Thanksgivingatthekoa

I can’t even begin to list all that I am thankful for on this Thanksgiving holiday. Our family has traveled by motorhome over 13,000 miles in 6 months to be here in San Antonio, Texas. My blessings overflow each and every day and I thank our Lord above for all of them. As we find ourselves away from home, family and friends this holiday at the San Antonio KOA, I am grateful for…..

IMG_4345

1. The Simplicity of Camping…

Never has life been so simple for me. Never have I shown up for Thanksgiving dinner in a ponytail, jeans, and flip flops with a bowl of heated up mashed potatoes to share. I am the one who makes all of the homemade dishes for this holiday, that we host at our home every year, so this is quite the change!

#1 RV Rental Marketplace

Today I got to walk over to this luncheon with just this dish that I heated up in the microwave. Yep. That’s the way we roll at the campground. I did like that I had a KOA yellow bowl to put them in at least!

IMG_4341

2. Prepackaged yummy food

I found out yesterday when we pulled in here to San Antonio that we needed to bring a dish to the Thanksgiving potluck today. Thank goodness Costco has kept our fridge and freezer stocked with all of their yummy prepackaged dishes, as they have been my lifesaver along this trip. I never, ever buy these types of foods when we are at home and I have never served pre-made mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving before. But, I guess there’s a first time for everything!

IMG_4347

3. Our stay at the 2015 KOA campground of the year

For over 30 years, the staff and owners of this KOA have graciously served all their campers a delicious Thanksgiving feast! We are so grateful, as I had no idea how I was going to cook a turkey in this RV microwave or over a campfire! They let me off the hook as they provided turkey, stuffing, gravy and the campers chipped in for the rest.

IMG_4359

IMG_4355

IMG_4364

4. The blessing of togetherness!

If we were home right now, our family would be split into two. Half of us would be in California at a soccer tournament and half of us would be in Arizona for a hockey one. I know that is the reality that is just around the corner of return for us, but today I am thankful our family is enjoying downtime and Thanksgiving together…. as it should be celebrated!

IMG_4369

5. An after lunch bike ride on the path running alongside the campground and

IMG_4384

6. Watching my happy and healthy kids be active together on the KOA playground!

IMG_4307

7. Knocking off another spot from my Bucket List – the San Antonio River Walk

 This bus stop is just outside the gated entrance to the San Antonio KOA. We hopped on here and took it into the city to see what we came here for… The Alamo and River Walk. It is always nice when we can get on public transportation right from our campground after driving hours to get here in the first place!

IMG_4312

The Alamo… in all it’s glory and history!

IMG_4325

We strolled all along the River Walk enjoying the scenery, shops, and restaurants. The San Antonio Riverwalk has been a spot I’ve always wanted to visit and I would love to come back with just my hubby one day for sure. 

IMG_4303

Thank you to the San Antonio/Alamo KOA for letting us celebrate Thanksgiving with you! We can see why you were chosen as KOA’s 2015 Campground of the Year and we are so thankful for the time that we have here!

The past couple of weeks have definitely felt like winter in the south as we traveled through Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. Brrr! I’m not going to complain though because we could most certainly be stuck in northern New York right now. Those poor people! But, that’s why we went through that area in August and not November.

IMG_4162

When we planned our route to Arkansas, we decided to go through Hot Springs and check out the National Park. This urban park is like no other that we’ve experienced in the National Park Service system. It is comprised of a series of old-time American spas lined up along what is called Bathhouse Row. You really have to see it, to believe it.

IMG_4164

The Fordyce Bath House is where the Visitor Center is housed and it is just gorgeous. You can take a self guided tour inside to see what an old time american fancy spa used to be like. The kids can also earn a junior ranger badge here and it’s a good way for them to learn the history behind these spas.

IMG_4167

Outside the Visitor Center you can feel the scalding hot thermal mineral waters!

IMG_4174

We were bummed that there is no actual pool that we could sit outside, like the other hot springs that we’d visited in Montana and Idaho. In order to experience the waters, you have to go to one of two spas that are still in operation. The Buckstaff Bathhouse has been in continuous operation since 1912 and remains the only bathhouse providing the traditional bathing experience in Hot Springs National Park.

The minimum age is only 10 to soak in a thermal water tub here. The downside is that it costs $33 and our kids weren’t too keen on the idea of relaxing in a private room by themselves! We weren’t keen on the idea of paying for them to do it either!

IMG_4173

You must be 14 years of age to go to Quapaw, which excluded our family. Of course, if the kids weren’t with us, we would’ve probably checked both of these out. So sorry, I can’t report on what they’re like inside! They are all beautiful from the outside though I know!

IMG_4211

There are several nice trails above Bathhouse Row. The Grand Promenade is really pretty and it’s fun just to wander around the town. Cute shops and restaurants line the other side of the Row as well. We loved the feel of the town even if we didn’t get to go to the spa!

