I admit to you that I have never been a big “Florida” person. Coming from the southwest the Pacific and California were my go-to places when I had an inkling to go somewhere with sand and surf. Heck they even have Disney and Universal there too so why would I ever go to the sunshine state? Well, I did go a few times, mostly to the Orlando area and it was nice but Cali was till my fave.
That has started to change though with my introduction to Panama City Beach, Florida. I left a piece of my heart there. It was absolutely beautiful and so much fun as a family.
We stayed for a week at the gorgeous Sunrise Beach Resort. We were so spoiled with views like this…
We got a three bedroom, two bath condo with a full kitchen and an ocean view. It was soooo much better than booking a standard hotel room. We all had room to stretch out and get away from each other after lots of family togetherness during outings. We could cook full meals for when we chose to, allowing ourselves to save some money whenever we weren’t eating out. That way we felt very little guilt about hitting up seafood buffets most nights when we were eating breakfast and lunch at the resort each day. And I did not feel deprived by doing so. How could I when I could drink Mimosas for breakfast every morning without restaurant prices?? We still ate out plenty…
We also planned a few sea fishing excursions. One day the whole family went and my husband and oldest son went on their own a couple days. It was a fantastic and fun experience. Every single one of us caught fish. In fact we had fish lunches for several days and came home with lots of fish. My two fishermen had the time of their lives and we saw a dolphin in the wild.
Panama City also has plenty to do. We visited Pier Park, Coconut Creek Family Fun Park, WonderWorks, and of course the beach, every single day. Plus the resort had a great pool and hot tub that we visited daily. I even got a tattoo! I highly recommend American Classic Tattoo if you are in the area.
Are you planning a family vacation this year and aren’t sure of where to go? Well, if you’re into nature, the great outdoors, and relaxing in thermal pools, Colorado may be perfect for you. There are several mountain cabins for rent in Colorado or boutique hotels to choose from in Denver, Boulder, or Colorado Springs. And the best thing is, the state gets on average of 300 days of sunshine, so you’re almost guaranteed dry weather. Here are five of the best things to do on a family vacation this fall.
1# Drive Along the Trail Ridge Road:
The Trail Ridge Road has some of the best views in Colorado as it winds through the Rocky Mountain National Park. Passing between Grand Lake and Estes Park, driving along this continental drift promises dramatic scenery. Expect steep canyons and even snow on some of the higher points of the road while you’re driving along the highest paved road in the United States.
The switchbacks give some of the most beautiful views in Colorado. Wild elk also live on parts of the route, and it’s typical to spot them as you’re going along this 77 kilometers (48 miles) route. The kids will love the changing color of the foliage and varying landscapes. Stop at some of the viewpoints to soak up the natural beauty in front of your eyes.
Expect the journey to take approximately three hours factoring in plenty of breaks for photographs. Road closures are common during late fall and from the end of November to May because of heavy snowfall. Make sure you visit in the first half of the season to avoid disappointment.
2# Visit Capitol Peak:
If you want to show your family a blanket of aspen gold foliage stretching forever into the distance, take them to Capitol Peak in the Elk Mountains. Trails range from a smooth few kilometers trek up to more strenuous ones if you fancy a day of hiking. Head out for a day or exercise and enjoy the striking and vibrant shades surrounding you. The best time to soak up the beauty is just before sunset as the orange sun casts a wave of color over the already golden leaves.
It’s not advisable to go hiking with your family on some of the more difficult trails. Accidents do occur. Even if you’re not into hiking, still take the kids to see the colors of fall at their very best.
3# Get Lost in a Corn Maze:
A fun-family friendly activity in Colorado this fall is to take part in a Corn Maze. If you’re not sure what this is, imagine one of the endless cornfields in the state on a large piece of farmland. Now imagine a farmer hacking paths through the farmland to create a pattern that resembles a maze. Visitors come, pay a small fee and have to try to pass through to reach the other side.
