Kennedy-Space-Center-Family-Fun

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After St. Augustine, our next Florida stop was Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center. This was an ideal place for our family to visit along this trip, as it combines entertainment with education!

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Make sure you plan to spend the whole day here as there is a lot to take in! We went on a Saturday (which equates to lots of people) so we waited in long lines just to get on the Space Center bus tour.

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It’s on the tour that you can view the launch pads, the vehicle assembly building and the crawler transporter before getting off to visit the Apollo/Saturn V center.

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Wow! There is so much to learn here and the exhibits are amazingly interesting!

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After the tour, we headed to Atlantis and the Shuttle Launch Experience.

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In this building there are a lot of interactive things that the kids enjoyed doing! This fun slide was a big hit for everyone.

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Space Shuttle Atlantis showcases the historic spacecraft that tells the story of NASA’s 30-year Space Shuttle Program.

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Kade and I opted out of doing the Shuttle Launch Simulator Experience, while the others couldn’t wait to go experience what it felt like to actually blast off in a shuttle. With over 60 interactive exhibits and simulators in this building, we kept ourselves quite busy while we waited on them.

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The Rocket Garden just inside the park entrance is awesome!  It’s here that you can travel back in time and history experiencing the very rockets that first put NASA astronauts in space. You can even climb aboard Mercury-Redstone, Gemini and Apollo capsules – and get an idea of the cramped quarters our astronaut pioneers endured, as you can see mine doing here.

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With your admission ticket to KSC, you can also visit the Astronaut Hall of Fame. You are able to visit the Hall of Fame anytime in the following 6 days after your initial entrance into the Space Center. We headed here the next morning so we would be fresh and ready for more learning.

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There are some interactive games and simulators here as well. This was the kids favorite and I think everyone else in the building could tell that as well!

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St. Augustine-family-fun

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St. Augustine brings back sweet memories of my family spending spring break vacation time together here as I was growing up. This was my first time seeing the Spanish influence of this historical city through adult eyes. I had forgotten how beautiful it is here and I’m so happy our family of six chose St. Augustine as our first Floridian stop on this trip!

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As soon as we arrived, we headed to the National Monument of the Castillo de San Marcos. We enjoyed a beautiful afternoon at this historic fort before walking around the surrounding cobblestone streets full of shops and restaurants. Don’t miss Costeau’s Waffles and Milkshakes or Hyppo’s Gourmet Popsicles if you come here. These treats ended up substituting as dinner one night. We are on vacation still, right?

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Our second day in St. Augustine was spent at the infamous Alligator Farm Zoological Park. I remembered loving this spot back in the day, so I wanted to take my family here and reminisce. This Zoo has been in existence and ever evolving for over 100 years!

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A zoo visit had not been on our travel agenda until St. Augustine. Zoo’s aren’t really high on our family’s favorites list, but this Alligator Farm is no ordinary zoo! As one of the oldest ones in the country, this spot is quite unique as you can see 23 types of crocodilian in one location.

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For us desert folk, it was fascinating to watch these alligators slowly pile up around one other,  grabbing their spot in the sun.

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The kids enjoyed the swamp area at the back of the park where they could buy alligator food with quarters. The trees were also full of gorgeous birds back here too!

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There are various wildlife shows every hour, which were nice to do in between looking at all of the various birds, mammals and reptiles here. The alligator feeding show at the lagoon was our favorite!

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This albino alligator was so intriguing. We had fun watching the turtles climbing on his back.

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It is also nice and shaded throughout the park, making this a perfect reprieve from the Florida sun! There is also a really cool zip line and aerial course over the park. Unfortunately, we didn’t do it but we did see a lot of people whizzing by us overhead as we walked around the Farm. It looked like they were having a blast! Check it out if you go!

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Our home base while we were here was at the St. Augustine Beach KOA located on Anastasia Island. This was our backyard. Another perfect spot for a little fishing just outside our door!

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Thanks to the St. Augustine Beach KOA and the Alligator Farm Zoological Park for hosting our family during our time here!

Savannah-Georgia-Family-Fun

Who can’t help but be drawn to the old-world charm of Savannah, Georgia? Voted one of the 10 Most Beautiful Places in America by USA Weekend Magazine, it definitely lived up to it’s name! Savannah was our only chosen stop in Georgia.

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We made it our mission to walk the 22 squares and parks of Savannah which are the community’s most beloved icons. These are a couple pictures of beautiful Emmet Park before we headed down to stroll along River Street, with it’s shops and restaurants housed in one-time cotton warehouses.

