Why family travel is not always a vacation. . .

I remember hearing an argument sometime last year on the Today Show where the hosts were talking about a blogger who was talking about her family "vacations" not really being a "vacation."  Several of the hosts disagreed with the blogger and shared the joys that they have vacationing with their children.  After a recent family weekend trip, I can certainly speak to the fact that while I love traveling with my children, the word "vacation" does not seem to be the most appropriate.

At the ripe old age of 2, there seems to be a lot of days (and nights) where our youngest runs the show.  A few weeks ago, we took a road trip up to Knoebel's for the weekend.  When we arrived Friday evening, we got settled in the hotel and began getting everyone ready for the usual bed routine.  But in this instance, it turned out to be anything but the usual.  Little man wanted no parts of going to bed and his protests were not silent but turned into raucous roars.  8:00 came and went, then 9:00, then 10:00.  By 11:00 we wondered if we had made a tremendous mistake and should just head home.  In addition to the squeals and desire to play coming from our 2 year old, our 5 year old was whining that his brother was keeping him awake.  Thus began the night walk.  I loaded Caleb into the stroller and walked him around the parking lot of our Bloomsburg hotel for 1 hr.  Yes. . .you read that right.  One entire hour of walking circles around a parking lot before he finally gave in and fell asleep.

Now amazingly, the next day at Knoebel's was wonderful.  No fussy children and Caleb even took a nap in the stroller which is unusual.  We figured that the exciting day at the amusement park would wear them out, but just to be on the safe side we let them play in the hotel pool for about an hour when we got back to the hotel.  Then we started the bedtime routine again.  This time, Brody was out like a light, but once again Caleb defied the odds and turned bedtime into playtime.  Again, it took several hours and then a 90 minute walk in the stroller to finally get him to sleep.  Meanwhile, this whole time the patience of me and my husband was wearing thin and we seriously questioned taking any more "vacations" this summer.

Don't get me wrong, the kids had an amazing time that weekend at the amusement park and enjoyed our stop at Indian Echo Caverns on the way home Sunday.  We love seeing smiles on their faces and sharing the magic of childhood with them, which is a big reason we travel and like to explore new places.  However, I don't consider this a "vacation" with the amount of work that goes into planning and executing the weekend.  We relish the time with our kids that we spend and I love to see families traveling together, but maybe during that busy summer carve out a spa day for mom or a romantic overnight for mom and dad to truly enjoy a relaxing "vacation" that we all so desperately need.

2017 Princess Half Marathon Race Recap

Leg 2 of the Glass Slipper Challenge found me with another early wake-up at 3AM to get ready to join the thousands of women (and lots of men too!) at Epcot for runDisney's Princess Half Marathon. Like other runDisney races, the start time is an invigorating 5:30AM and they ask runners to arrive by 4:30AM at the latest.  We boarded our bus from Coronado Springs at 3:45 and were inside the waiting area at Epcot by 4:15.  Since we had time to spare and nothing else to do, we opted to get in line to try and meet a princess before the start of the race.  We cut it close before the line was closed, but were able to grab a picture with Tiana.  Christine and I also found a minute to pause for a quick photo before heading to the corrals.  As you can see, I went with a Belle inspired look for the race which was fitting as the race weekend theme was Beauty and the Beast.

The starting corrals for this particular race are a good walk from the waiting area.  Definitely heed the warnings by the DJ beginning around 4:30 to start walking there.  We began heading in that direction around 5:00 and didn't make it to our corral until after the race had officially started.  That's a benefit though of being slow - my corral placement was so far back, I didn't miss my starting time!  We saw many, many people running hard to try and make it to their corrals before the race started and some early corral runners who missed their start and had to drop back.  Regardless of where runners started, everyone was treated to the usual pomp and circumstance that accompanies the start of every runDisney race - fireworks and music!

The race featured a number of unique and fabulous character stops.  We bypassed the long line for the group of handsome men waiting to greet runners, but don't worry ladies - I grabbed a quick photo as we jogged past.  This course takes you from Epcot to the Ticket and Transportation Center and then onto Magic Kingdom.  There is nothing quite as exciting as seeing the signs for Magic Kingdom, running down Main Street USA, and through Cinderella Castle.  There were a number of character stops in Magic Kingdom, but I was feeling very tired and sluggish from being undertrained and tired from the 10K the day before so we continued to push on to not loose momentum.  I had said that I would stop for Gaston no matter how long the line was, but when the line was back past Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid, I changed my mind and just settled for a quick pic on the way past.