#1 RV Rental Marketplace

We loved watching the locals show up to these public fountains with all of their huge water jugs to fill. Nobody is buying bottled water around these parts! We took the few items we had in the RV to fill up with the spring water and we were laughing the whole time because we really looked ridiculous with our Tupperware and Aladdin pitchers as well as our tea kettle. But we had a good time and we wanted to grab what water we could while we were there too!

IMG_4202

Our home base was the Hot Springs National Park KOA and we couldn’t have been happier! We hadn’t been to a KOA since we were in Florida, so it was nice to be back to the yellow sign we know and love! This KOA was just a few miles from downtown and the National Park/Bathhouse Row.

IMG_4219

Our spot by the pond was just perfect. I loved that the Arkansas trees still had color, despite the cooler temperatures.

IMG_4201

Tortillas proved to be good bait for our sons at this pond, as they were able to fish right outside our front door once again! Thanks to the friendly staff and owners of the Hot Springs KOA for hosting our family for our Arkansas stay!

IMG_4116

Walking around the French Quarter in New Orleans, Morgan was drawn to his sign- Pick a subject, get a poem. Ok. Let’s do it! We gave David the subject of our family traveling around the USA in our motorhome. He asked us to give him 15 minutes to compose something and here’s what he came up with. Simply brilliant!

Life on the road in an RV

Running from one gas station

to the next smelling oil

and tire pressure across this

America landscape where the

plains meet the cities and

the cities run into mountains

from one coast to another.

Finding friends among

strangers and culture in this

frosty New Orleans air.

Living never felt so good

when you’re an explorer

and every destination is

a chance to learn something new.

America is your classroom and

experience your teacher.

-David Blanton

IMG_4118

David has been creating improv poems for tips along Royal Street in Jackson Square for 2 1/2 years now! Have you ever spotted him amongst the artists, performers and tarot card readers? Seek him out the next time you visit NOLA! Happy Friday everyone!

New-Orleans-Family-Fun

New Orleans, Louisiana is one place that had been on my bucket list for a while. I was so excited to finally get here to check out the Crescent City. New Orleans isn’t necessarily known as a family spot, but I beg to differ.

Here are 9 ways to enjoy NOLA with kids in tow!

Carney-Family-Jackson-Square-New-Orleans-Louisiana

1. Hang out in Jackson Square

This popular square is a perfect starting point. There is so much to see in just this little area. You can also take a carriage ride tour from here around the French Quarter. Be sure to go into the St. Louis Cathedral. Not only is the architecture gorgeous but this is the oldest cathedral in the United States still in use.

Jackson-Square-Street-Performers-New-Orleans

Musicians, street performers, and other local artists surround this beautiful square. Make sure to have plenty of low bills on hand to tip these fun entertainers!

#1 RV Rental Marketplace

Beignets-Cafe-Du-Monde-New-Orleans-Family-Fun

2. Beignets at Cafe Du Monde

Grab a table on the busy patio at this iconic spot and indulge in the city’s infamous French donuts. They come in orders of 3 for under $3. Be sure to indulge in a Cafe au lait or Coffee and Chickory as well. Yes, we made our way here a couple of times.

Cafe-Beignet-New-Orleans

3. Eat more beignets at Cafe Beignet

We decided to become beignet connoisseurs during our three days here.  Unfortunately, the day we were here was freezing and rainy, so we didn’t get the live music that normally would accompany your experience here but a few of us did rate these beignets higher than Cafe Du Monde. You try them and let us know what you think!

Mother's-Poydras-New-Orleans-Family-Fun

4. Eat Debris Poboys, Gumbo and Jambalaya at Mother’s on Poydras

 It does seem like all we did while visiting New Orleans was eat! There are so many great restaurants and new dishes to try here that you just can’t help yourself. We loved this local eatery for an authentic Creole lunch.

Zydeco-Rock-N-Bowl-New-Orleans-Family-Fun

5. Enjoy a night at Rock’n’Bowl

This was my favorite thing that we did while visiting New Orleans. We listened to some live Zydeco music as we bowled. Rock’n’Bowl was such a unique place and so much fun! We wanted to find a family friendly spot to listen to some local music and this was just perfect. Admission was $10 per person.

Zydeco-Rock-N-Bowl-New-Orleans-Family-Fun

The fun energy here helped my bowling for sure as I was victorious in our family’s game. It is $24 to rent the lane for up to 6 bowlers for the hour. Shoe rental is just $1.

New-Orleans-Jazz-National-Historic-Park

6. New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park

Who knew this little National Park was tucked in the French Market? Be sure to visit it and have the kids earn a junior ranger badge while learning about the history of Jazz music in NOLA. Then you can continue to shop at all the booths in the French Market.

Louis-Armstrong-Park-New-Orleans

7. Louis Armstrong Park/Congo Square

While on the subject of Jazz music, make sure to take a stroll through this park which is on the edge of the French Quarter in the Tremé neighborhood. The beautiful park is dedicated to one of the City’s most celebrated native sons and to the tradition of jazz in the City. It is also very close to the Basin Street Station Visitor Center, which you will want to hit as well.