The mazes typically open from late September and have a variety of themes. Some celebrate and allow parents to take their children pumpkin picking afterwards. Others are for older kids and have an element of trivia and mystery. You can find most of the mazes around the Denver area including the famous one at Denver Botanical Gardens.
4# Take Part in the Annual Gorilla Run:
The Denver Gorilla run combines running, dressing up, and raising money for charity. People from all over Colorado descend into Denver for the annual fall fun run covering a total distance of 5 kilometers. But, the running is just the start of it. All participants dress up in either a gorilla or banana outfit as they jog along the streets raising money for the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund.
Come down with the family, don a costume and run the short distance or cheer on the others from the sideline. There’s also the best costume competition, which encourages participants to be as creative as they can. Everything is good natured and will be a fun experience whether you take part or not. At the end of the run, everyone gets together to enjoy an after party and celebrate the conclusion of the event.
Gorilla Runs take place in a few cities around the United States, but the one in the Mile High City is said to be one of the best. So, if you’re in Colorado this fall, head down to Denver to join in the fun and games. It’s a certainty that the family will have a memorable experience.
5# Attend the Elk Fest:
Every fall in the Estes Valley, the annual Elk Fest takes place. Visitors can learn everything they ever wanted to know about Elks and buy handicrafts and other related souvenirs. The event is family-friendly, and kids of all ages enjoy getting close and personal with some of the animals inside. After the event is over, a concert with country music and bluegrass take place for the parents to enjoy. If you’re interested in this, search online to see what’s happening and to get more information on the specific dates. Learning about elk and seeing a concert is a great way to spend a chilly autumn’s day in Colorado.
From Colorful Scenery to Gorillas and Elk:
Show your kids the changing colors of leaves in the national parks or get lost in a corn maze. Check out the Gorilla Run and Elk Fest if you’re in the State when they take place. A family vacation to Colorado in the fall has everything you could need to have a perfect trip.
I was recently offered the opportunity to go on a grand adventure courtesy of Hyundai. A small group of bloggers and car writers were invited to the Hyundai headquarters in Montgomery Alabama and then allowed to drive a new 2017 Elantra Eco off the line and road trip it home (wherever that may be). It was a fantastic opportunity to learn about Hyundai, their facility, and the Elantra Eco. It was also a fantastic opportunity to see more of Alabama and Tennessee than I ever had previously. I had an incredible time, as did my husband, who accompanied me on this adventure.
It started with a flight to Alabama and a stay at the Renaissance hotel in Montgomery. The hotel was gorgeous and it was close to a lot of great food and historical sites.
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In all honestly I probably would have opted to hit a ton of museums, historical sites, plantations, and other southern treasures but my husband is not as into to that stuff as I am. So we chose to hit up some stuff we would both enjoy…aka natural wonders.
We started with a drive along the Lookout Mountain Scenic Parkway… a 93 mile scenic drive through Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. One of the first and most beautiful stops was Noccalula Falls in Gadsden, AL. It is so named for a young Cherokee woman who leaped from the waterfall rim long ago.
The title of this post pretty much sums up our recent week long vacation in Florida.
We LOVED Universal and the kids did too. I have just as many fond memories of Universal as I do for Disney since those Disney trips as kids also included a trip to Universal Hollywood. My main reason for wanting to go on this trip was the Harry Potter world and I was not disappointed at all. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is worth every penny and every minute spent waiting in a line. It is the stuff dreams are made of.
Diagon Alley was enchanting. We walked around it for hours just admiring and drinking butter beer. My daughter who is a Harry Potter fan got a Hogwarts robe and an interactive wand as gifts from her Uncle. So we all had a blast walking to all the various places throughout Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade that had areas where you could use your wand to do “magic”. There were several dozen places.
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Hogsmeade was way busier than Diagon Alley for some reason I cannot quite understand but it was also fun. The two harry Potter rides were also quite fantastic. The one where you are on a broomstick was incredible. The Hogwarts Castle and The Hogwarts Express were incredible. I just cannot say in words how magical it was to be in the world of Harry Potter.
