Category: travel

Vintage Blue Mason Beach Memory Jar

I am blessed to have a small collection of vintage blue Mason jars from my paternal grandmother, my Meme.  Most of them have their original tin lids and are in perfect condition.  I display them all over our house and am constantly changing out the displays.  Every time I help host a bridal or baby shower, the jars come with me to add a bit of vintage flair to the decorations.  After our recent beach trip, I decided to add to the beach memory jar I started a few years ago.  It is a simple and affordable way to preserve our special finds and remind our family of our amazing travels.  I filled the bottom of the jar with the pure white sand of the miracle strip of beach we visit in Navarre Beach, Florida.  It looks like sugar and reminds me of one of my favorite places in the world.  Next I carefully drop shells into the jar one by one.  I use the tines of a fork to arrange the shells.  It is a bit tricky to get everything positioned the way I want it, but worth the effort.  I love that I can easily add to and rearrange my little collection with special finds after every trip.  
How do you preserve travel memories?

If you would like to start your own collection of blue Ball Mason jars, the company recently re-released a heritage collection.  You can use the link below to get a set of 6 for around $2 a jar.The link is an affiliate link, which means you pay the same price but your purchase helps support our family.  We appreciate it any time you use a sponsor or affiliate link.  Thanks for reading!
  

I love linking my ideas at these blog parties.  Click the links to check them out and find crafty inspiration.  If you’ve never visited a blog party, you will be blown away by the creativity shared and imaginative ideas.
Monday: CraftOManiacMad in CraftsSew Chatty,  Keeping It SimpleC.R.A.F.T.Boogie Board Cottage, and Sumo’s Sweet Stuff   
Tuesday:  Hope StudiosToday’s Creative BlogCoastal Charm, and New Nostalgia
Wednesday: The Trendy TreehousePolka Dots on ParadeLil Luna, and The Thrifty Home
Thursday: All Things with Purpose, Somewhat SimpleThe Shabby Creek CottageThe Girl Creative, and House of Hepworths
Friday: Sugar and SpiceKojo DesignsDiana Rambles Pin Me Party, and The Shabby Nest
Weekends: Sweet Tea Social @ Texas Women BloggersTatertots and Jello, Serenity NowButtercream Bakehouse, and Candace Creations 


Family Travel: Our Family Beach Trip

I am a beach girl at heart, and love it all the more when my family is with me.  This year we were blessed to join my parents and siblings in Navarre Beach, Florida for an amazing week.  It was crazy and fun and so sweet to be with everyone.  Look at these two.  Aren’t they the cutest?!  My sister and I had babies 6 weeks apart, so this was the first time we got to meet the newbies.  There was a lot of baby snuggling happening in that beach house, let me tell you.  

 We attempted to get a photo of all five grandbabies, but it proved above our pay grade.  Luke was NOT having it.  At all.  Note to self: next time have the baby entertainers stand directly behind me so the kids are not looking to the side.

 Then it was time for everybody’s {least} favorite part of the whole week, the group photo.  I always end up organizing it because I’m the oldest child and it’s just what I do.  My mom bought matching outfits for the kids and the rest of us wore any shade of blue, brown, or white.

 We traded photo shoots with our neighbors because I forgot my tripod.  This was WAY easier than running back and forth after setting the timer.  I need a remote.

 We all survived and had a blast.  We are pretty low key when we go to the beach, and spend most of our time just enjoying the sand and water rather than tourist activities.  We eat fresh seafood we cook ourselves every night and do a lot of laughing and playing.  Best week ever.

 This one is my favorite because we are all laughing.  Caroline’s face (in the middle) is the best.

Do you have a favorite beach? Where?