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This was our view from our lunch spot at Vic’s on The River, which was awesome! Check it out if you get a chance. The ambiance, food and prices were great! Since we’re on the topic of food- we went to Paula Deen’s famous restaurant The Lady & Sons. Can I say mediocre? Skip it.

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We set up camp at the Savannah South KOA and were very impressed with the southern hospitality of the staff here! We enjoyed the 35 acre lake setting where they raise over 40 of their own swans.

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We decided to watch the sunset at Savannah’s beach on Tybee Island.

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Oh the joys of boys. Triplet 13-year-old boys to be exact. This is how we spent our evening at Tybee Island. Watching the boys wrestle each other to the ground and loving every minute of it. This boy behavior is so foreign to me, as someone who grew up with just a younger sister. I don’t understand it, but I’m glad my husband, who is the youngest of four boys, does. If you’re a Momma of boys, are you feeling me?

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Have at it boys. Enjoy yourselves while we sit on this swing and enjoy the sunset. I handed my camera over to our daughter to take some pictures so she’d have something to do other than find herself in the male pileup!

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Great-Smoky-Mountains-Family-Fun

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This was our view as soon as we pulled into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park! Elk everywhere! We later learned that this was really rare to see them out like this, so we felt even more blessed for their wonderful welcome into the Park!

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We loved hiking in the Great Smokies and you can see why! We got to hike a few more miles along the Appalachian Trail that runs through here. Our first AT miles hiked were when we were in Harpers Ferry, WV so it was fun to jump on the trail again for a few more miles.

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Our home base while visiting the area was the Cherokee/Great Smokies KOA. We were fortunate enough to be here during their first Halloween weekend celebration! This meant pumpkin decorating contests for the kids… How cute that they came up with a KOA theme on their own.

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After a costume contest, the kids all went around the park trick or treating in the afternoon. It was so fun! My big kids were hesitant, but luckily we’d purchased some new costumes from the Goodwill in Mt. Pleasant, SC so we were all ready. Aidan had to dig into his hockey bag in order to grab his treats!

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This KOA had the first indoor pool that we’ve come across yet! The kids loved coming back after hiking all day in the park to jump in for a warm swim.

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The grounds are just beautiful here!

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This fishing pond at the front of the property is quite popular. You have to get a fishing license though, so it’s a little more serious than the fishing we’ve been doing!

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We even extended our stay here in Cherokee one more night so we could enjoy some whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River. We chose a guided excursion with Adventurous Fast Rivers Rafting and loved it! It was the companies last day of the season so we lucked out!

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Now it’s time to talk laundry. There has certainly been no escaping this task while on the road. It has been very interesting acclimating to keeping up with the dirty laundry along the trip. We do have a stackable washer and dryer in our motorhome, Ally B, that I am so very thankful for. But, with a family of six it’s sometimes way too much and is just easier to head to the laundry mat.

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The positive thing is that every KOA has one. The downside is that they can be busy and sometimes not too appealing. Doing laundry side by side with strangers is not my idea of a good time, but you do what ya gotta do when you are living at the campground. In Cherokee, I spent my Saturday night right here. I planned my laundry time right in the heat of the Halloween festivities at this KOA as I figured I’d be the only one in here and I was right.

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These washers were only $1 for a load too, which is the cheapest I’ve come across! It’s usually $2. It’s the little things people! I am now a laundry mat connoisseur. Who would’ve thought? I used to collect quarters for my parking meters in downtown Chicago and now I gather them just to get the clothes clean. Gotta love life’s journey!

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Hope you are enjoying your October and all that Fall has brought your way!

Asheville-North-Carolina-Family-Fun

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Fall is definitely in the air here in Asheville, NC! This mailbox made me smile and made me present to the fact that we are a long way from home y’all! This area has been on my list to visit for awhile, so it was exciting that we were able to get to North Carolina on this RV trip at the perfect time to see Fall in all its glory.

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Our first stop when arriving in Asheville, was Sliding Rock in the Pisgah National Forest!

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This was not a warm day, nor was this water anywhere close to being warm. But, my family members embrace any time to get wet and wild in nature. This spot was amazing! It was so fun to watch the kids go up and down this natural waterslide until their poor bodies were too cold to go on. Here’s Sliding Rock from the top…

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All of the tourists bundled up in their fall attire enjoyed watching my crew as they were the only ones crazy enough to do Sliding Rock at this time! I, of course, had to take photos and couldn’t partake in the fun (glad for the excuse.) In the summertime, the lines are long for this, so if you get a chance to come in the fall, do it!