IMG_4096

This poor area suffered so much devastation at the hands of Hurricane Katrina that it’s no wonder they celebrate the end of hurricane season with concerts and other festivities. They were just setting up for this one in Armstrong Park as we were getting ready to leave.

New-Orleans-streetcar-family-fun

8. Ride a historic streetcar

Riding one of the streetcars here is a unique and inexpensive way to get around certain areas of New Orleans. We took the St. Charles green streetcar out to see the Garden District, Uptown, and the Tulane University campus. It is only $3 for an all-day pass to hop on and off the cars.

IMG_4099

9. If you’re brave, stroll Bourbon Street

We had been warned to stay off this famous street with the kids. There isn’t any point in purposely waltzing the children along Bourbon Street to witness insanity. We did have to walk along there to go to Cafe Beignet but it was very tame in the morning rain, so there was no action that day thank goodness.

IMG_4100

BUT, we were walking from Armstrong Park to Jackson Square on our last morning and happened to cross Bourbon Street. This was our view at 9 am. At least it provided us with some last-minute laughs. I guess it wouldn’t be New Orleans without a little crazy.

What are your New Orleans family favorites?

IMG_3935

OK good, because sometimes I feel guilty when we are taking beach days during this cross country trip. I always feel really good  when we are visiting National Parks, monuments and historical places because I know we’re giving our kids hands on lessons that they would never get sitting in a classroom. And then we come to the coast and sometimes there’s just not anything to do, but head to the beach. Or maybe we are just drawn to the salty air and sand beneath our feet…..

IMG_3888

We were definitely drawn to Gulf Shores, Alabama. I honestly had never even thought about what this area might be like for most of my life. Then I met a friend, in Arizona, who is from Alabama and she always talks about how nice it is here, so I was excited to visit myself. Boy was she right! From the fine white sand beach to the amazing sunset, this could be the prettiest beach that we’ve experienced along our journey.

IMG_3915

There are so many unique and fun family friendly restaurants/bars in this area. I’ve ever seen anything like these places. I have to admit that I expected the area to be a bit cheesy, like most of Florida (notice the italics Florida fans). But, it was far from it! The Hangout was right on the beach and only a 3 block bike ride from our RV Park!

IMG_3889

This place is amazing, just to walk around even. The property is huge and filled with all sorts of fun things to look at inside and out. This sand pile, with a tunnel running underneath, kept the kids loving life!

IMG_3896

Check out our table for dinner here at sunset! You can’t beat that open air view! As you can see, not many people frequent this area in November, which was all the better for us! The food was what you would expect from any beachside grill, but the service was great!

IMG_3925

When the kids started getting cold, the waiter pulled out these skeeters and let the kids ride wild around the place. They had a ball!

IMG_3926

Another spot that our friend Heather recommended was The Gulf. I loved this place right on the water in Orange Beach, which is just east of Gulf Shores.

IMG_3947

Look at this setting! What a beautiful spot to enjoy a sandwich for lunch.IMG_3945

I hope to definitely come back and experience summer here! We will be back Alabama!

IMG_3620

Orlando was our next pitstop on the Florida tour! I have to say that without Give Kids the World, we most likely would’ve bypassed this popular city. We had no plans of going to any of the Disney parks, so why else would we come here then? I had signed us up to volunteer at this awesome Village in Kissimmee. I would’ve loved to fit in more charity work along our trip, but there just hasn’t been the time in most cases. I was determined to make the time and help out in some way here.

IMG_3623

Imagine a child whose illness prevents them from enjoying their childhood, from doing the things so many of us take for granted. Imagine a family that would do anything to ease their child’s pain, to make their child smile, to make their child’s dream come true. Give Kids The World exists solely to fulfill the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses and their families, providing them a memorable, magical cost-free experience that will live in their hearts for years to come.

The grounds here are incredibly Disney-like! You are able to volunteer at Give Kids The World if you are over the age of 12, so this left out our dear daughter, which in turn left out dear husband who needed to look after her. It all worked out, as I got time with just my sons and they got to go out on a Father-Daughter date!

IMG_3628

We signed up to work a dinner shift at the Gingerbread House. This is where the families who are staying on the property can come for a buffet style dinner! This was right up our alley as our family serves monthly at St. Vincent de Paul’s family dining room back home in Phoenix.

IMG_3630

Serving others is a natural part of who I am and I have missed being able to volunteer during our trip. I love to serve those in need especially with my boys alongside me. The four of us spent the evening carrying trays of food for the guests to their tables and then cleaning up after them.

IMG_3632

This tile work is right outside the volunteer break room near the swimming pool. Love this!

IMG_3635

I just had to include this cute picture from our Orlando/Kissimmee KOA campground. I am not a Mickey Mouse fan by any means, but the light posts were a cute reminder of where we were and they made me smile!