After leaving Magic Kingdom, we ran past the Grand Floridian and saw a very famous and familiar face.  Many Disney regulars will recognize Richard as the long time greeter at the Grand Floridian.  This was one picture I couldn't pass up.  As we made our way back to Epcot, I started to really lose it physically.  As we were on the bridge crossing into Epcot, I was doing way more walking than running, but I was still moving in the right direction.  After entering Epcot, runners circled around the  fountain in Future World and then back to the parking lot.  The Gospel Choir at mile 13 was just what this exhausted runner needed.  Princess Minnie was greeting runners right before crossing the finish line and we were done!  19.3 miles in less than 30 hours was an impressive feat for me and I couldn't have been happier to pick up my beautiful Princess Half Marathon AND Glass Slipper Challenge medals.  I also couldn't have been happier to return to the hotel for a shower and lunch that was waiting for me.  The Glass Slipper Challenge was a memorable weekend and I look forward to my next runDisney adventure!



Chef Art Smith's Homecomin'

With the recent revitalization of Disney Springs, Walt Disney World has it's very own food and shopping mecca within the borders of the massive resort.  We don't regularly get a chance to visit Disney Springs on our family trips as we spend most of our time in the parks with the little ones, but when I visited with my friend for a runDisney weekend, we took the chance to enjoy a few of the restaurants Disney Springs has to offer.  The first was Chef Art Smith's Homecomin'.

The decor looks like something that Chip and Joanna Gaines would have designed on Fixer Upper.  Inside and outside of the restaurant feature calming colors and a rustic country design.  We had reservations and were seated quickly after arriving.  The restaurant is not very big compared to some of the other spots in Walt Disney World, so reservations do tend to book up unlike at some of the other Disney Springs locations although you probably don't have to be on right at the 180 day mark to grab your table.

While I'm not an expert on celebrity chefs, I did know that Art Smith is famous for his fried chicken.  However, when we sat down with the menu, I wasn't sure that a big southern meal of fried chicken and heavy sides was what I needed in the middle of my Glass Slipper Challenge races.  So instead, my friend and I decided to split and appetizer and then order salads.  To give us a taste of the famous fried chicken, we opted for the Thigh High Chicken Biscuits for our appetizer. The plate included three biscuits that had both fried chicken and pickles then drizzled in honey.  Everyone was right - the fried chicken was to die for!  We thought this appetizer was the classic southern comfort food that you would expect to be delicious here.  My dinner was a simple grilled chicken salad with balsamic dressing.  Everything was fresh and wonderful.  And even though we heard amazing things about the dessert options, we decided to pass on dessert to make sure we weren't to weighed down for the race the next day.

Overall, Chef Art Smith's Homecomin' is a delicious delight located in Disney Springs.  For anyone that likes traditional down-home southern comfort food, this should be a must-do on your dining wish list.  The prices are reasonable too which always helps!  Maybe next time, I won't be on race weekend and will be able to enjoy even more fried goodness from this delectable restaurant!

4 Reasons to Fall in Love with Knoebels Amusement Park

Our family just returned from a weekend visit to Knoebels - our third so far.  My husband grew up visiting the Central PA amusement park, so it's no surprise that he has been excited to make memories there with our kids.  This was our first visit since having both boys and I have to say that it might be one of the best bargains for families with young kids around.

From our house, we can be to Knoebels in about 3 hours which makes it just on the line of being a day trip.  This time, my husband was on his way home from a fishing trip in Canada so I met him in Bloomsburg with the kids and we stayed in a hotel for the weekend.  Our boys are 5 and 2 - perfect for loving the kiddie rides and the family amusement park experience.  This trip really solidified 4 reasons that all young families will fall in love with Knoebels!

