It consisted of listing out future dreams such as how many kids you would have, where and what you would live in, and what kind of car you would drive.  Through a process of counting a certain number and crossing out whatever you landed on, you could eventually get an idea of what your future held for you.  Many times while playing that game I would choose Hawaii as one of my places I would one day like to live.  The funny part about that is as I got older Hawaii became a place that I felt indifferent about.  I looked at pictures and just couldn’t understand what was so great about it.  I mean, I had been to Jamaica and Cancun and both of those places had beautiful scenery; Hawaii just seemed pale in comparison to that.  Nevertheless, my grandmother had a lifelong wish to visit Hawaii so my husband and I decided to book a trip and take her along for the ride.  I was happy to be going on vacation but thought that, while Hawaii was supposed to be awesome, it would just be okay for me.  I was wrong.

We arrived in Hawaii at sunset after a long plane ride.  After renting a car we headed to the place we would be staying, Honua Kai Resort.  We rented a condo there through Kaanapali Beach Rentals.  We stayed in Hokulani 919.   It was too dark outside on the way to the resort to really see anything, so once we got settled in we ate dinner and went to bed.  The next morning we were up bright and early, which is unusual for us.  We opened the windows and saw a beautiful view…

Maui, Hawaii Honua Kai Resort | www.adventuresquared.com

Maui, Hawaii Honua Kai Resort | www.adventuresquared.com

That was when I got excited.  It was so much prettier in person that any pictures I had found in my search.  And the weather…it was in the 70’s in January.  Perfection.  After seeing that, we couldn’t stay inside so we ventured out to begin our vacation.  We started with breakfast at Duke’s which was right on the property.  I don’t remember what I had to eat, but my husband had the Banana and MacNut Pancakes and let me tell you, they were scrumptious.  While we ate our breakfast we had some visitors that we shared with.

Maui, Hawaii Honua Kai Resort | www.adventuresquared.com

After breakfast we went to the beach and the pool where we spent most of the rest of our day.  The views from the beach of the other islands was neat; almost like being somewhere exotic, not in the United States.

Maui, Hawaii Honua Kai Resort | www.adventuresquared.com

Maui, Hawaii Honua Kai Resort | www.adventuresquared.com

Stay tuned for Day Two which includes some sightseeing and purple burger buns!  Until then, I’ll leave you with some more pictures of the grounds at Honua Kai!

Maui, Hawaii Honua Kai Resort | www.adventuresquared.com

Maui, Hawaii Honua Kai Resort | www.adventuresquared.com

Maui, Hawaii Honua Kai Resort | www.adventuresquared.com

Maui, Hawaii Honua Kai Resort | www.adventuresquared.com

Maui, Hawaii Honua Kai Resort | www.adventuresquared.com

Maui, Hawaii Honua Kai Resort | www.adventuresquared.com

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Orlando, Florida (Part One)

My entire childhood was spent dreaming of one day going to see Disney World.  I got close when my family took a vacation to Orlando when I was in high school, but unfortunately we were strapped for time and couldn’t fit it in.  Once I had children, I knew that one day I would make it happen.  That day came and we made it a trip for the whole family- we even took the in-laws!

Getting there was smooth sailing; a short plane ride away.  Once we touched down, we rented a car and set off to find the house we would be staying in for the next few days.  We decided for our first trip we would stay off of Disney property for a couple of reasons:

  1.  We had 6 people in our group and Disney was expensive in the rooms that could accommodate that number of people.
  2.  We wanted to do other things besides just Disney World and felt that staying outside of the park would ensure that we wouldn’t be sucked into the bubble that is Disney.
  3.  For a fraction of the price, we found a 3-Bedroom home with a pool, game tables, and an arcade machine for our use.

Next time we visit Disney World/Orlando area we will stay on Disney property so we can see which method we prefer.

We spent the rest of our arrival day settling in.  The next morning we fixed breakfast at the house (another perk of staying off property) and made our way to Disney World.

Orlando, Florida Entrance to Disney World | www.adventuresquared.com

We broke all of the “rules” that people will advise you of such as getting there when the parks open….oops.  It ended up being fine because we are not the typical “cram as much in as possible” people.  We chose to visit the Magic Kingdom the first day.  Despite not having fast passes we were able to ride quite a few things.  I should mention that we went at one of the least busy times of the year so this may be why.  Some of the rides still had wait times of 2.5 hours.  You can bet we skipped those!  Here is what we rode and what we thought:

  • Astro Orbiter It was cold and lightly raining when we stumbled upon this ride.  The elevator ride to the top offered us a reprieve from the elements which was appreciated.  Once we got in the rockets the rain had stopped so we were able to enjoy the ride.  None of us wanted to do it again though because it really was just flying in a circle.  Nothing special here folks- though the younger kids (mine were 5) will probably enjoy it.
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin This was an indoor ride that we enjoyed.  It was fun because you would score points for things you shot with your laser gun.  I can’t remember who won but we did have fun!
  • Space Mountain This was one of the rides I was looking most forward to.  It had been on my wish list since I was a kid. Maybe that is why I was so underwhelmed.  We waited longer for this ride than any other.  It started off very neat with the electric blue lights in the tunnel and from there it just got boring.  The ride goes downward in a spiral motion in complete darkness and then it is over.
  • Stitch’s Great Escape If you have young kids, avoid this!  We went into it thinking it would be something for the kids.  In reality it was creepy and scary for the kids.  They cried through the entire thing- from his evil laugh, to the flashing lights, and the blackout while Stitch flutters behind your head like a mad scientist.  To top it off, it wasn’t even fun for the adults.  Just forego this ride.
  • Tomorrowland Speedway This ride made us laugh.  Imagine a 6’3, 230 lb. man in a tiny car puttering around a track at, maybe, 3 mph.  I thought it would never end.

While the rides left a lot to be desired, we did enjoy the other parts of Magic Kingdom.  We took pictures in front of Cinderella’s castle, admired the “town”, and even came out of it all with some funny stories.  My husband and I got schooled by our kindergarten aged son about the differences between Goofy and Pluto (we got them confused) and our 5 yr old daughter informed us while debating over princess dress that she “does not like cheap stuff”.

The end of our day was the most special because we happened to be in the right place at the right time by complete accident.  We were headed out of the park when we noticed a crowd forming in front of Cinderella’s castle.  We were delighted when we found out that Anna and Elsa from Frozen would be making an appearance at the castle.  We had no idea what we were about to witness.  Elsa iced over the castle and it was impressive.

Orlando, Florida Cinderella's Castle in Disney World | www.adventuresquared.com

Orlando, Florida Cinderella's Castle in Disney World | www.adventuresquared.com

All of us considered that to be one of the highlights of the trip.  We went back to the house that night excited for what the next day would bring.

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