Family Travel: Enjoying the Road with a Baby and a Toddler

Who’s ready for a road trip? This girl.
Last summer we traveled for ten weeks and it was glorious.  The Bear was a one year old toddling machine and the Pearl Girl was just a glimmer in my eye.  We hiked all over Colorado and New Mexico and loved every minute of it.  This year our budget kept our adventures more limited, and we have a new baby.  Even these circumstances couldn’t keep us contained for long.  My amazing parents rented a beach house for the entire family (I’m the oldest of four) in Navarre Beach, Florida.  We miraculously made it work with our budget, mostly due to money coming in from this blog.  Let me pause here to say thank you.  Seriously, thank you.  I love telling stories in my little corner of the web, and every time you visit it helps support our little family.  I’m not sure if you know that it actually makes a difference in our budget, but it does.  It really does.  Thank you.
The Pearl Girl was ready to roll.  She did so well 98% of the time.  She has a gypsy soul like her mama, I can already tell.  The number one key I’ve found for traveling with kids is well timed pit stops.  We try to make our stops count and do the big three every time (gas/food/bathroom) as well as run time for the Bear and leg stretch time for the Pearl.
A mall in a teeny tiny town in far east Texas provided serious energy burn off for the Bear.  He sprinted up and down the mall as I nursed the Pearl on a nearby bench and Jed chased him.
Enjoy the ride.  We had the Bear searching for gators in every mile of Louisiana swamp we drove past.  There is beauty in almost every landscape
We packed a backpack full of books and toys for both kids, and pulled them out whenever the natives got restless.  We sang songs and did a puppet show and when all else failed we put in a DVD.  For the first time we used separate headphones for the Bear with mixed success.  He didn’t really like wearing them for long, but did use them long enough for Jed and I to enjoy a few Dave Ramsey podcasts.
We had planned to stay in a hotel on the way, but were blessed with the hospitality of a friend’s parents in Lafayette, Louisiana along the way.  Zeke and Becky Ducote welcomed us in to their home with open arms on the way out AND back, and we are forever grateful.  They loved on our kids, fed us, and gave us beautiful beds to sleep in.  If you can ask to stay with friends or friends of friends, I highly recommend it.  You will always be more comfortable than a hotel and you never know how you might be blessed by the visit.
This is the Ducote Family’s backyard.  Isn’t it beautiful?! It backs up to the Vermillion River.

Isn’t this front porch the dreamiest?  I could just live there.

How do you keep you sanity when traveling with kids?  Tell me in the comments section.

Follow Becca’s board Family Travel on Pinterest.

Family Snacking at Home and on the Road + My Black Bean Hummus Recipe

We are a road tripping family as you may have noticed, and we take our snacking very seriously both at home and on the road.  We recently had the opportunity to try Green Giant‘s Roasted Veggie Garden Ranch Tortilla Chips and Sweet Potato Barbecue Chips, and we loved them both.  I can say that they are officially “picky toddler”  AND “picky husband” approved.  We tried them at home with lunch first, then took them on our southern beach road trip where they were enjoyed by all.   
The chips are made with real vegetables, contain zero grams of trans fat, and don’t have any weird food dyes.  Their coloring comes from the spices used, such as paprika, so they have a more natural look than some other chip brands without compromising flavor.  I appreciate when I can pronounce and understand the ingredients on a food I’m eating, something I wish were more commonplace.  Both flavors we tried were light and airy, with just the right amount of crisp.      
Our resident picky toddler approves.
I am a huge fan of all things sweet potato, so the Multigrain Sweet Potato Barbecue Chips were my personal  favorite flavor.  They taste like southern molasses barbecue with just a hint of spicy kick on the back burner. These BBQ chips are the perfect accompaniment to burgers or sandwiches, or as a stand alone snack. 
The Roasted Veggie Garden Ranch Tortilla Chips were delicious as well, with a light ranch flavor perfect for dipping with black bean hummus or salsa.  Have you ever made black bean hummus?  Try my recipe below with the Roasted Veggie Garden Ranch Tortilla Chips for your next afternoon snack.
Black Bean Hummus Recipe:
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1.5 tbsp tahini
To taste: lemon juice, garlic, paprika, cayenne pepper, cumin, and sea salt 
Add a little bit of each “to taste” item at a time until it tastes right to you.  Start with a sprinkle.  I like more garlic than the average human, so I refrain from giving specific amounts.  
Toss it all into your food processor and mix until smooth.  You will feel fancy for making your own hummus, and your wallet will thank you as well.  Get snacking!  

What is your favorite road trip snack?



I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Family Fun in DFW: Rough Riders Baseball

The DFW metroplex has so much to offer when it comes to watching sports live.  My personal favorite is minor league baseball.  Don’t get me wrong, I love watching the Rangers.  I prefer minor league baseball because it is amazing to watch the players pursue their dreams with passion and talent, and tickets are much more affordable.  Many of them may never make the big show, but they work hard and spend countless nights on uncomfortable buses traveling endlessly around the south playing their hearts out.  That kind of dream chasing is inspiring.  
The Rough Riders are the AA farm team for the Texas Rangers.  This means we have the unique opportunity to watch players develop and then see them play in the big leagues as well.  It is so fun to see someone you’ve cheered for make their dreams come true when they get called up.  On rare occasions we get to watch Rangers stars play close up when they are rehabing an injury.  We had such an opportunity when we visited Dr. Pepper stadium, because Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison was on the mound. 
Here is the Pearl Girl at her first baseball game.  Please note she is dressed in a cowgirl dress in honor of the home team mascot.  