During the weekdays in October, admission is free. If you come on the weekend or anytime in summer the cost is $2 per person to enter the recreation area.

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After Sliding Rock, we took the Blue Ridge Parkway back to our campground.  This was pretty much our view along the famous Parkway. Crazy fog but a fun experience nonetheless. We did end up on the Parkway at various other times and it is as gorgeous as everyone says! Glad we were driving our car and not the RV for this adventure though.

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Chimney Rock State Park was our next day’s destination and I was highly impressed with all that we found to do here! We did several of the hiking trails, including the main one up to Chimney Rock itself.

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There is a $15 adult and $7 “child” admission but it is totally worth it! I wanted to upgrade to an annual pass actually because I loved it here so much. Then the reality hit that we are a long way from home and most likely won’t get here again. It was wishful thinking anyway….

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The view of Lake Lure below is worth the hike up!  You can even take an elevator to the top if you aren’t up for the climb. It is very doable though and there are pretty views all the way. There is also a cafe and shop at the top where you can sit and relax to reward yourself after.

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Apple picking at a local orchard was high on the kids list, so we headed to Justus Orchard to do just that.

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The last time the boys picked apples was when they were in kindergarten and we were living in Minnesota.

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This was the view leaving our Asheville West KOA. So gorgeous! I know I will make my way back to Asheville, NC hopefully sooner than later. For now it’s off to Cherokee and the Great Smoky Mountains we go!

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South-Carolina-Family-Fun

Biking has been the highlight of our time in South Carolina. See all six of our bikes all thrown down in the beautiful South Carolina sand? That’s because our Myrtle Beach KOA was only a 2 block easy bike ride to here!

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After beaching it, I set out around the campground to take pictures of the kids enjoying themselves as I always do. Daughter dear saw me and said, “why don’t I take pictures of you instead?” Ok. Why not? So, here I am enjoying the beautiful Myrtle Beach evening on my favorite cruiser.

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There’s something about riding a bike that just makes life feel simpler. I love any opportunity I get to cruise around on her. I think I particularly enjoy riding around on this trip because it is a chance for me to have some alone time. Just me on two wheels and I can go as fast or slow as I want to. Meaning I can keep up with my family or I can lag behind if I choose.

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Look at these beautiful tall trees throughout this Myrtle Beach KOA. We were all quite surprised how much we loved it here! It was so nice to come back to all of this shade after a sunny day at the beach.

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We rode our bikes to 2nd Avenue Pier every morning! We loved the breakfast at the restaurant there and highly recommend coming here if you are ever in the area! It had some charm about it that the rest of the main area is lacking.

Charleston, SC

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More biking shots….. I’m telling you our trip would not be the same without these bikes to hop on every day around the different campgrounds! The Mount Pleasant/Charleston KOA Holiday has a 1.5 mile beautiful trail to ride along. I wasn’t too keen on this sign as you entered the trail though! Luckily, we didn’t encounter any critters and it was a gorgeous ride!

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The entrance to this KOA is so beautiful! We could ride to Blackbeards Cove Fun Park right across from here for a little mini golf and arcade action.

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This KOA is situated on the grounds of a real antebellum plantation so there’s no mistaking you’re in Carolina Lowcountry when you camp here. We took the free weekend wagon ride tour of the privately owned Oakland Plantation, which was a lot of fun!

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And then there’s fishing on the serene 30-acre lake.

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Or serene until you see this sign about the residing alligators. We were going to rent stand up paddle boards here until we read this. I think we’ll pass….

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This is the most beautiful tent camping site I’ve seen at a KOA yet. We thought the covered picnic area was a great idea. You may be able to talk me into tent camping here.

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CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA

And now to why we came to this area in the first place……Charleston. Charleston, SC is simply gorgeous. It embodies everything I love in a vacation spot…. great food along cobblestone streets, fun shopping, beautiful scenery and churches as well as many historical places to tour.

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Just walk all around here and get yourself lost in their beautiful neighborhoods.

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The horse drawn carriage rides are a unique way to start your day in Charleston. Wait a minute. Who’s on this carriage? Could that be me with a girlfriend and not my family?

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Yes! That’s because I was actually just in Charleston in April for a little girlfriend getaway celebration for my friend Judy’s milestone 50th birthday! She and I had a ball and honestly this is how I recommend visiting this beautiful city- with a friend or your spouse. It’s a little too laid back for teens I think. I hope to come here with Keith alone next time.

Cheers to you Charleston!