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The rest of the park was pretty fun too. We rode all the major rides and saw all the major shows. We spent three days there so we were able to get it all done with minimal wait times. This was crucial because rides like Spiderman or Minions are not worth the 1-2 hour wait times they often have. The best tactic is to spend multiple days and tackle all the rides in the morning until you get to all the ones you want. And there are two parks to explore if you get the park hopper passes like we did. One of the very best times we had though was at the Horror Makeup Show and there was no wait for it. It was fantastic!
So lessons learned? The road trip was rough and I am not sure if I would want to drive that again. Listening to audio books on the way there and back was a big hit though. Disney was mostly a bust for us but we might try another Disney park next time. We would definitely go back to Universal (both parks). We also need a day or two of nothing planned because all the walking was exhausting!
All in all we had fun and made some good memories. My daughter walking around the Harry Potterverse dressed up as a Hogwarts student and waving a wand around? Yes, that is priceless to me. And to her as well…she’s been listening to the books on audio ever since she got home. We must ride the Hogwarts Express again one day.
When you’re planning a family vacation it’s important to take each individual’s needs into account. This means making sure everyone can join in with planned activities and that everyone can have fun. If you have a vegan in the family, making sure everyone will be able to eat can be a little more complicated, but with good planning you should still be able to enjoy a great adventure together.
What is veganism?
If one of your family members is vegan that person may have asked not to be given certain foods, but you could still be uncertain which foods are acceptable. In fact it’s simple: vegans don’t eat any animal-derived products. This means that they’re vegetarian but, along with avoiding meat and fish, they also avoid dairy products, eggs and honey. Most vegans also avoid products containing animal derivatives such as beef gelatin, which is present in many processed foods, and they avoid wearing leather or fur. In some parts of the world, there have been people living like this for thousands of years. Modern veganism has been around in the West for about 70 years. It’s increasingly popular, especially with young people, and you can find out more about it from the Vegan Society.
Choosing where to eat
When you have a vegan family member it can be difficult to find restaurants where everybody is happy to eat. Chinese, Japanese and Korean places usually don’t use dairy products, so are okay as long as they offer vegetarian options. If they are run by recent immigrants who are not sure what’s vegetarian and what isn’t, it’s best to ask for Buddhist food. Some traditional American restaurants are happy to take dairy products out of their vegetarian dishes where practicable. Vegans gradually become unable to digest the proteins in dairy food, so it can be a good idea to take an artificial lactose capsule before eating, in case of accidental contamination; this will reduce the risk of illness.
Where to stay
When you’re choosing accommodation, you may want to check first to see if there are restaurants in your hotel or nearby that can cater to vegans. Alternatively, you could choose a self-catering apartment where you can cook your own food. If you’re staying in a hotel, see if there is a fridge you can use; this will allow you to store your own foods, which the kitchen may be willing to cook for you.
By now, most people are familiar with the range of meat substitute products that are available to vegetarians – everything from tempeh rashers to soya mince. It’s important to note that many Quorn products are not suitable for vegans because they are made using eggs. These days there are also some great alternatives to eggs and dairy products, making it easy to substitute ingredients. Check out Hampton Creek’s Facebook to learn more about the work being done in this area. Hampton Creek food is also very healthy because it doesn’t contain trans-fatty acids or MSG. As a result, even a cook with no experience of vegan nutrition can now produce healthy, enjoyable meals.
On the journey
When you’re on a plane, getting the staff to switch ingredients isn’t really an option. When you’re driving long distance and relying on diners, it can also present a significant challenge. To deal with these situations, it’s a good idea to take plenty of snacks. Flapjacks, oatcakes and rice cakes are great because they pack a lot of energy into a small package and can keep you going for a long time.
Travelling with a vegan family member may require a bit of extra organization, but it’s far from impossible. A well-planned trip can still be lots of fun for all involved.