The Bear loved his first game, though he didn’t make it all the way through.  He has asked several times to watch baseball this past week.  I grew up watching the Arkansas Travelers play with my parents and grandparents.  My Grandmom and Grandad rarely missed a home game, and even had their picture featured in a Southern Living article on minor league parks. There is nothing like cheering on the home team with your family, and I hope this was the first of many games for us.

If you are interested in taking your family to watch the Rough Riders play in Frisco at Dr. Pepper Ballpark, you can buy tickets and get more information on their website here.  There are still plenty of home games left this month, and the season starts again in April of 2014. The team offers fabulous season ticket packages to fit every budget as well as meal packages with unlimited food and drinks.  Rough Rider season tickets are the perfect holiday gift for the baseball fans in your life.  You can also follow the team on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
**Thanks so much to the Rough Riders organization for providing tickets for our family in exchange for this post.  All opinions are strictly my own.  
What is your favorite sport to watch live?

Family Fun in DFW: Beat the Heat at the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park

We are in the seriously-too-hot-to-live phase of Texas weather, and constantly trying to find ways to keep cool and entertain our family without spending too much or staying glued to the tv.  If you follow me on Instagram, you know that recently we visited the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park in Dallas and had an absolute blast.  We received free passes in exchange for this review, but all opinions are strictly my own.  We love exploring the city we call home and enriching the lives of our wee ones on the way.  The Aquarium has been around for a long time, but was recently completely redesigned as a Children’s Aquarium.  EVERYTHING is on a child’s level, completely accessible, and perfectly placed to grab their attention.  Bear was enthralled.  He has been talking about the alligator we saw for over a week now.  
Isn’t this jelly fish amazing?
There are two sides to the main aquarium, salt water and fresh, as well as a touch pool, shark tank, and stingray touch pool.  Everything is included in the admission price except for stingray food (if you want to feed them) for and extra $2.  Bear was a little intimidated by the stingrays, so we didn’t try feeding them.  

Spike wants to bite your toes.  Thankfully thick glass protects you from this 190 pound 75 old year old titan snapping turtle.

The jelly fish were truly beautiful to watch.  They float so gracefully like aquatic ballerinas.  It almost made me hate them a little less.  I’ve been stung one too many times.  

The touch pool is surrounded by a step rock formation to make it the perfect height for every kid.  The staff guide was so patient with Bear and showed him shells and sea urchins, helping him touch them gently.

The outdoor shark and stingray tanks were fabulous.  There are several different vantage points to watch the sharks, but this was my favorite as well as Bear’s.  He waited for each shark to swim by and chased it down the glass.  I couldn’t get a non-blurry photo, but it was such a fun memory I had to share.  
If you are a fan of the tv show New Girl, you probably recognize the lion fish.  These beauties were so incredible to watch. 

In my opinion, the best thing about the Children’s Aquarium is the price.  Admission is only $8 for adults, and $6 for kids 3-11 and seniors.  If you have a membership to the Dallas Zoo you get $2 off admission.  An even better deal is the annual membership.  For $20 ($15 for zoo members) you can buy an annual membership and visit any time.  If you’ve checked out the prices on any of the other aquariums in town you know that price is unbeatable.

**Holiday Gift Idea** A season pass would make a perfect gift for the fish loving child in your life.  People (children included) remember experiences far more than material things.  Do you remember what toy you got for Christmas at age 6? Probably not.  But I bet you remember a favorite visit to the zoo, aquarium, or special museum.

I would highly recommend the Children’s Aquarium for families with kids 1 and up.  A visit takes 1-2 hours, depending on your child’s attention span.  The Children’s Aquarium also hosts groups, birthday parties, overnight guests, and summer camps for kids from pre-k through 5th grade.  
Visit the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park any day of the week from 9 am to 4:30 pm, except for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas.  Click here to visit the Children’s Aquarium website for more information.  For more information about the Dallas Zoo visit their website here.  You can also follow the Zoo and Aquarium on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.    
What is your favorite species to see at the aquarium?

