Prepare to walk the plank at the Blackbeard Pirate Festival

Blackbeard Pirate Festival(c)

The 15th annual Hampton, VA Blackbeard Pirate Festival returns May 30-June 1 for another year of swashbuckling fun! Celebrate Hampton’s rich maritime heritage and the demise of their most infamous visitor, Captain Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard the Pirate.

Blackbeard Festival

Years ago pirates roamed these coastal waters in search of ships stocked with tobaco and other goods. They proceeded to terrorize waterways and cargo ships, capturing goods, ships and sailors. Blackbeard was the most daunting of all the pirates.


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Free Family Friendly St. Louis Attractions

Free in St Louis
Going on vacation is the highlight of the year for many of us. The planning, preparing, and anticipation is almost as much fun as visiting the destination. The not so fun part is realizing how much the vacation will cost. That part usually results in me cutting way back on what we’ll do.

Luckily, St. Louis, MO is a budget friendly destinations and many of the attractions are free. Right now they are celebrating their 250th birthday so, in addition to all the free attractions, there will be many exciting events taking place throughout the year. Now you can plan a fun packed long weekend AND keep your pennies in the bank.


Located in Forest Park the zoo is home to more than 18,000 animals and 700 species. The zoo is a great place to spend the day animal watching. The best time to visit is in the morning or late afternoon when the weather is a bit cooler and the animal are more active. Parking is $15. Budget friendly tip: Parking on the street is free. Arrive early for best chance to find a spot. FREE ADMISSION


A planetarium, Omnimax theater and science center all rolled into one. The hands-on exhibits are sure to entertain and delight children of all ages. Children can explore the world of paleontology while digging for dinosaur bones, watch a tornado form, feel the earth shake, participate in science experiments and so much more. FREE ADMISSION


America’s largest and oldest outdoor musical theater has been entertaining audiences since 1916. This is probably one of the best free attractions in the city. Where else can you watch a Broadway musical come to life while sitting under the stars and not have to pay a dime? The Muny theater season runs June, July and August. There are 1,500 FREE seats available for each and every Muny performance. The seats are available on a first come, first serve basis and available starting at 7 p.m. However, if you want a free ticket get in line early as they sell out fast. FREE ADMISSION


Gardens, sculptures and water features will entertain the family. It’s a perfect, and inexpensive, way to cool off on hot summer days. Small pools are available for children only. Sorry adults, you’ll have to sit this one out. There is an audio tour app that will guide you around the gardens 24 sculptures. FREE ADMISSION


Explore the past, present, and future of the great state of Missouri. Learn about Lewis & Clark, the brewing industry, 1904 World Fair and more. The museum offers both permanent and specials exhibits as well as programs and permanent collections. Currently there is a great exhibit celebrating St. Louis’ 250th birthday. FREE ADMISSION


A visit to Purina Farms include a dog arena, pet center, barn, theater and visitor’s center. Watch team dogs perform their awesome skills and explore the home where the Purina cats and dogs live. A walk through the barn area allows children to see farm animals up close. The Visitor’s Center provides hands-on activities that include everything from caring for pets to operating a pet food factory. FREE ADMISSION


Home of the Busch family and the world-renowned Budweiser Clydesdales. A tram takes visitors around the 160 acre park and learn about the history of Grant’s Farm and see the 900 different animals living on the farm. Additionally, the farm offers goat feeding, carousel rides, animal and elephant shows and camel rides. Parking $12. FREE ADMISSION


One of leading museums in the nation, the Saint Louis Art Museum has over 33,000 objects in it’s collection representing 481 cultures from around the world. More that 14,000 works of art are on display at any given time and include works by masters like Rembrandt, Degas, Beckmann, and Picasso. The museum recently added 200,000 square feet of space with the addition of their East Building. This building will house special exhibits. FREE ADMISSION


Explore the past, present, and future of the great state of Missouri. Learn about Lewis & Clark, the brewing industry, 1904 World Fair and more. The museum offers both permanent and specials exhibits as well as programs and permanent collections. Currently a great exhibit celebrating St. Louis’ 250th birthday. FREE ADMISSION


Learn how Budweiser got its start and what makes it one of the most popular beers on the market today. Anheuser-Busch has been perfecting the art of beer making since 1852. Learn how their beers are created from only the best ingredients. In addition to learning about beer you’ll take a tour of the world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales stables. FREE ADMISSION

BONUS: This one has a minimal fee, but is well worth the investment.