The Price - As I said, this might be the best bargain for families with young children around.  Unlike most amusement parks, entry into Knoebels is free - yes, you read that right - FREE!  Try finding that these days!  Entertainment, like musicians and magic shows are all open to the public and included in your free entry.  When it's time to ride the rides, you simply pay as you go for the rides you want.  The kiddie rides are all very reasonable with most ranging in price from $1.00 to $1.50.  You can buy tickets in books of $5.00, $10.00, or $20.00 and can even buy discounted tickets at places like local Weis Markets ahead of your visit.  The paper tickets also never expire so the extra tickets we had from 2 years ago were still able to be used on this visit saving us even more money!  During the week, the park offers a ride all day pass, but on weekends that is not an option.  Now if you have older kids and teenagers that are looking for thrill rides, be warned that the big roller coasters cost $3.00 each per rider which can quickly add up.

The Location - Nestled among the mountains and trees of Elysburg, PA, you don't even realize you're approaching an amusement park as you pull up to Knoebels.  The feel is more of a large carnival than an amusement park with lots of shade, a mix of gravel and paved walkways, and an overall "woodsy" feel.  For those families that enjoy camping (unlike me. . .), there is a campground adjacent to the amusement park which is a popular draw.

The Food - Knoebels is known to have some of the best amusement park food around.  We have never been disappointed in the quality of traditional park fare like pizza, hamburgers, and fries.  They also offer a wide variety of options that are not as traditional in amusement parks including spaghetti dinners, meatloaf dinners complete with potatoes and veggies, and a delicious International Food Court.  The prices are in line with what you would expect at an amusement park - not cheap, but not ridiculous either.

The Rides - The rides are perfect for kids of all ages.  Our 2 year old enjoyed playing on the sliding board and the ball pit the best while our 5 year old ran from ride to ride eager to enjoy everything from cars, boats, trains, and much more.  If you have older thrill seekers, there are several roller coasters including the Phoenix - one of best ranked wooden roller coasters in the country.  The park also features a pool and water play area at a very reasonable price.  So if you are planning to visit in the summertime, be sure to bring your bathing suits in case you want to cool off in the pool during your visit!


Overall, I highly recommend this experience for families - especially those with young kids.  While I still love my visits to (also nearby) Hersheypark, this is a much cheaper alternative that has a very different "old time-y" feel.  It's definitely worth the drive to check out on summer road trips!

Back to the Races

Lightning McQueen races back into theaters nationwide on June 16 in the latest Disney/Pixar hit, Cars 3.  In the newest film, McQueen and the Rust-eze racing team face a new challenge on the race track as next generation rookies are taking the circuit by storm.  Lightning McQueen works with a new trainer, Cruz Ramirez, to get back into top racing shape.  But will it be enough?  How far will the latest and greatest technology take the number 95 and how far will your heart carry you through tough times?

One of the new stars in Cars 3 is Cruz Ramirez.  She is a next generation trainer who is looking to take Lightning McQueen to the next level.  What's really to love about her though is a girl who is strong, smart, and very real.  Ramirez faces her own insecurities during her training of McQueen, but in the end she also learns that with encouragement from friends you can achieve even your wildest dreams.  McQueen also finds inspiration from friends and a mentor of his old crew chief, Doc Hudson.  The educator in me really enjoys how much these movies pay tribute to the "teachers" along the way and Cars 3 is certainly no exception.

And it wouldn't be a film staring Lightning McQueen and his best friend Tow Mater if there wasn't a few good laughs along the way.  One of the funniest scenes finds McQueen at a Demolition Derby where we meet some pretty off the beaten path characters, including a school bus named Miss Fritter.  Call me crazy, but if I was writing a Cars 4, I could totally see Miss Fritter being a love interest of Tow Mater - just wishful thinking though on my part!

Without offering any spoilers, I can say that this movie is endearing, inspiring, and fun for the whole family.  Kids will love the laughs and the fast paced racing, while grown-ups will enjoy the heart of each character and may even find themselves relating to what it means to be getting older in a society that is rapidly changing around them.  Be sure to check it out to kick off your summer season!

Like CARS on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PixarCars/

Follow CARS on Twitter: https://twitter.com/pixarcars

Follow CARS on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pixarcars/

Subscribe to the Disney/Pixar YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/DisneyPixar

Visit the official CARS 3 website here: http://movies.disney.com/cars-3

Disclosure:  I attended a free screening of the film to share a review with my readers.  Opinions and thoughts are always my own!

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