The State Fair of Texas Summer Adventure at Fair Park Rocks!


 
Did you know you can get a Fletcher’s Corny Dog in the summer?  Until last week, I had no idea.  I thought the illusive fried goodness only happened during the State Fair.  This summer for the first time, The State Fair of Texas Summer Adventure opened the fairgrounds up for the public all summer long.  It’s not too late to visit, as tickets are half price and the gates are open daily until August 18th.  This is not in any way a sponsored post.  We just visited the Summer Adventure and thought it rocked, so I’m sharing it with you.   

For one price you get all the rides you can squeeze in, and there are NO LINES.  Seriously, we had the place to ourselves which was awesome.  It opens at 10 am, so you can get there before the heat really sets in.  For $14.95 you get a admission, a pass to ride everything as many times as you want, a bottle of water, AND admission to the Children’s Aquarium and the Texas Discovery Garden.  That, my friends, is a ridiculous deal.  

I’m not sure how I missed this at the beginning of the summer, but I’m so glad we went.  If they offer season passes next year, we are so in.  The Bear had a blast.  He rode his first ever fair ride, and loved it.

See what I mean?  No one else was there.  It was AWESOME.  The thing I don’t like about the actual State Fair is the crowds.  We rode the carousel over and over, and were the only ones on it.  I felt bad for the staff, but I’m sure it will get better next year.

The Bear was able to ride quite a few of the attractions, but most of the kiddie rides have a 36 inch height requirement and our little shorty is 35.5 inches tall.  Next year he will be the perfect age for all the kiddie rides.  There are plenty of options for big kids and adults as well.

Not only do they have all the usual fair rides, they also have splash pads set up and a stationary surf wave you can ride if you want to get wet.  They have shows going on all day as well, all included in the admission price.  Jed and Bear loved the BMX bike show.

Because of the notorious Texas heat, there are lots of indoor, air-conditioned options.  The building below is filled with gorgeous plants and a train exhibit that kept the Bear enthralled for over half an hour.  That’s years in toddler time.  It rivaled the Trains at Northpark and was seriously like a magical fairy land.  I nursed the Pearl Girl while Bear chased the trains around.  There is also a building dedicated to Lego building with tables for the kids and lots of seating for adults.  We spent some time cooling off in there as well.

If you want to win the parent of the year award and end your summer with a bang, head to Fair Park.  You can buy tickets online here and find more information.  

Family Travel: Sharing a Hotel Room with Babies {Without Losing Your Mind}

If you’ve traveled with small children, you know it can be a challenge.  Sharing a hotel room with small people who go to bed early can end with parents exiled to bathrooms and balconies.  Not fun.  I’m a traveler with a gypsy soul, and plan to continue seeing the world with my two wee ones in tow.  We’ve discovered that it is possible to share a hotel room with our small people without losing our minds.  The Bear goes to bed at 7 and turns into a grump if he stays up late, so we try to honor bed time no matter where we are.  Here’s how we do it.

 I apologize for the crappy pictures.  Hopefully you can still get the idea.  You will need a Pack ‘n Play , two blankets, thumb tacks, and the room’s clock radio.  We build a hotel tent around our pack-n-play.  On one ill-fated occasion we used the hotel “crib” at a super nice resort that shall remain nameless.  It resembled something found in an orphanage in Kazakhstan.  Horrible.  We went out the next day and bought a cheap pack-n-play and then donated it to a ministry in the area when we left.  It would have cost $50 to fly with our travel crib from home each way ($100 total) and the cheap-o crib cost $40.  Awesome.

Set up your pack-n-play in the corner of the room.  Plug in your clock radio and set it to a non-station playing only white noise.  Turn it up and place it under the pack-n-play.  Tack your blankets to the ceiling making a tent.  Rock that wee one to sleep and place them in their lovely mini room.  Continue to go about your business in your room, even enjoying your tv or computer on a low volume.  White noise is miraculous, my friends.  Some folks use a wifi monitor and head to the hotel lobby or pool, but that is up to you and your level of comfort.  I go back and forth, but it really depends on the hotel.  We’ve used the hotel tent method in many different venues, and it always works.  We are not co-sleepers, so our kiddos are used to sleeping in their own space.  We use a Twilight Turtle with our older child so the dark isn’t scary.  It may take a few tries to get your child used to the Hotel Tent, but it will be well worth it when you aren’t trapped with your spouse on a bathroom floor.  Your child gets the sleep they need to enjoy the trip and you don’t have to watch a movie in the bathtub.  Everybody wins.  
What are your secrets to traveling with kids?  