Ride a capsule to the top of the Gateway Arch to get a birds eye view of the city and, on a clear day, see 30 miles away in every direction. The Arch, completed in 1967, was built as a monument to all the pioneers that traveled West. St. Louis was the last big stop before traveling into the great unknown. This is a not to be missed attraction when visiting St. Louis. Adults: $10 Children 3-15: $5.

5 Family Fun Destinations in Michigan

Family Fun Destinations in Michigan

Surrounded by hundreds of miles of shoreline the Great Lakes state is the perfect destination for a summer vacation. Museums to forest to waterfalls and beaches there is something for everyone in Michigan. The hardest part is narrowing down where to visit. To help you pick the perfect place I’m sharing a list of the top 5 family fun destinations in Michigan.

Family Fun Destinations in Michigan(c)


Located on Grand Traverse Bay in northwest Michigan Traverse City is one of Michigan’s hidden gems. Sand dunes, beautiful beaches, museums, lakes, shopping and dining are a few of the reasons that families flock to this area every summer.

Not to be missed activities include:

Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes
Cherry Bowl Drive-In
Traverse City Beach Bums Minor League Baseball
Downtown Shopping
Little Fleet food trucks
Great Wolf Lodge

Family Fun Destinations in Michigan(c)


West Michigan’s largest city is bustling with family friendly activities. The Grand River flows through the city and Lake Michigan is a short 25 miles away making this a great destination for families that want to experience city life and beach life. Voted by Lonely Planet as one of the top destinations to visit in 2014 Grand Rapids is sure to become a family favorite.

Not to be missed activities include:

Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
John Ball Zoo
West Michigan White Caps Minor League Baseball
Blanford Nature Center
Grand Rapids Public Museum
Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
Grand Lady riverboat cruise
Coopersville & Marne railway

Family Fun Destinations in MIchigan (c)


No cars are allowed on Mackinaw Island instead transportation is by bike or horse and buggy. The car-free rule adds to the ambiance of the island making it one of Michigan’s most popular tourist destinations. Located in northern Michigan between Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas. A short ferry ride takes you to the island where you can explore the Native Indian culture, a British fort and eat famous Mackinaw Island fudge.

Not to be missed activities include:

Grand Hotel
Mackinaw Island Butterfly House
Horse drawn carriage tour
Fort Mackinaw
Ride bikes
Shop Main Street

Family Fun in Michigan (c)


Home to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor offers everything you would expect from a college town. Saturated with culture, good food, entertainment and much more. Ann Arbor is a fun destination for all ages, but especially for tweens & teens.

Not to be missed activities include:

Domino’s Petting Farm
U of M Museum of Natural History
Michigan Firehouse Museum
Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum
Jiffy Mix Factory Tour
Pinball Pete’s downtown arcade
Urban Fairy Doors
Kerrytown Market & Shops
Chelsea Teddy Bear Co.

Family Fun in Michigan(c)


Detroit is the heart of Michigan and home to the big three automakers. This is the city where automobiles are created, Motown music is played and sports are taken seriously. Still trying to recover from the economic downturn Detroit offers a multitude of attractions and entertainment for families.

Not to be missed activities include:

Michigan Science Center
Detroit Institute of Art
Detroit Tigers
Greek Town
Greenfield Village
Henry Ford Museum
Detroit Zoo
Ride the People Mover

Family Fun with Desert Adventure Tours

Red Jeep Tour-8 Exploring the desert with your family is a fun experience with Desert Adventures. The naturalist guides are awesome at providing an educational tour without it being boring. In fact, I would guess that the kids don’t even realize how much they are learning from their experience. Hearing stories while looking at the landscape and touching the plants and trees provides a fabulous hands-on experience.


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History Colorado Center

Situated in the middle of downtown Denver is the newly opened History Colorado Center. A beautifully designed building that brings the history of Colorado to life through high tech, hands on experiences.

The Center opened April 28th with three permanent exhibits and a fourth exhibit opening this Fall. The exhibits include:

“The Great Map of Colorado” & Time Machines: Traverse the great state of Colorado on foot and explore the state through time via History Colorado’s very own Tim Machine.

Destination Colorado: Journey back to the 1920′s and visit the agricultural town of Keota on Colorado’s eastern plains.

Colorado Stories: Discover compelling stories from eight Colorado communities across the state and over time. You can soar off a virtual ski jump (FUN!!), descend into a hard-rock mine, and meet some of the people who shaped the past and influenced the present.

