Nothing will make you prouder to be an American than traveling around our beautiful country like we did visiting 44 states by RV in 2014. In no certain order, here are our top 10 spots that we recommend you visit in your American lifetime.

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1. Mt. Rushmore National Memorial- Keystone, South Dakota

This is one place you have to see in person. I don’t know if we would’ve ever made a special trip to fly here to see this American icon, so this was a huge benefit in traveling around the country by RV. I highly recommend making your way here as there is a lot to do in the surrounding area and it’s just gorgeous. Check out the fabulous Mt. Rushmore KOA here!

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2. Kennedy Space Center- Cape Canaveral, Florida

Kennedy Space Center is an amazing place to learn about our American history in space as well as view actual NASA rockets and spacecraft while learning about the future. The Astronaut Hall of Fame is just up the street and is included with your KSC admission ticket.

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3. Boston, Massachusetts

Boston is just an overall gorgeous city so you will love walking along the Freedom Trail here. We started our day at Faneuil Hall and took a trolley tour of all the historical sites in the area.

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4. Kansas City, Missouri- Federal Reserve Bank

The Money Museum here was a unique, free  and fun way for us to learn about our country’s cold hard cash. The kids got to each take home a bag of shredded bills for a souvenir too. Kansas City is beautiful with all of its fountains and the World War I Museum is right by here as well.

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5. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Another great tour we took to learn about our American currency was in Philadelphia at the United States Mint. We learned all about the history of our coins and how they are made. This is a close walk from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell as well. Philadelphia is such an amazingly walkable city with so much history on every corner. Walking around this city was one of my favorite days of our trip.

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6. Lake Placid, New York – Olympic Center

Upstate New York is amazingly gorgeous in the summer. Lake Placid was the home of the 1980 Olympics and the kids loved skating at the Lake Placid Olympic Center as well as checking out the other venues around.

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7. Utah Olympic Park- Park City, Utah

As the site of the 2002 Olympic games, this place is outstanding! Park City is beautiful in the summer and we loved spending the day at the Olympic Park. Not only did we get to watch several athletes train while we were here, but we got to have fun ourselves zip lining, climbing the ropes course and going down our first alpine slide.

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8. Washington, D.C.

Our Capital city is the #1 place to visit if you are looking to learn about the United States of America government. The National Mall is gorgeous and features all of the Monuments and Memorials. The Capital Building, White House, National Archives and the Smithsonian are just a few other favorites. You need lots of time to spend in Washington, D.C. as there is so much to see and do.

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9. New York, New York

One of America’s most popular attractions is the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. The short boat ride from Battery Park over is really fun and the views looking back at the city are fantastic. When you get to Liberty Island you can take a self guided audio tour to learn everything about our Lady Liberty.

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10. Williamsburg, Virginia

This is a beautiful spot to feel like you are living back in Colonial times in this Revolutionary City. Engage with the costumed locals and experience firsthand the daily struggles of wartime. Colonial Williamsburg is definitely a little slow paced, but the KOA was one of our favorites and the area was gorgeous!

Where are your favorite spots where you feel proud to be an American?

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“Where was the favorite place you visited?”

It’s everyone’s first question when talking about our epic adventure around the USA. It’s almost an impossible question to answer as there are so many wonderful parts of our country.

Here is our family top 10 adventures, listed in no particular order. Be sure you click on the highlighted city name if you want to read the blog post from the actual time we were in that area.

JACKSON HOLE, WYOMING

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 Can I tell you that it’s absolutely freezing here? I know by the pretty picture above it doesn’t look like it, but it is. Who knew that one day New Mexico could be a beautiful 70 degrees and the next it is struggling to reach 30! I guess it is December…

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We pulled over along the drive into the park so I could prove just how cold it is with these frozen icicles hanging from the cliffs! Brrr… We were happy to get inside the caves to get warm!

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I had booked a Ranger led tour of the Left Tunnel done by only candlelight. It was very different than the mainstream tour we did of Mammoth Cave in Kentucky! I highly recommend that you do a cave tour like this. It only cost $7 for us adults and $3.50 for each of the kids, which is well worth it!

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Unfortunately, we missed the popular nightly Bat flights that happen April through October out of this natural entrance. All the bats have migrated south to Mexico now, but it gives us something to come back here for one day!

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The natural entrance is really cool to see. This hike is more strenuous than just taking the manmade elevator down to the infamous Big Room. The natural entrance and the Big Room are the main hikes included with your National Park admission. There are many other unique hikes you can do for a nominal fee as well.

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We were fortunate to see the hills loaded with desert bighorn sheep and deer on both sides of us as we were driving in and out of the park! So beautiful!

 

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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…..

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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! 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!

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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!

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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.

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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 our 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!

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

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

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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 in to 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!

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

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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We were bummed that there is no actual pool that we could sit in 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!

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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!

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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!

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!

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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.

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

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Tortillas proved to be good bait for Kade and Aidan 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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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…..

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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 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!

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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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