Travel Guest Post: Adventure in the Holy Land with Nicole of Three 31

While I’m enjoying a little maternity leave blog break, I’ve got a few awesome guest bloggers who’ll be sharing their adventures with y’all.  Today’s travel guest post is brought to you by Nicole of Three 31.  Enjoy!
three31
Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Bloglovin | Google+

Hey BFOTD readers! My name is Nicole and I blog at Three 31 — connect with me on social media too! I am a sweet tea drinking, Jesus loving, country girl from Kentucky married to a Texan named Husband. (Well, that’s not really his name but that’s what I call him.) We live near Fort Worth on a small spread with a white horse named Blue. While I have never given birth to another human, I consider my eighth grade students (129 in all) to be my precious, annoying, and hormonal angel babies. When I’m not blogging or teaching language arts, I enjoy photography, cooking, target shooting, reading, mission and volunteer work, reality TV, and traveling. My most recent travel experience and passport stamp came from Israel where I toured the Holy Land. athens
If you have plans to visit the Holy Land, may I offer the following suggestions:

  1. lose all expectations
  2. become a dry sponge willing to soak up all the sights, sounds, and experiences
  3. wear comfortable shoes + sunscreen
  4. take your camera, extra batteries + memory cards too

In regards to expectations, it is important to remember that the Holy Land has endured battles, uproars, disagreements, wars, and power struggles for thousands of years. Modern ideals (i.e. religious law, gender roles, clothing, food, etc.) must respectfully take a backseat during your visit. I also suggest you dust off your history books and religious texts. According to tradition, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (also called the Church of the Resurrection) sits atop Golgotha (Calvary). Visitors can kneel at an elaborate altar and touch the stone believed to have held Jesus’ cross. There is also a large stone slab in the Rotunda where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial, the Anointed Stone. churchofreschurchofres2 Once the tour group left the airport in Tel Aviv, we went to the coastal city of Jaffa, the oldest port in the world. According to the Bible, Jonah set sail from Jaffa before encountering the whale (or was it a fish?), and it was in Jaffa where Peter raised Tabitha from the dead. jaffasmall Inside most temples, cathedrals, and churches were the most beautiful tile mosaics I have ever seen. Along the Via Dolorosa, I saw this incredible mosaic (about 8-feet tall and 20-feet-wide) of Jesus carrying his cross. Every tile had to have been cut and polished by hand, then very carefully arranged to create this beautiful image. I’m still in awe. mosaicsmall The hill of Mount Zion, the highest point in Old Jerusalem, is dominated by the Church of the Dormition (left photo, below). According to Christian tradition, it is the place where the Virgin Mary died. Nearby is The Upper Room, where Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and served The Last Supper before being crucified, and King David’s Tomb. The Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu (right photo, below) is a stone’s throw from The Upper Room, located on the lower east side of Mount Zion. This Roman Catholic Church takes its name from Peter’s triple rejection of Jesus. The church has been rebuilt several times, the latest construction in 1931, and further connects Peter with the golden rooster on the roof. Inside are multiple underground caves and crypts. Some believe Jesus was imprisoned here. On the north side of the church is an ancient staircase that leads to the Kidron Valley and many Christians believe Jesus followed this path down to the Garden of Gethsemane. chapelsfirstcenturystepssmallgardengethsemanesmll There were so many wonderful, magical moments on this trip. I had a blast following the footsteps of Jesus and visiting places important to his ministry. However, walking along the stone streets of Old Jerusalem put so much into context. I don’t know if it was the conglomeration of three major religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) or the sense of old world charm in a bustling metropolis, but I loved every minute of it. Luckily, my tour group spent the last day of our pilgrimage in Jerusalem. We even shared Holy Communion in the Garden of the Empty Tomb. Even though the final day focused on the Via Dolorosa, I intentionally stayed at the back of the pack (like I normally do in large group settings) to capture lifestyle shots. Anybody can Google the places I’ve seen, but I wanted photos that captured the essence of the people who live and thrive inside the ancient city’s walls. There were open-air markets and street vendors selling shawarma (meat prepared on a rotating spit), brightly colored scarves blowing in the breeze, a variety of candies and sweet treats displayed on tables, and more fresh produce than this country girl could ever imagine! It was truly a magical day, an unforgetable experience. oldjerusalem More highlights of my Holy Land trip came from experiences with water. Where there is water, I usually find a way in … literally! I
swamfloated in the Dead Sea (which was so cool and made my skin feel AMAZING!) and another day I ate Saint Peter’s fish (similar to tilapia) beside the Sea of Galilee (which is really a big lake and fresh water, not saltwater). After lunch, I snuck away from the group to dip my toes in the very chilly water. The large rocks provided perfect coverage for my secret mission. I was eventually discovered and joined the tour group on-board a cruising vessel. The skies were a perfect shade of blue, the water was calm, and the captain turned off the engines to play a soft melody of It Is Well With My Soul over the speakers. seaofgalileesmallseaofgalilee If you get the opportunity to sit atop a camel, just do it already! There were 54 adults standing and gawking, talking about how cool it would be to ride a camel, but nobody was willing to get on the furry animal until Yours Truly demonstrated it was perfectly safe. And no, Mister Camel did not spit or bite me. camelridesmall