Denver A-Z: Explore the past and present from Red Rocks to the Blue Bear in this light-hearted look at some of the people an dplaces that characterize the spirit of the capital city.

My favorite display at the History Colorado Center is the LegoRado exhibit. This is a temporary exhibit that displays the history, present and future of Colorado. As avid Lego lovers this was a fun exhibit to walk through. Its available through August.

In addition to the exhibits there is also a Rendezvous Cafe with delish looking food, a gift shop, and a library and research center.

I really enjoyed my time at the History Colorado Center and would definitely return for a visit the next time I’m in the area.

Things you need to know before you go:

Monday-Saturday…..10 a.m.-5p.m.

Students (13-22 w/Student I.D.)–$8
Children (ages 6-12)–$6
Children (5 and under)–Free

You can purchase tickets at the door or at

Address: 1200 Broadway, Denver

Parking: Available in the garage just west of the History Colorado Center at 12th Ave. and Broadway. Meter spaces and surface lots are also available nearby.

5 Tips For Tent Camping In Yellowstone National Park

Tent Camping In Yellowstone

Are you planning a camping trip to Yellowstone? Camping, as in tent camping? My daughter, sister and I camped in Yellowstone and loved every minute of it. Everyone thought we were crazy pitching a tent, but if you take the right precautions you’ll be fine.  Besides, Yellowstone is awesome and if tent camping is the only way I can stay there during high season then tent camping is what I’ll do. Here are my top 5 tips for tent camping in Yellowstone National Park. Hopefully this will help you be more prepared than we were.

tent camping yellowstone

5 Tips For Tent Camping In Yellowstone National Park

1. Pack extra blankets or sleeping bags. It gets COLD at night. I mean, seriously cold. We camped at the beginning of August and thought it would be warm at night. Um, no, it’s not warm at night, not even a little bit. It dropped into the 30′s and we didn’t have extra blankets. We wore a lot of layers to bed and just tried to get some sleep. Next time we go tent camping in Yellowstone I’m packing extra blankets, wool socks & gloves (I’m a bit of a whimp when it comes to cold weather.)

2. Keep your campsite food free. When you leave your site for the day make sure you have left no beverage containers or food behind. Do not bring food into your tent. Yellowstone has wildlife (ie: BEARS!) that are attracted to food. Make sure you don’t give them a reason to visit your campsite. We kept all the food, cooking gear and water in our car, except when we were cooking, and ate at the picnic table that was covered with a table cloth. All crumbs were swept into a trash bag and everything was folded and packed back up in the car. Extreme?? Maybe, but I’d rather take extreme cautions that have a late night visitor ;)

3. Pack bear spray. I don’t know if it will save you, but I was nervous not having any especially after our campground host walked around with it while visiting campsites. That didn’t inspire a lot of confidence in me. I wasn’t so sure I should be tent camping if it wasn’t even safe to walk around, but everything turned out fine. Next time I’ll pack it just so I’m not THAT visitor that is reminisced about with the words “if only she had bear spray with her”

4. Make reservations early. The resorts fill up fast. Pick a date and make your reservations as early as possible. If you are going to tent camp you have a bit more flexibility and can reserve a couple months in advance. In all seriousness, the sooner you make your reservation the more likely you will be to stay at your lodge/campground of choice.

5. Meet your camp host. They are able to provide tips on wildlife viewing in the area plus share how to stay safe during your Yellowstone adventure. I highly recommend reaching out to them when you arrive. They are there to answer questions you may have about the area and have a wealth of knowledge that you might just find useful.

Have you or do you want to go tent camping in Yellowstone National Park?

Sock Monkey Festival Rockford IL

sock monkey festival

Everyone loves sock monkeys, right? The Sock Monkey festival in Rockford, IL helps celebrate that love every year at the Midway Village Museum. On Saturday March 1, 2014 and Sunday March 2, 2014 you can join the sock monkey festivities that include everything from a sock monkey hospital to a sock monkey making workshop. I really want to go to the Sock Monkey festival this year and try my hand at making my own sock monkey.


Sock Monkey Festival Events

Make-A-Monkey Workshop
Advance reservations are taken for the Make-A-Monkey Workshop by phone or you may also register for workshop at the event.  There is an additional cost for the workshop.

Shopping and Unique Gift Ideas
Come and shop for charming Sock Monkey merchandise!  You’ll be able to purchase merchandise from a variety of vendors who will sell crafted sock monkeys and out-of-the-ordinary accessories.