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How exactly do you go about raising relational kids in today’s screen driven world?

Growing Up Social, a joint effort release, by Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane, is full of thought provoking wisdom and helpful ideas for anyone raising kids today. I honestly could envision my name being listed as the third contributor of this book, as I am on exactly the same page as the authors.

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If you question the screen usage in your family and home, than Growing Up Social is a must have! In general, I love reading books that give me new ideas on parenting and others that motivate me to continue on exactly the path that I am called to already. Growing Up Social helped empower and encourage me as well as gave me new tools to teach healthy life skills to my children.

I wrote an article recently for Seattle’s ParentMap Magazine about Why Our Teens Don’t have Cell Phones. We are purposeful about limiting screen use in our family. It can be difficult sometimes for sure, but it is a crucial part of our job as parents nowadays. Those tech devices you see surrounding the book there, are all mine. I rarely use the iPad, now that I have my Macbook, but my family gave it to me as a gift awhile back and it serves as a good backup. I have never had my emails stream to any of these devices. I can absolutely grab my emails off of any of them, when I decide I want them, but nothing comes through automatically.

The same is true with my Social Media channels. The Apps are there, but nothing dings to tell me anyone has liked my status or that something awaits me. I can choose when I want to go in and browse around. I have missed some last minute emails for our kids sports teams choosing this route for sure, but I want to do my best to be mindful of not always having a device in hand and I think it’s good to model this for our children as well.

We used credit card points to get all of the kids IPads with this trip in mind. We do want our kids to be able to start navigating Instagram, texting and the web and find it much easier to be on top of this with them using a big Ipad. The Ipad never leaves this RV, unless there is a specific reason and usage is pretty limited. The Ipad isn’t something that they can easily carry around with them at all times, like a smartphone. Screen time is limited just by this fact alone.

I also loved in chapter two of Growing Up Social, where Arlene talked about her kids just saying with ease, “Just buy it on Amazon.” Can’t we all relate to this? Boy, do I love me some Amazon, because it is true. You can find anything and everything on that site! We experience our kids saying this exact thing all of the time on this trip. Cole found a book series that he really wants to start reading, but we can’t find Book One anywhere… yet. We went on Amazon and sure enough it is there and could easily be ordered and shipped to us free in two days with my Prime Membership. But, real life doesn’t work this way and we need to be mindful of teaching our kids the art of patience! Cole and I have run into many a bookstore with the slim chance of finding this book and it would be much easier to just order the thing already. Much easier. Like the authors in the book say, “Advances in technology allow us all to get what we want when we want it. It is no longer necessary to make sacrifices.” I want our kids to know that it’s ok to wait on something. Maybe even healthy.

We cannot always take the easy route, if we are looking out for our children and trying to teach them life lessons along the way. If he hasn’t found his book by the time we get home to Arizona, I will absolutely let him use his money and order it off of Amazon. He will have had the chance to learn to wait for something he really wants, instead of instantly ordering it online just because he can.

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Now to the Author Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages series. I hope you already know all about them, but just in case…. I am a huge fan of the books and have loved learning to parent my kids according to their love language, of which they all differ. It is so helpful to use in your marriage as well. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you now have two books to buy.. Growing Up Social and The Five Love Languages! I own all three of these titles above and have given them as gifts many times!

 

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Our most recent stop was at the Colonial KOA in Williamsburg. The campground is perfectly located in Virginia’s Historic Triangle, minutes away from Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown.

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We spent our first day at Colonial Williamsburg. They had a spy program going on while we were there called RevQuest, which the kids enjoyed. Other than that there wasn’t a whole lot going on here.

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Colonial Williamsburg is a beautiful place to walk around and it is fun to see everyone dressed in period costume and playing their various roles. But, I can see why the place is filled with mostly senior citizens. I can’t really recommend this spot for anyone with older kids. It was the first time the kids voiced that we had wasted our money. Possibly, but it was still a beautiful day out and fun to have a relaxing day wandering around.

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The most fun the kids had all day was playing this colonial game of trap ball in the street!

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The rest of our time in Williamsburg we spent back at the 180-acre quiet, wooded campground for the real fun. The grounds were all decked out with Halloween decorations, making you realize that the holiday is just around the corner!

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This was the first campground that we’ve come across so far with two jumping pillows! Our kids were the only ones here during the weekdays, so they had this pillow all to themselves and had a ball making up new games on it!