floralsmall

I hope you enjoyed this post and maybe you learned a few things too. I’d love to visit Jerusalem and the Holy Land again sometime. Have you traveled to the Holy Land? The Middle East? What were your favorite spots? What other destinations are on your dream list? Someday, I want to travel to Africa and Asia. 2013
Thanks so much for sharing your adventure with us, Nicole!  I long to visit the Holy Land and see all the places I’ve read about since childhood.

Travel Guest Post: 13 Travel Tips for Touring Washington, D.C.

three31
Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Bloglovin | Google+

Hey BFOTD readers! My name is Nicole and I blog at Three 31 — connect with me on social media too! I am a sweet tea drinking, Jesus loving, country girl from Kentucky married to a Texan named Husband. (Well, that’s not really his name but that’s what I call him.) We live near Fort Worth on a small spread with a white horse named Blue. While I have never given birth to another human, I consider my eighth grade students (130 in all) to be my precious, annoying, and hormonal angel babies. When I’m not blogging or teaching language arts, I enjoy photography, cooking, target shooting, reading, mission and volunteer work, reality TV, and traveling. Last summer, Husband had to go to Washington D.C. for work purposes, but I made sure there was a way for me to go for fun purposes! This was my first time in the nation’s capital and I absolutely LOVED it. For security purposes, I cannot disclose information about our accommodations but that’s okay because my part of the trip was all about visiting national monuments and museums and eating really great food!

MOUNT VERNON home of George + Martha Washington on the Potomac River

mountvernon
mvsalad

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY The Tomb of the Unknown SoldierChanging of The Guard

arlington

NATIONAL MALL Washington Monument | Lincoln Memorial | National Archives | White House | U.S. Capitol and crab cakes at The Old Ebbitt Grill

lincolnmemcrabcakes

SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY and dim sum (steamed dumplings) at Ping Pong near DuPont Circle