Why The Sock Monkey Festival Is Held In Rockford IL
The Nelson Knitting Company of Rockford manufactured and sold Rockford Red Heel work socks from 1932 to 1992 which were used during the Great Depression to create a folk art sock monkey stuffed toy. In recent years, the sock monkey has been coming back and is sold in department and specialty stores worldwide. The interest in creating a uniquely American handmade doll from Rockford Red Heel Socks is still around to this day.

Event Details
At the museum’s family festival, visitors have the opportunity to use their talents and imagination to construct a sock monkey of their own with the help of our talented museum staff at the Make-a-Monkey workshops ($20 additional fee…allow about 2 hours) or adorn ready-made monkeys with clothing, accessories and other free stuff.

Attractions at the event also include:  an exhibit featuring the local history of Rockford’s knitting industry and the origin of the sock monkey doll, children’s crafts, book signings, the annual Ms/Mr. Sockford 2013 Beauty & Talent Pageant on Sunday (with adult & youth divisions), free medical check-ups and minor surgery for well-loved vintage sock monkeys at Sockford General Hospital.

Featured this year at the Sock Monkey Festival:

  • Affordable food and snacks available from Burritt’s Meat Products
  • Sock Monkey Hall of Fame inductee ceremony
  • (2) Ms./Mr. Sockford 2013 Sock Monkey Pageants (youth and adult categories) on Sunday
  • You may register at the event or in-advance (click here for the registration form).
  • Sock monkey crafts for children (register at the event)
  • How to make a sock monkey ($20 fee) call to register & reserve a time slot. Allow one and a half to two hours to complete your monkey. Basic sewing skills needed.

Watch this You’ve Got Sock Monkeys, you’ll sure to enjoy it!

sock monkey festival

What You Need To Know Before You Go To The Sock Monkey Festival:

Parking is free.  Free shuttle service (courtesy of the Rockford Park District) is available at nearby sites on Guilford Road when the main museum lots become full.

Online ticket sales will end at 5 pm  Thursday, February 25, 2013, you may also purchase your tickets at the door or call
815-397-9112 for additional assistance.

$8 adults; $5 children/students
Museum Members are FREE!

11 am – 5 pm

Travel Historic Route 66 In Pontiac, IL

Route 66 sign

It was just a little off the beaten path on our road trip to Alton, IL. After a little convincing Alan left the highway and drove to Pontiac, IL on historic Route 66 so that I could see a really cool wall mural (above photo with Alan & I). That’s kind of how I travel. I spot something of interest and I’ll go out of my way to investigate.


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Kentucky Bourbon Trail

KY Bourbon Trail

I have been wanting to travel the Kentucky Bourbon Trail for a while now. My travel bucket list is so long and I’m trying to figure out how to schedule everything into the travel calendar. I’m not much of a bourbon drinker, but traveling the Kentucky Bourbon Trail just sounds like a lot of fun.

KY Bourbon Trail

There are seven distilleries along the trail that all deserve a visit. I think it would be wise to plan a 3 day, 2 night trip.  Although, I might extend the trip a bit so that I can include a night or two in Lexington and Louisville as well.

KY Bourbon Trail

Each of the distilleries offer a tour of their facility and have tastings. Wild Turkey and Four Roses offer general tours for free, but the other charge a fee. A bonus is that all distilleries offer free tastings at the end of the tour.

craft tour logo

In addition to the above distilleries there is the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour™.  This tour takes you further into the craftsmanship of the Kentucky Bourbon. The craft tour is designed for those looking to enjoy Kentucky Bourbon at its very core. You’ll try new handcrafted brands, sample spirits and collect stamps the the seven craft distilleries to earn exclusive rewards.

KY Bourbon Trail Craft Tour

The seven founding craft distilleries are:
Barrel House Distillery, Lexington
Corsair Artisan Distillery, Bowling Green
Limestone Branch Distillery, Lebanon
MB Roland Distillery, Pembroke
Old Pogue Distillery, Maysville
Silver Trail Distillery, Hardin 
Willett Distillery, Bardstown

I’ve heard that the ruins of the Old Taylor Distillery, near Woodford, is worth a stop for its haunting beauty and magnificent architecutre.

I know that the landscape through Kentucky is pretty so the drives from distillery to distillery will be pretty. Kentucky is gorgeous in the summer with rolling green hills.

Have you been on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail? What was your favorite stop?