Candy bingo was a big hit for our family as we were the only ones to show up for the fun, which meant the candy was all going home with a Carney no matter what! Afterwards, the kids bobbed for apples for the first time in their lives which brought lots of laughs and was a perfect ending to a fabulous fall day.

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The evenings have been gorgeous out east and the kids love turning on their bike lights and riding around the campground. Aren’t they so fun?

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Thanks for a great time Williamsburg KOA! We enjoyed all of you and your beautiful campground!

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I am a big lover of travel guide books. I’ve been using them long before the internet was available. Frommer’s and Foders Guides were all I used before I had the web at my fingertips! I still love balancing a travel book in hand along with my beloved online trip advisor!

Eileen Ogintz, the author of The Kids Guides  currently available for six big cities in the US, sent us three different books for our kids to try out along our trip around the USA- Boston, New York and Washington DC.  We enjoyed all of the tips we learned from these little books!

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These books are awesome for many reasons:

They are geared toward only kid friendly activities and places, which is not the case with other travel books. The guides are geared toward kids 6-12 and they were very reader friendly for our four who are at the upper end of the recommended age group. The guides are very compact making them the ideal size to carry along in a purse/backpack.

We found the books perfect to keep the kids occupied and learning on the trains and public transportation that we were on in all of the cities. I brought along little post it note flags that the kids could mark pages when they found things that interested them. It also helped the kids feel like they were a part of the planning!

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The books include various games and quizzes that the kids can work on as well. I thought about photocopying each activity since we have four kids and only one book, but the activities are a bit young for our newly turned teens, so they happily took turns. It’s something to keep in mind though before you leave on your trip, if your kids would each enjoy working on the activities!

We would’ve loved to have simple maps included in the books where we could get an idea of where the noted spots were located. It would’ve helped in our planning for sure. The kids also pointed out that the books talked about doing things from your hotel, even though we were staying at a campground!

Our family loved using these books and we look forward to checking out other city guides in the future! These Kids Guides would make perfect stocking stuffers for anyone planning an upcoming trip. The books can be purchased through Amazon and Barnes and Noble off of Eileen’s website Taking the Kids!

We (I) are (am) wearing down a bit. I actually questioned out loud if we should possibly start making our way home quicker than we had planned to. The kids are starting to complain and bicker and it’s wearing us (me) down. I think everyone misses their friends, sports and routine and it’s starting to show. Really it’s quite a feat that it’s taken us 4 months to start feeling this. Four months is a whole lot of non-stop together time, no matter how great you get along!

Have you ever gone to Europe and after awhile you don’t care if you step foot in another church because you’re over it, as beautiful as it may be. That is where we were starting to find ourselves I think. We did Boston. Then New York. Then Philadelphia and Washington DC and everything in between. That is a lot to take in within a few weeks. It was all awesome, but it’s time to slow it back down a bit, so we welcome the quieter South that lies ahead. (And no, we’re not heading home….)

Our Washington DC highlights were:

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There is so much to do and see in Washington DC that it’s near impossible to fit it all in, even with the five days we had here. Our favorite outing was Biking the Sites with Bike and Roll. It’s always a bonus when we can be active and learning at the same time! The National Mall and all of the Monuments and Memorials are as gorgeous as you would imagine.

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One day, we spent time at the Library of Congress and touring the Capitol building- which are across the street from one another.

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We set up a private tour of the Capitol with an intern from our Congressman David Schweickert’s office.

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Go to the National Archives to check out the original Declaration of Independence, the Constitution & the Bill of Rights. Always fun for the kids to watch Disney’s National Treasure movie before coming here too!

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Ford’s Theatre is a must see as the kids were really intrigued to see where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

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The White House. Need I say more?

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We stayed at this Capitol KOA for six nights and loved the location. It is close to DC, Baltimore and Annapolis. We were able to easily drive to the metro station that we could take into Washington DC every day.  There are two KOA’s that you can choose from when you want to go into the city. This one was perfect for our touring needs.

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 The other KOA is a further hike in Fredericksburg, VA and is KOA’s campground of the year for 2014. We had originally thought we’d compare the travel into DC from here as well, but we had burnt ourselves out so we didn’t move from this campground for the two days that we were here. No sightseeing allowed! Time for some downtime at the campground to regroup and relax.

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Look at our beautiful spot! I think this could be our favorite site of the trip. It was exactly what we needed to relax after all of our city touring!

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The kids have a new found love for fishing, which this trip allowed. They really hadn’t had opportunity to experience doing this before we hit the road. It’s fun to watch them embrace a new outdoor hobby and as long as I don’t have to touch the bait or fish, I’m good with it!