smithsoniandimsum
 If the pictures don’t do the trick, perhaps these travel tips will convince you to start planning your trip and pack your bags.
  1. Check (and double-check) that you’ve got a memory card in your camera. If I had checked my camera, you’d see pictures of perfectly steamed shrimp seasoned with Old Bay and lemon zest, fried cod, crispy potato wedges, cole slaw, and corn-on-the-cob. Husband said this particular meal was “really tasty.” He never, ever compliments food. Ever.
  2. Spend at least a half-day at Mount Vernon in Alexandria, Virginia. I arrived before the estate opened, but I entertained myself by taking pictures with my camera’s self-timer. It was ridiculous and silly. But a lot of fun. I also recommend a ride on the Spirit of Mount Vernon and cruise along the Potomac River. The view of George Washington’s mansion from the water is incredible.
  3. Remember the fallen at Arlington National Cemetery and observe the daily ritual of The Changing of The Guard. This is a must-see. I have goosebumps remembering this experience. You can’t NOT go to Arlington and visit The Tomb of The Unknown Soldier.
  4. Wear sunglasses, sunscreen + comfy shoes. But not new shoes. I purchased a pair of athletic/walking shoes the day before we left and had blisters on my feet within the first hour of walking around the National Mall. Fortunately, I had a pair of really comfortable sandals.
  5. Use public transportation + ride the METRO trains.I cannot promote METRO transit system enough. For a mere $9, I had an unlimited daily pass and I zippy-do-daa’d all over the D.C. area. Transitioning from one train to another is super easy and really quick. Honest-to-goodness, I never waited more than 5 minutes to board. An added bonus: the “facility” where Husband and I stayed provided a personal driver who drove me to the train station every morning and picked me up later in the afternoon.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Being in a metro area during the week has its advantages. People who live and work in the area are out-and-about and, usually, eager to help. I can’t tell you the number of people I approached to ask, “Can you point me in the direction of ___?” and they answered my question with a smile on their face. I paid attention to those around me, looking for people carrying a to-go lunch. Those were the folks on their lunch break; they know the area!
  7. Eat at local specialty restaurants. No offense to restaurant chains, but I avoid them when I’m in a new place. In fact, I spent several hours researching local eateries found only in the D.C. area. Taking into consideration my food allergy, every meal was incredible. Husband and I ate at Steamer’s and Woodmont Grill (Bethesda, Maryland) and Copper Canyon (Gaithersburg, Maryland). During the day, while I was by myself. I ate at Mount Vernon Inn (Alexandria, Virginia), Old Ebbitt Grill and Ping Pong (Washington, D.C.). If you love crab cakes, you must try this recipe for Old Ebbitt Grill Crab Cakes.
  8. Keep a street map in your tote bag. I’ll be honest, the navigation signs on roadways in the D.C. area are somewhat confusing. I got turned around and made several U-turns, but I always found my destination. However, the day I wanted to visit the National Geographic Museum, I turned right when I should have gone left. After a delicious lunch at Ping Pong, I headed towards the museum but found myself in the middle of Embassy Row. I waved to people walking by with their dog or watering the flowers in the yard … hey, I’m a nice tourist! I turned my misfortune into a learning experience and passed more than 100 properties belonging to dignitaries and secretaries of foreign countries along Massachusetts Avenue. I saw the sculpture of Mahatma Ghandi in front of India’s embassy and took a deep, cleansing breath ( Namaste, y’all). A few hours later, plus a refreshment from Smoothie King, I boarded the METRO train en route to Bethesda. The afternoon was not wasted, but I sure wish I had found the NatGeo Museum!
  9. Visit the National Archives … but arrive extra early. If you’re in Washington, D.C., you have to see the documents that created this country. The original Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and Bill of Rights are on display inside the dimly lit rotunda of the National Archives. I got goosebumps seeing John Hancock’s signature! Let this be fair warning, however, access to the gallery is limited. I arrived 30 minutes before the building opened and the line was clear around the block. Luckily, I was included in the first group of people (approximately 40) into the sacred space. An hour later, when I left the building, the line stretched three city blocks!
  10. Watch an IMAX movie at the Smithsonian Museum. Sure, I can watch IMAX films at my local movie theater, but watching an IMAX inside the Smithsonian Museum is much more exciting! I saw a film on coral reefs in the South Pacific and told Husband we really need to go on a vacation that includes a tropical destination!
  11. Try a new cuisine. I know I’ve mentioned food a gazillion times already, but I tried dim sum (steamed parcels of deliciousness) for the first time and fell in love.
  12. Make friends. The facility where Husband and I stayed had incredible staff. Miss V was like a grandmother and Mister S was my personal driver to the METRO train station each morning and afternoon. Mister S told me about growing up in Nepal and traveling the world before becoming a security consultant for the United States. I could have talked to him for hours. At restaurants, I made some type of connection with the staff. They were extremely attentive with my food allergy and I met the executive chef and manager before every meal. The waiter at Ping Pong is originally from Fort Worth and he attends George Washington University studying international commerce. I also met a family at Mount Vernon from Louisville, Kentucky. It’s a small world, you never know who you’re going to meet next!
  13. Because 13 is a lucky number, remember these tips:

  • The unlimited METRO pass is valid after 9:30am.
  • Keep a water bottle in your purse. And refill often.
  • If bathroom facilities are available, use them!
  • Avoid large and bulky souvenirs.
  • Keep a small amount of cash in your wallet for a taxi.
  • Allow extra time between destinations … especially tourist attractions, museums, rental car return, and going through airport security.

Have you been to Washington D.C.? What was your favorite attraction? Leave a comment! 2013

Thanks so much for sharing your adventures with us, Nicole.  I’ve been to D.C. several times, but there is so much to do and see there I can’t wait to go again.  Jed has never been and he is as much a history nerd as I am, so I know we will make it back soon.